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Twitter-Sized Player Evaluations

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 1, 2012 – 7:15 am

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.


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Greenway, Rudolph, Walsh Stand Out On Tuesday; Other Practice Notes

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 31, 2012 – 5:33 pm

The competitive spirit was as thick in the air as the sweltering humidity on Tuesday at 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp, as the Vikings conducted their second padded practice that included a couple periods of live, tackle-to-the ground work. Those periods featured short-yardage and goal line situations, perfect opportunities to jot down some notes.

Here are a few of them from Tuesday’s practice…

One-On-One
A large crowd of scouts, special guests and members of the ownership group gathered around one end of Field #2 to watch the RBs, FBs and TEs go one-on-one against the LBs. The drill is competitive as it is, but the unusually large crowd that gathered near the drill only intensified the atmosphere.

The first part of the drill required the offensive players to pass protect against the defensive players. LB Jasper Brinkley got home on his first three rushes and RB Jordan Todman jumped up and displayed some striking pass protection. Rookie LB Audie Cole got in the mix with a great swim move to get past his blocker in a flash and LB Everson Griffen showed his explosion by winning two of his three matchups.

The offense saw much more success in the pass receiving/coverage portion of the drill. The star of the show was TE Kyle Rudolph, who had no trouble wiggling open and hauling in receptions. He made an inside move on LB Chad Greenway and then broke to the outside, creating plenty of separation for Christian Ponder to loft a pass toward the TE. John Carlson got in on the action, too, utilizing an out-breaking route to separate from Griffen and haul in a pass. Todman also flashed once again, shaking free from Cole to win his matchup.

Goal Line Battles
There was outstanding back-and-forth between the offense and defense in the team’s goal line drill. The drill was setup for the offense to have it 1st-and-goal from the 2-yardline. In all three matchups (first team, second team, third team), the defense stymied the offense on 1st and 2nd down, but yielded a TD on 3rd down.

Greenway made one of the better defensive plays of the day when he registered a pass breakup (PBU) on a fade route from Ponder to Rudolph. On the next play CB Chris Cook, DT Letroy Guion and Greenway combined to stuff RB Lex Hilliard short of the goal line. On 3rd down, though, Hilliard burrowed his way into the end zone.

The second team offense threw an incomplete pass on their 1st down try and then saw Todman get stuffed. On 3rd down, RB Derrick Coleman surged past the defense and into the end zone for the score.

Coleman took a handoff on 1st down for the third team, too, and was stopped by a trio consisting of Cole, Griffen and DE Ernest Owusu. QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson threw an incomplete pass on 2nd down and then he hit FB Ryan D’Imperio for a TD on 3rd down.

Booming Blair Walsh
It’s standard for the Vikings begin practice with a special teams period or two, and today practice began very well for the Vikings. And it was largely because of K Blair Walsh, whose leg strength was on full display. Of the kicks I saw, Walsh booted touchbacks on six of six tries, with two of those kickoffs flying over the goal post and through the uprights.

Walsh also ended practice on a solid note, hitting a 43-yard FG to close the final period.

Fans have expressed concern to me about the potential for Walsh to struggle on FG accuracy during his rookie season. Nothing that I’ve seen suggest Walsh will have that struggle, but even if he does I expect the increase in field position the defense will see this year because of Walsh’s touchbacks will counterbalance the loss in points from missed FGs. The Vikings ranked 31st in opponents’ drive start last season (24.4-yardline), and that statistic will only improve for the Vikings this season with Walsh in the fold. Missed FGs show up in the stat sheet and are directly reflected on the scoreboard, while average drive start for your opponent is a much more subtle influence. But both are equally important to the outcome of a game, and Walsh has shown that he has the ability to improve the Vikings in both areas.


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Williams Says DT Guion Stands Out

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 31, 2012 – 12:14 pm

A big part of training camp each year is watching position battles unfold and, ultimately, become settled as teams prepare for the upcoming season. One big – literally and figuratively – position battle for the Vikings in this year’s camp is at DT, where Kevin Williams has a hold of one starting position and no one has a handle on the other.

At least that was the thinking heading into training camp. A few days into the action, and it looks like there’s an early leader.

“Letroy (Guion) has been one that has been phenomenal in camp,” Vikings Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams said on Tuesday. “It may not seem to the naked eye, but there are some (film) 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 and we’re waiting to see how Fred (Evans) does.”

