Blogs

9 Vikings-Redskins Storylines To Watch

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 10, 2012 – 6:18 am

It’s Wednesday, and in the NFL you know what that means. The calendar flips from digesting last week’s win to previewing this week’s matchup. For the Vikings, that means preparing for the Washington Redskins. The Vikings will travel to the Beltway this weekend, marking their third trip to the Nation’s Capital in as many years.

This Vikings-Redskins matchup has several intriguing subplots, so we’ll get you started by briefly discussing nine of them right here…

RG3’s Status Unclear After Week 5 Concussion
This now marks the third consecutive week a team scheduled to play the Vikings begins its week of preparation not knowing if their starting QB will be available on Sunday. Redskins QB Robert Griffin III, selected by Washington with the 2nd overall pick last April, took a nasty hit from Falcons LB Sean Weatherspoon mid-way through the 3rd quarter last week that left the talented passer with a concussion. Per the NFL’s concussion protocol, doctors ruled Griffin III out for the remainder of the game, and now he’s required to undergo and pass a series of tests before he’s allowed to practice or play.

This is obviously a significant factor for both teams because Griffin III is the Redskins most dynamic offensive weapon. He’s the League’s 5th-highest rated passer (101.0) and ranks #1 in completion percentage (69.1%). Griffin III also has 8 total TDs – 4 passing and 4 rushing – and averages 5.7 yards per rush on 42 carries.

Since the injury, Washington has not released any information that lends an idea as to whether Griffin III will be ready to suit up on Sunday. The next indication of the rookie’s status will come Wednesday afternoon when the Redskins are required to submit their initial injury report of the week. If Griffin III is unable to play, the Redskins will turn to either rookie Kirk Cousins or veteran Rex Grossman.

Can Redskins Contain MVP Candidate Percy Harvin?
Yes, I said it. Percy Harvin is an MVP candidate – in my eyes anyway. He doesn’t play QB and he’s not leading the NFL in points or TDs. But can you name a player who produces as much and in as many ways as Harvin does for the Vikings? Harvin leads the NFL in total yardage (814) and yards after catch (242), he’s 2nd in receptions (38), and he’s just the 3rd player in NFL history – joining Gale Sayers and Timmy Brown – with a rushing, receiving and kick return TD in 3 consecutive seasons.

But this headline to watch is not an MVP campaign for Harvin. It’s to point out that, in order increase their chances of winning, the Redskins are going to have to find a way to contain Harvin. The Lions were able to do it, as Harvin had just 6 offensive touches for 34 yards. But the Titans, just one week later, were not able to duplicate it last week, as Harvin exploded for 116 yards and 2 TDs (1 rushing, 1 receiving) on 10 offensive touches.

How Serious is Jerome Simpson’s Injury?
Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier explained the injury situation surrounding Jerome Simpson on Monday during his customary day-after-the-game press conference. While Frazier’s discussion of the situation provided some clarity on what happened over the course of last Sunday, the discussion did not provide clarity on Simpson’s status for this Sunday. In fairness, much was still to be learned even for the Vikings as of Monday, as Simpson was scheduled to undergo more tests.

So as the Vikings begin on-field preparations for the Redskins on Wednesday, there seems to be more ambiguity than clarity on Simpson’s status. Perhaps Frazier will clear the air after the team’s morning walk-thru on Wednesday. Or maybe not. That’s why it’s a storyline to watch this week.

Adrian Peterson, Alfred Morris Pace Powerful Ground Attacks
One of the storylines to watch we identified in last week’s Vikings-Titans matchup was that of the pending showdown between Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson, two of the most explosive and productive running backs of the past 5 seasons or so. As Johnson continues to labor through a second consecutive substandard season, including just 24 yards on 15 carries against the Vikings, it turns out that a better RB vs. RB matchup will unfold in Washington D.C. this Sunday.

We know who the Vikings have in their corner. Peterson says he’s still a touch shy of being 100% back to form, but he looks to be the same explosive, powerful and shifty playmaker he’s been for the Vikings since 2007. But it appears the Redskins have a star-in-the-making at RB as well in rookie Alfred Morris. Credit Redskins Head Coach Mike Shanahan for once again finding a diamond-in-the-rough runner in the late rounds of the draft. Morris, a 6th-round pick out of Florida Atlantic this year, ranks 2nd in the NFC and 4th in the NFL with 491 rushing yards, has topped 100 yards rushing in each of the last two weeks and averages an impressive 4.9 yards per carry for the season.

Expect the Vikings to make stopping Morris in his tracks their top priority on defense this week.

