The Vikings conducted their second practice of 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp on Saturday and worked under ideal weather conditions to do so. The team also saw a spike in attendance on Saturday, as Vikings fans filled the bleachers and the fence line to see their favorite team and, consequently, create a fun buzz in the atmosphere during practice.
The team has yet to practice in pads – that will start on Monday. So it’s hard to draw too many conclusions after two non-padded practices. But it’s not hard to draw observations. Here are three observations from Saturday’s practice…
Without question, Percy Harvin has been the most impressive player on the field through the first two practices. He’s been a frequent target of the QBs during team and drill work, and he’s been in the rotation for kickoff return. Harvin has made several go-to-the ground catches so far, and midway through Saturday’s practice he made a catch along the sideline that was as good as you’ll see all of camp.
About three or four minutes into an early period of practice I started paying attention to field #2, where the Vikings specialists – P Chris Kluwe, LS Cullen Loeffler and K Blair Walsh – were working on their own. Loeffler and Kluwe were working together on landing punts inside the 20 while Walsh was kicking field goals. Kluwe was consistently landing punts inside the 10 with good hang time, even one time buzzing the tower of FOX Sports’ Jay Glazer after calling his shot. While I was watching, Walsh made six consecutive kicks from 46 yards and then was 2 of 3 from 55 yards. I was also told that Walsh hit a 60-yarder on Friday while working on the side.
“He knows being the only kicker here, he is putting a lot of pressure on himself to improve,” Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer said of his rookie kicker. “He is very conscious, a very hard working man, it’s extremely important to him. He competes with himself and that’s why I didn’t think we needed another guy at camp. I wanted to get as many reps as he can with Cullen, with Chris, with our whole first unit to put him in the situation where he can be successful.”
3rd And Long No Problem For Ponder-To-Rudolph
There is a period in practice called “special cats” (special categories) where the coaches put the players in certain game situations, such as red zone or the 2-minute drill. Saturday’s special cats period featured 3rd and long. The first-team offense looked the best of any group during the drill, as I saw Ponder convert at least three of five times. The first two conversions were accurate passes to TE Kyle Rudolph. On the first play of the period, Ponder found Rudolph on the right side for a completion near the 1st-down marker. CB Antoine Winfield was right in the area, but my guess is Rudolph would’ve had enough for the 1st down. The second conversion was also to Rudolph, as Ponder placed a pass perfectly along the sideline for Rudolph to haul in and get out of bounds.
“Kyle has had a great offseason,” Vikings Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave said. “He has gained strength without losing any movement. He is one of the guys that we are going to count on to contribute who wasn’t a full-time starter last year.”
The Vikings will have Sunday off and return to the field on Monday morning for a walk-thru and Monday afternoon for a padded practice.
Tags: 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp, Bill Musgrave, Blair Walsh, Chris Kluwe, Christian Ponder, Cullen Loeffler, Kyle Rudolph, Percy Harvin
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 57 Comments »
Friday marks the first practice of 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp and, appropriately, the final part of our Roster Rundown series. The series concludes with a look at the Vikings RBs and specialists…
Even with both Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart coming back from knee injuries, RB is a position of strength for the Vikings. There aren’t many teams with a better one-two punch than the Vikings. Gerhart has fully recovered from his knee injury, and he’ll shoulder the load for Peterson until he’s back at 100% health as well. Gerhart would be a starter for many NFL teams, so the job is in good hands while Peterson finishes up his recovery.
Depth at the position will be important for the Vikings in 2012 for reasons mentioned above, and Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said the team is looking for a back with all-around skills to have as the third option. Guys competing for this role in camp will include undrafted college free agent Derrick Coleman, four-year veteran Lex Hilliard and youngster Jordan Todman.
The Vikings designs at FB are uncertain at this point. Draft pick Rhett Ellison could play the part, but there are others who are actually listed as FBs on the roster as well (Ellison is listed as a TE). Ryan D’Imperio is a returning veteran with solid special teams ability as well, Matt Asiata was with the Vikings during last year’s camp and returns this year as well, and five-year veteran Jerome Felton will be around to increase the competition. Aside from how each of these players perform during practice and preseason games, the determining factor in this competition will be how the team plans to use the FB.
