Our brand-new Pick 6 (video mailbag) segment, which appears mid-week on vikings.com, is off and running. We’ll be back later today with another edition, but we still need a couple more questions to add.
You can submit a question by emailing me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or leaving the question in the comments section below this entry. Remember to list your name and town with all questions.
If you haven’t yet done so, check out previous installments of Pick 6. Last week’s edition was a WR exclusive version, with Vikings WRs coach George Stewart joining to help answer questions.
Tags: George Stewart, Pick 6
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 43 Comments »
Another productive and successful week of Organized Team Activities is in the books, as the Vikings conducted OTA #6 on Thursday at Winter Park. The Vikings are now 60% of the way through their OTA schedule and have completed seven weeks of their nine-week offseason program.
A lot happened this week during OTAs, including: Both LB Chad Greenway and WR Percy Harvin rejoining the team on Tuesday; QB Christian Ponder and WR Jerome Simpson stealing the show on Wednesday; several Vikings players and coaches helping out at a Special Olympics Minnesota Punt, Pass and Kick clinic; WRs coach George Stewart answering questions in this week’s Pick 6; and WR Jerome Simpson appearing in this week’s Wobcast.
In such a jam-packed week, it’s easy for a few important topics to slip through the cracks. To prevent that from happening, let’s empty out the notebook from this week.
Win with Winfield
Injuries held CB Antoine Winfield to just 5 games in 2011, and the crafty veteran is entering his 14th season. But don’t expect his play to decline. In fact, as Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier explained earlier in the week, Winfield will be relied up for both leadership and playmaking ability this year.
“The fact that he’s here and participating in all of these OTAs, I told him the other day that I don’t take that for granted,” Frazier said, “and really appreciate him being here because he provides veteran leadership for some of the new faces that we have in the secondary and he’s a great player. We need his leadership, we need his playmaking ability on the football field and he’s played a number of years in this League but we don’t think his best football is behind him.”
Who will be the RB3?
The Vikings have as good a 1-2 punch at RB that you could ask for in Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart. Both are coming back from injury, however, which makes the team’s quest for a third RB important.
“That number three back for us really needs to be a guy who can step in and play in early downs, not just in third-down situations, which is more the norm for most third-down backs,” Frazier said. “There are guys who are more specialty types, and for us he needs to be a guy who can carry the ball as well as catch the ball out of the backfield. We are looking for a little bit more out of the third back this season.”
After Peterson and Gerhart, the Vikings have four RBs listed: Derrick Coleman, Jerome Felton, Lex Hilliard and Jordan Todman.
Sully takes charge
One of the best draft picks the Vikings have had since Rick Spielman joined the club is C John Sullivan. The Vikings selected Sullivan in the 6th round in 2008, and initially he studied behind veteran Matt Birk while also playing special teams. In 2009, Sullivan was the starter and snapped to future Hall of Famer Brett Favre. Those two seasons were key for Sullivan in terms of learning how to operate as an NFL center and as a leader.
Now, those two years are paying off both for Sullivan and the team. Sullivan is a leader on the offensive line, and he’s also taking on more of a leadership role with the whole team, according to Frazier.
“John is a guy we’re really counting on from a leadership standpoint,” Frazier said. “He was rewarded, as you know, this past season with a good contract and because of how he has matured on the football field, he’s really come along and he’s begun to accept that role as a leader.”
Frazier is right – it’s clear that Sullivan has taken a leadership role with the club. Every team has high draft picks who end up being impact players, but just as important as those players are the John Sullivans of the world. The Vikings are lucky to have Sullivan.
Another late-round gem?
Sullivan is one example of a late-round pick making a big difference on the team. Is Stephen Burton an example in the making? We don’t know yet. The former 7th-rounder out of West Texas A&M has flashed quite a bit during OTAs and he’s even caught the eye of Frazier.
“You can see the confidence and that’s a big thing for a receiver, big thing for any young player,” Frazier said. “He has tremendous athletic ability and he is one of those guys who can jump out of the gym and make the acrobatic catch, but his confidence, that’s the one thing that you can see is coming through now.”