Can Vikings Find Continued Success With Defensive Line Rotation?
In somewhat tongue-in-cheek fashion but also with a fair amount of sincerity, Vikings Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams compared his plan for a defensive line rotation to the liberal substitution patterns of hockey teams, where 3-4 players may come off the ice simultaneously to be replaced by players with fresh legs. It caused some consternation at the time, with the worry being that the Vikings best defensive linemen would be off the field at important times.

As it turns out, though, Williams’ strategy is working. The rotation has produced results, from starters as well as reserves. Yes, non-starters such as Christian Ballard, Fred Evans and Everson Griffen are playing more and are producing. But the Vikings four starters along the line are playing well, too. Jared Allen ranks tied for 1st on the team in sacks with Griffen and tied for 2nd on the team in tackles for loss with three others; Kevin Williams has a TFL, fumble recovery, 8 QB hits and 3 pass break-ups (PBUs); Letroy Guion has 2.0 sacks and 3.0 TFLs. The list goes on. And so will the rotation strategy. The question is: Will it continue to work this week against the Redskins?

Josh Robinson Earning More Playing Time
The record from last week’s win over the Tennessee Titans will show that Josh Robinson was a starter at CB for the Vikings along with Chris Cook. Are the Vikings phasing out CB Antoine Winfield? No, Winfield is actually in the midst of a productive season. The 14-year veteran is 2nd on the team in tackles with 41, he has 4.0 TFLs, 6 PBUs and 1 INT. Winfield is playing well and will remain a key part of the defense this season. But Robinson will, too. The 3rd-round rookie is proving to Vikings coaches and scouts that he belongs on the field.

The 5-10, 199-pound CB has 28 tackles on the season, including 15 in the last two games. Robinson also has 5 PBUs already – only 4 Vikings had that many PBUs all of last season. The Vikings pass defense is much improved from a season ago – they’ve improved 13 spots in passing yards allowed and 20 spots in passer rating allowed – and Robinson is a big reason for the improvement.

Don’t be surprised if he’s in the starting lineup again in Washington, and don’t be surprised if he continues to make a profound impact for the Vikings secondary.

The Vikings and Redskins Becoming Quite Familiar Foes
Sunday’s meeting between the Vikings and Redskins will mark their third in as many seasons during the regular season. It’s also interesting to note that these two organizations worked together at this year’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. Leslie Frazier and his staff coached the North squad against a South squad that featured Shanahan and the Redskins staff.

Furthermore, Vikings Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave once coached for the Redskins (1995) and he played under Shanahan in San Francisco and Denver. Also, Redskins DBs coach Raheem Morris coached with Vikings DBs coach Joe Woods from 2004-05 in Tampa Bay.

The familiarity extends to the players as well. A pair of Redskins DBs – CB Cedric Griffin and S Madieu Williams – spent time with the Vikings. Griffin was a 2nd-round pick of the Vikings in 2006 and played 80 games (70 starts) in 6 seasons. Williams played for the Vikings from 2008-10 and appeared in 39 games (38 starts). Vikings WR Devin Aromashodu spent the majority of the 2008 season on the Redskins practice squad.

Kicking Highs and Lows
The Vikings and Redskins are going through opposite experiences with their situation at kicker. The Vikings selected theirs with a 6th-round pick last April and he’s come through in a huge way, converting 12 of 13 FGs (3 of 3 from 50+ yards) and blasting 17 touchbacks in 27 kickoffs (Vikings had 19 touchbacks all of last year). The Redskins, on the other hand, just released their kicker – Billy Cundiff – after he went 7 of 12 on FGs to being the season. To replace Cundiff, the Redskins signed Kai Forbath on Tuesday. Forbath entered the NFL as an undrafted college free agent out of UCLA and spent time with Dallas and Tampa Bay before joining Washington.

One thing to keep in mind on this topic: this will be Walsh’s first regular season game kicking outdoors. The Vikings have played three games inside the friendly confines of Mall of America Field, and their two road games have been indoors as well – at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium and Detroit’s Ford Field.

Adrian Peterson Returns to Site of Knee Injury
This is a storyline that has no real practical implications on the Vikings-Redskins matchup, but I’m not sure that anyone close to Adrian Peterson or anyone who was watching these teams play last year can avoid thinking about it. The last time we saw Peterson at FedEx Field, he was writhing in pain on the playing surface like a wounded animal after a Redskins defender crashed into and severely injured his left knee.

The injury happened on Christmas Eve. Just over 8 months later, Peterson opened the 2012 regular season in the Vikings starting lineup, capping a remarkable rehabilitation that began immediately after the injury and wouldn’t have been possible without Peterson’s unmatched determination to improve and tremendous support from the Vikings medical staff. And 9 months later, Peterson is set to return to FedEx Field in an attempt to help his team record its 5th win on the young season.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 79 Comments »

Vikings Ride Defense, Harvin To 30-7 Win Over Titans

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 7, 2012 – 6:58 pm

The Vikings used a consistent dose of body blows from their defense and several stunning jabs from Percy Harvin to knock out the Tennessee Titans on Sunday afternoon at Mall of America Field, coming away with a 30-7 victory when all was said and done that moved them to 4-1 on the season. The win was the Vikings third of the season at home and it keeps them in a 1st-place tie atop the NFC North with the Chicago Bears.

