Top 10 Free Agent Signings In Vikings History

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 11, 2013 – 6:51 am

Free agency is about to begin and while we wait to see which players the Vikings sign this year, let’s take a look back at the best (modern) free agent signings in franchise history.

Here’s a list of the Top 10 (year signed), with honorable mentions at the bottom.

Let us know what you think by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below this entry…

10. Ben Leber (2006)
Leber is a great example of a free agent who provided his team with outstanding value relative to the contract he signed. A starter for 5 seasons at outside LB for the Vikings, Leber was an important part of defenses that ranked 1st against the run for 3 straight seasons (2006-08) and that helped the franchise capture back-to-back division titles in 2008-09 as well as an appearance in the NFC title game following the ‘09 season.

9. Jeff Christy (1993)
A 4th-round pick of the Phoenix Cardinals in 1992, Christy was eventually cut and missed that season. Phoenix’s trash was the Vikings treasure, as Christy played 7 seasons in Minnesota and was a key cog on an offensive line that in 1998 blocked for one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history. Christy was a 2-time All-Pro and Pro Bowler in Minnesota who started all 16 games of a season 5 times as a Viking.

8. Gary Anderson (1998)
In just 5 seasons with the Vikings, Anderson quickly climbed the franchise’s all-time scoring list and still ranks 6th. He had a perfect regular season in 1998, helping the Vikings to a 15-1 record. In 2000, Anderson surpassed the legendary George Blanda to become the NFL’s all-time leading scorer (he now ranks 2nd).

7. Darren Sharper (2005)
One of the most prolific ball-hawking safeties in the NFL, Sharper jumped state lines in 2005 and joined the Vikings for 4 productive seasons. During his Vikings career, Sharper was an All-Pro twice and he tallied 18 INTs and 3 TDs.

6. Pat Williams (2005)
One half of the famed “Williams Wall” that anchored a dominant Vikings run defense for half a decade, Williams finished his 14-year NFL career with 6 great seasons in Minnesota. The Vikings became the first team since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to lead the NFL in rush defense, and Williams was a key contributor in that effort.

5. Randall Cunningham (1997)
Out of football for a year in 1996, Cunningham joined the Vikings in ‘97 and displayed no signs of rust. He enjoyed the greatest season of his career as a Viking in 1998, guiding the Vikings to a 15-1 regular season record with 34 TDs and only 10 INTs. Among QBs with 20+ starts, Cunningham has the 2nd-best winning percentage (.696) and his 34-TD campaign in ‘98 still ranks 2nd all-time in club history.

4. Ryan Longwell (2006)
As steady as the day is long, Longwell was a key part of 2 division winning teams during his 6 years with the Vikings and finished his career in Purple ranked 3rd in all-time scoring. Blair Walsh began to rewrite the Vikings record book for kickers, and much of what he’s rewritten only validates how productive Longwell was for the Vikings. Longwell ranks 1st in Vikings history with 9 game-winning FGs.

3. Steve Hutchinson (2006)
A member of the 50 Greatest Vikings team, Hutchinson was a dominant road-grading run blocker and sure-fire pass protector during his 6 seasons with the Vikings. Hutchinson earned 4 of his 7 career Pro Bowls with the Vikings, and he was an invaluable part of Vikings offenses that featured a 1,000-yard rusher in each of his seasons in Minnesota.

2. Brett Favre (2009)
After torturing the Vikings for 16 seasons as a member of the Packers, Favre joined the Purple in 2009 and had arguably his best season with 33 TDs and a passer rating of 107.2 while leading the Vikings to the NFC title game. Favre was the difference between a team that went 10-6/one-and-done in the playoffs following the 2008 season and a team that went 12-4 and was on the brink of a Super Bowl appearance.

