The Vikings and Chicago Bears each issued their first injury reports of the week on Wednesday. For the Vikings, there were no surprises. Here are the details…
CB Antoine Winfield, who missed last week’s game against the Arizona Cardinals with a neck injury, has been improving in recent days but did not participate in practice on Wednesday. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Winfield limited in practice or even sit out on Thursday, but perhaps he’ll see some action on Friday and have a chance to suit up on Sunday night.
Players limited in practice on Wednesday for the Vikings were WR Percy Harvin (ribs), LB E.J. Henderson (knee) and LB Kenny Onatolu (hamstring). S Husain Abdullah (pelvis) and DE Jared Allen (eye) were full participants.
For the Bears, DE Julius Peppers (knee) missed practice, as did WR Earl Bennett (chest), OT Gabe Carimi (knee) and DT Matt Toeaina. CB Charles Tillman (knee) was limited and DE Corey Wooten (hand) was a full participant.
Tags: Antoine Winfield, E.J. Henderson, Husain Abdullah, Jared Allen, Kenny Onatolu, Percy Harvin
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Vikings middle LB E.J. Henderson was a scratch from Thursday’s practice. His absence is notable because he was a full participant in practice on Wednesday and was not listed on the week’s initial injury report.
Head Coach Leslie Frazier met with reporters after practice and said Henderson has a sore knee and that he’ll have an X-ray taken. Xavier Adibi and Erin Henderson stepped in for Henderson during practice. When Erin Henderson played middle LB, Kenny Onatolu stepped in at outside (weak-side) LB.
It goes without saying how important Henderson is to the Vikings defense. The injury is compounded by the fact that primary backup middle LB Jasper Brinkley has already been placed on the Reserve/Injured list.
Tags: E.J. Henderson, Erin Henderson, Kenny Onatolu, Xavier Adibi
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Rumors and reports of QB Brett Favre’s decision to retire did not buzz kill the Vikings morning practice on Tuesday, as the squad was padded up for their first “live” periods of 2010 Verizon Vikings Training Camp. Head coach Brad Childress’ team worked on goal line and short-yardage situations and the action was intense.
“First extended work with pads on,” Childress said in his opening remarks after practice. “It’s amazing, as the players said, how the weather can turn hateful when we finally put the full pack on and pad them all the way up. A lot of good work and nobody got hurt. A lot to teach from over here and we’ll see (on film) which guys eyes got big and which guys showed up.”
After a rough first couple of days in training camp, the offense has really begun to sharpen up and the defense continues to perform consistently while also showing flashes of dominance. I spoke casually with assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier following practice and he was bright-eyed in talking about camp and his defense’s performance in general.
Here are a few of my observations from the morning practice as I tried to watch while also handling the developments with regard to Favre…
– C John Sullivan returned to the field after missing the last couple of days with a leg injury. CB Benny Sapp (illness) was not in action and I noticed rookie Chris DeGeare replaced Steve Hutchinson at LG several times; that’s likely just to give Hutchinson some rest as a precaution. Not much action for LB E.J. Henderson today and I also saw WR Sidney Rice working out on the side.
– The 2 biggest defensive hits of the day were registered by LBs Erin Henderson on RB Albert Young and Jasper Brinkley on RB Toby Gerhart.
– CB Chris Cook closed the morning practice with an INT return for a TD off of a tipped pass from QB Joe Webb to WR Marquis Hamilton.
– Childress specifically mentioned that Gerhart and Darius Reynaud showed up during the morning practice.
– As I indicated earlier, it was difficult to pay attention to every snap of this morning’s practice because of the Favre situation. But I did put my phone down for a good 20 minutes to watch live periods of short-yardage and goal line situations. Here’s a quick breakdown:
2 Defense vs. 2 Offense - The defense made 3 consecutive stops, with DT Tremaine Johnson and LB Kenny Onatolu making great plays. Johnson penetrated the offensive line with a quick push at the line of scrimmage and Onatolu leaped to deflect a pass in the endzone.
1 Offense vs. 1 Defense - The defense made stops on 2 of 3 snaps, with S Husain Abdullah making a nice play by knifing into the backfield and then an incomplete pass following that play. The offense’s win in the series came on the 1st play, when Gerhart powered his way into the endzone for a TD.
3 Offense vs. Mixed Defense – QB Joe Webb had a fumbled exchange on the 1st snap and then RB Ryan Moats pranced into the endzone for 2 TDs, giving the offense a 2-1 win in the series.
2 Defense vs. 1 Offense - The offense acquired a 1st down on 2 of the 3 snaps.
1 Defense vs. 2 Offense - The defense made stops on 2 of the 3 snaps.
3 Defense vs. 3 Offense - The offense acquired a 1st down on 2 of the 3 snaps.
Tags: Chris Cook, Erin Henderson, Husain Abdullah, Jasper Brinkley, Kenny Onatolu, Toby Gerhart, Tremaine Johnson
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For players on the roster bubble, Friday night’s preseason finale against the Cowboys was their opportunity to make a final statement and showcase why they are good enough to be included on the Vikings 53-man roster.
There was a trio of Vikings that particularly stood out following the game. So, let’s take a look at each of them and then see what Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress had to say about them:
RB Ian Johnson – Battling for the 3rd RB job with 2nd-year player Albert Young, Johnson had an uphill battle all of training camp and the preseason. But he’s risen to the challenge constantly and the culminated last night in a 17-carry effort that saw him tally 61 yards rushing and 2 TDs.
