We will talk a lot about the 2013 NFL Draft on vikings.com and the vikings.com Blog over the next 2.5 months. But right now, let’s take a look back at how the Vikings fared in the 2012 NFL Draft.
The impetus behind this idea is a piece put together by ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. Immediately following each year’s draft, he applies a grade to each team’s effort by reconciling the selections made by each team against that team’s draft positions and specific roster needs. Anyone who does this will tell you there’s a high degree of error involved because it’s typically a 3-year process before you can complete the evaluation of a draft-class. But in order to be fair and to hold himself accountable, Kiper has decided to revisit his post-draft grades for each team and hand out new grades based on how the draft picks and teams fared during the 2012 season.
The Vikings efforts in the 2012 NFL Draft were applauded immediately after, as they came out of the event with a pair of 1st-round picks at positions of need and also peppered the roster with 8 other selections after that. Kiper gave the Vikings a post-draft grade of a “B” and said the following: “The Vikings did pretty well. They got the left tackle they coveted in Matt Kalil, and they moved up to get a safety. Both Kalil and Harrison Smith, their two first-round picks, should be starting in Week 1. Josh Robinson adds speed, if not a lot of polish, at corner, and has the chance to develop into a good player.”
A pretty spot-on post-draft evaluation. Kalil and Smith both started all 16 games this season, and Robinson indeed has the look of a developing player after playing in all 16 games and starting 6 in his rookie season. Plus, he was 3rd on the team with 2 INTs and 7th on the team with 61 tackles.
In revisiting the draft and handing out new grades, though, Kiper has increased that grade by changing it to an A-. Kalil, Robinson and Smith fulfilled his expectations, and then others, most notably Blair Walsh, add significant contributions to cause Kiper to upgrade his evaluation. Here’s what he provided as new commentary:
“Kalil not only started 16 games at left tackle, played well at a significant position and if his run-blocking catches up with his pass-blocking, he’ll become among the league’s best. Smith became exactly what the Vikings had hoped, started all 16 games at free safety and should be there for years to come. The instincts he showed at Notre Dame were on display, and he’ll continue to get better. Robinson is raw, but could ultimately take over for Antoine Winfield. And don’t overlook one of the steals of the draft. Blair Walsh was taken at No. 175 overall, and was the best kicker in the league in 2012. A year later, a pretty good draft looks even better.”
And that’s not even to mention WR Jarius Wright coming on in the second half of the season, Rhett Ellison well on the way to providing the offense with gritty blocking and sneaky-good production in the passing game, and late-round picks Robert Blanton and Audie Cole poised to take on increased roles after serving on special teams from time-to-time in 2012. Including the injured Greg Childs, 9 of the Vikings 10 draft picks from last year are still on the team.
The news gets better from here, too. The Vikings are currently slated to have 8 draft picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which provides GM Rick Spielman and Co. with plenty of ammunition and opportunity to add even more young talent to an already young and talented roster that will continue to get better.
Tags: 2012 NFL Draft, 2013 NFL Draft, Audie Cole, Blair Walsh, Greg Childs, Harrison Smith, Jarius Wright, Josh Robinson, Matt Kalil, Rhett Ellison, Robert Blanton
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 41 Comments »
The Vikings are off to a fast 4-1 start in 2012, and their good fortune is the result of many great individual efforts. Many of those individuals, such as leading tackler Chad Greenway and do-everything playmaker Percy Harvin, are rightfully receiving acclaim for their contributions.
But as anyone who follows the game of football realizes, team success is also a function of outstanding individual effort that merits little or no acclaim. The Vikings early-season success is not exempt from this rule. So let’s take a moment to recognize three Vikings who are performing well but have not been in the headlines very much.
TE Rhett Ellison
The Vikings have received outstanding contributions from their 2012 draft class to this point, with CB Josh Robinson and S Harrison Smith infusing the secondary with energy and talent, LT Matt Kalil (more on him below) helping to shore up the offensive line, and Blair Walsh off to a tremendous start. Many may not know it, but TE Rhett Ellison should be included in that group as well. He’s played in all 5 of the Vikings regular season games and has been a contributor on special teams as well as offense.
