Blogs

Last Was Not Least: 7 Vikings Who Impressed During Preseason Finale

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 31, 2012 – 6:17 am

The fourth and final preseason game of 2012 is in the books, as the Vikings closed out their exhibition schedule with a tight and high-scoring 28-24 loss to the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium on Thursday night. With the preseason in the rear view mirror, fans will now set their attention on Week 1 of the regular season.

But not so fast.

Before NFL teams can set their sights on their Week 1 opponent, an important preseason process must first be completed – the 53-man roster cutdown. Currently, the Vikings roster stands at 75 players, but NFL teams are required to arrive at the 53-man limit by Friday evening.

As Vikings GM Rick Spielman and Head Coach Leslie Frazier, along with their staffs, go through discussions to try and configure the right mix of players, they will consider the entire body of work a player has put together from the beginning of the offseason program in the middle April through Organized Team Activities (OTAs), minicamps, training camp and the preseason. At the same time, there’s no denying that the fourth and final preseason game has significant bearing on those decisions.

So, how did the Vikings preseason finale impact decisions Spielman, Frazier and Co. will make? Let’s take a look at seven players who helped their chances of making the 53-man roster thanks to a strong final performance in the exhibition season.

(The opinions expressed below are mine and do not necessarily reflect the views of GM Rick Spielman, Head Coach Leslie Frazier or the Vikings organization.)

RB Matt Asiata
Based largely on a solid performance last week combined with a good training camp, Asiata came into Thursday’s preseason finale with a legitimate shot to make the final roster. He’s listed as and is built like a FB, but Asiata has some RB skills – nimble feet, good agility, good hands and good vision. Against the Texans, Asiata registered a 6.1 yards-per-carry average on 7 attempts. For the preseason, Asiata has 23 carries for 134 yards and 3 receptions for 15 yards with 1 TD. Is it enough to make the 53-man roster? Hard to tell, but Asiata is certainly a player who helped himself in the final preseason contest.

QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson
It’s easy to get excited about the potential of MBT. He has a big arm, looks the part, and is a good guy to have around the facility. On top of that, he’s had a good training camp and preseason. MBT has not looked overwhelmed, and in fact he led the Vikings on a drive late in Thursday’s game that resulted in him throwing into the end zone to try and steal a victory. It wasn’t to be, but MBT showed some late-game poise during the drive, and that’s fun to see from a youngster.

For the preseason, MBT’s numbers look like this: 18 of 36 for 242 yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs.

CB Brandon Burton
The return of Chris Cook and Antoine Winfield after they missed 21 games combined last year along with the presence of 3rd-round pick Josh Robinson has garnered much of the attention placed on the Vikings CBs. That has allowed Burton to quietly go about his business and have a pretty good camp. He’s backed up that pretty good camp with a solid preseason as well. On Thursday night, Burton collected 3 tackles on defense and another on special teams; he took another step forward in his development. Burton has been more willing to mix it up this year during training camp, and that along with a couple of solid preseason outings might be enough to earn him a spot on the team.

LB Audie Cole
Perhaps the highlight of the entire preseason was Cole’s performance against the Buffalo Bills, when he intercepted consecutive passes from Tyler Thigpen and Brad Smith and returned both for TDs. But Cole was solid before that performance and he’s been solid since that performance as well. Cole began his night on Thursday with a pair of special teams tackles, and followed it up with a good performance on defense in the 2nd half. Cole was tied for second on the team with 6 tackles and defense and he led the Vikings with 2 special teams tackles as well. Frazier mentioned Cole during his post-game press conference as a guy the team could look at for depth should Marvin Mitchell be held out of Week 1 action after spraining his ankle against the Texans.

C Quentin Saulsberry
The Vikings offense was on the field for 83 snaps on Thursday night, and in that time they racked up 562 yards of offense. The man in the middle of the offensive line for most of that time was not John Sullivan or even backup Joe Berger; it was Saulsberry, an undrafted rookie free agent who has quietly hung around during the offseason program and training camp. With Sullivan in place as the starter and Berger a quality backup, it might be ambitious to speculate Saulsberry being an option for the 53-man roster. But perhaps the Vikings think enough of Saulsberry to keep him around for practice squad consideration. His performance on Thursday night in helping the Vikings amass a large net yardage total certainly helped.

