On Wednesday we’ll throw our entire focus toward Sunday’s contest against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Before we do that, though, let’s take one last chance to reflect on what’s happened over the first 10 games of the Vikings season.
This was the topic of last week’s Wobcast, as I explained my 10 takes through 10 weeks…
10. Vikings are in the playoff hunt!
A strong 4-1 start and a key win against Detroit heading into the bye has placed the Vikings in the mix for a playoff spot in the NFC. It’s quite a treat for Vikings fans to be in this position after watching their team go 9-23 the past 2 seasons. Kudos to GM Rick Spielman and Head Coach Leslie Frazier for turning this organization around and heading in the right direction. The Vikings are 6-4 overall, 2-0 in the division and 4-3 in the NFC. If the playoffs started right now, the Vikings would miss it because of tie-breakers to Seattle and Tampa Bay. But the playoffs don’t start right now, so we’ll get to see if the Vikings can overcome a few teams over the next 6 weeks.
9. Dome-field advantage has returned
The Vikings were just 1-7 at home last year and suffered to a 3-13 season. This year, the Vikings dome-field advantage has returned. They are 4-1 in home games, and a big reason for that is the Mall of America Field crowd. Frazier compliments Vikings fans after each game and is genuine in his praise. He’s coached against and played against the Vikings in that building and respects the difference the home crowd can make. Good job, fans. Thanks for helping us gain that incredible dome-field advantage.
8. Youth, health has led to improvement in pass defense
The Vikings pass defense has taken a huge step forward in 2012. They were 26th in yards allowed last season and were 14th in that category after 10 games this season. What’s been the key? It’s been health and youth. CBs Antoine Winfield and Chris Cook missed 21 games combined last season, but this year they both started and remained healthy for most of the team’s first 10 games. Cook is dealing with an arm injury now, but young guys are stepping up in his absence. AJ Jefferson and this year’s 3rd-round pick – Josh Robinson – have filled the void well. Also, Harrison Smith is playing the safety position like we haven’t seen in years from a Vikings safety.
7. Percy has no mercy on opposing defenses
Simply put, I think Percy Harvin is the most dangerous offensive weapon among non-QBs in the NFL. He has 100 touches through 10 games – that’s receptions, rushes and returns – and he’s averaging 13.4 yards per touch with 5 TDs. Harvin is the best kickoff returner in the NFL, one of the best receivers in the NFL, and a good runner. There are not many (any?) better all-around threats in the NFL.
6. Vikings special teams have been outstanding, and deserve more credit
– Often times special teams is the neglected phase of football. But special teams has not been neglected by the Vikings, and in fact I’d submit that special teams has been key to the Vikings success this year. Heck, the Vikings special teams basically single-handedly won a game this year – Detroit – Week 4. A bunch of credit goes to Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer and assistant special teams coach Chris White for the work they’ve done together over the past two seasons. Through 10 games, the Vikings ranked 2nd in average drive start, 4th in kickoff return, 2nd in touchbacks on kickoffs and 9th in punt return. Special teams is something fans complain about when it’s going poorly, but forget about when it’s going well. Let’s take a moment during to appreciate the Vikings special teams play to this point. Bravo, guys.
To see the final 5 takes, which includes bold talk about Adrian Peterson and Blair Walsh, check out last week’s Wobcast.
Tags: A.J. Jefferson, Antoine Winfield, Chris Cook, Harrison Smith, Josh Robinson, Leslie Frazier, Mike Priefer, Percy Harvin, Rick Spielman
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 129 Comments »
Football fans know it can be foolish to cast final judgment on a draft class too early. Just 10 games into the season, it’s clearly far too early to grade each NFL team’s performance in the 2012 NFL Draft. But it’s also clear that just 10 games into the season, the Vikings got a lot of things right last April.
