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Thoughts On Replacement Options For Chester Taylor

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 9, 2010 – 2:11 pm

The most common email question I received this past week was about RB Chester Taylor signing with the Bears and the Vikings next move in replacing him. I thought there was so much interest in this issue that we’d devote a separate blog entry to it rather than including it in this week’s Monday Morning Mailbag.

So, let’s take a look at a several options the Vikings have in terms of filling the hole created by Taylor’s departure.

– Since we’re in the middle of free agency, many of you seem to be brainstorming about which available players might best fit the Vikings offensive system as a replacement for Taylor. There are 3 types of available players for the Vikings to consider – free agents, unrestricted free agents (UFAs) and restricted free agents (RFAs).

The 2 free agents that have been linked to the Vikings most frequently are former Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson and former Eagles RB Brian Westbrook. Both of these players were released from their respective teams, making them free agents. Also, both players seem to have the skill sets that would make them nice complementary backs to Adrian Peterson.

But another free agent RB that might also fit nicely with the Vikings is former Raiders RB Justin Fargas. Most people will immediately write off this suggestion and I think that reaction is the product of Fargas playing in Oakland – not an ideal scenario over the past few seasons – more so than the result of a true evaluation of how he might play in Minnesota.

In the RFA market, I think Jets RB Leon Washington is an intriguing possibility. But there are 2 significant hurdles for any team interested in Washington. First, he’s coming off a serious leg injury from last season. Secondly, he was tendered at the 2nd round level by the Jets, meaning any team that wants to sign him must pay him a contract and also give up a 2nd rounder this year.

In terms of UFAs, one back out there who has produced at the NFL level in the past is Willie Parker. He has displayed abilities in both the run game and also as a receiver out of the backfield.

– Another option for the Vikings to consider is drafting another RB to fill Taylor’s role. Maybe it’s with their 1st round pick – #30 overall – or maybe it’s with another choice later in the draft. The Vikings currently have 7 selections in April’s draft and it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Vikings use one of them on a RB.

– Don’t forget the Vikings have a pair of RBs on the roster right now – Ian Johnson and Albert Young – who will give their best effort to show coaches that they can step up with Taylor now departed. Also, the Vikings have recently added 3-year pro James Johnson to the roster. Young was the Vikings #3 RB last year but Johnson gave him good competition during training camp last year.

– Another route the Vikings could go is to explore a trade for a RB, although this seems like the least likely method the Vikings would use.

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that the Vikings goal should not be to fill the spot quickly. Rather, the Vikings need to fill it well. Taylor was obviously an important part of the Vikings offense in 2009 and all during his 4-year tenure in Minnesota, so it’s fair to expect that whomever the Vikings choose to fulfill that role in 2010 will be relied upon in a similar fashion.


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Vote For Ian Johnson and Vinny Perretta

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 23, 2009 – 3:12 pm

Remember the 2007 Fiesta Bowl between the Oklahoma Sooners and Boise State Broncos? It was one of the most memorable bowl games in college football history, featuring several current NFL players, several sensational individual performances and lots of good ‘ol fashioned offensive trickery.

ESPN.com is conducting a poll on their “Page 2″ section and is asking fans to vote for the most engaging video of the decade. There are 10 videos listed, among them being Allen Iverson’s rant on practice, a Randy Johnson fastball plucking a passing-by bird out of thin air and of course the highlight package from the Boise State-Oklahoma game, including the part where now-Vikings RB Ian Johnson proposed to his girlfriend.

You can view each of the 10 videos and vote for your favorite by clicking here.


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Community Tuesday Kicks Off Today

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 15, 2009 – 11:01 am

Vikings players begin their Community Tuesday efforts today and will kick it off by participating in the ARC Greater Twin Cities 6th Annual “Celebration of Sorts” at Southdale Mall from 12:45-1:45.

TE Visanthe Shaincoe, along with teammates S Colt Anderson, RB Ian Johnson, WR Nick Moore and C John Sullivan, will be tagging, sorting and assembling Halloween costumes at the event. The players will also recognize and thank the more than 500 volunteers who will also participate.

The players and volunteers will sort and assemble approximately 100,000 Halloween costumes that will be sold at Arc’s Value Village Halloween Boo-tique.

The United Way-funded Arc Greater Twin Cities serves the many needs of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Established in 1946, Arc has been changing attitudes, changing policies and changing lives for more than 60 years.


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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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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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