Burton, who played in 3 games as a rookie last year, measures in at 6-1, 224 pounds and could also be a contributor on special teams, perhaps as a returner.
“The good thing for Stephen is that he was able to get some reps in ball games a year ago when I know he wasn’t expecting that early on and neither were we,” Frazier explained. “That helped him because he has a lot more confidence at this stage than when we had him in training camp.”
Burton has clearly taken a step forward in 2012, and I’m looking forward to watching him compete during the summer and into the preseason. The Vikings currently have 12 receivers on the roster.
Tags: Antoine Winfield, Chad Greenway, Christian Ponder, George Stewart, Jerome Simpson, John Sullivan, Leslie Frazier, OTAs, Percy Harvin, Stephen Burton
Posted in All | 374 Comments »
On Wednesday we discussed the possibility of Greg Camarillo’s role with the team increasing, in part because of the Vikings decision to release WR Bernard Berrian. But Berrian’s release presents another Vikings WR with a big opportunity, too.
Rookie Stephen Burton, who was selected by the Vikings in last April’s draft with a 7th-round pick (#236 overall) out of Division II West Texas A&M, was promoted from the practice squad to fill Berrian’s vacant spot on the active roster. Burton is now the 9th of 10 Vikings draft picks from last April to make the active roster.
As Dan Wiederer of the Star Tribune pointed out, Burton’s promotion to the active roster comes roughly 6 months after he received a call from the Vikings notifying him that he’s been drafted.
“That draft call was incredible,” Burton told Wiederer. “Because of the lockout, if you went undrafted, it would have been months of not knowing if you’d get an opportunity. So for me, that was such a highlight. But when I got the message Tuesday about getting called up, that was a great feeling in a different way. My first thought was, ‘This is awesome.’ After all the hard work, I’m finally getting an opportunity.”
Burton stands at 6-1, 221 pounds and is a developmental prospect at the WR position. But with rookie Christian Ponder now the starting QB, the team’s record at 1-6 with the midpoint of the season around the corner and, perhaps most importantly, one of the best WR coaches in the business on staff in George Stewart, now is a great time to give a player such as Burton a chance to prove himself.
Promotion to the active roster doesn’t necessarily mean a player will be active for a game. The active roster contains 53 players, but teams are permitted to dress 46 of them on game day. So Burton could be inactive on Sundays, or his ability to impress coaches could meet a sudden need at the position, which might result in him suiting up in a game.
Increasing Burton’s chances of seeing the field on Sundays this season is his ability to perform on special teams. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said on Wednesday that Burton has kickoff return capabilities, and if Burton can also display skill in kick coverage, his chances of playing will only increase.
“He’s a guy who has really grown from the time we got him to the point where we’ve been commenting about him over the last two or three weeks,” Frazier said. “He had some hamstring issues when we were in Mankato so he missed some time and we really couldn’t get a feel for where he was but once he got that injury behind him you could see the promise that he has. We’re excited to see how he performs now that he has this chance.”
Tags: George Stewart, Greg Camarillo, Leslie Frazier, Stephen Burton
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 72 Comments »
A great part about the vikings.com Blog is that readers have the opportunity to share their thoughts via the comments section. I began this blog entry with that thought in mind because I’m guessing the title of this entry already has many of you foaming at the mouth and ready to rip me to shreds.
Well, you have full license to criticize the opinion that WR Bernard Berrian will have a bounce back season in 2011, but hear me out first. Check out the full article I posted this morning about Berrian. It contains the opinion and supporting argument that the Vikings should keep Berrian on the roster and that we should expect a big bounce back season in 2011.
Most of you will immediately write off this thought because you’ve already given up on Berrian and you want the team to dump him to save salary. But I think keeping him on the roster is the better move. Berrian will enter the 2011 season fully healthy, which he hasn’t been in nearly two years, and he’ll enter the season as the Vikings best down-field threat. This is important because although I expect the Vikings to be mostly a ground-and-pound, dink and dunk offense, especially early in the season, NFL offenses still need to be able to explode. After Percy Harvin and Adrian Peterson, Berrian will be the Vikings most explosive weapon and he’ll be their best chance at blowing the top off of defenses.