Tennessee began the game with the ball, and used a 17-yard gain on 3rd and 5 followed by a 12-yard gain on the following play to push the ball inside of Vikings territory. After that, though, the Vikings defense bowed up and forced a Titans punt. That was as good as it would get for the Titans offense until it was too late. That first drive went 7 plays and 33 yards before stalling out, and the Titans were not able to run more than five plays or gain more than 26 yards in any of the next eight series. Tennessee’s first nine drives ended in the following ways: punt, punt, fumble, interception, punt, punt, end of half, punt, punt.

While the Vikings defense was pitching a shutout for three-plus quarters, the Vikings offense was slowly putting together an insurmountable lead, with WR Percy Harvin as the lynchpin and QB Christian Ponder as the triggerman. Harvin was up to his old tricks, serving as a lethal and versatile threat throughout the game. He had 2 rushes for 8 yards, including a 4-yard TD, and caught 8 passes for 108 yards and another TD. Ponder threw his first 2 INTs of the season, but he was able to bounce back in a big way. He finished going 25 of 35 for 258 yards with 2 TDs to go along with the INTs. His second TD went to Kyle Rudolph in the 4th quarter and essentially ended any thought of an improbable Titans comeback.

As they’ve been able to do during their wins, the Vikings ran the ball with enough effectiveness to keep the opposing defense off-balance. Adrian Peterson carried the ball 17 times for 88 yards while Toby Gerhart logged 41 yards on 6 carries. As a team, the Vikings gained 175 rushing yards on 31 carries, good for a 5.6-yard average and good enough to allow the play-action pass to be effective. The Vikings picked up 25 first downs during the game, with nine of them coming on the ground, 13 through the air and another three via penalty.

But make no mistake, the foundation of Sunday’s Vikings win was a suffocating defensive performance that kept RB Chris Johnson frustrated and QB Matthew Hasselbeck uncomfortable. Johnson was held to just 24 yards on 15 carries (1.6 yards per carry) and Hasselbeck was sacked twice while going 26 of 43 for 200 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT. Those numbers a bit deceiving, though, because Hasselbeck had just 83 yards passing by the end of the 3rd quarter and picked up the rest while the Vikings played a conservative defense that forced Tennessee to methodically march down the field instead of striking quickly.

In the 1st half, though, the Vikings defense was anything but conservative. They sacked Hasselbeck twice, Antoine Winfield intercepted him once and they forced two fumbles with fumble recovery. The Titans were just 1 of 7 on 3rd downs in the first two quarters and Johnson had just 12 yards rushing on 8 attempts. Behind the stellar defensive performance, Harvin’s rushing TD and 2 Blair Walsh FGs, the Vikings led 13-0 at halftime.

The Vikings pushed their lead to 23-0 after another Walsh FG – he was 3-of-3 on the afternoon – and Harvin’s 10-yard TD catch before the Titans finally got on the board with a 10-yard TD pass from Hasselbeck to TE Jared Cook. Ponder and Co. wasted no time responding to Tennessee’s only score, though, driving 43 yards in just 6 plays on the following drive to score on a 15-yard Ponder-to-Rudolph connection, giving the Vikings their final 30-7 advantage.

The Vikings defense didn’t collect a bunch of sacks on the afternoon, but they were constantly pestering Hasselbeck and forcing him to either throw too quickly or throw inaccurately. The Vikings defensive line was also credited with 3 passes defensed, an indication that even when they didn’t get to Hasselbeck they were still able to disrupt him. Unofficially, LB Chad Greenway was credited with 9 tackles to lead the team and CB Josh Robinson was second on the team with 6 tackles. Greenway had 1 tackle for loss and 1 pass defensed, while S Jamarca Sanford (2), DT Kevin Williams (2), LB Jasper Brinkley (1), Winfield (1), CB Chris Cook (1) and DE Jared Allen (1) had the other pass break-ups. LB Erin Henderson had 2 tackles for loss and DE Brian Robison and Allen each had 1.

