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Hutchinson Given Top Billing By NFL Network’s Dukes

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 6, 2010 – 8:21 am

The NFL Network is doing a “Best in the Biz” series, which will take a look at the league’s best players at every position. The series kicked off on Monday with analyst Jamie Dukes going through his top 5 OL.

As you can tell by the title of this entry, Vikings G Steve Hutchinson was #1 on Dukes’ list. The 7-time Pro Bowler is an appropriate choice for the top of this position group and it’ll be interesting to see how other Vikings, such as DE Jared Allen, QB Brett Favre and RB Adrian Peterson, fare in the Network’s series.

Here is a list of guys who, in my opinion, are worthy of top 5 billing at their position: Allen, Favre, K Ryan Longwell, Peterson, WR Sidney Rice, TE Visanthe Shiancoe, DT Kevin Williams and CB Antoine Winfield. What do you think? Did I leave anyone off this list? Or is there someone on the list who shouldn’t be there? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below this entry.

You can watch the 1st installment of NFL Network’s Best in the Biz series by clicking here.


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Gaining The Extra Edge

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 24, 2010 – 8:26 am

We know that stars such as DE Jared Allen, QB Brett Favre (if he returns) and RB Adrian Peterson ultimately hold the keys to the Vikings success each year. We also know that it takes every soul on a 53-man roster to achieve the ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl.

With that said, however, there are still a handful of players on a team each year whose performances provide an extra edge that helps get the team over the top. WR Sidney Rice was such a player for the Vikings in 2009. DE Ray Edwards is another example. Both Edwards and Rice produced at career-high levels and their production helped the Vikings separate from the rest of the league.

In order for the Vikings to get back to and surpass the level of success they achieved last year they’ll need similar performances from the supporting cast (for lack of a better term). So who will those players be?

Next week we’ll take a look at 5 candidates on the Vikings roster who might be relied upon to help the team gain that extra edge to win a 3rd consecutive division title, get back to the NFC Championship Game and ultimately reach the pinnacle of the NFL by winning a Super Bowl.

In the meantime, let us know who you think holds the key to gaining the extra edge? Is it a past star looking to regain his form? Is it a young player or rookie looking to make a name for himself? Let us know what you think by sharing your thoughts in the comments section below this entry.


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Fresh Faces Highlight Start Of Minicamp

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 11, 2010 – 4:45 pm

The rain subsided and practice fields drained in enough time to allow the Vikings to work outside as they conducted their first of 5 scheduled minicamp practices on Friday afternoon at Winter Park. The team worked for about 90 minutes on the outdoor practice fields and ran through a typical OTA-type of practice.

What was different from OTAs, though, was the number of players participating in Friday’s activities. OTAs are voluntary, but this weekend’s minicamp is mandatory for most players. As expected, DE Ray Edwards, QB Brett Favre and RB Adrian Peterson were non-participants, but aside from those 3 players the Vikings had everyone together.

It was interesting to see some of the fresh faces in a Vikings uniform for the first time since last year’s NFC Championship Game, notably CB Antoine Winfield and WRs Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice. It was also good to see a pair of rookies – RB Toby Gerhart and WR Ray Small – who were unable to participate in team activities until recently because of college graduation rules. I had an on-camera conversation with Gerhart immediately after practice, so be sure to check vikings.com tomorrow to see that interview.

Here are a few observations from today’s practice…

– Interesting to note that CB Lito Sheppard, who signed with the Vikings this offseason, was taking turns returning punts during the special teams portion of practice. I don’t read too much into this – Sheppard has only 8 career punt returns – but it’s interesting to note. Ray Small, an undrafted rookie WR from Ohio State, was also practicing punt returns.

– Speaking of special teams, K Ryan Longwell looked sharp early in practice. Rotating from left hash to right hash and backing up after each kick, Longwell was 5 of 6 of FG tries – he missed his final attempt.

– Both Harvin and Rice look as if they’ve added solid muscle mass during the offseason. Rice told reporters after practice that he’s planning on working out with Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald, Jr. again in July.

– It was great to see LB E.J. Henderson participating in individual drills with the rest of his LB teammates. He of course suffered a season-ending leg injury in Week 13 last year and it would be a big boost for the Vikings defense to have him back for training camp.

– Vikings minicamp was a popular place to be for some national media members. ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert, who covered the Vikings for the Star Tribune before joining the ESPN family, was roaming the sidelines and so was one of his ESPN colleagues, Ed Werder. NFL.com’s Vic Carucci was on-hand as well.

– The most impressive defensive play I saw came from rookie and former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher CB Marcus Sherels. He was covering Harvin down the middle of the field and stretched to haul in an INT during 1-on-1 drills.

