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3 Keys To Vikings Improvement Along Offensive Line

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 11, 2012 – 11:02 am

In taking a closer look at the Redskins running attack earlier on Thursday, we referenced the camaraderie generated from playing the same five starters in all five games as one factor that’s led to production. In taking a look at the Vikings offense through five games, Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier and QB Christian Ponder have similar sentiments about their front line.

“The offensive line is playing tremendously well,” Ponder said on Wednesday. “You can tell the chemistry they have and the amount of communication they have on the line. They’re doing such a great job and they’re really gelling together, not even just the pass protection, they’re opening up holes in the run game. They couldn’t be playing any better.”

Frazier mentioned communication as a key to the line’s play as well while speaking with reporters on Wednesday.

“I see them at practice, in between, talking to one another about how we have to combo block, what we have to do from a technique standpoint,” Frazier said. “It’s a good chemistry on our offensive line right now and it’s showing up on the field.”

This type of play from the offensive line is refreshing to the Vikings and to those who’ve followed the Vikings in recent seasons. Individuals have played well at various times, but it’s been a couple of seasons since the Vikings offensive line played this well collectively. There are likely several factors behind the improvement. Let’s take a look at three of them.

1. Coach Davidson
There’s no better place to start than with Vikings OL coach Jeff Davidson. This is his second year on the job, and the veteran coach with multiple Super Bowl rings and NFL playing experience to his credit is starting to see results. It’s often said that a head coach or even defensive/offensive coordinator needs time to incorporate his scheme. A new position coach faces a similar challenge working with his subset of players, and therefore it’s fair to grant that position coach time as well. Davidson has put plenty of time in, and it’s beginning to pay off.

2. Buying the right groceries
If Davidson is the chef concocting the recipe for success along the offensive line, Vikings GM Rick Spielman and his personnel staff are responsible for buying the groceries from which Davidson creates the recipe. You may hate the analogy, but the point remains that Spielman has punched the right buttons when it comes to personnel decisions along the offensive line.

John Sullivan, whom Spielman selected with a 6th-round pick in 2008, has turned into one of the best centers in the NFL. Phil Loadholt, a 2nd-round pick in 2009, has taken a big step forward in 2012 and is in a contract year. The Vikings saw something they liked in Brandon Fusco, a 6th-round pick in 2011, and their decision to award him a starting job after training camp has turned into the right one. And you can’t talk about draft picks along the offensive line without mentioning Matt Kalil, the Vikings 4th overall pick this past April. He’s dominated the opposition at LT so far this season and looks every bit the part of a 4th overall choice. The selection of Kalil allowed the Vikings to move Charlie Johnson, last year’s LT, to his more natural position – guard.

3. You win with players
It’s only fair to credit coaching and personnel decisions when credit is due, so the first two points remain applicable. But the bottom line is that players have to go out and do their jobs. And that is what’s happening for the Vikings along the offensive line, through the first five games. There’s a lot of season to play, and the players will be the first to admit there are improvements to be made, but so far their ability to communicate and play well together has made a big difference for the Vikings offense.

“I like how they’re working together collectively,” Frazier said. “That is what you need as a unit to be effective on an offensive line and those guys are helping one another. I can see Matt [Kalil] working with Charlie [Johnson] and Charlie helping him. Then I see what John [Sullivan] is doing with Brandon [Fusco],who’s a young guy who is early in his career and helping him. And then Phil [Loadholt] is much more consistent. So each guy playing a little bit better and what it has created is a solid offensive line.”


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Offensive Line Paved Path To Victory For Vikings Over 49ers

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 25, 2012 – 2:06 pm

Did the Vikings offensive line have their best performance of the season in Sunday’s win over the San Francisco 49ers? It sure looked like it, and Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier thought so, too.

“I think, collectively, yeah. And when you consider the front they were going up against, that’s a very good front,” Frazier said.

