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Vikings Release 3 Veterans

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 10, 2012 – 2:47 pm

The Vikings on Saturday announced the release of 3 veteran players – CB Cedric Griffin and OGs Anthony Herrera and Steve Hutchinson.

“It was a tough decision as we move forward and prepare for the upcoming season and the future of our organization,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said. “All three individuals have meant a great deal to the Vikings organization both on and off field over the years. We wish all of them the best and thank them for their service to the Minnesota Vikings.”

All 3 players had been core members of the team for the past several seasons and played key roles in the team winning back-to-back division titles in 2008 and 2009 as well as making a run to the NFC Championship Game after the 2009 season. It’s likely that a combination of factors – clearing salary cap room, performance and rebuilding the roster – factored into the decisions to part ways with the players.

We’ll have more reaction to these moves and analysis and what it means for the future of the Vikings soon.


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A Few Vikings Storylines To Follow

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 13, 2012 – 7:13 am

I’ve been away on vacation the past few days, but that doesn’t mean I’m not keeping up with Vikings-related developments in the news. Here are a few storylines I’ve taken note of over the past several days and how they impact the Vikings.

Feel free to chime in on any of them by providing your thoughts in the comments section below this entry…

– The Oakland Raiders released CB Stanford Routt on Thursday. This news becomes relevant to the Vikings immediately because the secondary is an area of the team that could use an influx of talent. I addressed the question of whether Routt would fit with the Vikings in this week’s Monday Morning Mailbag, so check it out to read more about this possibility.

– Staying in the secondary, it was reported that Alabama S Mark Barron will have surgery to repair two hernias, which will prevent him from participating in the Combine and could cause his draft stock to fall. For his sake, hopefully these developments won’t adversely impact his NFL career. For the Vikings sake, I wonder if a big drop in Barron’s draft stock could put the team in position to nab the best safety in the draft with the 3rd pick of the 2nd round. My sense is that would be a huge steal for the Vikings. This is complete speculation on my part, but isn’t that what we’re supposed to do at this point in the pre-draft process?

– The Pittsburgh Steelers restructured the contracts of CB Ike Taylor and LBs Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley to create cap space. Don’t be surprised if we similar news from the Vikings this offseason, as they face several of what I call “50-50” decisions on veteran players. CB Cedric Griffin, LB EJ Henderson, G Steve Hutchinson and CB Antoine Winfield are just a few examples of players with whom this tactic may (or may not) apply.

– Kevin Acee of UT San Diego writes that the San Diego Chargers are likely to cut LT Marcus McNeill to clear cap space. LT is another position often speculated about regarding the Vikings, but most of the speculation centers on acquiring a LT in the draft. Obviously LT is a premier position in the NFL, so it’s rare to find a good one available in free agency. But McNeill would be a good one and he could be available in free agency. He’s 28 years old and is a two-time Pro Bowler. Something to consider at least.


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Frazier Pleased With Griffin’s Play, Sees Good Things Ahead For Him

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 27, 2011 – 6:02 am

Cedric Griffin has been a much-maligned member of the Vikings defense recently, and his season may have reached a low point about two weeks ago when he was benched during the Vikings Week 14 game in Detroit and then did not start or play much at all in the Vikings Week 15 game at home against the New Orleans Saints.

But Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier has since had a chat with Griffin, and it appears the soft-spoken but ultra-competitive CB has responded well. A quick glance at the stat sheet from Saturday’s game against the Redskins will not reveal gaudy statistics for Griffin, but a longer look at the game tape apparently didn’t reveal many errors, either. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier couldn’t say enough positive things about the game Griffin played on Christmas Eve Day.

“Cedric played well,” Frazier explained. “He was active. He was really into it, in all areas. He did a really good job. I’m really proud of the way he played, the way he approached things throughout the week in practice. He had his best week of practice and it showed in the way he played on Saturday. He was very competitive, he played smart, executed the techniques that we asked of him, repeatedly. So, that’s really, really encouraging and it’ll be great to see that again this Sunday against Chicago. I was really encouraged by his play and his attitude and his effort as well.”

