Reynaud Shining In Punt Return Game

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 22, 2009 – 1:56 pm

Percy Harvin has been the star of the Vikings return game in 2009, averaging 28.3 yards per return (3rd in the NFL) and setting a Vikings season and career record with 2 kickoff return TDs in a season.

But another returner on the Vikings roster – Darius Reynaud – is also impressing.

Reynaud has been the Vikings primary punt returner this season and through 14 games he’s 5th in the NFL with an 11.8-yard punt return average. That average currently ranks as the 4th-highest single-season average in team history and with 2 games to go, Reynaud has a chance to climb the charts even further.

Reynaud, who played collegiately at West Virginia University, made the Vikings roster originally as an undrafted rookie but has worked his way into a productive role on the team. He first displayed outstanding return abilities last season while fielding kickoffs. Reynaud posted kick returns of 40+ yards in 2 games – 49 vs. Chicago (11/30/08) and 43 at Detroit (12/7/08). Both of the returns ranked as the 2 longest kickoff returns for the Vikings in 2008.

Then this past preseason, Reynaud housed a sensational punt return from 81 yards out against Dallas, solidifying even further his hold on the punt return job.

In last week’s loss against the Panthers, Reynaud was a rare bright spot for the Vikings. He averaged 14.5 yards per punt return, including a 34-yarder in the 1st quarter, and also registered a 15-yard kickoff return when the Panthers elected to kick it short to avoid Harvin.

It will be fun to watch Reynaud continue to be a bright spot for the Vikings as they move forward towards the playoffs.

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Reynaud Reflects On Henry’s Passing

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 17, 2009 – 4:40 pm

By now you’ve likely heard of the tragic death of Bengals WR Chris Henry, who passed away on Thursday one day after falling out of the back of a pickup truck during what police said was a domestic dispute with his fiancée.

A tragedy such as Henry’s passing has a wide-ranging impact that begins with family and friends and spreads to teammates and the rest of the NFL, including the Vikings.

Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress mentioned to reporters on Thursday after practice that both FB Fahu Tahi and S Madieu Williams knew Henry from their time as Bengals players.

Another Vikings player – WR Darius Reynaud – was also connected to the fallen WR. Both Henry and Reynaud attended West Virginia University and the two were even teammates during the 2004 season. On top of that, Henry and Reynaud grew up 30 miles from one another just outside of New Orleans.

Reynaud said he remembers playing against Henry in high school and that once the two were both at West Virginia Henry took Reynaud under his wing and taught him how to be a WR.

“He took me in and showed me how to be a receiver,” Reynaud said on Thursday. “It was devastating to hear what happened yesterday (Wednesday). I’m still shocked to this point. He had just done an interview talking about his life changing around. And you could tell by the way he was talking that he’s changed.

“Just to hear what happened…life is short man. You’ve got to cherish every moment and live every day like it’s your last.”

My thoughts and prayers go out to Henry, his family and friends and the Bengals organization.

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Reynaud Steps In And Steps Up

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 16, 2009 – 11:02 am

A pair of rookies – LB Jasper Brinkley and S Jamarca Sanford – filled in for a pair of regular starters last week against the Cincinnati Bengals and stepped up their game in a winning effort.

But there was also a 2nd-year player who stepped up his game in place of a missing starter last Sunday.

Darius Reynaud, who regularly returns punts for the Vikings, was also inserted as a WR and the team’s kick returner in place of an ailing Percy Harvin. Reynaud averaged 27.0 yards per kickoff return on 2 attempts against Cincinnati and also registered 60 punt return yards on 5 tries.

After the game on Sunday, Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress seemed pleased with Reynaud’s performance.

“I thought he did a good job,” Childress said. “He did a good job in preseason. He’s got running back-type skills and can break tackles. He’s strong and got a little bit of wiggle. (He) did a good job with the punt returns as well. He can catch kickoffs or punt returns and push it back up in there.”

Reynaud’s position flexibility was a huge plus for the Vikings this past week, who were missing Harvin, a favorite for rookie of the year honors, for the first time this season. While Reynaud has shown an ability to play multiple positions, it’s clear, as Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune points out, that his primary role on the team this season is as a returner.

