Competition On Offensive Line Remains Thick; Practice Notes

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 15, 2011 – 3:05 pm

The Vikings returned to the practice fields on Monday afternoon after playing in their first preseason game of 2011 on Saturday night in Tennessee. Training camp has shifted from the University of Minnesota, Mankato to Winter Park’s outdoor practice fields at the Vikings home facility.

“It was nice to be able to have a practice here at Winter Park on our field,” Frazier said after practice. “The first time we’ve actually worked with our players on this field. It’s hard to believe…it’s what, August 15 and this is our first time standing on this field together as a team. It was good work for us, good for our coaches to be around our players in this environment and it feels good to be back at Winter Park.”

Aside from being back “home” again for practice, it was also nice to see RG Anthony Herrera back in the action. Herrera didn’t participate in the Mankato portion of training camp and he didn’t play in Saturday night’s preseason opener because of injuries, but on Monday Herrera was back in the action and he was working with the first-team offense.

Herrera wasn’t the only one working with the first-team at RG, though. In fact, I noticed quite a bit of rotation at first-team RG and at second-team RT. Herrera and Scott Kooistra spent time with the first-team at RG, while Chris DeGeare, who started at RG on Saturday night, was actually playing RT with the second-team. Also playing with the first-team at RG was Ryan Cook.

It was a bit of a surprise to see Kooistra at RG because he’s played primarily OT during training camp. He does have experience playing guard, though, so it wouldn’t be a total surprise to see him make the move inside. For now, Frazier indicated Kooistra will concentrate mainly on OT.

At this point Herrera appears to be the team’s choice at RG, but there is uncertainty with whether he’ll be able to play by Week 1. With that being the case, both DeGeare and Cook are also in the mix for the starting position.

“You don’t want to eliminate Ryan Cook,” Frazier explained. “Cook still has an opportunity to compete for that position and it’s competition right now because we’re not certain where Anthony is going to be. We just have to see how he progresses.”

Expect to see the Vikings continue to experiment with different combinations along the first- and second-team offensive lines; that’s why we have training camp and the preseason. The goal is to get the best five guys playing along the first-team offensive line and then a group of reserves who have position flexibility.

Let’s get to a few practice notes…

– The Vikings worked for about an hour and 10 minutes under mostly cloudy skies, warm temperatures and a slight breeze. Frazier had his players working in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts and the team worked in front of part of the Vikings ownership group.

– After a quick warm-up and individual position drills, there was a special teams period. It was interesting to watch RB Adrian Peterson working on the side with RBs coach James Saxon during the special teams period. Obviously Peterson doesn’t play on special teams, but it was good to see him and coach Saxon work on some footwork-related issues during the time off.

– Of the seven players who were held out of Saturday’s preseason game, only LB Kenny Onatolu and TE Visanthe Shiancoe didn’t practice on Monday. Onatolu continues to be sidelined by a foot injury and Shiancoe tweaked his hamstring late in the Mankato portion of training camp. Frazier said the goal is to get Onatolu back for the Dallas preseason game on August 27. Shiancoe remains day-to-day.

– S Mistral Raymond, who had a terrific training camp in Mankato but who also tweaked his hamstring on the final play of the final practice in Mankato, did not play on Saturday night. But he was back at practice on Monday and Frazier said the rookie felt no residual effects of his injury during Monday’s work.

– Also sitting out practice on Monday were: LB Heath Farwell (hamstring), DE D’Aundre Reed (calf) and OL Thomas Welch (glute). Frazier described Reed as day-to-day and he also said Welch is expected to be able to practice on Tuesday.

– FB Ryan D’Imperio made a nice one-handed grab on the first play of 7-on-7 drills. He was circling out to the right flats and McNabb led him a touch too much. But D’Imperio stuck his left hand out and was able to haul in the pass. Another one-handed catch was made in 7-on-7 and it was a familiar face doing it. TE Kyle Rudolph, who had another one-handed grab earlier in training camp, was running down the left seam and McNabb led him perfectly. LB Mark Washington was in coverage and actually was shadowing Rudolph perfectly. But Rudolph went full extension to the ground and came up with the one-handed grab.

– Speaking of LB Mark Washington, he got his hands on an INT during 7-on-7.

– WR Bernard Berrian made an impressive catch in the middle of the field. Rookie CB Brandon Burton was in on the coverage and was draped all over Berrian, but McNabb forced the pass into Berrian’s area and #87 came up with the grab. Another impressive play was turned in toward the end of practice and it was rookie QB Christian Ponder who did it. He lasered in a pass to Juaquin Iglesias on a deep out route down the right sideline. The pass was perfectly placed, right past the out-stretched arms of the defender but close enough to the field so that Iglesias could make the catch and get both feet in bounds.

