QB Roundup After Preseason Debut

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 14, 2011 – 8:19 am

Preseason game #1 is in the books and we’re now one step closer to the regular season. The natural tendency is to draw wide-sweeping conclusions after the first preseason game, but we must remember that Saturday night’s tilt against the Titans was just another small step in the process of preparing for the season.

With that said, let’s take a look at how the Vikings QBs fared on Saturday night…

Donovan McNabb – For your starting QB, the first preseason game is more about eliminating mental mistakes and perfecting fundamentals than it is about scoring points and accumulating statistics. To that end, McNabb was just fine on Saturday night. He was 6 of 11 for 40 yards with no TDs and no INTs. McNabb completed his first three passes and four of his first five attempts. On his first offensive series, McNabb converted two third-down passes and drove the Vikings offense from their own 7-yardline out to the 40.

McNabb came out for a second series and immediately hit WR Bernard Berrian on a quick slant. Then he lofted a touch pass to WR Greg Camarillo on 3rd and 3 to keep the drive going. Eventually the drive stalled and the Vikings had to punt from their own 46.

In the end, I came away encouraged with what I saw from McNabb and the first-team offense. Two of McNabb’s incompletions could’ve been caught, none of his passes were near-INTs and he used his athleticism to get out of the pocket to buy time. These are all good signs in the first preseason game.

Joe Webb – The team’s backup QB entering training camp, Webb has done nothing to lose his status as the #2 in camp and he didn’t lose any ground on Saturday night, either. I would characterize McNabb’s night as a positive and Webb’s as a mixed bag. Too often Webb is quick to pull the ball down, escape the pocket and start running downfield. Now, this is a good tool for a QB to possess, but you also want your QB to be willing to stay in the pocket, find the open receiver and deliver the pass in the face of pressure. We haven’t seen Webb do that yet. On top of that, he did throw an INT on his second series.

In the end, Webb finished going 3 of 5 for 36 yards 4 of 8 for 45 yards with no TDs and the INT; he also had 5 carries for 33 yards. There is no questioning Webb’s athletic ability, arm strength and overall look at the QB position. But he does need to become more polished. At this point in his career and at this point in the season, though, that’s about what you expect. He has the potential to play QB at this level.

Christian Ponder – The longer Ponder stayed in the game, the better I thought he looked. As has been the case with Ponder since he was selected 12th overall by the Vikings last April, nothing seemed too big for him on Saturday night and he never showed signs of being overwhelmed. No, he didn’t lead the Vikings offense to points. But also keep in mind that the Vikings went for it on two separate 4th downs when they were deep in Titans territory.

Ponder entered the game midway through the 3rd quarter and hit fellow rookie Kyle Rudolph for a 10-yard completion on his first play. An incompletion, 5-yard run and sack in subsequent plays forced the Vikings to punt. On his next series, Ponder had another 10-yard completion, another sack, a 17-yard completion that was negated by penalty and then an incompletion, all leading to another punt.

Ponder’s third series was fun to watch. He hit TE Allen Reisner for 16 yards on 2nd and 8, then completed a 26-yard strike to WR Juaquin Iglesias that got the Vikings near the red zone. But Ponder and Co. couldn’t muster much after that and eventually they turned the ball over on downs on 4th and 2 from the Titans 14. On his final series, Ponder went 2 of 3 before taking a sack on 4th and 2 from the Tennessee 16.

In total, Ponder finished going 8 of 13 for 84 yards with no TDs, no INTs and 3 sacks.

Overall, I was encouraged by most of what I saw from the Vikings QBs on Saturday night. Yes, it would’ve been nice to see more points on the board. But given the wide spectrum of results you can see during a preseason game, what we saw on Saturday night was right about in the middle. And it looks to be going in the right direction.

I thought McNabb gave a pretty good assessment of his play during a sideline interview on Saturday night. As it turns out, McNabb’s comments were actually a good assessment of how all the QBs performed in preseason game #1. Here’s what he said…

“Well, obviously there are some things we’d like to have back. I think it was a good overall start. We had a lot of rhythm going on and our chemistry was definitely there. Obviously something we can feed off of going into game number two. But overall just kind of stepping back right now before watching film, you’ve got to be pleased by the enthusiasm of the guys, the execution of the plays, getting in and out of the huddle and then starting the tempo that we needed.”