Also working in Berrian’s favor this year will be opportunities. Chemistry issues with Berrian and QB Brett Favre contributed to Berrian’s lack of production the past two seasons. With Donovan McNabb in the fold, Berrian will be re-energized. And with Sidney Rice gone to Seattle, Berrian will see more snaps per game.
I don’t expect Berrian will have 12 TDs and I won’t suggest that you draft him onto your fantasy football team. But I will suggest that you leave the door open – even if only a crack – for a big bounce back season from #87. A season closer to his 2008 numbers than in 2009 and 2010.
Tags: Bernard Berrian, George Stewart
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 51 Comments »
If you would’ve told me three days ago that the Vikings signed a free agent who was most recently with the Atlanta Falcons, I would’ve guessed it was one of their three offensive linemen on the market. But if you told me one day ago that a former Falcon would wind up with the Vikings, I would’ve guessed it was WR Michael Jenkins.
And I would’ve been right.
Jenkins, who will wear #84 in Minnesota, was released by Atlanta Friday morning and it didn’t take long for the Vikings to scoop up the 6-4, 217-pound WR. In Minnesota, Jenkins will fit well as an outside receiver and he gives QB Donovan McNabb a big target, which will be especially helpful in the red zone.
The move reunites Jenkins with both Bill Musgrave and George Stewart. Jenkins was a first-round pick of Atlanta in 2004 and during his career there Musgrave was an assistant coach from 2006-10 and Stewart was the WRs coach. Interestingly enough, the only season Jenkins, Musgrave and Stewart were all in Atlanta together was Jenkins’ most productive campaign in terms of TDs (he had seven).
Jenkins, who played college football at Ohio State University, became dispensable in Atlanta because the Falcons made a blockbuster trade in last April’s draft to jump up to the #6 overall pick, and with that pick they selected WR Julio Jones. With star WR Roddy White already in the fold, the addition of Jones probably sealed Jenkins’ fate.
In seven seasons with the Falcons, Jenkins never quite produced up to the level you expect from a first-round WR. He did have 7 TDs in 2006, but he never caught more than 53 passes in a season and then his opportunities really decreased when White came onto the scene.
But in Minnesota, Jenkins will have an opportunity to be relevant again if he can hold off the rest of the Vikings young WR corps. Keep in mind, though, that Jenkins will have a leg up on the competition because he already knows Musgrave’s playbook.
Tags: Bill Musgrave, George Stewart, Michael Jenkins
Posted in All | 128 Comments »
It was just over 24 hours ago that we took a look at Sidney Rice’s departure and where the Vikings would go from there. In doing so, we listed 13 WRs on the market and assessed if and how they would fit in well with the Vikings.
In a sign of how quickly things can change, especially in this hyper-active environment of player movement because of the lockout, there is a WR on the market who might jump to the front of the line – Michael Jenkins.
Jenkins was a first-round pick (#29 overall) of the Atlanta Falcons back in 2004, but he was recently released by the Falcons and is now free to sign with any team. Jenkins became dispensable because the Falcons made a blockbuster trade in last April’s draft to jump into the Top 10 picks and select WR Julio Jones.
In seven seasons with the Falcons, Jenkins never quite produced up to the level you expect from a first-round WR. He did have 7 TDs in 2006, but he never caught more than 53 passes in a season and then his opportunities really decreased when Roddy White came onto the scene.
So why is he a potential fit in Minnesota? For starters, the Vikings do have several bodies on the WR depth chart who are capable of proving themselves in training camp. But it never hurts to add more talent, and there’s no denying Jenkins’ talent and there’s also no denying that Rice’s departure to Seattle leaves a vacancy on the Vikings depth chart.
Digging deeper, though, remember that the Vikings new offensive coordinator is Bill Musgrave, who came to Minnesota after five seasons as an assistant coach in Atlanta. Also, I’ve often described Vikings WRs coach George Stewart as one of the best in the business, and he was the Falcons WRs coach for four seasons from 2003-06.
If you go back and read the last three paragraphs closely, you’ll discover that the only season Jenkins, Musgrave and Stewart were all in Atlanta together was Jenkins most productive campaign in terms of TDs.
