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5 Things To Watch Tonight

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 27, 2011 – 10:26 am

Tonight the Vikings will play their third preseason game of the 2011 season and it’ll be against the Dallas Cowboys at Mall of America Field. First-teamers will get extended looks tonight, which is why the third game of the preseason is considered so important.

With that in mind, here are five things to watch during tonight’s Vikings-Cowboys contest…

A TD from the first-team offense
The first-team offense took a big step forward last week in Seattle after a mediocre outing in Tennessee to open the preseason. Expect another step forward this week from Donovan McNabb and Co. It would ease a lot of souls – everyone from Vikings coaches to Vikings fans – if the first-team offense could find a way to move the ball and score a TD or two. To this point, McNabb has looked comfortable in the offense and he’s spread the ball around to a variety of receivers. Tonight, though, watch for the running game to improve a touch and for McNabb to find a way to attack vertically.

Cedric Griffin and Anthony Herrera coming back from injury
A pair of starters are coming back from serious knee injuries this season – CB Cedric Griffin and RG Anthony Herrera. Griffin has had a nice training camp and he’s looked good in the little time he’s seen on the field. Tonight, though, he’ll likely get his first extended action since the injury and the Vikings will be focused not only on how he performs during the game but how his knee feels after the game. With Herrera, he’s slowly been brought along during training camp and tonight is the first time he’ll play in a game at all since the injury. Just as is the case with Griffin, it will be as important how Herrera feels after the game as how he plays during the game. Head Coach Leslie Frazier said earlier this week that the one thing the coaches will be looking for is Herrera’s explosion coming off the ball. If he can show signs of regaining that explosion and he can come away from the game with minimal soreness, then the feisty veteran will be one (major) step closer to returning to the starting lineup.

Pressure on Cowboys QB Tony Romo
One of the positives I took away from the Vikings performance last week in Seattle was the pass rush from the first-team defense. Seattle QB Tarvaris Jackson was rarely allowed time to sit in the pocket and find an open receiver, which was a large part of why the Vikings were able to shutout Seattle in the first half. Tonight the Vikings will see an offensive line that is a touch better and a QB that is much better. If the Vikings can still find a way to pressure the passer tonight, we know they might have something going this year in terms of pass rush after a less-than-stellar pass rush last year. I think the secondary is going to be better than most people think this year, but an effective pass rush will make the secondary look even better.

Another strong performance from Chris Cook
One of the bright spots in last week’s victory over Seattle was the performance of CB Chris Cook. He was lined up against former teammate Sidney Rice for much of the first half and he held his own by frequently jamming Rice at the line of scrimmage and even being involved in a pass breakup in the endzone. If Cook can step up and perform well as the team’s 3rd CB, the Vikings defense will be stronger. With Cook in the lineup, the Vikings nickel package features two big, physical CBs (Cook and Griffin) on the outside and then Antoine Winfield sliding inside to play the slot receiver. That’s the lineup Frazier prefers to see out there and if Cook plays well tonight, that vision comes one step closer to being realized.

Competition at WR
One of the position battles still raging is at WR, where the top 3 are set (Bernard Berrian, Percy Harvin and Michael Jenkins) but the next two or three are still open. I’m not sure if the Vikings will keep five or six WRs, but either way there are jobs still available. We won’t count anyone out, but the guys I’ll be watching tonight are Devin Aromashodu, Greg Camarillo, Juaquin Iglesias and Jaymar Johnson. The next tier of guys are Manny Arceneaux, Stephen Burton and Andre Holmes. Aside from performance in the offense, another factor in determining which players will earn roster spots is special teams. Johnson can increase his value by proving effective in the punt return game, while Aromashodu has increased his value by making a pair of special teams tackles.


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Punt Return Job Looks Wide Open; Practice Notes

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 16, 2011 – 4:11 pm

In this week’s Monday Morning Mailbag, I made the case for Lorenzo Booker to take care of kickoff return duties for the Vikings this season. The punt return job, however, is not quite as simple to delegate at this point.

Before Tuesday afternoon’s practice officially began, I watched 8 Vikings take turns fielding punts. They were: CBs Asher Allen, Cord Parks, Marcus Sherels and Devon Torrence; WRs Stephen Burton, Greg Camarillo and Jaymar Johnson; and RB Lorenzo Booker.

Camarillo was the primary punt returner last season, fielding 39 of the team’s 42 punt returns. He hasn’t done anything to lose the responsibility and is in fact one of the surest-handed returners in the group, but there’s nothing wrong with opening up the job for competition. Through one preseason game, Johnson has the best results (1 return for 40 yards) and Sherels has returned a pair of punts for 4 yards.