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Vikings Lose Preseason Opener To Titans

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 13, 2011 – 9:49 pm

The Vikings dropped a 14-3 decision to the Tennessee Titans on Saturday Night at LP Field in Nashville. The game represented each club’s preseason opener and each club surely came away knowing there is still plenty of work to be done before the regular season begins on September 11.

Both teams gave their starters the quick hook, so as to minimize their exposure to injury. That combined with the fact that offenses are even more behind pace than usual because of the lockout – which cancelled all offseason work – didn’t give fans a good look at what their club will look like in 2011.

Both the Vikings and Titans are featuring new, veteran starting QBs and both guys didn’t see much action. For the Vikings, Donovan McNabb went 6 of 11 for 40 yards with no TDs or INTs. He actually looked fairly sharp, converting a couple of 1st downs and using his athleticism to evade the pass rush a couple of times. One 1st-down completion was to WR Percy Harvin, a connection Vikings fans are itching to see more of once the season begins.

Matt Hasselbeck is the Titans new passer and he wasn’t any more sensational in his debut performance. Hasselbeck was 5 of 6 on the night for 55 yards with no TDs or INTs. Actually, the Titans relied on their running game for the most part in the first half. RB Jamie Harper had 8 carries for 27 yards and even found the endzone once.

Both of Tennessee’s TDs came in the 2nd quarter. Rookie QB Jake Locker entered the game once Hasselbeck left and he connected with Yamon Figurs for a 45-yard scoring toss on what turned out to be a near-botched play. Locker fumbled the snap, chased the ball down, picked it up and connected with Figurs, who had run behind the Vikings secondary when CB Chris Cook hesitated at the sight of the fumble. Tennessee’s second TD came on Harper’s two-yard run just moments later.

The Vikings finally got on the board in the 3rd quarter when Ryan Longwell was true on a 37-yard FG that capped an 11-play, 59-yard drive led by Joe Webb. Speaking of Webb, he came in once Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier decided to pull McNabb. Webb, who was quick to pull the ball down and vacate the pocket, was 4 of 8 for 45 yards with no TDs and 1 INT. But he did look good when running with the ball and he finished the night with 33 rushing yards on 5 carries.

Ponder was the third Vikings QB to enter and he flashed plenty of potential. While he wasn’t able to lead the offense to any points, the Vikings did go for it twice on 4th down when they were in FG range. Also, Ponder had two completions of 10 yards – including his first throw of the night, which was to fellow rookie Kyle Rudolph – and he also had another 16-yard completion. It was encouraging to see Ponder running around and making plays, especially with some of the plays coming downfield.

Defensively, it was new starting outside LB Erin Henderson who led the way. He had 10 tackles, which was far and away the team high. His older brother, E.J. Henderson, was tied with three others for second on the team in tackles with 3. E.J. Henderson also had a forced fumble.

There’s much more to go over from Saturday night’s game, including: a solid performance overall by the Vikings special teams group, RB Lorenzo Booker showing up in the box score, Jaymar Johnson taking a step forward and a couple of rookies showing up to make plays.

We’ll cover all of that and more right here on the over the next 24 hours, so stay tuned.

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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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Vikings Offense Progressing; Morning Pracitce Notes

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 10, 2011 – 12:04 pm

It’s natural for offenses to come along slower than defenses in training camp and the preseason, largely because offenses rely on rhythm and timing. Add in the fact that the lockout took away minicamps and OTAs, and offenses are at an even greater disadvantage.

The Vikings are certainly no exception to that rule, especially with two new QBs and a bunch of new WRs added to the mix since the end of the 2010 season. Individual players have performed well quite often at 2011 Verizon Vikings Training Camp, but as a group there is still plenty of progress to be made.

The good news is that progress is being made and Vikings coaches are pleased with the way the team is working. Things are going in the right direction.

“I think the guys are getting better each day,” offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said on Tuesday. “They’re starting to absorb the concepts and the techniques that we’re teaching. We haven’t had a lot of time and we’ve acknowledged that, but they’ve done a superb job of getting better every day, focusing on an area of improvement every day rather just going out there and mindlessly working through practice.”

Musgrave credited head coach Leslie Frazier for the way he’s organized this training camp, especially in light of the unusual CBA-related circumstances that surrounded the beginning of camp.

“The practices are structured where we are covering each and every situation,” Musgrave explained. “The players feel prepared, we feel prepared as coaches, we’re just scratching the surface of in terms of having enough turns at our plays where we’re real precise and good at them.”