The Vikings go into 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp with starters in place at the specialists positions. Cullen Loeffler returns as the team’s long snapper, Chris Kluwe remains at punter, and Blair Walsh enters camp as the kicker. Together, Loeffler and Kluwe boast 17 years of NFL experience, so they are great mentors for Walsh as he embarks on his rookie season. It’s important for each of these players to perform well in their individual roles, but it’s also important for them to work well together. I have no doubt they’ll be able to do just that.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Blair Walsh, Chris Kluwe, Cullen Loeffler, Derrick Coleman, Jerome Felton, Jordan Todman, Lex Hilliard, Matt Asiata, Ryan D'Imperio, Toby Gerhart
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 50 Comments »
Special teams is a phase of the game that’s often overlooked, but it remains as important to the outcome of games as defense and offense. And when you play the Chicago Bears, the importance of special teams is even more important. The Bears annually feature one of the finest special teams units in the NFL.
This year is no exception, as the Bears boast the 5th ranked punt coverage team and the 9th ranked kickoff coverage team. In terms of kickoff and punt return, the Bears have perhaps the most dangerous return man of all in Devin Hester. K Robbie Gould is perfect on FGs and PATs this year, and his kickoffs reach the end zone 92.0% of the time; he records touchbacks on 64.0% of his kickoffs, which ranks 6th in the NFL.
Against the Carolina Panthers in Week 4, the Bears allowed 547 yards of offense, but they still won the game. And they won the game largely on the strength of their special teams. Hester logged a 64-yard punt return for a TD and a 73-yard kickoff return, and then Julius Peppers blocked a FG late in the 3rd quarter.
The bad news is Chicago’s special teams group is good enough to lead the team to victory. The good news is the Vikings special teams group has been good this year, too. The Vikings rank 6th in kickoff coverage and 5th in both kickoff and punt return average. K Ryan Longwell has been steady and P Chris Kluwe has 7 punts downed inside the 20, 7 punts fair caught and just 1 touchback.
On Thursday, Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer had candid assessments of a few important aspects of his special teams group. Here’s what he had to say…
On kickoff coverage
“I think our kickoff covering unit has been outstanding all year. Ryan’s done a great job with our kickoffs. He’s kept people off balance a little bit between the left, right and middle, and the hang time has been really good. Guys are focused. We’ve had a couple guys switch in and out, and even the backups have done a nice job.”
On punt coverage
“Punt coverage was not good for a couple weeks. Detroit and Kansas City were not good and this last week was very good. Chris punted the ball well. Patrick Peterson is a very dangerous returner, but Chris punted the ball very effectively and very well and our guys covered and did a good job forcing fair catches and that’s what you’re looking for.”
Tags: Chris Kluwe, Mike Priefer, Ryan Longwell
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 41 Comments »
Leslie Frazier earned his first victory as Vikings Head Coach on Sunday at Mall of America Field, as his team ran over the Arizona Cardinals to log a 34-10 win. And the Vikings did it the old fashioned way, with a relentless rushing attack and a punishing defensive effort that yielded only 3.8 yards per play and produced 4 turnovers.
The best RB in the NFL looked the part on Sunday, as the Vikings used three Adrian Peterson rushing TDs in the 1st quarter, along with a TD scamper by QB Donovan McNabb and a suffocating performance by the Vikings defense, to build a 28-0 lead before the 1st quarter came to a close. Arizona got on the board with a 2nd-quarter FG and then tacked on a TD in the 3rd quarter, but a rock-solid defensive effort, a commitment to the running game and two FGs by Ryan Longwell in the 2nd half helped the Vikings salt away their first victory of the season.
With a sold-out Mall of America Field crowd behind them, the Vikings defense played lights out for most of the game. But they were particularly sensational in the early going, forcing the following outcomes on Arizona’s first 6 drives: punt, punt, INT, fumble, punt, punt. There was a trio of three-and-out drives, and the Vikings converted both turnovers into TDs. Peterson scored from 4 yards out after the second Arizona punt and then dashed in from 24 yards out just one play after the INT. McNabb scampered in from 4 yards out after the fumble and then Peterson tallied his third rushing score of the day late in the 1st quarter after yet another Arizona punt.
All told in the 1st quarter, the Vikings scored 28 points, outgained Arizona 108-53, forced two turnovers and had an average drive start at the Arizona 40. Meanwhile, the Cardinals average drive start was their own 18, they converted zero of four 3rd-down attempts and they had nearly as many sacks and turnovers (3) as pass completions (4).