Frazier credited LG Charlie Johnson for a solid performance against 49ers All-Pro Justin Smith, and he also noted that Matt Kalil fared well against standout pass rusher Aldon Smith. Brandon Fusco and Phil Loadholt anchored down on the right  side of the offense, and the lynchpin of it all is C John Sullivan. Credit should also be given to the Vikings coaching staff, who used a creative blocking scheme at times to create opportunities for the offense. Loadholt shifted to the left side of the formation on at least one snap to give San Francisco a different look, and the club also found a way to get rookie Rhett Ellison in on the action.

“It was a good performance across the board,” Frazier said. “As a group, to rush for 146 yards on that defensive line or that defense, it’s pretty impressive.”

Having any success against the 49ers on the ground is impressive. Gaining 146 yards? Over the past two seasons, that’s nearly unheard of. San Francisco hadn’t allowed that many rushing yards since November of 2010, and the 344 total yards the Vikings amassed on Sunday is 5th best against the 49ers over their last 19 games. Also, the Vikings collected 25 1st downs – #1 against San Francisco over the last19 games – and they logged 33:28 in time of possession – #2 against the 49ers over that same span.

A few other notes on the offensive line’s performance against the very good 49ers defense:
– The 49ers have only been held without a sack one other time since the start of 2011 (19 games) – against Baltimore in 2011.
– The 49ers did not have an INT, and they’ve been held without an INT just four times in that same span.
– The 49ers have only been held without a SACK and INT one other time in that span – the Baltimore game in 2011.


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Vikings List 8 On Initial Injury Report, All Practice

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 12, 2012 – 2:56 pm

The Vikings listed 8 players on their initial Week 2 injury report, and all of them participated in practice on Wednesday.

Listed as full participants in practice are RB Adrian Peterson (knee) and CB Josh Robinson (hip). Those who were limited in practice were: CB Chris Cook (biceps), LB Marvin Mitchell (ankle), S Andrew Sendejo (ankle), C John Sullivan (ankle), WR Jarius Wright (ankle) and TE Rhett Ellison (ankle).

The Colts listed 6 players on their report. LB Pat Angerer (foot), LB Dwight Freeney (ankle), and G Joe Reitz (knee) did not participate in practice. OT Winston Justice (head) was limited and WR Austin Collie (head) and WR T.Y. Hilton (shoulder) were full participants.


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10 Vikings-Colts Storylines To Follow This Week

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 12, 2012 – 6:46 am

Wednesday is the day NFL teams flip their calendars from last week to the upcoming week, as review of the recent game has concluded and on-field preparations for the next opponent begins. Vikings players will return to Winter Park on Wednesday to begin digesting the game plan Vikings coaches have devised over the past two days and the team will hold its first practice of the week in the afternoon.

Also, both Head Coach Leslie Frazier and QB Christian Ponder will hold press conferences on Wednesday. We’ll stream those press conferences live on vikings.com, so be sure to tune in at about 11:25 to watch.

While you’re waiting for all of that to transpire, take a look at 10 Vikings-Jaguars storylines to follow this week…

1. Young QBs Ponder, Luck Square Off
One of the storylines last week was a clash of QBs from the Class of 2011, as #10 pick Blaine Gabbert and the Jaguars visited #12 pick Christian Ponder and the Vikings. This week, the two starting QBs were not selected in the same draft, but they are both 1st-round picks. In the second start of his second season, Ponder will lead the Vikings to Indianapolis, a team once led by #1 overall pick Peyton Manning and now led by 2012 #1 overall pick Andrew Luck. In his NFL debut last week in Chicago, Luck was 23 of 45 for 309 yards with 1 TD and 3 INTs. Soldier Field is a tough place to play for any QB, especially a rookie QB making his first start, so expect a bit of a bounce back for Luck this week at home. But the Vikings have to make sure the bounce back isn’t significant enough to yield a victory. Interestingly, the Vikings boast a 3-0 record since 2009 vs. rookie QBs selected with the #1 overall pick – 2-0 against Matthew Stafford in 2009 and they beat Cam Newton a year ago.