Evans has been a solid reserve for the Vikings since he joined the team in 2007. Guion was a 5th-round pick in 2008 and has progressed to the point now that he’s the early favorite to earn a starting job at DT in 2012. Other DTs on the Vikings roster competing for roster spots include undrafted college free agents Chase Baker and Tydreke Powell and second-year player Christian Ballard. While Williams pointed to Guion as one individual who is standing out early in camp, the Vikings new defensive boss also stressed that the entire group’s performance is important.

“Keep them fresh, keep them running so they can make plays,” Williams said. “When we’re at the end of the ballgame and the game is on the line, we have to close it out. It’s just that at the end, we want the guys fresh and we want to close it out. That is game-specific and season-specific so at the end of the year, we don’t have a guy that has 1,000 reps under his belt, we want guys to be fresh so that when playoffs come down the line, we’re ready to hunt.”


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Here’s The Story: 10 Camp Storylines To Follow

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 27, 2012 – 7:00 am

There is never a shortage of storylines heading into training camp, and this year is no exception for the Vikings. As the team embarks on 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp today with a morning walk-thru and afternoon practice, let’s take a brief look at 10 of the most notable stories to chase during 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp…

Will Adrian Peterson begin on the Physical Unable to Perform (PUP) list?
There’s no question Peterson has made tremendous strides in his recovery from major knee surgery, and there’s also no question that Peterson feels confident in his knee and is eager to display just how ready he is. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to put the NFL’s best RB on the field of play unharnessed. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier was non-committal when asked if Peterson would begin camp on the PUP list, instead saying the decision would be made after he spoke with Peterson and the team’s medical staff. If Peterson begins camp on the PUP list, the team can take him off the list at any time. Either way, Frazier and Peterson both said they expected the RB would be doing some kind of on-field work from the get-go.

Man in the middle – Jasper Brinkley’s opportunity
The Vikings selected LB Jasper Brinkley with a 5th-round pick in 2009 and he immediately became the understudy to E.J. Henderson. Now that Henderson is no longer with the team and Brinkley still sports the Purple and Gold, the time has come for Brinkley to display just how far he’s come in three-plus seasons with the club. Brinkley is expected to be the team’s starting middle LB, an important role in this defense especially considering how well Henderson fulfilled the role for so many seasons. There are questions about Brinkley’s durability because he dealt with an injury in college, missed all of 2011 with an injury and then missed some of the team’s offseason program with injury. But he’s healthy now, and it’ll be fun to watch him prove that he can be the team’s man in the middle.

Christian Ponder’s development
You can have everything else buttoned up and the stars can align, but if you don’t have the QB situation squared away in the NFL it won’t matter. The Vikings believe they will have it squared away with Ponder at the helm, and we’ll find out if they’re right this season. Early indications will come from training camp and the preseason, though. Vikings GM Rick Spielman and his crew have done a nice job of surrounding Ponder with weapons – both blockers and ball-handlers. The addition of Matt Kalil improves the offensive line tremendously, and then the additions of TE John Carlson, WR Jerome Simpson and a pair of draft picks in WRs Greg Childs and Jarius Wright give Ponder some weapons in the passing game. Add in guys such as Peterson, Toby Gerhart, Percy Harvin and Kyle Rudolph, and you can’t deny that the offensive weapons in place are much better this year than in previous seasons. That sets the stage perfectly for Ponder, a guy who knows how important he is to the team and a guy who relishes in that role.

Percy Harvin’s role on offense
Harvin was in the headlines a bit this offseason, and I’m guessing he’ll be in the headlines a bit more this season because he’s going to play a pivotal role in the Vikings offense. Harvin is as dynamic an offensive weapon as you’ll find because of his ability as a pass receiver and a ball carrier. You can line him up in the slot, out wide or even in the backfield. You can throw it to him, pitch it to him, hand it off to him, you can even snap it directly to him. Harvin is one of the best players on the team, and he’s going to get the ball a lot. It will be fun to watch how Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave and his staff plan to use Harvin.