Given Harvin’s history with migraines, though, it’s well within the realm of possibility that Reynaud will be utilized again this season in the same capacity as last Sunday.

Fortunately for the Vikings, Reynaud has the ability to step up his game.

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Emptying Out This Week’s Notebook

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 15, 2009 – 10:11 am

We are less than 2 hours from kickoff, which can’t come soon enough for the Vikings and their fans after a bye last week.

Before we start to focus on the game today, I wanted to empty out this week’s notebooks with a few remaining items I couldn’t get to earlier…

– On Friday Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress was asked how his team looked in practice over the week, since they were coming back from a week off and have a comfortable lead in the division.

“You always reserve judgment until you go a million miles-an-hour in the game,” Childress said, “but they came back in decent shape (and) practiced well on Monday, Wednesday, yesterday. I’m not going to characterize today until I get a look at it, but everybody did what they needed to do.”

I would also add that the Vikings have a solid core group of veteran players and that will decrease the chances they come out slow today.

– Speaking of that comfortable division lead, it’s largely the product of the Chicago Bears losing twice since the Vikings last played. Chicago dropped their Thursday night game at San Francisco a few days ago and lost last week to Arizona at home. Additionally, the Packers lost last week to Tampa Bay while the Vikings were resting and this week they play at home against the suddenly resurgent Dallas Cowboys, who lead the NFC East with a 6-2 record.

– For the 1st time in a long time, Vikings WR Darius Reynaud practiced all week. He’s coming back from a hamstring injury he suffered earlier this season.

“He looks like he is back up to full-speed; looks like it. So we’ll just see how we come through Saturday and all that kind of stuff. He’s come out and practiced more and better,” Childress said.

So, it looks like Reynaud will be available today against Detroit, and that gives Childress a lot more flexibility in his lineup decisions. Reynaud plays receiver, obviously, but he can also return punts and kicks, cover kicks and potentially block for kickoff return.

“It ends up being, who can do the most? Who can contribute the most in the most areas? Can you play other phases on special teams? Both of those guys (Reynaud and Jaymar Johnson) are good return guys,” Childress said. “Can you gun? Can you run down and tackle? They both practice in that area. So, who’s best doing that? Can you hold up in punt when you stand out in the vice? Can you play one of the forward positions on a kickoff return? So it’s just who can do the most and give you the most depth on your special teams. Then, who can do the most at the wide receiver position if you got wiped out?”

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Darius Reynaud Update

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 13, 2009 – 8:11 am

Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said that WR/PR Darius Reynaud was scheduled to be back with team on Monday – good news for the Vikings. Reynaud injured his hamstring in Week 3 against the San Francisco 49ers and then was away from the team for personal reasons; he’s missed practice time and 2 games.

Reynaud has climbed the ladder from undrafted rookie free agent to explosive receiver and punt returner. He made the team last year coming out of training camp, was placed on the practice squad and then suited up for 3 games.

Coming out of training camp this year, Reynaud had made a good case for himself to be a member of the 53-man roster. His explosiveness was on display in the preseason when he tallied both a 64-yard TD reception against Kansas City and an 81-yard punt return against the Dallas Cowboys.

Prior to his injury in Week 3, Reynaud was sharp in the punt return game, averaging 17.3 yards per return on 7 attempts. He’s a sure-handed receiver of punts and is excellent at making the 1st man miss.

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Berrian To Return Punts If Reynaud Can’t Go

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 3, 2009 – 10:43 am

I took a question in this week’s Mailbag about Darius Reynaud and who would return punts if Reynaud couldn’t play this weekend. Reynaud was injured during last week’s game and didn’t return, and he’s missed practice time this week because of the injury.

WR Bernard Berrian finished the game as the Vikings punt returner, even though WR Percy Harvin is listed on the team’s depth chart as the 2nd team punt returner. And on Friday during his weekly meeting with reporters, Vikings special teams coordinator Brian Murphy said it would be Berrian again who would take punt return duties if Reynaud can’t go.

We’ll know more about Reynaud’s chances of playing Monday night later today when the Vikings release their final injury report for the week.

For the season, Reynaud is averaging 17.3 yards per return on 7 chances.