2. Adrian Peterson And The Vikings Running Game
Adrian Peterson’s return was a big storyline last week leading up to the season-opener, and it turned out to be a major factor in the game as well. Peterson started the game and scored 2 TDs along the way to helping lead the Vikings to victory. Entering the game, most expected he would play. But most also expected he’d see limited action. As it turned out, though, Peterson carried the ball 17 times for 84 yards and was the team’s workhorse in the 4th quarter and overtime. As a team, the Vikings rushed for 123 yards on 29 carries (4.2 yards per carry), and they’ll need similar success on the ground with Peterson and Toby Gerhart again this week if they’re to log a victory over the Colts on the road in Week 2.

3. Vikings Performance On 3rd Down
The Vikings did win last week, so the feeling was good in the locker room after the game and there is positive momentum heading into Week 2. But there are also facets of their performance that the Vikings will look to improve in Week 2. Perhaps the most important is 3rd-down performance – for both the offense and defense. Offensively, the Vikings had just 10 3rd-down opportunities, which is a good sign. A low number of 3rd-down opportunities means you’re having success on 1st and 2nd down. But of those 10 3rd downs, the Vikings converted just 2 of them into 1st downs. That number must increase, especially playing on the road. Defensively, the Vikings yielded a 50% conversion rate to the Jaguars on 3rd down (9 of 18). The Vikings defense did a great job of stepping up at a few important moments against the Jaguars, and that was good to see. But the Vikings defense must do a better job of getting off the field on 3rd down to turn the ball over to Ponder, Peterson and the Vikings offense.

4. Figuring Out The Colts 3-4 Defense
Under long-time head coach Tony Dungy and then under Dungy successor Jim Caldwell, the Colts ran a traditional 4-3 defensive scheme. But new head coach Chuck Pagano has brought with him from Baltimore a 3-4 front, which the Vikings saw a few times in the preseason and will see a few times in the regular season. The San Diego Chargers did a few things with their 3-4 defense against Ponder and the Vikings in the preseason that caused problems, so the Vikings offense will need to diagnose those issues from the preseason and apply them to their preparations for this week’s game against the Colts. It will be important for Ponder and C John Sullivan to be sharp in their communication so they can identify which players will bring pressure each play.

5. Containing Dwight Freeney And Robert Mathis
For many seasons, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis formed a lethal and productive pass-rushing duo at DE for the Colts. But in the new 3-4 scheme under Pagano, Freeney and Mathis are standup outside LBs. Vikings Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave and his staff will have to figure out how they want to attack the Colts defense with Freeney and Mathis in different positions. Yes, Freeney and Mathis will still rush the passer nearly every down, but they’re coming from different spots on the field and their pre-snap positioning and movement will be different. Freeney played in just 9 snaps a week ago before injury and Mathis actually had 2.0 sacks.

6. Keep An Eye On WR Reggie Wayne
While the Vikings offensive staff will have to neutralize Freeney and Mathis, the defensive staff will have to keep an eye on Reggie Wayne. Yes, Wayne is 33 and is in his 12th season. But if last week is any indication, the 5-time Pro Bowler and 3-time All-Pro can still play and will still be relied upon by his offense. Luck targeted Wayne 18 times in the season-opener, and Wayne hauled in 9 receptions for 135 yards. Look for Chris Cook to be matched up with Wayne frequently.

7. Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams Goes Against His Former Team
In trying to defend Wayne, the Vikings will have one advantage: the presence of Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams. From 2002-11, Williams tutored the Colts DBs as a part of Tony Dungy’s and Jim Caldwell’s staffs. He worked with Frazier on the Colts staff for two seasons as well. While the offensive system is much different now than when Williams was around, there’s no doubt that Williams has detailed knowledge of the way Wayne approaches the game and the things he does well.

8. Turn Percy Loose
Peterson returned from injury to score 2 TDs and become the Vikings all-time leading rusher, Ponder turned things around in the 2nd half to become one of the offensive heroes, and Blair Walsh nailed a 55-yarder to send the game to overtime and then nailed a 38-yarder to ultimately provide the winning margin. Much of the post-game reaction skewed the way of those individuals. But there’s no question that Percy Harvin was a pivotal part of the Vikings victory last Sunday, even though he didn’t get into the end zone or the post-game headlines. Harvin produced 192 combined yards on 14 total touches, impacting the game as a receiver, rusher and returner. He had 5 carries for 20 yards to go along with his 6 receptions for 84 yards, and then he added 88 yards on 3 kickoff returns. If the Vikings defense is to operate well and produce on the road, Harvin must surely be a big part of the equation.