Vikings look to improve pass defense
The Vikings ranked 26th in total passing defense a season ago and they yielded the most TD passes as well. So the team will look to improve in that area, and one big step in that direction was the hiring of Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams. In Williams’ decade working with the Indianapolis Colts DBs, the club ranked in the top six in NFL passing defense five times and finished out of the Top 15 only once. In that same span, the Colts allowed the fewest touchdown passes in the NFL (159), the fewest pass completions of 25+ yards (159) and the third-fewest passing yards (29,993). Aside from Williams, the team added a pair of safeties (Robert Blanton and Harrison Smith) and a CB (Josh Robinson) in the draft, and they signed a pair of veteran free agents (Chris Carr and Zack Bowman) to bring some experience to the group. Perhaps most importantly, though, is that the Vikings will have their two top CBs back on the field after they missed significant time a season ago. Antoine Winfield and Chris Cook played in a combined 11 games last year, and it’s tough to do well against the pass when you’re two best CBs are out of action. Expect a big jump in performance from the Vikings pass defense this season.

Kalil’s transition to the NFL
A dominant player at USC, Kalil enters the NFL as a starter on the Vikings offensive line. His first task? Block the best DE in the NFL for three straight weeks in Mankato. Kalil will go against Jared Allen on a daily basis at training camp, and we can all agree that it will only make the rookie LT that much better.

“It should be real good for Matt to go against maybe the best defensive end in the National Football League on a daily basis in practice and I think it will be good for Jared as well because Matt is going to challenge him,” Frazier said.

What to do with Everson Griffen?
Few players this offseason have been on the mind of Vikings fans more than Griffen. The consensus among fans is that Griffen is too talented to not be on the field, and there are a growing number of fans who want to see Griffen make the transition from DE to LB. Whether Griffen is asked to make that switch or not remains to be seen. What is clear, though, is that Griffen is viewed by most as a player on the rise.

The Blair Walsh project
The Vikings used a 6th-round pick in April’s draft to select K Blair Walsh, a standout player at Georgia for four seasons and one of just three kickers the Vikings deemed worthy of selection. Walsh replaces Ryan Longwell, a beloved Vikings player who made plenty of big kicks and was reliable. But the team wants more touchbacks on kickoffs, and there’s no question Walsh has the leg strength to stretch the team’s FG range. There will likely be some growing pains with a rookie kicker, but Walsh’s talent should allow him to absorb those pains and quickly turn into a solid player. Walsh projects to be a long-term option for the Vikings at kicker, and there’s nothing wrong with getting a long-term starter out of a 6th-round pick.

Stepping up at defensive tackle
As we wrote about yesterday in the defensive line version of Roster Rundown, Kevin Williams is looking for a running mate to start next to him at DT. The Vikings have been missing that aspect of their defense since Pat Williams’ decline and eventual departure from the team. Perhaps the team doesn’t need a Pat Williams clone – there is only one Pat Williams, after all – but the team does need another impact player at DT, and training camp is just the place to find that player. Will it be a veteran such as Letroy Guion or Fred Evans? Or will it be a youngster, such as Chase Baker, Christian Ballard or Tydreke Powell? Or will it be a rotational thing? We’ll find out soon.

Rick Spielman’s first camp as Vikings General Manager
Spielman has been with the club since 2006, but this is his first training camp with the Vikings as GM. In some respects, not much has changed because Spielman has made the transition from VP of Player Personnel to GM smoothly. On the other hand, the team’s organizational structure did change a bit with Spielman’s promotion. There’s no question now who is making the final decision on roster moves, and having a central voice such as Spielman who can work well with Frazier will improve how the team functions on a daily basis. We’ll start to see that even more during training camp and as the team gets closer to making decisions about the roster coming out of the preseason.


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Roster Rundown: Defensive Line

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 26, 2012 – 9:29 am

Vikings players report to 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp today and their first walk-thru and practice will be tomorrow, so it’s time for us to complete our Roster Rundown series. There are three position groups to go, and we’ll knock off the largest group right now – the defensive line.

Let’s split this up into DEs and DTs, without regard to who’s playing right DE compared to left DE and without regard to who’s playing the three-technique and who’s playing nose. Here we go…

Defensive Ends
For my money, the Vikings have the best DE in the NFL. Jared Allen comes off a 22.0-sack season a year ago, and no player has more sacks than Allen’s 105.0 since he entered the League in 2004. It’s not a stretch in the least to think Allen can have another sensational season in 2012. Yes, teams will be focusing on neutralizing him, but teams have been trying to neutralize him for years with no avail. As a bookend at DE, Brian Robison is the favorite to hold a starting position on the defense as he comes off a career-high 8.0-sack season in 2011.

Behind starters Allen and Robison, the Vikings have high hopes for Everson Griffen this season. Griffen has been a standout special teams player during his two-year career, and he’s gotten to the point now where the team will try to find more snaps for him on defense. Because of his versatility, those snaps could come at either DE or DT, and there’s also been talk of him getting into the mix at LB. Another reserve who could take a step forward this year is D’Aundre Reed. He was a 7th-round pick out of Arizona last season and didn’t play in a game, but coaches are excited about his athleticism and potential.