RB Jordan Todman
Most will point to his 76-yard TD run as evidence that Todman deserves consideration for the 53-man roster. It’s true that the long TD jaunt helped Todman, but the speedster also helped his cause in other ways. One play that stands out to me came in the Vikings final offensive drive when he caught a screen pass, but had little room to run. Rather than trying to squeeze out every last yard, Todman wisely decided to run horizontally to get out of bounds and stop the clock. For the game, Todman finished with 114 rushing yards and 1 TD on just 10 carries and he added 5 receptions for 21 yards as well.

An ankle injury limited Todman for most of training camp and the preseason, so the Vikings have a limited sample size with which to judge him. That might ultimately cause the team to go another direction, but what makes the decision even more difficult is Todman’s outstanding performance on Thursday evening.

WR Jarius Wright
As a 4th-round pick, Wright was likely a lock to make the roster anyway. But after Thursday night, it’s clear the rookie receiver made the roster based on his on-field performance rather than his draft stock. Before leaving the game with a sprained ankle, Wright caught 6 balls for 122 yards, including a 59-yard TD in the 3rd quarter. Wright showed some explosion and some toughness.


Tags: , , , , , ,
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 233 Comments »

Vikings Drop Preseason Finale To Houston 28-24

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 31, 2012 – 2:17 am

The Vikings racked up nearly 600 yards of total offense (562), more than doubled up the opposition in 1st downs (26-12) and held a 13-minute advantage in time of possession, but it wasn’t enough to close the exhibition season with a victory. The Houston Texans overcame those deficiencies while building statistical advantages of their own en route to a 28-24 victory on Thursday evening at Reliant Stadium.

Houston jumped out to an early lead after RB Justin Forsett capped their game-opening drive with a 3-yard TD run. The score after the 1st quarter remained 7-0 in favor of Houston, but over the next two quarters of play the points came fast and furious. Vikings rookie K Blair Walsh converted a 36-yard try to put the Vikings on the board and make the score 7-3, and then the teams traded long TDs. Texans rookie WR DeVier Posey took a quick slant and turned it into an 80-yard TD reception and only minutes later Vikings QB Sage Rosenfels stuck a pass right on the numbers of Devin Aromashodu and the speedy veteran pranced in from 58 yards to make the score 14-10 in favor of Houston heading into the locker room at halftime.

Both teams came out and scored 14 points in the 3rd quarter, with Houston scoring on 76-yard punt return TD by Trindon Holliday, his 3rd return TD of the preseason, and then later on another Forsett TD run, this one from 5 yards. The Vikings scored TDs on a 59-yard bomb from McLeod Bethel-Thompson to rookie WR Jarius Wright and a 76-yard jaunt from RB Jordan Todman. But that was the end of the scoring, as neither team could muster any points in the 4th quarter. The Vikings mounted a drive late in the game and reached the Houston 21-yardline, but they couldn’t convert a 4th down and that allowed the Texans to run out the clock.

The game was sloppy at times and riddled with mistakes and penalties, but both teams put on explosive displays as well. There were seven TDs in the game, with six of the seven coming from 58 yards or more and three coming from 76 yards or more. Vikings QBs Joe Webb, Rosenfels and Bethel-Thompson were 26 of 47 for 351 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT, while the Purple churned out 245 rushing yards and 1 TD on 30 carries.

Few starters on either side played in the game, but there was a lot on the line as backups and reserves for each team tried to put their best foot forward in the hopes of earning a roster spot. For the Vikings, several players accomplished the goal.

Todman finished tied as the game’s leading rusher with Forsett, as both backs rushed for 114 yards. Forsett had 2 TDs while Todman had 1, but Todman accomplished his work with three fewer carries. Wright, whom the Vikings selected in the 4th round last April out of Arkansas, finished with 6 receptions for 122 yards and a TD in addition to a 20-yard end-around before he left the game with a sprained ankle. Aromashodu finished with 5 receptions for 89 yards and the TD while FB Matt Asiata averaged 6.1 yards per carry on 7 attempts. Rosenfels finished going 7 of 11 for 111 yards with the TD to Aromashodu.

Defensively, the Vikings were paced by rookie S Robert Blanton, who had 7 tackles. Fellow rookies LB Audie Cole and DT Chase Baker had 6 stops a piece, and Baker also added a sack. Cole collected 2 special teams tackles and DE Nick Reed also registered a sack.