1. Antoine Winfield (2004)
An easy selection at #1, Winfield has been the rare blue-chip signing who outperforms expectations. He has played in 119 games over 9 seasons with the Vikings and in 2010 was named to the 50 Greatest Vikings team. Twice he’s recorded a single-season team record for tackles by a CB (110) and he now holds the Vikings record for most fumble recoveries by a DB with 11 and ranks tied for 2nd in team history with 12 forced fumbles by a DB.  Winfield has also scored all 5 of his career touchdowns (2 FRs, 2 INTs, 1 blocked FG) as a Viking.

Honorable mention: Jerry Ball, Bernard Berrian, Greg Biekert, Corey Chavous, Jack Del Rio, Jerome Felton, Lance Johnstone, Fuad Reveiz, Visanthe Shiancoe, Chester Taylor

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Vikings Waive Berrian, Promote Burton

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 25, 2011 – 1:24 pm

The Vikings on Tuesday waived WR Bernard Berrian and signed WR Stephen Burton to the active roster.

Berrian was inactive for 2 of the Vikings last 3 games and his release on Tuesday is the end to what has been a tenuous run of late with the Vikings. To fill his spot on the roster the Vikings promoted Burton from the practice squad. Burton was a 7th-round draft choice of the Vikings last April out of West Texas A&M.

The Vikings also terminated the practice squad contract of DL Cedric McKinley.

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After (Film) Review: Offensive Line

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 29, 2011 – 6:19 am

We’re going to debut a weekly feature here on the Blog today called “Weekly Review.” The day after each Vikings game, I’ll watch film to focus on one aspect of the team and then provide a report here on the Blog. For the premier edition of After (Film) Review, we’ll focus on the offensive line.

With an off-day between Saturday’s game and the posting of this report, the Star Tribune’s Mark Craig beat me to the punch a little bit on analyzing the offensive line’s performance against the Cowboys. But it looks like we came to the same basic conclusion: the offensive line showed improvement. Specifically, the return of starting RG Anthony Herrera to the lineup was a big boost for the offensive line. While Craig was also complementary of LT Charlie Johnson, I was actually as impressed and maybe a touch more impressed with C John Sullivan.

For what it’s worth, we should temper somewhat the enthusiasm because this was just a preseason game and Dallas didn’t exactly come after the Vikings offense with a blitz-heavy attack. As 1500ESPN’s Tom Pelissero notes, Dallas “rushed more than four men three times in 18 dropback passes (16.7%) and rushed three on six occasions (33.3%), while the Vikings used at least one chip or extra protector eight times (44.4%), not including four bootleg plays.”

All in all, though, I thought the offensive line’s performance on Saturday was encouraging. This group has been much-maligned over the last 12 months, but I have a feeling that they will be much improved in 2011. Let’s get to a few specific examples of solid play from the first-team offensive line…

1st Offensive Series
– On the Vikings first 3rd-down play, Herrera pulled to take out LB Anthony Spencer and RT Phil Loadholt blocked to his inside and took out DE Igor Olshansky to open up a hole for Adrian Peterson to pickup 7 yards and the 1st down.
– On 3rd and 1 a few plays later, LT Charlie Johnson cleared out and sealed DE Kenyon Coleman and a pulling Steve Hutchinson finished off CB Orlando Scandrick to allow Peterson to pickup 5 yards and another 1st down.
– On the next play, McNabb went play-action fake to Peterson and was given a perfect pocket. This enabled WR Bernard Berrian time to make a double-move and run past the Dallas secondary. McNabb hit him in stride for a 49-yard TD.
– Totals for the drive: Peterson 5 carries, 29 yards; McNabb 2 for 2, 54 yards, TD)

2nd Offensive Series
– The Vikings picked up 13 yards on the first play of the series with a Percy Harvin reception, then on the second play of the series Peterson gained 9 yards on the ground. LT Charlie Johnson and TE Jeff Dugan double-teamed DE Jason Hatcher and FB Ryan D’Imperio and Harvin took care of Spencer, which gave Peterson room to dance around both James and Scandrick to gain 9 on the ground going wide left.
– On 2nd and 1, Sullivan handles NT Jay Ratliff long enough and Herrera seals off Olshansky so Peterson can cutback from the left to the right and pick up 5 yards and the 1st down.
– On 1st and 10 from the Minnesota 47-yardline, the Vikings featured a two-TE set. The line provided a solid pocket for McNabb, but the QB couldn’t find an open receiver, so he fled to the right and then found Berrian, who broke open and caught McNabb’s pass for a gain of 15 yards.
– Totals: Peterson 2 carries, 14 yards; McNabb 4 for 5, 37 yards)