When he plays well, Griffin is a big asset for the Vikings defense because he has the size to battle with some of the NFL’s best and biggest WRs. This season, though, Frazier has indicated that he wants Griffin to execute basic techniques of the CB position better and also play with more confidence.

“It would have been very, very difficult to walk off that field with a win yesterday if he didn’t play the way he played,” Frazier said. “He played well enough to give us a chance to win that football game. It was very, very encouraging to see his play.

“I haven’t lost my confidence in Cedric along the way. What I’ve tried to do is encourage him to regain his confidence, because I believe that he can do certain things that he has to believe he can do. Saturday, he executed some of those things without any inhibitions, without any concerns. He just played freely. If we get that out of him, which I expect us to going forward, there are good things ahead for him.”


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Notes From Frazier Press Conference

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 12, 2011 – 2:23 pm

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier held his customary day-after-the-game press conference on Monday afternoon and in so doing he provided a quick injury update and then discussed some of the big issues coming out of Sunday’s close 34-28 loss to the Detroit Lions.

Here are a few notes from the press conference…

– Frazier the most significant injury coming out of the game was WR Stephen Burton, who injured the MCL in one of his knees. Burton will not undergo surgery, but the timetable for his rehab and return is such that he wouldn’t be able to make it back before the season concludes. As a result, the Vikings have placed him on the Reserve/Injured list, they’ve elevated Manny Arceneaux from the Practice Squad and Frazier indicated the team may sign another WR to take Arceneaux’s place on the Practice Squad.

– Frazier was optimistic on Adrian Peterson and Christian Ponder being able to play this weekend against the New Orleans Saints. Frazier described Peterson, who is dealing with an ankle injury, as close to being able to play last Sunday and Ponder as “no worse for the wear” after playing into the 3rd quarter against Detroit with his hip injury. Frazier also noted that DE Brian Robison “banged” his knee during the game but was able to finish.

– The 6-point loss on Sunday in Detroit marks the 8th loss of 7 points or fewer for the Vikings this season. That’s a remarkable stat for this Vikings team considering the injuries they’ve had to overcome. With the losses mounting up, it’s also a credit to the leadership on the Vikings coaching staff and in the locker room that the team continues to battle so hard in close games. No one wants to be the loveable losers, but it’s even worse to be the bad team that doesn’t even try hard. The Vikings clearly are not a group that doesn’t fight to the end, and Frazier appreciates that team quality. “As I mentioned before, not a lot of solace when you lose games when you’re battling every week to try to get a win like we are,” Frazier said, “but the fact that they are continuing to fight and not giving up and not make any excuses gives you some hope that we’ll continue to fight each and every week and hopefully eventually get it turned where some of those tough losses end up being victories. Hats off to our players for fighting the way they’re fighting.”

– Detroit’s 2nd TD of the game came on a 57-yard pass to WR Titus Young on a play where Young ran past CB Cedric Griffin and then beat S Jamarca Sanford further down the field to haul in the pass and dash into the end zone. On the play, Griffin’s responsibility is to re-route the WR early, and then to pass the receiver off to the safety. The problem was that Griffin didn’t get a sufficient re-route of Young, which enabled the Matthew Stafford-to-Young hookup and score. Griffin didn’t see much action after that play and Frazier was asked about the situation on Monday. Frazier said Griffin is not “in my dog house” and that the team will discuss the issue and move forward this week with a plan. I don’t expect Frazier will “give up” on Griffin, a player who has come back from severe knee injuries and is a good locker room guy. As Frazier said, the technique of re-routing a WR is something Griffin has executed countless times in the past and it’s likely something he’ll continue to be able to execute for the team going forward.

