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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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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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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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Defensive Highlights: Goal Line Stand, Sherels INT Return For TD

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 21, 2011 – 10:45 am

The Vikings carried a 13-point lead into the locker room at halftime on Saturday night in Seattle. And although they had outscored the Seahawks by 13 points through 2 quarters, there was no question the defense was primarily responsible for the advantage.

It was Seattle who made the game’s first big play, about midway through the opening quarter. The Vikings defense had forced a second Seattle punt and CB Marcus Sherels was back to return the kick. He hauled in Jon Ryan’s punt and started making his way upfield. Sherels was eventually tackled after a 16-yard return, but then the ball squirted loose and Seattle picked it up. The call on the field was that Sherels was down by contact and did not fumble, but a challenge by Seattle resulted in the ruling being overturned, which gave the Seahawks possession.

Just four plays later on a 3rd and 7 from Minnesota’s 43, Seattle QB Tarvaris Jackson rifled a pass to WR Golden Tate. But Tate was unable to haul in the pass and it deflected off his fingers and up into the air. Sherels was there in coverage and grabbed the deflection. In an instant he had secured the ball and sprinting the other way, leaving no Seahawks offensive player with a chance to catch him. Sherels was too fast and he dashed 64 yards for the TD, more than making up for his fumbled punt return just moments earlier.

The second defensive highlight of the first half was just as dramatic, but it was a bit more drawn out. After Sherels INT return for a TD, Seattle began their next possession on the 27. Jackson led the Seahawks on a march downfield and had his offense with a 1st-and-goal situation from the 2.

On first down, Jackson handed off to RB Justin Forsett on a dive play up the middle, but DE David Akinniyi and DT Letroy Guion were there to stop him from going in. On second down, LB Larry Dean and DL Christian Ballard teamed up to stop Forsett for no gain and then on third down it was DE Adrian Awasom who halted Forsett short of paydirt. Seattle Head Coach Pete Carroll decided to go for it on 4th and inches from inside the 1, but great efforts by CB Chris Cook and LB Erin Henderson helped Guion make another stop and the Vikings defense had held Seattle from a TD on 4 straight plays from inside the 2.


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Trend Or Mirage?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 14, 2011 – 10:52 am

Much of my attention so far in the aftermath of the Vikings preseason opener in Tennessee has been on the QBs. Much of the fans’ attention has been on criticizing the offensive line and secondary. So for a moment let’s focus on a few other topics from Saturday night’s game and discuss whether they are trends that we can anticipate continuing or mirages that were just a flash in the pan.

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

Lorenzo Booker flying all over the field
From an individual standpoint, RB Lorenzo Booker flashed on the field more than any other player for the Vikings. Many Vikings fans will remember Booker as “the guy who came on late last season and returned a few kicks.” But on Saturday night he had a different role. In the end, Booker finished with 9 carries for 47 yards (5.2 yards per carry), including a run of 20 yards. He also had 3 receptions for 32 yards and a kickoff return for 26 yards.

More than just the numbers, though, Booker displayed his above-average speed and his outstanding quickness. He has a wiggle to him when the ball is in his hands and rarely does the first defender bring him to the ground. In fairness, we must note that he did lose a fumble on Saturday night and that turnover led to a Tennessee TD. That cannot continue if Booker is going to remain a factor for the Vikings.

Trend or Mirage: I say this is a trend. Booker immediately bonded with QB Donovan McNabb (they were together in Philadelphia during the 2008 season) and I think he’s going to be a safety net for McNabb in the Vikings offense. Booker is a great change-of-pace RB, he’ll be valuable on 3rd downs and, perhaps most importantly, he could be the primary kickoff returner. If Booker can prove reliable as a kick returner, it will allow the Vikings to preserve Percy Harvin from that role and increase Harvin’s touches on offense.

Christian Ballard notches a QB sack
The Vikings selected DL Christian Ballard with their fourth-round pick in last April’s draft and they took him with the thought that he could bolster the defensive line’s depth because he can play both inside at DT and outside at DE. Ballard was productive at both spots while playing for the University of Iowa and I’ve seen nothing so far in training camp that indicates he can’t be productive at either spot in the NFL.