9. Jared Allen vs. Anthony Castonzo
It didn’t take long for Jared Allen to get his first sack of the 2012 season. Unfortunately it was negated because of a penalty. The Jaguars did everything they could to neutralize Allen from that point forward. The Jaguars kept him off the stat sheet, but Vikings defensive coaches and players were saying after the game that Allen had a profound impact on the outcome. Even still, Allen wants to be in the stat sheet – he wants sacks. The man responsible for keeping Allen away from Luck on Sunday will be Anthony Castonzo, a 1st-round pick from the 2011 NFL Draft. The Allen vs. Castonzo matchup is one of this game’s most important.

10. Playing The Colts At Lucas Oil Stadium In Their Home Opener
There’s no denying it – there is extra juice in the building on the home opener. The Vikings felt that and benefited from that last week at Mall of America Field. This week, the Vikings will be on the other end of it at Lucas Oil Stadium, as the Colts play their first home regular season game against the Vikings on Sunday. Nothing neutralizes a home-field advantage more than a sound running game and creating turnovers. Those could be listed as the keys to victory each week regardless of where the game is being played, but those are tasks that, if accomplished by the Vikings, could take the sting out of the Lucas Oil Stadium crowd. Interestingly, the Vikings have never played a regular season game at Lucas Oil Stadium, and they’re 0-10 against the Colts all-time on the road. Sunday seems like a good time to notch that first win at Lucas Oil and the first road win against the Colts.


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Three Takeaways From Vikings Preseason Debut

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 11, 2012 – 3:10 am

The Vikings made their 2012 preseason debut on Friday night, dropping a 17-6 decision to the San Francisco 49ers at a blustery Candlestick Park. Rookie K Blair Walsh capped the game’s opening drive with a 39-yard FG that cut straight through the 20 mph gusts that swirled inside the stadium, but that was the only lead the Vikings would have for the evening.

San Francisco answered with a TD later in the 1st quarter to take a 7-3 and eventually took a 17=6 lead into the locker room at halftime. Neither team scored in the 2nd half.

For the Vikings, QB Christian Ponder was good-not-great, completing 4 of 9 passes for 80 yards. RB Toby Gerhart was solid and strong, rushing the ball 5 times and gaining 31 yards, with a long rush of 16 yards. The Vikings defense struggled stopping the 49ers ground game, allowing over 100 rushing yards in the 1st half and 260 in the game.

The thrill of victory and agony of defeat take a back seat in the preseason, though, as teams are looking to find “wins” within the exhibition games. There are position battles to be settled and roster spots to be won, and that is the focus for NFL teams and their followers during the preseason.

With that in mind, here are three takeaways on my mind as I sit on the team’s charter flight back to Minneapolis…

Blair Walsh impresses in first NFL game
I’ve been a big supporter of Blair Walsh’s since the Vikings selected him in the 6th round. His leg strength was never questioned, and I didn’t find his dip in accuracy during his senior season at Georgia as concerning as others did. The kid was an 88.8% kicker as a sophomore and junior, and most of his misses during his senior year came on FGs from 40 or 50+ yards.

Regardless, there were no concerns about Walsh’s accuracy on Friday night. He converted both of his FG attempts, the first from 39 yards and the second from 26. Keep in mind, the nasty wind gusts did nothing to help matters, either. In addition to his accuracy on FG tries, Walsh’s leg strength was on display during kickoffs. He logged one touchback on a kick that was blasted through the endzone, and then his other two kickoffs were 6 and 8 yards into the endzone. During the regular season, teams will not be taking those kicks out of the touchback area.

The benefit of Walsh’s touchbacks – opponents’ average drive start will be closer to their own 20 – will far outweigh any accuracy issues he has on FGs. As any defensive player or coordinator and they’ll tell you that pinning a team at or inside the 20 is a big-time advantage for the defense. With Walsh, the Vikings will be doing much more of that in 2012 than they have in recent seasons (Vikings ranked 31st in opponents’ average drive start in 2011).

