It’s no secret. The NFL is a passing league. In 2011, only 3 teams (Denver, Houston, San Francisco) ran the ball more frequently than they passed it, and nearly 33% of NFL teams threw the ball in excess of 60% of the time. Also in 2011, 3 NFL QBs (Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford) threw for 5,000+ yards and 3 had (Brees, Stafford, Aaron Rodgers) 40+ TD passes.
While it’s no question the preferred method of moving the ball in the NFL is through the air, there are still teams and coaches who place a tremendous value on running the ball. The Vikings and Head Coach Leslie Frazier fall into that category. And it’s for good reason. Since 2007 when the Vikings drafted Adrian Peterson and hired Frazier as defensive coordinator, the Vikings have been the NFL’s best rushing team. They rank first over that span in total rushing yards (11,272), per-carry average (4.7), rushing TDs (92) and runs of 10+ yards (333).
“It’s big for our team,” Frazier said of the running game. “In a League where passing the football has become first for so many teams, we’ve taken a little bit different approach and featuring a guy who we think is the best running back in pro football in Adrian Peterson and because of that, it takes a lot of pressure off our young quarterback as well as our passing game.”
The Vikings understand the importance of being able to move the ball through the air, too. That’s why they signed free agents such as TE John Carlson and Jerome Simpson, and that’s why they used draft picks on the likes of LT Matt Kalil and a pair of WRs in the 4th round (Jarius Wright, Greg Childs). The development of young QB Christian Ponder was priority A for the Vikings this past offseason, and everyone at Winter Park knows Ponder’s progress will be key to future success. Frazier’s contention, though, is that the presence of a productive running game will ease the pressure on Ponder because opponents are forced to figure out a way to contain Peterson and Gerhart before they think about defending the Vikings passing attack.
“Having a guy like the guy that we do have makes us very unique from an offensive standpoint,” Frazier explained, “but it helps us to achieve our goals as a football team, having a good running game and establishing the run for us to run our offense and really win the way we want to win.”
As he’s explained, Frazier wants the Vikings running game to set the tone and allow Ponder and Co. to operate with more freedom. Additionally, being able to run the ball well can shorten a game for a team when it has the lead. But Frazier also explained that his desire to run the ball well is not about being a conservative team that looks to shorten the game and win close contests. Frazier sees the Vikings running game as one with explosion and scoring capability.
“For us, that’s exactly the approach we take but we also believe that we can also get explosive plays through the running game because of who we have at the halfback position,” Frazier said. “It’s not just ground and pound. We have a guy who can break the 20-yard run, the 60-yard run. Most people have to get that throwing the football down the field, and we want to be able to do the same. That’s one of the reasons we made the offseason acquisition of Jerome (Simpson) and try to feature Percy the way we do. But being able to have a balanced attack and still feature our run game is who we are.”
Peterson and Gerhart get most of the credit for the Vikings productive running attack. On Sunday in the season opener, though, another member of the backfield was key to the Vikings ground game – FB Jerome Felton. Both Frazier and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave mentioned how well Felton played in his first regular season game as a Viking.
Said Frazier: “He played extremely well and that was a lot of snaps for him. There wasn’t one time a season ago we had that many snaps with our fullback on the field and a lot of it had to do with the way he played and what’s happening when he is on the field. It was really encouraging for all of us to see him dominate the way he did. There may be more opportunities for him as we go forward.”
Said Musgrave: “Jerome Felton played really well. He was a presence out there. He was also a presence on the sideline in terms of being the leader. He suggested a couple of amendments to our game plan during the game and we took them to heart and they really paved the way for good runs there in the second half.”
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Bill Musgrave, Greg Childs, Jarius Wright, Jerome Felton, Jerome Simpson, John Carlson, Leslie Frazier, Matt Kalil, Toby Gerhart
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 46 Comments »
Vikings GM Rick Spielman and Head Coach Leslie Frazier are in the midst of reforming the Vikings roster into a young group of individuals who will play together for a long time. Such a strategy cuts both ways – a young team is prone to mistakes born from inexperience, and a young team is capable of jumping up suddenly and displaying what can happen when things begin to click.