With CB Antoine Winfield sidelined because of a neck injury, it was imperative that the young Vikings secondary step up. And they did. Asher Allen grabbed the 1st quarter-INT, while S Jamarca Sanford collected two of his own to close out the game. The rest of the Vikings secondary played well also, as star WR Larry Fitzgerald was held in check with just 4 receptions for 66 yards. QB Kevin Kolb completed just 21 of 42 attempts for 232 yards with 0 TDs and 2 INTs; backup QB Richard Bartel threw the 3rd INT.
Aiding the young secondary in their effort was a tremendous pass rush, paced once again by perennial Pro Bowler Jared Allen, who had a pair of sacks. Fellow starting DE Brian Robison also had 2.0 sacks on the day, and now the duo has combined for 13.0 sacks this season – Allen has 8.5 and Robison has 4.5.
The Vikings special teams group deserves a nod, too, as they generated an average starting field position for the offense of the MN 42, while creating an average starting field position for Arizona of their own 24. Marcus Sherels had 45 punt return yards on just 2 tries, while P Chris Kluwe allowed zero returns in 4 punts and had two of his punts downed inside the 20, one of which was downed at the Arizona 3. K Ryan Longwell was 4 of 4 on PATs, 2 of 3 on FG tries (including a 53-yarder in the 4th quarter) and had two touchbacks.
The win improves the Vikings to 1-4 on the season and it gets them moving in the right direction as they embark on a road trip to Chicago next weekend and then return home for a date with the Green Bay Packers.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Asher Allen, Brian Robison, Chris Kluwe, Donovan McNabb, Jamarca Sanford, Jared Allen, Leslie Frazier, Marcus Sherels, Ryan Longwell
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 80 Comments »
The Vikings have agreed to terms on a contract extension with long snapper Cullen Loeffler. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“I’m excited to be here with the Minnesota Vikings,” Loeffler said. “I love this organization and I’m really glad to be a Viking. I expect good things in the future.”
Loeffler is in his 8th season with the Vikings and has handled all the special teams snapping duties since joining the club as a rookie free agent in 2004. Loeffler has responded in big situations, snapping on 5 of the 6 longest FGs in team history and 4 of the 6 longest game-winning FGs, including a career-long 55-yard game winner at Chicago in 2007 by Ryan Longwell. Loeffler has helped punter Chris Kluwe re-write the Vikings record book for game, season and career punting for average, long punts and punts landed inside the 20.
Loeffler is only the second Vikings long snapper to appear in 100+ games. Mike Morris holds the record with 144 games while Loeffler has appeared in 116 games during his career.
Tags: Chris Kluwe, Cullen Loeffler, Ryan Longwell
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 297 Comments »
Most Vikings first-teamers didn’t play in the team’s preseason finale against the Houston Texans on Thursday night at Mall of America Field, but those Vikings that did play made sure to entertain everyone watching. QBs Christian Ponder and Joe Webb, along with a host of other young Vikings, impressed in the final game of the preseason and put together a 28-0 victory.
With so many starters out of action, the main storyline heading into Thursday night’s game was the fact that Ponder was making his first start. The 1st-round pick did not disappoint, going 10 of 17 for 83 yards with 1 TD and no INTs; Ponder also had 61 yards rushing on 8 carries, frequently utilizing his athleticism to avoid pressure and escape the pocket. Ponder’s TD toss went to fellow rookie Kyle Rudolph.
Webb also looked solid and led scoring drives of his own, guiding the Vikings on an 11-play, 59-yard drive that culminated in a Caleb King rushing score early in the 4th quarter and then leading another drive late in the 4th quarter that also ended with a King rushing score. For the game, Webb was 5 of 6 for 43 yards with no TDs or INTs; he also had 1 carry for 12 yards.
Another positive development was the play from the team’s RBs. Minneapolis native and Iowa State University product Alexander Robinson scored on a 4-yard run in the 3rd quarter and then King, an undrafted rookie free agent out of the University of Georgia, scored twice in the 4th quarter. Tristan Davis got the start on Thursday night and rumbled for 25 yards on 8 carries. In total, the 3 RBs rushed for 135 yards on 34 carries. Robinson averaged 6.9 yards per carry and King was the leading rusher among the three with 62 yards.