The next big step in the offense’s progression will come on Saturday night when the Vikings play at the Tennessee Titans for the preseason opener. It wouldn’t be fair to expect a crisp, mistake-free performance by the offense. But it’s certainly fair to expect the offense to continue its progression and the bottom line is the offense must be “all systems go” by the time the regular season rolls around.

Musgrave certainly understands that.

“We’re not anywhere close to where we need to be in terms of the precision of the passing game,” Musgrave said. “I think guys know what they’re doing, but in terms of having the number of turns it takes to be good at it, we’re not there. But fortunately we’ll have until September 11 to get good at those things.”

The current status of the Vikings offense is nothing about which to be alarmed. In fact, Vikings fans should take solace in the fact that they’ll have a 13-year veteran QB in Donovan McNabb at the helm and there will be plenty of talent around McNabb to get the offense firing on all cylinders.

Here are a few notes from Wednesday morning’s practice…

– The Vikings worked for over two hours in ideal weather conditions. The heat has been dialed back several notches, the sun is shining and the blustery winds from Tuesday have vanished. Frazier had his team in shorts, shoulder pads/jerseys and helmets for the workout.

– Another outstanding crowd packed the bleachers and standing-room only sections of 2011 Verizon Vikings Training Camp. I know I’ve mentioned this countless times during camp, but I can’t say enough about how great Vikings fans have been to the team over the last 10 days. All the practices are well-attended, the Northland Ford Dealers Autograph Zone is constantly buzzing, Vikings Village is rocking and the support from the local Mankato community has been terrific.

– The Vikings have practiced “the little things” a lot during this camp. It might sound like a foregone conclusion that this is the case, but sometimes it’s easy to forget how important some facets of the game can be, even though we only see them on occasion. For example, I saw special teams coordinator Mike Priefer working with his group on Tuesday in the back of the endzone. They were practicing punting while backed up and they also worked on situations where the team would intentionally take a safety (winning by six points, backed up on your own 1-yardline with less than a minute to go). Other “little things” I’ve seen the Vikings working on recently: Hail Mary, rushing onto the field to kick a FG with time running out, onside kick, punt after safety and diving to save a touchback on a punt.

– S Husain Abdullah was absent from practice on Wednesday as he attends the annual Iftar Dinner at the White House on Wednesday night, celebrating the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Rookie S Mistral Raymond got most of the work with the first-team, which is an interesting development. 

– LB Jasper Brinkley has been working mostly with the second-team defense, but he’s a candidate to earn a job with the first-team if he can outperform Erin Henderson during camp and the preseason. Right now Henderson is the favorite to fill the role vacated by Ben Leber’s departure, but Brinkley has been good in camp and he helped himself today by intercepting a pass during 7-on-7 drills.

– The offense bounced back immediately after Brinkley’s INT, though. Ponder zipped a pass in to WR Greg Camarillo on the next play for what would’ve been a large gain down the left seam. On the last play of 7-on-7, Ponder and Camarillo connected again, this time on the right side of the field.

– There were three great catches that I noticed during the team’s two-minute drill part of practice. The first one was an all-hands catch by TE Kyle Rudolph. He had a defender draped all over him and the pass was thrown perfectly by Joe Webb to his outside shoulder. Rudolph lunged for the ball, got his hands underneath it and hauled in the catch while maintaining possession all the way through the play. The second great catch was by WR Devin Aromashodu down the sideline. He was led perfectly by Ponder and also got two feet in bounds before crossing the boundary. The third catch was on a pass from Webb to WR Manny Arceneaux down the right side that put the offense in FG range with less than a minute to play.

– Passing the eye test today: WR Devin Aromashodu, QB Christian Ponder, S Mistral Raymond and TE Kyle Rudolph.

– A group of political leaders from Ramsey County was at practice and both Vikings Owner/Chairman Zygi Wilf and VP of Public Affairs/Stadium Development Lester Bagley spoke with reporters after practice.

– The defensive line signed autographs in the Northland Ford Dealers Autograph Zone.

– The Vikings have a one-hour walk-through Wednesday afternoon beginning at 3:00 p.m.

