Thoughts On Replacement Options For Chester Taylor

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 9, 2010 – 2:11 pm

The most common email question I received this past week was about RB Chester Taylor signing with the Bears and the Vikings next move in replacing him. I thought there was so much interest in this issue that we’d devote a separate blog entry to it rather than including it in this week’s Monday Morning Mailbag.

So, let’s take a look at a several options the Vikings have in terms of filling the hole created by Taylor’s departure.

– Since we’re in the middle of free agency, many of you seem to be brainstorming about which available players might best fit the Vikings offensive system as a replacement for Taylor. There are 3 types of available players for the Vikings to consider – free agents, unrestricted free agents (UFAs) and restricted free agents (RFAs).

The 2 free agents that have been linked to the Vikings most frequently are former Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson and former Eagles RB Brian Westbrook. Both of these players were released from their respective teams, making them free agents. Also, both players seem to have the skill sets that would make them nice complementary backs to Adrian Peterson.

But another free agent RB that might also fit nicely with the Vikings is former Raiders RB Justin Fargas. Most people will immediately write off this suggestion and I think that reaction is the product of Fargas playing in Oakland – not an ideal scenario over the past few seasons – more so than the result of a true evaluation of how he might play in Minnesota.

In the RFA market, I think Jets RB Leon Washington is an intriguing possibility. But there are 2 significant hurdles for any team interested in Washington. First, he’s coming off a serious leg injury from last season. Secondly, he was tendered at the 2nd round level by the Jets, meaning any team that wants to sign him must pay him a contract and also give up a 2nd rounder this year.

In terms of UFAs, one back out there who has produced at the NFL level in the past is Willie Parker. He has displayed abilities in both the run game and also as a receiver out of the backfield.

– Another option for the Vikings to consider is drafting another RB to fill Taylor’s role. Maybe it’s with their 1st round pick – #30 overall – or maybe it’s with another choice later in the draft. The Vikings currently have 7 selections in April’s draft and it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Vikings use one of them on a RB.

– Don’t forget the Vikings have a pair of RBs on the roster right now – Ian Johnson and Albert Young – who will give their best effort to show coaches that they can step up with Taylor now departed. Also, the Vikings have recently added 3-year pro James Johnson to the roster. Young was the Vikings #3 RB last year but Johnson gave him good competition during training camp last year.

– Another route the Vikings could go is to explore a trade for a RB, although this seems like the least likely method the Vikings would use.

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that the Vikings goal should not be to fill the spot quickly. Rather, the Vikings need to fill it well. Taylor was obviously an important part of the Vikings offense in 2009 and all during his 4-year tenure in Minnesota, so it’s fair to expect that whomever the Vikings choose to fulfill that role in 2010 will be relied upon in a similar fashion.

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RB Johnson On The Right Track

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 6, 2009 – 4:37 pm

A guy who has been the subject of several reader comments here on the blog and who I’m guessing the Vikings coaching staff and personnel staff gave serious thought to including on the 53-man roster is RB Ian Johnson. Following his 2-touchdown performance against the Cowboys in Friday’s preseason finale, some thought he had done enough to beat out Albert Young for the 3rd RB spot.

Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress mentioned after Friday’s preseason finale that RBs coach Eric Bieniemy stated that this year’s RB crew was the best the team has had in camp since this particular staff has been together in Minnesota. Of course the presence of players such as Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor are the main reason Bieniemy feels that way. But that sentiment can also be attributed to both Young and Johnson, and their willingness to work hard and continue their development.

While Johnson continued to impress me as training camp and the preseason went on, I think the Vikings made the right choice by keeping Young on the 53-man roster and attempting to slide Johnson through waivers and onto the practice squad. Young has been in this offensive system and on this team for 2+ years now, and I think there’s something to be said for that and for the fact that like Johnson, Young has also been productive when he’s had opportunities.

But now that Johnson is on the practice squad, he’ll (hopefully) get a full year of experience in this system and then enter training camp next year with a broader knowledge of the Vikings scheme and way of doing business. This will equip him with the same experience that Young possesses and then we’ll see another good, old-fashioned dogfight for a roster spot on the RB depth chart.

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RB Young Prepared For Extended Time On Friday

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 3, 2009 – 1:01 pm

Following practice on Wednesday, Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress indicated he would not be playing his starters in tomorrow night’s preseason finale against the Cowboys. Depending on how things shake out, it’s possible a few starters might have to take a snap or 2, but I’m sure the team would like to avoid playing RB Adrian Peterson and will also limit the number of snaps for Chester Taylor.

This plays right into a position battle that has been going on during the offseason, training camp and the preseason – the 3rd RB.

Former University of Iowa standout Albert Young, who is entering his 2nd year with the club in 2009, looks to be the favorite at this point to win the job. But Ian Johnson, who played collegiately at Boise State, is also in the mix and trying to carve out a spot for himself on the team.

When the Vikings and Cowboys kickoff tomorrow night, Young will have something working for him that many players on the field won’t have – plenty of preseason playing experience. This is the 2nd time in Young’s NFL career that he’s been through a full preseason and it’s also the 2nd time he’s expecting to see extended time in the preseason finale.

“I think it’s more of knowing what to expect,” Young said of what that experience provides for him. “It’ll be a lot of playing special teams and then a lot of offense or defense, whichever you play. You’re definitely put to the test this week, so you’ve got to prepare yourself for that. You approach it like any other game.”

Young was on the practice squad last year after an impressive showing during training camp and the preseason. But his goal this year was to make the 53-man roster. Just as he improved year-after-year during his productive college career at Iowa, Young says that as he enters his 2nd year in the NFL, he’s continuing to make progress.

“We were watching film of our fourth (preseason) game last year against Dallas,” Young explained, “and I was looking and was like ‘I’m way better now than I was then.’ With time, I think just the comfort level of knowing what to do out there is key. The main thing is playing fast and knowing what’s going on.”

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