Run defense missed Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Antoine Winfield
The Vikings held out DE Jared Allen, DT Kevin Williams and CB Antoine Winfield on Friday night, giving the veterans a break from the action while also giving younger players more opportunity. And the absence of three quality run stoppers showed, with San Francisco gashing the Vikings defense on the ground seemingly at will in the 1st half.

One part of you gets frustrated when the opponent is able to run the ball so easily. But the other part of you knows that without Allen, Williams and Winfield in the mix, the defense is much more vulnerable. It would’ve been nice to see other players step up and stymie the 49ers ground game, but I’m not worried about the Vikings run defense just yet. If the Buffalo Bills and San Diego Chargers are able to do in the next two weeks what the 49ers did this week, then we’ll have some concerns.

Offensive line displays improvement
I was pleased with the performance of the Vikings first-team offensive line. RB Toby Gerhart averaged 6.2 yards per carry on 5 attempts and neither Ponder nor Joe Webb were sacked while the first-team offensive line was in the game. Several times Ponder was able to settle into a pocket after dropping back, and on his52-yard pass to WR Stephe Burton Ponder was afforded the time and space to step up into the pocket to deliver the throw.

First-round pick LT Matt Kalil looked solid in his debut. He will be the first to admit there’s room for improvement, but it was a good beginning for Ponder’s new blindside protector. C John Sullivan had no issues with snaps and RT Phil Loadholt was sound in his technique and discipline.


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Twitter-Sized Player Evaluations

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 7, 2012 – 6:26 am

One of the main challenges to covering a NFL team during training camp is covering all the bases. With a 90-man roster and plenty of intriguing storylines to follow, it’s hard to cover everything. But there is a saving grace in all of this. Twitter.

Brevity is required when using Twitter because a message on the social media platform must be 140 or fewer characters. Some may look at that as a limitation. But we’re turning it into opportunity. The Twitter-sized player evaluations feature we debuted last week gives us a chance to provide some insight on several players, rather than an overwhelming amount of insight on just a few players.

On Monday before practice, we asked (on my Twitter handle – @wobby) which players you’d like to know about via Twitter evaluations. They are listed below with a 140 (or fewer)-character evaluation…

FB Matt Asiata - Skilled pass catcher out of the backfield. Needs to show ability on special teams during preseason.

WR Stephen Burton - May have some position flexibility to him (can play X and Z receiver) & has had very good camp. Good after the catch. Big preseason for him.

CB Chris Carr - Playing with first-team nickel. Smart, instinctive player. Was in punt return rotation on Monday.

LB Audie Cole - Big, physical & smart. Unsure if he’s best at middle or outside LB. Needs to contribute on special teams. Has a chance to be good NFL LB.

TE Rhett Ellison - Impressing with his hands and fluidity in passing game. Known as hard worker. Will be a good pro for a long time.

RG Brandon Fusco - Still the one to beat for starting RG spot. Smart, tough player. Going against Kevin Williams every day is good for him.

RB Toby Gerhart - Looks and plays the part of a starting-caliber NFL RB. Grinder who will wear defenses out. Good in passing game (protection and receiving).

LB Everson Griffen - Up and down – will make great plays or mistakes. Great instincts and athleticism. Transitioning well, could still play DL in situations.

DL Trevor Guyton - Great start to camp, leveling off a bit now. Hard to move on the inside. Has athleticism to play multiple positions. Stout against run.

DE Brian Robison - Great day of practice on Monday. Excellent inside pass rush moves. Can play DT in nickel package. Great enthusiasm and passion.

C John Sullivan - Excellent leader. Rarely makes mistake. Developing into Top 5 at his position in NFL.

K Blair Walsh - Has impressed with leg strength AND accuracy. Answered the bell in simulated game situations at end of practice. Touchbacks-a-plenty.

WR Bryan Walters – In the mix at WR, needs productive preseason. In punt return rotation & fields kicks gracefully. Sudden route runner with good separation.

WR Jarius Wright - Explosive short-area quickness. Solid hands. In return rotations. Good attitude, practices hard. Solid camp so far.


