Wednesday is the day NFL teams flip their calendars from last week to the upcoming week, as review of the recent game has concluded and on-field preparations for the next opponent begins. Vikings players will return to Winter Park on Wednesday to begin digesting the game plan Vikings coaches have devised over the past two days and the team will hold its first practice of the week in the afternoon.
Also, both Head Coach Leslie Frazier and QB Christian Ponder will hold press conferences on Wednesday. We’ll stream those press conferences live on vikings.com, so be sure to tune in at about 11:25 to watch.
While you’re waiting for all of that to transpire, take a look at 10 Vikings-Jaguars storylines to follow this week…
1. Young QBs Ponder, Luck Square Off
One of the storylines last week was a clash of QBs from the Class of 2011, as #10 pick Blaine Gabbert and the Jaguars visited #12 pick Christian Ponder and the Vikings. This week, the two starting QBs were not selected in the same draft, but they are both 1st-round picks. In the second start of his second season, Ponder will lead the Vikings to Indianapolis, a team once led by #1 overall pick Peyton Manning and now led by 2012 #1 overall pick Andrew Luck. In his NFL debut last week in Chicago, Luck was 23 of 45 for 309 yards with 1 TD and 3 INTs. Soldier Field is a tough place to play for any QB, especially a rookie QB making his first start, so expect a bit of a bounce back for Luck this week at home. But the Vikings have to make sure the bounce back isn’t significant enough to yield a victory. Interestingly, the Vikings boast a 3-0 record since 2009 vs. rookie QBs selected with the #1 overall pick – 2-0 against Matthew Stafford in 2009 and they beat Cam Newton a year ago.
2. Adrian Peterson And The Vikings Running Game
Adrian Peterson’s return was a big storyline last week leading up to the season-opener, and it turned out to be a major factor in the game as well. Peterson started the game and scored 2 TDs along the way to helping lead the Vikings to victory. Entering the game, most expected he would play. But most also expected he’d see limited action. As it turned out, though, Peterson carried the ball 17 times for 84 yards and was the team’s workhorse in the 4th quarter and overtime. As a team, the Vikings rushed for 123 yards on 29 carries (4.2 yards per carry), and they’ll need similar success on the ground with Peterson and Toby Gerhart again this week if they’re to log a victory over the Colts on the road in Week 2.
3. Vikings Performance On 3rd Down
The Vikings did win last week, so the feeling was good in the locker room after the game and there is positive momentum heading into Week 2. But there are also facets of their performance that the Vikings will look to improve in Week 2. Perhaps the most important is 3rd-down performance – for both the offense and defense. Offensively, the Vikings had just 10 3rd-down opportunities, which is a good sign. A low number of 3rd-down opportunities means you’re having success on 1st and 2nd down. But of those 10 3rd downs, the Vikings converted just 2 of them into 1st downs. That number must increase, especially playing on the road. Defensively, the Vikings yielded a 50% conversion rate to the Jaguars on 3rd down (9 of 18). The Vikings defense did a great job of stepping up at a few important moments against the Jaguars, and that was good to see. But the Vikings defense must do a better job of getting off the field on 3rd down to turn the ball over to Ponder, Peterson and the Vikings offense.
4. Figuring Out The Colts 3-4 Defense
Under long-time head coach Tony Dungy and then under Dungy successor Jim Caldwell, the Colts ran a traditional 4-3 defensive scheme. But new head coach Chuck Pagano has brought with him from Baltimore a 3-4 front, which the Vikings saw a few times in the preseason and will see a few times in the regular season. The San Diego Chargers did a few things with their 3-4 defense against Ponder and the Vikings in the preseason that caused problems, so the Vikings offense will need to diagnose those issues from the preseason and apply them to their preparations for this week’s game against the Colts. It will be important for Ponder and C John Sullivan to be sharp in their communication so they can identify which players will bring pressure each play.
5. Containing Dwight Freeney And Robert Mathis
For many seasons, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis formed a lethal and productive pass-rushing duo at DE for the Colts. But in the new 3-4 scheme under Pagano, Freeney and Mathis are standup outside LBs. Vikings Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave and his staff will have to figure out how they want to attack the Colts defense with Freeney and Mathis in different positions. Yes, Freeney and Mathis will still rush the passer nearly every down, but they’re coming from different spots on the field and their pre-snap positioning and movement will be different. Freeney played in just 9 snaps a week ago before injury and Mathis actually had 2.0 sacks.