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Vikings Get Back To Work On Monday Morning

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 8, 2011 – 12:52 pm

The Vikings stayed away from the practice fields on Sunday after a solid practice on Saturday night inside Blakeslee Stadium and in front of a packed house. But on Monday head coach Leslie Frazier and Co. were back at it and the team picked up the intensity level quickly.

“We had a good, spirited practice out there this morning,” Frazier said. “After having a day off on Sunday and just getting a chance to have a good [practice] on Saturday, early on I was a little concerned about where their minds would be after having some time off. But they jumped right into it. It was a good practice for us and I don’t think we wasted any time out there. Hopefully we will build on that in our first week of preparation of a preseason game.”

The Vikings continue to benefit from outstanding weather here in Mankato. There have been some pretty hot and humid days, but the last three or four days have seen mild temperatures, plenty of cloud cover and only a slight breeze. Monday morning was perfect and a full crowd was on-hand to enjoy it. The team worked out in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets and then RBs signed autographs after practice in the Northland Ford Dealers Autograph Zone, probably a big reason why the crowd was so large.

Infirmary Report
This has been an incredibly smooth camp for the Vikings in many different ways, one of which has been injuries. But it’s time to knock on wood. The Vikings had several players sitting out on Monday, which shouldn’t be entirely surprising after a week of camp. TE Visanthe Shiancoe came up a little lame and Frazier said he may have tweaked his hamstring. S Tyrell Johnson did not practice today, also because of a hamstring issue. DE Adrian Awasom (illness) didn’t practice, WR Percy Harvin was limited (winded), RG Anthony Herrera continues to sit out of practice as he has all of camp and LG Steve Hutchinson (shoulder) was also limited.

Play of the Day
The best play of the morning practice came during a full team portion of practice. QB Joe Webb scrambled out of the pocket to his left to avoid the pass rush and bought enough time for WR Manny Arceneaux to sprint away from the defense and get open downfield. Webb threw the ball with enough power to hit Arceneaux in stride down the left sideline for what would’ve been a very long TD, right in front of the packed bleachers at Field #1.

Frazier on CBs Cook, Griffin
A position to watch during camp and the preseason is CB, where Antoine Winfield is the only sure thing right now. I think Cedric Griffin has looked outstanding all of camp, but he is coming back from two consecutive major knee injuries. Chris Cook is another who is coming back from injury but has definitely looked good during camp.

Frazier was asked about both guys during his Monday morning press conference. Here’s what he had to say…
– On Cedric Griffin coming back from injury: “What he is doing right now is exceptional, the fact that he’s out there participating in practice, preparing to play in the NFL again, having a second ACL injury, two within an eighteen-month period. That’s hard to put your mind around that you can come back and be practicing at the level at the level he’s practiced at; [it's] a testament to  who Cedric is and how hard he works and how great of an attitude and approach he has on life.”
– On Chris Cook potentially emerging as the 3rd CB: We still have quite a bit more football to go here, so we have to take a look at him and Ash (Asher Allen) and those guys and just see who rises to the top. What he’s doing in practice, it really gives you some hope that he’s on course, but we have a lot more to go before we get to San Diego.”

The Eye Test
To be honest I didn’t think as many guys stood out Monday morning as we’ve seen in the past. That could be construed two different ways: either not many are playing well enough to standout, or lots of players are playing well enough to standout but since so many are playing that way none of them actually standout. Anyway, there were four players who looked better than everyone else today; they were: DE Jared Allen (having maybe the best camp of any Vikings player), LB E.J. Henderson (looks better than he’s looked in years), P Chris Kluwe (played very well on Saturday night) and DE D’Aundre Reed.

Reed is a repeat mention in my eye test section of the practice notes and it sounds like he’s a name that’s brought up in coaches meetings as well. Here’s what Frazier had to say about Reed: “Yes, he’s a guy we’re going to keep an eye on and looking forward to seeing how he performs in some of these preseason games. In practice, he’s flashing. We were talking about him in our staff meetings last night so we’re anxious to see how he does against some new competition (in the preseason games).

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Musgrave Says Team Will Tailor Offense To Fit Players

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 3, 2011 – 1:29 pm

So often in the NFL we hear about teams acquiring players because they fit the defensive scheme or the offensive system. While that strategy certainly works in many places, it sounds like the Vikings will take the opposite approach when it comes to collecting offensive talent.