A lot of what Ellison does will not show up in the box score. For example, he was a vital component to the Vikings blocking scheme against San Francisco 49ers DE Justin Smith. A 3-time Pro Bowler, Smith was held in check against the Vikings and finished the game with just 3 tackles. In Sunday’s win over the Titans, though, some of what Ellison can do to help the team did show up in the box score. He had 2 catches for 35 yards, including a 29-yarder late in the 3rd quarter that led to a Vikings TD three plays later.
Ellison can block. He can catch and run. And he can cover kicks or block for returners. That’s why Vikings GM Rick Spielman selected him in the 4th round last April, and that’s why he’s one of three players we’ve identified as a top “under the radar” performer for the Vikings this season.
FB Jerome Felton
It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it. That’s perhaps the best way to characterize the contributions of FB Jerome Felton to the Vikings offense. He’s not asked by the team to carry the ball much or run routes. He’s basically an extended family member of the offensive line, paving the way for RB Adrian Peterson and solidifying the pocket for QB Christian Ponder. Some have speculated in the past that Peterson doesn’t like running behind a FB, but I’m going to guess he doesn’t mind running behind Felton. Peterson is averaging 4.4 yards per carry and the Vikings rank 9th in the NFL in rushing yards per game. Felton is a big reason why.
“I think Jerome Felton is a guy who hasn’t gotten a lot of recognition,” Vikings QB Christian Ponder said, “but watching him on tape, he’s done a heck of a job lead-blocking for Adrian.”
LT Matt Kalil
In much the same way it’s hard to measure the effectiveness of a FB such as Felton or a “blocking” TE such as Ellison, it can be tricky gauging the performance of an offensive lineman because there’s no box score metric that directly applies to the position. But you don’t need a box score metric or even a bunch of film study to realize how dominant Kalil has been through 5 games. He’s gone against several formidable DEs and he’s held his water without problem. Also, according to one statistical study, the Vikings have run to the left (Kalil’s side) with success – 44 carries for 199 yards (4.5 yards per carry).
Tags: Christian Ponder, Jerome Felton, Matt Kalil, Rhett Ellison
Posted in All | 80 Comments »
Did the Vikings offensive line have their best performance of the season in Sunday’s win over the San Francisco 49ers? It sure looked like it, and Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier thought so, too.
“I think, collectively, yeah. And when you consider the front they were going up against, that’s a very good front,” Frazier said.
Frazier credited LG Charlie Johnson for a solid performance against 49ers All-Pro Justin Smith, and he also noted that Matt Kalil fared well against standout pass rusher Aldon Smith. Brandon Fusco and Phil Loadholt anchored down on the right side of the offense, and the lynchpin of it all is C John Sullivan. Credit should also be given to the Vikings coaching staff, who used a creative blocking scheme at times to create opportunities for the offense. Loadholt shifted to the left side of the formation on at least one snap to give San Francisco a different look, and the club also found a way to get rookie Rhett Ellison in on the action.
“It was a good performance across the board,” Frazier said. “As a group, to rush for 146 yards on that defensive line or that defense, it’s pretty impressive.”
Having any success against the 49ers on the ground is impressive. Gaining 146 yards? Over the past two seasons, that’s nearly unheard of. San Francisco hadn’t allowed that many rushing yards since November of 2010, and the 344 total yards the Vikings amassed on Sunday is 5th best against the 49ers over their last 19 games. Also, the Vikings collected 25 1st downs – #1 against San Francisco over the last19 games – and they logged 33:28 in time of possession – #2 against the 49ers over that same span.
A few other notes on the offensive line’s performance against the very good 49ers defense:
— The 49ers have only been held without a sack one other time since the start of 2011 (19 games) – against Baltimore in 2011.
— The 49ers did not have an INT, and they’ve been held without an INT just four times in that same span.
— The 49ers have only been held without a SACK and INT one other time in that span – the Baltimore game in 2011.
Tags: Brandon Fusco, Charlie Johnson, John Sullivan, Leslie Frazier, Matt Kalil, Phil Loadholt, Rhett Ellison
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 23 Comments »
The Vikings listed 8 players on their initial Week 2 injury report, and all of them participated in practice on Wednesday.
Listed as full participants in practice are RB Adrian Peterson (knee) and CB Josh Robinson (hip). Those who were limited in practice were: CB Chris Cook (biceps), LB Marvin Mitchell (ankle), S Andrew Sendejo (ankle), C John Sullivan (ankle), WR Jarius Wright (ankle) and TE Rhett Ellison (ankle).
