The Vikings opened their mandatory minicamp on Tuesday at Winter Park, but conditions during their afternoon practice made it feel like training camp down in Mankato. The temperature was around 90 degrees and the humidity felt like it was at 90%, and when you add in winds that were gusting up to 15-20 mph with no cloud cover, it was a hot mess on the outdoor practice fields.
But the Vikings worked well in the conditions, completing a sharp practice and moving one step closer to the end of their offseason program. The Vikings have two days and two practices remaining in their offseason program, and will go through the same schedule on Wednesday that they went through on Tuesday.
Before we get to what will happen today, let’s go over a few quick notes and observations from Tuesday’s practice…
– Jasper Brinkley was not able to practice, a notable development because he sat out a bit last week in the hopes of being ready to go for this week’s minicamp. Slated to be a first-year starter at middle LB, Brinkley is itching to get back out on the field and the Vikings are surely anxious to get a look at him. Hopefully he’ll be back on the field today. Tyrone McKenzie filled in for Brinkley on the team’s base defense.
– Speaking of the Vikings LBs, it was great to see Chad Greenway back with the team and on the field. Fellow outside LB Erin Henderson also looked good, and will be the guest on this week’s Wobcast, which will be posted on vikings.com and available on iTunes later today.
– Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier brought some calm to a situation regarding WR Percy Harvin, who made comments early on Tuesday indicating he wasn’t happy with the team. “It’s not something that can’t be handled and not something we can’t talk through,” Frazier said. “Not alarmed. Not alarmed at all.”He went on to say: “I really feel like when he and I sit down and talk in depth, whatever is in his heart or on his mind, we’ll get through it.”
– Contact is still prohibited and the team does not practice in pads, so it’s hard to get an accurate gauge on many areas of the team, especially the defensive and offensive lines. With that being said, LT Matt Kalil has had a good offseason program and there was a moment in practice that really stood out to me. We often think of LTs as pillars of the offense who remain stationary and secure the QBs blindside against edge-rushing defenders. But I’ve seen great movement skills from Kalil, including a play on Tuesday where Kalil moved quickly to the second level and covered up a LB who was in great position to make a play.
– Antoine Winfield grabbed an INT during a team offense vs. team defense period of practice. Winfield was playing out of the slot and was sitting in what appeared to be a zone in the middle of the field. A pass was lofted his way, and Winfield quickly jumped in front of a route and grabbed the pass. Winfield was one of the most impressive players early during OTAs, and seeing him make plays like the one he made on Tuesday is a great site after he played in just 5 games last season. Great to have him back on the field; he’ll make a big difference for the Vikings defense in 2012.
– The highlight of the day for the Vikings offense came near the end of practice during a two-minute/hurry-up period. QB Christian Ponder, who appeared to have a sharp practice and did a nice job of driving the offense down the field, threaded the needle on a pass to TE John Carlson. The Ponder-to-Carlson connection occurred right on the goal line, as Ponder rifled a pass to Carlson in between both Greenway and Henderson. Carlson, a mild-mannered and soft-spoken guy around the locker room, came down with the pass in the end zone and gave an emphatic dunk of the ball over the crossbar.
– Adrian Peterson spent time during practice working with certified head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman on the side. You’ve probably seen the photos of him already, but if you haven’t you need to check them out. As I wrote earlier, it’s easy to believe in Peterson, and he remains confident he can be ready to play in the Vikings season opener. In comments on Tuesday morning, Frazier also remained optimistic in Peterson’s chances, saying the RB has remained on pace during his rehab. Whether Peterson will be ready for Week 1 or not remains to be seen, but it’s great to see him working so hard on the side during practice.
– Rookie CB Josh Robinson, who was originally issue jersey #31, has switched to jersey #21.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Chad Greenway, Christian Ponder, Jasper Brinkley, John Carlson, Josh Robinson, Leslie Frazier, Matt Kalil, Minicamp, Percy Harvin
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 74 Comments »
We’ve mentioned several times over the course of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) that now is not the time to try and track which players are running with the starters and which players are running with the second-team. The time to figure out depth charts and position battles will come at training camp and the preseason.