Other DEs on the roster who will fight to add depth to the group are: Jeff Charleston, Trevor Guyton, Anthony Jacobs, Eric Latimore, Ernest Owusu and Nick Reed. Charleston and Reed are veterans, Guyton was a 7th-round pick this year, and Jacobs (Minnesota), Latimore (Penn State) and Owusu (California) are undrafted college free agents.

Expect Allen and Robison to emerge from camp with starting spots, with Griffen pushing Robison for playing time and the two perhaps playing on a rotational basis. D’Aundre Reed has a big training camp ahead of him and could take a huge step forward. The rest of the group is a nice blend of veterans and youngsters, and they have a chance to provide some depth at what is a very strong position for the Vikings.

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Defensive Tackle
Teammates call him The Big Ticket. Kevin Williams is the leader of the Vikings DTs and has been changing games for the Purple since 2003. Williams played better than most people realize a year ago, and there’s no reason to expect a slowdown from Ticket in 2012.

This year, Williams is looking for a running mate to start next to him. The Vikings have been missing that aspect of their defense since Pat Williams’ decline and eventual departure from the team. Perhaps the team doesn’t need a Pat Williams clone – there is only one Pat Williams, after all – but the team does need another impact player at DT, and training camp is just the place to find that player.

Letroy Guion is a good, young option for the Vikings. Guion is only 25, but he’s entering his 5th season out of Florida State already and the Vikings would benefit greatly if he could step up and earn a starting position. Another returning veteran on the roster is Fred Evans, a six-year veteran who joined the Vikings in 2007.

Earlier this offseason, we identified Christian Ballard as one of eight Vikings poised for a breakout season in 2012. A rotational player in 2011 as a rookie, Ballard trained hard this offseason and is committed to earning more playing time for 2012. Perhaps Ballard’s biggest asset will be versatility because he can line up at defensive end or defensive tackle.

The Vikings have two undrafted college free agents at DT - Chase Baker (Boise State) and Tydreke Powell (North Carolina). Baker was a standout to me at this year’s Senior Bowl (Leslie Frazier and his staff had Baker on their North squad), and Powell will impress because of his size (6-3, 310 pounds).

Williams is obviously solidified as the starter at the three-technique, but a great opportunity exists for the rest of the DTs to earn a starting spot next to Williams. This will be a fun position battle to monitor during training camp. Don’t be surprised if this situation is ultimately resolved with a by-committee approach, but it also wouldn’t be surprising – and would be quite pleasant – if someone emerged from camp with a firm grasp on the job.


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Two For Tuesday: Vikings Sign Free Agents

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 20, 2012 – 4:59 pm

On Tuesday afternoon the Vikings re-signed a familiar face to fortify defensive line depth and they reached agreement on a free agent contract with a new player to beef up the RB stable.

DT Letroy Guion, who hit the open market last week, was re-signed by the Vikings and figures to be a regular member of the DL rotation under new position coach Brendan Daly. Guion was a 5th-round pick of the Vikings out of Florida State in 2008 and will turn just 25 years old in June.

The Vikings also signed RB Jerome Felton, who was also selected in the 5th round out of Furman in the 2008 NFL Draft. He was selected by the Detroit Lions and played there for three seasons. He’s also spent time with the Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts. Interestingly, Felton’s Mother, Sabrina, is German and was a former professional gymnast and his brother, Simon, served in Afghanistan with US Army.


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Young DTs Ballard, Guion Flash Potential

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 22, 2011 – 2:49 pm

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said on Monday that DT Kevin Williams played his best game of the season on Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. That’s a good sign for the Vikings defense because when Williams makes plays in the middle of the Vikings defense, it opens up opportunities for other defenders.

But Williams isn’t the only Vikings DT who has stood out recently. Youngsters Christian Ballard and Letroy Guion have flashed potential recently, and seeing them continue to develop would be a huge positive for the Vikings defense. We won’t get ahead of ourselves here; Ballard and Guion can’t be mentioned in the same breath as Williams yet, and “flashing potential” is a far cry from becoming a productive and disruptive member of an NFL defensive line. But seeing young players flash potential is a lot better than the alternative.

