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Roster Full Of Options At Fullback

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 16, 2011 – 7:21 am

There are a lot of position battles going on within the Vikings roster and many of them have captured the attention of the media and fans. But one of the most competitive and unsettled position battles to date on the Vikings roster is one that hasn’t generated much conversation.

It’s the fullback (FB) position and the Vikings have a healthy competition for that spot on the roster. While in some respects the FB is a dying position on NFL rosters, the Vikings plan to carry a FB, or at least carry a player who can fulfill the role of a FB.

“The fullback position in our league has almost been eliminated,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier explained on Monday after practice. “There are some teams that don’t even carry a fullback anymore. But there’s a place for a fullback in our offense and we just have to identify the right guy.”

So who is the right guy? There are two FBs listed on the roster – Matt Asiata and Ryan D’Imperio. Asiata is an undrafted rookie free agent and he’s been a standout during camp, largely because he’s a nimble athlete who can make defenders miss and he’s also a more-than-capable receiver out of the backfield. D’Imperio was a seventh-round draft choice in 2010 whom the Vikings transitioned from college LB to NFL FB. He made the practice squad last year and is now looking to make the next step in his career and nail down a spot on the 53-man roster.

But Asiata and D’Imperio aren’t the only guys the Vikings are looking at to play FB.

“It’ll be more of a traditional role,” Frazier said of the Vikings FB position. “A guy who can run the lead play for us and help us with the power play and some things we’re doing. But we’d like to be able to utilize tight ends at time in that fullback role and we’ve got to identify the right guys for that. We know Jimmy Kleinsasser can do it; he’s done it before.”

Also in line for that type of role are TEs Jeff Dugan and Ed Barham. Dugan has been a constant on the Vikings roster since 2004 and has the kind of skill set and work ethic to be an NFL FB. Barham is another undrafted rookie free agent, but so far he’s proven to be more of a pass-catching threat in the offense. The same can be said, of course, for second-rounder Kyle Rudolph and another undrafted rookie free agent TE, Allen Reisner.

As you can see, the competition is thick at this position. The Vikings are looking for a player who can lead block and be physical, but also a player who is versatile and can be relied upon to line up in various spots in various formations. I’m guessing we’ll learn a little more about the Vikings search for the right FB onTuesday afternoon because offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave will meet with reporters after practice.


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A Few Notes From Tuesday Morning Full Pads Practice

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 9, 2011 – 11:01 am

Day 10 of 2011 Verizon Vikings Training Camp is underway in Mankato and Practice #13 is in the books. The Vikings enjoyed great football weather – something you don’t often get in the dog days of summer – on Tuesday and worked for about two hours in front of another impressive training camp crowd.

Vikings fans continue to pack the bleachers next to Field #1. I was expecting attendance to be down slightly this year in Mankato, but from what I can tell the crowds have been pretty full every day and then we saw the largest crowd ever for a Saturday night practice this past weekend.

On Tuesday morning the Vikings practiced in full pads and got some situational work done. Aside from the normal drill work the team does in practice, the defense and offense went live against each other in the four-minute drill (offense tries to run out the clock) and at the goal line. I’d give the nod to the offense in the four-minute period and the defense had the advantage in goal line work.

LB Chad Greenway, who has had a nice training camp to this point, grabbed an INT during 7-on-7 drills. Speaking of LBs, we caught up with E.J. Henderson after practice so watch for that video to be posted over the next several hours. We also caught up with Vikings preseason television analyst Mike Mayock after practice to get his thoughts on the Vikings, so stay tuned for that.

On Monday we began a comprehensive, position-by-position look at the roster by analyzing the offensive line. On Tuesday morning I kept an eye on the offensive line to see if there were any major changes, but didn’t really catch anything to note. Tuesday afternoon we’ll continue to roster analysis by addressing the defensive line and tight ends, so stay tuned for that as well.

The Eye Test
We’ll mention one defensive player and one offensive player in the eye test department. E.J. Henderson is clearly the leader of this defense, at least vocally on the field, and he continues to play well. I’ve been told by multiple people on the team that this is the best they’ve seen Henderson look coming into training camp and now I can see it, too. The offensive player I’d like to point out is a guy we’ve pointed out previously in the eye test – FB Matt Asiata. He’s an undrafted rookie free agent but I really like how he’s coming along. He’s athletic, can catch the ball out of the backfield and even has a little wiggle to him when he’s carrying the football. If he can display some power blocking ability in the preseason, I think he’s got a shot to make this roster.