“I thought Ian flashed,” Childress said after the game. “He had some explosive runs there and I thought he circled the defense well. He also ran it inside between the tackles pretty well. As EB (RBs coach Eric Bieniemy) says, that’s as good a group of running backs that we’ve entered camp with as any time since we’ve been here.”
LB Kenny Onatolu – An underdog roster candidate out of the University of Nebraska-Omaha, Onatolu represented the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association well with the Vikings during training camp. And he put an exclamation point on his NFL career to date last night against the Cowboys by recording 5 tackles (1 for a loss) and 2 fumble recoveries.
“He’s another guy that’s a football player,” Childress said. “He’s a quick study, he’s a guy that’s been around as a gym rat ever since he could be back on March 17th. He hasn’t missed any days…spends time in the building and his special teams obviously stands out, but he’s really grown in the defense and you can see some of his explosive components and some of his speed to make plays.”
WR Darius Reynaud – You hear constantly that the best way for bubble players to make the roster is to show the coaching staff that they can contribute on multiple phases. There is perhaps no better example of such a player than Reynaud, who not only takes reps during practice on several phases but also produces during games in several phases. Against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2 of the preseason, Reynaud hauled in a 64-yard TD reception. And last night he housed an 81-yard punt return.
“He’s a good football player,” Childress said. “And not just a good receiver, he’s a good football player. You saw him return some balls, he runs it down and covers on the kick team, he’s a very good gunner. It’s hard to play out there…you play in that vice out there now, that’s hand-to-hand combat. You saw him do some explosive things…I’m happy for him.”
Tags: Darius Reynaud, Ian Johnson, Kenny Onatolu
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We mentioned yesterday in this space that the 3rd CB/nickel back position battle is still up in the air. Another position battle that’s been hotly contested since OTAs and through both training camp and the preseason is the backup LB position.
Reserves Jasper Brinkley, Heath Farwell, Erin Henderson, David Herron and Kenny Onatolu are the candidates to backup starters Chad Greenway, E.J. Henderson and Ben Leber, and at this point Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress characterized the position battle as “neck and neck.”
“It’s a hell of a battle; it’s neck and neck,” Childress said after preactice on Wednesday. “That’s what makes you a good football team. We’ve got guys striving at the linebacker position and striving at the special teams positions. It makes you better.”
As Childress mentioned, a big factor in determining who makes the final 53-man roster heading into Week 1 of the regular season will be special teams and which of the candidates can best display their ability to contribute in multiple phases of the game.
Childress also said on Wednesday that he has yet to decide on a 2nd-half QB rotation for Monday night’s game at Houston; he already said earlier in the week that Brett Favre will play the 1st half.
Tags: Ben Leber, Chad Greenway, David Herron, E.J. Henderson, Erin Henderson, Heath Farwell, Jasper Brinkley, Kenny Onatolu
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The Vikings will practice under the lights at Blakeslee Stadium tonight in Mankato. Blakeslee Stadium is where the Minnesota State University, Mankato Mavericks football team plays its game, and the Vikings utilize the facility on occasion during training camp.
The Vikings have 3 players on the roster who have played on MSU’s Blakeslee field during their collegiate careers – TE Jim Kleinsasser (North Dakota), LB Kenny Onatolu (Nebraska-Omaha) and G Nick Urban (Winona State).
The team is scheduled to practice tonight from 7-9:15. Players and coaches will be available afterwards and we’ll have plenty of coverage on vikings.com.
Tags: Jim Kleinsasser, Kenny Onatolu, Nick Urban
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We set out to analyze a few position battles right here on the blog before training camp began. The good news is that we’ve already done the RT, WRs, nickel back and backup DT positions. The bad news is we still have the backup LBs and starting QB to finish. And the 1st training camp practice is roughly 2 hours from the time of this post.
So we’ll compromise. The backup LB spot will be broken down right here and then we’ll analyze the battle between Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels after Day 1 of practices.
When evaluating the importance of the backup LB spot on the Vikings roster, the same theory that applied to the importance of the backup DT position applies here: given how important the position is to the Vikings defense, it’s important for the Vikings to have solid backup options in the event of injury.
Right now it looks as if the Vikings will have a good opportunity to fill their depth chart with quality backup LBs. There are currently 9 LBs on the Vikings roster, and we know that Chad Greenway, E.J. Henderson and Ben Leber will comprise the starting group (barring injury). That leaves the squad with 2 returnees from last year, 1 guy coming back from injury and a trio of new faces.
The 2 LBs returning from last year are Erin Henderson and David Herron. Herron is more of an inside linebacker while Henderson is more of a versatile player who can play in the middle or slide outside. The main thing for these 2 players is their ability to contribute on special teams as well. If they can fend off other young players and cement roles on special teams, they will be more likely to be relied upon as reserve linebackers as well.
Speaking of special teams, the Vikings best special teams player over the past few seasons also happens to be a LB. Heath Farwell was lost for the 2008 season during the Vikings 1st preseason game, and both the depth of the LBs and the Vikings kick coverage units suffered as a result. Farwell has battled back from his knee injury and seems poised to re-insert himself in both of his former roles.
The 3 new faces in the LB corps are Jasper Brinkley, Robert Francois and Kenny Onatolu. Brinkley, a 5th round draft choice this year, is the one to watch in this group. He was a star at South Carolina after his freshman season, but then a knee injury sidelined him and hurt his draft stock. The Vikings selected him in the 5th round, and if he can fulfill his potential the Vikings may have found a real steal in the draft. Brinkley’s upside is good enough that he could be a key contributor on special teams this year and somewhere down the line become a starting LB for the Vikings.
Tags: David Herron, Erin Henderson, Heath Farwell, Jasper Brinkley, Kenny Onatolu, Robert Francois
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