The Vikings have concluded their preseason schedule and will now set their sights on declaring their 53-man roster, establishing a practice squad and then returning to work next week in preparation for their season-opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Mall of America Field.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 6 Comments »

What 2 Watch 4 In Tonight’s Preseason Finale

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 30, 2012 – 9:37 am

After an entire offseason of waiting for training camps to begin, and then three weeks of training camp with no games, and then three preseason games, many fans regard the fourth and final preseason game as a mere formality that is more scrimmage than it is game. But for many NFL players, the fourth and final preseason game means the world.

The Vikings fourth and final preseason game of the 2012 season is tonight against the Houston Texans, with kickoff slated for 6:00 p.m. CT. Following the game, the Vikings will have tough decisions to make as they whittle the roster down to 53 players and then scan the waiver wire to see if any players discarded by other teams can make a difference here.

Before that process begins, though, that final preseason game must be played. Below are a few aspects of tonight’s game that I’ll pay quite a bit of attention. Check them out, and then in the comments section below this entry let us know what you think about them and let us know what you’ll be watching for tonight…

Quarterback rotation
At this point it’s hard to know how the Vikings QB situation will shake out. There are four QBs in camp, and only Christian Ponder’s status is secure. Expect Joe Webb to start tonight, and then we’ll see some combination of Sage Rosenfels and McLeod Bethel-Thompson. Each QB brings a different skill set to the table, and each QB would play a distinct role on the team.

Opportunity at WR
Percy Harvin is a game-changer, Michael Jenkins is a reliable veteran, and Jerome Simpson will make an impact for the team once we get past his 3-game suspension. But after those three, there is room for a couple other WRs to make the team and help the passing game. Rookie Jarius Wright is coming along well as the preseason rolls along, and now it appears he’ll have a chance in the punt return role as well (more on that later). Three others – Manny Arceneaux, Devin Aromashodu and Stephen Burton – will get significant looks tonight as they try to make a final positive impression on the coaching and scouting staffs. All three players have the capability to play the X receiver spot while Simpson is away, now the question is which players will display that ability in a game. We’ll find out tonight.

Blanton makes his debut
The Vikings 2012 draft class appears to be promising, but one member of that class has not been on the field yet – S Robert Blanton. That will change tonight, as Blanton figures to see extended playing time. He’ll likely start the game, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see him play well into the 2nd half. Furthermore, Blanton could even be joined by fellow Notre Dame product Harrison Smith in the starting lineup, giving us a look at an intriguing starting combination.

The Vikings selected Blanton with 139th overall pick last April and have converted him from a college CB to an NFL safety. Blanton’s transition to the NFL hit a speed bump in training camp, though, when he injured his hamstring.

Filling out the RB stable
There aren’t many – if any – teams in the NFL with a better one-two punch at RB than the Vikings combination of Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart. But you need more than two RBs, and the Vikings have a few options on the roster. Matt Asiata has impressed once again this preseason (he impressed me last preseason, as well), and has shown he’s more than just a plodding, blocking FB. Veteran Lex Hilliard was signed as a free agent this offseason, and he’ll get plenty of looks tonight. Rounding out the competition is Jordan Todman, a young speedster who has battled a leg injury during camp but appears to be getting healthier. They will all get a chance to prove their worth tonight.

What else are looking for tonight? Let us know by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below this entry…


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 273 Comments »

3rd CB, RB Jobs Still To Be Decided

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 27, 2012 – 2:39 pm

Many starters are expected to sit out of the Vikings preseason finale against the Houston Texans later this week. But there is still a lot on the line Thursday night as Vikings coaches and scouts look to finalize the team’s 53-man roster.

Two spots yet to be decided are the 3rd CB spot and the 3rd RB position. Competition at both positions has been spirited in training camp, but as Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said on Monday, no one has taken the bull by the horns and taken a job.

At CB, veteran Chris Carr and rookie Josh Robinson are among those battling for position on the depth chart. Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams was asked about both players following Monday morning’s walk-thru.

“Josh is unbelievably fast, he runs as well as anyone in the NFL,” Williams said. “Josh has shown that he tackles well. Chris is an effective tackler. He gets guys on the ground. Really, Chris just has experience on him at this point.”

Others in the mix for spots at CB behind starters Chris Cook and Antoine Winfield are: Zack Bowman, Brandon Burton, Bobby Felder, Reggie Jones and Marcus Sherels.