3rd Offensive Series
On 2nd and 7 from the MN 17, McNabb changed the play at the line of scrimmage and the Vikings ran wide left with Peterson. TE Kyle Rudolph was just good enough to seal off LB Sean Lee and Sullivan got to the second level to block James from the play, which is ultimately why Peterson was able to dash forward for a 15-yard gain. Hutchinson pulled on the play to take out Elam.
– On 2nd and 10, Booker carried and went up the middle to gain 10 yards. Johnson sealed Spencer off immediately, Sullivan handled Ratliff, Hutchinson took care of Lee and Herrera came off his initial block to prevent James from making a stop early in the play.
– On 1st and 10 from the DAL 47, McNabb made his best throw of the night. McNabb was in the gun, with Booker and Kleinsasser in the backfield as protectors. McNabb rifled a pass into WR Michael Jenkins on a slant for a gain of 17. There was a nice pocket for McNabb and #5 got rid of the ball quickly. Preseason TV analyst Mike Mayock said: “For anyone who thinks that Donovan McNabb doesn’t have it (anymore), take a snapshot of this throw.”
– Totals: Peterson 2 carries, 18 yards; Booker 1 carry, 11 yards; McNabb 2 for 4, 25 yards, INT)

4th Offensive Series
– On the first play of the series, Peterson ran behind the LG for a 5-yard gain. Johnson and Kleinsasser combined for a kickout block on DE Sean Lissemore and Sullivan sealed NT Josh Brent out of the play.
– Peterson gained 3 yards on a pitch wide right. The play was actually blocked well, but OLB DeMarcus Ware chased the play down from the back end; he was intentionally left unblocked because the play was going to the opposite side. But that’s why Ware is a perennial Pro Bowler. However, this was the first time Ware was a factor in the game (5:00 to play in 1st half).
– Totals: Peterson 2 carries, 8 yards; McNabb 1 for 3, 6 yards.

5th Offensive Series
– McNabb hit Booker for a 12-yard gain on 1st down, but the Vikings went 3-and-out after that; gave up a sack on 2nd down.

End of 1st half: Vikings had 216 yards (157 for Dallas), 12 first downs (9 for Dallas) and 89 rushing yards (22 for Dallas).

6th Offensive Series
– On 3rd and 4 out of the gun formation, McNabb was protected great against a 4-man rush and he lofted a pass for Jenkins down the right side; Jenkins won the one-on-one matchup against CB Mario Butler to make the catch for a gain of 26 yards and the 1st down.
– Totals: Peterson 3 carries, 12 yards; McNabb 1 for 3, 26 yards

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Notes From Tuesday’s Practice, Coordinator Press Conferences

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 23, 2011 – 4:33 pm

The Vikings had a long, grueling practice on Tuesday afternoon as they continue their rigorous preparation for the 2011 regular season, which begins in just under 3 weeks. The team worked in full pads for the approximately 2-hour practice and they did so in humid, sticky conditions.

Coaches paused more frequently for extra water breaks and the tough work in even tougher conditions gave the squad an idea of their conditioning. All indications are the team’s conditioning is good, especially considering how well the first-team defense and offense played against the scout teams.

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier indicated after Saturday’s preseason win over the Seattle Seahawks that the team would do a little bit of game-planning for their next opponent – the Dallas Cowboys – to try and simulate a week of preparation in the regular season. The Vikings did so today, with both the first-team defense and offense working against a scout team that was presumably simulating looks the Cowboys have given opponents so far during the preseason.