6. Keep An Eye On WR Reggie Wayne
While the Vikings offensive staff will have to neutralize Freeney and Mathis, the defensive staff will have to keep an eye on Reggie Wayne. Yes, Wayne is 33 and is in his 12th season. But if last week is any indication, the 5-time Pro Bowler and 3-time All-Pro can still play and will still be relied upon by his offense. Luck targeted Wayne 18 times in the season-opener, and Wayne hauled in 9 receptions for 135 yards. Look for Chris Cook to be matched up with Wayne frequently.
7. Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams Goes Against His Former Team
In trying to defend Wayne, the Vikings will have one advantage: the presence of Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams. From 2002-11, Williams tutored the Colts DBs as a part of Tony Dungy’s and Jim Caldwell’s staffs. He worked with Frazier on the Colts staff for two seasons as well. While the offensive system is much different now than when Williams was around, there’s no doubt that Williams has detailed knowledge of the way Wayne approaches the game and the things he does well.
8. Turn Percy Loose
Peterson returned from injury to score 2 TDs and become the Vikings all-time leading rusher, Ponder turned things around in the 2nd half to become one of the offensive heroes, and Blair Walsh nailed a 55-yarder to send the game to overtime and then nailed a 38-yarder to ultimately provide the winning margin. Much of the post-game reaction skewed the way of those individuals. But there’s no question that Percy Harvin was a pivotal part of the Vikings victory last Sunday, even though he didn’t get into the end zone or the post-game headlines. Harvin produced 192 combined yards on 14 total touches, impacting the game as a receiver, rusher and returner. He had 5 carries for 20 yards to go along with his 6 receptions for 84 yards, and then he added 88 yards on 3 kickoff returns. If the Vikings defense is to operate well and produce on the road, Harvin must surely be a big part of the equation.
9. Jared Allen vs. Anthony Castonzo
It didn’t take long for Jared Allen to get his first sack of the 2012 season. Unfortunately it was negated because of a penalty. The Jaguars did everything they could to neutralize Allen from that point forward. The Jaguars kept him off the stat sheet, but Vikings defensive coaches and players were saying after the game that Allen had a profound impact on the outcome. Even still, Allen wants to be in the stat sheet – he wants sacks. The man responsible for keeping Allen away from Luck on Sunday will be Anthony Castonzo, a 1st-round pick from the 2011 NFL Draft. The Allen vs. Castonzo matchup is one of this game’s most important.
10. Playing The Colts At Lucas Oil Stadium In Their Home Opener
There’s no denying it – there is extra juice in the building on the home opener. The Vikings felt that and benefited from that last week at Mall of America Field. This week, the Vikings will be on the other end of it at Lucas Oil Stadium, as the Colts play their first home regular season game against the Vikings on Sunday. Nothing neutralizes a home-field advantage more than a sound running game and creating turnovers. Those could be listed as the keys to victory each week regardless of where the game is being played, but those are tasks that, if accomplished by the Vikings, could take the sting out of the Lucas Oil Stadium crowd. Interestingly, the Vikings have never played a regular season game at Lucas Oil Stadium, and they’re 0-10 against the Colts all-time on the road. Sunday seems like a good time to notch that first win at Lucas Oil and the first road win against the Colts.
Tags: Alan Williams, Bill Musgrave, Christian Ponder, John Sullivan, Leslie Frazier, Percy Harvin, Toby Gerhart
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 6 Comments »
Many starters are expected to sit out of the Vikings preseason finale against the Houston Texans later this week. But there is still a lot on the line Thursday night as Vikings coaches and scouts look to finalize the team’s 53-man roster.
Two spots yet to be decided are the 3rd CB spot and the 3rd RB position. Competition at both positions has been spirited in training camp, but as Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said on Monday, no one has taken the bull by the horns and taken a job.
At CB, veteran Chris Carr and rookie Josh Robinson are among those battling for position on the depth chart. Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams was asked about both players following Monday morning’s walk-thru.
“Josh is unbelievably fast, he runs as well as anyone in the NFL,” Williams said. “Josh has shown that he tackles well. Chris is an effective tackler. He gets guys on the ground. Really, Chris just has experience on him at this point.”