Now is the time when teams experiment with different combinations to try and find the right mix. And nowhere is that more true for the Vikings than at linebacker. In 2012 the Vikings will have a new middle LB in both their base defense and in nickel, and the team will also feature plenty of new faces providing depth at the position.
The process of identifying the contributors for the coming season is a work in progress, and so far it’s been a fluid situation. Jasper Brinkley and Solomon Elimimian have both missed time recently with what Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier described as precautionary measures, and Chad Greenway has been absent for much of OTAs as he tends to a family matter. None of those three issues are cause for alarm as the Vikings prepare for the 2012 season, but they do illustrate the point that the Vikings are in the process of figuring out their situation at linebacker.
“I’m hoping that we’ll find a right mix there,” Frazier told reporters on Tuesday. “Chad (Greenway) is, of course, solid. We’d like to have Jasper practicing. Unfortunately, that’s not the case right now. We’d like for him to be getting these reps, but hopefully we’ll have him next week. We want Erin (Henderson) to make it clear that he’s the choice at the WILL (weak-side LB) position, but we’d like to see Marvin (Mitchell) come along and some of the other backups because you really need six guys that you can dress on Sunday to really be effective both on defense and special teams.”
That the Vikings don’t yet have every answer at linebacker is not a concern at this point. Every team has questions up and down their roster at this point in the offseason. The good news for the Vikings is that they have the bodies currently on the roster to eventually answer every question. There are 10 linebackers on the Vikings 90-man roster currently, a group that includes a good mix of returning veterans (5), rookies (3) and free agent additions (2).
“We’re trying to find that mix, that quality depth,” Frazier said. “It’s an area where we’re still not quite there yet in my mind, so we’ll see how it pans out over the next couple of practices we have and when we get to training camp. It’s one of those areas where myself and Rick (Spielman), we’ve talked about and it’s an area we have to keep an eye on.”
Tags: Chad Greenway, Erin Henderson, Jasper Brinkley, Leslie Frazier, Marvin Mitchell, Solomon Elimimian
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 228 Comments »
The Vikings conducted OTA #2 on Wednesday on the outdoor practice fields at Winter Park in more favorable conditions than Tuesday’s action. It was partly sunny with little breeze and moderate temperatures, creating a good teaching environment for the coaches and a comfortable climate for the players.
Both head coach Leslie Frazier and QB Christian Ponder met with reporters following practice, and we’ve posted both of those press conferences to the website. So check that out after reading the following 5 observations from Wednesday’s practice…
Looking for a big year
CB Chris Cook made a great play during the 7-on-7 period of practice, leaping to high-point a deep pass along the right sideline. Cook immediately bounced to his feet and sprinted down the sideline, accompanied by defensive teammates serving as would-be blockers. Veteran Antoine Winfield was asked after practice about Cook, and he said: “We’re looking for a big year out of him.”
A lot like Frazier
Winfield hung out for nearly 20 minutes after practice speaking to reporters, and he was eventually asked about new Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams. Said Winfield of his new coordinator: “Reminds me of Leslie Frazier. Soft-spoken, straight to the point and he expects us to work hard each day.”
Play the pass, too
If the Vikings were to play a game today, the starting middle LB would likely be Jasper Brinkley. Known as a hard hitter and sound run-stuffer, some may question Brinkley’s ability to play the pass. But Brinkley is determined to prove those people wrong. Last week on Vikings Tonight, a weekly 30-minute radio show hosted by Paul Allen and co-hosted by yours truly on the Vikings Radio Network, Brinkley was our guest. When I asked him if filling the gaps in the run game was his forte, Brinkley quickly responded by saying: “Not to neglect my pass coverage, I can play that. That’s one of the things people always try to say that I can’t do. But I will be able to prove this year than I can do it.” You have to love that determination from Brinkley, and you also have to love how Brinkley is following through on his commitment. After practice on Wednesday, there was a group of 6 DBs catching passes from the JUGS machine. Joining that group of 6 DBs was one other player – Brinkley.
Felder finds an INT
At one point during practice a CB made a great play on a pass to collect an INT. The player was wearing jersey #43, so I had to glance down at my cheat sheat to figure out the identity of that player. It was Bobby Felder, an undrafted rookie out of Nicholls State. If he keeps making those kinds of plays, Felder could play himself into a roster spot. I was glad to see him grab the INT.