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Jared Allen, Michael Jenkins And Adrian Peterson Shine At Practice #8

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 5, 2011 – 5:17 pm

Friday was the best day of practice so far at 2011 Verizon Vikings Training Camp and the outstanding work on the field was seen by the biggest crowd of camp to this point and also most pleasant weather conditions. Mild temperatures, a slight breeze and complete cloud cover provided a nice break from the bright sun and humid conditions we’ve seen for most of the week.

The afternoon practice on Friday was a full pads, full contact affair and the intensity continued to rise. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier is guiding a smooth ship so far during his first training camp as a head coach. The intensity has steadily risen each day, crowds continue to get larger and there’s not an assistant coach I’ve spoken to who hasn’t said that his guys have improved each day.

The players that really stood out to me on Friday were DE Jared Allen, WR Michael Jenkins and RB Adrian Peterson. I’ll say a little bit about each of the three players…

– Allen is having an outstanding camp and no one has been able to slow him down. Vikings QBs should be very thankful for the invention of the red jerseys that signify they are off limits from being hit, because Allen would have VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman looking for new passers if he was able to finish the plays he’s been making in the backfield. This is great news for the Vikings because having Allen at his best will help not only the defensive line look good, but it will also help the back end of the defense as they try and defend the pass. Less time for the opposing QB to find receivers means the Vikings secondary’s job gets a lot easier.

– Friday was just the second time Jenkins put on the pads for the Vikings because he was a player operating under a new contract, which meant that he couldn’t practice until the CBA was ratified (that happened on Thursday). But already Jenkins looks like a natural fit in this Vikings offense. McNabb and Jenkins connected for long receptions twice in the early part of full team drills. The first reception was deep down the right sideline and the second reception was in traffic as Jenkins sprinted down the right seam. We’ll have more from Jenkins later tonight because we taped an interview with him on the field right after practice. So stay tuned for that.

– Peterson returned from Houston last night and was back on the field this morning for the walk-through. He of course looked good at the walk-through – it’s natural for athletic specimens such as Peterson to look good while practicing in shorts and no pads – but he looked even better this afternoon when everyone strapped on their pads. Early on in practice was a 9-on-7 period, where nine offensive players go against seven defenders in a drill that features run plays only. This is one of my favorite drills because of the collisions that take place between the two lines and because you can really see which group – the defensive line or the offensive line – is getting more push and is winning more plays. It’s rare for a RB to go through the drill untouched, but Peterson did it twice in three carries on Friday. Also, Peterson was a major factor in the passing game on Friday. He was the reason McNabb and Jenkins connected on their first long reception because E.J. Henderson was coming in on a blitz and Peterson picked it up beautifully. Peterson hauled in at least three catches that I saw for long gains as well, including one down the right sideline that required him to slow down, spin around and leap before hauling in the football and then sprinting toward the endzone. I’m glad Peterson is on this team.

A Few Notes
– Former Gopher Marcus Sherels continues to stand out. He even grabbed an INT during Friday’s afternoon practice.
– Devon Torrence, an undrafted free agent who went to Ohio State and even played pro baseball before coming to camp with the Vikings, also grabbed an INT during Friday’s afternoon practice. He might be a guy to keep an eye on as a surprise bubble player who could content for a roster spot.
– Both CB Chris Cook and LB Erin Henderson dropped INTs on Friday afternoon. In my estimation both of these guys are having nice camps and it’s certainly great that they got their hands on a couple of passes, but those dropped INTs can be killers for defenses.

The Eye Test
Passing Friday’s eye test were: FB Matt Asiata, DEs Jared Allen and Everson Griffen, WR Michael Jenkins and RB Adrian Peterson.

Asiata is a little-known FB out of the University of Utah and was probably considered an extreme longshot to make the team. But I must say that I’ve really liked what I’ve seen to this point. He’s actually shifty and has good speed. I will pay more attention to his skills as a lead blocker, since that is what a FB does more times than not.

Griffen, I’m told, is having a nice camp and is showing up quite a bit on tape. This isn’t something I picked up on myself, but I’ll be sure to make note of it and follow up with an observation or two on the blog in the next couple of days.


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