– The big story of the game for the Vikings is the removal of Ponder in favor of Webb, and then Webb’s subsequent performance and ability to nearly bring the team back to victory. While Frazier has maintained that Ponder is the team’s starter, he’s also acknowledged that the team would prefer to get Webb on the field more frequently because of his play-making ability. The issue right now is that Webb is the backup QB, and his value as the backup QB (which we saw on Sunday in Detroit) is too much to risk by having him on the field frequently. Once Sage Rosenfels, acquired two weeks ago, is more up to speed, then expect to see Webb in a more expanded role on offense. “No question, he is a guy who can create players when there’s nothing there,” Frazier said. “And we’ve got to do more as far as getting him out there and trying to put him in position to make plays, especially when Adrian is not playing and you’re relying so much on Percy. We need all the playmakers on the field that we can get and he is for sure one of our playmakers. It’s something we’ve got to continue to explore. We have some packages that we use sporadically, maybe we’ve got to go a little bit deeper with those packages.”


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Vikings Have Experienced Thrills in Recent Monday Night Games

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 10, 2011 – 2:54 pm

This entry was written by Vikings Public Relations intern Eric Haigh

Playing on Monday Night Football (MNF) is a special moment for any team that gets the opportunity. While the Vikings will be playing in their first MNF game of the season this week at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, they certainly have been involved in many exciting MNF games in their history. To help prepare you for this week’s NFC North rivalry game between the Vikings and Packers, let’s take a look back at the most exciting Vikings MNF games over the past 5 seasons.

Vikings 19, Redskins 16 – September 11, 2006 – FedEx Field
The Vikings kicked off the 2006 season under the lights of FedEx Field with a new head coach in Brad Childress and many other new faces, including CB Cedric Griffin, LG Steve Hutchinson, and K Ryan Longwell. On the first possession of the game, the Vikings drove 80 yards and scored on a 4-yard touchdown run by RB Chester Taylor. After 13 unanswered points by the Redskins, the Vikings came back to take the lead with a 46-yard field goal from Longwell and a 20-yard TD pass from QB Brad Johnson to WR Marcus Robinson. With 4:35 left in the 3rd quarter, Redskins K John Hall tied the game at 16 with a 22-yard field goal. In the final minutes, the Vikings came up big and took the lead with another Longwell FG, this time from 31 yards away with only 1 minute left in the game. The Redskins were able to get into position for a 48-yard FG try with 17 seconds remaining, but the kick sailed wide left and the Vikings opened their season with a big win on the road.

Vikings 20, Bears 13 – December 17, 2007 – HHH Metrodome
The Vikings entered this MNF matchup with an 8-6 record and a chance to put themselves in good position for a playoff berth. In their way was another NFC North rival, the Chicago Bears. Despite a noisy crowd that wanted to see their Vikings make that push into the postseason, the Purple started off slowly, falling behind 13-6 at the end of the 1st half with their only points coming on two Longwell FGs. The Vikings kept that momentum going in the 3rd quarter, as rookie RB Adrian Peterson punched a TD in from 1-yard out. However, the extra point following the score sailed wide left and kept the score at 13-12 in favor of Chicago. With just over 11 minutes remaining, starting QB Tarvaris Jackson was knocked out of the game with an injury. One play later, Peterson went up the middle for an 8-yard TD. Backup quarterback Brooks Bollinger scored a 2-point conversion after the TD and the Vikings never looked back, winning 20-13.

Packers 24, Vikings 19 – September 8, 2008 – Lambeau Field
The second time the Vikings opened the season on MNF came in this 2008 showdown with their division rival Packers. Green Bay was coming off of a 2007 season in which the team reached the NFC Championship Game, losing to the eventual Super Bowl Champion New York Giants in overtime. The Vikings were coming off a promising season with many young players looking to make the jump to the next level. Both offenses had trouble early in the game, with 3 of the first 4 scores being FGs. Going into halftime, Green Bay held a 10-6 lead, and after a 76-yard punt return for a TD from Packers punt returner Will Blackmon, hope was dwindling for the Vikings. However, the team rallied, scoring 2 TDs in the 4th quarter. With the score 24-19, the Vikings got the ball back with 1:51 remaining in the game and marched to the Minnesota 45 before QB Tarvaris Jackson was intercepted by Packers safety Atari Bigby to clinch the game. The Vikings would come back and beat the Packers at home later in the 2008 season on their way to an NFC North Championship.