Play of the day
The play of the day – of the plays I saw, anyway – was a tremendous reception made by an unlikely target. QB Joe Webb dropped back to pass and lofted a pass fairly deep down the left sideline. As I panned to my left to watch the conclusion of the play, I expected to see either Devin Aromashodu or Jerome Simpson run under the pass. But instead it was FB Matt Asiata, who was sprinting toward the ball and completely extended himself to make the diving catch and land inbounds.
Tags: Antoine Winfield, Bobby Felder, Chris Cook, Christian Ponder, Jasper Brinkley, Leslie Frazier, Matt Asiata, OTAs
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 200 Comments »
The 2012 NFL Draft has come and gone, and by most accounts the Vikings had a good few days. Judging from the comments section of the vikings.com Blog and the emails sent to my inbox, Vikings fans seem to be pleased with their team’s 10 selections, and it’s likely due to the blend of addressing team needs but also finding value in each of the picks.
When you’re coming off a 3-13 season, though, having one solid draft isn’t going to calm all the nerves and fix all the issues. One of the issues on many fans’ radars – again, judging by fan comments and emails – is that of the middle linebacker on the Vikings defense. The Vikings haven’t re-signed E.J. Henderson and they didn’t address LB in the draft until their first of two 7th-round choices.
So who will play middle LB for the Vikings in 2012?
It’s natural to wonder about the return of Henderson because A) there’s no obvious alternative and B) Henderson has been a consummate professional and both a defensive leader and source of inspiration for the entire organization. Henderson has been everything a team can ask of a player, and more. Bringing him back would give many fans a sense of relief and confidence in the position.
But, given the decisions the Vikings have made in the case of veterans such as CB Cedric Griffin, RG Anthony Herrera and LG Steve Hutchinson, and also given the push to build through the draft and acquire young players with upside, it appears re-signing Henderson is not in the plans.
As for a draft pick, the Vikings did take Audie Cole in the 7th round, and while the organization is looking to infuse the roster with youth, I don’t believe the team is counting on Cole to fill the void in 2012.
That leaves Jasper Brinkley as the team’s top candidate to man the middle of the defense. And when all is said and done, it may not be a bad option. Brinkley was selected with a 5th-round pick in 2009 and played special teams while serving as Henderson’s understudy for the first two years of his career. Last year, Brinkley sustained a hip injury that forced the Vikings to place him on the Reserve/Injured list and end his season before it began.
Brinkley appears fully recovered now and he’s poised to take on starting responsibilities. While it’s hard to accept the reality that Henderson is no longer calling the shots for the Vikings defense on the field after so many productive seasons and so many big-time plays, this is the natural progression of the NFL and a necessary step for the Vikings in their quest to build a team that can compete for the long-term.
Tags: Audie Cole, Jasper Brinkley
Posted in All | 249 Comments »
With the NFL in a work stoppage and the great action of college basketball’s March Madness, it’s understandable if you let a few updates on vikings.com slip through the cracks over the weekend. But now that it’s Monday morning and a new week has begun, it’s time to get you caught up.
We’re here to help.
– Mock Madness 2.0 is up and there are several notable changes to the mock drafts of NFL insiders.
— This week’s Monday Morning Mailbag tackles several topics, including the idea of trading Adrian Peterson (I fell off my chair when I first saw it, too) and a look at what other teams have received for trading back in the 1st round of the NFL Draft.
— Last week’s edition of Vikings Weekly took a close look at new Vikings LBs coach Mike Singletary and current Vikings LB Jasper Brinkley.
— Minnesota lost a football legend last week with the passing of former Vikings assistant coach and University of Minnesota Golden Gophers Head Coach Murray Warmath.
— NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a letter to NFL players.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Jasper Brinkley, Mike Singletary
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 14 Comments »
I caught a sneak peak of this week’s edition of Vikings Weekly, which is hosted by Ann Carroll and has been moved to vikings.com for the offseason. Each week we post a new show as Ann continues to keep Vikings fans plugged in to their favorite team during the offseason.