The Colts listed 6 players on their report. LB Pat Angerer (foot), LB Dwight Freeney (ankle), and G Joe Reitz (knee) did not participate in practice. OT Winston Justice (head) was limited and WR Austin Collie (head) and WR T.Y. Hilton (shoulder) were full participants.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Andrew Sendejo, Chris Cook, Jarius Wright, John Sullivan, Josh Robinson, Marvin Mitchell, Rhett Ellison
Posted in All | 36 Comments »
The calendar has flipped from Week 1 to Week 2 in the NFL. But before we get too far into discussing the Vikings Week 2 match-up with the Indianapolis Colts, let’s take a quick look back at how several Vikings rookies performed in the season-opening win against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
A few of the rookies played key roles in the victory, which is part of the reason we’ll have a rookie report this week. But I’m guessing a rookie report will be warranted most weeks given the important role several Vikings draft picks are going to have on this team, namely LT Matt Kalil, S Harrison Smith and K Blair Walsh.
Here’s the Week 1 Rookie Report…
Kalil logged 69 total snaps, with 59 coming on offense as the starting LT and 10 coming on special teams. He was solid in the run game and pass protection, but his most notable – or at least most visible – contribution was a blocked PAT in the 1st quarter. In a game that went to overtime, a blocked extra point is obviously huge.
Frazier’s take: “I thought he held his own in the run game, did a very good job in pass protection as well, just a lot of things that we can build on. There were a few errors that we want to correct. There are some things that he knows he has to get better at but that’s going to be a part of his maturing as an offensive tackle as well. But a lot of good things on tape by him.”
Smith led all Vikings in total plays with 91 (79 on defense, 12 on special teams), and he was one of the Vikings two starting safeties (Mistral Raymond). Perhaps his best play came in overtime, when he broke up a pass from Blaine Gabbert intended for WR Laurent Robinson on a 3rd and 2 from the Jacksonville 31. The game was over on the next play, also an incompletion. On special teams, Smith PBU in overtime or 4th.
Frazier’s take: “I thought he did a good job. He had maybe one missed tackle but his angles, he had a nice deflection there late in the game, moved around well, was in the right position, made some good plays. When I look at the tape, he brought a smile to my face a few different times because he was where he needed to be and that’s important when you’re a guy who plays in the secondary.”
Robinson logged 53 snaps, with 38 coming on defense primarily as the 3rd CB and 15 coming on special teams. He had a solo tackle on special teams and registered 4 more tackles on defense. Starter Chris Cook left the game for a brief period, bumping Robinson up to one of the top 2 CB spots. A.J. Jefferson, whom the Vikings acquired via trade a couple weeks ago, did not play. It will be interesting to see Jefferson’s progress with the team and also the impact his playing time has on Robinson’s. Robinson has shown plenty of signs that he can be an NFL CB, so I expect the Vikings to continue to put him on the field in order to develop his skills.
Ellison played primarily on special teams, with 22 of his 25 total snaps coming with that group. He logged 1 solo tackle.
Walsh logged 12 plays and was spectacular from start to finish. He was 4 of 4 on FG tries, including a game-tying 55-yard FG as time expired and the game-winner in overtime from 38 yards. Walsh was good on kickoffs as well, tallying 3 touchbacks and helping hold the Jaguars average starting field position at the 19.5-yardline. Walsh was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance and he’s been named a finalist for Pepsi MAX NFL Rookie of the Week honors as well.
Frazier’s take: “Blair, there is no need to say it but it was outstanding to come away and kick the way he did at the end of regulation and then to hit the game-winning field goal in overtime. As a rookie, it doesn’t get much more pressure than that and to come through for us, it really improved the confidence of our players along with his confidence as time goes on.”
Blanton logged 7 total snaps, all of which came on special teams. I expect him to continue in that role for the short-term, but his long-term role will likely be much more significant. He’s still catching up from missing a big chunk of training camp and the preseason with an injury.
Tags: Blair Walsh, Harrison Smith, Josh Robinson, Leslie Frazier, Matt Kalil, Rhett Ellison, Robert Blanton
Posted in All | 16 Comments »
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: 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp, Audie Cole, Blair Walsh, Brandon Fusco, Brian Robison, Bryan Walters, Chris Carr, Everson Griffen, Jarius Wright, John Sullivan, Matt Asiata, Rhett Ellison, Stephen Burton, Toby Gerhart, Trevor Guyton
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 65 Comments »
The Vikings are now a week into training camp and it’s full speed ahead for the team as they begin preparing for the 2012 season. Now that we’re gaining a better understanding of the roster after six days of practice, let’s take a look at 10 players who are off to fast starts at 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp.