Here are a few notes from Tuesday’s action…

– The Vikings secondary was the standout group in practice, with S Tyrell Johnson collecting on INT in 7-on-7 drills and CBs Marcus Sherels and Antoine Winfield grabbing INTs during full team periods of practice. Johnson showed great range on his INT, coming from the deep right side of the field to the middle. Sherels also had a tremendous pass break up (PBU) during 1-on-1 drills in the period right after his INT.

– CB Chris Cook also performed well in 1-on1 drills and drew praise from DBs coach Joe Woods when he locked rookie WR Stephen Burton up at the line of scrimmage to disrupt the route. Cook made another nice play late in practice when he trailed WR Dominique Johnson all the way across the field on a drag route and extended his left arm to break up the pass.

– On the first play of the first period of full team work for the first-team defense, LB Erin Henderson intercepted a pass and returned it to the endzone. That marks the second consecutive day Henderson has grabbed an INT in practice.

– The first-team offense looked just as impressive going against the scout team defense. QB Donovan McNabb found WRs Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin several times, with Berrian able to get over the top of the defense at least three times that I saw for long receptions all over the field.

– DT Kevin Williams (foot) is on the mend a bit, so Letroy Guion got first-team reps at the 3-technique.

– Harvin made the play of the day and it came early in practice. He was running a route deep down the right side of the field and McNabb launched a pass in Harvin’s direction. By the time the ball came down it was actually falling into bracketed coverage, but Harvin cut in front of the coverage, leaped off of one foot and grabbed the ball with one hand, hauling it in and controlling the ball all the way to the ground.

– Vikings Defensive Coordinator Fred Pagac was asked a few times about the starting safety position opposite Husain Abdullah and he did not indicate whether Tyrell Johnson or Jamarca Sanford had an edge in the competition. In fact, Pagac said both players have played about the same number of snaps and the competition may not be decided soon. The coaching staff is still talking about how to split up playing time this week against the Cowboys, but look for Sanford to get the start because Johnson started last week in Seattle.

– Pagac did not have an update on Kevin Williams’ status and he said he expects the defensive starters to play roughly 20-25 plays before exiting the game on Saturday night.

– Vikings Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave did not give much indication as to how long the offensive starters would play on Saturday night and instead explained that the coaching staff still had to make those decisions.

– Here was Pagac’s response when asked to assess the defense’s performance against Seattle: “Improvement of tempo; I thought we were running to the ball a little bit better. Our tackling was better. We still had a couple missed tackles, but our tackling was much better. Just the attitude that we played with and obviously the sudden change situation when we had the turnover for the touchdown and then that goal line stance after a long series. That means a lot to us, is something that we preach about all the time and the kids responded.”

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First Full Pads Practice Was Worth The Wait

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 4, 2011 – 5:25 pm

Given the CBA/lockout situation we all endured over the course of this past offseason, it was only appropriate that we had to wait just a little longer than anticipated to finally see a full pads practice at 2011 Verizon Vikings Training Camp.

Policies within the new CBA prohibited players operating under new contracts from participating in their team’s training camp until the CBA was ratified, something that was widely expected to happen by this morning. But as things tend to go in situations such as collective bargaining, there was a hang up.

The Vikings had a full pads practice scheduled for 3:00 on Thursday, but 3:00 came and no players were in sight on the practice fields. As it turned out, the CBA had not been ratified and therefore players with new contracts were still unable to participate. Finally the locker room doors opened and players filed outside to the fields, but even still the players with new contracts didn’t participate in the early part of practice.

Eventually – about 30 minutes into practice – Vikings VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman gave the thumbs up to his players while in between two of the practice fields, and Donovan McNabb and Co. hopped into the action and participated in their first practices of training camp.

“We were like little kids at Pop Warner who didn’t make weight,” McNabb said during his post-practice press conference. “We were just standing around. But you know the whole thing about it, the guys who were off on the sideline awaiting that opportunity have been working extremely hard the last couple days just getting the mental reps and then spending time together working out and pushing each other. Just trying to perfect our craft.”

