The Vikings opened their mandatory minicamp on Tuesday at Winter Park, but conditions during their afternoon practice made it feel like training camp down in Mankato. The temperature was around 90 degrees and the humidity felt like it was at 90%, and when you add in winds that were gusting up to 15-20 mph with no cloud cover, it was a hot mess on the outdoor practice fields.
But the Vikings worked well in the conditions, completing a sharp practice and moving one step closer to the end of their offseason program. The Vikings have two days and two practices remaining in their offseason program, and will go through the same schedule on Wednesday that they went through on Tuesday.
Before we get to what will happen today, let’s go over a few quick notes and observations from Tuesday’s practice…
– Jasper Brinkley was not able to practice, a notable development because he sat out a bit last week in the hopes of being ready to go for this week’s minicamp. Slated to be a first-year starter at middle LB, Brinkley is itching to get back out on the field and the Vikings are surely anxious to get a look at him. Hopefully he’ll be back on the field today. Tyrone McKenzie filled in for Brinkley on the team’s base defense.
– Speaking of the Vikings LBs, it was great to see Chad Greenway back with the team and on the field. Fellow outside LB Erin Henderson also looked good, and will be the guest on this week’s Wobcast, which will be posted on vikings.com and available on iTunes later today.
– Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier brought some calm to a situation regarding WR Percy Harvin, who made comments early on Tuesday indicating he wasn’t happy with the team. “It’s not something that can’t be handled and not something we can’t talk through,” Frazier said. “Not alarmed. Not alarmed at all.”He went on to say: “I really feel like when he and I sit down and talk in depth, whatever is in his heart or on his mind, we’ll get through it.”
– Contact is still prohibited and the team does not practice in pads, so it’s hard to get an accurate gauge on many areas of the team, especially the defensive and offensive lines. With that being said, LT Matt Kalil has had a good offseason program and there was a moment in practice that really stood out to me. We often think of LTs as pillars of the offense who remain stationary and secure the QBs blindside against edge-rushing defenders. But I’ve seen great movement skills from Kalil, including a play on Tuesday where Kalil moved quickly to the second level and covered up a LB who was in great position to make a play.
– Antoine Winfield grabbed an INT during a team offense vs. team defense period of practice. Winfield was playing out of the slot and was sitting in what appeared to be a zone in the middle of the field. A pass was lofted his way, and Winfield quickly jumped in front of a route and grabbed the pass. Winfield was one of the most impressive players early during OTAs, and seeing him make plays like the one he made on Tuesday is a great site after he played in just 5 games last season. Great to have him back on the field; he’ll make a big difference for the Vikings defense in 2012.
– The highlight of the day for the Vikings offense came near the end of practice during a two-minute/hurry-up period. QB Christian Ponder, who appeared to have a sharp practice and did a nice job of driving the offense down the field, threaded the needle on a pass to TE John Carlson. The Ponder-to-Carlson connection occurred right on the goal line, as Ponder rifled a pass to Carlson in between both Greenway and Henderson. Carlson, a mild-mannered and soft-spoken guy around the locker room, came down with the pass in the end zone and gave an emphatic dunk of the ball over the crossbar.
– Adrian Peterson spent time during practice working with certified head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman on the side. You’ve probably seen the photos of him already, but if you haven’t you need to check them out. As I wrote earlier, it’s easy to believe in Peterson, and he remains confident he can be ready to play in the Vikings season opener. In comments on Tuesday morning, Frazier also remained optimistic in Peterson’s chances, saying the RB has remained on pace during his rehab. Whether Peterson will be ready for Week 1 or not remains to be seen, but it’s great to see him working so hard on the side during practice.
– Rookie CB Josh Robinson, who was originally issue jersey #31, has switched to jersey #21.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Chad Greenway, Christian Ponder, Jasper Brinkley, John Carlson, Josh Robinson, Leslie Frazier, Matt Kalil, Minicamp, Percy Harvin
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 74 Comments »
The addition of John Carlson hasn’t been the kind of flashy move that inspires fans on the second day of free agency, but it is an acquisition that improves the Vikings offense and is the latest sign that the team is looking to add young, talented pieces to the offensive puzzle around QB Christian Ponder.
The Vikings entered the offseason with significant needs at both DB and WR as well as along the OL, and those needs remain. But with Jim Kleinsasser retiring and Visanthe Shiancoe on the free agent market, TE was also a need for the Vikings. It’s less of a need now, with Carlson improving the depth chart and serving as a nice bookend to fellow Notre Dame alum Kyle Rudolph.
Speaking of the depth chart, the Vikings still have some work to do at TE. Rudolph is not on the team because of his blocking ability, and Carlson will not make anyone forget about Kleinsasser’s game-changing run-blocking skills. The Vikings will likely search for a burly, hard-nosed TE with a late-round draft choice in April or in undrafted free agency.
As for Carlson and Rudolph, you can bet the Vikings will put both of them to good use in 2012 and beyond. Dual-TE sets are trending upward in the NFL, with New England being the trend-setter after TEs Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez gave opposing defenses headaches all season. While Carlson and Rudolph won’t make that duo blush quite yet, it’s clear Rudolph has the ability to be a top-flight NFL TE and Carlson is already an established pass-catcher at this level after setting Seattle single-season franchise records for receiving yards and receiving TDs by a TE.
On top of having the personnel, the Vikings also have the philosophy to join the dual-TE trend. In his first season as the Vikings offensive coordinator, Bill Musgrave was not averse to using multiple-TE formations, as the Vikings ranked tied for 8th in 2-TE sets and 7th in 3-TE sets. I’d expect those numbers to remain the same in 2012 at minimum, but most likely increase. Also keep in mind that quality, reliable pass-catching TEs are a nice security blanket for young, inexperienced QBs.
All-in-all, the addition of Carlson won’t send the Vikings to the Super Bowl next season. No free-agent signing does that. But it does address a team need and it fits the theme of getting younger and putting quality pieces around the young QB.
Tags: Bill Musgrave, Christian Ponder, John Carlson, Kyle Rudolph
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 148 Comments »