Vikings 30, Saints 27 – October 6, 2008 – Louisiana Superdome
Entering a loud and raucous Louisiana Superdome on October 6, 2008, both the Vikings and Saints were in need of a win to remain in their respective division races. The Vikings did nothing to help quiet the crowd during the earlier stages, giving up a 17-yard TD from Saints QB Drew Brees to WR Devery Henderson just 3:51 into the game. New Orleans again moved the ball into scoring position midway through the 1st quarter before settling for a Martin Gramatica 46-yard FG attempt. The attempt was blocked and returned 59 yards for a TD by Vikings CB Antoine Winfield. After FGs by each team, Vikings TE Visanthe Shiancoe hauled in a 4-yard TD pass from running back Chester Taylor on a trick play to put the Vikings up 20-10 heading into halftime. The Saints stormed back in the 2nd half, scoring 17 unanswered points, including punt return TDs of 71 and 64 yards by Saints RB Reggie Bursh to give New Orleans a 27-20 lead. With 7:10 to go in the 4th quarter, Vikings QB Gus Frerotte hooked up with WR Bernard Berrian for a 33-yard TD to even the score. After a Saints missed FG, the Vikings got the ball back and took a shot deep to Berrian, who the officials say was interfered with by S Kevin Kaesviharn, putting the ball at the New Orleans 14. Longwell hit a 30-yard FG with 16 seconds left in the game to give the Vikings a much-needed win.

Vikings 30, Packers 27 – October 5, 2009 – Mall Of America Field
The storylines were aplenty when the Vikings met the Packers in Week 4 of the 2009 season. Vikings QB Brett Favre, who had spent 16 years of his career with the Packers and won one Super Bowl and 3 MVP awards, was facing his old team for the first time, only adding to the fierce rivalry between the two sides. On the other side was Favre’s successor, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, who was in the middle of his second season and the team’s full-time starter. Favre made his mark first after the Vikings recovered a Rodgers fumble, firing a 1-yard touchdown pass to Shiancoe to take an early 7-0 lead. One minute and four seconds later, Rodgers threw a 62-yard TD pass to Packers TE Jermichael Finley to even the score. After Favre hooked up with WR Sidney Rice for a 14-yard TD in the 2nd quarter, the Vikings defense came up with a stop and got the ball back again. However, Packers rookie LB Clay Matthews stripped Adrian Peterson of the ball and took it back 42 yards for a TD to make the score 14-14. Peterson made up for his mistake on the next offensive series, taking the ball into the end zone from 1 yard out to give the Vikings a 7-point advantage heading into halftime. From there, Favre and the Vikings put their foot on the gas. Favre drove the offense down the field on the opening drive of the 2nd half and finished it off with a 31-yard TD pass to Berrian. After scoreless play for over a quarter, the Vikings defense got in on the act, as DE Jared Allen sacked Rodgers in the end zone, stripping him of the ball and recovering it. After a Packers challenge, it was ruled that Rodgers’ knee was down in the end zone, resulting in a Vikings safety and a 30-14 lead. A Packers TD reception by receiver Jordy Nelson and a 31-yard FG from kicker Mason Crosby was not enough to overcome the deficit, as Favre beat his former team for the first time. Favre would go on to lead the Vikings to a 2009 NFC North Championship and an NFC Championship Game appearance.

Over the next several weeks with the stadium issue on the front burner in Minnesota, we’ll have a piece of stadium information posted after each vikings.com Blog entry.