If Friday night’s preseason game at Mall of America Field is an indication of what’s to come from this young Vikings team, the 2012 season and many campaigns after that should be full of excitement. Paced early by second-year QB Christian Ponder and third-year RB Toby Gerhart, late by rookie LB Audie Cole and all throughout the game by rookie K Blair Walsh, the Vikings logged a lopsided 36-14 victory over the AFC East’s Buffalo Bills.
The action started with Ponder and Co. taking first possession. And they didn’t mess around. Ponder found WR Percy Harvin for a 21-yard gain on the second play from scrimmage and then two plays later he found speedster Jerome Simpson for a 33-yard burst on a play that saw Simpson showcase his athleticism by hurdling a would-be tackler to extend the play. Gerhart ripped off a 16-yard a few moments later and before you knew it, Ponder floated a pass to FB Jerome Felton for a TD and early lead.
Walsh salvaged the next drive with a 22-yard FG to give the Vikings a 10-0 lead in the 2nd quarter. That concluded the action for Ponder and Gerhart. Ponder finished going 10 of 13 for 136 yards with 1 TD and 0 INTs, hitting 8 different receivers on the night. Gerhart’s line was 6 carries for 30 yards, bringing his preseason total to 11 carries for 61 yards.
As for Walsh, he missed his next attempt. It was a 49-yarder and sailed wide right. But that was his lone blemish on the evening. Walsh came on to hit FGs from 45 and 47 yards in the 2nd quarter and then he was good from 40 yards in the 3rd quarter and 30 yards in the 4th quarter. Walsh was also solid on his kickoffs during the game, with Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer asking Walsh to execute a variety of different approaches on those kickoffs. In total, Walsh was 5 of 6 on FG tries and 3 of 3 on PATs.
Walsh’s 4th-quarter FG from 30 yards pushed the Vikings lead to 22-14 midway through the final period. But any thoughts Buffalo had of mounting a late-game rally to steal a victory were quickly eliminated by another Vikings rookie. In back-to-back plays late in the 4th quarter, LB Audie Cole sealed the Vikings victory and took a huge step in sealing a roster spot for himself.
Cole intercepted a pass and returned it for a TD – twice – in the game’s final moments, giving the Vikings their winning 36-14 cushion. The first INT came on a 2nd and 10 play from the Buffalo 11-yardline. Former Vikings QB Tyler Thigpen dropped back and quickly threw a pass intended for WR Naaman Roosevelt, but Cole jumped the route to grab the INT and sprinted toward the goal line. On the ensuing Bills drive, Brad Smith replaced Thigpen at QB and Cole intercepted his first pass, another quick throw intended for Roosevelt. This time Cole sprinted to the end zone uncontested and was greeted by a throng of teammates in the back of the end zone.
The daily double INT-for-TD from Cole capped an exciting night at Mall of America Field that saw the Vikings play in front of their fans for the first time since last season and also log their first win of the preseason. The Vikings are now 1-1 this preseason, and next week they’ll remain at home to host the AFC West’s San Diego Chargers.
Tags: Audie Cole, Blair Walsh, Christian Ponder, Jerome Felton, Jerome Simpson, Toby Gerhart
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 133 Comments »
Once the regular season begins, Vikings coaches will want to see the Vikings 1st-team offense this sharp for four quarters. On Friday night against the Buffalo Bills at Mall of America Field, though, a quarter and a half was enough.
After putting up 6 points in two drives a week ago against the San Francisco 49ers, starting QB Christian Ponder and Co. found the end zone once and settled for a FG another time against the Bills. Ponder was sharp in the outing, completing 10 of 13 passes for 136 yards with 1 TD and 0 INTs. The TD toss went to FB Jerome Felton on a 1st and goal from the 1-yardline. The scoring play to Felton capped an 8-play, 59-yard drive, the first of the game, and included a 21-yard gain to Percy Harvin and a 33-yard burst to WR Jerome Simpson in which Simpson hurdled a would-be tackler to extend the play.