There are higher-profile position battles on the Vikings roster this year, such as backup QB and starting safety, but the importance of the punt return position battle should not be understated. The candidates for the job come from a variety of different positions, which means the punt return job has an impact on several areas of the team when it comes time for coaches and scouts to pick the 53-man rosters.

We’ll continue to monitor this position battle for you on vikings.com throughout the rest of training camp and the preseason. Here are a few notes from Tuesday afternoon’s practice…

– The team worked in full pads for just short of 2.5 hours under partly cloudy skies. The temperature was fairly warm, but there was a persistent wind that cooled the air and made life a bit more difficult for P Chris Kluwe and K Ryan Longwell.

– Longwell, though, was solid during the special teams period and connected on a high percentage of his FG tries.

– RG Anthony Herrera practice for the second straight day and continues to ease back into the swing of things. He worked with the first-team offense. Also working with the first-team offense again on Tuesday was Scott Kooistra.

– Tyrell Johnson was a safety on the first-team defense and Chris Cook worked with the first-team nickel defense.

– The Vikings coaching staff gave the one-on-one drill between WRs and CBs/safeties a different twist. Ordinarily the drill pits just one WR against one CB, but on Tuesday the Vikings worked on route combinations. There were three DBs on the field for the drill (one safety, two CBs) and two WRs. The drill not only had the offensive players working on route combinations and the defensive players working on defensive schemes, but it also forced the defense to communicate and it forced the QB to make a decision on which receiver to target.

– There is usually a “special category” period of practice, which is commonly referred to as “special cats.” Tuesday’s “special cats” period had the offense working in the no-huddle against a 40-second play clock. A few interesting things to note about this period of practice: QB Donovan McNabb ran the no-huddle for the first-team offense flawlessly and without error; Camarillo saw a lot of extra time with the first-team as a slot WR with Harvin sitting out (more on that below); and rookie Brandon Burton grabbed an INT during the period off of Christian Ponder on an impressive play where he tipped the pass and was able to concentrate in traffic to haul in the pick.

– Guys who sat out of practice on Tuesday: S Simeon Castiille, LBs Heath Farwell and Kenny Onatolu, DE D’Aundre Reed and TE Visanthe Shiancoe. WR Percy Harvin took part in the early portions of practice but then sat out for most of the workout. It looked like a precautionary move more than anything because he stuck around outside for the entire practice and was interacting with his teammates. Harvin was bothered by a rib injury near the end of the Mankato portion of training camp. Also, LB Jonathan Gilmore left practice early; no indication on his injury.

– I’m not sure how much it’s worth tracking which players are playing with the first-team, second-team and third-team, mostly because coaches are still experimenting with different combinations as they try to shape their position groups. So at the risk of jumping to conclusions, or causing you to jump to conclusions, here’s how a few positions appear to be shaking out: Adrian Awasom (LDE) and Everson Griffen (RDE) are consistently with the second-team; Letroy Guion and Fred Evans are second-team DTs; rookie LB Ross Homan and veteran LB Mark Washington have been primarily with the second-team defense the past two days; Asher Allen and Chris Cook are the second-team CBs, but Sherels is rotated into the mix on occasion; Mistral Raymond and Jamarca Sanford are the second-team safeties and both have taken turns with the first-team; the second-team nickel features Burton and Devon Torrence at outside CB, Marcus Sherels in the slot, Jasper Brinkley and Ross Homan at LB and a rotation at safety among Chris Adingupu, Raymond and Sanford.

– Rookie DeMarcus Love, a 4-year starter at the University of Arkansas in the talent-rich Southeastern Conference (SEC), seems to have established himself as the second-team LT.


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Vikings Special Teams Give Strong Showing

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 15, 2011 – 7:11 am

It’s generally not something you find football fans talking about, but it’s a vital part of every team and it’s an important factor in every game. We’re talking about special teams. And this preseason for the Vikings, it’s an especially important group to watch because there’s a new special teams coordinator in town with Mike Priefer aboard.

After one preseason game, it’s so far, so good for Priefer’s special teams groups. In what was mostly an uninspiring performance from the Vikings on Saturday night in Tennessee, the special teams groups looked strong. Let’s take a moment to point out a few of the strongpoints…

– P Chris Kluwe had a nice night, booming five punts and generating an average of 41.6 yards per punt and 39.4 net yards per punt; a net average of 39.4 yards would’ve ranked Kluwe 4th among all punters last year. Also, Kluwe put two of his five punts inside the 20-yardline and only three of his punts were returned.

