There’s a long way to go before NFL teams have to make roster decisions, but there’s not a long way to go before teams take the field for their first preseason game. So while there’s still plenty of time for players to make their case for a roster spot, NFL teams began releasing their initial preseason depth charts this week.
You can find the Vikings initial depth chart by clicking here.
There aren’t any major surprises or developments in the depth chart, but here are a few notes…
– As expected, Brandon Fusco is listed as the starter at RG, with Geoff Schwartz as his backup. Chris DeGeare is listed as the backup at LG behind Charlie Johnson.
– Lex Hilliard is listed as the 3rd-team RB, with Derrick Coleman and Jordan Todman stacked evenly behind Hilliard.
– Veteran Joe Berger is listed as the backup center, with undrafted college free agent Quentin Saulsberry listed with the 3rd team.
– D’Aundre Reed is lasted as the backup left DE and Nick Reed backs up Jared Allen at right DE.
– Tyrone McKenzie is in the lead for backup middle LB duties, with Audie Cole listed as the 3rd-team middle LB. Everson Griffen is also with the 3rd-team, listed at the weakside LB position.
– Marcus Sherels backs up Antoine Winfield at one CB position and Chris Carr is behind Chris Cook at the other CB spot. Based on my observations at practice, Carr would be ahead of Sherels in any 3-CB defensive alignment.
– Mistral Raymond and Jamarca Sanford are listed as starters at safety, with Harrison Smith behind Sanford at FS and Eric Frampton behind Raymond at FS. This is a fluid position, and Smith has been getting more and more reps with the 1st-team.
– Percy Harvin is listed as the top kickoff returner and Sherels is listed #1 at punt returner. Sherels also backs up Harvin at kickoff return and rookie WR Jarius Wright is listed as the backup punt returner.
Tags: 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp, Audie Cole, Brandon Fusco, Chris DeGeare, D'Aundre Reed, Derrick Coleman, Eric Frampton, Everson Griffen, Geoff Schwartz, Harrison Smith, Jamarca Sanford, Joe Berger, Jordan Todman, Lex Hilliard, Marcus Sherels, Mistral Raymond, Nick Reed, Percy Harvin, Quentin Saulsberry, Tyrone McKenzie
Posted in All | 147 Comments »
The first walk-thru and practice of 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp is in the books, as the Vikings conducted their one-hour walk-thru this morning and then worked for roughly two hours and 15 minutes in the afternoon. Coaches and players were available to reporters after both workouts, and Head Coach Leslie Frazier also met with reporters via press conference after the walk-thru.
There are a number of topics to touch on following Friday’s action, so let’s be brief with several topics rather than long-winded with just a few…
Peterson to Active/PUP; Burton, Shuler on NFI
Frazier announced during his press conference that RB Adrian Peterson will begin camp on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, which simply means that he won’t take part in the walk-thrus or practices and will instead work on the side with the training and strength staffs. This is not an unexpected development. The Vikings can remove Peterson from the PUP list at any time. Two other players – WR Stephen Burton (toe) and TE Mickey Shuler (heel) – were both placed on the Active/Non-Football Injury list. Frazier both would be day-to-day because neither injury is considered serious.
Solid first practice for offense
The offense was slow-to-go in their first practice of Organized Team Activities (OTAs), but eventually hit their stride and showed great improvement. It was a much different start for the offense in training camp. For a first practice of camp, Friday’s workout went well for the offense. I saw a number of players make diving catches (John Carlson, Percy Harvin, Jerome Simpson), LB Chad Greenway was as vocal as I’ve heard him, OL coach Jeff Davidson was pleased with the way his offensive line worked during individual drills, etc. QB Christian Ponder told me while walking off the field after practice that Friday’s workout was probably better than any of the OTA practices they held during the offseason. Obviously there’s a ways to go, but Friday was a solid start.
Griffen focusing on LB
There was a lot of talk this offseason about the possibility of Everson Griffen transitioning from DE to LB. The talk is over now because it’s actually happening. Griffen worked with the LBs during Friday’s practice and Frazier said that’s where he wants Griffen to focus his undivided attention.
“He’s an outstanding athlete, was a great special teams player for us a year ago,” Frazier said. “Played in multiple positions for us a year ago at linebacker and then at defensive end. With his athletic ability, we want to try to find a way to get him on the field a little bit more.”
Griffen shed 18 pounds this offseason to get within the team’s ideal range for a player at his position, and Frazier described Griffen as extremely motivated to show what he can do at LB.