“We like to tailor make or customize our system to fit our players,” offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said, “so it’s not a system where we’re going to sit here and say Donovan didn’t fit or another player didn’t fit into our system. We’re going to customize it to really play to their strengths and I think you do that not only with the veteran guys, but also with the young guys, whether it be Christian (Ponder) or Donovan. We want to identify their traits that can help us win and then play to their strengths.”

There are two players who come to my mind when reading that quote from Musgrave – WR Percy Harvin and QB Joe Webb. Harvin is one of the best play-makers in the NFL and is coming off of two consecutive impressive seasons to open his career. He’ll be a focal point in Musgrave’s offense.

“I think we do,” Musgrave responded when asked if the team sees a go-to guy in the WR corps. “But again, that would mean we would need to tailor our offense around his (Harvin’s) strengths. He is not a big 6-1, 6-2 or 6-4 Randy Moss-type that’s going to win outside versus a corner all day long. We’re going to do a good job with Percy by moving him around, making defenses have a tough time identifying what his role is on that specific concept and then simply get the ball in his hands.

“The key is getting him his touches to let him do his thing.”

As for Webb, we’ve already explained that a new roster rule could allow the Vikings to utilize Webb’s talents on the field more often going forward. Judging by what Musgrave said on Wednesday, that’s precisely the plan.

“He is doing a nice job at quarterback now,” Musgrave explained. “We want him to focus on quarterback and not dilute his pot too much, but we know he can run, we know he can throw it eighty yards and we know he can make people miss. The new rules will enable us to kind of have a Joe Webb package that I can see in the future, too.

“If he proves to be one of our eleven best (offensive players) at times then we’ll get him on the field.”

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New NFL QB Rule Could Mean More Action For Joe Webb

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 30, 2011 – 9:49 am

With all of the Collective Bargaining Agreement news this offseason, it was easy to forget a few of the rules changes that took place in the NFL. And with the arrival of two new QBs (Donovan McNabb and Christian Ponder) in Minnesota, it was easy to forget about Joe Webb.

But these two issues are going to be important for the Vikings and Vikings fans this season.

Under old rules, NFL teams were allowed to have 45 players on their active game day roster. A 46th player was designated as the emergency or 3rd QB. If the emergency QB entered the game before the 4th quarter, then the other two QBs were disqualified.

Under the new rules, NFL teams are allowed to have 46 players on their active game day roster. In addition, the emergency QB rule is abolished, which means a team’s 3rd string QB can enter the game at any point without disqualifying the other two QBs.

This could be a big deal for the Vikings and perhaps for Webb. With McNabb now in the fold, the plan is for him to start and it’s possible that Ponder will perform well enough in training camp and the preseason to win the backup job. In this scenario, Webb would be the 3rd string QB. Under the old rules, Webb likely wouldn’t enter the game until the 4th quarter. But now, the Vikings offensive coaching staff can be creative in how they deploy Webb. He can line up at QB or WR, he can return kicks and he can run a Wildcat-type of package.

All of this is presuming quite a few things, from McNabb being named the starter and staying healthy to Ponder playing well enough to win the backup job. Remember, Webb enters training camp with a leg up on Ponder because of experience.

No matter how you slice it, though, the new QB rule is significant for the Vikings. And for the Vikings ability to get Webb and his athletic ability out on the field as often as possible.

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McNabb Acquisition The Best Of Both Worlds For Vikings

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 29, 2011 – 5:22 pm

The much-anticipated trade between the Vikings and Washington Redskins involving QB Donovan McNabb was finalized on Friday. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but the Vikings come away with a six-time Pro Bowler and a passer who is playoff tested (16 career playoff games) and eager to get back to the postseason.

This is the second time Vikings fans have welcomed a new QB to town this offseason; Christian Ponder was selected by the club in the first round (#12 overall) of last April’s NFL draft. In addition to McNabb and Ponder, Vikings fans are also anxious to see Joe Webb play, especially after he flashed some promise late in the 2010 season.

With a couple of young QBs already in the fold, some Vikings fans would prefer the team stick with the young guns in an attempt to develop a long-term plan. Yet others are enthusiastic about the prospects of landing McNabb because he gives the team a legitimate shot to reclaim division supremacy and make it back to the playoffs.

But I think both camps should feel satisfied. In the short-term, the Vikings are in it to win it. The roster has talented players in key spots – DE Jared Allen, WR Percy Harvin, RB Adrian Peterson, DT Kevin Williams and CB Antoine Winfield – and now another huge talent was added at perhaps the game’s most important position.