We will have much more analysis and reaction to the Vikings win on Sunday, so stay tuned to vikings.com to stay on top of it all. The Vikings next game is Sunday afternoon at FedEx Field, where they will challenge the Washington Redskins in a game that is scheduled to kick off at 3:25 p.m. CT.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 44 Comments »

Quick-Starting Vikings Blitz 49ers, Win 24-13 At Home

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 23, 2012 – 3:59 pm

Not many teams looked better than the San Francisco 49ers through the first two weeks of the 2012 season, but the Vikings prepared all week to change that. On Sunday at Mall of America Field, the Vikings preparation paid off in a big way. After jumping out to an early 7-0 lead, the Vikings never looked back as they blitzed the heavily-favored 49ers and came away with a thorough 24-13 victory.

“Our preparation this week was on point,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said after the game. “The way we prepared this week, you knew that we were going to play good football. I didn’t say that to our team before we played Indy (last week). We did not handle the success against Jacksonville the right way. And I mentioned that to our players during the week prior to Indy. We came back this week and our guys were locked in. They were focused throughout the week and it showed in the way we played.”

The Vikings outstanding preparation definitely showed right off the bat, as Christian Ponder and the offense methodically drove down the field on the game’s opening drive. When all was said and done, Ponder found TE Kyle Rudolph for a 1-yard TD on 4th and goal to cap a 16-play, 82-yard drive that took 7:40 off the clock. The drive featured balanced playcalling, with 8 rushes and 8 passes, and it included only three 3rd-down plays.

San Francisco QB Alex Smith and his offense couldn’t match the execution on their first possession, as they were forced to punt away after just one 1st down. It was clear at that point that San Francisco was in for a day-long battle against the Vikings. The Vikings and 49ers exchanged punts after that, and then San Francisco got on the board with a 29-yard FG by David Akers.

Ponder, in the midst of perhaps his best game as a pro, responded following the 49ers FG. He drove the Vikings offense once again through the fierce 49ers defense, this time going 80 yards in 11 plays and capping the drive with a 23-yard TD sprint right through the heart of the 49ers defense. That score gave the Vikings a 14-3 lead with just 5:39 to play in the 1st half.

The 49ers offense gained some rhythm on the following drive and looked as if they’d be able to help the team carry some momentum into the locker room at halftime. They drove from their own 24-yardline to the Vikings 25 in 11 plays to set up Akers for a FG with just a minute play in the half. But the Vikings got a fantastic push up the middle and DT Letroy Guion extended his arms to block the kick, which gave Ponder and Co. possession on their own 33-yardline. Eight plays later, Blair Walsh came on to salvage a late-half score by splitting the uprights on a 52-yard kick. Walsh’s FG – the 3rd consecutive game he’s converted a FG of 50+ yards (Vikings record) – gave the Vikings a 17-3 lead at halftime.

San Francisco came out fast in the 3rd quarter, as Kyle Williams returned the opening kickoff 94 yards to the Minnesota 14-yardline. But the Vikings defense rose to the occasion, forcing the 49ers to settle for a 29-yard FG. The Vikings went 3-and-out on their next drive, and the 49ers filled the building with anxiety by driving 86 yards in 9 plays to score on a 1-yard TD from Alex Smith to TE Vernon Davis, making the score 17-13 in favor of the Vikings.

As they did most of the day, though, Ponder and the Vikings fought through the 49ers defense to produce points. Ponder found Rudolph for another TD – this time from 2 yards out – to cap a 12-play, 86-yard drive that took 7 minutes off the clock. At that point, the lead was 24-13, and the Vikings defense took it from there.

The 49ers following 5 drives ended in a lost fumble that was forced by S Jamarca Sanford and recovered by LB Marvin Mitchell, two punts, an INT by CB Josh Robinson and then another lost fumble that was forced by DE Jared Allen and recovered by DE Brian Robison. After the sack-forced-fumble by Allen, the Vikings offense took the field in the victory formation.

The Vikings defense was paced all day by LB Chad Greenway, who finished with 13 tackles and 2.0 sacks. CB Antoine Winfield was credited with 8 tackles, and both Sanford and fellow S Harrison Smith had 6 stops each. Sanford came in to replace starter Mistral Raymond, who went down with a leg injury early in the game.

Ponder finished the day going 21 of 35 for 198 yards with 2 TDs and 0 INTs (94.7 passer rating). Percy Harvin was Ponder’s favorite target, as he hauled in 9 of the 11 passes thrown his way for 89 yards. Rudolph had the 2 TDs on 5 receptions for 36 yards. It may not have been sensational, but the Vikings running game was solid against one of the best run defenses the NFL has seen in recent memory. Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart, Harvin and Ponder combined for 146 rushing yards on 41 carries.

The win moves the Vikings to 2-1 on the season as they prepare for a road contest against the Detroit Lions this week.


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 99 Comments »

Line Change: Vikings DL Rotation Proved Effective

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 13, 2012 – 12:23 pm

Vikings Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams is new to Minnesota. But it didn’t take him long to find a beloved state pastime to use as an analogy in explaining one of his defensive philosophies.