Others in the mix for spots at CB behind starters Chris Cook and Antoine Winfield are: Zack Bowman, Brandon Burton, Bobby Felder, Reggie Jones and Marcus Sherels.
“This is another week that is important to the evaluation process to see how guys do,” Williams said. “We haven’t made any hard and firm rules in terms of who will make the team, who will start, who will be where. We’re still waiting to see after this ball game how guys play, and we’ll firm it up at that time.”
There aren’t as many players competing for the 3rd RB spot, but the race is just as close. FB Matt Asiata impressed on Friday night with 9 carries for 48 yards, including a long run of 18 as well as 2 catches for 6 yards and 1 TD. But he also lost a fumble, something a pair of other reserve RBs were guilty of as well. Undrafted rookie Derrick Coleman and veteran Lex Hilliard also lost fumbles.
“They all work tremendously hard and we’re going to give all three of them another opportunity on Thursday night,” Vikings Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave said on Monday. “They did some good things. We put the ball on the ground the other night, which we don’t want to see. But other than that, their effort has been good and they’ve been working really hard.”
Asiata and Hilliard (Coleman was cut), along with Ryan D’Imperio, Jerome Felton and Jordan Todman are competing for position on the RB/FB depth chart. While the entire body of work from the beginning of the offseason program in April through last Friday’s preseason game will be considered, there’s no question that Thursday’s preseason finale will have a significant impact on decisions made up and down the roster, including at both RB and FB.
Tags: Alan Williams, Bill Musgrave, Chris Carr, Derrick Coleman, Josh Robinson, Lex Hilliard, Matt Asiata
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 102 Comments »
The Vikings are relying on Jasper Brinkley to hold down the middle LB job this season (and many seasons in the future), which is an important position in the team’s 4-3 scheme. After missing all of last season and some of this year’s offseason program, some grew concerned about Brinkley’s durability and, subsequently, his ability to handle the task.
But after the first part of training camp and two preseason games, the Vikings coaching staff doesn’t seem to be sharing that concern.
The Vikings allowed too many rushing yards in their preseason debut against the San Francisco 49ers, surrendering 198 yards and 1 TD in the 1st half. As the middle LB, Brinkley encountered external criticism in the aftermath. Brinkley and the Vikings defense were much better the following week, though, as they surrendered just 68 rushing yards on 20 carries to the Bills in a 36-14 win. A big reason for the Vikings improvement against the run was the big step forward in performance by Brinkley.
“I thought he made tremendous leaps from the week before in game action against San Francisco,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said. “And what he did against Buffalo, you could see him begin to get his legs back under him. You could see the quickness and the burst that we’ve been wanting to see.”
As the Vikings work in a new middle LB, they’re also welcoming a new defensive coordinator in Alan Williams. And Williams liked what he saw from Brinkley last week, too.
“He played well,” Williams said. “He hustled, he ran around. I think Jasper is getting more comfortable with having to command the defense, making calls, making checks, getting people lined up. He is running extremely well, he played downhill a little bit better. We’re looking to see if he can do that in more of a consistent basis.”
Becoming a more consistent player comes with reps. After missing all of last season and parts of the offseason program, Brinkley is still working his way back into game form.
“When he tried to practice in the OTAs (Organized Team Activities) in the offseason, to have trouble then, that will plant a seed in your mind that, ‘I could be a guy that is going to struggle with injuries,’ and to see some of the tentativeness early on wasn’t a surprise,” Frazier explained. “But the more he has played, the more comfortable and the more confident he has become. We just have to keep putting him in those situations so he can just turn it loose and not be worried about getting injured.
“We’ll get him hopefully quite a few reps in this San Diego game so he can gain confidence and his teammates will continue to gain confidence in him as well but this preseason is a big deal for him with all of the time he has missed. They’re big for all of us because we’re counting on him to do a good job.”
Tags: Alan Williams, Jasper Brinkley, Leslie Frazier
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 191 Comments »
Mistral Raymond: He’s Got The Look
Harrison Smith: Progression Continues
Our daily look at three players vying for starting safety positions continues today with analysis of Harrison Smith.
The Vikings came into the 2012 NFL Draft with one first-round pick, but after some wheeling and dealing they emerged from the first-round with a pair of selections. The second first-round pick was S Harrison Smith, an instinctive tackling machine out of Notre Dame who will improve the Vikings safety position.
