Pending Physicals, Vikings Trade Rosenfels, Reynaud

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 3, 2010 – 7:29 pm

The Vikings on Friday traded QB Sage Rosenfels and RB Darius Reynaud to the NY Giants in exchange for an undisclosed draft choice in the 2011 NFL Draft and a conditional draft choice in the 2012 NFL Draft.

The trade is contingent upon both Rosenfels and Reynaud passing physical examinations with the Giants.

By my (unofficial) count, the trade reduces Minnesota’s roster to 73 players; NFL teams must trim their rosters to the limit of 53 players by 5:00 p.m. CT on Saturday.

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Vikings Work Through Sweltering Heat In AM Practice

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 9, 2010 – 11:01 am

The Vikings practiced for approximately 2 hours on Monday morning as the final week of 2010 Verizon Vikings Training Camp is officially underway. Temperatures were in the low 80s but it felt much warmer because of the humidity, but that didn’t prevent the team from having a solid practice.

“It was a hot one out there,” Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said to reporters following practice. “But that’s a great thing for the players. It gave them an opportunity to fight through the heat and the main thing that they need to do is focus on their assignments, focus on what they were doing, and I think the guys did a nice job of that. They were sharp in their assignments and it shows that they had some mental toughness.”

Bevell’s offense was without some key players on Monday morning. WR Sidney Rice remains on the PUP list and the following players were also not practicing – Percy Harvin (personal), RB Darius Reynaud (leg), G Anthony Herrera and TE Visanthe Shiancoe.

Instead of fretting about the missing starters, Bevell instead pointed out that it provides an opportunity to see other players perform.

“There are a lot of young guys and some younger veterans even that are getting opportunities to show us what they can do,” Bevell said. “That’s what’s going to happen in a game. You’re only going to have so many guys. If one guy isn’t there, if you’re starter isn’t there, someone’s got to step up.”

Bevell mentioned C Jon Cooper and WR Logan Payne as guys who’ve seen increased reps because of starters missing time. Rookie OL Chris DeGeare is another player who’s seen increased reps. He plays LG when Steve Hutchinson is out of the lineup and then on Monday DeGeare played RG in place of Herrera.

Bevell was also asked about Harvin, who has missed extended time this training camp as he grieves the loss of his Grandmother. Bevell said there is no timetable on a return for Harvin and he also said that he’s not too concerned about the absence because Harvin takes good care of his body and is a hard worker.

The Vikings will practice this afternoon from 2:45 p.m. to 4:05 p.m. The team was in helmets and shoulder pads this morning, so I’m anticipating they’ll be in shells and helmets this afternoon.

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A Few Training Camp Trends 1 Week Into The Action

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 6, 2010 – 10:49 am

Practice #1 of Friday is in the books as the team worked out from 9:00 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. in front of another packed training camp crowd in Mankato. Jared Allen and the rest of the defensive line were signing autographs after practice, which is a major reason for the boosted attendance this morning.

The Vikings had a spirited 9-on-7 period that saw the offensive line and RB Toby Gerhart dominate early and then saw the defense, specifically LB Jasper Brinkley, pick it up toward the end and shut down the offense. Brinkley has had an outstanding camp to this point and it’s clear the strongest part of his game continues to be stopping the run. He can fill holes and stun a ball carrier with his aggressiveness and suddenness.

The Vikings will hold a special teams practice this afternoon from 2:10 to 3:15 p.m. and then will hit the fields 2 more times tomorrow before taking the day off on Sunday. Speaking of special teams practice, that’s where RB Darius Reynaud injured his ankle the other day. I saw Reynaud walking around the sidelines today during practice, so that’s a good sign. Hopefully he can recover quickly and get back out on the field; he has had a very nice training camp to this point.

Other guys who missed practice today included: WR Percy Harvin (personal), WR Sidney Rice (PUP), CB Benny Sapp (illness), CB Cedric Griffin (PUP), LB J Leman (leg) and C John Sullivan (leg).

CJ will chime in later today with a few more observations from today’s practice and a report on rookie DE Everson Griffen.