Speaking of perfecting the craft, McNabb began the practice perfectly, connecting on his first three passes of full team work. McNabb’s first completion was a deep pass down the left sideline to WR Bernard Berrian, who fought off a defender and hauled in the pass for a 50-yard TD. A huge applause from the packed crowd ensued and practice was off to a great start.

McNabb held a press conference after practice and we’ll have the full version of that in on-demand format for your viewing pleasure, so stay tuned.

The overall energy and intensity of practice remained high and the fact that the guys were in pads for the first time was certainly a big reason. The Vikings have a one-hour walk-through scheduled for tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. and then they’ll practice in full pads once again tomorrow afternoon at 3:00.

Odds and Ends
– RB Adrian Peterson did not participate in practice but is expected back tomorrow.
– S Jamarca Sanford, competing for a starting position, intercepted a pass during the first team period of practice. The pass was thrown by McNabb and TE Visanthe Shiancoe was the intended target, but Sanford jumped the route and made a nice play.
– McNabb looked sharp, especially considering it was his first practice with the team. He completed his first three passes of the day before the Sanford INT and then he began 7-on-7 drills going four of four.
– Frazier said after practice that rookie QB Christian Ponder and Joe Webb are rotating in and out of the second string QB role.
– Rookie TE Kyle Rudolph had the catch of the day – and maybe the catch of training camp – when he was able to collect a one-handed grab while running down the right seam in a full team portion of camp. But he wasn’t done there. When practice concluded, Rudolph and Visanthe Shiancoe stayed several minutes after to work with TEs coach Jimmie Johnson and then on their way to the locker room Rudolph and Shiancoe took a few minutes to stop and sign autographs for fans.

The Eye Test
Our new feature this year – the eye test – has gotten pretty good reviews actually, so I’m going to keep it going. Passing the eye test from today’s practices were: RB Lorenzo Booker, WRs Percy Harvin and Michael Jenkins and S Jamarca Sanford.

For those of you keeping score at home, the only player to pass the eye test in all four full practices is Harvin. LB Chad Greenway has been mentioned after three practice and CB Cedric Griffin, DE D’Aundre Reed and Sanford have passed it twice. It should also be noted that Jenkins passed the eye test in his first opportunity and I probably should’ve included McNabb, but we have high expectations of him and I know he’ll be a regular mention in this part of the notes down the line.

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2011 Will Be Berrian’s Big Bounce Back Season

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 1, 2011 – 7:09 am

A great part about the Blog is that readers have the opportunity to share their thoughts via the comments section. I began this blog entry with that thought in mind because I’m guessing the title of this entry already has many of you foaming at the mouth and ready to rip me to shreds.

Well, you have full license to criticize the opinion that WR Bernard Berrian will have a bounce back season in 2011, but hear me out first. Check out the full article I posted this morning about Berrian. It contains the opinion and supporting argument that the Vikings should keep Berrian on the roster and that we should expect a big bounce back season in 2011.

Most of you will immediately write off this thought because you’ve already given up on Berrian and you want the team to dump him to save salary. But I think keeping him on the roster is the better move. Berrian will enter the 2011 season fully healthy, which he hasn’t been in nearly two years, and he’ll enter the season as the Vikings best down-field threat. This is important because although I expect the Vikings to be mostly a ground-and-pound, dink and dunk offense, especially early in the season, NFL offenses still need to be able to explode. After Percy Harvin and Adrian Peterson, Berrian will be the Vikings most explosive weapon and he’ll be their best chance at blowing the top off of defenses.

Also working in Berrian’s favor this year will be opportunities. Chemistry issues with Berrian and QB Brett Favre contributed to Berrian’s lack of production the past two seasons. With Donovan McNabb in the fold, Berrian will be re-energized. And with Sidney Rice gone to Seattle, Berrian will see more snaps per game.

I don’t expect Berrian will have 12 TDs and I won’t suggest that you draft him onto your fantasy football team. But I will suggest that you leave the door open – even if only a crack – for a big bounce back season from #87. A season closer to his 2008 numbers than in 2009 and 2010.