– The Vikings punt coverage unit performed well in unison with Kluwe, allowing just 3.7 yards per return on three attempts.

– On kickoff returns, the Vikings averaged 26.0 yards per try, which would’ve ranked them 2nd in the NFL last year. In kickoff return coverage, the Vikings allowed just 19.0 yards per return, which also would’ve ranked them 2nd best in the NFL last year.

– Give credit to the group of Kluwe, K Ryan Longwell and long snapper Cullen Loeffler because they didn’t have a botched snap, hold or kick all night. Longwell was true from 37 yards out to give the Vikings their only points.

– WR Jaymar Johnson, who is trying to earn a spot on the WR depth chart, certainly helped his cause by performing on special teams. He returned a punt 40 yards in the second half, displaying a quick burst and then excellent top-end speed on the play. Another WR – Devin Aromashodu – who is also trying to win a spot on the WR depth chart helped himself on special teams as well by notching a tackle.

– Others who chipped in with special teams tackles were LB Larry Dean, S Eric Frampton and LB Heath Farwell.


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5 Things To Watch Tonight

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 13, 2011 – 1:15 pm

The Vikings preseason opener is tonight in Nashville against the Tennessee Titans. Here are five things to watch tonight when the Vikings and Titans clash in Nashville…

5. Mental mistakes, procedural penalties
No one on the field has a lack of competitive desire, but the truth of the matter is that the preseason is not about wins and losses. With the exception of guys at the bottom of the roster trying to bite, scratch and crawl for a spot, it’s about looking good, knocking the rust off and progressing every day. Coaches are more concerned about seeing zero missed assignments than they are about seeing 31 offensive points on the board. What we don’t want to see tonight are blitzers running free at Vikings QBs, running backs from the Titans bursting through the line of scrimmage without a hand on them and Vikings WRs cutting one way and the QB tossing a pass the other way. We also don’t want to see botched QB-center exchanges, false starts and illegal formation penalties.

4. The QB eye test
We’re going to have to go easy on crafting a water-tight judgment of Vikings QBs after this game. Remember, three of them are new Vikings (Rhett Bomar, Donovan McNabb and Christian Ponder) and the other (Joe Webb) may as well be new to the team because he’s learning a brand-new offense. With the lockout cancelling all offseason practices, offenses across the League have only just begun to install their strategies. So we’ll see a very vanilla style from the Vikings offense tonight, but I still want to see any Vikings QB who trots out there pass the eye test and at least look comfortable in all situations, whether it be a snap on first-and-ten or a pressure moment late in the half with time winding down and the defense dialing up a blitz.

3. Vikings pass rush
Jared Allen and Everson Griffen had great camps, but I’d like confirmation that they’re playing well tonight. Confirmation will come in the form of a few disruptive plays against the Titans. This might be a bit tougher to see from Allen because head coach Leslie Frazier may want to limit his reps to reduce exposure to injury, but I think Griffen will get plenty of reps tonight and I expect him to play well.

2. Kick and punt returners
The Vikings have a deep group of players competing for kick and punt return duties. This is an important role on the team not only because it helps the team win the field position battle, but also because anyone who can contribute on special teams will increase their chances of making the roster. If a WR can be relied upon to return kicks and cover kicks as well as run the correct routes on offense, he has a better chance to make the roster. If a RB can do the same while also showing good pass protection ability and a burst with the ball in his hands, then he has a better shot to make the roster. The same can be said for a CB trying to win the return job. RB Lorenzo Booker, WRs Stephen Burton, Percy Harvin and Jaymar Johnson and even a few members of the secondary are examples of players who can increase their value to the team by giving a good accounting of themselves in the return game.

1. Reserve offensive linemen
There are six offensive linemen you can count on (barring injury) being around once the regular season begins – LT Charlie Johnson, LG Steve Hutchinson, C John Sullivan, RGs Anthony Herrera and Chris DeGeare and RT Phil Loadholt. But who will fill in as reserves? The process of determining that begins tonight and, specifically, begins about midway through the first quarter when the starters will exit the game. Draft picks C Brandon Fusco and OT DeMarcus Love have had nice camps. The versatile Ryan Cook was brought back and could fill in anywhere. Veteran Scott Kooistra is a big body that can play both LT and RT. What about Seth Olsen, who filled in for Hutchinson at LG during camp a few times? There are several more names in the mix for reserve offensive linemen jobs and it’ll be interesting to see who plays well tonight.