“This is another week that is important to the evaluation process to see how guys do,” Williams said. “We haven’t made any hard and firm rules in terms of who will make the team, who will start, who will be where. We’re still waiting to see after this ball game how guys play, and we’ll firm it up at that time.”

There aren’t as many players competing for the 3rd RB spot, but the race is just as close. FB Matt Asiata impressed on Friday night with 9 carries for 48 yards, including a long run of 18 as well as 2 catches for 6 yards and 1 TD. But he also lost a fumble, something a pair of other reserve RBs were guilty of as well. Undrafted rookie Derrick Coleman and veteran Lex Hilliard also lost fumbles.

“They all work tremendously hard and we’re going to give all three of them another opportunity on Thursday night,” Vikings Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave said on Monday. “They did some good things. We put the ball on the ground the other night, which we don’t want to see. But other than that, their effort has been good and they’ve been working really hard.”

Asiata and Hilliard (Coleman was cut), along with Ryan D’Imperio, Jerome Felton and Jordan Todman are competing for position on the RB/FB depth chart. While the entire body of work from the beginning of the offseason program in April through last Friday’s preseason game will be considered, there’s no question that Thursday’s preseason finale will have a significant impact on decisions made up and down the roster, including at both RB and FB.


Tags: , , , , , ,
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 102 Comments »

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.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 65 Comments »

Final Roster Rundown: Running Backs And Specialists

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 27, 2012 – 9:12 am

Friday marks the first practice of 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp and, appropriately, the final part of our Roster Rundown series. The series concludes with a look at the Vikings RBs and specialists…

Running Backs
Even with both Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart coming back from knee injuries, RB is a position of strength for the Vikings. There aren’t many teams with a better one-two punch than the Vikings. Gerhart has fully recovered from his knee injury, and he’ll shoulder the load for Peterson until he’s back at 100% health as well. Gerhart would be a starter for many NFL teams, so the job is in good hands while Peterson finishes up his recovery.

Depth at the position will be important for the Vikings in 2012 for reasons mentioned above, and Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said the team is looking for a back with all-around skills to have as the third option. Guys competing for this role in camp will include undrafted college free agent Derrick Coleman, four-year veteran Lex Hilliard and youngster Jordan Todman. 

The Vikings designs at FB are uncertain at this point. Draft pick Rhett Ellison could play the part, but there are others who are actually listed as FBs on the roster as well (Ellison is listed as a TE). Ryan D’Imperio is a returning veteran with solid special teams ability as well, Matt Asiata was with the Vikings during last year’s camp and returns this year as well, and five-year veteran Jerome Felton will be around to increase the competition. Aside from how each of these players perform during practice and preseason games, the determining factor in this competition will be how the team plans to use the FB.

—————————————————————————————————————————-

Specialists
The Vikings go into 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp with starters in place at the specialists positions. Cullen Loeffler returns as the team’s long snapper, Chris Kluwe remains at punter, and Blair Walsh enters camp as the kicker. Together, Loeffler and Kluwe boast 17 years of NFL experience, so they are great mentors for Walsh as he embarks on his rookie season. It’s important for each of these players to perform well in their individual roles, but it’s also important for them to work well together. I have no doubt they’ll be able to do just that.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 50 Comments »

5 Observations From OTA #2

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 30, 2012 – 4:10 pm

The Vikings conducted OTA #2 on Wednesday on the outdoor practice fields at Winter Park in more favorable conditions than Tuesday’s action. It was partly sunny with little breeze and moderate temperatures, creating a good teaching environment for the coaches and a comfortable climate for the players.

Both head coach Leslie Frazier and QB Christian Ponder met with reporters following practice, and we’ve posted both of those press conferences to the website. So check that out after reading the following 5 observations from Wednesday’s practice…

Looking for a big year
CB Chris Cook made a great play during the 7-on-7 period of practice, leaping to high-point a deep pass along the right sideline. Cook immediately bounced to his feet and sprinted down the sideline, accompanied by defensive teammates serving as would-be blockers. Veteran Antoine Winfield was asked after practice about Cook, and he said: “We’re looking for a big year out of him.”

A lot like Frazier
Winfield hung out for nearly 20 minutes after practice speaking to reporters, and he was eventually asked about new Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams. Said Winfield of his new coordinator: “Reminds me of Leslie Frazier. Soft-spoken, straight to the point and he expects us to work hard each day.”