Competition at RG
Brandon Fusco opened camp with the first team at RG, an expected development. The position will be one to watch this camp and preseason as the Vikings look to solidify an offensive line that is poised to take a big step forward in 2012. Frazier indicated the competition would include Fusco, Chris DeGeare and Geoff Schwartz, and that ideally the team would name a starter by the third preseason game (at home vs. San Diego).
“We’ll let those guys compete and battle it out,” Frazier said, “and hopefully we’ll be a better team with whichever one ends up winning the job.”
Many competing for punt return duties
Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer said this offseason that he’s pleased with the number of players on the Vikings roster who have the ability to cleanly field kicks. He said he’s been to teams where they struggled to find one player who could consistently do it. This year in Minnesota, Priefer has a bevy of players competing for opportunities. On Friday the following players took turns fielding punts from Chris Kluwe: CB Bobby Felder, DB Reggie Jones, CB Josh Robinson, CB Marcus Sherels, WR Kerry Taylor, CB Nick Taylor, WR Bryan Walters and WR Jarius Wright.
Robinson is fast
Speaking of Robinson, there was a moment early in practice on Friday where he put his quick burst on display. It happened during a special teams period of practice where Robinson was in the rotation to field punts. A punt heading his way got caught up in the wind and tumbled down to the ground well short of where Robinson was positioned. It’s a cardinal sin for punt returners to let the ball hit the ground, and it only compounds the problem when a returner lets the ball hit the ground and then tries to pick it up after more than one bounce. In an effort to not let the ball bounce more than once, Robinson turned on the jets and covered six yards as fast as I’ve ever seen, getting his hands under the ball at the last second before it bounced a second time.
Later in practice, Robinson pulled up with what appeared to be a leg injury of some kind. No word on what kind of injury it is or how serious.
Tags: 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp, Adrian Peterson, Bobby Felder, Brandon Fusco, Bryan Walters, Chad Greenway, Chris DeGeare, Christian Ponder, Everson Griffen, Geoff Schwartz, Jarius Wright, Josh Robinson, Kerry Taylor, Leslie Frazier, Marcus Sherels, Mickey Shuler, Nick Taylor, Reggie Jones, Stephen Burton
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 123 Comments »
Few position groups will be as heavily scrutinized early this season more than the offensive line. The Vikings have been one of the NFL’s best rushing teams over the past several seasons, but the combination of a need for improvement in pass protection and multiple new starters in the group will have many keeping close tabs on the men up front.
The offensive line is the subject of today’s Roster Rundown…
The Vikings will bring 15 offensive linemen with them to training camp, probably a standard number in League circles. While we can be fairly certain on four of the five starters heading into training camp, there will still be plenty of competition up and down the line in both the starting lineup and especially for the reserve spots.
John Sullivan is solid at center and has developed into one of the best five or so players at his position in the entire League. Sullivan began his career as Matt Birk’s understudy and eventually rose to starter status, where he snapped to Brett Favre in his first season as the starter and has progressed nicely ever since. There are two other players listed as centers on the Vikings roster who will compete for a backup role behind Sullivan – Joe Berger and Quentin Saulsberry. Berger is a returning veteran with seven seasons of experience and Saulsberry is an undrafted college free agent out of Mississippi State.
The Vikings should be set at both OT positions as well. Phil Loadholt returns at RT and should be sufficiently motivated in a contract year. Fans have grown tired of his penalties and occasional pass protection letdown, but my sense is Loadholt is sitting on a nice season. At LT the Vikings of course have 1st-round pick Matt Kalil. Sullivan has described Kalil as a “freak” athletically. Other OTs listed on the Vikings roster are: Pat Brown, Levi Horn, DeMarcus Love, Geoff Schwartz and Darrion Weems. Brown and Love are returning from last year’s team, Schwartz was a free agent pickup for the Vikings this offseason and could compete for the starting RG spot, and both Horn and Weems are undrafted college free agents.
The addition of Kalil at LT allows the Vikings to move Charlie Johnson over to LG, perhaps his more natural position. Johnson has the athleticism to play OT, but Vikings GM Rick Spielman explained to me earlier this offseason that his arm length is not ideal for the position. Moving him inside to LG will put Johnson is a better position to succeed, and it will allow Johnson to help Kalil transition to the NFL game. The RG position is up for grabs at this point. I expect Brandon Fusco to open camp as the starter, but both Schwartz and Chris DeGeare should have their sights set on winning the job as well. The two other OGs listed on the Vikings roster are Tyler Holmes and Austin Pasztor, a pair of undrafted college free agents.