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Roster Rundown: Offensive Line

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 24, 2012 – 7:00 am

Few position groups will be as heavily scrutinized early this season more than the offensive line. The Vikings have been one of the NFL’s best rushing teams over the past several seasons, but the combination of a need for improvement in pass protection and multiple new starters in the group will have many keeping close tabs on the men up front.

The offensive line is the subject of today’s Roster Rundown…

The Vikings will bring 15 offensive linemen with them to training camp, probably a standard number in League circles. While we can be fairly certain on four of the five starters heading into training camp, there will still be plenty of competition up and down the line in both the starting lineup and especially for the reserve spots.

John Sullivan is solid at center and has developed into one of the best five or so players at his position in the entire League. Sullivan began his career as Matt Birk’s understudy and eventually rose to starter status, where he snapped to Brett Favre in his first season as the starter and has progressed nicely ever since. There are two other players listed as centers on the Vikings roster who will compete for a backup role behind Sullivan - Joe Berger and Quentin Saulsberry. Berger is a returning veteran with seven seasons of experience and Saulsberry is an undrafted college free agent out of Mississippi State.

The Vikings should be set at both OT positions as well. Phil Loadholt returns at RT and should be sufficiently motivated in a contract year. Fans have grown tired of his penalties and occasional pass protection letdown, but my sense is Loadholt is sitting on a nice season. At LT the Vikings of course have 1st-round pick Matt Kalil. Sullivan has described Kalil as a “freak” athletically. Other OTs listed on the Vikings roster are: Pat Brown, Levi Horn, DeMarcus Love, Geoff Schwartz and Darrion Weems. Brown and Love are returning from last year’s team, Schwartz was a free agent pickup for the Vikings this offseason and could compete for the starting RG spot, and both Horn and Weems are undrafted college free agents.

The addition of Kalil at LT allows the Vikings to move Charlie Johnson over to LG, perhaps his more natural position. Johnson has the athleticism to play OT, but Vikings GM Rick Spielman explained to me earlier this offseason that his arm length is not ideal for the position. Moving him inside to LG will put Johnson is a better position to succeed, and it will allow Johnson to help Kalil transition to the NFL game. The RG position is up for grabs at this point. I expect Brandon Fusco to open camp as the starter, but both Schwartz and Chris DeGeare should have their sights set on winning the job as well. The two other OGs listed on the Vikings roster are Tyler Holmes and Austin Pasztor, a pair of undrafted college free agents.

A lot of names to go over there, but it just means more competition for the position group as a whole. The top three aspects of the offensive line I’ll be watching at training camp are…

– Who looks the best at RG? Fusco has the early edge based on the offseason program, but both DeGeare and Schwartz are in the mix as well.

– How does Kalil adjust to the NFL? Going against Jared Allen every day will help Kalil a ton if the 1st-round pick can strike a balance between taking his medicine from Allen and others on defense while also establishing himself as Ponder’s blindside protector.

– Does Loadholt take a big step forward this year? He was solid as a rookie in 2009 when he helped the club go 12-4 and play in the NFC title game, but since then he’s produced mixed results. Loadholt is one of my favorite guys on the team and I know he takes pride in his game, so I expect him to take a big step forward in his second year working with well-respected OL coach Jeff Davidson.


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Young Vikings Bond By Getting Social

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 22, 2012 – 9:01 pm

An essential component of any successful team is cohesion. The ability for a large group of talented individuals from varying and complex backgrounds to come together and move in one direction toward a common goal is not easily realized. Training camp is the starting point for NFL teams in their quest to gain this sense of purpose and direction.

In just a few days, the entire Vikings roster will gather in Mankato for 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp as they continue preparations for the upcoming season and the quest for cohesion. But thanks to modern technology and a bond born from both a passion for fun and wealth of resources, an important segment of this young Vikings roster has a significant head start on the building of camaraderie.

Andrew Miller of www.fasthorseinc.com wrote an interesting story about how QB Christian Ponder, TE Kyle Rudolph and C John Sullivan have made Minnesota their home by finding fun activities to pass the time of the offseason, and about how they share the fun with their fans via Twitter.