Smith is a mild-mannered individual around Winter Park and in the locker room, but he’s entirely different on the field. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier saw that edge from Smith during the offseason program, and he liked it.
“I saw a play where he really got angry,” Frazier said. “He got pretty fired up and you kind of need that out of your defensive backs. You need them to have a little something about them. It was good to see.”
Alan Williams, the Vikings new defensive coordinator, agreed that Smith has an edge to him and also commented that the rookie is an intelligent player
“I love that, Williams said. “You want your safeties to be quarterbacks and smart, but you want some nastiness to them too. And he has that.”
As a first-round pick, the expectation is for Smith to begin the season as a starter at safety. Smith could be the opening-day starter at one safety spot, but one sure thing is he won’t be handed that responsibility. Williams wants Smith to ascend to the top of the depth chart on the strength of his on-field performance rather than the label of a first-round pick.
“When guys come in and they’re new, especially rookies, I like to have them earn their spot,” Williams said. “Even though Harrison (Smith) is doing well and some of the other guys are doing well, it’s important that guys earn the spot, that I don’t make the decision, the decision is made based on what we see on tape. When he earns a spot, that’s when he’ll play.”
Judging by Smith’s performance so far, that won’t be long from now. He played well in the Vikings preseason debut against San Francisco last week, and that might lead to increased playing time in this Friday’s preseason game against the Buffalo Bills.
“He played well,” Williams said. “The game wasn’t too big for him. He looked like he belonged out there. Again, we want to see that same thing (Friday night). Can he get lined up? Can he communicate to the defense? Can he operate within the defense and can he do that on a consistent basis? When a play comes at him can he make the play?”
If Smith’s performance on Friday night causes the Vikings coaching staff to answer those questions in the affirmative, then Smith will be in a position to help the Vikings defense answer their biggest question – can the pass defense improve from last year?
After ranking 26th in overall passing defense and 32nd in passing touchdowns allowed in 2012, it can’t get much worse. But with Smith in the fold, the Vikings passing defense figures to be much, much better.
Tags: Alan Williams, Harrison Smith, Leslie Frazier
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 88 Comments »
Harrison Smith: Progression Continues
Mistral Raymond: He’s Got The Look
Improving the pass defense was a top priority for the Vikings this past offseason, and the effort to do so has continued during 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp and the preseason. Two starting positions at safety are open for competition, and the race to win those spots will continue this week as the Vikings prepare for preseason game #2 against the Buffalo Bills at Mall of America Field on Friday.
In the days leading up to Friday’s game, we’ll take a daily look at three players vying for starting safety positions – Mistral Raymond (today), Harrison Smith (Wednesday) and Jamarca Sanford (Thursday).
Keep in mind that there are others fighting for spots, too. Andrew Sendejo, for example, led the Vikings in tackles last week at San Francisco and is pushing for playing time on defense. Others in the mix include Robert Blanton, Eric Frampton and Reggie Jones.
We’ll begin this series with a look at Mistral Raymond…
He’s got the look
Entering his second season, Raymond has the look of star in the making. He has the frame (6-1, 202 pounds) and skill set to be a ball-hawking NFL safety. The Vikings acquired Raymond with a sixth-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, but the hope is he’ll make a top-pick kind of impact on the Vikings defense.
Vikings Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams says physical ability and a willingness to mix it up on defense are not concerns. The thing keeping Raymond from emerging as a reliable contributor on defense is experience, something he’ll gain during his second NFL season this year.
“Yes, without a doubt,” Williams quickly responded when asked if Raymond was willing and able enough to play safety. “Willing, not a problem whatsoever, strong enough, not a problem. Experience is just going to be the thing that he needs to come along with.
“With him it’s just every situation is going to be new for him, that he hadn’t seen it, there will be some wrinkles from week-to-week and we just need to make sure that we get him enough reps in practice, and in ball games to get him up to speed so that every situation is just not new to him, that he has some experience with them.”
In college, Raymond was used both as a cornerback and safety. The Vikings are confident that Raymond’s experience playing cornerback in college will give him sound coverage skills as a safety in the NFL.
“He’s an athletic safety that still has cover skills that have not diminished since we put him at safety from the time that he was playing corner,” Williams said. “He is still learning on the go, though. He is a young safety.”
Raymond started five games last year as a rookie and flashed plenty of potential while also learning from mistakes. Entering his second season, Raymond knows his performance in training camp and practice are important, but he also knows the game experience from last year is invaluable.