Play the pass, too
If the Vikings were to play a game today, the starting middle LB would likely be Jasper Brinkley. Known as a hard hitter and sound run-stuffer, some may question Brinkley’s ability to play the pass. But Brinkley is determined to prove those people wrong. Last week on Vikings Tonight, a weekly 30-minute radio show hosted by Paul Allen and co-hosted by yours truly on the Vikings Radio Network, Brinkley was our guest. When I asked him if filling the gaps in the run game was his forte, Brinkley quickly responded by saying: “Not to neglect my pass coverage, I can play that. That’s one of the things people always try to say that I can’t do. But I will be able to prove this year than I can do it.” You have to love that determination from Brinkley, and you also have to love how Brinkley is following through on his commitment. After practice on Wednesday, there was a group of 6 DBs catching passes from the JUGS machine. Joining that group of 6 DBs was one other player – Brinkley.

Felder finds an INT
At one point during practice a CB made a great play on a pass to collect an INT. The player was wearing jersey #43, so I had to glance down at my cheat sheat to figure out the identity of that player. It was Bobby Felder, an undrafted rookie out of Nicholls State. If he keeps making those kinds of plays, Felder could play himself into a roster spot. I was glad to see him grab the INT.

Play of the day
The play of the day – of the plays I saw, anyway – was a tremendous reception made by an unlikely target. QB Joe Webb dropped back to pass and lofted a pass fairly deep down the left sideline. As I panned to my left to watch the conclusion of the play, I expected to see either Devin Aromashodu or Jerome Simpson run under the pass. But instead it was FB Matt Asiata, who was sprinting toward the ball and completely extended himself to make the diving catch and land inbounds.


Tags: , , , , , , ,
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 200 Comments »

Ellison Continues Strong Showing At Vikings Rookie Minicamp; More From Saturday

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 5, 2012 – 2:27 pm

The Vikings had two productive practices on Friday to open their annual rookie minicamp, and the coaches and players were right back at it on Saturday as well with two more practices. The minicamp will conclude on Sunday with one practice.

Here are a few observations from Saturday’s on-field action…

– The Vikings were able to squeeze the morning practice in and work outside before a weather system carrying heavy rain arrived, but the afternoon practice was moved inside due to inclement weather.

– I can’t say he’s the most impressive of the rookie minicamp because it’s virtually impossible to give equal attention to every player without watching hours of film, but in my eyes FB/TE Rhett Ellison is having as good a few days as anyone. Ellison is billed as a big, physical blocking-type of TE. But as I said on Friday, he’s a fluid route runner and smooth pass catcher. We recorded an interview with LT Matt Kalil on Friday for next week’s Wobcast, and Kalil – a teammate of Ellison’s at USC – spoke very highly of Ellison and described him as a do-everything type of player who is also a great teammate in the locker room. I noticed that Ellison was the last one off the practice field on Saturday morning and spent a few minutes beating up on a blocking sled before retreating to the locker room following practice.

– Saturday was a better day for WR Jarius Wright. The 4th-round pick was sidelined midway through the morning practice on Friday and then sat out the afternoon practice as well. On Saturday morning, the shifty WR was back on the field and looked good.

– The Vikings signed LB Soloman Elimimian at the end of January to a future free agent contract, and now they’re getting to see the former CFL standout on the field in Minnesota for the first time. I’m guessing they like what they see so far. Elimimian plays with great energy, always seems to be around the ball and is clearly athletic enough to compete at the NFL level. He might be undersized, but that might also not matter. Now, it’s one thing to standout in rookie minicamp and it’s an entirely different matter to standout when the veterans arrive. But so far, so good for Elimimian.

– There are several familiar faces from last year at this weekend’s camp, and one of them is that of Alexander Robinson, the former Iowa State RB who was with the Vikings during training camp last year. Robinson, a Minneapolis native, impressed in the Vikings preseason finale a year ago and now he’s trying to carve out a spot for himself on the Vikings offseason roster this year. Robinson has looked solid so far in camp. The other RBs in camp this weekend are: FB Matt Asiata (Utah), Derrick Coleman (UCLA), Josh Murray (Mary) and FB Tyler Legate (Nebraska).

– LB Audie Cole, drafted by the Vikings in the 7th round last weekend, had 2 INTs on Saturday morning.


Tags: , , , ,
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 290 Comments »

Vikings Make Changes To Practice Squad

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 7, 2011 – 11:50 am

The Vikings tweaked their practice squad roster on Wednesday by signing a pair of defensive players.