A lot of names to go over there, but it just means more competition for the position group as a whole. The top three aspects of the offensive line I’ll be watching at training camp are…
– Who looks the best at RG? Fusco has the early edge based on the offseason program, but both DeGeare and Schwartz are in the mix as well.
– How does Kalil adjust to the NFL? Going against Jared Allen every day will help Kalil a ton if the 1st-round pick can strike a balance between taking his medicine from Allen and others on defense while also establishing himself as Ponder’s blindside protector.
– Does Loadholt take a big step forward this year? He was solid as a rookie in 2009 when he helped the club go 12-4 and play in the NFC title game, but since then he’s produced mixed results. Loadholt is one of my favorite guys on the team and I know he takes pride in his game, so I expect him to take a big step forward in his second year working with well-respected OL coach Jeff Davidson.
Tags: Austin Pasztor, Brandon Fusco, Charlie Johnson, Chris DeGeare, Darrion Weems, Demarcus Love, Geoff Schwartz, Joe Berger, John Sullivan, Levi Horn, Matt Kalil, Pat Brown, Phil Loadholt, Quentin Saulsberry, Roster Rundown, Tyler Holmes
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 96 Comments »
Accustomed to watching a top tier running game since 2007 and tired of watching their brand-new franchise QB run for his life, Vikings fans are anxious to see the team make moves to improve the offensive line. But even with USC LT Matt Kalil expected to be the Vikings 1st-round pick next month, Vikings fans want more.
And it’s understandable. Christian Ponder was sacked 30 times in just 11 games, plus the Vikings released RG Anthony Herrera and LG Steve Hutchinson this past weekend, opening up a pair of vacancies in the starting lineup.
As a result, Ben Grubbs and Carl Nicks – a pair of OGs who have 3 Pro Bowls and 2 All-Pro selections between them – are in high demand among Vikings fans. Both are scheduled to become free agents at 3:00 p.m. CT today, and both play positions of need for the Vikings.
While both players would serve as upgrades at their position, don’t expect the Vikings to enter the bidding for their services. The Vikings do have a considerable amount of salary cap space, but signing Nicks would eat much of it up and the Vikings have more than just one player on their wish list; Grubbs will likely command an expensive salary as well. With other needs on the roster, the Vikings would be better-served, in my view, to use their free agency money on other positions, such as CB or WR.
A big part of my opinion on the matter is the plan I’d like to see the Vikings put into place this offseason to improve the offensive line. No, there may not be high-priced and Pro Bowl-caliber free agent signings on the horizon, but I still foresee the Vikings solving their offensive line woes. And I see them solving it by going young. Hear me out…
– Take Kalil in the 1st round, which will provide a starting LT and yield a replacement for Hutchinson at LG with Charlie Johnson sliding over. He will play better and will feel more comfortable at LG.
— John Sullivan has emerged as a Top 5-7 center in the NFL according to those who know more about it than me, and the Vikings locked him up to a contract extension last season. He becomes the leader of this young group, especially with Hutchinson no longer in the picture.
— At RG the Vikings can lean on veteran Joe Berger and 2nd-year player Brandon Fusco. I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews from coaches and players about Fusco’s progress last year and his prospects for the future.
— To round out the line, Loadholt will be back as the starting RT. He had a down year in 2011 and he’ll be the first to acknowledge that. But 2012 is a contract year for him, he’s been around Winter Park for much of the offseason, and OL coach Jeff Davidson is determined to help him improve. I like that situation.
— Lastly, other youngsters such as Chris DeGeare and Pat Brown can compete for playing time along the line should one of the proposed 5 starters falter or suffer an injury.
Are there questions here? Certainly. And there’s no guarantee my proposed solution will work. But for this Vikings team, coming off a 3-13 record with several holes to fill in the starting lineup – particularly the wide receiver position to help Ponder – I believe a young and affordable offensive line with some upside is a better group than a veteran, expensive collection of veterans who are being paid more for past production than they are for expectation.
Nicks and Grubbs are names most fans recognize, and I understand why Vikings fans demand the team pursue them. But you can’t have All-Pros at every position, or at least you can’t sign All-Pros in free agency at every position. I have confidence in the plan I laid out above, and more importantly I have confidence in the young players on the roster and the experience and tutelage Davidson can bring to the meeting room.
What do you say, Vikings fans? Are you okay with the team going young on the offensive line so they can pursue more talented players at other important positions? Let us know what you think by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below this entry.