On Saturday night during the 2nd quarter, Ballard crashed the pocked and sacked QB Jake Locker on 3rd and 2, ending the Titans drive and forcing a punt. That’s the kind of disruption the Vikings hoped to see from Ballard.

Trend or Mirage: Looks like a trend to me. Although he hasn’t had an outstanding camp, he has played well enough so far, especially with the sack on Saturday night, to inspire confidence that he can be a member of the DL rotation this season.

Vikings secondary suspect again
It was only the first preseason game, so we don’t want to draw a water-tight conclusion yet. But unfortunately we saw more of the same from the Vikings secondary on Saturday night. Granted, Tennessee only scored 14 points for the game, but there were times when it felt like both Matt Hasselbeck and Locker had no problem finding holes in coverage. Also, the Vikings didn’t generate much of a pass rush all night – except for Ballard’s sack – and that doesn’t help the secondary cover anybody.

Both Asher Allen and Chris Cook will be criticized for the next week for their play in Saturday night’s game. Also, fans will be quite vocal about the need for an improvement at safety. Given how the secondary performed last year and also how Saturday night unfolded, this is a fair complaint. But as upset as you are fans, at how the secondary has played, I hope you are just as open to seeing improvement in the weeks ahead.

Trend or Mirage: I think it’s a mirage. My expectation is the Vikings pass rush will be better in 2011 than it was in 2010 and I also think the return of Cedric Griffin to the starting lineup (he didn’t play Saturday night) will make a huge difference in the secondary. I know head coach Leslie Frazier believes in Cook and if the second-round pick from last year can gain some confidence and play well, the Vikings can quickly turn what was once a major weakness into a serviceable to strong part of the team. Yes, we saw a few things we didn’t want to see on Saturday night, but we have three preseason games and a whole lot more training camp to go before the regular season begins on September 11 in San Diego.


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Jared Allen, Michael Jenkins And Adrian Peterson Shine At Practice #8

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 5, 2011 – 5:17 pm

Friday was the best day of practice so far at 2011 Verizon Vikings Training Camp and the outstanding work on the field was seen by the biggest crowd of camp to this point and also most pleasant weather conditions. Mild temperatures, a slight breeze and complete cloud cover provided a nice break from the bright sun and humid conditions we’ve seen for most of the week.

The afternoon practice on Friday was a full pads, full contact affair and the intensity continued to rise. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier is guiding a smooth ship so far during his first training camp as a head coach. The intensity has steadily risen each day, crowds continue to get larger and there’s not an assistant coach I’ve spoken to who hasn’t said that his guys have improved each day.

The players that really stood out to me on Friday were DE Jared Allen, WR Michael Jenkins and RB Adrian Peterson. I’ll say a little bit about each of the three players…

– Allen is having an outstanding camp and no one has been able to slow him down. Vikings QBs should be very thankful for the invention of the red jerseys that signify they are off limits from being hit, because Allen would have VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman looking for new passers if he was able to finish the plays he’s been making in the backfield. This is great news for the Vikings because having Allen at his best will help not only the defensive line look good, but it will also help the back end of the defense as they try and defend the pass. Less time for the opposing QB to find receivers means the Vikings secondary’s job gets a lot easier.

– Friday was just the second time Jenkins put on the pads for the Vikings because he was a player operating under a new contract, which meant that he couldn’t practice until the CBA was ratified (that happened on Thursday). But already Jenkins looks like a natural fit in this Vikings offense. McNabb and Jenkins connected for long receptions twice in the early part of full team drills. The first reception was deep down the right sideline and the second reception was in traffic as Jenkins sprinted down the right seam. We’ll have more from Jenkins later tonight because we taped an interview with him on the field right after practice. So stay tuned for that.