I’m going to head out of Mankato and begin my journey to Canton, OH for enshrinement ceremonies of John Randle and the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2010. Before I do that, though, I wanted to list a few trends I’ve noticed now that we are a week into 2010 Verizon Vikings Training Camp. Here it goes…

– Players who, in my eyes, are having solid training camps are: WR Bernard Berrian, LBs Jasper Brinkley and Kenny Onatolu, OT Patrick Brown, CB Chris Cook, OG Chris DeGeare, DT Letroy Guion, RT Phil Loadholt and RB Albert Young.

– The position group I’ve seen improve the most over camp has been the offensive line.

– The position group that has been the most impressive since Day 1 of camp is the LBs.

– I am confident in the way the Vikings medical and strength staffs are handling the injuries of CB Cedric Griffin and WR Sidney Rice.

– The Vikings had a true one-two punch in previous seasons with Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor. But I’m wondering if the one-two punch philosophy will be modified slightly in 2010 to include a few RBs in the rotation along with Peterson.

– RB Toby Gerhart has gotten better every day, struggling right out of the gates and having perhaps his best practice on Friday morning.

– I’m certain that Vikings fans will set a training camp attendance record this year; the crowds have been great.

– The Vikings defensive line led the league in sacks last year, and this year during training camp the unit looks improved.

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Notes From Wednesday Afternoon Special Teams Practice

Posted by cjsiewert on August 5, 2010 – 6:55 am

Wednesday afternoon’s practice was kept to just about an hour as the special teams unit got in its 1st “special teams only” practice of the 2010 Verizon Vikings Training Camp. Kickoff return specialist Percy Harvin did not participate in the special teams practice as he continues to handle personal matters, but Darius Reynaud – who returned 30 punts for 308 yards in 2009 – found himself returning a number of punts and kickoffs.

Special teams was an area the Vikings addressed during the offseason as they acquired kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd. Lloyd possesses the ability to pin the ball deep in opponent’s territory and has proven this skill with a league-leading 30 touchbacks in 2008 and another 21 in 2009 to rank 6th in the NFL.

To complement Lloyd in the punting game, P Chris Kluwe has provided consistency in the Vikings special teams unit over the past 5 seasons. The 6-year veteran had the top punting average of his career at 37.8 yards in 2009, including 24 punts of 50+ yards. A key component to Kluwe’s drive to improve his punting abilities consists of his directional kicking.

“I know a lot of guys use the Aussie rules, end-over-end kick,” Kluwe mentioned of directional punting. “For them it’s easier to control and put it down there, but I’ve always felt more comfortable with just trying to put it down in the corner. I think it’s something that I’ve gotten pretty good at and will continue to try and improve.”

As mentioned, the special teams practice lasted only for about an hour, so there really wasn’t a whole lot of action but here are a few notes from Wednesday afternoon’s practice…

– The 1st half of practice consisted of both the punt and punt return teams with Asher Allen, Taye Biddle, Jaymar Johnson, Reynaud, Lito Sheppard and Marcus Sherels returning punts.

– Rookie CB Chris Cook showcased his speed as an outside gunner on the punt team by consistently being the 1st man to reach the punt returner.

– Kluwe provided his ability to punt the ball well with impressive hang-time and distance. Kluwe consistently punted the ball around the area of 45 yards.

– The 2nd half of practice involved the kick return team with Johnson, Reynaud and Ray Small returning kicks.

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Notes From Morning Practice; E.J., Brinkley Shine

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 4, 2010 – 11:07 am

Mother Nature took it easy on us Wednesday morning and provided modest (compared to Tuesday) heat and humidity for a 2 hour and 10-minute workout in which the Vikings were suited up in shoulder pads, helmets and shorts. There was a fair amount of pad crunching going on, so I took my notebook out and jotted down a bunch of notes.

Here they are…

– The 1st portion of practice is typically dedicated to special teams, especially kick coverage. Following the kick coverage period, the Vikings worked on FGs and K Ryan Longwell looked sharp in his drill work. The last FG attempt from Longwell is occasionally designed to fall short so the team can practice returning a long missed FG; RB Darius Reynaud was the returner on Wednesday. It’s a part of the game that a team could easily go a whole season without seeing, but it’s interesting to me to take note of the minutia that teams go through to thoroughly prepare themselves for an upcoming season.