TE Kyle Rudolph
Rudolph’s combination of size, strength and speed is unique, and it presents big-time mismatch problems for the defense. QB Christian Ponder is not afraid to look Rudolph’s way, and until someone finds a way to slow the 6-6, 258-pound beast, he’s going to keep catching passes.
LT Matt Kalil
You would naturally excuse a rookie – even a third overall choice – if he were making mistakes during training camp. Add in the fact that the rookie is going against the best defensive end in football, and you’d allow even a few more perhaps. But Kalil hasn’t been guilty of many miscues. Sure, Jared Allen is winning his fair share of the matchups, but all things considered, Kalil has looked the part of a player who could develop into a cornerstone LT.
CB Antoine Winfield
We wrote in this space multiple times about how great Antoine Winfield looked during the offseason program. He’s continued to look great during training camp.
“We were talking about that as a staff last night, he really seems to be into this training camp more than any other. You see him out there taking one-on-ones and all of the reps,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said. “We will have to monitor that a little bit, he is not 22 years of age anymore, but he is definitely invigorated in a lot of ways, which is good for our young players in our secondary to see the way he works and how he approaches things. It’s great for them.”
CB Bobby Felder
One of those young players in the secondary is Bobby Felder, an undrafted college free agent out of Nicholls State. I’m asked about Felder more than most players for some reason, but maybe Felder will show us all why he deserves to be noticed. He didn’t have the best day of practice on Wednesday, but other than that he’s been solid. Felder is a player to watch in the preseason.
WRs Percy Harvin and Jerome Simpson
I like what the Vikings have going at WR. Entering the offseason, WR was a position that needed an upgrade. And it got one. The Vikings look much better at the position, and the addition of Jerome Simpson is a big reason for that. Simpson has tremendous speed and is terrific after the catch. He’s not strictly a vertical route receiver, either. Simpson can run intermediate/deep crossing patterns as well, and he’s hard to stop on comeback routes.
Simpson looking so good likely has Percy Harvin upping his game as well. Harvin is already one of the most dynamic receivers in the game, so watching him rise to the challenge in competing with Simpson for passes from Ponder has been great to watch.
DT Letroy Guion
When the defensive coordinator singles you out as having a good camp, you’re going to make this list.
“Letroy has been one that has been phenomenal in camp,” Alan Williams said. “It may not seem to the naked eye but there are some 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.”
LB Chad Greenway
We listed Chad Greenway as a stand out from Tuesday’s practice, largely because of an athletic pass breakup (PBU) he registered on an end zone fade pass to Kyle Rudolph and also because of a couple plays he made in short-yardage and goal line periods. Greenway is a leader on the Vikings defense and will be a three-down player for the Vikings once again this season.
TE Rhett Ellison
During the Vikings rookie minicamp in May, Rhett Ellison emerged as a stand out thanks in large part to his fluid pass-catching skills. Billed as more of a physical, blocking-type of TE, Ellison displayed a natural ability in the passing game during that camp and has continued to do so in training camp. He’s also a physical player in the trenches. That type of all-around ability could yield a long, productive career for the rookie from USC.
RB Derrick Coleman
Undrafted this year and joining the Vikings for their rookie minicamp, not many paid much attention to Derrick Coleman this spring. But it’s hard not to notice him during training camp. He is running with the third-team, so it’s appropriate to temper the enthusiasm. But you can only beat the people put in front of you, and right now Coleman is winning more than he’s losing when he’s on the field. He’ll be another player to watch during the preseason.
GM Rick Spielman
We’re only a week into training camp, but you’ve got to give GM Rick Spielman and his staff, along with head coach Leslie Frazier, credit for attacking the task of reforming this roster over the offseason. The Vikings were coming off consecutive seasons of 6-10 and 3-13, plus they had tough roster decisions to make on valued veteran players. On top of that, the team had 10 draft choices to execute.
The Vikings have had a good training camp to date and the talent level on this roster is going the right way. There is a clear sense of direction the team is heading in, and there’s no question Spielman and Frazier set out to make this roster younger and more talented. Judging by one week of training camp, they did a good job. There’s a lot of work to be done, but the progress is encouraging.
