A Couple Post-Practice Notes

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 19, 2010 – 1:10 pm

We’ll wait until the injury report comes out in a bit to go into details on who will and won’t play on Sunday. In the meantime, there are 2 topics to touch on from after practice today.

WR Sidney Rice – he remains on the PUP list after hip surgery. The Vikings must take him off the PUP by Wednesday or else he’ll be placed on Injured Reserve, ending his 2010 season. In theory, then, Rice could sit out this weekend’s game against Green Bay but then be activated by Wednesday and comeback later this season, as soon as next Sunday against Washington. But Childress indicated that if Rice is unable to play on Sunday he’ll likely be placed on season-ending injured reserve. So stay tuned on this one.

RBs Coach Eric Bieniemy – Childress said he has received a preliminary phone call regarding Bieniemy from representatives of the University of Colorado about their head coaching vacancy. Bieniemy played football at Colorado and has been rumored to be a candidate for the head job there. He was an original hire by Childress on this staff and has done a superb job, obviously, of working with RB Adrian Peterson.

“I do think highly of him,” Childress said. “I think he could be a coordinator in this league and before it’s over he could probably be a head coach in this league. I know what his recruiting skills are like; he’s an excellent recruiter and an excellent people person. Great, great teacher of offensive football. We’d hate to lose him but certainly, if he has the opportunity, it’d be hard to hold him back.”

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Bieniemy Chooses Vikings Over USC; Is Promoted

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 26, 2010 – 8:15 am

After an offer from the University of Southern California to be the program’s offensive coordinator, RBs coach Eric Bieniemy has decided to remain with the Vikings and will have “assistant head coach offense” added to his title. Bieniemy informed the Vikings of his decision on Thursday after making what was surely a tough decision.

Bieniemy is an original member of Childress’ staff here in Minnesota from when the group was hired in 2006 and he is held in high regard by the Vikings head coach. Childress has commented frequently during his tenure with the Vikings that Bieniemy is a bright coach and a good teacher of the game.

“Eric’s a bright young guy, he’s Adrian Peterson’s mentor and obviously he has aspirations,” to move up, Childress told the Star Tribune’s Judd Zulgad. “Like we talked about, there is no exact way to climb the ladder. It sounds extremely appealing, to live out there and recruit, and he’s great at recruiting. You’re talking about giant money and it costs giant money to live [in Southern California]. It was extremely appealing and maybe you become a head coach in college. But I think he has the ability to be a head coach at this level. He’s a tremendous teacher.”

Bieniemy told Zulgad that he came to his decision after talking with Vikings ownership and management and with Childress. He said there were a lot of factors in the decision but that he made the right decision and is in the right place for him at this time.

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Q&A With Toby Gerhart

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 9, 2010 – 11:20 am

Thanks to everyone who submitted questions and emailed questions for RB Tony Gerhart. I was able to chat with him in the locker room over lunchtime to ask him your questions and I’ll include the complete Q&A in this entry.

It’ll be a hectic time for the former Stanford RB over the next month or so. He completed his last final exam on Tuesday, took a red eye flight to Minneapolis last night, is getting caught up as much as possible now and will participate in minicamp this weekend. He also will fly back to Stanford for graduation ceremonies, then return to Winter Park for the offseason program and then head to the annual NFL Rookie Symposium later this month.

That’s a lot for a young NFL player to go through, but after chatting with him at the NFL Scouting Combine in February and then this morning, it’s clear to me that he can handle it all.

Without further ado, here is the Q&A…

What are your personal goals for the season?
“To find a way to contribute and get on the field to help this team win. And to win a Super Bowl.”

Will you be able to catch up with the offense before training camp?
“Oh yeah, I think so. (RBs) Coach (Eric) Bieniemy and I are meeting quite a bit right now and he’s doing a great job of getting me up to speed. It’ll take a lot of work and I know it won’t all happen fast, but there’s a great offensive staff here and I’m looking forward to diving right in and learning as much as I can.”

How would you describe your running style?
“Physical and deceptive. I think I’m faster and shiftier than most people realize.”

What are you most looking forward to about playing with the Vikings?
“Getting into the stadium and playing in front of the fans. I’m told that we have the most passionate fan base and I think it’s fun to play for fans like that. It’s been a dream of mine to play in the NFL and I’m looking forward to getting that chance.”

Who do you think will win the World Cup?
“Wow, that’s a good and random question. I obviously hope the U.S. wins it. I’m looking forward to their game on Saturday.”

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OTA #5 Observations

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 24, 2010 – 3:17 pm

A few observations from Monday’s OTA…

– K Rhys Lloyd was one of several veterans who didn’t participate in last week’s OTAs but did participated on Monday. Lloyd was signed by the Vikings this offseason and will be the team’s kickoff specialist in 2010. This will allow K Ryan Longwell to focus exclusively on FGs and PATs. I watched Lloyd work today during the early part of practice and I was impressed with what I saw. He would take about a step and a half and boot the ball off a tee from the 35-yardline to the goal line. Lloyd’s leg strength is obvious and it’ll be interesting to see how his addition impacts the Vikings special teams unit.

– I spent some time during individual drills observing the RB group, which consisted of Ryan D’Imperio, Ian Johnson, James Johnson, Darius Reynaud and Albert Young. The particular drill I watched required the RBs – one at a time – to engage, lift up and shed a heavy blocking sled. The drill is designed to improve blocking technique. As you may or may not know, RBs coach Eric Bieniemy is one of the most vocal position coaches on the staff and he’s also known to let his players hear it if they make a mistake. On Monday the RB group went through 3 full cycles of that drill without coach Bieniemy stopping a player one time. That’s pretty impressive.