– Peterson returned from Houston last night and was back on the field this morning for the walk-through. He of course looked good at the walk-through – it’s natural for athletic specimens such as Peterson to look good while practicing in shorts and no pads – but he looked even better this afternoon when everyone strapped on their pads. Early on in practice was a 9-on-7 period, where nine offensive players go against seven defenders in a drill that features run plays only. This is one of my favorite drills because of the collisions that take place between the two lines and because you can really see which group – the defensive line or the offensive line – is getting more push and is winning more plays. It’s rare for a RB to go through the drill untouched, but Peterson did it twice in three carries on Friday. Also, Peterson was a major factor in the passing game on Friday. He was the reason McNabb and Jenkins connected on their first long reception because E.J. Henderson was coming in on a blitz and Peterson picked it up beautifully. Peterson hauled in at least three catches that I saw for long gains as well, including one down the right sideline that required him to slow down, spin around and leap before hauling in the football and then sprinting toward the endzone. I’m glad Peterson is on this team.

A Few Notes
— Former Gopher Marcus Sherels continues to stand out. He even grabbed an INT during Friday’s afternoon practice.
— Devon Torrence, an undrafted free agent who went to Ohio State and even played pro baseball before coming to camp with the Vikings, also grabbed an INT during Friday’s afternoon practice. He might be a guy to keep an eye on as a surprise bubble player who could content for a roster spot.
— Both CB Chris Cook and LB Erin Henderson dropped INTs on Friday afternoon. In my estimation both of these guys are having nice camps and it’s certainly great that they got their hands on a couple of passes, but those dropped INTs can be killers for defenses.

The Eye Test
Passing Friday’s eye test were: FB Matt Asiata, DEs Jared Allen and Everson Griffen, WR Michael Jenkins and RB Adrian Peterson.

Asiata is a little-known FB out of the University of Utah and was probably considered an extreme longshot to make the team. But I must say that I’ve really liked what I’ve seen to this point. He’s actually shifty and has good speed. I will pay more attention to his skills as a lead blocker, since that is what a FB does more times than not.

Griffen, I’m told, is having a nice camp and is showing up quite a bit on tape. This isn’t something I picked up on myself, but I’ll be sure to make note of it and follow up with an observation or two on the blog in the next couple of days.


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A Look At Rounds 2 Through 7 Under Spielman And Co.

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 2, 2011 – 5:18 pm

In the previous blog entry about G Chris DeGeare, we made the point that: “There’s no doubt that hitting home runs with 1st-round picks is key to success in the NFL. But if you do some research, you’ll see that selections in rounds 2-7 and also the signing of undrafted rookie free agents are just as important.”

In the previous blog entry, we also said we’d take a closer look at some of those 2nd- through 7th-round picks in the next posting. While the group isn’t full of Pro Bowlers or future Hall of Famers (yet), it is a group of players that represent at least a part of the core of the current roster. There are 10 players who’ve started games for the Vikings on the list and obviously there will be many, many more starts from this list in the years to come.

Here we go…

CB Asher Allen - A 3rd-round pick in 2009, Allen struggled at times as a starter in 2010. But over his 2 Vikings seasons, Allen has flashed some potential. With the return of Cedric Griffin in 2011, Allen will be in a position to contribute in the nickel and dime packages where he’ll be more successful.

LB Jasper Brinkley - A 5th-round pick in 2009, Brinkley stepped in as the starter when E.J. Henderson went down to injury at the end of the 2009 season. It’s easy to take this for granted, but keep in mind the Vikings had the NFL’s top-ranked defense and Brinkley was a rookie starting in the middle of the defense. The Vikings defense missed Henderson, but Brinkley was solid in his place and the Vikings advanced to the NFC Championship Game. On top of that, Brinkley has been a solid special teams contributor during his career in Minnesota.

CB Chris Cook - A 2nd-round pick in 2010, Cook had a tremendous offseason and training camp heading into his rookie season. But then a pair of knee injuries that both required surgery slowed and eventually halted his rookie season. Cook is a big, physical CB who fits what head coach Leslie Frazier wants his defense to do. The upside on Cook is big and the Vikings defense will benefit from his return.

FB Ryan D’Imperio - A lot of factors were working against D’Imperio during his rookie season in 2010. He was a 7th-round pick (#237 overall), he switched positions from college LB to NFL FB and he had an established starter in front of him on the depth chart. But D’Imperio impressed enough to stick around and was a member of the practice squad in 2010. During the offseason and training camp this year he’ll have a chance to earn a spot on the 53-man roster.