Tags: Brandon Fusco, Charlie Johnson, Chris DeGeare, Jeff Davidson, Joe Berger, John Sullivan, Pat Brown, Phil Loadholt
Posted in All | 245 Comments »
The Vikings on Monday signed the following 7 players to Reserve/Future Free Agent contracts:
WR Kris Adams
G Chris DeGeare
DB Reggie Jones
G Butch Lewis
LB Tyrone McKenzie
TE Allen Reisner
WR Kerry Taylor
These players will be on the Vikings roster for the offseason and are eligible to participate in the offseason program, minicamps and Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and training camp.
Tags: Allen Reisner, Butch Lewis, Chris DeGeare, Kerry Taylor, Kris Adams, Reggie Jones, Tryone McKenzie
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 116 Comments »
The Vikings returned to the practice fields on Monday afternoon after playing in their first preseason game of 2011 on Saturday night in Tennessee. Training camp has shifted from the University of Minnesota, Mankato to Winter Park’s outdoor practice fields at the Vikings home facility.
“It was nice to be able to have a practice here at Winter Park on our field,” Frazier said after practice. “The first time we’ve actually worked with our players on this field. It’s hard to believe…it’s what, August 15 and this is our first time standing on this field together as a team. It was good work for us, good for our coaches to be around our players in this environment and it feels good to be back at Winter Park.”
Aside from being back “home” again for practice, it was also nice to see RG Anthony Herrera back in the action. Herrera didn’t participate in the Mankato portion of training camp and he didn’t play in Saturday night’s preseason opener because of injuries, but on Monday Herrera was back in the action and he was working with the first-team offense.
Herrera wasn’t the only one working with the first-team at RG, though. In fact, I noticed quite a bit of rotation at first-team RG and at second-team RT. Herrera and Scott Kooistra spent time with the first-team at RG, while Chris DeGeare, who started at RG on Saturday night, was actually playing RT with the second-team. Also playing with the first-team at RG was Ryan Cook.
It was a bit of a surprise to see Kooistra at RG because he’s played primarily OT during training camp. He does have experience playing guard, though, so it wouldn’t be a total surprise to see him make the move inside. For now, Frazier indicated Kooistra will concentrate mainly on OT.
At this point Herrera appears to be the team’s choice at RG, but there is uncertainty with whether he’ll be able to play by Week 1. With that being the case, both DeGeare and Cook are also in the mix for the starting position.
“You don’t want to eliminate Ryan Cook,” Frazier explained. “Cook still has an opportunity to compete for that position and it’s competition right now because we’re not certain where Anthony is going to be. We just have to see how he progresses.”
Expect to see the Vikings continue to experiment with different combinations along the first- and second-team offensive lines; that’s why we have training camp and the preseason. The goal is to get the best five guys playing along the first-team offensive line and then a group of reserves who have position flexibility.
Let’s get to a few practice notes…
– The Vikings worked for about an hour and 10 minutes under mostly cloudy skies, warm temperatures and a slight breeze. Frazier had his players working in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts and the team worked in front of part of the Vikings ownership group.
– After a quick warm-up and individual position drills, there was a special teams period. It was interesting to watch RB Adrian Peterson working on the side with RBs coach James Saxon during the special teams period. Obviously Peterson doesn’t play on special teams, but it was good to see him and coach Saxon work on some footwork-related issues during the time off.
– Of the seven players who were held out of Saturday’s preseason game, only LB Kenny Onatolu and TE Visanthe Shiancoe didn’t practice on Monday. Onatolu continues to be sidelined by a foot injury and Shiancoe tweaked his hamstring late in the Mankato portion of training camp. Frazier said the goal is to get Onatolu back for the Dallas preseason game on August 27. Shiancoe remains day-to-day.
– S Mistral Raymond, who had a terrific training camp in Mankato but who also tweaked his hamstring on the final play of the final practice in Mankato, did not play on Saturday night. But he was back at practice on Monday and Frazier said the rookie felt no residual effects of his injury during Monday’s work.
– Also sitting out practice on Monday were: LB Heath Farwell (hamstring), DE D’Aundre Reed (calf) and OL Thomas Welch (glute). Frazier described Reed as day-to-day and he also said Welch is expected to be able to practice on Tuesday.