Stadium Did You Know?
– Because of the revenue-challenged Metrodome, the Vikings receive annual subsidies of $15-20 million from other NFL teams in order to compete, including smaller markets like Green Bay and Kansas City.

– State lottery proceeds were used in Baltimore and Seattle to help pay for new football and baseball stadiums.

– The Twins ballpark legislation required the team to pay 30% of the total construction costs while Hennepin County covered the remaining 70%. The Vikings have agreed to fund 33% of the costs of an NFL-ready open-air stadium in Minnesota.


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Young Vikings Secondary Rises To Challenge

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 9, 2011 – 3:47 pm

We said it before Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals began: with star CB Antoine Winfield unavailable due to a neck injury, the young Vikings secondary had to step up.

And they did.

With Winfield out and Cedric Griffin benched for the first series, the Vikings ran out Asher Allen (23 years old, 3rd season) and Chris Cook (24-2)  as their starters at CB. On the game’s first snap, the Vikings had their nickel package on the field, with Marcus Sherels (23-1) being the 3rd CB. Do the math, and you’ve got a group of CBs with an average age of 23.3 years and an average experience level of 2 seasons.

But that didn’t stop the group from playing well. Arizona was forced into a 3-and-out on their first series, and then with Griffin back in the fold, the secondary continued to play well. Allen grabbed an INT in the 1st quarter, and after the first two quarters of play, Cardinals QB Kevin Kolb had completed just half of his 22 pass attempts for 104 yards and he had a passer rating of only 44.5.

Star WR Larry Fitzgerald was held in check, too, as he finished the game with 6 receptions for 44 yards and, most importantly, no TDs.

“They came up big for us today,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said. “Great to see Asher step up, great to see Jamarca step up. Chris Cook seems like he’s getting better every week. We all know there are big-time receivers every week in our league, and I haven’t seen him bat his eyes yet. He just continues to improve.”

In total, Kolb was 21 of 42 for 232 yards with 0 TDs and 2 INTs; backup QB Richard Bartel was 2 of 6 for 22 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT. Coming into the game, Kolb was averaging 8.1 yards per pass attempt. On Sunday against a youthful Vikings secondary, Kolb averaged just 4.1 yards per pass and he was unable to find the end zone for the second consecutive week.

The bottom line is the Vikings secondary is a group that has been much maligned recently. Some of that criticism was warranted, and I’m sure some of it wasn’t. But after Sunday’s performance, there’s nothing but positives to take away from this group. And it’s a group that will only get better and gain more confidence once Winfield can return to action.


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Emptying Out The Notebook From San Diego

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 14, 2011 – 6:03 am

Wednesday is the day we flip the calendar from last week to this week. But before we do that this morning, I wanted to empty out the notebook from Sunday’s season-opening loss to the Chargers…

Positives to build on
It’s hard to look at the positives when you lose a game that you lead by 10 points at halftime, and in the process you generated just 10 first downs and 187 net yards. But there were some positives from the game and Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier mentioned a few of them in his Monday press conference.

“I had a chance to go back and look at that tape and there were so many positive things that happened in that game,” Frazier said, “and particularly in the first half, just opening up the season the way we did with the kickoff going for a touchdown and guys just battling throughout and trying to make plays on both sides of the ball and our special teams as well.”

Frazier went on to mention other positives, such as: running the football (Vikings averaged 6.1 yards per carry); stopping the run (Chargers averaged just 2.9 yards per carry). Beyond that, it was good to see the Vikings win the turnover battle, hold QB Philip Rivers below his career averages in yards per attempt and passer rating and continue to cover kicks extremely well.