– RB Adrian Peterson was one of a handful of players who didn’t participate this morning. So rookie Toby Gerhart and 3-year veteran Albert Young shared the 1st team duties. When I saw Peterson without his shoulder pads as he headed out to practice, I wrote a note to myself to be sure to pay attention to which guy(s) got 1st-team reps. It seemed to me that Gerhart and Young shared equally the reps. At this point in camp, it’s my opinion that Young is ahead of Gerhart in the competition for Peterson’s complement, but I think ultimately it’ll come down to a trio (or more) of RBs who complement Peterson rather than a traditional 1-2 punch.

– LB play was impressive today, especially during team drills such as the 9-on-7 drill and LB vs. RB/TE passing and pass protection drill. During the 9-on-7 period, middle LBs Jasper Brinkley and E.J. Henderson stood out to me, consistently penetrating the line of scrimmage to cause disruption in the backfield or right at the line. Henderson broke up a pair of consecutive running plays, once on his own and then the 2nd time with DT Pat Williams. On the 4th and 5th plays of the period, it was Brinkley who caused the disruption, meeting up with Gerhart off RG and causing RBs coach Eric Bieniemy to tell Gerhart to bounce it outside and “trust your vision.” Near the end of this period, Reynaud registered the best run when he broke free off LT thanks to a nice seal block by rookie TE Mickey Shuler.

– Here are quick summaries of 2 players who looked good offensively: WR Bernard Berrian because of his smooth route running, leadership and sure-handedness. TE Garrett Mills because of several good “hands” catches (where the player doesn’t trap the ball against his body) during individual, 1-on-1, and team work.

– Finally, I should give you the attendance report from practice. The following players were not participants today: WR Percy Harvin (personal), WR Sidney Rice (PUP), CB Benny Sapp (illness), CB Cedric Griffin (PUP), Peterson (lower body) and LB J Leman (leg). It was good to see C John Sullivan (leg) and Shuler back in action after they had missed a few sessions.

That’s it for now, but stay tuned for more from 2010 Verizon Vikings Training Camp.

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Vikings Conclude A Highlight-Filled Practice #2

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 31, 2010 – 11:38 am

Practice #2 of 2010 Verizon Vikings Training Camp was highlight-filled, as the squad begins to hit full stride here in Mankato in preparation for the upcoming season. The team practiced for approximately 2 hours in warm and partly cloudy conditions.

All 3 Vikings coordinators held press conferences following practice, so stay tuned for quotes and comments from that. Also, CJ got together with LB Jasper Brinkley and will have a report on him and the Vikings defense later today.

Tonight is Football and Fireworks Night at Verizon Vikings Training Camp, as the team will practice under the lights from 7:00 p.m. to 8:55 p.m. and then fans will be entertained with a fireworks display right after practice.

Let’s run through a few highlights from this morning’s practice…

– You’ve heard the expression “Welcome to the NFL, rookie” several times in the past. The expression typically represents a moment when an NFL rookie experiences a “wake up” call during practice, usually a big hit that jars them a bit. Rookie RB Toby Gerhart got his “Welcome to the NFL” moment today…a couple times. DT Pat Williams got him first after the RB caught a pass in the right flats and then Brinkley jolted Gerhart a few plays later as he waited to catch another pass. Neither hit was malicious and Gerhart wasn’t the least bit shaken up by them, but it did generate a reaction from the crowd and you know that Williams and Brinkley got a little joy out of the moment.

– There is a drill called the “inside skeleton” where QBs, RBs and TEs work together in a passing exercise against LBs and Ss. In the early part of an inside skeleton drill, both Chad Greenway and Ben Leber stepped in front of passes to nab INTs. Greenway’s came off of rookie Joe Webb and Leber’s came off of veteran Sage Rosenfels. But Rosenfels bounced back right away to complete a pair of nice passes, the first to TE Garrett Mills over Jamarca Sanford and the next one to RB Darius Reynaud over LB Heath Farwell.

– Speaking of Reynaud, the converted RB ran with the 3rd team offense primarily today, with Gerhart and 3-year veteran Albert Young rotating between the 1st and 2nd teams. It’s too early to glean much off of the rotations right now, but it’s certainly worth keeping an eye on.