– FB Ryan D’Imperio made a nice one-handed grab on the first play of 7-on-7 drills. He was circling out to the right flats and McNabb led him a touch too much. But D’Imperio stuck his left hand out and was able to haul in the pass. Another one-handed catch was made in 7-on-7 and it was a familiar face doing it. TE Kyle Rudolph, who had another one-handed grab earlier in training camp, was running down the left seam and McNabb led him perfectly. LB Mark Washington was in coverage and actually was shadowing Rudolph perfectly. But Rudolph went full extension to the ground and came up with the one-handed grab.
– Speaking of LB Mark Washington, he got his hands on an INT during 7-on-7.
– WR Bernard Berrian made an impressive catch in the middle of the field. Rookie CB Brandon Burton was in on the coverage and was draped all over Berrian, but McNabb forced the pass into Berrian’s area and #87 came up with the grab. Another impressive play was turned in toward the end of practice and it was rookie QB Christian Ponder who did it. He lasered in a pass to Juaquin Iglesias on a deep out route down the right sideline. The pass was perfectly placed, right past the out-stretched arms of the defender but close enough to the field so that Iglesias could make the catch and get both feet in bounds.
Tags: Anthony Herrera, Chris DeGeare, Leslie Frazier, Ryan Cook, Scott Kooistra
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 82 Comments »
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.
Tags: Asher Allen, Brian Robison, Chris Cook, Chris DeGeare, Everson Griffen, Jamarca Sanford, Jasper Brinkley, Jaymar Johnson, John Sullivan, Letroy Guion, Phil Loadholt, Ryan D'Imperio, Sidney Rice, Toby Gerhart, Tyrell Johnson
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 39 Comments »
Over the last week, the NFL’s 32 teams were in Indianapolis for the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine in an effort to continue their analysis of this year’s class of draft-eligible players. While much of the attention from fans and the media is focused on the top-rated prospects who will be selected in the early stages of the draft, NFL teams must also concentrate on prospects who will be available in later rounds.
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. We’ll have more on this in the next blog entry.
For now, though, I wanted to focus on one of those later-round selections who made an impact with the Vikings in 2010. G Chris DeGeare was a 5th-round pick (#161 overall) in 2010 and Spielman was quite complimentary of his performance as a rookie. DeGeare had a terrific offseason and training camp last year, but then dealt with an injury early in the season. Eventually, though, DeGeare got to full strength and found himself playing significant minutes in the second half of the season.
“Last year Chris DeGeare stepped in and after he got his feet wet and got his feet underneath him and started working,” Spielman said. “You’ve seen him start to move up the ladder a little bit and progress each game.”
Spielman went on to point out that DeGeare’s play was even more impressive when you consider that he switched positions after being drafted. DeGeare played a lot of OT in college, but he showed no hesitancy or resistance in making the change with Minnesota. Once he adjust to the speed of the game, Spielman said, DeGeare progressed well game-after-game.
“What I always look for,” Spielman explained, “is when you sit there and evaluate these young guys, ‘Are they continuing to grow? Are they continuing to get better? Are they going down?’ They’re going to have their ups and downs. They’re going to have some good games and some bad games. But as long as you see the progress there you can get pretty excited about what they potentially could bring.
“We felt very strongly with how he played at the end of the season.”
Tags: Chris DeGeare, Rick Spielman
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 81 Comments »
We’re all settled into the media center at Lucas Oil Stadium for Day 2 of the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine, but before we get rolling too quickly here today let’s empty out the notebook from yesterday’s action.
Specifically, I wanted to share a few more thoughts from Rick Spielman’s meeting with reporters. Here we go…
– Spielman said that he and Vikings VP of Football Operations Rob Brzezinski were schedule to meet with player agents on Thursday afternoon. On-field workouts don’t get rolling until later today, so Spielman and Brzezinski had time to talk business with the agents of players currently on the Vikings roster. NFL teams are prohibited from talking to agents about players from other teams, but there is enough to talk about regarding players on their own teams, especially with the current labor situation complicating matters.
– Speaking of the labor situation, Spielman was asked if reaching a contract extension with RB Adrian Peterson was a priority for the Vikings. Spielman said that the club and Peterson’s representatives would likely wait until a new CBA is reached before they talk turkey on a new contract. Spielman also said that Peterson is a crucial component of the team, indicating that indeed the Vikings will be interested in locking him up to an extension as soon as possible.