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A Look At Rice’s Departure And Where The Vikings Go From Here

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 28, 2011 – 8:06 am

I know Vikings fans are disappointed to lose WR Sidney Rice to Seattle. And believe me, the Vikings are disappointed, too. He came to the club as a second-round pick and developed into a play-making WR and fan-favorite. Rice has the potential to be a #1 WR in the NFL for a long time and he has a skill set that makes life easier for QBs and much harder on defenses.

But let’s also not overreact to his departure.

I value interacting with fans, and from that interaction I know that the prospect of losing Rice AND keeping Bernard Berrian has many of you up in arms. Before you panic, though, let’s take a look at something and let me make a case.

Here is a comparison between Berrian and Rice during their careers in Minnesota:

Berrian: 131 receptions for 1,834 yards (14.0 average) with 11 TDs in 46 games
Rice: 146 receptions for 2,129 yards (14.6 average) with 18 TDs in 48 games

Yes, Rice’s numbers are better. But are they that much better? Also consider that as great a season as Rice had in 2009 (83 receptions for 1,312 yards and 8 TDs), he had three ordinary years around that one great year. Outside of 2009, Rice has never had more than 31 receptions, 396 yards or 4 TDs in a season. Those are below average numbers. Granted, Rice’s career arc is on the way up. He could be a tremendous threat for the Seahawks for the next decade. But what about his hip? Can he stay on the field? And will Seattle have a QB capable of getting him the ball, as Brett Favre did so well in 2009?

Don’t get me wrong, I like Rice and I think he’s a good player. I also appreciate the way Seattle is building their roster and turning the franchise around; the Seahawks are going in the right direction. But I don’t think Rice is irreplaceable. As quickly as Rice left the Vikings in free agency, the Vikings could turn around and look at the market to find another player who can come in here and help the passing game excel.

Let’s take a look a few WRs who are on the market. Let us know what you think about them by leaving a comment in the comments section below this entry.

Plaxico Burress – A big end zone, red zone and 3rd-down target, Burress was a Top 5 NFL WR when he was forced out of the league for two seasons. He’s a resurrection project in that he’s coming back to the NFL after being away for a while, but he has the fortune of Tony Dungy as a mentor. And we all know by now the close relationship Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier shares with Dungy.

Malcom Floyd – At 6-5, 225 pounds, Floyd has the body frame and skill set to be the type of physical receiver that Rice was for the Vikings. He’s also 29 years old and entering his seventh year in the NFL, so he’s still on the upswing in terms of his career arc. Floyd could be a flourishing player if given the chance to be a top target.

Braylon Edwards – Another WR with good size at 6-3, 214 pounds. In 2007 with the Cleveland Browns, Edwards had 16 TDs. So we know he can get to the endzone. Also, he’s another guy who would come in here with a chip on his shoulder because he appears to be a castoff from the NY Jets. There’s no denying Edwards’ talent and another sneaky-good part of his game is his ability to run after the catch and break tackles.

Terrell Owens – A future Hall of Famer, Owens is on his last legs but he also has a chip on his shoulder. He’s looking to win a Super Bowl and in Minnesota he could be reunited with QB Donovan McNabb, if the Vikings complete a deal with Washington for the six-time Pro Bowl QB. In addition, Owens would also be reunited with Vikings WRs coach George Stewart, one of the best position coaches in the NFL and a coach who has worked and succeeded with Owens in the past.

James Jones – Packers QB Aaron Rodgers went on record as saying that retaining Jones should be his teams “#1 priority” in free agency. That’s nearly reason enough to go and get him. But also consider that James has good speed and is a Rick Spielman-type of free agent in that he’s coming off his rookie contract and his career arc is on the uptick.

Steve Smith (Giants) – Not sure how good a fit he’d be in Minnesota because he’s primarily a slot receiver. The Vikings have a tremendous slot receiver in Percy Harvin. But if there’s mutual interest between the Vikings and Smith, I’m sure we could find room on the field for a reliable, possession receiver with tons of experience.