Defensive playmakers
Give a tip of the cap to Antoine Winfield, who intercepted Rivers late in the 1st half to stymie a scoring drive. It was the 24th INT of his career and his 18th as a Viking. Winfield will play in his 100th game as a Viking this Sunday in the team’s home opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Other defensive playmakers from Sunday were LB Erin Henderson and DEs Jared Allen and Brian Robison. In his first career start, Henderson had 6 tackles, 3 tackles for a loss and a sack. Allen and Robison split a sack and Allen also added an INT deep in Vikings territory to halt another potential Chargers scoring drive. On Winfield’s INT, Robison hit Rivers as he threw it, which caused the ball to hang up in the air so Winfield could snag it.

Frazier encouraged by CB Cedric Griffin
The Vikings defense is better when Cedric Griffin is playing, and he was playing in a regular season game on Sunday for the first time in nearly a year. Frazier seemed encouraged by Griffin’s ability to play the whole game on Sunday.

“I was really impressed with the fact that Cedric Griffin played as well as he did and as long as he did,” Frazier said. “He played every snap on defense, he did a great job.”

Young defensive line rotation
With Kevin Williams missing in action for the first two weeks of the season, a few young defensive linemen saw extra snaps on Sunday. There wasn’t much of a pass rush from the inside, which we typically see when Williams is in the game, but you have to give the youngsters some credit for the way they played against the run. In the end, there is improvement to be made, but it was also a step forward for the young rotation. Also, this experience will only make the entire defensive line better once Williams does return.

Re-naming the “Wildcat”
The Vikings introduced their package of plays for QB Joe Webb. Some have questioned the timing, which is a good example of Monday Morning Quarterbacking if you ask me, but the bottom line is it was good to see the Vikings display some creativity and ambition in getting Webb on the field.

But I think we need to come up with a name for this package of plays. It sounds like Frazier and the offensive staff don’t view this subset of plays in the team’s playbook as the typical Wildcat package, largely because Webb is a dual-threat – he can run or stay in the pocket and throw.

“Well ours is a little different,” Frazier responded when asked about the “Wildcat.” “The way we’re using Joe Webb, it’s different. Most teams that put a guy back there can’t throw the ball as well as Joe. We have a legitimate quarterback running the offense when we do it.”

Unfortunately, the Chargers were able to contain Webb when he was in the ballgame. But watch for the Vikings to grow that package of plays and improve production.

“There is room to expound on what we did [Sunday],” Frazier said. “We are not ready to give up on it. They did a good job [Sunday] of defending it, but we think it has merit.”

I do, too.


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Containing Rivers And Co. A Tall Task, But Vikings Up For It

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 9, 2011 – 6:56 am

I asked on Twitter yesterday what Vikings fans would like to have addressed in the next vikings.com Blog entry. The overwhelming response was something to the effect of the Vikings defense going against San Diego’s passing attack. So, let’s talk it out…

After watching the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers passing offenses hit the ground running last night, it looks like the lockout this past offseason won’t have much of a negative impact on the NFL’s elite QBs early in the season. Drew Brees was 32 of 49 for 419 yards and 3 TDs, while Aaron Rodgers was 27 of 35 for 312 yards and 3 TDs of his own. The Vikings task of Sunday in San Diego will be to slow down another of the NFL’s most prolific passers in Philip Rivers.

Rivers and Co. fall under the “you can’t stop them, you can only hope to contain them” category. But there is a way for the Vikings defense to contain the Chargers passing offense.

I think the key will be pressuring Rivers. This isn’t a novel concept, but so often when we think about stopping the opposing team’s passing offense we talk about only the secondary. And while it’s important that the Vikings secondary plays well on Sunday, it’s just as important that the rest of the Vikings defense finds a way to collapse the pocket around Rivers and make him uncomfortable.

Brees and Rodgers were dominant last night, but they weren’t perfect. When they weren’t pressured, they looked unstoppable. But when they were pressured, the defenses usually got off the field. Brees and Rodgers were sacked a combined 5 times on Thursday night, and only one of those 5 drives that contained a sack ended with a TD. The other 4 drives ended in 3 punts and 1 FG.