I thought this week’s edition was worth a special note here because Ann has a great conversation with new LBs Coach Mike Singletary and then also takes a close look at what LB Jasper Brinkley is up to this offseason. We all know by now that Singletary and Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier were teammates with the Chicago Bears and won a Super Bowl together, so it was interesting to hear Singletary talk about what the opportunity to be a head coach means to Frazier and what it takes to build a Super Bowl winner.
“I think it means a lot,” Singletary said of Frazier’s opportunity to be a head coach in the NFL. “He’s worked his tail off to try and put himself in a situation to be a head coach. Certainly not in this way, but being that it happened, you want to make the most of it.”
As for winning a Super Bowl, Singletary said: “I think the biggest thing is just building it. Having the time to build it. Having the personnel and getting the mentality of having guys understand what it takes to have that kind of team and the price that it takes to get it there. So it really is a mindset more than anything else and sometimes in today’s culture it just takes a little bit longer than normal to get it done.”
Singletary talks about a few other interesting topics, including what attracted him to Minnesota besides his relationship with Frazier, but I don’t want to put the quotes here because you should catch the Vikings Weekly episode.
As for Brinkley, Ann goes in-depth on his quest this offseason to accomplish a life-long goal: graduate from college. Brinkley headed back to the University of South Carolina this offseason to finish the task. He explains that he’ll be the first person in his family to earn a degree and he also discusses what he plans to do with that degree at some point down the line.
This week’s edition of Vikings Weekly will be posted first thing on Friday morning, so be sure to check it out.
Tags: Jasper Brinkley, Mike Singletary
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 20 Comments »
In the previous blog entry about G Chris DeGeare, we made the point that: “There’s no doubt that hitting home runs with 1st-round picks is key to success in the NFL. But if you do some research, you’ll see that selections in rounds 2-7 and also the signing of undrafted rookie free agents are just as important.”
In the previous blog entry, we also said we’d take a closer look at some of those 2nd- through 7th-round picks in the next posting. While the group isn’t full of Pro Bowlers or future Hall of Famers (yet), it is a group of players that represent at least a part of the core of the current roster. There are 10 players who’ve started games for the Vikings on the list and obviously there will be many, many more starts from this list in the years to come.
Here we go…
CB Asher Allen - A 3rd-round pick in 2009, Allen struggled at times as a starter in 2010. But over his 2 Vikings seasons, Allen has flashed some potential. With the return of Cedric Griffin in 2011, Allen will be in a position to contribute in the nickel and dime packages where he’ll be more successful.
LB Jasper Brinkley - A 5th-round pick in 2009, Brinkley stepped in as the starter when E.J. Henderson went down to injury at the end of the 2009 season. It’s easy to take this for granted, but keep in mind the Vikings had the NFL’s top-ranked defense and Brinkley was a rookie starting in the middle of the defense. The Vikings defense missed Henderson, but Brinkley was solid in his place and the Vikings advanced to the NFC Championship Game. On top of that, Brinkley has been a solid special teams contributor during his career in Minnesota.
CB Chris Cook - A 2nd-round pick in 2010, Cook had a tremendous offseason and training camp heading into his rookie season. But then a pair of knee injuries that both required surgery slowed and eventually halted his rookie season. Cook is a big, physical CB who fits what head coach Leslie Frazier wants his defense to do. The upside on Cook is big and the Vikings defense will benefit from his return.
FB Ryan D’Imperio - A lot of factors were working against D’Imperio during his rookie season in 2010. He was a 7th-round pick (#237 overall), he switched positions from college LB to NFL FB and he had an established starter in front of him on the depth chart. But D’Imperio impressed enough to stick around and was a member of the practice squad in 2010. During the offseason and training camp this year he’ll have a chance to earn a spot on the 53-man roster.
G Chris DeGeare - The blog entry below this one tells DeGeare’s story.
RB Toby Gerhart - At first I think Vikings fans are quick to point out disappointment in Gerhart’s rookie season, but I don’t see it that way. He had a tough go during training camp and the early part of the season, but he continued to improve as the season went along and he had an impressive showing in a start against the Bears in Week 15 when he rushed for 77 yards on 16 carries. For the season, Gerhart average 4.0 yards per carry. Given how productive he was in college and how aggressive the Vikings were in trading up to select him in the 2nd round last year, I’m willing to give Gerhart more time to develop into a productive NFL RB.