Williams explained during training camp that he’ll use a rotation at defensive line throughout the season, comparing his substitution patterns to that of a hockey lineup.

“I said before that this is Minnesota, we’re going to have a hockey lineup so we need eight guys to come in and play for us and play well,” Williams said. “We’ll have guys that are rotating and we expect whatever that rotation is for guys to play winning football.”

The philosophy was in play last week in the Vikings season-opening win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Vikings four starting defensive linemen – DEs Jared Allen and Brian Robison and DTs Letroy Guion and Kevin Williams – took the bulk of the snaps, but Christian Ballard, Fred Evans, Everson Griffen and D’Aundre Reed were in the mix as well. Griffen logged 33 defensive snaps, Evans 18, Ballard 17 and Reed 4. The Vikings at one time actually had four defensive ends on the field at once, looking to apply pressure to QB Blaine Gabbert late in the game.

Were Vikings coaches pleased with the production of the defensive line?

“Oh yeah,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said. “And the more I looked at the tape and saw the hits that we put on the quarterback, that was very, very encouraging because over time, generally, that makes a big difference. You’d like to get sacks but you definitely want to get some hits on the quarterback and we got a number of good hits on the quarterback.”

The main critique many had of the Vikings rotation plan was that the starters – namely Allen and Williams – would be off the field too frequently. But on Sunday it appears Vikings coaches found a good mix, as Allen was on the field for 75 snaps and Williams logged 64.

“I thought it was good for us and it’s something we have to continue to grow and develop and make sure the guys we do put in for our starters are really living up to the things that we expect,” Frazier explained. “But it was a good start for us, to be able to get that rotation going in a fashion we think will help us over the long haul.”


Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 39 Comments »

Twitter-Sized Player Evaluations

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 7, 2012 – 6:26 am

One of the main challenges to covering a NFL team during training camp is covering all the bases. With a 90-man roster and plenty of intriguing storylines to follow, it’s hard to cover everything. But there is a saving grace in all of this. Twitter.

Brevity is required when using Twitter because a message on the social media platform must be 140 or fewer characters. Some may look at that as a limitation. But we’re turning it into opportunity. The Twitter-sized player evaluations feature we debuted last week gives us a chance to provide some insight on several players, rather than an overwhelming amount of insight on just a few players.

On Monday before practice, we asked (on my Twitter handle – @wobby) which players you’d like to know about via Twitter evaluations. They are listed below with a 140 (or fewer)-character evaluation…

FB Matt Asiata – Skilled pass catcher out of the backfield. Needs to show ability on special teams during preseason.

WR Stephen Burton – May have some position flexibility to him (can play X and Z receiver) & has had very good camp. Good after the catch. Big preseason for him.

CB Chris Carr – Playing with first-team nickel. Smart, instinctive player. Was in punt return rotation on Monday.

LB Audie Cole – Big, physical & smart. Unsure if he’s best at middle or outside LB. Needs to contribute on special teams. Has a chance to be good NFL LB.

TE Rhett Ellison – Impressing with his hands and fluidity in passing game. Known as hard worker. Will be a good pro for a long time.

RG Brandon Fusco – Still the one to beat for starting RG spot. Smart, tough player. Going against Kevin Williams every day is good for him.

RB Toby Gerhart – Looks and plays the part of a starting-caliber NFL RB. Grinder who will wear defenses out. Good in passing game (protection and receiving).

LB Everson Griffen – Up and down – will make great plays or mistakes. Great instincts and athleticism. Transitioning well, could still play DL in situations.

DL Trevor Guyton – Great start to camp, leveling off a bit now. Hard to move on the inside. Has athleticism to play multiple positions. Stout against run.

DE Brian Robison – Great day of practice on Monday. Excellent inside pass rush moves. Can play DT in nickel package. Great enthusiasm and passion.

C John Sullivan – Excellent leader. Rarely makes mistake. Developing into Top 5 at his position in NFL.

K Blair Walsh – Has impressed with leg strength AND accuracy. Answered the bell in simulated game situations at end of practice. Touchbacks-a-plenty.

WR Bryan Walters – In the mix at WR, needs productive preseason. In punt return rotation & fields kicks gracefully. Sudden route runner with good separation.

WR Jarius Wright – Explosive short-area quickness. Solid hands. In return rotations. Good attitude, practices hard. Solid camp so far.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 65 Comments »

Defense Dials It Up; Notes From Monday’s Practice

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 6, 2012 – 5:19 pm

There is a natural ebb and flow to training camp practices – some days the offense is better, some days the defense stands out. The Vikings offense got off to a fast start at 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp and capped off a good first 10 days with a sound showing in Saturday night’s practice.