– Minicamp is open to the media and it wouldn’t surprise me to hear/read a lot of analysis/reaction to which QBs are taking snaps with which teams. Tarvaris Jackson spent the 2009 season as the #2 QB and I’m sure he’ll take a lot of snaps with the 1st team during minicamp and training camp, but I’m not reading too much into things at this stage.

– TE Visanthe Shiancoe met with reporters after practice and was in a jovial mood – par for the course for him. He was asked about Favre and Peterson not being at camp and said their absence wasn’t a problem with him because he knows they are professionals who will be ready to play when it’s time to play. I met with Shiancoe after practice and he shared a couple of other interesting thoughts that I’ll explain in a soon-to-be-published blog entry or headline story. Look for that early tomorrow morning.


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Fan Poll: Who Will Lead Vikings In Receptions For 2010?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 12, 2010 – 11:26 am

The current fan poll on the home page of vikings.com asks “Who is most likely to lead the Vikings in catches in 2010?” As you’ve surely noticed, it’s been a very slow news week for the Vikings…so let’s examine the poll question.

Last year, Rice led the team in receptions with 83, while Harvin was 2nd with 60. Both of those players are among the 5 choices in the poll, as are Bernard Berrian, Adrian Peterson and Visanthe Shiancoe. All 5 options are legitimate choices, even Peterson when you consider A) he had a career-high 43 last year and B) he has a chance to haul in more receptions in 2010 because of Chester Taylor’s defection to the Chicago Bears. Also, consider that Peterson had just 1 fewer reception than Taylor in 2009.

Here’s a brief look at each of the 5 candidates:

Berrian – Although he played in all 16 games last year, I would suggest that Berrian was bothered periodically by nagging injuries. If you remember, he injured his leg in the preseason against Indianapolis and I’m not quite sure he completely recovered and I’m also wondering if the practice time he missed because of that injury affected his ability to develop chemistry with QB Brett Favre. If we assume Berrian makes it through training camp and the preseason injury free, perhaps Berrian will regain his 2008 form, when he led the Vikings in receiving yards, led the NFL in yards per reception and had four 100-yard receiving games.

Harvin – The 2009 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year should be considered one of the favorites to lead the team in receptions in 2010. He had 60 catches last year as a rookie and with another year under his belt you’d think his comfort in the offensive system will only grow. Also, the Vikings coaching staff now has a better idea of his skill set and how it translates to this offense, so they’ll be even better at putting him in positions to succeed. Harvin showed great hands and of course great explosion last year, but one aspect of his game that caught me by surprise was his toughness. He made catches across the middle and played with pain; those are attributes that will yield lots of production in the years ahead.

Peterson – You might be quick to dismiss Peterson’s chances of leading the team in receptions, but remember that he had only 1 fewer reception that Taylor last year and he also had a career-high 43 catches. I expect he’ll play more on 3rd downs in 2010, which means he could have more opportunities for receptions. While I’m not predicting Peterson will actually lead the team in receptions, I do think his inclusion in the poll is worthy.

Rice – Because of his catch radius and knack for making big plays, Rice quickly became a favorite target of Favre’s in 2009. Operating under the assumption that Favre returns, we must also assume Rice will remain a favorite target until opposing teams take him away. And taking Rice away is something that’s much easier said than done. Rice is my choice in this poll.

Shiancoe – If Favre returns and if opposing teams are successful at neutralizing Rice, I think Shiancoe is the next best bet to lead the Vikings in receptions. Favre loves throwing to TEs and Shiancoe has developed into a reliable and productive target in the passing game. He’s become especially lethal in the red zone, which is where he caught 80% of his receptions and 100% of his receiving TDs (11).

So what do you think – who is most likely to lead the Vikings in receptions in 2010? Go to the vikings.com home page and cast your vote.


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2nd Round Draft Picks Under Spielman

Posted by cjsiewert on April 23, 2010 – 3:58 pm

Ever since Rick Spielman took the reigns as the Vikings VP of Player Personnel on May 30, 2006, the Vikings have had some very productive players come out their draft picks in which Spielman oversees – All-Pro RB Adrian Peterson in 2007 and 2009 Rookie of the Year Percy Harvin, just to name a couple.

The Purple have 2 draft picks in the 2nd round (#34 and #62) coming within the next couple of hours, so, let’s take a look at which players have come out of the 2nd round under Spielman’s supervison…

2007 – Sidney Rice (44), WR, South Carolina: Rice has solidified himself as an every-down threat to opposing defenses.  Rice had a career-year last season, pulling in 83 receptions for 1,312 yards and 8 TDs.

2008 – Tyrell Johnson (43), S, Arkansas State: Many Vikings fans may have been upset with Johnson’s production over the past 2 seasons, here’s his 2009 numbers – 15 GP/GS, 57 tackles (48 solo, 9 ast.) and 1 INT. The jury is still out but remember he became a full-time starter in just his 2nd year.