On Sunday, it became even clearer. Matt Kalil continues to hold down the left side of the offensive line, Harrison Smith and Josh Robinson have helped the secondary improve, Blair Walsh set a team record for touchbacks and is now 23 of 24 on FGs, and Robert Blanton, Rhett Ellison and Audie Cole continue to contribute on special teams and in other phases of the game. But now there’s a new contributor.
Jarius Wright, a receiver the Vikings drafted in the 4th round (118th overall) last April, made his regular season debut on Sunday and hit the ground running with 3 receptions for 65 yards and 1 TD. On the Vikings fifth offensive play, Wright dashed through the Detroit Lions secondary and QB Christian Ponder threw a shoulder fake to the left before lofting a pass toward Wright down the middle of the field. Wright hauled in the pass while falling to the ground and was tackled at the 1. Just moments later, Ponder found Wright in the end zone for a 3-yard TD to give the Vikings an early 7-0 and to give Wright his first NFL score.
Let’s keep things in perspective: it was one game and Wright had just one catch after hauling in two during the first series. But let’s also enjoy this moment, because Wright infused excitement and athleticism into a passing game that was missing its most explosive component – Percy Harvin.
The Vikings 2012 draft class has looked good all season. But after Wright’s debut on Sunday, it looks even better.
Tags: Christian Ponder, Jarius Wright, Rick Spielman
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 94 Comments »
The Vikings defense is off to a great start in 2012. Vast improvements have been made in pass defense. Opposing quarterbacks are completing 61.8% of their passes (down 6.4% from last year)for an average of 6.08 yards per attempt (down 2.03 yards) and their rating is just 84.6 (down 23.0 points).
On top of that, the Vikings stout run defense has returned. The Vikings are #2 in yards per carry allowed (3.2) and #6 in yards per game allowed (78.6), and the Vikings have a League-best long run allowed of just 15 yards. In the last three games, the Vikings have allowed fewer than 300 yards of total offense and just 11.0 points per game.
The big-time improvement by the Vikings defense has been appreciated locally by fans, and now it’s gaining national attention as well. Or at least the attention of one well-respected ESPN NFL analyst.
In his appearance on ESPN Radio’s Mike and Mike in the Morning, which was broadcasting live from Notre Dame’s campus on Friday morning, Ron Jaworski praised the Vikings defense by explaining that several veterans were playing well and are being complimented by one rookie who has been impressive through his first five games.
“Defensively, when I watched them this week, they just jumped out at me,” Jaworski said. “Obviously they have Jared Allen, Kevin Williams playing great inside. I mean Chad Greenway is flying around making plays all over the field. Antoine Winfield is a wily, old veteran that is healthy this year.
“But that guy that flashed to me, and I know you’re at Notre Dame this morning, but Harrison Smith has been making plays all over the field. A tremendous leader, plays with great discipline.”
Jaworski didn’t stop after praising individuals from the Vikings defense. He also praised the group’s synergy, which is an indirect compliment to those responsible for the construction of the Vikings defense – GM Rick Spielman, Head Coach Leslie Frazier and Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams.
“And when I look at defense, I always use this word: harmony. When you have eleven guys working together, making great music, you have harmony. And that’s what I see out of this Minnesota Vikings defense right now.”
Hopefully the Vikings defense makes sweet music in Washington D.C., this weekend, too.
Tags: Alan Williams, Antoine Winfield, Chad Greenway, Harrison Smith, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Leslie Frazier, Rick Spielman
Posted in All | 96 Comments »
In taking a closer look at the Redskins running attack earlier on Thursday, we referenced the camaraderie generated from playing the same five starters in all five games as one factor that’s led to production. In taking a look at the Vikings offense through five games, Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier and QB Christian Ponder have similar sentiments about their front line.
“The offensive line is playing tremendously well,” Ponder said on Wednesday. “You can tell the chemistry they have and the amount of communication they have on the line. They’re doing such a great job and they’re really gelling together, not even just the pass protection, they’re opening up holes in the run game. They couldn’t be playing any better.”
