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Who Will Step Up To Round Out WR Depth?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 19, 2010 – 8:20 am

With all of the hoopla surrounding QB Brett Favre and his decision to return for another season in 2010, it’s easy to forget there is actually a training camp and preseason going on at Winter Park. And with training camp and preseason come position battles.

There are several position battles still on-going for the Vikings, and that will continue to be the case for the next couple weeks. Of course the highest-profile position battle will be for the backup QB job, which Tarvaris Jackson is currently leading. But another one that also got a bit more interesting over the last couple of days is WR.

The Vikings have a healthy crop of young receivers battling to round out the position. That group included 3rd-year player Jaymar Johnson, who had a good training camp and then registered 2 receptions for 38 yards against the St. Louis Rams last weekend in the team’s 1st preseason game. But Johnson also suffered an injury in that game and has been waived by the club.

It’s an unfortunate development for Johnson and the Vikings, but it also opens an opportunity for those who were battling with Johnson for a roster spot. One player to keep an eye on in this regard is former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher Logan Payne, who was acquired by the Vikings this past offseason and also had a nice training camp.

Payne showed up in a big way against the Rams, hauling in 7 receptions for 52 yards, including a 2-yard TD from Sage Rosenfels in the 2nd quarter.

“He is a good, smart football player,” Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said of Payne on Monday. “He is a tough guy, did well in special teams (against St. Louis), he ran down and made a couple special team tackles. He is versed in this system, he played multiple positions and he was productive. He has been making the most of all of the reps that he has gotten.”

Payne isn’t the only WR who has a chance to step up. The Vikings have a host of others in the fold, including Marko Mitchell (72-yard TD reception against the Rams) and Ray Small (3 receptions for 31 yards against the Rams). Another factor to keep in mind in handicapping this position battle is the return game. While Payne can increase his stock by covering kicks, a guy like Small can increase his chances by standing out as a kickoff or punt returner. Johnson had 2 punt returns and 1 kickoff return against the Rams, so someone else on the WR depth chart might be able to assume those responsibilities.

With all of that said, the Vikings could also look to add another young receiver or veteran receiver to the mix as well. There are several more chapters left to unfold before the Vikings make any decisions on this position battle, and the next one will happen on Sunday night when the Purple takes the field against the San Francisco 49ers.

Let us know in the comments section below which of the Vikings receivers you’d like to see step up and earn a roster spot.


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Undrafted Doesn’t Mean Unimportant

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 13, 2010 – 9:29 am

Later this month, former Vikings DT John Randle will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Any Hall of Fame career is remarkable, but it’s especially remarkable when a player – such as Randle – turns out to be a Hall of Famer after entering the NFL as an undrafted player.

For as much attention as the NFL draft receives annually, it’s easy to forget how important undrafted players are to every NFL team. With teams required to fill out 53-man rosters and also limited by the salary cap each season, there is only so much room for high-priced players with 1st-round pedigree. This is where the importance of finding productive undrafted players comes in.

With that in mind, Pro Football Weekly recently pointed out some of the league’s best undrafted players currently on NFL rosters. And 2 Vikings made the list – LB Heath Farwell and DT Pat Williams. If you click on the link above it’ll take you to a nfllabor.com page that lists PFW’s 2010 All-Undrafted Team.

Making the Vikings roster this season as an undrafted rookie is a tough task, largely because the Vikings return 22 starters from last year and also selected 8 players in this year’s draft. But let’s take a quick look at 3 undrafted players currently on the Vikings roster who might have a shot at coming out of training camp with a job.

OT Bill Noethlich – A 6-7, 308-pound OT, Noethlich will enter camp as 1 of 14 OL, but the Vikings will be looking for versatile players who can fulfill reserve rolls. If Noethlich can display an ability to play both LT and RT, perhaps he’ll carve a niche for himself on this roster. Noethlich’s story of making the roster would be a good one because he’s a native of Doland, SD and he played college football at Southwest Minnesota State.

S Terrell Skinner – College football fans may find this name familiar because Skinner played for the University of Maryland, beginning his career there as a redshirt freshman in 2005 and playing all the way through his senior season in 2009. I’m not familiar with his injury history and I haven’t spoken in-depth with any coaches or scouts regarding Skinner, but he strikes me as a player with a chance. He was converted from WR to DB at Maryland and stands at 6-2, 214 pounds. So his size is great and his ball skills should be solid. But if Skinner is going to make the Vikings coming out of training camp, his best bet might be to prove his worth as a special teams contributor first.

WR Ray Small – The Vikings have 3 solid starting WRs and because of the NFL’s graduation rule Small was unable to attend much of the Vikings offseason program. But even given all of that, Small should come to training camp with an ambitious mindset. Although the top 3 spots on the WR depth chart are locked up, there could be a couple more openings on the roster AND I believe Small will have a chance to win either the kick or punt return job.


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