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Saturday Notes

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 9, 2010 – 12:28 pm

The Vikings worked for roughly 90 minutes over the noon hour on Saturday under sunny skies and warm conditions as they begin to make final preparations for their Monday Night Football matchup with the NY Jets. It appeared as though everyone except CB Chris Cook was taking part in practice – Cook has been listed on the injury report with a knee injury and hasn’t practice at all this week.

Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress met briefly with reporters following practice and addressed a number of topics. Here are a few notes from the discussion…

– Childress said WR Randy Moss has done a good job of getting acclimated with the offense since arriving. Exactly how much Moss will play on Monday night is uncertain, but my sense is that he’ll be on the field more times than not. Childress also made a good point that Moss is able to help the Vikings with his knowledge of how the Jets defense operates as much as with his abilities as a receiver in the Vikings offense. Moss had been with New England since 2007 and has gotten quite familiar with the Jets defense over the year.

– Childress was asked about the injury to Cook and the head coach said he anticipates a quicker recovery from this knee injury than from the knee ailment that sidelined the rookie CB earlier in the season.

– QB Brett Favre is listed on the injury report with both ankle and right elbow injuries. Childress said the elbow issue came up after the bye week and he also said an MRI indicated a flare up. It’s something the team will monitor and manage but it doesn’t seem to be a major issue at this point.

– Finally, Childress said C John Sullivan, who is dealing with a pesky calf injury, continues to improve and has pushed through some on-field work lately. Sullivan will travel with the team to New York, so there’s a chance he could improve over the next 2 days and be on the field. Ryan Cook stepped in for Sullivan against the Detroit Lions in Week 3 and my guess is Cook would again be the replacement if Sullivan is unable to go.

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Ryan Cook Plays Well In Place Of Injured Sullivan

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 27, 2010 – 12:20 pm

Vikings starting C John Sullivan has been dealing with a calf injury since the early part of training camp and it looked like he was battling back to solid playing shape through the 1st couple games of the 2010 regular season. But Cook didn’t even make it a couple of plays into Sunday’s game against the Lions before he re-aggravated that calf injury.

On the Vikings 1st offensive play against Detroit, Sullivan was injured and came out of the game. He was unable to return, meaning veteran Ryan Cook assumed the position because backup C Jon Cooper was inactive. Cook played C in college and was selected in the 2nd round of the 2006 draft but has been unable to develop into a regular starter.

He still isn’t a regular starter for the Vikings, but he looked the part on Sunday.

“He really did a great job,” Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said on Monday. “You didn’t see any downturn on anything.”

Childress did point out that Cook had 2 penalties called against him, but ultimately the head coach said “you didn’t see any physical shortcomings by him at all in there in terms of playing the offensive line.”

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Final Audition For Some As Roster Deadline Nears

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 2, 2010 – 7:37 am

Tonight’s preseason finale against the Denver Broncos represents a final audition for several players as they hope to make the Vikings 53-man roster. The Vikings began training camp back on July 30 with 80 players and tonight training camp officially comes to an end and the Vikings will trim the roster to 53 players by the end of the day Saturday.

For some, such as DE Jared Allen or RB Adrian Peterson, tonight’s action isn’t so dramatic. But for others, tonight could mean everything. Let’s take a look at a few position battles that are still up in the air…

Offensive Line: All 5 starters from last year will return in 2010, but beyond that the Vikings OL situation is uncertain. Rookie Chris DeGeare has performed well to this point and could be anywhere from the Week 1 starter at RG to the team’s #1 reserve. And what about Ryan Cook? He can play all 5 positions along the line but might have to hold off others, such as Patrick Brown and Drew Radovich, to make the team.

Wide Receiver: Last year’s breakout WR – Sidney Rice – is on the mend with a hip injury and won’t be active until midway through the season, so that opens up another spot on the roster. The Vikings brought in Greg Camarillo and Javon Walker last week to fortify depth, but there are others, such as Logan Payne and Greg Lewis, who are vying for playing time as well. All of these players have a chance tonight to step up and stand out.

Defensive Line: It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Vikings hold onto an extra defensive lineman or 2 given how well the unit has played in training camp and the preseason. Aside from the usual suspects, there have been a few standouts during training camp, including DT Letroy Guion and DE Jayme Mitchell. They’ll have a chance to solidify their positions tonight but others on the depth chart, such as DT Fred Evans and DE Everson Griffen, will try to use tonight as another stepping stone.

Linebacker: They might slide a bit under the radar, but the Vikings LB corps might be the deepest spot on the entire team. The team’s 3 starters are outstanding, and LB coach Fred Pagac has done a great job of shoring up depth behind those starters with players such as Jasper Brinkley, Heath Farwell and Erin Henderson. Given the importance of LBs to the special teams unit, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a couple more LBs (Kenny Onatolu, Nate Triplett) on the final 53-man roster.