The highlight-caliber play by Simpson energized the crowd and set up RB Toby Gerhart for a 16-yard rush two plays later that ultimately set up the Ponder-to-Felton score. Gerhart finished the night with 30 yards on 6 carries, bringing his two-game preseason total to an impressive 11 caries for 61 yards.
On the next drive, Ponder rallied the offense for 12 plays to get down to the Buffalo 4-yardline, but the drive stalled there after a pair of incompletions in the end zone (passes intended for TE Kyle Rudolph and Simpson). K Blair Walsh, who had another impressive night, came on to salvage the drive and give the Vikings a 10-0 lead late in the 1st quarter. Through halftime, Walsh was 2 of 3 on FGs, hitting from 45 and 47 yards and missing from 49; he also had a touchback and was 1 of 1 on PAT tries.
In all, it was a very good outing for the Vikings starters and an improvement on what was also a solid outing a week ago against the 49ers. The 1st-team offense has 4 preseason drives and has scored on each of them (1 TD, 3 FGs).
Tags: Blair Walsh, Christian Ponder, Jerome Felton, Jerome Simpson, Kyle Rudolph, Percy Harvin, Toby Gerhart
Posted in All | 54 Comments »
The Vikings are now a week into training camp and it’s full speed ahead for the team as they begin preparing for the 2012 season. Now that we’re gaining a better understanding of the roster after six days of practice, let’s take a look at 10 players who are off to fast starts at 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp.
TE Kyle Rudolph
Rudolph’s combination of size, strength and speed is unique, and it presents big-time mismatch problems for the defense. QB Christian Ponder is not afraid to look Rudolph’s way, and until someone finds a way to slow the 6-6, 258-pound beast, he’s going to keep catching passes.
LT Matt Kalil
You would naturally excuse a rookie – even a third overall choice – if he were making mistakes during training camp. Add in the fact that the rookie is going against the best defensive end in football, and you’d allow even a few more perhaps. But Kalil hasn’t been guilty of many miscues. Sure, Jared Allen is winning his fair share of the matchups, but all things considered, Kalil has looked the part of a player who could develop into a cornerstone LT.
CB Antoine Winfield
We wrote in this space multiple times about how great Antoine Winfield looked during the offseason program. He’s continued to look great during training camp.
“We were talking about that as a staff last night, he really seems to be into this training camp more than any other. You see him out there taking one-on-ones and all of the reps,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said. “We will have to monitor that a little bit, he is not 22 years of age anymore, but he is definitely invigorated in a lot of ways, which is good for our young players in our secondary to see the way he works and how he approaches things. It’s great for them.”
CB Bobby Felder
One of those young players in the secondary is Bobby Felder, an undrafted college free agent out of Nicholls State. I’m asked about Felder more than most players for some reason, but maybe Felder will show us all why he deserves to be noticed. He didn’t have the best day of practice on Wednesday, but other than that he’s been solid. Felder is a player to watch in the preseason.
WRs Percy Harvin and Jerome Simpson
I like what the Vikings have going at WR. Entering the offseason, WR was a position that needed an upgrade. And it got one. The Vikings look much better at the position, and the addition of Jerome Simpson is a big reason for that. Simpson has tremendous speed and is terrific after the catch. He’s not strictly a vertical route receiver, either. Simpson can run intermediate/deep crossing patterns as well, and he’s hard to stop on comeback routes.
Simpson looking so good likely has Percy Harvin upping his game as well. Harvin is already one of the most dynamic receivers in the game, so watching him rise to the challenge in competing with Simpson for passes from Ponder has been great to watch.
DT Letroy Guion
When the defensive coordinator singles you out as having a good camp, you’re going to make this list.
“Letroy has been one that has been phenomenal in camp,” Alan Williams said. “It may not seem to the naked eye but there are some clips of him just getting off blocks, running to the ball and pursuing. Day two he made a play outside of the numbers running to the football so we are very pleased with him.”