Roy Williams – He underperformed in Detroit, was traded to Dallas for a high price, then underperformed in Dallas. So why is he on this list, you ask? Because I don’t want to discount the fact that now he has something to prove and he also has something that the Vikings lost when Rice went out the door – the body frame to be a good target in the end zone.

Others: Mark Clayton, Derrick Mason, Lance Moore, Randy Moss and Mike Sims-Walker

Also keep in mind: Chad Ochocinco has had a tumultuous past few seasons in Cincinnati. Is he on the way out? If so, the Vikings could consider him. He’s not a spring chicken anymore, but he’s been a productive WR for his entire career and I’m betting he’s got plenty left in the tank to be a top target for the Vikings.

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Update On Berrian, Rice

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 26, 2010 – 2:06 pm

Vikings WRs Bernard Berrian and Sidney Rice sat out of practice on Thursday after participating on Wednesday. On Friday, though, both players were back on the field and Vikings Interim Head Coach Leslie Frazier was asked about each of them while meeting with reporters after practice.

Frazier indicated Rice (hip) should be good to go for Sunday’s game at Washington and he said a decision on Berrian (groin) may be made on Saturday.

Another player battling a nagging injury is Jamarca Sanford (hamstring). His presence is important because he provides depth in the secondary but mostly because of his special teams/kick coverage abilities. Frazier said that because the injury has reappeared, the team will be cautious with Sanford’s return.

The injury report has not been released yet, but I’m guessing Berrian will be listed as questionable and Rice probable. Again, official word will be coming shortly, so stay tuned.

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Berrian’s Big Plays Aide In Vikings Victory

Posted by cjsiewert on November 9, 2010 – 10:12 am

As we’ve recently mentioned here on the Blog, the Vikings 27-24 OT victory over the Cardinals on Sunday came to fruition by way of several dynamics. Mike briefly touched on one particular contributing factor following head coach Brad Childress’ press conference on Monday, and we’ll delve into the subject further.

Since the departure of Randy Moss early last week, the Vikings WR unit was put under the microscope with questions about their depth and individual capabilities to make an impact. After Sunday’s victory, it’s clear that Bernard Berrian has cleared up many of those concerns.

Berrian recorded a season-high 9 receptions for 89 yards against the Cardinals – his most since the 2009 NFC Championship game, where he hauled in 9 passes for 102 yards. In his first 6 games this season, Berrian averaged less than 2 receptions per game (1.5) and 14.5 receiving yards per game.

More impressive than the numbers Berrian posted in the OT victory are the situations in which he recorded them. The 7-year veteran was a contributing force throughout the first 3 quarters with 3 of his 4 receptions resulting in 1st downs, but it was late in the 4th-quarter and in OT that Berrian came down with pivotal catches.

With the Vikings down 24-10 and 4:32 remaining in the game, Berrian grabbed a short pass down the middle for an 11-yard gain, setting up a 4-yard TD run by RB Adrian Peterson 2 plays later. His next reception was the initial play during the Vikings game-tying drive. Berrian’s catch resulted in a 15-yard gain heading into the 2-minute warning.

And perhaps Berrian’s biggest catch of the afternoon came during the game-winning OT drive. With the Vikings facing 1st and 20 following a holding penalty, Brett Favre found Berrian streaking across the middle of the field on a slant route for a 22-yard gain down to the Arizona 27. Peterson’s number was call upon 3 times for 9 more yards, setting up K Ryan Longwell’s game-winning 35-yard FG.

Berrian’s effectiveness was shown through his quick slant routes that allowed the Vikings offense to move the chains – 6 of his 9 receptions resulted in 1st downs.

“He certainly has the capabilities to catch the football coming inside,” Childress said on Monday. “There were a couple of slip screens. One he had a loss-yardage play, one he makes a play on third down. He is a good slant runner. He is a good in-break runner. He can catch the football down the field. I think he had a back shoulder opportunity. It’s nice to be able to get him those quick-hitters in a little bit of air because those slants typically end up 15-18 yards down the field, if you can connect on them.”