2009 – Phil Loadholt (54), T, Oklahoma: Loadholt had an immediate impact on the Vikings offense in the 2009 season.  The 6-8, 343-pounder started in every game but 1, helping Adrian Peterson rush for over 1,000 yards and Brett Favre throw for over 4,000 yards and 33 TDs.


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Voting Is Now Open For The Defensive Play Of The Year

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on April 1, 2010 – 10:07 am

Before we look at the Defensive Play of the Year candidates, let’s quickly take a look back at the voting for the Special Teams Play of the Year, which wrapped up yesterday.

As expected, rookie Percy Harvin claimed the award, though in terms of which of Harvin’s 2 kick return TDs last season won the award, the voting was as close as could be.  Both his returns — one vs. the 49ers and the other against the Steelers — accounted for 43 percent of the vote, but the return vs. San Francisco won out by just a handful of votes.  As we said in the vikings.com article, the odds of Harvin dominating this category for several years are pretty high.

Now we move onto the Defensive Play of the Year voting.  Despite the fact that the Vikings defense was solid last year, they only scored one defensive TD (a Jared Allen fumble recovery against the Rams) and didn’t have a bunch of highlight reel-type plays, especially in contrast with the offense.

Fans can view the nominees in full here, watch a highlight video of the nominees here, and then head over to the vikings.com homepage to cast your vote via the fan poll which is located in the bottom-right part of the page.

Next week, the voting for the Offensive Play of the Year will commence, and it’s tough to envision anything other than Brett Favre’s TD pass to Greg Lewis vs. the 49ers claiming said award, though plays such as Adrian Peterson’s TD romp against the Browns in the season-opener and Sidney Rice’s game-tying TD grab in Chicago against the Bears will certainly give the Favre-to-Lewis connection a run for its money.


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Mind Over Matter – Just Another Game

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 22, 2010 – 7:04 am

The fact of the matter is that Sunday’s game between the Vikings and New Orleans Saints is not just another game. It’s the NFC Championship game and it pits the conference’s 2 best teams against one another for the right to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLIV.

At this level of the game – just 1 step away from the NFL pinnacle – it’s typical to find elite teams with elite talent. In an environment such as that, the competition is intense and the desire to make a difference or standout or perform at an even higher level is natural.

But sometimes one must take the approach of mind over matter in order to properly prepare for crucial moments such as championship games. While the urge to dial it up a notch is there, the result of such a strategy might actually be counter-productive.

It’s a mind over matter situation at this point for teams, players and coaches still alive in the chase for the Super Bowl. While Sunday’s game is not just another game, that’s exactly how the Vikings are looking at it.

“That’s one of the things I pointed out to them this morning in our defensive meetings,” Vikings assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said on Thursday. “You really just want to be able to perform at the same level you’ve performed throughout the year.  It’s been good enough. And just be on the details of the work, and things will work out just fine.  Just don’t feel like you’ve got to do anything out of body, just do what you’ve been doing.”

One of Frazier’s defensive stars – CB Antoine Winfield – is a playoff veteran who understands the gravity of playoff and conference championship games. But while he has a grasp on the gravity of the game, he’s also embracing Frazier’s message of preparation.

“You can’t get too uptight in this game,” Winfield said. “You have to take it like another game. Although we know it’s the Championship, if you lose you go home. But, we’re all excited. Everyone’s studying, we’re ready to go out there and compete.”

Another Vikings player – WR Sidney Rice – has performed at an elite level this year. He finished the regular season 2nd in receiving yards and he was also named to his 1st career Pro Bowl. Rice set a new franchise playoff record with 3 receiving TDs last week against Dallas. But he’s not letting that record-setting performance go to his head or cause him to place added pressure on himself to perform at an even higher level this Sunday.

“We’re going to treat it as a regular game,” Rice said of Sunday’s upcoming clash with the Saints. “We know what’s at stake here. We know that if you lose, you go home and I feel like there’s no one in our locker room that wants to go home, so I feel like everybody is going to come out and compete and do what they’re coached to do.”


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Rice Talks About 3 TD Receptions Against Cowboys

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 18, 2010 – 1:05 pm

Vikings WR Sidney Rice, coming off a breakout regular season that saw him finish 2nd in the NFC and 4th in the NFL with 1,312 receiving yards, tied an NFL postseason record and set a new Vikings postseason record for receiving TDs in a game by hauling in 3 of them against the Cowboys on Sunday.

Rice, who had 6 grabs for 141 yards on the day, had TD receptions of 47, 16 and 45 yards – plays that dazzled the home crowd and crushed the Cowboys will.

Speaking with reporters following the game, here’s what Rice had to say about each of his 3 TDs.