DB Domonique Johnson and LB Tyrone McKenzie were signed, and to make room the Vikings let go of FB Matt Asiata and DL Cedric McKinley. The Vikings practice squad remains at 8 players, with 6 offensive players and 2 defensive players on the squad.

McKenzie was a 3rd-round pick (#97 overall) of the New England Patriots in 2009, but was placed on the Reserve/Injured list before the season began because of a knee injury sustained in rookie minicamp. He was waived in September of 2010 and then signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to their practice squad in November of 2010. Eventually McKenzie was promoted to the active roster, but was cut earlier this month.

Johnson is a 6-2, 200-pound DB from Texas City, Texas who finished his college career at Jackson State. He was signed by the Denver Broncos as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2009 and he’s also spent time with the NY Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.


Tags: , , ,
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 18 Comments »

5 Things To Watch Tonight

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 20, 2011 – 10:44 am

The Vikings will play their second game of the 2011 preseason tonight against the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field in downtown Seattle. Here are five things to watch during tonight’s game…

Improvement from Donovan McNabb, first-team offense
While it might not have satisfied the appetite of Vikings fans, the performance from the first-team offense last week was acceptable for a preseason debut. But a similar performance tonight against Seattle in preseason game #2 will not be acceptable. McNabb and Co. need to take a step forward and they appear ready to do that after a solid week of practice. McNabb is cautiously optimistic about the offense’s progress and we’ll find out tonight if that optimism is warranted. No, we shouldn’t look for perfection, but we should expect to see extended drives, minimal penalties, no turnovers, no sacks and maybe even a TD.

Tyrell Johnson’s performance at safety
There’s been great competition at the safety position during training camp, primarily between Johnson and Jamarca Sanford. But we also can’t count out rookie Mistral Raymond, who has put together a great training camp and is opening eyes. Tonight, Johnson will get the start and it’s important that he plays well. Johnson has all the physical tools to be a talented safety in the NFL. He’s also a smart player who understands the Vikings scheme. Now he needs to put it all together at once while he’s on the field, something he hasn’t been able to do consistently. If he can do that, I believe he’ll be the coaching staff’s choice as the starter. If he can’t do that tonight, then I think it’s a wide open race for the starting position among Johnson, Raymond and Sanford.

Who will step up at WR
Both Greg Camarillo and Percy Harvin have been declared out of this game, which means the Vikings coaching staff will get a longer look at a few players who normally wouldn’t see as much action. Both Camarillo and Harvin play primarily in the slot position, so I expect Juaquin Iglesias and Jaymar Johnson will be the guys who get the extra reps tonight. Both are roster bubble guys and both have recently been playing well. Iglesias has looked great in practice while filling in for Camarillo and Harvin. Johnson has worked his tail off to remain on this roster and then last week he ripped off a 40-yard punt return. Other guys who could get a few extra looks tonight in the slot are Manny Arceneaux and Devin Aromashodu – I view Aromashodu as more of an outside receiver but I also think he’s a polished enough receiver that he could play all three of the WR positions in this offense.

Christian Ballard at DT
Ballard’s best trait, in my eyes, is his versatility. He played and started in a lot of games at the University of Iowa at both DE and DT. So far with the Vikings, he’s played primarily at DT behind Kevin Williams at the 3-technique and his best moment of training camp came last week in Tennessee when he notched a sack from the DT position. If Ballard can continue to be a disruptive force tonight – even if it doesn’t result in a sack – it will go a long way toward convincing coaches that he can be a member of the DL rotation this season. It’s uncertain how well Brian Robison will play as the new starter at left DE and it’s uncertain if Williams will be available for the first four games of the regular season, so Ballard’s presence as a disruptive force in the rotation will ease a lot of the uncertainty.

Ryan D’Imperio creating separation at FB
One of my favorite position battles to watch so far during training camp and the preseason is at FB, where D’Imperio entered as the starter and Matt Asiata came in as an undrafted rookie free agent. D’Imperio was a draft pick in 2010 and the Vikings converted him from a college LB to an NFL FB. He spent last season on the practice squad and there’s no questioning the improvement he’s made in one year’s time. Asiata has also impressed, primarily because of his athleticism both in carrying the ball and catching passes out of the backfield. Tonight, though Asiata won’t play because of injury, which means D’Imperio can create more separation with a solid performance.


Tags: , , , , , ,
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 42 Comments »