Come Monday, though, the defense jumped up. After a day off on Sunday, the Vikings returned to the practice fields for their customary morning walk-thru followed by an afternoon practice, working under hot and windy conditions that did nothing to help the offense’s cause.

DE Brian Robison was a standout performer for the defense, providing a steady pass rush off the edge in the base 4-3 defense and then sliding inside on occasion to play DT in the nickel package. Robison teamed up with a fellow lineman twice during a drill versus the offensive linemen to execute an effective stunt. On the first play, Robison lined up on the outside and stunted inside, with Kevin Williams looping outside. The maneuver was enough for Robison to slip inside past a pair of offensive linemen. On the second play, Robison used a similar stunt in tandem with fellow DE D’Aundre Reed to create a pressure.

During the team’s live goal line period, LB Chad Greenway and DT Letroy Guion teamed up to halt the first-team offense on the initial snap, and second-team middle LB Tyrone McKenzie also burst through the line later in the period to make a splash play. McKenzie was another player who stood out during Monday’s practice. He takes care of a leadership role on the Vikings second-team defense and also possesses the athleticism to be a productive linebacker in nickel packages.

LB Marvin Mitchell and S Mistral Raymond each tallied INTs at various points in the practice as well. Mitchell has run with McKenzie at times in the second-team nickel package while Raymond has spent most of his time with the first team and second team at safety.

A few other notes…

Childs has knee surgery Monday
The road to recovery for Greg Childs after he tore the patellar tendon in both knees Saturday night has begun. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said Childs was to undergo surgery on Monday.

“So, we don’t know what the long-term prognosis is, but we are all hoping for the best,” Frazier said. “But our players, it was hard for them, obviously it is hard for Greg and his family. We’re all pulling for him through this situation.”

Gerhart looks good
Toby Gerhart is the Vikings starting RB and Frazier says the third-year pro has looked good so far in camp. Gerhart will likely get the start in Friday’s preseason game at San Francisco, but don’t expect him to get too many carries.

“He’s been looking well,” Frazier said. “He’s practicing well, has great confidence in what we’re doing, what we’re asking of him. He doesn’t seem like a guy who is ready to settle for being a backup running back, which is a good thing.”

Who will handle return duties?
At this point in training camp, charting the guys who are included in the kickoff and punt return rotation is nearly a full-time job. On Monday, I saw WR Stephen Burton, CB Chris Carr, DB Reggie Jones, CB Josh Robinson, CB Marcus Sherels, WR Kerry Taylor, WR Bryan Walters and WR Jarius Wright all take turns in the punt return rotation.

“We are going to make sure that we use the right guys and the guys that we think have the best chance,” Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer said. “If a guy is on the bubble, will he make it (the roster) because he is a good punt returner or kickoff returner? That will be key Friday night (preseason game vs. San Francisco). Hopefully we can make them punt a few times and we’ll go out there and get some reps for our guys.”


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 61 Comments »

Twitter-Sized Player Evaluations

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 1, 2012 – 7:15 am

On Tuesday as I walked out to afternoon practice here at 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp, I asked followers on Twitter if there were any players they’d like me to pay special attention. We received many responses, so instead of responding to each person individually, we decided to put all the responses together and share it that way so everyone can read about the players that are tipping the curiosity of the fans.

And to make it as Twitter-realistic as possible, each comment below is in 140 characters or less (that is the character limit for a Twitter message). Here we go…

DL Christian Ballard: Second-team DT on Tuesday. Looks significantly bigger and better this year compared to last year. Will contribute.

S Robert Blanton: Sat out practice on Tuesday. Has been good to this point. Still learning defense obviously.

LB Audie Cole: Best I’ve seen him look on Tuesday. Great swim move during pass rush drill. Strikes well.

CB Bobby Felder: Had impressive INT during 1-on-1 drill. Won’t surprise me if he impresses during preseason. Plays with energy.

FB Jerome Felton: Was running with the first team at FB. Solid blocker. Also a special teams contributor.

LB Everson Griffen: First-team kickoff coverage; third-team LB. Explosive rushing passer off edge. Plays with energy.

DT Letroy Guion: First-team DT. Having a great camp. Good movement skills, very good strength. Anchors well.

DT Trevor Guyton: Third-team offense. Also plays special teams. Good movement. Role TBD.

LB Tyrone McKenzie: Big jump up from last year. Plays second-team MIKE LB. Impressive INT on Tuesday. Vocal on field.

S Mistral Raymond: Mostly first-team reps, some second-team. Seems better-versed in defensive scheme this year.

DE Brian Robison: Same ‘ol B-Rob. Plays with passion. Exclusively first-team left DE. Good inside pass rush moves.

OL Geoff Schwartz: Plays multiple positions with second and third teams. Role still TBD.