“You go out in practice and give it everything you’ve got, but some of those game situations you just can’t simulate,” Raymond explained. “It’s big to get those live game reps. I think the more reps I got, the more comfortable I became and the more I started to see things. Hopefully that will translate to this season.”
The Vikings seem anxious to see what Raymond can add to the Vikings secondary.
“We’re looking to put him in as many situations as we can so that when it comes to play on Sundays, it’s not the first time that he has done it or seen it or been it,” Williams said. “He still has a ways to go, but we like his potential.”
Tags: 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp, Alan Williams, Andrew Sendejo, Eric Frampton, Harrison Smith, Jamarca Sanford, Mistral Raymond, Reggie Jones, Robert Blanton
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 159 Comments »
Harrison Smith is one of the Vikings two 1st-round picks from last April’s draft. But so far during his short Vikings career, Smith has been running more with the second-team and third-team defenses than with the first team. According to Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier, though, that could be changing soon.
“One of the things when we went back to look at the tape, and we felt this way going in, [was] Harrison was really making a push,” Frazier said on Sunday. “He’s going to get a chance to work in that first group, and he did on Friday night as well, he just didn’t start the game. It will be the same this week, although we’re going to do some things a little bit different with the starting rotations on Friday night. He’s done enough now where we feel confident that he can go out there in a starter’s role and we want to see how he performs in that role. He very well could start (this) Friday, he’s did some good things when he was in there (last) Friday night.”
Those comments are great news for the Vikings. As a 1st-round pick, the expectation is for Smith to emerge from 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp, and it sounds like Smith is on track to do just that. Billed as an intelligent and instinctive defender with sound coverage skills and exceptional tackling ability, Smith should upgrade the Vikings at safety and help improve a pass defense that ranked 26th in yards allowed and last in TDs allowed in 2011.
All along, Vikings Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams defended putting Smith with the second and third team defenses by saying he wanted players to earn their spots as starters rather than be given starting positions based on draft position or pedigree. It sounds like Smith is doing everything the coaches are asking of him, including earning a spot as a starter on defense.
Tags: 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp, Alan Williams, Harrison Smith, Leslie Frazier
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 226 Comments »
The Vikings are now a week into training camp and it’s full speed ahead for the team as they begin preparing for the 2012 season. Now that we’re gaining a better understanding of the roster after six days of practice, let’s take a look at 10 players who are off to fast starts at 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp.
TE Kyle Rudolph
Rudolph’s combination of size, strength and speed is unique, and it presents big-time mismatch problems for the defense. QB Christian Ponder is not afraid to look Rudolph’s way, and until someone finds a way to slow the 6-6, 258-pound beast, he’s going to keep catching passes.
LT Matt Kalil
You would naturally excuse a rookie – even a third overall choice – if he were making mistakes during training camp. Add in the fact that the rookie is going against the best defensive end in football, and you’d allow even a few more perhaps. But Kalil hasn’t been guilty of many miscues. Sure, Jared Allen is winning his fair share of the matchups, but all things considered, Kalil has looked the part of a player who could develop into a cornerstone LT.
CB Antoine Winfield
We wrote in this space multiple times about how great Antoine Winfield looked during the offseason program. He’s continued to look great during training camp.
“We were talking about that as a staff last night, he really seems to be into this training camp more than any other. You see him out there taking one-on-ones and all of the reps,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said. “We will have to monitor that a little bit, he is not 22 years of age anymore, but he is definitely invigorated in a lot of ways, which is good for our young players in our secondary to see the way he works and how he approaches things. It’s great for them.”
CB Bobby Felder
One of those young players in the secondary is Bobby Felder, an undrafted college free agent out of Nicholls State. I’m asked about Felder more than most players for some reason, but maybe Felder will show us all why he deserves to be noticed. He didn’t have the best day of practice on Wednesday, but other than that he’s been solid. Felder is a player to watch in the preseason.
WRs Percy Harvin and Jerome Simpson
I like what the Vikings have going at WR. Entering the offseason, WR was a position that needed an upgrade. And it got one. The Vikings look much better at the position, and the addition of Jerome Simpson is a big reason for that. Simpson has tremendous speed and is terrific after the catch. He’s not strictly a vertical route receiver, either. Simpson can run intermediate/deep crossing patterns as well, and he’s hard to stop on comeback routes.