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A Few More Notes From Monday’s Press Conference

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 8, 2010 – 3:30 pm

We’ve touched on several topics since the Vikings recorded a thrilling 27-24 overtime win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, from the warrior-like performance by Percy Harvin to the quiet dominance of the Vikings defense.

But there’s so much more to talk about and we’ll touch on a few more topics in this blog entry with some help from head coach Brad Childress’ press conference. Childress met with reporters for several minutes early Monday afternoon and he ultimately answered 25 questions. Here are a few important notes we jotted down…

Kluwe Kicking Well
Childress took time to mention specifically that P Chris Kluwe is playing well through the first 8 games.

“The guy that’s playing unbelievably now is Chris Kluwe,” Childress said. “That guy is kicking the ball lights out. It doesn’t make any difference what the numbers show. It’s just a matter of how many they’re getting a chance to legitimately return and how many he’s sticking down there where they have fully 80 or 90 yards to go. You can’t put a premium on that, particularly in field position games like that.”

We’ve discussed Kluwe’s solid play on several occasions here on the Blog, but he continues to play well and impress. His gross punting average is 44.5, which is 12th in the NFL, but effective punting in the NFL is about hang time, net average and return yards allowed. I don’t have a way to measure hang time, but Kluwe ranks 3rd in net average at 43.3 yards and the entire punt coverage group ranks #1 in the NFL in allowing just 3.5 yards per return. On top of that, Kluwe has put 18 of his 36 kicks inside the 20, helping the Vikings gain an edge in the field position battle.

No-Huddle Offense Looked Good
I answered a question from a reader in today’s Monday Morning Mailbag about how effective the Vikings offense was in the no-huddle during the 4th quarter and whether the no-huddle might be something the Vikings try against Chicago this week. I don’t know if that’s something the Vikings will try, but Childress did tell reporters on Monday that the no-huddle is something the Vikings practice regularly and it’s also something Favre clearly looks comfortable executing.

Childress was also asked who calls the plays when the team goes no-huddle.

“It’s both,” Childress explained, saying that coaches will send a play to Favre when the ball goes out of bounds. “He has got a menu, as do we, that we practice for the two-minute, and sometimes we’ll trick his memory and there are times where he’s got to do it on his own.”

Infirmary Report
Childress was asked the status of several injured players, including Harvin and T Phil Loadholt. Harvin has been dealing with the injured ankle, of course, and Childress said Harvin will be sore but is also “no worse for the wear.” Childress said Loadholt is going to be fine; he left the game in the 4th quarter but came right back onto the field. S Jamarca Sanford tweaked a hamstring and Childress indicated that would be a day-to-day situation for this week.

Return of Rice
Perhaps the most asked question the last couple of weeks has been “When is Sidney Rice coming back?” The answer is still “I don’t know.” But it sound like Rice is getting closer and closer.

“He’s had some good practices out here,” Childress commented, “it’s just a matter of can you play wide-open and play in an NFL football game? It’s one thing to practice. It’s another thing when you’re going to get tackled to the ground.”

Rice has looked good in practice the last couple of weeks and he looked sharp while working out in pre-game workouts on Sunday. Time will tell when he can return; I’m cautiously optimistic it’ll be this week against the Bears, but the smart money might be next week at home against Green Bay. Stay tuned.

Big-Play Bernard
It was pleasing to see Bernard Berrian become such an important factor in the offense. He had 9 receptions for 89 yards on Sunday and came up with 3 clutch grabs in the 4th quarter and overtime. Childress mentioned on Monday that Berrian had a good practice week leading up to the Arizona game and that his chemistry with Favre looked particularly sharp.

“I saw Brett throwing it as well as he has thrown it all year long in that Thursday practice,” Childress said. “Very live arm, very accurate and then Bernard was kind of right there with him. Not that the other guys weren’t, but you could see him have a good week of practice. Both of those guys. It wasn’t surprising to see it carry over to Sunday.”

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