WR Jerome Simpson: Great speed. Gets open a lot. Love him on comeback routes. Good after the catch.

S Harrison Smith: Opened camp with the second team, but has begun to take some reps with first team. Looks the part. Plays bigger than listed.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 22 Comments »

Roster Rundown: Defensive Line

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 26, 2012 – 9:29 am

Vikings players report to 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp today and their first walk-thru and practice will be tomorrow, so it’s time for us to complete our Roster Rundown series. There are three position groups to go, and we’ll knock off the largest group right now – the defensive line.

Let’s split this up into DEs and DTs, without regard to who’s playing right DE compared to left DE and without regard to who’s playing the three-technique and who’s playing nose. Here we go…

Defensive Ends
For my money, the Vikings have the best DE in the NFL. Jared Allen comes off a 22.0-sack season a year ago, and no player has more sacks than Allen’s 105.0 since he entered the League in 2004. It’s not a stretch in the least to think Allen can have another sensational season in 2012. Yes, teams will be focusing on neutralizing him, but teams have been trying to neutralize him for years with no avail. As a bookend at DE, Brian Robison is the favorite to hold a starting position on the defense as he comes off a career-high 8.0-sack season in 2011.

Behind starters Allen and Robison, the Vikings have high hopes for Everson Griffen this season. Griffen has been a standout special teams player during his two-year career, and he’s gotten to the point now where the team will try to find more snaps for him on defense. Because of his versatility, those snaps could come at either DE or DT, and there’s also been talk of him getting into the mix at LB. Another reserve who could take a step forward this year is D’Aundre Reed. He was a 7th-round pick out of Arizona last season and didn’t play in a game, but coaches are excited about his athleticism and potential.

Other DEs on the roster who will fight to add depth to the group are: Jeff Charleston, Trevor Guyton, Anthony Jacobs, Eric Latimore, Ernest Owusu and Nick Reed. Charleston and Reed are veterans, Guyton was a 7th-round pick this year, and Jacobs (Minnesota), Latimore (Penn State) and Owusu (California) are undrafted college free agents.

Expect Allen and Robison to emerge from camp with starting spots, with Griffen pushing Robison for playing time and the two perhaps playing on a rotational basis. D’Aundre Reed has a big training camp ahead of him and could take a huge step forward. The rest of the group is a nice blend of veterans and youngsters, and they have a chance to provide some depth at what is a very strong position for the Vikings.

————————————————————————————————————————–

Defensive Tackle
Teammates call him The Big Ticket. Kevin Williams is the leader of the Vikings DTs and has been changing games for the Purple since 2003. Williams played better than most people realize a year ago, and there’s no reason to expect a slowdown from Ticket in 2012.

This year, Williams is looking for a running mate to start next to him. 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.

Letroy Guion is a good, young option for the Vikings. Guion is only 25, but he’s entering his 5th season out of Florida State already and the Vikings would benefit greatly if he could step up and earn a starting position. Another returning veteran on the roster is Fred Evans, a six-year veteran who joined the Vikings in 2007.

Earlier this offseason, we identified Christian Ballard as one of eight Vikings poised for a breakout season in 2012. A rotational player in 2011 as a rookie, Ballard trained hard this offseason and is committed to earning more playing time for 2012. Perhaps Ballard’s biggest asset will be versatility because he can line up at defensive end or defensive tackle.

The Vikings have two undrafted college free agents at DT – Chase Baker (Boise State) and Tydreke Powell (North Carolina). Baker was a standout to me at this year’s Senior Bowl (Leslie Frazier and his staff had Baker on their North squad), and Powell will impress because of his size (6-3, 310 pounds).

Williams is obviously solidified as the starter at the three-technique, but a great opportunity exists for the rest of the DTs to earn a starting spot next to Williams. This will be a fun position battle to monitor during training camp. Don’t be surprised if this situation is ultimately resolved with a by-committee approach, but it also wouldn’t be surprising – and would be quite pleasant – if someone emerged from camp with a firm grasp on the job.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 20 Comments »

Several Vikings Step Up In Win Over Washington

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 26, 2011 – 2:27 pm

The Vikings earned a tough 33-26 road victory over the Washington Redskins on Saturday, and there was nothing conventional about how the game unfolded. Minnesota jumped out to 10-0 lead, trailed 13-10 early in the 3rd quarter, watched both Adrian Peterson and Christian Ponder leave the game due to injury, and then outscored Washington 23-13 the rest of the way to notch the win.

To be on the road and face that much adversity – Peterson left with a severe knee injury and Ponder suffered a concussion – but still come out with a win is a testament to the Vikings depth and refusal to quit on the season.

