There are a lot of position battles going on within the Vikings roster and many of them have captured the attention of the media and fans. But one of the most competitive and unsettled position battles to date on the Vikings roster is one that hasn’t generated much conversation.
It’s the fullback (FB) position and the Vikings have a healthy competition for that spot on the roster. While in some respects the FB is a dying position on NFL rosters, the Vikings plan to carry a FB, or at least carry a player who can fulfill the role of a FB.
“The fullback position in our league has almost been eliminated,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier explained on Monday after practice. “There are some teams that don’t even carry a fullback anymore. But there’s a place for a fullback in our offense and we just have to identify the right guy.”
So who is the right guy? There are two FBs listed on the roster – Matt Asiata and Ryan D’Imperio. Asiata is an undrafted rookie free agent and he’s been a standout during camp, largely because he’s a nimble athlete who can make defenders miss and he’s also a more-than-capable receiver out of the backfield. D’Imperio was a seventh-round draft choice in 2010 whom the Vikings transitioned from college LB to NFL FB. He made the practice squad last year and is now looking to make the next step in his career and nail down a spot on the 53-man roster.
But Asiata and D’Imperio aren’t the only guys the Vikings are looking at to play FB.
“It’ll be more of a traditional role,” Frazier said of the Vikings FB position. “A guy who can run the lead play for us and help us with the power play and some things we’re doing. But we’d like to be able to utilize tight ends at time in that fullback role and we’ve got to identify the right guys for that. We know Jimmy Kleinsasser can do it; he’s done it before.”
Also in line for that type of role are TEs Jeff Dugan and Ed Barham. Dugan has been a constant on the Vikings roster since 2004 and has the kind of skill set and work ethic to be an NFL FB. Barham is another undrafted rookie free agent, but so far he’s proven to be more of a pass-catching threat in the offense. The same can be said, of course, for second-rounder Kyle Rudolph and another undrafted rookie free agent TE, Allen Reisner.
As you can see, the competition is thick at this position. The Vikings are looking for a player who can lead block and be physical, but also a player who is versatile and can be relied upon to line up in various spots in various formations. I’m guessing we’ll learn a little more about the Vikings search for the right FB onTuesday afternoon because offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave will meet with reporters after practice.
Tags: Bill Musgrave, Ed Barham, Jeff Dugan, Jim Kleinsasser, Leslie Frazier, Matt Asiata, Ryan D'Imperio
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 56 Comments »
The Vikings used the 43rd pick in the 2011 NFL Draft to grab the #1 player at his position – TE Kyle Rudolph of Notre Dame. Considered a 1st-round prospect by most, Rudolph slipped into the 2nd round but he didn’t slip past the Vikings.
The only reason one can muster for his slight slide into the 2nd round is a medical issue, as he missed the last 7 games of the 2010 season because of hamstring injury that required surgery. The Vikings clearly felt comfortable with Rudolph’s medical report and whoever the Vikings QB will be in 2011 will feel more comfortable with Rudolph on the field.
“We had no issues with him medically after he was cleared by our doctors,” Vikings VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman explained. “When he fell to us, it was too good of a player to pass up. We feel he has a lot of unique skills as a tight end and we’re going to stay true to our board. That was a situation where there was a player that normally I don’t think if he had that hamstring injury you would’ve even had a chance to get. We feel we got great value where we got Kyle.”
Many will compare Rudolph to New England’s Rob Gronkowski, as both have a combination of great size, strength and speed, along with tremendous ball skills. Despite playing in just 29 games for the Irish, Rudolph ranks 4th all-time among Notre Dame TEs with 90 receptions for 1,032 yards. His career-best 33 catches during his sophomore campaign placed 7th among TEs on the school’s season-record chart.
“He has a lot of different skill sets,” Spielman explained. “They’ve split him out wide. They’ve put him at the H. They put him on the line of scrimmage. He’s going to develop into a solid starting tight end in this league.”
At first glance, TE doesn’t appear to be a need for the Vikings. Visanthe Shiancoe is a solid starter and both Jeff Dugan and Jim Kleinsasser are effective in their roles. But Spielman says the Vikings just couldn’t pass on Rudolph and they’ll figure out the roster situation at a later point.
“This was a situation where, I know we have three tight ends that are on our roster right now, but when you have a player like that it’s just too good to pass up,” Spielman said. “I know we’ll sort it all out as we get there. But we just wanted to stay true to our board and he was by far the highest player on our board at this time and we weren’t going to pass him up.”
Tags: 2011 NFL Draft, Jeff Dugan, Jim Kleinsasser, Kyle Rudolph, Rick Spielman, Visanthe Shiancoe
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 110 Comments »
The rainy conditions subsided in time for the Vikings to work outside during OTA #10 and then host a group of Special Olympic Minnesota athletes at Winter Park on Wednesday. The Vikings went through a typical OTA practice and then several members of the team, including Head Coach Brad Childress, stayed after practice to visit with the SOM participants and take part in a Punt, Pass and Kick clinic.