– Spielman has led an effort over the last few weeks to get the Vikings prepared not only for the draft at the end of April but also for restricted and unrestricted free agency, which will begin at a date to be determined later. Part of that process is also evaluating the current roster, which is a bit more complex this year because the Vikings have several new coaches on staff. Through it all, though, Spielman said it’s been great working with new head coach Leslie Frazier. With the way the Vikings are structured, communication between Spielman and the head coach is key. Spielman said Frazier has been a clear communicator and is doing a nice job leading the coaching staff in the offseason.
– Every draft has a different identity. Some years the draft is very top heavy, with several elite-level players but not much depth in the later rounds. Some years the draft is stocked with offensive talent but is low on defensive stars. It sounds like this year’s draft is an especially deep one at many positions. This could play into the Vikings hands because Spielman is known for a propensity to trade back in order to accumulate additional picks and collect talented pieces.
This could be a strategy the Vikings employ this year, especially because they hold a relatively high 1st-round pick (#12 overall) that has high trade value and because the Vikings don’t have a 3rd-round pick (Randy Moss trade); Spielman has been vocal in saying he wants to get a 3rd-round pick back somehow.
“We want to have depth everywhere, especially with the roster turnover we’re probably going to have,” Spielman said on Thursday. “And that’s why when you look at the draft and look at the potential of moving out of the 12th pick and accumulating more picks, because I think it’s a really good draft, very deep draft. There are some positions in this draft that are extremely intriguing to say the least and that position (defensive line) is pretty intriguing.”
– Lastly, Spielman was asked about the status of the Vikings offensive line, a unit that endured much scrutiny last season. He spoke very highly of 3 young players in particular, saying RT Phil Loadholt has a lot of promise and C John Sullivan is poised to bounce back in 2011 after a tumultuous and injury-plagued season in 2010. Spielman also had a lot to say about G Chris DeGeare, the team’s 5th-round pick last year. We’ll have more on what Spielman said about DeGeare later this weekend.
Ultimately, Spielman said the Vikings have good, young talent along their offensive line but he also acknowledged the Vikings must continue to add youth and depth to the position.
Tags: 2011 NFL Draft, Adrian Peterson, Chris DeGeare, John Sullivan, Leslie Frazier, Phil Loadholt, Rick Spielman, Rob Brzezinski
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 5 Comments »
The 2010 season was not a typical one for any player in the Vikings locker room, but just imagine what it was like for the team’s rookies. Although they’ve been playing football for most of their lives, first-year players come into NFL locker rooms unsure of what to expect.
But even the most veteran players couldn’t have prepared or expected what happened to the Vikings in 2010, from a disappointing 6-10 record to all of the weather-induced adversity the team faced in the final month. Through it all, though, Vikings rookie G Chris DeGeare seems to have come out of it well and no worse for the ware. In fact, I think he’s gotten a lot better and there seems to be a place for him in the Vikings future.
“I definitely learned a lot. It was crazy; a lot of stuff went on,” DeGeare said on Monday as he packed up his locker. “The veterans told me it’s not typically like this every year and I believe them. I’ve just to keep improving and come back next year to be a better player.”
DeGeare was a 5th-round pick of the Vikings last April and did a nice job integrating into the Vikings system through offseason workouts and training camp. In fact I came away from training camp encouraged by his progress and hopeful he would be an important part of the offensive line rotation. But a high ankle sprain derailed him early in the regular season and he had to work hard to get back into form.
He accomplished that task and was a key cog in the offensive line late in the season. I’ve been told by people who would know that DeGeare was solid in relief of injured LG Steve Hutchinson and that he was sometimes the best Vikings player on the field.
“I got hurt early on this season with a high ankle sprain,” DeGeare explained. “But I did have a great training camp and I was just happy I was able to contribute. I’m happy to chip in and showcase my talent.”
DeGeare played both guard and tackle at Wake Forest University, giving him valuable experience in multiple positions and also equipping him with a mindset to be a versatile offensive lineman in the NFL. Also working in DeGeare’s favor is the fact that he plays behind and learns from a guy like Steve Hutchinson, who has been to 7 Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl.
“The man has so much knowledge and so much experience,” DeGeare said. “He’s a future Hall of Famer and really anything he says to me I take with all seriousness and take it into account. I’m truly blessed to be playing behind a guy like that and being able to have the type of relationship that I do have with him.”
All-in-all, it was a solid season for DeGeare after he was sidelined early with injury. It was encouraging to see him perform well in the offseason program and at training camp, but it was promising to watch him perform on the field in the regular season. It looks like the Vikings may have found a sneaky little prospect in the 5th round.
Tags: Chris DeGeare, Steve Hutchinson
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 7 Comments »