DE Everson Griffen - A prospect with 1st-round talent who dropped to the 4th round because of off-field concerns, Griffen flashed potential on defense and productivity on special teams as a rookie. He’s in line to get more playing time on defense in 2011, especially if the Vikings are unable to reach contract agreements with either Ray Edwards or Brian Robison.
DT Letroy Guion - When the Vikings used a 5th-round pick on Letroy Guion in 2008, he was only 20 years old. He came in and didn’t produce right away, but now he’s progressed into a member of the defensive line rotation. As is the case with Griffen, Guion may be in line for even more playing time depending on what happens with potential free agents ahead of him on the depth chart.
WR Jaymar Johnson - Another 7th-round pick (2008) who remains on the roster, Johnson was in the midst of another solid offseason and training camp when he injured his wrist and was put on Injured Reserve before the 2010 season got going. Johnson will be in another battle to make the roster this offseason, but his return capabilities will help him.
S Tyrell Johnson - A 2nd-round pick in 2008, Johnson has moved in and out of the starting lineup during his 3 seasons in Minnesota. With the safety position still a bit in flux, Johnson has a chance to reclaim a starting spot if he can perform well in the offseason and in training camp. He’s a tremendous athlete who needs to polish his skills in coverage.
RT Phil Loadholt - Another 2nd-round pick, Loadholt stepped into the starting lineup as a rookie in 2009 and was one of the team’s best offensive linemen. The Vikings offense averaged 29.4 points per game during Loadholt’s rookie seasan and the 6-8, 343-pound mauler showed that he could be a talented player in this league for a long time.
WR Sidney Rice - The 2nd-round picks keep rolling in. Rice was a 2nd-rounder in 2007 and exploded for a career season in 2009 with Brett Favre under center. A hip injury slowed his 2010 season and now Rice will look to bounce back in 2011 with another strong showing. His leaping ability and sure hands are his best qualities, and they’re qualities a rookie QB would love to have in a starting WR.
DE Brian Robison – An All-Rookie honoree who was 3rd among all NFL rookies with 4.5 sacks in 2007, Robison has been a productive player for the Vikings and figures to be an important member of the defensive line rotation in 2011. He was a 4th-round pick in 2007 out of the University of Texas and one of the great aspects of his game is that he can slide inside to play DT in certain situations.
S Jamarca Sanford – With Heath Farwell, Sanford is one of the most valuable special teams contributors for the Vikings, specifically in the kick and punt coverage units. He has also logged playing time on defense and has also been a starter at safety. Considering Sanford was the SEC’s leading tackler during his 4 years at Ole Miss, it’s hard to believe Rick Spielman and Co. found him in the 7th round. But that’s what they did, and that makes Sanford one of the more under-rated Vikings draft picks in recent years.
C John Sullivan – Sullivan’s 2nd year was better than his 3rd, but I’m guessing his 4th year will be the best yet. He sat behind Matt Birk as a rookie in 2008, then stepped into the starting lineup at center for the 2009 season and helped the Vikings offense to a 29.4 points-per-game average. In 2010 Sullivan’s season was disrupted by injuries and he dealt with the passing of his father. Certainly Sullivan won’t use those as excuses, but you have to think it impacted him in some form or another. Sullivan should enter the 2011 season in full health and he’ll have a shot to solidify his standing as the team’s anchor in the middle.
Tags: Asher Allen, Brian Robison, Chris Cook, Chris DeGeare, Everson Griffen, Jamarca Sanford, Jasper Brinkley, Jaymar Johnson, John Sullivan, Letroy Guion, Phil Loadholt, Ryan D'Imperio, Sidney Rice, Toby Gerhart, Tyrell Johnson
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 39 Comments »
It’s easy for special teams play to get lost in the shuffle when evaluating and digesting NFL games. But we won’t let that happen here, not after the Vikings put together perhaps the most complete special teams performance since Brian Murphy took over as coordinator of the unit before the 2009 season.