– While we’re on the topic of depth charts, one spot I’m curious to watch develop during training camp and the preseason is DT. This morning, Fred Evans and Jimmy Kennedy took the most reps with the 2nd team defense.

– CB Antoine Winfield generated some laughs from the crowd this morning. He was standing on the sidelines while WR Greg Lewis and CB Marcus Sherels went head-to-head in the 1-on-1 portion of practice. Lewis and Sherels got locked up right off the line of scrimmage at the snap and eventually Sherels was on the ground and Lewis was running away with a reception. Seeing Sherels thrown to the ground, Winfield tossed his sweat towel in the air to signify a pass interference penalty flag, right in front of the bleachers off of field #1. The crowd got a kick out of it.

– Later during 1-on-1s, CB Lito Sheppard locked up WR Marko Mitchell with an impressive display of press coverage and DeAndre Wright made a nice play on a deep pass down the left sideline that was intended for Logan Payne.

– One of the most impressive offensive plays of the day came when QB Tarvaris Jackson threaded the needle on a pass to TE Visanthe Shiancoe down the right seam during 7-on-7 work.

– And finally, during team work near the end of practice, S Husain Abdullah stepped in front of a Jackson pass to notch an INT. On the play, Jackson executed a play-action fake and then bootlegged to the right. He slipped and tried to get a pass out to the flats anyway, but Abdullah was there to jump the route and pick off the pass.

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Reynaud Continues Transition From WR To RB

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 13, 2010 – 8:51 am

Adrian Peterson’s absence from this weekend’s mandatory minicamp and 2nd round pick Toby Gerhart’s hectic travel schedule and immersion into the Vikings offense over the past several days have been hot topics of conversation over the weekend.

They are the team’s 2 highest-profile RBs but neither of them will be at Winter Park as the team wraps up minicamp with a Sunday morning practice. Peterson’s absence is due to the 4th annual “Adrian Peterson Day” in the superstar’s hometown of Palestine, TX and Gerhart left town on Saturday evening to attend commencement ceremonies at Stanford (he’ll be back to Winter Park for next week).

One of the RBs who will be at Winter Park for the final practice of minicamp is Darius Reynaud, who joined the Vikings 3 years ago as an undrafted college free agent WR but is transitioning to RB for the 2010 season. In previous seasons with the Vikings, Reynaud has contributed primarily as a punt returner and occasionally as a WR. But moving Reynaud to RB may give the shifty playmaker a better opportunity to contribute more frequently on offense.

Reynaud played RB in high school and at West Virginia University, so the idea isn’t foreign to him. But there are still some natural and sizable hurdles for him to overcome.

“You know he is taking a good look at things back there,” Childress said when asked about Reynaud’s transition. “I don’t know if that is surprising because he was a running back at West Virginia. But he is doing a pretty good job.”

Childress also mentioned that the next step in evaluating Reynaud’s transition is seeing how he carries his pads as a RB. The Vikings have worked without pads during OTAs and minicamp.

Another factor in the transition will be pass protection. Reynaud, who switched from jersey #82 to #27, looks natural with the ball in his hands and has a penchant for making defenders whiff on tackles. But playing RB in the NFL is more about breaking tackles and picking up yardage.

“That is going to be a big thing to be able to see if you can master that in a short time,” Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said of Reynaud learning pass protection. “Again, not his willingness to block but just all the nuances of where we are protecting and how we are getting that done and where he fits in will be his biggest challenge probably.”

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Defense Exclusive OTA Observations

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 20, 2010 – 1:19 pm

OTA #3 is in the books after another 90-minute or so workout on the outdoor practice fields at Winter Park. The weather was more of the same – sunny and warm – as the Vikings coaching staff worked with young players and selected veterans for the 3rd consecutive day.

As noted earlier, today’s OTA observations will focus exclusively on defense (tomorrow’s will focus exclusively on offense). Also, CJ will be chiming in a bit later after observing the Vikings WRs for most of practice. He also spoke with WR Greg Lewis after the Vikings concluded their on-field work.