G Chris DeGeare - The blog entry below this one tells DeGeare’s story.

RB Toby Gerhart - At first I think Vikings fans are quick to point out disappointment in Gerhart’s rookie season, but I don’t see it that way. He had a tough go during training camp and the early part of the season, but he continued to improve as the season went along and he had an impressive showing in a start against the Bears in Week 15 when he rushed for 77 yards on 16 carries. For the season, Gerhart average 4.0 yards per carry. Given how productive he was in college and how aggressive the Vikings were in trading up to select him in the 2nd round last year, I’m willing to give Gerhart more time to develop into a productive NFL RB.

DE Everson Griffen - A prospect with 1st-round talent who dropped to the 4th round because of off-field concerns, Griffen flashed potential on defense and productivity on special teams as a rookie. He’s in line to get more playing time on defense in 2011, especially if the Vikings are unable to reach contract agreements with either Ray Edwards or Brian Robison.

DT Letroy Guion - When the Vikings used a 5th-round pick on Letroy Guion in 2008, he was only 20 years old. He came in and didn’t produce right away, but now he’s progressed into a member of the defensive line rotation. As is the case with Griffen, Guion may be in line for even more playing time depending on what happens with potential free agents ahead of him on the depth chart.

WR Jaymar Johnson - Another 7th-round pick (2008) who remains on the roster, Johnson was in the midst of another solid offseason and training camp when he injured his wrist and was put on Injured Reserve before the 2010 season got going. Johnson will be in another battle to make the roster this offseason, but his return capabilities will help him.

S Tyrell Johnson - A 2nd-round pick in 2008, Johnson has moved in and out of the starting lineup during his 3 seasons in Minnesota. With the safety position still a bit in flux, Johnson has a chance to reclaim a starting spot if he can perform well in the offseason and in training camp. He’s a tremendous athlete who needs to polish his skills in coverage.

RT Phil Loadholt - Another 2nd-round pick, Loadholt stepped into the starting lineup as a rookie in 2009 and was one of the team’s best offensive linemen. The Vikings offense averaged 29.4 points per game during Loadholt’s rookie seasan and the 6-8, 343-pound mauler showed that he could be a talented player in this league for a long time.

WR Sidney Rice - The 2nd-round picks keep rolling in. Rice was a 2nd-rounder in 2007 and exploded for a career season in 2009 with Brett Favre under center. A hip injury slowed his 2010 season and now Rice will look to bounce back in 2011 with another strong showing. His leaping ability and sure hands are his best qualities, and they’re qualities a rookie QB would love to have in a starting WR.

DE Brian Robison – An All-Rookie honoree who was 3rd among all NFL rookies with 4.5 sacks in 2007, Robison has been a productive player for the Vikings and figures to be an important member of the defensive line rotation in 2011. He was a 4th-round pick in 2007 out of the University of Texas and one of the great aspects of his game is that he can slide inside to play DT in certain situations.

S Jamarca Sanford – With Heath Farwell, Sanford is one of the most valuable special teams contributors for the Vikings, specifically in the kick and punt coverage units. He has also logged playing time on defense and has also been a starter at safety. Considering Sanford was the SEC’s leading tackler during his 4 years at Ole Miss, it’s hard to believe Rick Spielman and Co. found him in the 7th round. But that’s what they did, and that makes Sanford one of the more under-rated Vikings draft picks in recent years.

C John Sullivan – Sullivan’s 2nd year was better than his 3rd, but I’m guessing his 4th year will be the best yet. He sat behind Matt Birk as a rookie in 2008, then stepped into the starting lineup at center for the 2009 season and helped the Vikings offense to a 29.4 points-per-game average. In 2010 Sullivan’s season was disrupted by injuries and he dealt with the passing of his father. Certainly Sullivan won’t use those as excuses, but you have to think it impacted him in some form or another.  Sullivan should enter the 2011 season in full health and he’ll have a shot to solidify his standing as the team’s anchor in the middle.