We’ve mentioned a few times in the vikings.com Blog this season that the special teams unit is playing well, but often times that praise has been easily overlooked because the team got off to a rocky 1-3 start. So now with win #2 on the season in the books, let’s take a quick look at the impact Murphy’s group had on the outcome.
– We’ll begin with the catalyst for the Vikings 2nd-half surge against Dallas. The Vikings went into the locker room at halftime trailing 14-7. But they came out of the locker room in the 2nd half and immediately tied the game when Percy Harvin dashed 95 yards through the middle of the field for a TD. Harvin was virtually untouched on the play, so credit goes to the 10 blockers there. And he did a nice job of sticking his foot in the ground and heading straight upfield.
“Coming out of the half there’s no better way to set the tempo than taking the opening kick back,” Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said after the game. “It’s a testament to those special teams. You talk about covering people up, I don’t know that Percy broke stride on that return. He set the tempo for us special teams-wise as well as those other 10 guys and then got on the field and got a three-and-out on defense and were able to hold on.”
– As explosive as Harvin was with that return, P Chris Kluwe was every bit as consistent on the day, as he’s been all season. Kluwe had 5 punts on the day for a net average of 41.8. But more importantly, he landed 4 of those 5 punts inside the 20 and 2 of them inside the 10. Of Kluwe’s 5 punts, only 2 of them were returned and Dallas managed just 3 total yards on those 2 returns. That’s outstanding work from Kluwe.
“He’s done a great job of directional punting,” Childress said of Kluwe. “He’s really taken that bit. The other thing he’s doing is kicking with great height and hang-time and I think I’ve mentioned to you guys before the people that do a great job in terms of not having punt returns are the people that are able to hang it up in the air and let our guys go down and cover it. Again, the kicking teams were outstanding.”
– While a lot of credit is due to Kluwe for the lack of Dallas return yardage on Sunday, credit also goes to the Vikings coverage unit. LB Jasper Brinkley tallied 3 special teams tackles on Sunday while the newly-acquired Fran Walker also got in on the action. Dallas returned 5 kickoffs on the day and averaged 16.2 yards per return, a pedestrian average. The most impressive kickoff cover of the day may have been the opening kickoff, when Brinkley smashed Akwasi Owusu-Ansah at the Cowboys 19 after just a 13-yard return. The hit got a great reaction from the crowd that went from “Whoa!” to loud cheers.
– We can’t talk about the Vikings special teams play without talking about K Ryan Longwell, who was perfect on his PAT tries and also hit the game-winning FG in the 4th quarter from 38 yards out. Longwell also appeared to do a nice job on his kickoffs in terms of placing the ball where the coverage team expected him to place it.
– Finally, the best special teams play (aside from Harvin’s return) may have been the last special teams play of the day. The Vikings forced a 3-and-out after Longwell’s 38-yard FG and the offense took over on the MN 25. Four Adrian Peterson runs and a pass interference penalty allowed the Vikings to run over 2 minutes off the clock. Ultimately the Vikings had to punt the ball away with 29 seconds remaining in the game. Kluwe’s punt came down near the Dallas 4, where Dez Bryant received it and tried to make a few moves to pickup yardage. But the Vikings punt team covered the perfectly placed kick well and strung Bryant out. Eventually Bryant was surrounded by the entire coverage team and he was dropped after just a 3-yard gain to the 7. That left the Cowboys with more than 60 yards to gain in 13 seconds to get in FG range, a task too tough to accomplish as the Vikings came away with the 24-21 victory.
Tags: Chris Kluwe, Frank Walker, Jasper Brinkley, Percy Harvin, Ryan Longwell
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 6 Comments »
I came away from training camp and the preseason impressed with and excited about the Vikings 1st-team defense, specifically with the health and strength of the front 7. I think they are poised to have another dominant effort in 2010.
But coming away from Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Denver Broncos, I’m also impressed with what I saw from the reserves on defense, and again it was particularly the front 7 that caught my eye. On the night, the Vikings defense forced 4 fumbles, tallied 3 sacks and 7 tackles for a loss, held Denver to 2.7 yards per carry, held the Broncos scoreless on 3 of 5 trips in the red zone and they even had a goal line stand.