A few (defensive) observations from today’s work…

– After opening up with some special teams drill work – a staple of Brad Childress’ practices – the Vikings defense focused on turnovers. Players were split up into groups by position and the defensive coaches conducted drills that condition players to be aggressive in forcing fumbles and also recovering those fumbles. One drill had DBs chopping their feet and moving laterally across obstacles for 10 yards and then sprinting forward to scoop up a fumble and return it to the endzone. Another drill required DL and LBs to execute a pass rush move (swim, rip, bull rush) and then rake the ball from a tackling dummy. Yet another drill asked DBs and LBs to punch the ball out of a ball-carriers possession and the recover the fumble.

Standouts in those drills included CBs Chris Cook and Lito Sheppard (lateral shuffle and fumble recovery) and DE Brian Robison (pass rush and stripping the ball).

– Of course there is no contact permitted during OTAs – per NFL rules – and that alters somewhat how teams practice, or at least what the focus may be during parts of practice. I’ve noted this in previous observations, but one emphasis Vikings coaches preach during these OTAs is pre-snap and after-the-snap positioning.

Coaches are teaching the players – most of whom are new to the team or in their 1st or 2nd year – how to read and react to certain situations and formations. DL coach Karl Dunbar spent almost 2 periods of practice explaining to his players how important it is to pay attention to how an OL was lined up.

“Whether we have pads or not, or whether there is contact allowed or not, we want to work on our positioning,” Dunbar told me after practice. “It’s situational football. We want them to know how to read and react to splits (along the offensive line), depths, motion by a receiver and shifts in the formation. Why is that running back lined up 5 steps deep instead of 7? Why is the split wider between the guard and tackle? Those are things we need to understand so we can react to certain situations.”

– Although because of the no contact rule the 1-on-1 drills aren’t quite as intense and realistic, there is still a lot of valuable work that can be accomplished. In today’s 1-on-1 DB/WR drill, rookie CB Chris Cook – selected with the 34th overall pick in last month’s draft – came up with an INT. On the very next play, former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher CB Marcus Sherels had blanket coverage against WR Taye Biddle as QB Tarvaris Jackson launched a deep pass down the field.

– LBs and Ss went up against RBs and FBs in a passing drill, where the offensive players came from out of the backfield to run pass routes as the defenders dropped into coverages to cover them. The highlight of the drill came when newly-converted RB Darius Reynaud bolted from the backfield, used an inside move to get past a LB, and then straightened out his route to catch a pass down the middle of the field. S Madieu Williams, however, was right there and would’ve applied a crushing hit to Reynaud as he made the catch had they been in a game situation. RBs coach Eric Bieniemy, who coaches as hard and as well as anyone, was all over the play. He first acknowledged the inside move Reynaud used to get past the LB, but then corrected Reynaud by pointing out the inside move brought him to the middle of the field where the S could break up the play. Bieniemy explained the proper route would’ve had Reynaud making the catch near the numbers instead of down the middle of the field.

– The last observation from today’s practice actually has nothing to do with defense. I wanted to compliment the Vikings turf management crew on the job they’ve done with the practice fields. They look great, even after 3 consecutive days of on-field work. I’m sure Minnesota weather – the winters especially – aren’t easy on the turn and the Vikings staff does a nice job of grooming the surface.

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Initial Thoughts On Reynaud Moving To RB

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 5, 2010 – 11:21 am

While I was out last week news surfaced of Darius Reynaud changing positions from WR to RB, and since I was out of town I wasn’t able to give this development much attention or thought.

According to this blog entry from the Star Tribune’s Judd Zulgad, Reynaud disclosed his position switch during a radio interview on KFAN. Zulgad also pointed out that Reynaud rushed for 1,889 yards on 236 carries and 37 TDs as a high school senior and that he had 410 rushing yards during his career at West Virginia University.

I don’t doubt that Reynaud is indeed making the switch from WR to RB and I also don’t doubt that Reynaud can be an effective playmaker as a RB. But I’m curious to know more about the decision to make this transition, both from Reynaud’s standpoint and from a coaching/personnel standpoint. I’ll seek out an offensive coach as well as Reynaud to get more reaction/information about this development.

As an aside to this news, though, I think it’s important to point out a couple of side effects.