So in summary, there is an opportunity at WR for Jenkins with the Vikings and he’d be working with a pair of familiar coaches. I’m not privy to his injury history and I certainly haven’t watched enough film of him to diagnose how much he’s got left in the tank, but on the surface level a union between Jenkins and the Vikings makes some sense.
We’ll see what happens, so stay tuned…
Tags: Bill Musgrave, George Stewart
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 187 Comments »
I know Vikings fans are disappointed to lose WR Sidney Rice to Seattle. And believe me, the Vikings are disappointed, too. He came to the club as a second-round pick and developed into a play-making WR and fan-favorite. Rice has the potential to be a #1 WR in the NFL for a long time and he has a skill set that makes life easier for QBs and much harder on defenses.
But let’s also not overreact to his departure.
I value interacting with fans, and from that interaction I know that the prospect of losing Rice AND keeping Bernard Berrian has many of you up in arms. Before you panic, though, let’s take a look at something and let me make a case.
Here is a comparison between Berrian and Rice during their careers in Minnesota:
Berrian: 131 receptions for 1,834 yards (14.0 average) with 11 TDs in 46 games
Rice: 146 receptions for 2,129 yards (14.6 average) with 18 TDs in 48 games
Yes, Rice’s numbers are better. But are they that much better? Also consider that as great a season as Rice had in 2009 (83 receptions for 1,312 yards and 8 TDs), he had three ordinary years around that one great year. Outside of 2009, Rice has never had more than 31 receptions, 396 yards or 4 TDs in a season. Those are below average numbers. Granted, Rice’s career arc is on the way up. He could be a tremendous threat for the Seahawks for the next decade. But what about his hip? Can he stay on the field? And will Seattle have a QB capable of getting him the ball, as Brett Favre did so well in 2009?
Don’t get me wrong, I like Rice and I think he’s a good player. I also appreciate the way Seattle is building their roster and turning the franchise around; the Seahawks are going in the right direction. But I don’t think Rice is irreplaceable. As quickly as Rice left the Vikings in free agency, the Vikings could turn around and look at the market to find another player who can come in here and help the passing game excel.
Let’s take a look a few WRs who are on the market. Let us know what you think about them by leaving a comment in the comments section below this entry.
Plaxico Burress – A big end zone, red zone and 3rd-down target, Burress was a Top 5 NFL WR when he was forced out of the league for two seasons. He’s a resurrection project in that he’s coming back to the NFL after being away for a while, but he has the fortune of Tony Dungy as a mentor. And we all know by now the close relationship Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier shares with Dungy.
Malcom Floyd – At 6-5, 225 pounds, Floyd has the body frame and skill set to be the type of physical receiver that Rice was for the Vikings. He’s also 29 years old and entering his seventh year in the NFL, so he’s still on the upswing in terms of his career arc. Floyd could be a flourishing player if given the chance to be a top target.
Braylon Edwards – Another WR with good size at 6-3, 214 pounds. In 2007 with the Cleveland Browns, Edwards had 16 TDs. So we know he can get to the endzone. Also, he’s another guy who would come in here with a chip on his shoulder because he appears to be a castoff from the NY Jets. There’s no denying Edwards’ talent and another sneaky-good part of his game is his ability to run after the catch and break tackles.
Terrell Owens – A future Hall of Famer, Owens is on his last legs but he also has a chip on his shoulder. He’s looking to win a Super Bowl and in Minnesota he could be reunited with QB Donovan McNabb, if the Vikings complete a deal with Washington for the six-time Pro Bowl QB. In addition, Owens would also be reunited with Vikings WRs coach George Stewart, one of the best position coaches in the NFL and a coach who has worked and succeeded with Owens in the past.
James Jones – Packers QB Aaron Rodgers went on record as saying that retaining Jones should be his teams “#1 priority” in free agency. That’s nearly reason enough to go and get him. But also consider that James has good speed and is a Rick Spielman-type of free agent in that he’s coming off his rookie contract and his career arc is on the uptick.
Steve Smith (Giants) – Not sure how good a fit he’d be in Minnesota because he’s primarily a slot receiver. The Vikings have a tremendous slot receiver in Percy Harvin. But if there’s mutual interest between the Vikings and Smith, I’m sure we could find room on the field for a reliable, possession receiver with tons of experience.