Earlier in the week, Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier was asked about his confidence level in the secondary going against a prolific passing attack such as San Diego’s. Frazier also mentioned that containing a passing attack is as much about rush as it is about coverage.

“It’s an important position because for us to be successful, our secondary will have to play well,” Frazier said. “But it’s a combination of our front being able to stop the run with our linebackers and forcing them into situations where they have to throw the ball and we can make them predictable.”

With that in mind, the task of containing Rivers and the Chargers passing attack is as much the responsibility of DEs Jared Allen and Brian Robison, as well as the rest of the Vikings defensive line, as it is the secondary’s responsibility. Allen had the best training camp of any Vikings player in my opinion and he looks poised for another double-digit sack season.

But going back to the topic of the Vikings secondary, a group that has been criticized in recent seasons, Frazier seems confident the Vikings have the right personnel in place to make an improvement in 2011. And Frazier’s confidence might not be misplaced. The group will certainly get a boost with the return of both Chris Cook and Cedric Griffin to the lineup. The Vikings drafted Cook in 2010 with the idea that the combination of he and Griffin, along with Winfield, would give the Vikings defense the bodies and talent to matchup with many of the great passing offenses in the NFL.

“I think we have the right guys on the field in the secondary between Cedric (Griffin), Chris (Cook), and Antoine (Winfield) that can get the job done,” Frazier said. “When we looked at Chris (Cook) when he was healthy and performing, he did a good job for us, and the same with Cedric (Griffin) and they have made enough progress physically that that’s not an issue. It’s a matter of getting game experience now for Cedric, in which we tried to give him some during the preseason and the same with Chris, and then he tweaked his hamstring in the Dallas game. Just the experience part was more important than determining whether or not they could do it.”


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Emptying Out The Notebook Before Preparations For Texans Begin

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 29, 2011 – 11:24 am

The Vikings will hit the outdoor practice fields at Winter Park Monday afternoon to begin preparation for the preseason finale against the Houston Texans on Thursday night. But before we focus on the Texans and Leslie Frazier’s press conference later today, let’s empty out the notebook from Saturday night’s game…

– We’ll focus exclusively on the defensive side of the ball here and first mention DE Brian Robison, who played well in my opinion. Robison pressured Romo on the Cowboys first 3rd-down play, he made a nice play on Dallas’ second offensive series when he stayed home to snuff out an end-around by WR Kevin Ogletree and then put a great inside spin move on RT Tyron Smith – a 1st-round pick in last April’s draft – to pressure Romo on a 3rd-down play late in the 1st quarter that resulted in an incompletion and Dallas FG. There was also a play on 1st and 10 with about 9:20 to play in the 2nd quarter where RB Felix Jones ran wide right and Robison did a great job of stringing the play out while being blocked by Smith.

– LB E.J. Henderson has had a solid training camp and definitely passes the eye test this preseason. He appeared to be in mid-season form on Saturday night, too. Henderson knifed though the Cowboys offensive line on the fourth play of the game to stop a cutback by Jones. Then, he did it again against RB Tashard Choice on a 1st-and-20 with just over 3 minutes to play in the 1st half.

– CB Cedric Griffin saw his first extended action since coming back from a second torn ACL early last season. Dallas of course targeted Griffin early and often, but all things considered I thought Griffin help up very well. Romo went after Griffin on the first play of the game with a quick pass to WR Dez Bryant, but Griffin made a good play and was able to drop Bryant for a gain of just 1 yard. Also, Griffin was able to make a good open-field tackle on Jones early in the 2nd quarter, which was an impressive play because Jones is one of the shiftiest players in the League and Griffin took him down in wide open space.

– DE Jared Allen was flirting with pressuring Romo for most of the 1st half but was just never able to get home, until the first play after the 2-minute warning on 3rd down when he used his speed to get past the LT and force Romo to vacate the pocket. Rookie DT Christian Ballard was there to snag Romo as he tried to get away from Allen. While Allen hasn’t registered a bunch of sacks this preseason, he had one of the best training camps of any Vikings player and he looks explosive coming off the ball in games.