LB Chad Greenway
We listed Chad Greenway as a stand out from Tuesday’s practice, largely because of an athletic pass breakup (PBU) he registered on an end zone fade pass to Kyle Rudolph and also because of a couple plays he made in short-yardage and goal line periods. Greenway is a leader on the Vikings defense and will be a three-down player for the Vikings once again this season.
TE Rhett Ellison
During the Vikings rookie minicamp in May, Rhett Ellison emerged as a stand out thanks in large part to his fluid pass-catching skills. Billed as more of a physical, blocking-type of TE, Ellison displayed a natural ability in the passing game during that camp and has continued to do so in training camp. He’s also a physical player in the trenches. That type of all-around ability could yield a long, productive career for the rookie from USC.
RB Derrick Coleman
Undrafted this year and joining the Vikings for their rookie minicamp, not many paid much attention to Derrick Coleman this spring. But it’s hard not to notice him during training camp. He is running with the third-team, so it’s appropriate to temper the enthusiasm. But you can only beat the people put in front of you, and right now Coleman is winning more than he’s losing when he’s on the field. He’ll be another player to watch during the preseason.
GM Rick Spielman
We’re only a week into training camp, but you’ve got to give GM Rick Spielman and his staff, along with head coach Leslie Frazier, credit for attacking the task of reforming this roster over the offseason. The Vikings were coming off consecutive seasons of 6-10 and 3-13, plus they had tough roster decisions to make on valued veteran players. On top of that, the team had 10 draft choices to execute.
The Vikings have had a good training camp to date and the talent level on this roster is going the right way. There is a clear sense of direction the team is heading in, and there’s no question Spielman and Frazier set out to make this roster younger and more talented. Judging by one week of training camp, they did a good job. There’s a lot of work to be done, but the progress is encouraging.
Tags: Alan Williams, Antoine Winfield, Bobby Felder, Chad Greenway, Derrick Coleman, Jerome Simpson, Kyle Rudolph, Leslie Frazier, Letroy Guion, Matt Kalil, Percy Harvin, Rhett Ellison, Rick Spielman
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 99 Comments »
On Tuesday as I walked out to afternoon practice here at 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp, I asked followers on Twitter if there were any players they’d like me to pay special attention. We received many responses, so instead of responding to each person individually, we decided to put all the responses together and share it that way so everyone can read about the players that are tipping the curiosity of the fans.
And to make it as Twitter-realistic as possible, each comment below is in 140 characters or less (that is the character limit for a Twitter message). Here we go…
DL Christian Ballard: Second-team DT on Tuesday. Looks significantly bigger and better this year compared to last year. Will contribute.
S Robert Blanton: Sat out practice on Tuesday. Has been good to this point. Still learning defense obviously.
LB Audie Cole: Best I’ve seen him look on Tuesday. Great swim move during pass rush drill. Strikes well.
CB Bobby Felder: Had impressive INT during 1-on-1 drill. Won’t surprise me if he impresses during preseason. Plays with energy.
FB Jerome Felton: Was running with the first team at FB. Solid blocker. Also a special teams contributor.
LB Everson Griffen: First-team kickoff coverage; third-team LB. Explosive rushing passer off edge. Plays with energy.
DT Letroy Guion: First-team DT. Having a great camp. Good movement skills, very good strength. Anchors well.
DT Trevor Guyton: Third-team offense. Also plays special teams. Good movement. Role TBD.
LB Tyrone McKenzie: Big jump up from last year. Plays second-team MIKE LB. Impressive INT on Tuesday. Vocal on field.
S Mistral Raymond: Mostly first-team reps, some second-team. Seems better-versed in defensive scheme this year.
DE Brian Robison: Same ‘ol B-Rob. Plays with passion. Exclusively first-team left DE. Good inside pass rush moves.
OL Geoff Schwartz: Plays multiple positions with second and third teams. Role still TBD.
WR Jerome Simpson: Great speed. Gets open a lot. Love him on comeback routes. Good after the catch.
S Harrison Smith: Opened camp with the second team, but has begun to take some reps with first team. Looks the part. Plays bigger than listed.