It was Guion who blocked the Raiders 49-yard FG attempt in the 4th quarter to help the Vikings build momentum for a 14-point 4th quarter and near comeback victory. For the season, Guion has 13 tackles and 1.0 tackle for loss playing behind Williams. Those numbers won’t blow you away, but they’re an indication that Guion is progressing in his 4th season and will likely compete for a starting position at some point in the near future.

Ballard made a great play on Sunday against the Raiders, too. The Raiders had the ball and a 27-14 lead with just over 6 minutes to play in the 4th quarter, and they were trying to work on the game clock and get out of Mall of America Field with a tough road win. On a 1st-and-10 rush by RB Michael Bush, Ballard was cut block and fell to the ground. But he quickly picked himself up, ran to Bush as the RB sprinted off left tackle, and punched the ball out of Bush’s arms. DE Brian Robison was there to recover the fumble, and the Vikings scored a TD just two plays later to close the gap and make the score 27-21 with 5:12 to play.

Again, this doesn’t mean Ballard is destined for the Pro Bowl anytime soon. But it was the kind of hustle and impact play that you want to see from young, developing players, even though the team is going through a disappointing 2-8 season. Ballard has 2.0 tackles for a loss on the season and he’s also been a factor for the Vikings special teams group. Just as is the case for Guion, it appears Ballard will be challenging for even more playing time next season.

Another aspect about this to keep in mind is that both Ballard and Guion were mid-round picks by the Vikings. Ballard was selected with a 4th-round choice (#106 overall) this past April and Guion was a 5th-round pick (#152) in 2008. Getting this kind of development – and hopefully consistent disruption and production in the near future – from mid-round picks is crucial to a franchise’s ability to build a roster that can attain long-term success.


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Williams’ Return Makes D-Line Deeper, More Versatile

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 20, 2011 – 7:45 am

The return of Kevin Williams to the lineup from a two-game suspension is a big deal for the Vikings defense. He’s a 6-time Pro Bowler and the defense now has a playmaker in the middle of the defensive line for whom opposing offenses will have to account on a play-by-play basis.

But Williams’ return goes beyond just having another playmaker on the field. With Williams back in the fold, the Vikings defensive line instantly becomes deeper, and the Vikings defensive coaches have more flexibility in their scheme, playcalling and rotation options.

For example, Remi Ayodele and Letroy Guion have been the starters at DT in Williams’ absence. With Williams back in the lineup, the Vikings can keep both Ayodele and Guion fresh by rotating their snaps. Then you have rookie Christian Ballard, who has the position flexibility to play both DE and DT. Early on he’s been playing primarily DT, but with Williams back and Ayodele and Guion potentially rotating at DT, perhaps Ballard gets more time at DE?

Those are just two examples of how Williams’ return positively impacts the Vikings ability and depth along the defensive line. Now, the key is for the Vikings to execute whatever strategy they employ.


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A Few Notes On Vikings Defensive Line Heading Into Opener

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 9, 2011 – 3:25 pm

The Vikings will open the 2011 regular season against one of the best pass offenses in the NFL and they’ll have to do so without one of their best defensive linemen. Six-time Pro Bowl DT Kevin Williams, an anchor for the Vikings defense, will miss the first two games of the season because of suspension.

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier met with reporters after Friday’s practice, the last full practice before the team heads to San Diego, and he confirmed that Letroy Guion will be the starter at that spot on Sunday. We’ve written about Guion previously here on the vikings.com Blog, and Vikings fans should be anxious to see what #98 can do to help this defense.

But Guion won’t be alone in trying to fill the void created by Williams’ absence. A couple of other defensive linemen were brought into the conversation with Frazier on Friday…

– Rookie Christian Ballard, whom the Vikings selected in the 4th round in last April’s draft, has some position flexibility to him because started a lot of games at both DE and DT in college. He projects to be a versatile defensive lineman in the NFL, too, but right now Frazier said he’s asked Ballard and his coaches to have the rookie concentrate solely on playing what they term the “3 technique.” The 3 technique is a technical football term for the position that Williams plays.

– Another young defensive lineman, Everson Griffen, will be in the mix this season. Griffen is a DE but he has a touch of versatility to him as well. In fact, the Vikings experimented last week with playing Griffen at outside LB. But Frazier and the Vikings defensive coaching staff have the same strategy planned for Griffen that they do for Ballard – for now, concentrate on playing the primary position. For Griffen, that’ll be DE, where he’ll join the rotation with starters Jared Allen and Brian Robison and then reserves Adrian Awasom and D’Aundre Reed.