Tags: Alan Williams, Antoine Winfield, Bobby Felder, Chad Greenway, Derrick Coleman, Jerome Simpson, Kyle Rudolph, Leslie Frazier, Letroy Guion, Matt Kalil, Percy Harvin, Rhett Ellison, Rick Spielman
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 99 Comments »
The Vikings conducted their customary morning walk-thru on Wednesday at 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp and head coach Leslie Frazier met with reporters afterward to give an update on his team through the first half-week of work. We’ll post the video in on-demand format soon, but until then I’ll go over a few notes I took from the press conference.
– Frazier said the new practice schedule of walk-thrus in the morning and practices in the afternoon is working well for the team so far. In year’s past, the Vikings conducted their practice in the morning and then a walk-thru in the afternoon. But being able to watch the walk-thru prior to practice to learn which mistakes to correct during the padded practice has been an advantage for the team, Frazier explained.
– TE John Carlson injured his knee on Tuesday and Frazier confirmed that the injury is a Grade 2 MCL sprain that will sideline the Minnesota native for 1-2 weeks. The good news on the injury front, though, is that CB Josh Robinson is expected to take a step forward in his recovery from a hamstring injury today. Frazier said that Robinson might begin working out on the side during practice with the training staff.
– Frazier spoke in glowing terms about rookie TE Rhett Ellison. The Vikings selected Ellison in the 5th round and based on early observations it looks like Rick Spielman and Co. found a good deal. Ellison will likely fulfill multiple roles in the Vikings offense and is the kind of player that will remind Vikings fans of Jim Kleinsasser. Frazier said Ellison’s maturity is notable, and he also said that the rookie has great preparation habits, attention to detail and a work ethic you don’t typically see from a first-year player.
– Antoine Winfield looked to be in tip-top form during the offseason program, and that form appears to have carried into training camp. Frazier said that the coaching staff discussed on Tuesday night the fact that Winfield looks “invigorated” on the field and is showing no signs of slowing down. Frazier noted that is very good news on a number of fronts, not the least of which being that Winfield is a good mentor for the team’s young secondary.
– Frazier was asked about S Jamarca Sanford, who started 15 games for the defense last year and is in the middle of a competition for playing time this year. The area of Sanford’s game that the team is looking to improve is his ability to make plays on the ball down the field. Sanford is built compactly and is an excellent tackler, Frazier said, but now the team is looking for an improvement in his pass coverage. Frazier called Sanford one of the NFL’s premier special teams players, and credited his strength, speed and passion for the game as reasons why he excels in that area of the game.
– On Tuesday Vikings Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams spoke about his philosophy of wanting a “hockey lineup” along the defensive line, drawing an analogy to one of Minnesota’s past times in order to illustrate the point that he wants to rotate the defensive line as much as possible to keep players fresh throughout games and the season. Frazier said that he subscribes to his new coordinator’s theory and is pleased with the depth they have along the line.
– Everson Griffen has made the switch from DE to LB in camp, but Frazier noted that there may be certain situations where they ask Griffen to move back to DE. The focus is still on getting Griffen rote at outside LB to improve that position, but the goal is to make the entire defense better and the team can do that by getting Griffen on the field more frequently.
– For the first time in a long time, E.J. Henderson is not playing middle LB for the Vikings. It’s Jasper Brinkley’s job now, and some are concerned about Brinkley’s injury history. Frazier noted that Brinkley has done well so far in camp, has not been to the training room and made a bit hit in practice on Tuesday. “So far, so good,” Frazier said about Brinkley.
Tags: 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp, Antoine Winfield, Everson Griffen, Jamarca Sanford, Jasper Brinkley, John Carlson, Josh Robinson, Leslie Frazier, Rhett Ellison
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 130 Comments »
The Vikings made key additions to the safety and tight end positions this offseason, but they utilized different methods in doing so. At safety, the Vikings looked to the draft to add young talent and infuse the position with competition. At tight end, the Vikings turned to free agency to bolster the position.
Safeties and tight ends are the subject of today’s Roster Rundown. Let’s begin with the safeties…
Four players listed as safeties will return from last year’s team. Jamarca Sanford, who started 15 games in 2011 and is entering his fourth season, has the most experience playing defense of the bunch. Eric Frampton, entering his sixth season, has been a core special teams player for the Vikings since 2007 and should retain at least that role in 2012. The two other returning players are Mistral Raymond and Andrew Sendejo. Raymond started five games last year and Sendejo was added to the active roster via free agency in late November 2011.