Tags: Audie Cole, Bobby Felder, Brian Robison, Christian Ballard, Everson Griffen, Geoff Schwartz, Harrison Smith, Jerome Felton, Jerome Simpson, Letroy Guion, Mistral Raymond, Robert Blanton, Trevor Guyton, Tyrone McKenzie
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 22 Comments »
We’re in the middle of about the only slow time in the NFL news cycle. So what better to do than take an inventory of what the Vikings have on their roster with training camp just weeks away.
Let’s begin with the wide receivers, where the Vikings currently have 12 on the roster…
The wide receiver position is high profile as it is, but add in a mix of A) desire for improvement from last year’s performance, B) a flashy free agent acquisition and C) a mix of veterans and youngsters battling for roster spots, and you can be sure the Vikings wide receiver situation will be one to watch.
Percy Harvin is the cream of the crop, and after him the Vikings have worked hard this offseason to improve the position, most notably by adding veteran Jerome Simpson in free agency and then drafting a pair of receivers in the 4th round (Greg Childs, Jarius Wright).
Keep in mind, Simpson won’t count against the Vikings roster limit to begin the season because of a three-game suspension, so that opens up another spot for competition among a group of several players that is comprised of both veterans and youngsters. Veterans Devin Aromashodu and Michael Jenkins will rely upon their one year of experience in Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave’s scheme to try and ward off the young receivers the Vikings have in the fold. Jenkins was ‘ol reliable last season before getting hurt, and WRs coach George Stewart loves having him around because he’s a good influence on a young position group. Aromashodu showed flashes of playmaking ability last season, most notably his diving TD grab at Kansas City. Another veteran added to the mix is Bryan Walters, who looked good during the Vikings offseason program and is a sleeper in the punt returner competition.
The youngsters on the roster are highlighted by Childs and Wright, but also include a seventh-round choice from last year – Stephen Burton. He’s continually progressed since being drafted by the Vikings and took another step forward this offseason. The remaining receivers on the roster who will compete for spots are:
– Manny Arceneaux – Acquired by Vikings in January of 2011 after two standout seasons in the CFL…took a step forward this offseason with his work in Organized Team Activities and minicamp.
— Kamar Jorden – Bowling Green product who plays bigger than his listed height of 6-2…definitely not a throw-away player.
— A.J. Love – Acquired late in the offseason program and will need to watch more in training camp to get an opinion.
— Kerry Taylor – Injured his hand during the offseason program, so another who will merit a longer look in training camp. Quicker than fast, possible option in return game.
Tags: A.J. Love, Bryan Walters, Devin Aromashodu, Greg Childs, Jarius Wright, Jerome Simpson, Kamar Jorden, Kerry Taylor, Manny Arceneaux, Michael Jenkins, Percy Harvin, Roster Rundown, Stephen Burton
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 121 Comments »
The Vikings have enjoyed a wonderful community partnership with Special Olympics Minnesota (SOM) for many years. At this year’s SOM Summer Games, SOM recognized this partnership during its “Champions” Luncheon.
Dave Dorn, president of SOM, presented Vikings Executive Director of Community Relations Brad Madson with the “Champions” award.
“There is a unique bond between the Special Olympic athletes and our players,” stated Madson, who has worked with SOM for 15 years. “I’ve witnessed it firsthand. Sure the athletes enjoy interacting with our players, but our players not only relate to the athletes as competitors, but are also inspired through the sheer joy and determination the athletes demonstrate.”
After acknowledging the athletes, Madson saluted all of the 300 plus volunteers in attendance.
“Seeing an athlete light up when you place their medal around their neck provides all of the volunteers with such a warm feeling,” Madson said, “…and to cheer on an athlete striving to finish a race in such warm conditions, well, there isn’t a more rewarding experience and I thank you all for supporting such a terrific cause.”
A strong contingent of Vikings personnel attended the festivities, including: Lester Bagley, vice president of public affairs; Vikings legends Chuck Foreman, Everett Lindsay and John Turner; and current players Jerome Simpson and Blair Walsh.