A couple of other quick notes from the conversation with Frazier…

– CB Asher Allen has been limited in practice all week and Frazier indicated there’s a good chance Allen will be listed as questionable on this week’s final injury report.

– Frazier was also asked about LT Charlie Johnson, who joined the club in training camp and has had to assimilate to the team quickly. As should’ve been expected, Johnson took his lumps early. He was learning a new offense, moved to a new city and was going against Jared Allen every day in practice. But now Johnson seems to be getting his feet under him and Frazier said on Friday that the team is growing more and more comfortable with Johnson at LT. Frazier also praised Johnson for his work ethic, study habits, preparation and overall professionalism. I know many fans are nervous about this part of the offensive line, and I understand the reasoning. But from what I’ve been able to glean after training camp, the preseason and this week of preparation for San Diego, I think the Vikings will be just fine at LT.


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Notes From Tuesday’s Practice, Coordinator Press Conferences

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 23, 2011 – 4:33 pm

The Vikings had a long, grueling practice on Tuesday afternoon as they continue their rigorous preparation for the 2011 regular season, which begins in just under 3 weeks. The team worked in full pads for the approximately 2-hour practice and they did so in humid, sticky conditions.

Coaches paused more frequently for extra water breaks and the tough work in even tougher conditions gave the squad an idea of their conditioning. All indications are the team’s conditioning is good, especially considering how well the first-team defense and offense played against the scout teams.

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier indicated after Saturday’s preseason win over the Seattle Seahawks that the team would do a little bit of game-planning for their next opponent – the Dallas Cowboys – to try and simulate a week of preparation in the regular season. The Vikings did so today, with both the first-team defense and offense working against a scout team that was presumably simulating looks the Cowboys have given opponents so far during the preseason.

Here are a few notes from Tuesday’s action…

– The Vikings secondary was the standout group in practice, with S Tyrell Johnson collecting on INT in 7-on-7 drills and CBs Marcus Sherels and Antoine Winfield grabbing INTs during full team periods of practice. Johnson showed great range on his INT, coming from the deep right side of the field to the middle. Sherels also had a tremendous pass break up (PBU) during 1-on-1 drills in the period right after his INT.

– CB Chris Cook also performed well in 1-on1 drills and drew praise from DBs coach Joe Woods when he locked rookie WR Stephen Burton up at the line of scrimmage to disrupt the route. Cook made another nice play late in practice when he trailed WR Dominique Johnson all the way across the field on a drag route and extended his left arm to break up the pass.

– On the first play of the first period of full team work for the first-team defense, LB Erin Henderson intercepted a pass and returned it to the endzone. That marks the second consecutive day Henderson has grabbed an INT in practice.

– The first-team offense looked just as impressive going against the scout team defense. QB Donovan McNabb found WRs Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin several times, with Berrian able to get over the top of the defense at least three times that I saw for long receptions all over the field.

– DT Kevin Williams (foot) is on the mend a bit, so Letroy Guion got first-team reps at the 3-technique.

– Harvin made the play of the day and it came early in practice. He was running a route deep down the right side of the field and McNabb launched a pass in Harvin’s direction. By the time the ball came down it was actually falling into bracketed coverage, but Harvin cut in front of the coverage, leaped off of one foot and grabbed the ball with one hand, hauling it in and controlling the ball all the way to the ground.

– Vikings Defensive Coordinator Fred Pagac was asked a few times about the starting safety position opposite Husain Abdullah and he did not indicate whether Tyrell Johnson or Jamarca Sanford had an edge in the competition. In fact, Pagac said both players have played about the same number of snaps and the competition may not be decided soon. The coaching staff is still talking about how to split up playing time this week against the Cowboys, but look for Sanford to get the start because Johnson started last week in Seattle.

– Pagac did not have an update on Kevin Williams’ status and he said he expects the defensive starters to play roughly 20-25 plays before exiting the game on Saturday night.

– Vikings Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave did not give much indication as to how long the offensive starters would play on Saturday night and instead explained that the coaching staff still had to make those decisions.

– Here was Pagac’s response when asked to assess the defense’s performance against Seattle: “Improvement of tempo; I thought we were running to the ball a little bit better. Our tackling was better. We still had a couple missed tackles, but our tackling was much better. Just the attitude that we played with and obviously the sudden change situation when we had the turnover for the touchdown and then that goal line stance after a long series. That means a lot to us, is something that we preach about all the time and the kids responded.”


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