The Vikings offense saw a lot of opportunities for success because the defense and special teams played so well. The Vikings defense surrendered only 14 first downs on the night and held Houston to a 33% third-down conversion rate. The Vikings kick coverage units were solid once again, as they have been all preseason, and allowed just 9.0 yards per punt return. P Chris Kluwe put 3 punts inside the 10, including one at the Houston 1-yardline in the 1st half.
Rookie CB Brandon Burton, who has flashed a bit over the past two games, notched an INT in the 2nd half and continues to make a strong case for himself. DE Adrian Awasom, who has lined up with the second-team defense all of camp and the preseason, registered a pair of sacks on the night and newly acquired DE Stylez White also had a sack. Reserve S Ryan Hill tallied a pair of special teams tackles and also led the team in defensive tackles with 5.
The victory over Houston concludes the Vikings preseason and now they’ll prepare for their regular season opener against the San Diego Chargers on September 11.
Tags: Adrian Awasom, Alexander Robinson, Brandon Burton, Caleb King, Chris Kluwe, Christian Ponder, Joe Webb, Kyle Rudolph, Ryan Hill, Stylez White, Tristan Davis
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Chris Kluwe is one of the biggest personalities in the Vikings locker room, so it should be no surprise that he’s behind a big Vikings ticket giveaway on Twitter and Facebook this afternoon.
Kluwe will use the social networking sites to conduct a contest that will lead fans to a downtown location where Kluwe will be waiting. The first 100 fans to meet Kluwe will receive a pair of tickets to the Vikings final preseason game, which is on September 1 at Mall of America Field against the Houston Texans.
The contest will begin after the Vikings afternoon practice. As Kluwe leaves Winter Park, he’ll announce the contest on his Twitter account (@chriswarcraft) as well as on the Vikings Twitter account (@VikingsFootball) and official Facebook page. Fans who show up will also have the opportunity to visit and take photos with Kluwe and post them to their Twitter and Facebook pages.
The Vikings return to Mall of America Field this Saturday night for a preseason contest against the Dallas Cowboys, which will mark the team’s first home game at the stadium since December 5, 2010. Tickets still remain for both of the Vikings home preseason games as well as all home regular season games. To purchase tickets, visit the vikings.com Tickets page by clicking here.
Tags: Chris Kluwe
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 3 Comments »
The Vikings special teams unit is going through a period of transition right now, partly because of some roster turnover but largely because there is a new coordinator in charge. Mike Priefer is now on the job and he’s making significant changes to some of the fundamental aspects of each special teams phase.
We’ll spare the detail of those changes for now, but suffice it to say Priefer has had a lot to teach in a short amount of time, especially considering he didn’t have the minicamps and Organized Team Activities (OTAs) usually afforded to teams in the offseason.
Despite all of that, early results are outstanding for Priefer and Co. The special teams were probably the strongest part of the Vikings preseason debut in Tennessee a week ago and then last Saturday in Tennessee the special teams gave another strong showing.
Let’s go over some of the highlights…
– Ryan Longwell has been solid on kickoffs all preseason. On Saturday night he was hitting his kicks into the endzone, with one going as deep as 6 yards. That combined with terrific effort from the coverage team is helping the Vikings win the field position battle. Here is Seattle’s starting field position after Longwell’s four kickoffs: SEA 11, SEA 27, SEA 9, SEA 15. The Vikings defense will enjoy life quite a bit this season if opponents are starting drives inside the 20 with regularity.
– P Chris Kluwe is doing his part to help the Vikings win the field position battle, too. On Saturday night he had 4 punts, with a gross average of 39.8 and a net average of 38.5. When the gross average and net average are similar, you know the opponents aren’t doing much in the return game. Seattle averaged just 1.7 yards per return on 3 tries and Kluwe landed 2 of his 4 punts inside the 20.
– S Eric Frampton continues to be a standout in kick coverage. He had another open-field tackle on Saturday night.
– Longwell was also solid in the place kicking department, nailing FGs from 34 and 36 yards and also hitting his lone PAT try. The battery of long snapper Cullen Loeffler to Kluwe also improved on Saturday night.