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Reynaud Goes Through Familiar Progression

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 16, 2009 – 4:10 pm

Vikings WR Darius Reynaud has gone through a progression during his brief NFL career. He joined the Purple last year as an undrafted rookie free agent, earned a spot on the practice squad after training camp and eventually was elevated to the active roster for 3 games last season.

Through it all, Reynaud’s progression has been based largely on his ability to contribute on special teams, primarily as a returner. As Reynaud explained on Wednesday, his progression in the NFL is familiar to his experience as a college player with the West Virginia Mountaineers.

“At West Virginia when I started off, it was the same situation as it is here,” Reynaud said. “I started off on special teams, they saw what I could do on special teams, so they bumped me up to receiver. Hopefully it’ll go the same way here.”

Reynaud made the Vikings 53-man roster at the beginning of the season this year because of his hard work last year on the practice squad and also because of his performance during the 2009 preseason. In the 2nd week of the preseason, he hauled in a 64-yard TD reception. A couple weeks later against the Cowboys in the preseason finale, Reynaud ripped off a dazzling 81-yard punt return TD.

It is that kind of versatility that allows Reynaud to provide value to the Vikings.

“The situation I’m in, there are quality players at receiver so I know my biggest way to impact the Vikings is to play special teams,” Reynaud said. “I’m just trying to take advantage of that opportunity right now.”

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Final Statements

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 5, 2009 – 8:48 am

For players on the roster bubble, Friday night’s preseason finale against the Cowboys was their opportunity to make a final statement and showcase why they are good enough to be included on the Vikings 53-man roster.

There was a trio of Vikings that particularly stood out following the game. So, let’s take a look at each of them and then see what Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress had to say about them:

RB Ian Johnson – Battling for the 3rd RB job with 2nd-year player Albert Young, Johnson had an uphill battle all of training camp and the preseason. But he’s risen to the challenge constantly and the culminated last night in a 17-carry effort that saw him tally 61 yards rushing and 2 TDs.

“I thought Ian flashed,” Childress said after the game. “He had some explosive runs there and I thought he circled the defense well. He also ran it inside between the tackles pretty well. As EB (RBs coach Eric Bieniemy) says, that’s as good a group of running backs that we’ve entered camp with as any time since we’ve been here.”

LB Kenny Onatolu – An underdog roster candidate out of the University of Nebraska-Omaha, Onatolu represented the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association well with the Vikings during training camp. And he put an exclamation point on his NFL career to date last night against the Cowboys by recording 5 tackles (1 for a loss) and 2 fumble recoveries.

“He’s another guy that’s a football player,” Childress said. “He’s a quick study, he’s a guy that’s been around as a gym rat ever since he could be back on March 17th. He hasn’t missed any days…spends time in the building and his special teams obviously stands out, but he’s really grown in the defense and you can see some of his explosive components and some of his speed to make plays.”

WR Darius Reynaud – You hear constantly that the best way for bubble players to make the roster is to show the coaching staff that they can contribute on multiple phases. There is perhaps no better example of such a player than Reynaud, who not only takes reps during practice on several phases but also produces during games in several phases. Against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2 of the preseason, Reynaud hauled in a 64-yard TD reception. And last night he housed an 81-yard punt return.

“He’s a good football player,” Childress said. “And not just a good receiver, he’s a good football player. You saw him return some balls, he runs it down and covers on the kick team, he’s a very good gunner. It’s hard to play out there…you play in that vice out there now, that’s hand-to-hand combat. You saw him do some explosive things…I’m happy for him.”

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Rookies Show Off

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 11, 2009 – 2:08 pm

It’s usually not a good idea for rookies in the NFL to show off and draw attention to themselves off the field during training camp. But that behavior is actually requested of Vikings rookies at the end of each training camp.

Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress wisely discourages rookie hazing during camp, and has created a different tradition to entertain veterans – a rookie talent show.

“Yes I am,” Childress responded when asked today if he would be attending the rookie talent show. “I will not be the master of ceremonies, but I am sure I will be parodied in some way. I look forward to it. It is good to be worked on by professionals.”

A hit during last year’s talent show was WR Darius Reynaud’s impersonations.

“”They were classic, yeah just classic,” Childress recalled. “Probably not all for public consumption but at the end of a training camp it’s all open game. Coaches, players, veterans, and rookies; and believe me there is always a unique approach.”

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