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Chris Cook To Start If Asher Allen Can’t Go

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 11, 2010 – 3:35 pm

CB Asher Allen is listed on this week’s injury report with a concussion and he hasn’t participated in practice yet this week because of the injury. When asked about Allen, Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress did not give an indication as to whether his 2nd-year CB would be able to play this weekend.

Childress did say, though, that rookie Chris Cook would start in Allen’s place should Allen be unable to suit up. Cook was impressive during offseason workouts and training camp and might have been in line to start if not for an injury late in the preseason. Since that injury, Cook has battled back, been injured again and battled back to the playing field from that injury as well.

If Allen is unable to go, the Vikings will rely on Cook, Lito Sheppard and Frank Walker to pickup the slack at CB opposite starter Antoine Winfield. They would also have the option to call up a CB from the practice squad (Cord Parks and Marcus Sherels).


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Vikings Infirmary Report

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 2, 2010 – 6:41 am

In light of the Vikings decision to part ways with WR Randy Moss, the player whose injury status will be under the spotlight is Sidney Rice, who remains on the PUP list after undergoing hip surgery just before the regular season.

Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress hasn’t given an indication on how close Rice is to returning and Rice himself has not given a timetable when asked by reporters. Perhaps Childress will be asked about Rice’s status during his regular Wednesday press conference, which you can watch live on vikings.com.

Until then, though, there are other injured Vikings players to talk about and that’s what Childress did during his Monday press conference. Here’s an update on a few of those players…

QB Brett Favre (ankle/foot, chin) – Going into last weekend’ game against the New England Patriots, the big question with Favre was whether or not his injured ankle/foot would allow him to play. Obviously it did, but coming out of the Patriots game the injury concern dramatically shifted from Favre’s ankle/foot to his chin. Favre took a hit directly to the chin and was knocked out of the game in the 4th quarter. The wound required 8 stitches to heal and following the game reporters wondered if Favre had suffered a concussion.

Asked on Monday if there was any doubt Favre would start this weekend’s game against the Arizona Cardinals, Childress said, “I don’t think so. I just saw him in there doing some leg curls. Typically, if you’re concussed we’re not doing any exercise today; we’re not doing an exercise challenge.”

WR Percy Harvin (ankle) – Harvin was the Vikings leading receiver against New England with 6 receptions for 104 yards, but he did all of that after tweaking his ankle in the 1st quarter. It appeared as if Harvin rolled his ankle after making a catch and it was clear he was in pain after the play. Harvin obviously returned and he told reporters after the game that it was adrenaline that enabled him to keep playing.

“He was in there treating as well today,” Childress said. “Sore. How it will be on Wednesday when we come back out here and practice? I’m not sure. He’ll certainly have to treat today or tomorrow.”

CBs Chris Cook and Frank Walker – Both Cook and Walker were banged up late in last weekend’s game and Childress was asked about their status.

“They’re banged up and receiving treatment today,” Childress said. “Hopefully they make it to Wednesday.”


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CB Cook Progressing Well From Knee Injury

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 12, 2010 – 4:46 pm

The Vikings got bad news on Tuesday when head coach Brad Childress confirmed that CB Cedric Griffin was lost for the season because of a “significant” knee injury. But Childress also delivered some good news regarding another CB on the roster.

Rookie Chris Cook, who impressed during training camp and the preseason, is working his way back from a 2nd knee injury as well and Childress indicated he was progressing to the point where he might be able to play this Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys.

“He was out here moving around this morning and certainly he is feeling more comfortable right now than he was at this point from his procedure on the other side,” Childress explained. “It just remains to be seen. He’ll get out there and practice this week and we’ll just see how he comes back tomorrow from today’s movement, how he practices this week and there’s a chance he makes it to this weekend.”

Cook suffered a knee injury at the end of the preseason that kept him out of action, but he made it back to the field for Week 3’s game against Detroit. But then he injured the other knee against Detroit and has been rehabbing ever since, a process that kept him out of Monday’s game against the Jets.

Having Cook back in the lineup would be a nice boost for a Vikings secondary that will face a talented WR corps this weekend that includes Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Roy Williams along with TE Jason Witten. Cook is a bigger body than Antoine Winfield, so he could be used to muscle up with Roy Williams or Dez Bryant.


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