Simpson looking so good likely has Percy Harvin upping his game as well. Harvin is already one of the most dynamic receivers in the game, so watching him rise to the challenge in competing with Simpson for passes from Ponder has been great to watch.
DT Letroy Guion
When the defensive coordinator singles you out as having a good camp, you’re going to make this list.
“Letroy has been one that has been phenomenal in camp,” Alan Williams said. “It may not seem to the naked eye but there are some clips of him just getting off blocks, running to the ball and pursuing. Day two he made a play outside of the numbers running to the football so we are very pleased with him.”
LB Chad Greenway
We listed Chad Greenway as a stand out from Tuesday’s practice, largely because of an athletic pass breakup (PBU) he registered on an end zone fade pass to Kyle Rudolph and also because of a couple plays he made in short-yardage and goal line periods. Greenway is a leader on the Vikings defense and will be a three-down player for the Vikings once again this season.
TE Rhett Ellison
During the Vikings rookie minicamp in May, Rhett Ellison emerged as a stand out thanks in large part to his fluid pass-catching skills. Billed as more of a physical, blocking-type of TE, Ellison displayed a natural ability in the passing game during that camp and has continued to do so in training camp. He’s also a physical player in the trenches. That type of all-around ability could yield a long, productive career for the rookie from USC.
RB Derrick Coleman
Undrafted this year and joining the Vikings for their rookie minicamp, not many paid much attention to Derrick Coleman this spring. But it’s hard not to notice him during training camp. He is running with the third-team, so it’s appropriate to temper the enthusiasm. But you can only beat the people put in front of you, and right now Coleman is winning more than he’s losing when he’s on the field. He’ll be another player to watch during the preseason.
GM Rick Spielman
We’re only a week into training camp, but you’ve got to give GM Rick Spielman and his staff, along with head coach Leslie Frazier, credit for attacking the task of reforming this roster over the offseason. The Vikings were coming off consecutive seasons of 6-10 and 3-13, plus they had tough roster decisions to make on valued veteran players. On top of that, the team had 10 draft choices to execute.
The Vikings have had a good training camp to date and the talent level on this roster is going the right way. There is a clear sense of direction the team is heading in, and there’s no question Spielman and Frazier set out to make this roster younger and more talented. Judging by one week of training camp, they did a good job. There’s a lot of work to be done, but the progress is encouraging.
Tags: Alan Williams, Antoine Winfield, Bobby Felder, Chad Greenway, Derrick Coleman, Jerome Simpson, Kyle Rudolph, Leslie Frazier, Letroy Guion, Matt Kalil, Percy Harvin, Rhett Ellison, Rick Spielman
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 99 Comments »
A big part of training camp each year is watching position battles unfold and, ultimately, become settled as teams prepare for the upcoming season. One big – literally and figuratively – position battle for the Vikings in this year’s camp is at DT, where Kevin Williams has a hold of one starting position and no one has a handle on the other.
At least that was the thinking heading into training camp. A few days into the action, and it looks like there’s an early leader.
“Letroy (Guion) has been one that has been phenomenal in camp,” Vikings Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams said on Tuesday. “It may not seem to the naked eye, but there are some (film) clips of him just getting off blocks, running to the ball and pursuing. Day two he made a play outside of the numbers running to the football, so we are very pleased with him and we’re waiting to see how Fred (Evans) does.”
Evans has been a solid reserve for the Vikings since he joined the team in 2007. Guion was a 5th-round pick in 2008 and has progressed to the point now that he’s the early favorite to earn a starting job at DT in 2012. Other DTs on the Vikings roster competing for roster spots include undrafted college free agents Chase Baker and Tydreke Powell and second-year player Christian Ballard. While Williams pointed to Guion as one individual who is standing out early in camp, the Vikings new defensive boss also stressed that the entire group’s performance is important.
“Keep them fresh, keep them running so they can make plays,” Williams said. “When we’re at the end of the ballgame and the game is on the line, we have to close it out. It’s just that at the end, we want the guys fresh and we want to close it out. That is game-specific and season-specific so at the end of the year, we don’t have a guy that has 1,000 reps under his belt, we want guys to be fresh so that when playoffs come down the line, we’re ready to hunt.”