Roy Williams – He underperformed in Detroit, was traded to Dallas for a high price, then underperformed in Dallas. So why is he on this list, you ask? Because I don’t want to discount the fact that now he has something to prove and he also has something that the Vikings lost when Rice went out the door – the body frame to be a good target in the end zone.
Others: Mark Clayton, Derrick Mason, Lance Moore, Randy Moss and Mike Sims-Walker
Also keep in mind: Chad Ochocinco has had a tumultuous past few seasons in Cincinnati. Is he on the way out? If so, the Vikings could consider him. He’s not a spring chicken anymore, but he’s been a productive WR for his entire career and I’m betting he’s got plenty left in the tank to be a top target for the Vikings.
Tags: Bernard Berrian, George Stewart, Leslie Frazier, Rick Spielman
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 452 Comments »
The Vikings entered 2010 Verizon Vikings Training Camp with WR being one of their strong points. As it turns out, 2 of the top 3 WRs have missed all or most of training camp and several younger or more inexperienced players have been given more opportunities as a result.
Sidney Rice, who had a breakout season in 2009 and earned his 1st Pro Bowl, was placed on the PUP list to begin camp because of a hip injury that has hindered him since the NFC title game. Rice still isn’t practicing and his return doesn’t seem imminent. Then on Tuesday morning, Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress disclosed to reporters that WR Percy Harvin, last year’s AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, is dealing with migraines. The migraine issue is one that bothered Harvin last season and it comes at a time when Harvin is also grieving the death of his Grandmother.
So with 2 of the top 3 Vikings WRs off the field, things have gone a bit differently than expected for WRs coach George Stewart’s group. A trio of veterans have done what’s expected of them. Bernard Berrian has stepped up and had a great camp, both in on-field production and in leadership ability. And then 2 other veterans – Jaymar Johnson and Greg Lewis – have also been there to take on an extra load with Harvin and Rice out of action.
But what’s been just as pleasing to see is the progression of the Vikings young WRs, such as 2nd-year pro Taye Biddle and former Golden Gopher Logan Payne.
“They’re getting opportunities,” Stewart said of his young and inexperienced receivers. “And that’s what you want to see. To practice and show the coaching staff what you can do. These young guys trying to make the football team, it’s important for them to get work and they’re making the most of their opportunities.”
Berrian, who’s had the best camp of any Vikings WR, agrees with Stewart’s assessment.
“They’re doing a great job coming in, especially the new guys, and adjusting to the playbook and learning plays,” Berrian explained. “They’re being thrown in there, still being young and having to learn things, they’re doing a good job of making plays.”
It’s an encouraging sign that individuals such as Berrian and Stewart have been pleased with what they’ve seen from the young WRs, but the proof will be in the pudding when the Viking suit up for preseason action. The team’s 1st preseason game will be this Saturday in St. Louis.
That’s when we’ll see if the Vikings WRs are catching on.
Tags: Bernard Berrian, George Stewart, Logan Payne, Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice, Taye Biddle
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 1 Comment »
WR Bernard Berrian signed a big-money free agent contract with the Minnesota Vikings prior to the 2008 season in a move designed to improve the team’s passing game by stretching opposing defenses to open things up underneath. And unlike many big-money free agents across the sports spectrum, Berrian delivered on expectations.
Berrian led the NFL in yards per catch at 20.1 and also set career highs with 7 TDs and 964 receiving yards.
His 2009 campaign was another good one, although not as sensational. Berrian ranked 3rd on the team in receiving yards after leading the team the year prior and the slight drop-off was due to an injury he suffered in the preseason. That injury had him a tick off.
But that is not the case so far during 2010 Verizon Vikings Training Camp. Berrian is healthy and in my eyes he’s been one of the team’s most impressive performers. He makes the routine plays routinely and his speed is as evident as ever.
“I feel like I’m having a solid camp,” Berrian acknowledged, “but there are still things I can get better at and some things I can work on. There is still room to improve.”