Peterson and Ponder were both forced out of the game early in the 3rd quarter. Backups Toby Gerhart and Joe Webb stepped right in and were productive for the rest of the game. Gerhart finished with 109 yards on 11 carries, the first 100-yard game of his career, and Webb was 4 of 5 for 84 yards and 2 TDs, and he also added 5 carries for 34 yards and 1 TD.

But it was more than just Gerhart and Webb who stepped up on Saturday. Seven-year veteran Joe Berger started at LG in place of Steve Hutchinson, rookie interior OL Brandon Fusco replaced Anthony Herrera at RG after Herrera left with an injury, rookie S Mistral Raymond grabbed an INT and ended a big-time drought for the Vikings defense, and Brian Robison forced and recovered a fumble off of Rex Grossman.

There are more examples of guys who stepped up in the victory, but you get the picture. And Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier was clearly pleased with the way his team played, from the top of the roster all the way to the bottom.

“As I mentioned earlier, just a good overall effort by our football team to go on the road and get a win against a Redskins team that had just come off a big win against the Giants the week before,” Frazier said during his customary day-after-the-game press conference. “And to handle some of that adversity that occurred during that game, to see the number of players who stepped up like they did, whether it be Toby Gerhart, Joe (Webb) coming into the game when Christian (Ponder) was injured, some of our defensive guys just stepping up, Mistral Raymond coming back and getting an interception for us, the big caused fumble by Brian Robison as well.

“A lot of good things in that football game. A lot of guys contributed to that win on Saturday, which really should be a spring board for us as we prepare for this ball game against Chicago.”


Tags: , , , , , ,
Posted in All | 18 Comments »

Ballard, Griffen Will Have Opportunity To Contribute On Sunday

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 8, 2011 – 1:31 pm

On Sunday the Vikings will face a Lions offense that leans heavily on the pass. No team passes on a higher percentage of their offensive snaps (64.9%) than the Lions and only the New Orleans Saints have attempted more passes on the season. The Lions pass-to-run ratio currently sits at 490-278, which includes games with 63 and 50 pass attempts.

The Lions are coming off back-to-back games of 45 and 44 pass attempts, and now they may be even more inclined to attack through the air with starter Jahvid Best out and his replacement, Kevin Smith, also battling injury.

Suffice it to say, Vikings pass rushers – especially the defensive ends – will have a lot of work to do this Sunday. Jared Allen has been productive for the Vikings this season – his 14.5 sacks rank 2nd in the NFL – but not even he can put enough pressure on Lions QB Matthew Stafford alone. Allen’s usual partner on the other end of the defensive line is Brian Robison, but Robison is trying to comeback from a concussion he sustained in last week’s game against the Broncos.

With or without Robison, the Vikings will rely on depth along the defensive line to keep fresh bodies in the game and a relentless pass rush in Stafford’s face. After Allen and Robison, the next two outside pass rushers the Vikings will insert into the game are rookie Christian Ballard and 2nd-year DE Everson Griffen.

Vikings Defensive Coordinator Fred Pagac was asked about his depth along the defensive line during his customary Thursday morning meeting with reporters.

“We’re planning on playing him,” Pagac said of Griffen. “He’s been getting more reps as the season’s gone on. We plan on using him quite a bit. The other guy will be Christian Ballard. Those guys are going to have to play. We’re going to have to rotate people through, we’re going to have to get fresh bodies in there rushing the passer, and play sixty minutes of football. Give them different looks, play aggressively and have some fun.”

Both Ballard and Griffen are 4th-round draft picks of the Vikings, and both figure to be in the team’s long-term plans along the defensive line after impressing coaches and scouts early in their careers. For both players, versatility is a strong-point in their skill sets. They can both contribute on multiple phases of special teams, and they can both play multiple positions on defense. Griffen is most comfortable playing DE, but the Vikings have also experimented with him as a LB. Ballard was a standout at the University of Iowa at both DE and DT, and he’s been productive in short stints for the Vikings at both positions as well.

With the Vikings season coming up short of expectations, now is a great opportunity for these two young players to gain additional playing time and prove even more to coaches that they’re deserving of playing time. Add in the fact that the Vikings defense will face a pass-happy Lions attack this weekend, and the opportunity for Ballard and Griffen gets even better.

Here’s what Pagac had to say about both Ballard and Griffen when he was asked to evaluate them:

On Ballard: “I think that kid is multi-talented. He can play different positions. I don’t think he’ll have a problem there. In fact, the snaps that he has gotten at that end position, he’s been pretty stout and he’s gotten us pretty good push on the pocket. He’s a young player who’s going to be a good football player.”

On Griffen: “Everson has great potential. In my opinion, he’s had pretty good productivity on the plays that he’s played and he’s got to continue to mature and grasp some scheme and go from there. He has great athleticism. He has a good motor. He can make athletic plays.”


Tags: , , , ,
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 49 Comments »