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Report: Paymah To Become Free Agent

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 3, 2010 – 2:16 pm

Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune writes that the Vikings will not extend a qualifying offer to Karl Paymah, meaning the CB will hit the free agent market on Thursday evening at 11:01 p.m. CT.

As a 5-year veteran, Paymah was one of many players who had an expiring contract this offseason but would not become an unrestricted free agent because of the new rules that govern an uncapped year. But if the Vikings do not tender Paymah, he’ll become a free agent and can sign with any team.

The Vikings have several other players currently on the roster who have expiring contracts but also have fewer than the 6 required years to become unrestricted free agents (UFAs). They are: OL Ryan Cook, DE Ray Edwards, DT Fred Evans, S Eric Frampton, QB Tarvaris Jackson and FB Fahu Tahi. The Vikings have until 10:59 p.m. on Thursday night to extend qualifying offers to these players or else they, too, become free agents and can sign with any team beginning at 11:01 p.m. on Thursday.

Going back to Paymah, he was a free agent signing from last offseason and was involved in the training camp battle for the nickel back position. He saw most of his time on special teams and also saw the field after Antoine Winfield injured his foot against Baltimore in Week 6. Ultimately, Paymah played in 12 games for the Vikings but he didn’t crack the lineup after the Vikings Week 13 loss at Arizona.

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Hicks’ Position Flexibility Helped Vikings On Sunday

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 13, 2009 – 9:10 am

Rookie RT Phil Loadholt missed Sunday’s game against the Rams because of an ankle injury but he told the Star Tribune that he’s confident he’ll be able to give the ankle a go during practice on Wednesday.

Starting in Loadholt’s place on Sunday was veteran swingman Artis Hicks. Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said Hicks did a “nice job,” especially for not having practiced in the RT spot for much of the week.

“With only having Friday as a full practice at the right tackle position,” Childress said, “I thought he did a nice job for being on that side. He is a natural left sided guy, left handed guy. I thought he did a nice job for lining up there.”

Childress dealt for Hicks after he took the job in Minnesota because the 2 were familiar with each from their time in Philadelphia together and because of Hicks’ tremendous position flexibility. Hicks can play 4 positions along the line.

“About the only thing he is not studying is the center position because Ryan Cook is a guy that we would typically have up and slide into that spot (center),” Childress explained. “Artis has got to have a feel for a right-hand and left-hand. He’s got to know the personnel along the front, right-handed and left-handed. He has to know how we are blocking plays right-handed and left-handed.”

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Analyzing Position Battles – Right Tackle

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 14, 2009 – 12:45 pm

It might be a slow time on the NFL calendar, but with training camp just over 2 weeks away we thought it’d be an appropriate time to identify and break down some position battles that will be decided this August in Mankato and in preseason games.

Today we’ll take a look at RT, where incumbent starter Ryan Cook will be challenged by 2009 2nd round draft choice Phil Loadholt.

Ryan Cook, who was also a 2nd round draft choice (2006), has been a serviceable player for the Vikings at RT the last couple of years. He’s started 30 of 32 games since 2007, but he just hasn’t established a consistent standard of play. He was even benched briefly last year after ineffective play and a penchant for drawing yellow flags.

Loadholt looked solid during minicamps and OTAs this spring and summer. At 6-8, 343 pounds, he has the size and strength to be a mauling run blocker, which is what’s typically asked of NFL RTs. But he also has a large wingspan and good pass protecting skills, which he honed while playing LT for the Oklahoma Sooners.

There are a couple of other angles to watch in this competition. As is the case in every training camp battle for every team, injuries could be a factor. If either player goes down to injury, or if another player along the line goes down to injury, this competition could be affected. One of Cook’s best qualities is that he has position flexibility, which means he can play multiple positions and thus is a valuable commodity to have in a league where half the battle is staying healthy.

The other issue is going to be Loadholt’s ability to A) adjust to playing on the right side (which I don’t see as a problem) and B) prove that he can pass protect at the NFL level. Admittedly, I am not the best at watching a lineman’s feet and making a determination as to whether those are “good feet” or “quick feet” or “slow feet.” The good news is we have coaches on the staff who are good at making that determination. So, if Loadholt is deemed to have either “good feet” or “quick feet,” then his chances of winning this position battle increase.

I don’t consider this position battle over before it starts. Cook has been here before and he knows the offense. Loadholt is playing on the right side and is still in the process of proving himself. But at this point, I give the edge to Loadholt.

Prediction: Watch for Loadholt to run with the 1st team early in camp, and perhaps not ever relinquish those duties.

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