Watching him in camp, you’d be hard-pressed to find something #87 can improve upon. But he cited route details, getting in and out of breaks and sinking his hips going into those breaks as areas of his game he’ll work to improve.
“I think one of the best things for Bernard is being out here,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “He did miss a lot of time, particularly in camp and early in the season last year. He was hobbled with the injuries he had last year. I think it is great for him to be out here. By the end of the year he had started to catch up a little bit. Like I said the other day, his best game was the last game (NFC Championship Game) against New Orleans.”
While Berrian is working to perfect detailed areas of his craft, Vikings WRs coach George Stewart says Berrian has already improved other areas of his game as well.
“The thing that he’s doing that has impressed me more than anything else, is with Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin being away, he’s stepped up his leadership role,” Stewart explained to me. “Bernard has always been quiet, very reserved and has played at a high level. But he is stepping up in that leadership role, which you need at a young position.”
In a Vikings world where the headlines are focused on QB Brett Favre and his status, it looks like one of Favre’s most reliable weapons is quietly regaining his top form from 2008.
Tags: Bernard Berrian, Darrell Bevell, George Stewart
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 16 Comments »
Often times I mention weather conditions in the OTA observations and it’s not because I’m a native Minnesotan – weather seems to be a common conversation topic in our great state. The weather is a relevant factor because these OTA sessions are as much about teaching/learning as they are skill sets and physical activity.
“There is a lot of teaching going on here,” Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said on Wednesday while meeting with reporters. “Coaches are being intentional about that. (There are) a lot of bright-eyed guys so we will have some good competitions at a number of positions.”
On Thursday, the Vikings practiced under ideal weather – and teaching – conditions as they completed OTA #11. Although these OTAs are non-contact exercises at all times, I’ve definitely sensed a pickup in the intensity and competitive environment as the OTA schedule has progressed. Thursday’s action, especially near the end of practice, was no exception and served as a prime example of the good competitions Childress referenced on Wednesday.
Let’s go over a few observations/highlights from Thursday’s practice…
– S Husain Abdullah tallied an INT during the first team portion of practice, picking off a Sage Rosenfels pass near the sideline.
– Childress mentioned during Wednesday’s press conference that the team is working a lot on situational football, and they did so again on Thursday. I noticed during both team drills and 7-on-7 work that 3rd downs, red zone and zero-blitz/zero-pressure scenarios were presented.
– The best offensive play of the day came during 7-on-7 work, when Tarvaris Jackson floated a pass in the back right corner of the endzone for TE Visanthe Shiancoe. LB Heath Farwell was in on the coverage and actually was in a great position, but Shiancoe jumped and got both hands on the ball. My view of the ground was blocked, so I could tell if the TE got both feet in bounds. Farwell came away from the play waving his arms as if to say “incomplete” but Shiancoe had both hands in the air to say “touchdown.”
– Rookie 6th round QB Joe Webb got in on the action with a sharp throw to RB Darius Reynaud on 3rd and goal from the 8.
– The best part of practice came on the final 3 plays, where it was offense vs. defense inside the 10-yardline. Jackson hit Shiancoe on a quick slant for a score and then the QB followed that effort up with another TD on a quick slant to WR Jaymar Johnson. On the final play, though, Leslie Frazier’s defense came with a blitz and forced an incompletion. Jackson called an alert and made an adjustment to the play. S Jamarca Sanford came on the blitz and Jackson’s pass was batted down by a wall of defensive linemen.
– Childress hosted a contingent of Minnesota high school football coaches at practice, something he’s done in the past as he continues to cultivate a relationship with members from every level of football in the state.
– Mike Grant, the son of former Vikings Head Coach Bud Grant, heads a group of students from Eden Prairie High School called The Brotherhood. The group meets weekly and is comprised of primarily black, male student athletes who have committed to improving themselves both academically and personally.
The students were able to watch Thursday’s practice from the sidelines and then were joined by several members of the organization following practice. Along with a big group of players, individuals who visited with Grant’s group included Childress, Frazier, VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman and WRs coach George Stewart.
Tags: George Stewart, Heath Farwell, Husain Abdullah, Leslie Frazier, Rick Spielman, Visanthe Shiancoe
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 16 Comments »