– Lorenzo Booker, who is my choice to be the Vikings kickoff returner this season, registered another impressive return on Saturday night with a 26-yard scamper. Marcus Sherels, who returned an INT 64 yards for a score in the game, also had 2 punt returns for a 10.0-yard average, but he did lose a fumble and that won’t be tolerated by Priefer and special teams assistant coach Chris White.
– Outside of Frampton, the other players credited with special teams tackles on Saturday were: Tony Carter, Loeffler, Sherels, Devon Torrence and Mark Washington. Devin Aromashodu (1), Jasper Brinkley (2), Booker (1) and Larry Dean (1) were all credited with assists.
Tags: Chris Kluwe, Cullen Loeffler, Eric Frampton, Lorenzo Booker, Mike Priefer, Ryan Longwell
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 35 Comments »
It’s generally not something you find football fans talking about, but it’s a vital part of every team and it’s an important factor in every game. We’re talking about special teams. And this preseason for the Vikings, it’s an especially important group to watch because there’s a new special teams coordinator in town with Mike Priefer aboard.
After one preseason game, it’s so far, so good for Priefer’s special teams groups. In what was mostly an uninspiring performance from the Vikings on Saturday night in Tennessee, the special teams groups looked strong. Let’s take a moment to point out a few of the strongpoints…
– P Chris Kluwe had a nice night, booming five punts and generating an average of 41.6 yards per punt and 39.4 net yards per punt; a net average of 39.4 yards would’ve ranked Kluwe 4th among all punters last year. Also, Kluwe put two of his five punts inside the 20-yardline and only three of his punts were returned.
– The Vikings punt coverage unit performed well in unison with Kluwe, allowing just 3.7 yards per return on three attempts.
– On kickoff returns, the Vikings averaged 26.0 yards per try, which would’ve ranked them 2nd in the NFL last year. In kickoff return coverage, the Vikings allowed just 19.0 yards per return, which also would’ve ranked them 2nd best in the NFL last year.
– Give credit to the group of Kluwe, K Ryan Longwell and long snapper Cullen Loeffler because they didn’t have a botched snap, hold or kick all night. Longwell was true from 37 yards out to give the Vikings their only points.
– WR Jaymar Johnson, who is trying to earn a spot on the WR depth chart, certainly helped his cause by performing on special teams. He returned a punt 40 yards in the second half, displaying a quick burst and then excellent top-end speed on the play. Another WR – Devin Aromashodu – who is also trying to win a spot on the WR depth chart helped himself on special teams as well by notching a tackle.
– Others who chipped in with special teams tackles were LB Larry Dean, S Eric Frampton and LB Heath Farwell.
Tags: Chris Kluwe, Cullen Loeffler, Devin Aromashodu, Eric Frampton, Heath Farwell, Jaymar Johnson, Larry Dean, Mike Priefer, Ryan Longwell
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 66 Comments »
The Vikings and Detroit Lions will battle today at Ford Field beginning at 12:00 p.m. CT. While the game has no playoff implications, there are still plenty of interesting subplots to watch. Here are a few…
– With a rushing TD, RB Adrian Peterson can set a new Vikings team record for the most career rushing TDs. In just 4 years, Peterson has 52 rushing TDs and is now tied with Chuck Foreman and Bill Brown for the most as a Viking. Peterson can also continue to climb higher in the top 10 in NFL history for most rushing yards in the first 4 years. He currently has 5,751 rushing yards, which ranks 6th and trails Jamal Lewis’ 5,763 for 5th.
– The Vikings can finish with a top 10 defense for the 3rd straight year for the first time since 1992-94, when the team finished 8th, 1st and 5th. The Vikings are currently 7th after ranking 6th in ‘08 and ‘09.
– A win would give the Vikings a 4-2 record under Interim Head Coach Leslie Frazier. The team finished 3-3 in the final 6 games of the 2009 season.
– With his sack at Philadelphia last Tuesday, DE Jared Allen reached double digit sacks for a fourth straight year (10.5 sacks currently).
– P Chris Kluwe can set the team record for the most games with a 50-yard punt. Kluwe has 68 career games with a 50-yarder, which is tied with Greg Coleman for the most in team history. Kluwe can also break his own record for most punts inside the 20 in a single season. Kluwe has 30 on the year, and his team record is 33.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Chris Kluwe, Jared Allen
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 13 Comments »