“Those guys have played that way all year long, all training camp long, and they’ve played consistently,” Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said after the game. “Whether you’re talking about Letroy Guion, or Jayme Mitchell, Fred Evans. Any of those guys. Brian Robison. They’ve all made plays at different times throughout training camp, and it’s (defensive line) probably one of the stronger positions on our football team right now.”
While the defensive line as a group played particularly well all preseason, it was a pair of LBs and a starting S that starred in Thursday night’s victory. Erin Henderson led the club with 9 tackles and also added a pair of fumble recoveries, one of which he returned 35 yards for a TD. Jasper Brinkley also impressed from the LB position, tallying 7 tackles (1 for a loss) and also forcing a fumble. And S Tyrell Johnson had a nice night, hauling in an INT off of Tim Tebow and also adding 6 tackles (1 for a loss).
Speaking of Tebow, the rookie QB flashed some positive signs for the Broncos. But he also endured some rough spots. Here is how Tebow’s 8 series ended: fumble, INT, fumble, fumble, goal line stand (turnover on downs), TD, TOD, TOD.
The most impressive part of the night for the Vikings defense began with Henderson’s fumble return for a TD and ended when the Vikings were able to register a rousing goal line stand following an INT off of Joe Webb that was returned to the Minnesota 6-yardline. From there, Denver ran 4 plays and never got into the endzone, with the 4th down play resulting in a 2-yard loss on a rushing attempt.
In fairness, I must point out that the Vikings gave up 27 first downs, 21 points and 437 net yards. But the victory, 4 turnovers and the 4th-down and goal line defense more than made up for the negatives and, more importantly, it should yield even more confidence in a Vikings defense that already looked quite formidable.
Tags: Erin Henderson, Jasper Brinkley, Tyrell Johnson
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 16 Comments »
Tonight’s preseason finale against the Denver Broncos represents a final audition for several players as they hope to make the Vikings 53-man roster. The Vikings began training camp back on July 30 with 80 players and tonight training camp officially comes to an end and the Vikings will trim the roster to 53 players by the end of the day Saturday.
For some, such as DE Jared Allen or RB Adrian Peterson, tonight’s action isn’t so dramatic. But for others, tonight could mean everything. Let’s take a look at a few position battles that are still up in the air…
Offensive Line: All 5 starters from last year will return in 2010, but beyond that the Vikings OL situation is uncertain. Rookie Chris DeGeare has performed well to this point and could be anywhere from the Week 1 starter at RG to the team’s #1 reserve. And what about Ryan Cook? He can play all 5 positions along the line but might have to hold off others, such as Patrick Brown and Drew Radovich, to make the team.
Wide Receiver: Last year’s breakout WR – Sidney Rice – is on the mend with a hip injury and won’t be active until midway through the season, so that opens up another spot on the roster. The Vikings brought in Greg Camarillo and Javon Walker last week to fortify depth, but there are others, such as Logan Payne and Greg Lewis, who are vying for playing time as well. All of these players have a chance tonight to step up and stand out.
Defensive Line: It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Vikings hold onto an extra defensive lineman or 2 given how well the unit has played in training camp and the preseason. Aside from the usual suspects, there have been a few standouts during training camp, including DT Letroy Guion and DE Jayme Mitchell. They’ll have a chance to solidify their positions tonight but others on the depth chart, such as DT Fred Evans and DE Everson Griffen, will try to use tonight as another stepping stone.
Linebacker: They might slide a bit under the radar, but the Vikings LB corps might be the deepest spot on the entire team. The team’s 3 starters are outstanding, and LB coach Fred Pagac has done a great job of shoring up depth behind those starters with players such as Jasper Brinkley, Heath Farwell and Erin Henderson. Given the importance of LBs to the special teams unit, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a couple more LBs (Kenny Onatolu, Nate Triplett) on the final 53-man roster.
Tags: Chris DeGeare, Erin Henderson, Greg Camarillo, Heath Farwell, Jasper Brinkley, Javon Walker, Jayme Mitchell, Letroy Guion, Ryan Cook
Posted in All | 26 Comments »