Frazier mentioned communication as a key to the line’s play as well while speaking with reporters on Wednesday.
“I see them at practice, in between, talking to one another about how we have to combo block, what we have to do from a technique standpoint,” Frazier said. “It’s a good chemistry on our offensive line right now and it’s showing up on the field.”
This type of play from the offensive line is refreshing to the Vikings and to those who’ve followed the Vikings in recent seasons. Individuals have played well at various times, but it’s been a couple of seasons since the Vikings offensive line played this well collectively. There are likely several factors behind the improvement. Let’s take a look at three of them.
1. Coach Davidson
There’s no better place to start than with Vikings OL coach Jeff Davidson. This is his second year on the job, and the veteran coach with multiple Super Bowl rings and NFL playing experience to his credit is starting to see results. It’s often said that a head coach or even defensive/offensive coordinator needs time to incorporate his scheme. A new position coach faces a similar challenge working with his subset of players, and therefore it’s fair to grant that position coach time as well. Davidson has put plenty of time in, and it’s beginning to pay off.
2. Buying the right groceries
If Davidson is the chef concocting the recipe for success along the offensive line, Vikings GM Rick Spielman and his personnel staff are responsible for buying the groceries from which Davidson creates the recipe. You may hate the analogy, but the point remains that Spielman has punched the right buttons when it comes to personnel decisions along the offensive line.
John Sullivan, whom Spielman selected with a 6th-round pick in 2008, has turned into one of the best centers in the NFL. Phil Loadholt, a 2nd-round pick in 2009, has taken a big step forward in 2012 and is in a contract year. The Vikings saw something they liked in Brandon Fusco, a 6th-round pick in 2011, and their decision to award him a starting job after training camp has turned into the right one. And you can’t talk about draft picks along the offensive line without mentioning Matt Kalil, the Vikings 4th overall pick this past April. He’s dominated the opposition at LT so far this season and looks every bit the part of a 4th overall choice. The selection of Kalil allowed the Vikings to move Charlie Johnson, last year’s LT, to his more natural position – guard.
3. You win with players
It’s only fair to credit coaching and personnel decisions when credit is due, so the first two points remain applicable. But the bottom line is that players have to go out and do their jobs. And that is what’s happening for the Vikings along the offensive line, through the first five games. There’s a lot of season to play, and the players will be the first to admit there are improvements to be made, but so far their ability to communicate and play well together has made a big difference for the Vikings offense.
“I like how they’re working together collectively,” Frazier said. “That is what you need as a unit to be effective on an offensive line and those guys are helping one another. I can see Matt [Kalil] working with Charlie [Johnson] and Charlie helping him. Then I see what John [Sullivan] is doing with Brandon [Fusco],who’s a young guy who is early in his career and helping him. And then Phil [Loadholt] is much more consistent. So each guy playing a little bit better and what it has created is a solid offensive line.”
Tags: Brandon Fusco, Charlie Johnson, John Sullivan, Leslie Frazier, Matt Kalil, Phil Loadholt, Rick Spielman
Posted in All | 41 Comments »
Matt Kalil is dominating on a weekly basis at LT, Harrison Smith is reminding Vikings fans what a playmaking safety looks like and Blair Walsh continues to validate the team’s decision to select him in the draft. But there’s another rookie who has been just as impressive to Vikings coaches and scouts – CB Josh Robinson.
The Vikings selection of Robinson last April was notable because the Central Florida product was the fastest timed player at the Combine (clocked a 4.29 in the 40-yard dash). But from the moment the Vikings selected Robinson, Vikings GM Rick Spielman explained he was as enamored with other parts of Robinson’s skill set as he was with his straight line speed.
“Extremely talented athlete,” Spielman conceded to vikings.com last April. “But when you look at his tape, he has some unique cover skills. He’s more than willing enough to come up in (run) support, too.”