Tags: Alan Williams, Letroy Guion, Verizon Vikings Training Camp
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 31 Comments »
There’s been a walk-before-you-run type of feeling around 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp so far, with a pair of morning walk-thrus and afternoon practices on Friday and Saturday before a day off on Sunday. Head Coach Leslie Frazier’s team has worked well over the two days, as the offense has looked sharp under second-year Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave and the defense has begun its transition to new Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams’ plan.
But the pace will quicken and the intensity will spike significantly on Monday. Yes, the pads will pop and training camp as we’ve become accustomed to will emerge.
The Vikings will hold their first padded practice of this year’s camp on Monday at 2:45 p.m., following their customary morning walk-thru at 10:30. Everyone’s questions about how rookie LT Matt Kalil looks against DE Jared Allen or how Everson Griffen looks playing in his new position will begin to be answered. There’s nothing like the crunching of pads and popping of helmets to get football fans excited for what’s shaping up to be another fun season.
Monday marks the 2012 opening of the Northland Ford Dealer’s Autograph Zone, where you can meet and greet Vikings players each day. Beginning today and going through August 14, one position group will be in the autograph zone each day after the morning walk-thru, with gates opening 25 minutes prior to the conclusion of the walk-thru and autographs beginning immediately after practice for another 25 minutes. Today’s featured group is the TEs, including one of the most impressive performers so far during camp – Kyle Rudolph.
If you haven’t yet done so, head down or up or over to Minnesota State University, Mankato to get a good, early look at the 2012 Minnesota Vikings.
Tags: 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp, Alan Williams, Bill Musgrave, Jared Allen, Kyle Rudolph, Leslie Frazier, Matt Kalil
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 21 Comments »
There is never a shortage of storylines heading into training camp, and this year is no exception for the Vikings. As the team embarks on 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp today with a morning walk-thru and afternoon practice, let’s take a brief look at 10 of the most notable stories to chase during 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp…
Will Adrian Peterson begin on the Physical Unable to Perform (PUP) list?
There’s no question Peterson has made tremendous strides in his recovery from major knee surgery, and there’s also no question that Peterson feels confident in his knee and is eager to display just how ready he is. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to put the NFL’s best RB on the field of play unharnessed. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier was non-committal when asked if Peterson would begin camp on the PUP list, instead saying the decision would be made after he spoke with Peterson and the team’s medical staff. If Peterson begins camp on the PUP list, the team can take him off the list at any time. Either way, Frazier and Peterson both said they expected the RB would be doing some kind of on-field work from the get-go.
Man in the middle – Jasper Brinkley’s opportunity
The Vikings selected LB Jasper Brinkley with a 5th-round pick in 2009 and he immediately became the understudy to E.J. Henderson. Now that Henderson is no longer with the team and Brinkley still sports the Purple and Gold, the time has come for Brinkley to display just how far he’s come in three-plus seasons with the club. Brinkley is expected to be the team’s starting middle LB, an important role in this defense especially considering how well Henderson fulfilled the role for so many seasons. There are questions about Brinkley’s durability because he dealt with an injury in college, missed all of 2011 with an injury and then missed some of the team’s offseason program with injury. But he’s healthy now, and it’ll be fun to watch him prove that he can be the team’s man in the middle.
Christian Ponder’s development
You can have everything else buttoned up and the stars can align, but if you don’t have the QB situation squared away in the NFL it won’t matter. The Vikings believe they will have it squared away with Ponder at the helm, and we’ll find out if they’re right this season. Early indications will come from training camp and the preseason, though. Vikings GM Rick Spielman and his crew have done a nice job of surrounding Ponder with weapons – both blockers and ball-handlers. The addition of Matt Kalil improves the offensive line tremendously, and then the additions of TE John Carlson, WR Jerome Simpson and a pair of draft picks in WRs Greg Childs and Jarius Wright give Ponder some weapons in the passing game. Add in guys such as Peterson, Toby Gerhart, Percy Harvin and Kyle Rudolph, and you can’t deny that the offensive weapons in place are much better this year than in previous seasons. That sets the stage perfectly for Ponder, a guy who knows how important he is to the team and a guy who relishes in that role.
Percy Harvin’s role on offense
Harvin was in the headlines a bit this offseason, and I’m guessing he’ll be in the headlines a bit more this season because he’s going to play a pivotal role in the Vikings offense. Harvin is as dynamic an offensive weapon as you’ll find because of his ability as a pass receiver and a ball carrier. You can line him up in the slot, out wide or even in the backfield. You can throw it to him, pitch it to him, hand it off to him, you can even snap it directly to him. Harvin is one of the best players on the team, and he’s going to get the ball a lot. It will be fun to watch how Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave and his staff plan to use Harvin.