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5 Things To Watch Tonight

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 27, 2011 – 10:26 am

Tonight the Vikings will play their third preseason game of the 2011 season and it’ll be against the Dallas Cowboys at Mall of America Field. First-teamers will get extended looks tonight, which is why the third game of the preseason is considered so important.

With that in mind, here are five things to watch during tonight’s Vikings-Cowboys contest…

A TD from the first-team offense
The first-team offense took a big step forward last week in Seattle after a mediocre outing in Tennessee to open the preseason. Expect another step forward this week from Donovan McNabb and Co. It would ease a lot of souls – everyone from Vikings coaches to Vikings fans – if the first-team offense could find a way to move the ball and score a TD or two. To this point, McNabb has looked comfortable in the offense and he’s spread the ball around to a variety of receivers. Tonight, though, watch for the running game to improve a touch and for McNabb to find a way to attack vertically.

Cedric Griffin and Anthony Herrera coming back from injury
A pair of starters are coming back from serious knee injuries this season – CB Cedric Griffin and RG Anthony Herrera. Griffin has had a nice training camp and he’s looked good in the little time he’s seen on the field. Tonight, though, he’ll likely get his first extended action since the injury and the Vikings will be focused not only on how he performs during the game but how his knee feels after the game. With Herrera, he’s slowly been brought along during training camp and tonight is the first time he’ll play in a game at all since the injury. Just as is the case with Griffin, it will be as important how Herrera feels after the game as how he plays during the game. Head Coach Leslie Frazier said earlier this week that the one thing the coaches will be looking for is Herrera’s explosion coming off the ball. If he can show signs of regaining that explosion and he can come away from the game with minimal soreness, then the feisty veteran will be one (major) step closer to returning to the starting lineup.

Pressure on Cowboys QB Tony Romo
One of the positives I took away from the Vikings performance last week in Seattle was the pass rush from the first-team defense. Seattle QB Tarvaris Jackson was rarely allowed time to sit in the pocket and find an open receiver, which was a large part of why the Vikings were able to shutout Seattle in the first half. Tonight the Vikings will see an offensive line that is a touch better and a QB that is much better. If the Vikings can still find a way to pressure the passer tonight, we know they might have something going this year in terms of pass rush after a less-than-stellar pass rush last year. I think the secondary is going to be better than most people think this year, but an effective pass rush will make the secondary look even better.

Another strong performance from Chris Cook
One of the bright spots in last week’s victory over Seattle was the performance of CB Chris Cook. He was lined up against former teammate Sidney Rice for much of the first half and he held his own by frequently jamming Rice at the line of scrimmage and even being involved in a pass breakup in the endzone. If Cook can step up and perform well as the team’s 3rd CB, the Vikings defense will be stronger. With Cook in the lineup, the Vikings nickel package features two big, physical CBs (Cook and Griffin) on the outside and then Antoine Winfield sliding inside to play the slot receiver. That’s the lineup Frazier prefers to see out there and if Cook plays well tonight, that vision comes one step closer to being realized.

Competition at WR
One of the position battles still raging is at WR, where the top 3 are set (Bernard Berrian, Percy Harvin and Michael Jenkins) but the next two or three are still open. I’m not sure if the Vikings will keep five or six WRs, but either way there are jobs still available. We won’t count anyone out, but the guys I’ll be watching tonight are Devin Aromashodu, Greg Camarillo, Juaquin Iglesias and Jaymar Johnson. The next tier of guys are Manny Arceneaux, Stephen Burton and Andre Holmes. Aside from performance in the offense, another factor in determining which players will earn roster spots is special teams. Johnson can increase his value by proving effective in the punt return game, while Aromashodu has increased his value by making a pair of special teams tackles.


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