Robinson is proving Spielman prophetic. The 5-10, 199-pound CB has 28 tackles on the season, including 15 in the last two games. Robinson also has 5 pass break-ups (PBUs) already – only 4 Vikings had that many PBUs all of last season. The Vikings pass defense is much improved from a season ago – they’ve improved 13 spots in passing yards allowed and 20 spots in passer rating alloweed – and Robinson is a big reason for the improvement.
The record from last week’s win over Tennessee will show Robinson as a starting CB along with Chris Cook. This does not mean a demotion for Antoine Winfield, but it is another indication of the confidence the Vikings have in their rookie CB.
“I don’t know if that will eventually be the case in 2012,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said of Robinson potentially being a full-time starter at CB. “We know at some point, we’re hoping that Josh develops to the point where he can be our starting corner. That’s why we drafted him when we did. We want him to eventually be a starting corner for us.”
All the talk of Robison seeing more time on the field aside, make no mistake that Winfield is having another solid season. He ranks 2nd on the team in tackles with 41 and is tied for second in tackles for loss (TFLs) with 4.0. Winfield also has one of the team’s two INTs – Robinson has the other. Frazier explained that the Vikings know what they have in the veteran Winfield. The additional playing time for Robinson is about reducing the wear and tear on Winfield while also continuing the steady development of Robinson.
“We know what we’re going to get from Antoine,” Frazier explained. “He’s been playing great ball for us in these first five weeks of the season and we’re going to need him throughout the year. Part of what we’re doing is just trying to take some snaps off of Antoine, along with developing Josh and we’re hoping that Josh continues to come along. He’s been playing well for us.”
Tags: Antoine Winfield, Josh Robinson, Leslie Frazier, Rick Spielman
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 59 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 »
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.
Tags: 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp, Adrian Peterson, Alan Williams, Bill Musgrave, Blair Walsh, Chase Baker, Christian Ballard, Christian Ponder, Everson Griffen, Fred Evans, Jasper Brinkley, Leslie Frazier, Letroy Guion, Matt Kalil, Percy Harvin, Rick Spielman, Tydreke Powell
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 27 Comments »
Sometimes NFL teams have too many open positions on the field and not enough worthy players to fill them. That’s a bad problem. Other times teams have too many players worthy of being on the field and not enough open positions. That’s a better problem to have.
When it comes to Everson Griffen, the Vikings have a good problem to solve. As a defensive end sitting behind All-Pro Jared Allen and six-year veteran Brian Robison, Griffen provides depth along the defensive line. But the Vikings have figured out that Griffen’s skill set and versatility make him too valuable a player to be on the sidelines more than he’s on the field.
“Everson has worked extremely hard this offseason,” Vikings GM Rick Spielman said. “The thing he gives you is versatility on defense, and how the coaches will figure out to put in different type of packages. He can stand up in the linebacker position, they can blitz him, he’s athletic enough to drop off in coverage, he can speed rush off the right side, he can come off the left side, and we even use him inside some as an inside nickel rusher when we try to get all of our pass rushers. One of the things you really try to hone in on are those guys that have unique athletic traits that can do multiple things for you.”
So what to do? Last summer the Vikings began experimenting with the idea of playing Griffen at LB occasionally, an idea that makes sense given Griffen’s athleticism and the presence of two established starters at his more natural position. And now, as FoxSportsNorth’s Brian Hall noted late last week, the Vikings are once again considering Griffen at LB.
“Yeah, that’s one of the things we’re talking about as a staff, being able to get him a few more reps at linebacker when we get to Mankato because, as you know from last season, we used him in that situation where he was a linebacker in some of our third down defense,” Frazier explained. “We’d like to be able to escalate that a little bit and maybe even in the early downs, get him on the field. We feel like we have two outstanding defensive ends in Jared (Allen) and then Brian (Robison) but with Everson, he’s an excellent athlete. You want to be able to get him more than ten or fifteen snaps a game and this is a way to possibly do that, so we’ll explore and see how he comes along in Mankato.”