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Notes From Training Camp Practice #1

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 1, 2011 – 4:36 pm

The first training camp practice of the Leslie Frazier era is in the books. Vikings players and coaches hit the outdoor practice fields for about 95 minutes under partly cloudy skies and windy conditions. The wind didn’t provide a great teaching environment but it probably helped everyone tolerate the humidity.

Vikings rookie QB Christian Ponder met with reporters after practice and one of his first comments was about how great the weather was for the workout; Ponder is of course used to the suffocating heat and humidity in Tallahassee, Florida for training camp practices. Speaking of Ponder, we caught up with him before he met with reporters, so be sure to check back to vikings.com for that video interview tonight.

There was a larger-than-normal contingent of players who sat out of practice on Monday, due mostly to rules in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that prohibit players operating under a new contract from participating in practice until the League year stars, which is on Thursday, August 4. Notable players not practicing because of this rule included S Husain Abdullah, WRs Devin Aromashodu and Michael Jenkins, DT Remi Ayodele, LB Erin Henderson and QB Donovan McNabb.

Beyond unavailable personnel, another limitation for the Vikings in practice today was because of another new CBA rule which prohibits teams from contact practices for the first three days of camp, including report day. This means that tomorrow (Tuesday) will be another day of no contact.

So because of the limited personnel available and because of the no contact rule, we’ll take it easy before we start listing off which players are running with the first team and which players are running with the second team. For now, suffice it to say that there were no major surprises in terms of the unofficial depth chart.

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier held a press conference following practice and vikings.com streamed it live. We’ll have that available for you in on-demand format at some point tonight, so be sure to come back for that. Also, RB Adrian Peterson left practice early, but it’s for a good reason. Frazier disclosed after practice that Peterson’s fiancé went into labor; don’t be surprised if Peterson misses a couple days.

Here are a few more quick notes from Monday’s practice…

– CB Marcus Sherels and WRs Stephen Burton, Greg Camarillo and Jaymar Johnson took turns returning punts. It was a tough task because of the wind. We’ll continue to monitor the punt returner – as well as the kick returner – rotations throughout camp to try and give you an idea of who to expect back there for preseason game #1.

– There was a #4 jersey out on the field. No, it wasn’t Brett Favre. With new QB Donovan McNabb having negotiated #5 away from Kluwe, the Vikings punter has switched to jersey #4 for the season.

– I thought I’d make a simple note each day of players who just looked good…players who pass what is called “the eye test.” We’ll track this throughout camp and then see if it translates onto the field during games. Passing the eye test today was: FB Matt Asiata, RB Toby Gerhart, LB Chad Greenway, CB Cedric Griffin, WR Percy Harvin, DE D’Aundre Reed, RB Alexander Robinson and TE Visanthe Shiancoe.


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A Look At Rounds 2 Through 7 Under Spielman And Co.

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 2, 2011 – 5:18 pm

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.


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Who Will Step Up To Round Out WR Depth?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 19, 2010 – 8:20 am

With all of the hoopla surrounding QB Brett Favre and his decision to return for another season in 2010, it’s easy to forget there is actually a training camp and preseason going on at Winter Park. And with training camp and preseason come position battles.

There are several position battles still on-going for the Vikings, and that will continue to be the case for the next couple weeks. Of course the highest-profile position battle will be for the backup QB job, which Tarvaris Jackson is currently leading. But another one that also got a bit more interesting over the last couple of days is WR.

The Vikings have a healthy crop of young receivers battling to round out the position. That group included 3rd-year player Jaymar Johnson, who had a good training camp and then registered 2 receptions for 38 yards against the St. Louis Rams last weekend in the team’s 1st preseason game. But Johnson also suffered an injury in that game and has been waived by the club.

It’s an unfortunate development for Johnson and the Vikings, but it also opens an opportunity for those who were battling with Johnson for a roster spot. One player to keep an eye on in this regard is former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher Logan Payne, who was acquired by the Vikings this past offseason and also had a nice training camp.

Payne showed up in a big way against the Rams, hauling in 7 receptions for 52 yards, including a 2-yard TD from Sage Rosenfels in the 2nd quarter.

“He is a good, smart football player,” Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said of Payne on Monday. “He is a tough guy, did well in special teams (against St. Louis), he ran down and made a couple special team tackles. He is versed in this system, he played multiple positions and he was productive. He has been making the most of all of the reps that he has gotten.”

Payne isn’t the only WR who has a chance to step up. The Vikings have a host of others in the fold, including Marko Mitchell (72-yard TD reception against the Rams) and Ray Small (3 receptions for 31 yards against the Rams). Another factor to keep in mind in handicapping this position battle is the return game. While Payne can increase his stock by covering kicks, a guy like Small can increase his chances by standing out as a kickoff or punt returner. Johnson had 2 punt returns and 1 kickoff return against the Rams, so someone else on the WR depth chart might be able to assume those responsibilities.