– The WR position is one of the most glamorous in football. When fans think of WRs, they think of silky smooth athletes and TDs and TD celebrations. But there’s just as much tedious practice work required of WRs as any other position on the field. And on Monday I watched WRs coach George Stewart work with his group on a drill that required the WRs to run a quick comeback route, catch the ball and then turn up field. Obviously catching the ball is paramount in a WR drill, but coach Stewart was focusing intensely on small details, such as heel placement on the pivot, arm action on the turn and tucking the ball away after securing it. Coach Stewart has been in the league for 22 years now and he’s coached great receivers such as Terrell Owens, Jerry Rice and Roddy White, so it’s no surprise he’s concerned with the details.

– WR Taye Biddle and QB Sage Rosenfels hooked up for the play of the day during offense vs. defense work. Biddle ran a go route down the right sideline and Rosenfels’ pass arched over a pair of defenders and into the hands of Biddle for what would’ve been a TD. The degree of difficulty was high because both players were fighting a strong breeze on the play.

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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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Childress Discusses Tomlinson’s Visit

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 12, 2010 – 8:38 am

It’s been a busy week for Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress as he’s continued to touch every area of his football team in an effort to improve the roster heading into the 2010 season. Earlier this week he was at the University of Minnesota’s pro day, then toward the end of the week he was part of a large Vikings contingent that spent time with free agent RB LaDainian Tomlinson in the Twin Cities and he’s also surely focusing some of his attention on the trial involving Pro Bowl DTs Kevin Williams and Pat Williams.

Even with all of that going on, though, the Vikings head coach took some time out of his Friday morning to speak with KFAN’s Power Trip Morning Show, which is hosted by former Vikings long snapper Mike Morris.

The topic receiving the most attention during Friday morning’s visit was Tomlinson’s visit over the past couple of days. With Chester Taylor having bolted town for the Chicago Bears, the Vikings have an open spot on the depth chart and Tomlinson is widely considered to be a great fit in that role.

LT came into town on Wednesday evening and left late yesterday afternoon for his next visit, which is with the NY Jets. While typically it’s bad news for a prospective free agent to visit and then leave town without a deal, Childress indicated that conventional thinking in that regard might not apply in this specific scenario.

“A lot of times when you only have one [team] involved, the agents don’t like that game,” Childress said. “A lot of times they take them and create the atmosphere that there’s want somewhere else. And there may be in fact want somewhere else. Something to drive the deal.”

Childress said Tomlinson gave others his word that he’d visit them before signing somewhere and the head coach also said that Tomlinson is “a man of his word,” so perhaps it’s not surprising that the 5-time Pro Bowler and future Hall of Famer will make at least one other stop during his time on the market.

While Tomlinson was here, though, all indications are that the RB was impressed with what he saw and heard. One would think the presence of QB Brett Favre on the roster – or not on the roster – would be a factor in Tomlinson’s decision, but Childress mentioned another member of the Vikings team actually spoke with LT while he was visiting.

“I actually put him on the phone yesterday with Adrian,” Childress said. “They were able to talk for a little bit down in (RBs) coach (Eric) Bieniemy’s meeting room. I think there’s a tremendous admiration of one toward another.”

Ultimately, given Tomlinson’s specific circumstances at this point in his career and given how the Vikings feel about LT, a union between the two seems like a solid fit and one that would advance both parties agendas – reaching and winning the Super Bowl.

“We had a great visit with him,” Childress said. “Obviously he’s been in one place for a good, long period of time and had a great run. But he’s got some things left and one of the things that absent is an opportunity to win that ring and get it on his finger. He’s been close and I’m sure he’s looking for teams that he feels like have a chance to get him close again.

“I really look at it as a guy that if we were fortunate enough to get him, we would have a 1 and 1A. He understands that dynamic. But he can do all the things that he needs to do in this offense. “

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Don’t Miss’s “Anatomy of a Play”

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 17, 2009 – 11:30 am

In case you didn’t notice it on the home page, you’ve got to check out a feature on called “Anatomy of a Play.”

The feature is hosted by NFL Network and Vikings preseason TV analyst Mike Mayock and features interesting insight from him, Vikings RBs coach Eric Bieniemy, QB Brett Favre and Adrian, among others.

The feature does an excellent job of breaking the play down from an Xs and Os standpoint, but it also shows multiple angles of the play and allows you to hear audio from the players themselves as they talk about the play on the sidelines.

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RB Johnson On The Right Track

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 6, 2009 – 4:37 pm

A guy who has been the subject of several reader comments here on the blog and who I’m guessing the Vikings coaching staff and personnel staff gave serious thought to including on the 53-man roster is RB Ian Johnson. Following his 2-touchdown performance against the Cowboys in Friday’s preseason finale, some thought he had done enough to beat out Albert Young for the 3rd RB spot.

Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress mentioned after Friday’s preseason finale that RBs coach Eric Bieniemy stated that this year’s RB crew was the best the team has had in camp since this particular staff has been together in Minnesota. Of course the presence of players such as Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor are the main reason Bieniemy feels that way. But that sentiment can also be attributed to both Young and Johnson, and their willingness to work hard and continue their development.

While Johnson continued to impress me as training camp and the preseason went on, I think the Vikings made the right choice by keeping Young on the 53-man roster and attempting to slide Johnson through waivers and onto the practice squad. Young has been in this offensive system and on this team for 2+ years now, and I think there’s something to be said for that and for the fact that like Johnson, Young has also been productive when he’s had opportunities.

But now that Johnson is on the practice squad, he’ll (hopefully) get a full year of experience in this system and then enter training camp next year with a broader knowledge of the Vikings scheme and way of doing business. This will equip him with the same experience that Young possesses and then we’ll see another good, old-fashioned dogfight for a roster spot on the RB depth chart.

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