The Vikings added two safeties to the roster via the draft, using a 1st-round pick to select Harrison Smith and a 5th-round pick to select Robert Blanton. As a 1st-round pick, the expectation for Smith is that he’ll emerge from training camp with a starting role. Blanton is converting from cornerback to safety and will compete for time at the other safety position. Others who will compete for time at safety are Reggie Jones and perhaps Zack Bowman (he could rotate between cornerback and safety).
Safety is a position to watch during training camp and the preseason. The assumption is that Smith will hold down one starting spot while Blanton, Raymond and Sanford compete for the other position. But don’t be surprised to see others insert themselves into the mix, including Bowman and Sendejo.
The Vikings shed a fair amount of experience at tight end this offseason, with 13-year pro Jim Kleinsasser retiring and nine-year pro Visanthe Shiancoe not returning. But now the position is full of youth and play-making athleticism. Not many teams used more multiple-TE formations than the Vikings a season ago, so this will be an important position to watch develop during training camp and the preseason.
Kyle Rudolph was a 2nd-round pick of the Vikings last year and he came on strong at the end of the season. He and QB Christian Ponder clearly have a good rapport, so it won’t be a surprise to see Rudolph take a huge step forward in 2012. As if one athletic, field-stretching TE from Notre Dame wasn’t enough, the Vikings added John Carlson to the mix during free agency. A Litchfield, MN native, Carlson is a proven talent in the NFL with a pair of 50+ reception seasons and a per-catch average of 11.1 yards for his career.
Behind Carlson and Rudolph, the Vikings have a pair of former Big Ten tight ends who are also talented pass catchers in Allen Reisner and Mickey Shuler. Both have two years of experience and both will have to display an ability to help on special teams as well as on offense to earn a roster spot.
The last player we’ll mention in this space is Rhett Ellison, even though he may eventually be listed as a FB. The Vikings selected Ellison in the 4th round of this year’s draft and he could be asked to fulfill a variety of roles on the Vikings offense, including as a tight end. Billed as a big, physical blocking-type of tight end entering the draft, Ellison displayed fluid route running and pass receiving skills at the Vikings rookie minicamp in May. A blue-collar, nose-to-the-grindstone player, Ellison will quickly become a fan-favorite in Minnesota, similar to how Kleinsasser’s career progressed.
Carlson and Rudolph will be the main threats at TE for the Vikings in 2012. While both are capable blockers, that is not their forte. That leaves opportunity for Reisner and Shuler to prove their worth during training camp; it will also be important for Reisner and Shuler to perform well on special teams during training camp and the preseason.
Tags: Allen Reisner, Andrew Sendejo, Eric Frampton, Harrison Smith, Jamarca Sanford, John Carlson, Kyle Rudolph, Mickey Shuler, Mistral Raymond, Reggie Jones, Rhett Ellison, Robert Blanton, Roster Rundown
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 278 Comments »
Chad and Jenni Greenway, along with teammates John Sullivan, Robert Blanton, Rhett Ellison, Tyrone McKenzie and Harrison Smith, will sponsor the 6th annual Greenway’s Gridiron Gallop 5K fun run/walk at Lake Nokomis this Sunday – Father’s Day.
Joining the Greenways and other Vikings players will be Vikings cheerleaders and Viktor the Viking. Funds raised by the event will go toward Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board youth athletic programming.
Race Day check-in and registration will take place at the Lake Nokomis Bath House (located at 4955 West Lake Nokomis Parkway, Minneapolis, MN 55417) from 7:30 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. The event will begin at 9:00 a.m.
Players, along with cheerleaders, will be signing autographs for all participants. The event is $30 in advance and $35 the day of the event. The cost is $10 for a child (10 and under) in advance, $15 the day of, to participate in the 8:30 a.m. Kids Fun Run. All pre-registered participants are guaranteed a free t-shirt.
To register, go to www.minneapolisparks.org and click on “activities and programs” and then click on “community special events,” or register in-person the morning of the event.
Tags: Chad Greenway, Harrison Smith, John Sullivan, Rhett Ellison, Robert Blanton, Tyrone McKenzie
Posted in All | 17 Comments »