Prior to the clinic and meet and greet, the SOM group watched OTA #10 from the sidelines, often times cheering after highlight-caliber play.
For now, here are a few highlights from Wednesday’s action at Winter Park…
– Rookie 4th round DE Everson Griffen was one of the most engaged players during the SOM event following practice. He signed autographs immediately after practice concluded, assisted the participants in the Kick portion of the clinic and then stayed after the SOM event to visit and pose in photos. We talked to Griffen after the SOM event and we’ll include his comments in the video recap of the event that will be posted later this afternoon.
– I spoke with Dave Dorn, President of Special Olympics Minnesota, during practice and he was once again thrilled to have the event at Winter Park after a practice. Dorn said commented that the Vikings have been a great partner throughout the years and that the Punt, Pass and Kick Clinic was an event that began with former Vikings FB Tony Richardson and has continued with the support of both Childress and superstar RB Adrian Peterson.
– Two highlight-caliber plays stuck out to me during practice. One was registered by LB Erin Henderson in the 2nd-to-last play of the inside skeleton drill. He jumped a pass in the middle of the field that was intended for TE Jeff Dugan and thrown by Sage Rosenfels. Henderson caught the pass smoothly and would’ve glided into the endzone for a TD. On the very next play, though, Rosenfels went back to Dugan at the very same spot and the duo completed the pass. The other highlight-caliber play came from QB Tarvaris Jackson and rookie 7th round TE Mickey Shuler. Jackson took a 5-step drop and rifled a pass to Shuler down the right seam. Shuler, who’s made some impressive catches during OTAs, hauled in the pass and continued down the field.
– Players were made available to the media following practice and one of the most popular interviews was WR Logan Payne, a former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher. Payne was signed this offseason after spending time with a few different NFL teams. A few interesting comments from Payne: 1) He said even as a guy whose made an NFL roster in the past, there isn’t much room for error for him and he’s making the most of this opportunity, 2) He had a few other teams interested in bringing him in this offseason but he took a look at the Vikings team and coaching staff and felt comfortable being with the Vikings, and 3) As he comes back from an injury, he feels as fast as he’s ever been during his career.
– While we’re on the topic of former Golden Gophers, I spent a few minutes after Tuesday’s practice with DL Cedric McKinley. He joined the Vikings this offseason as an undrafted rookie free agent and he told me that after playing mostly DE in college he’s been playing a lot of 3-technique here with the Vikings. He also went on to explain that he’s been watching a lot of Kevin Williams’ film and he’s also been impressed with the work ethic Williams has. “I’m having a great experience so far,” McKinley said, “and it’s really a blessing to be a part of this team right now.”
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Cedric McKinley, Erin Henderson, Everson Griffen, Jeff Dugan, Logan Payne, Mickey Shuler, Sage Rosenfels
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 2 Comments »
The Vikings narrowly missed out on an opportunity to play in Super Bowl XLIV, but that won’t deter the organization from participating in Arctic Blast XV this upcoming weekend at Lake Mille Lacs.
The 15th annual Minnesota Vikings Arctic Blast Snowmobile Rally, sponsored by MillerCoors Brewing Co., the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, Total Luxury Limousines and Arctic Cat, will feature current and former Vikings players, Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders, Viktor and team executives as the Vikings organization raises money for the Vikings Children’s Fund (VCF).
Arctic Blast XV is comprised of a full slate of events that includes snowmobile giveaways, free arcade play for kids, an ice fishing pond, outdoor BBQ, Karaoke and food/drink specials at various Blast Points throughout the day. There will also be numerous prizes and games for fans of all ages at Vikings headquarters at the Blue Goose Inn in Garrison.
On Sunday, a prize party will be held with more than $30,000 in prizes to be awarded, including a choice of a new Arctic Cat Snowmobile or ATV.
Current players scheduled to attend are TE Jeff Dugan, DE Ray Edwards, LB Jasper Brinkley and S Jamarca Sanford. Also, assistant coaches Derek Mason and Diron Reynolds will also join the festivities. A full list of alumni will be at the event, including Bud Grant, Jim Marshall, Scott Studwell, Joey Browner and Doug Sutherland.
Participants can register day of event at any of the 4 Blast Points located in Garrison, Onamia, Isle or Malmo ($35). For the list of Blast Points and more information, call (952) 828-6577 or visit http://www.vikings.com.
Tags: Jamarca Sanford, Jasper Brinkley, Jeff Dugan
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 3 Comments »
For the 9th consecutive year, the Vikings and Veterans of Foreign War will partner for a community outreach project as Vikings TE Jeff Dugan, C John Sullivan and FB Fahu Tahi will visit the VA Medical Center.
The visit, which is being sponsored by the Department of Minnesota Veterans of Foreign War State Commander Don Nix, will take place today, just one day before Veterans Day.
The players will visit the Physical Therapy Clinic of the hospital and will donate memorabilia to help begin a permanent Vikings-themed area. The players will also meet and greet patients in the hospital.
Tags: Fahu Tahi, Jeff Dugan, John Sullivan
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 2 Comments »