Miller’s piece is worth the read (and includes photos of the three Vikings out and about in Minnesota). Just make sure you come back to vikings.com after reading it. We have more Roster Rundowns to get to, after all.


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Greenway’s Gridiron Gallop 5K Fun Run/Walk To Be Held Sunday

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 12, 2012 – 1:42 pm

Chad and Jenni Greenway, along with teammates John Sullivan, Robert Blanton,  Rhett Ellison, Tyrone McKenzie and Harrison Smith, will sponsor the 6th annual Greenway’s Gridiron Gallop 5K fun run/walk at Lake Nokomis this Sunday – Father’s Day.

Joining the Greenways and other Vikings players will be Vikings cheerleaders and Viktor the Viking. Funds raised by the event will go toward Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board youth athletic programming.

Race Day check-in and registration will take place at the Lake Nokomis Bath House (located at 4955 West Lake Nokomis Parkway, Minneapolis, MN 55417) from 7:30 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. The event will begin at 9:00 a.m.

Players, along with cheerleaders, will be signing autographs for all participants. The event is $30 in advance and $35 the day of the event. The cost is $10 for a child (10 and under) in advance, $15 the day of, to participate in the 8:30 a.m. Kids Fun Run.  All pre-registered participants are guaranteed a free t-shirt.

To register, go to www.minneapolisparks.org and click on “activities and programs” and then click on “community special events,” or register in-person the morning of the event.


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John Sullivan: Kalil “Willing To Put The Work In”

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 11, 2012 – 8:18 am

Vikings C John Sullivan knows what it’s like to work hard to make it in the NFL. He entered the League as a 6th-round pick of the Vikings in 2008 and was a backup on the offensive line who also grinded away as a special teams player.

But through hard work and studying, Sullivan ascended to the top of the depth chart at center and snapped to future Hall of Famer Brett Favre in 2009. Sullivan is now one of the best centers in the NFL, and was rewarded as such last season when the Vikings signed him to a contract extension.

So when it comes to identifying players who are willing to work hard and who have the potential to be quality performers along the offensive line, Sullivan has a keen eye. Sullivan is also not one to spew meaningless hyperbole just to fill space or capture attention. That’s why what he said about Vikings 1st-round LT Matt Kalil last week on Voice of the Vikings Paul Allen’s 9-noon radio show is notable.

“He’s a guy that cares, he comes from a great football family, and he’s the fourth overall pick,” Sullivan said. “There’s a lot of pressure there, there is a lot of money involved as well. That’s a big investment for a team, and nobody with any pride wants to let people that have invested in them like that down. It’s the same way I felt when I got my new contract. It puts new pressure on you, added pressure on you to be there. But that’s alright, that’s why we play the game. We want to be successful, so you’ve got to be willing to put the work in. And he’s a guy that’s willing to put the work in.”

Sullivan has a pretty good body of work from which to judge because the team has completed 6 of their 10 Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and has now advanced to the eighth week of their nine-week offseason program. While practices so far have been non-contact, Sullivan has been able to observe two important elements to offensive line play, especially at left tackle – movement skills and technique.

“All you have to do is go watch how he moves,” Sullivan explained. “He’s a freak, an absolute freak. I’m just talking about movement skills. He is so fast for how big he is. It’s unbelievable.

“I’m talking great technique. I’m talking cutting off a linebacker from the back side…He moves incredibly well. I can’t say he’s a road-grader yet because obviously we don’t have pads on, but I’d be shocked if he weren’t. He’s a monster.”

Again, it’s important to stress that we’re only in the offseason program. It’s not like Sullivan, or anyone else, has the benefit of NFL game tape to make a water-tight judgment on Kalil or any other player on the roster. After all, Kalil will be going against Jared Allen day-in and day-out once the team gets to training camp, which will make it tougher for Kalil to impress. But Sullivan is not one to shower someone with blanket praise when it’s not deserving, and, as a late-round pick who is now the leader of his position group, he’s also one who expects his teammates to earn respect rather than to be given it based on draft status.

That’s why Sullivan’s praise for Kalil to this point is such good news for the Vikings.


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