Adding credence to the idea of moving Griffen to LB, even if it’s on a part-time basis, is that the Vikings are still unsure of what they have for depth at that position. Chad Greenway and Erin Henderson are established starters at outside LB, and the Vikings are hopeful Jasper Brinkley can evolve into a solid starter in the middle. After that there are players on the roster who could provide depth, such as 7th-round draft pick Audie Cole, Larry Dean, Solomon Elimimian and Marvin Mitchell, but Griffen could be one to compete with those individuals for playing time.
For his part, Griffen just wants to be on the field in whatever capacity the coaches ask so that he can help the team win. Now entering his 3rd season in the NFL, Griffen is used to lining up all over the field, something he can do because of his athleticism. He even plays gunner on the punt team, after all, which is a remarkable accomplishment for a player listed as a DE.
“I’m comfortable,” Griffen said. “With my athletic ability, I feel like I can come and pretty much do anything. That’s not me being cocky. I just feel like I can just come in and adapt to the situation.”
Fans love the idea of moving Griffen to LB because A) it’s a way to get a good player on the field more often and B) it’s a creative way to solve a problem and fans appreciate when their team uses an outside-the-box idea to try and improve.
But is Griffen better-suited to remain in his role as a reserve DE?
“Yeah, we think he can do that, but based on what we see in Mankato, that’s going to determine [if he plays LB],” Frazier said. “We want to give him a chance to see if he can help us at that linebacker spot where we’re still working with our depth, we’re still trying to identify what our depth is going to be at that position.”
Tags: Everson Griffen, Leslie Frazier, Rick Spielman
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 115 Comments »
Thursday was a good day at Winter Park, for many reasons.
The Vikings wrapped up their mandatory minicamp and their successful nine-week offseason program with a late-morning practice under nearly ideal weather conditions. Voice of the Vikings Radio Network Paul Allen hosted his weekday 9-noon radio show from a deck outside of the Wilf office. Zygi and Mark Wilf were in the house to take in the action and visit with some VIPs.
Oh, and Percy Harvin was on the field and in good spirits after practice.
Harvin had voiced some displeasure earlier in the week and did not practice with the team on Wednesday. Vikings GM Rick Spielman met with reporters on Wednesday to address the situation, and Head Coach Leslie Frazier spoke with Harvin to work through the issues.
Harvin, one of the Vikings best players, returned to the field on Thursday and worked sharply with QB Christian Ponder and the offense. Following practice, Harvin (@Percy_Harvin) took to Twitter with a message that settled down much of the buzz.
Here is Harvin’s tweet: “I’m really clueless on the crazy reports…had great prac today ….to all my real fans and real vikes fans see u at Mankato..salute”
Harvin and several of his teammates are featured in this cool highlight video we posted after Thursday’s practice. Check it out.
Tags: Leslie Frazier, Percy Harvin, Rick Spielman
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Vikings GM Rick Spielman met with reporters on Wednesday to address questions regarding WR Percy Harvin’s comments from Tuesday that he’s not happy with the team.
“On everything that’s been reported,” Spielman said initially, “from our standpoint, the Minnesota Vikings, we have no interest at all in trading Percy Harvin. We drafted Percy Harvin here, he’s a key part of our organization and a key part of our football team. Any issues that are out there or are reported, we always handle those internally and will continue to handle those internally.”
Spielman preferred not to go into specifics regarding the nature of Harvin’s displeasure or the timeline of it. Spielman did say that he’s spoken with Harvin’s agent, and that Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier has spoken with Harvin.
“It’s part of the NFL,” Spielman said. “There’s always going to be some players where you have to deal with specific issues and you have to deal with them internally, get them resolved and move forward.”
Tags: Leslie Frazier, Minicamp, Percy Harvin, Rick Spielman
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