With all of that said, the Vikings could also look to add another young receiver or veteran receiver to the mix as well. There are several more chapters left to unfold before the Vikings make any decisions on this position battle, and the next one will happen on Sunday night when the Purple takes the field against the San Francisco 49ers.

Let us know in the comments section below which of the Vikings receivers you’d like to see step up and earn a roster spot.


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Reinforcements At WR For Vikings In 2010?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 11, 2010 – 11:32 am

Another day of training camp practices, and another day of no Percy Harvin or Sidney Rice on the practice field. We’ve written about this a couple of times here on the vikings.com Blog during 2010 Verizon Vikings Training Camp and the prevailing positive spin on this situation is that the absence of 2 of the club’s top 3 WRs is giving others on the WR depth chart a chance to showcase their abilities.

That’s true. But now I want to take it a step further.

Who is making the most of that opportunity? I’ll qualify my opinion by reminding you that we’re far from being able to make a final judgment on the matter because we haven’t even played 1 preseason game yet. This decision won’t ultimately be made until after the 4th preseason game, which is in early September.

For now, though, I’d point to Jaymar Johnson and Logan Payne as 2 players who might be able to carve out a roster spot for themselves in light of the unavailability of Harvin and Rice during camp. Both Harvin and Rice should be ready to go once the regular season comes around, and both Bernard Berrian and Greg Lewis have had good camps and will be on the roster. But I wonder if the absence of Harvin and Rice for such an extended time during training camp might cause Vikings brass to consider keeping 1 more WR than originally planned.

If so, a solid camp from Payne and 2+ years of experience in this system from Johnson make them the top candidates to land the job, in my eyes. Johnson is slight in frame, but he’s continually improved since the Vikings grabbed him with a 7th round draft pick in 2008. Johnson was at Winter Park on a daily basis this offseason and he possesses the straight-line speed and shifty feet necessary to compete for a roster spot. Payne has slowly worked his way into a good training camp, plodding along in the early days but picking up steam along the way. He carries himself well on the football field and doesn’t seem to miss any assignments. I’ve also noticed him on kick coverage units, which is going to increase his chances.

As we stated, there’s a long way to go before this decision is made. But for the time being, don’t sleep on Johnson or Payne just yet.


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1 Practice Down, 1 To Go On Monday

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 2, 2010 – 10:52 am

My radio appearance with buddy Paul Allen of AM 1130 KFAN was postponed today, which allowed me to see every minute of Monday morning’s 2 hour and 15-minute practice, which was executed in mild temperatures compared to Sunday’s suffocating heat. The Vikings took full advantage of the ideal conditions – including a nice cloud cover to give us a break from the sun – and had an intense workout in front of another solid crowd.

A few players were missing from practice today for various reasons, including: WR Percy Harvin (personal), CB Benny Sapp (illness), WR Sidney Rice (PUP), CB Cedric Griffin (PUP) and C John Sullivan (leg). The leg injury to Sullivan does not seem serious and the 3rd-year C was on the field watching practice, so that’s a good sign.

While those players weren’t able to take part in practice, there were several special guests on-hand to take in the workout. Vikings ownership is in town for their annual training camp retreat, where they discuss the state of the franchise. I saw former Vikings QB Rich Gannon just outside the locker room; he’s an occasional visitor to the Vikings and seems to have developed a friendship with Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress. Also, Vikings preseason play-by-play man Ari Wolfe was at practice, so it was nice to chat with him for several minutes.

And finally, before I head to the cafeteria for lunch, a few football notes from this morning’s practice…

– With 2 of the top 3 WRs out, Greg Lewis and Jaymar Johnson handled the 1st-team reps with regular starter Bernard Berrian.

– WRs led a spirited session of 1-on1s and 7-on-7 drills. Johnson, Logan Payne and Ray Small all registered highlight-caliber catches that caused the crowd to cheer.

– With Sullivan out of the mix this morning, Jon Cooper took the snaps with the 1st-team. Ryan Cook took the 2nd-team snaps at C, and Chris Clark, Chris DeGeare, Thomas Austin and Drew Radovich joined Cook with the 2nd team for a large part of practice.

That’s it for now, but be sure to check back later for more updates and a couple of video interviews.


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Busy Day For Vikings WRs

Posted by cjsiewert on May 20, 2010 – 3:05 pm

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.


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