– For much of the offseason, Vikings followers have wondered how the team was going to fill the role vacated by Chester Taylor’s departure to Chicago. There was interest in LaDainian Tomlinson, but he ultimately decided to stay in the AFC and play for the NY Jets. There’s also been talk about Brian Westbrook reuniting with Brad Childress. But now perhaps the Vikings will abandon the free agency market in an attempt to fill Taylor’s role and instead rely on the talent they’ve already collected.

– How does this affect the Vikings draft plans? More importantly, how does this affect the perception of the Vikings draft plans? My guess is it really has no practical impact on the Vikings plans because I truly believe they’re going to take the best player available when it’s their time to choose, be it a RB or a DB or anything in between – except a WR. But not everyone will see it that way. Some will surely assume this puts the Vikings out of the market for a RB at the end of the 1st round. Either way, it’s my opinion that moving Reynaud to RB does nothing to tip the Vikings hand at the end of the 1st round and that’s an advantage for the Purple.

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Five (Good and Bad) Trends To Watch

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 7, 2010 – 10:45 am

The good news is that the Vikings earned a 1st-round bye and won’t play their 1st playoff game until 4 other teams are eliminated. The bad news is that means there will be no Vikings game to watch or talk about this weekend.

So we have to talk about something else in the meantime.

As a result, we’ve come up with 5 good and bad trends the Vikings have going as they enter the playoffs. The good trends are obviously ones we’d like to see the Vikings continue as the playoffs march on. The bad trends are ones we’d like to see eliminated, or at least tempered, as the postseason moves forward.

It’s always better to take the bad news first, so we’ll start with 5 trends we’d like to see eliminated. But come back around lunchtime because that’s when we’ll post the 5 positive trends.

1. Pass Defense
We all love the Vikings rushing defense – it’s #2 in the NFL. But at times the pass defense can make you nervous. While the Vikings aren’t terrible in yards allowed, there are 4 other areas of pass defense that need to be improved in the playoffs. They are:

1) Passing TDs allowed. The Vikings rank just 23rd in this category with 26 allowed, and only 2 other playoff teams have given up more passing TDs (Philadelphia, Green Bay).
2) The Vikings are tied for 26th with just 11 INTs. No other playoff team has fewer than the Vikings 11 INTs.
3) Opposing passers have a 92.5 passer rating against the Vikings and no other playoff team is allowing a better rating.
4) Opposing passers are completing 63.7% of their passes against the Vikings and only 1 other playoff team (Indianapolis) is allowing a higher percentage of completed passes.

2. Negative Plays On Offense
The Vikings were the league’s 2nd-highest scoring team behind New Orleans and only 4 other teams averaged more yards per game, those are great trends. On the flip side, though, the Vikings led the league with 116 negative plays. The Vikings were a great 3rd-down offense, converting 44.8% of their 3rd down conversions, but they could be even better on 3rd downs (and all other downs) if they could decrease their rate of negative plays.

3. Takeaways
The Vikings finished on the plus side of the turnover margin in 2009, but they finished in a tie for 22nd with just 24 takeaways. Vikings assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier stresses taking the ball away to his defense, and he’ll continue to do so as they prepare for their 1st playoff game.

4. Ball Security
Fumbling wasn’t a rampant problem for the Vikings in 2009, but at times it reared its ugly head. The most memorable fumble is of course RB Adrian Peterson’s in Chicago, but he wasn’t the only guy to put the ball on the ground. Favre lost one in Pittsburgh that was returned for 6 points and both Chester Taylor and Darius Reynaud fumbled against the Giants in Week 17. Maybe we’re being nit-picky here, but it’d be nice to see 0 fumbles during a long postseason run.

5. Kick Return Coverage
Before we get into this one, I want to qualify this trend by saying 2 things: 1) the Vikings kick coverage units were much improved from last year and generally performed well on a week-to-week basis and 2) the Vikings covered more kickoff returns than any other team during the regular season. With those 2 things said, the Vikings did allow 53 kickoff returns of 20+ yards, which was 2nd-most in the NFL, and they allowed 6 kickoff returns of 40+ yards, which was tied for the 4th-most. Again, maybe we’re being nit-picky here, but it’d be good to see a couple of 0s in those categories during a long postseason run.

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