Vikings look to improve pass defense
The Vikings ranked 26th in total passing defense a season ago and they yielded the most TD passes as well. So the team will look to improve in that area, and one big step in that direction was the hiring of Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams. In Williams’ decade working with the Indianapolis Colts DBs, the club ranked in the top six in NFL passing defense five times and finished out of the Top 15 only once. In that same span, the Colts allowed the fewest touchdown passes in the NFL (159), the fewest pass completions of 25+ yards (159) and the third-fewest passing yards (29,993). Aside from Williams, the team added a pair of safeties (Robert Blanton and Harrison Smith) and a CB (Josh Robinson) in the draft, and they signed a pair of veteran free agents (Chris Carr and Zack Bowman) to bring some experience to the group. Perhaps most importantly, though, is that the Vikings will have their two top CBs back on the field after they missed significant time a season ago. Antoine Winfield and Chris Cook played in a combined 11 games last year, and it’s tough to do well against the pass when you’re two best CBs are out of action. Expect a big jump in performance from the Vikings pass defense this season.
Kalil’s transition to the NFL
A dominant player at USC, Kalil enters the NFL as a starter on the Vikings offensive line. His first task? Block the best DE in the NFL for three straight weeks in Mankato. Kalil will go against Jared Allen on a daily basis at training camp, and we can all agree that it will only make the rookie LT that much better.
“It should be real good for Matt to go against maybe the best defensive end in the National Football League on a daily basis in practice and I think it will be good for Jared as well because Matt is going to challenge him,” Frazier said.
What to do with Everson Griffen?
Few players this offseason have been on the mind of Vikings fans more than Griffen. The consensus among fans is that Griffen is too talented to not be on the field, and there are a growing number of fans who want to see Griffen make the transition from DE to LB. Whether Griffen is asked to make that switch or not remains to be seen. What is clear, though, is that Griffen is viewed by most as a player on the rise.
The Blair Walsh project
The Vikings used a 6th-round pick in April’s draft to select K Blair Walsh, a standout player at Georgia for four seasons and one of just three kickers the Vikings deemed worthy of selection. Walsh replaces Ryan Longwell, a beloved Vikings player who made plenty of big kicks and was reliable. But the team wants more touchbacks on kickoffs, and there’s no question Walsh has the leg strength to stretch the team’s FG range. There will likely be some growing pains with a rookie kicker, but Walsh’s talent should allow him to absorb those pains and quickly turn into a solid player. Walsh projects to be a long-term option for the Vikings at kicker, and there’s nothing wrong with getting a long-term starter out of a 6th-round pick.
Stepping up at defensive tackle
As we wrote about yesterday in the defensive line version of Roster Rundown, Kevin Williams is looking for a running mate to start next to him at DT. The Vikings have been missing that aspect of their defense since Pat Williams’ decline and eventual departure from the team. Perhaps the team doesn’t need a Pat Williams clone – there is only one Pat Williams, after all – but the team does need another impact player at DT, and training camp is just the place to find that player. Will it be a veteran such as Letroy Guion or Fred Evans? Or will it be a youngster, such as Chase Baker, Christian Ballard or Tydreke Powell? Or will it be a rotational thing? We’ll find out soon.
Rick Spielman’s first camp as Vikings General Manager
Spielman has been with the club since 2006, but this is his first training camp with the Vikings as GM. In some respects, not much has changed because Spielman has made the transition from VP of Player Personnel to GM smoothly. On the other hand, the team’s organizational structure did change a bit with Spielman’s promotion. There’s no question now who is making the final decision on roster moves, and having a central voice such as Spielman who can work well with Frazier will improve how the team functions on a daily basis. We’ll start to see that even more during training camp and as the team gets closer to making decisions about the roster coming out of the preseason.
Tags: 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp, Adrian Peterson, Alan Williams, Bill Musgrave, Blair Walsh, Chase Baker, Christian Ballard, Christian Ponder, Everson Griffen, Fred Evans, Jasper Brinkley, Leslie Frazier, Letroy Guion, Matt Kalil, Percy Harvin, Rick Spielman, Tydreke Powell
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