At the same time, can you think of another veteran QB who was readily available this offseason who would’ve been a better example for Ponder and Webb? There’s nothing wrong with a young QB sitting back for a bit and watching an experienced veteran work his craft. Assuming McNabb grabs a hold of the starting job, there will be no pressure on Ponder or Webb to step into the starting lineup on the road against San Diego in Week 1 and lead a talented roster full of Pro Bowlers back to the playoffs.

The acquisition of McNabb is a “best of both worlds” proposition for the Vikings. It gives them the experience and talent at the position to be a winner this year and it gives Ponder and Webb (and Rhett Bomar) a veteran influence in the meeting room, in the locker room and on the field.

What do you think of the move, Vikings fans?

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Shiancoe Excited For 2011 Season

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 25, 2011 – 3:59 pm

Count Vikings TE Visanthe Shiancoe as one who is excited that the NFL’s work stoppage is over and the season is about to begin.

“Been a long process but finally things are worked out…can’t wait to see the guys and get back to work,” Shiancoe said via text message.

Shiancoe stops to sign autographs for fans after an evening practice at Verizon Vikings Training Camp


Shiancoe will be entering his 5th season with the Vikings after signing a free agent contract with the team prior to the 2007 season. The 6-4, 250-pound TE struggled to fit in with the Vikings offense during his first season here, but since then Shiancoe has become an integral part of the passing game. His best season was in 2009 when he had 56 receptions for 566 yards and 11 TDs.

Watch for Shiancoe to have another big year in 2011. The Vikings drafted TE Kyle Rudolph in the 2nd round of last April’s draft, leaving open the possibility for two TE sets and also indicating that new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave values pass-catching TEs. Remember, Musgrave comes from the Atlanta Falcons, where young QB Matt Ryan had a nice safety net in TE Tony Gonzalez.

Speaking of young QBs, the Vikings have a pair of youngsters who will compete for the starting QB job in 2011. For those young QBs – Christian Ponder and Joe Webb – a productive, pass-catching TE is a great weapon.

“This is going to be an exciting year,” Shiancoe says.

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MN Native Chris Weinke Working With Ponder, Webb

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 23, 2011 – 8:57 am

Chris Weinke is a name with which Minnesota football fans are familiar. He never played a down for the Vikings or the Gophers, but the St. Paul native and Cretin-Derham Hall product was a standout prep athlete in Minnesota and eventually went on to play pro baseball and win a National Championship and Heisman Trophy as a QB at Florida State.

Now there’s another reason Vikings fans should pay attention to what Weinke’s doing – he’s working with Vikings QBs Christian Ponder and Joe Webb. The Star Tribune’s Chip Scoggins has a nice piece about Weinke working with the Vikings signal-callers and it should give fans some optimism about each players development.

Weinke recently became director of the IMG Madden Football Academy, located in Bradenton, Florida. As Scoggins notes, IMG is noted for its work with golf and tennis athletes but now, with Weinke in the fold, is taking on football prospects, too. One of Weinke’s clients is Cam Newton, who was taken 1st overall by the Carolina Panthers in April’s draft.

Last week Weinke began working privately with Webb and Scoggins reports that Ponder will join the action this week.

From Scoggins’ piece, it sounds like the work Weinke does with the QBs is legitimate stuff, from studying film to on-field workouts. And it’s not just mechanical studying, either. Weinke works at incorporating the specific offense each player will have to learn once the labor situation is resolved.

“We’re spending about 3 to 3 1/2 hours a day in the classroom installing his offense and watching video,” Weinke said in Scoggins’ piece. “We film everything, we video it, we analyze it. We come back in the afternoon and do some more installation and review some video. It’s really similar to what they would face if they went to a minicamp following the draft.

“I’ll do the same thing with him [as Newton],” Weinke said of working with the Vikings QBs. “There will be an installation of the offense, for him to get familiar with the verbiage and the concepts. We’ll take all that information and go to the field and apply all of that.”

Whether the work and preparation the Vikings QBs will go through with Weinke is as effective as it would be with actual Vikings coaches is unknown. But, even if it’s just a fraction of what they’d learn studying with Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and QBs coach Craig Johnson, the bottom line for me is both Ponder and Webb are learning how to study and prepare; and they’re learning it from a former pro QB who was known as a heady player and a good leader.

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