The Vikings just came off the outdoor practice fields at Winter Park after completing OTA #7. Weather conditions were ideal once again today – sunny skies and warm temperatures – and the coaching staff continues to enjoy a productive teaching environment as they get younger players up to speed and veterans back in the swing of things.
I had a moment to speak with both assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and 2nd round draft pick Chris Cook after practice, so be sure to check back a bit later to read what they had to say about OTAs so far.
For now, though, I thought I’d share some of the highlights from Wednesday’s action at OTAs…
– Speaking of Cook, the 6-2, 212 CB had a great day on the field. During 1 on 1 drills with the WRs, Cook forced a fumble and then on his next turn he registered an INT. On his 3rd go-round, Cook tipped a pass and forced an incompletion.
– Impact plays on defense, such as Cook’s INTs and tipped passes, are emphasized by the Vikings defensive staff during practices. So far during OTAs, and especially the last 2 days, I’ve noticed a lot of tipped passes and forced fumbles. I’ll have more on this with coach Frazier later today, but it’s been good to see the Vikings defense active in attacking the ball and forcing turnovers. CB Asher Allen also had an INT in today’s workout.
– In group installation the offense was working on the 2-minute drill. Tarvaris Jackson looks the most comfortable of the Vikings QBs in this situation and did a nice job in leading the team down the field, both in the group install portion and also in the offense vs. defense portion. During the offense vs. defense portion, Jackson capped the 2-minute drill by hitting a WR in the back corner of the endzone. The WR caught and secured the ball over his head, tapped both feet in bounds and then fell out of bounds as time expired. Sound familiar? It was very similar to the play that won the San Francisco game last year in Week 3. The player on the receiving end of this particular last-second play? Greg Lewis.
– I watched several individual drills during the early part of practice on Wednesday, but the most interesting drill was run by WRs coach George Stewart. I know I’ve raved about Stewart on the blog before this, but he does a great job working with his players and this drill was no exception. The drill is designed to make the WRs react to certain types of coverage on the fly. The QB takes a snap and the WR goes into his route. After a few steps, Stewart yells either “man” or “zone” to indicate the type of coverage the WR is seeing. If it’s man coverage, the WR continues running his route. If it’s zone coverage, the WR makes one more burst and then sits down in an open spot in the zone.
– LB Erin Henderson got in on the INT party, picking off a pass from QB R.J. Archer during 7-on-7 drills; Henderson returned the pick for a score. But on the next play, Archer bounced back and hit WR Jaymar Johnson along the left sideline for what would’ve been a 1st down.
I’ll have more from Wednesday’s OTAs on the blog this afternoon, including some thoughts from both coach Frazier and Cook. So stay tuned…
Tags: Asher Allen, Chris Cook, Erin Henderson, George Stewart, Greg Lewis, Leslie Frazier
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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.
Tags: Eric Bieniemy, George Stewart, Rhys Lloyd, Taye Biddle
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 2 Comments »
As Mike pointed out earlier, OTA #3 has wrapped up after a nice, bright sunny day on the outdoor practice fields at Winter Park. The practice consisted of many different position specific drills and concluded with a couple of non-contact series between the offense and defense.
During practice I took a close look at the WRs. The 6 WRs who participated today included Taye Biddle, Marquis Hamilton, Jaymar Johnson, Greg Lewis, Aaron Rhea and Kelton Tindal.
Here’s how the WRs day went…
Shortly after practice began, WRs coach George Stewart – who is in his 27th season of coaching – had his receivers work on their footwork and reaction skills. The first drill consisted of each player running a quick 3-yard sprint and then quickly turning around to catch an incoming pass. Coach Stewart consistently emphasized the importance of quick foot work and agility while always having your hands ready. Other drills involved more of the same but with varying distances and routes. Again, with these drills Coach Stewart cemented the importance of footwork when running routes.
After the individual footwork and reaction drills, the WR core worked on crossing routes. I was impressed to see the early continuity forming between this young WR group and the QBs.
Following a quick session of the offense versus the scout defense, the WRs joined the DB core to run a 1-on-1 drill with Tarvaris Jackson and undrafted rookie free agent R.J. Archer throwing passes. As Mike mentioned earlier, this drill is not as intense with league rules forbidding contact throughout OTAs, but the DBs were extremely emphatic in the occurrence of an INT as well as the WRs showing the same emotion with a big reception.
Once practice concluded after about a 10-minute offense versus defense sequence, the WRs dispersed to the locker room with the exception of 2nd-year WR Jaymar Johnson and 8-year veteran Greg Lewis, who both stayed after practice with Jackson to get a little extra work in. I got the chance to speak with Lewis after practice about his role as the veteran WR and his close familiarity with Head Coach Brad Childress as well as newly-acquired CB Lito Sheppard. I’ll let you know what Lewis had to say later tonight, so be sure to check back for his comments.
Tags: George Stewart, Greg Lewis, Jaymar Johnson
Posted in All, CJ Siewert | No Comments »
It seems like we’ve had a blog entry on this topic several times over the past few weeks, but each time it’s worth noting. WR Sidney Rice continues to standout and emerge for the Vikings, with his latest effort against the Steelers resulting in 11 receptions for 136 yards.
Rice is the team leader in receptions with 34 and receiving yards with 545. He is the 7th leading receiver in the NFL in terms of receiving yards and he’s averaging 16 yards per catch. Yesterday’s 136-yard effort marks back-to-back 100-yard weeks for the 3rd-year receiver.
Asked after the game about his continued emergence, Rice cited 2 main factors.
“Maturing first of all,” Rice said, “and bringing (QB Brett) Favre in has helped out a whole lot. Bringing a guy in who is comfortable in all of us receivers helps a lot.”
Rice is a great guy and is a tremendous teammate in the locker room. He is always quick to mention others, such as the offensive line and Favre, when asked about his recent success. I would also submit that Rice’s position coach, George Stewart, has been vital in Rice’s development from a young, raw 2nd round pick in 2007 to the emerging talent that he’s become.
On top of the sheer impressive numbers that Rice is putting up, it’s important to note the magnitude of the plays that Rice is making. He’s not accumulating a bunch of catches and yards in garbage time or unimportant situations.
The 6-4 WR caught a 34-yarder on 4th and 1, a 17-yarder on 3rd and 4 and a 25-yarder on 3rd and 18. Those 3 plays came at crucial points in the game and were a main reason the Vikings were able to position themselves for a win at Heinz Field. Also consider that Rice had a TD nullified by a tripping penalty and another 35-yard reception taken away because of a holding penalty.
When the Vikings selected Rice back in the 2007 draft, they took on criticism for selecting the former South Carolina Gamecock over Dwayne Jarrett, the record-setting WR from Southern Cal. Rice was just 20 years old and didn’t have the production Jarrett had at a better program.
Right now, the Vikings aren’t fielding criticism for having Rice, while Jarrett continues to sit on the bench for a struggling 2-4 squad in Carolina.
Tags: George Stewart, Sidney Rice
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 14 Comments »