Simpson and Walsh are no strangers to SOM, having been two of the “coaches” at the Vikings/SOM Punt, Pass and Kick clinic held on June 6 after one of the team’s offseason practices. This past winter, QB Christian Ponder participated in the SOM Polar Bear Plunge at Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis.
Also recognized as “Champions” at the luncheon were Fox 9 News and Vice President/General Manager Carol Rueppel as well as SOM athlete Danielle Liebl.
If you would like to volunteer or learn more about Special Olympics Minnesota, visit specialolympicsminnesota.org
Tags: Blair Walsh, Jerome Simpson
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | No Comments »
Another productive and successful week of Organized Team Activities is in the books, as the Vikings conducted OTA #6 on Thursday at Winter Park. The Vikings are now 60% of the way through their OTA schedule and have completed seven weeks of their nine-week offseason program.
A lot happened this week during OTAs, including: Both LB Chad Greenway and WR Percy Harvin rejoining the team on Tuesday; QB Christian Ponder and WR Jerome Simpson stealing the show on Wednesday; several Vikings players and coaches helping out at a Special Olympics Minnesota Punt, Pass and Kick clinic; WRs coach George Stewart answering questions in this week’s Pick 6; and WR Jerome Simpson appearing in this week’s Wobcast.
In such a jam-packed week, it’s easy for a few important topics to slip through the cracks. To prevent that from happening, let’s empty out the notebook from this week.
Win with Winfield
Injuries held CB Antoine Winfield to just 5 games in 2011, and the crafty veteran is entering his 14th season. But don’t expect his play to decline. In fact, as Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier explained earlier in the week, Winfield will be relied up for both leadership and playmaking ability this year.
“The fact that he’s here and participating in all of these OTAs, I told him the other day that I don’t take that for granted,” Frazier said, “and really appreciate him being here because he provides veteran leadership for some of the new faces that we have in the secondary and he’s a great player. We need his leadership, we need his playmaking ability on the football field and he’s played a number of years in this League but we don’t think his best football is behind him.”
Who will be the RB3?
The Vikings have as good a 1-2 punch at RB that you could ask for in Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart. Both are coming back from injury, however, which makes the team’s quest for a third RB important.
“That number three back for us really needs to be a guy who can step in and play in early downs, not just in third-down situations, which is more the norm for most third-down backs,” Frazier said. “There are guys who are more specialty types, and for us he needs to be a guy who can carry the ball as well as catch the ball out of the backfield. We are looking for a little bit more out of the third back this season.”
After Peterson and Gerhart, the Vikings have four RBs listed: Derrick Coleman, Jerome Felton, Lex Hilliard and Jordan Todman.
Sully takes charge
One of the best draft picks the Vikings have had since Rick Spielman joined the club is C John Sullivan. The Vikings selected Sullivan in the 6th round in 2008, and initially he studied behind veteran Matt Birk while also playing special teams. In 2009, Sullivan was the starter and snapped to future Hall of Famer Brett Favre. Those two seasons were key for Sullivan in terms of learning how to operate as an NFL center and as a leader.
Now, those two years are paying off both for Sullivan and the team. Sullivan is a leader on the offensive line, and he’s also taking on more of a leadership role with the whole team, according to Frazier.
“John is a guy we’re really counting on from a leadership standpoint,” Frazier said. “He was rewarded, as you know, this past season with a good contract and because of how he has matured on the football field, he’s really come along and he’s begun to accept that role as a leader.”
Frazier is right – it’s clear that Sullivan has taken a leadership role with the club. Every team has high draft picks who end up being impact players, but just as important as those players are the John Sullivans of the world. The Vikings are lucky to have Sullivan.
Another late-round gem?
Sullivan is one example of a late-round pick making a big difference on the team. Is Stephen Burton an example in the making? We don’t know yet. The former 7th-rounder out of West Texas A&M has flashed quite a bit during OTAs and he’s even caught the eye of Frazier.
“You can see the confidence and that’s a big thing for a receiver, big thing for any young player,” Frazier said. “He has tremendous athletic ability and he is one of those guys who can jump out of the gym and make the acrobatic catch, but his confidence, that’s the one thing that you can see is coming through now.”