“The first one was supposed to be a post route, but I had cover two, so outside release and the corner just let me go right behind him. Brett (Favre) just put the ball right there. It was in the perfect spot. The safety wasn’t even looking at the ball. It dropped right into my arms. On the second one, I wasn’t even designed to go out. The play wasn’t designed for me to go out for the pass, but I had to cut the defensive end, (DeMarcus) Ware. I got him down on the ground, and I popped back up and I just started easing back towards the end zone. Brett (Favre) was scrambling and dropped it right off and I back peddled a couple of steps, turned, and got into the end zone. And, the last one, I believe it was cover zero. I gave the defender something off the line, and I was able to get behind him, and once again, Brett (Favre) put the ball right there where it needed to be.”

You can watch highlights of Rice’s TDs by clicking here.


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Vikings Dominate Cowboys 34-3, Advance To Championship Game

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 17, 2010 – 3:05 pm

The Vikings have advanced to the NFC Championship Game for a showdown against the top-seeded New Orleans Saints after defeating the Dallas Cowboys by a score of 34-3 at Mall of America Field on Sunday.

Next week’s conference championship game will be played at the Superdome in New Orleans at 5:40 CT.

QB Brett Favre and WR Sidney Rice torched the Cowboys secondary, connecting 3 times for TDs and pacing the 34-point offensive output. Favre was 15 of 24 for 234 yards and 4 TDs on the afternoon, a performance that generated a 134.4 passer rating. Rice had 6 receptions for 141 yards and the 3 scores.

The offensive display electrified the Mall of America Field crowd, but it was a dominant and punishing defensive performance that constantly whipped the 63,000+ fans into a frenzy that Dallas’ offense couldn’t overcome. The Cowboys had 6 more offensive snaps and held the time of possession advantage, but it the Vikings defense always came up with the big play at the perfect time.

Dallas QB Tony Romo was harassed all day and was sacked 6 times. He was efficient – completing 22 of 35 passes – but the production wasn’t there (just 198 yards and 0 TDs) and he was under pressure or sacked on most dropbacks. LB Ben Leber intercepted Romo once and both DE Jared Allen and Ray Edwards registered strip-sacks.

We’ll have complete and comprehensive postgame coverage all afternoon and into tonight right here on vikings.com. So, stay tuned to vikings.com and the vikings.com Blog for most postgame thoughts and reaction.


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Several Youngsters In Key Spots For Vikings

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 17, 2010 – 9:56 am

With a solid corps of veteran players and with a return trip to the playoffs this season after making it last season, the Vikings are not short on playoff experience. In fact, 36 Vikings have either played or been active in at least one playoff game and 25 of those 36 Vikings have started at least 1 postseason game.

With that being said, however, there are several young Vikings who will be in key spots today against the Dallas Cowboys. Their youth and inexperience might be perceived as a disadvantage, but the fact that a division-winning team with a 12-4 record feels comfortable enough to rely on them also goes to their credit.

Here’s a brief look at the young Vikings who will be getting their first taste of playoff action while in primary roles…

LB Jasper Brinkley: A rookie 5th rounder, Brinkley was solid for the Vikings on special teams all season and then he was thrust into a starting role on defense when E.J. Henderson was lost for the year in Week 13. Brinkley has played well against the run and is improving against the pass. He’ll be on the field today primarily in run situations and the Vikings will sub in an extra DB on passing downs.

WR Percy Harvin: The 2009 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, Harvin set a new Vikings franchise record for all-purpose yardage and he also set a new team record for rushing yards by a WR. In addition, Harvin was fantastic as a kick returner and he tied for the lead among rookie WRs for receptions with 60. The Vikings would love to have a typical all-around performance from the outstanding rookie play-maker today.

S Tyrell Johnson and S Jamarca Sanford: Johnson will remain the starter at safety, along with Madieu Williams, but Sanford will also see time on defense. Sanford has been outstanding for the Vikings this season on special teams and toward the end of the season he also saw time on defense. Both players will see the field plenty today.

RT Phil Loadholt: The Vikings ability to contain Dallas’ pass rush is a key factor in today’s game and Loadholt, a 2nd rounder from last April’s draft, is a key factor in that effort. He’ll be primarily facing Cowboys OLB Anthony Spencer.

WR Sidney Rice: Though in his 3rd season, we include Rice in this category because he’s healthy and at the top of his game for the first time. Rice had a breakout season in 2009, often times becoming unstoppable with QB Brett Favre lofting passes his way. Dallas will have to find a way to contain him.

C John Sullivan: A lot of attention has been focused on Dallas edge rushers, but the Cowboys can push the pocket from the middle, too, thanks to Pro Bowl DT Jay Ratliff. One man who’ll be responsible for blocking Ratliff is Sullivan. Although he’s not a rookie either, Sullivan will be playing in his first playoff game as a starting center.


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