Burton, who played in 3 games as a rookie last year, measures in at 6-1, 224 pounds and could also be a contributor on special teams, perhaps as a returner.
“The good thing for Stephen is that he was able to get some reps in ball games a year ago when I know he wasn’t expecting that early on and neither were we,” Frazier explained. “That helped him because he has a lot more confidence at this stage than when we had him in training camp.”
Burton has clearly taken a step forward in 2012, and I’m looking forward to watching him compete during the summer and into the preseason. The Vikings currently have 12 receivers on the roster.
Tags: Antoine Winfield, Chad Greenway, Christian Ponder, George Stewart, Jerome Simpson, John Sullivan, Leslie Frazier, OTAs, Percy Harvin, Stephen Burton
Posted in All | 374 Comments »
Wednesday was a good day of work for the Vikings as they continued their series of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) on the outdoor practice fields at Winter Park. The team worked in ideal conditions for a second consecutive day, and this time the approximately 90-minute practice was conducted in front of a full contingent of media.
Following practice, several Vikings players and Head Coach Leslie Frazier took part in a Special Olympics Minnesota Punt, Pass & Kick clinic.
“We tried to put our guys through the paces today and hit a few different situations,” Frazier said. “It’s so good to be able to come out here and practice and you plan things, and now you get to see it (the plan) come to fruition. It’s good for our football team, the attitude has been great and when you have guys on our team working as hard as they’re working, and then to take time out and go and do what they did after practice to help other people, it just shows you the type of integrity and character you try to develop on a team.”
There were a lot of good things happening on the field both offensively and defensively on Wednesday, but there’s no doubt that QB Christian Ponder and WR Jerome Simpson stole the show about half-way through practice during a team offense vs. team defense period. Ponder dropped back and launched a pass deep down the right sideline, and Simpson used his speed to track the ball and make an acrobatic leaping catch over a defender before falling to the ground and securing the ball for a completion.
“That’s what he’s been doing for five practices,” Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph said after Wednesday’s workout.
Said Frazier: “Whoa, what a catch. We’ll be looking forward to seeing that on Sundays! I mean, all of his teammates were going, ‘Wow, now I understand why he’s here.’ So that was impressive.”
The connection with Simpson was Ponder’s best completion of the day, but he also made impressive throws to WRs Stephen Burton and Jarius Wright. The completion to Wright came on a deep out route along the right sideline, and the completion to Burton came on a slant pattern across the middle of the field with Ponder placing the football where only Burton had a chance to catch it, and Burton fully extending to dive and make the catch.
The Vikings concluded practice with a competitive period in which the team worked in a backed up situation (offense on their own 2-yardline) and in the no-huddle.
“So far, we’re making some progress, but we still have a long ways to go to come together as a team,” Frazier said. “That’s why we have these OTAs and that’s why we’ll have minicamp and the preseason as well. We’re making progress, but we definitely have a ways to go.”
Tags: Christian Ponder, Jarius Wright, Jerome Simpson, Leslie Frazier, OTAs, Stephen Burton
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 135 Comments »
The Vikings have completed their first three days of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) as they march through the offseason program in preparation for the 2012 season. It was a busy, productive and positive week overall for the team, as they put in great work on the field and closed the week with their annual playground build at a local school in Minneapolis.
In case you missed our wall-to-wall coverage of OTAs this week, here are a bunch of quick-hitters and links to get you caught up…
– Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin raced up a hill a bunch of times and we have video of it.
– WR Jerome Simpson told us he loves his new team, his new QB and his new position coach.
– RB Toby Gerhart, the guest on this week’s Wobcast, comes from an athletic family and is good-to-go for the 2012 season.
– We talked about CB Antoine Winfield a lot in this week’s Pick 6 (video mailbag feature).
– And in this blog entry about OTA #1.
– The week concluded with a cool annual community event that makes a direct and profound impact.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Christian Ponder, Jerome Simpson, OTAs, Toby Gerhart
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 18 Comments »