After (Film) Review: Offensive Line

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 29, 2011 – 6:19 am

We’re going to debut a weekly feature here on the Blog today called “Weekly Review.” The day after each Vikings game, I’ll watch film to focus on one aspect of the team and then provide a report here on the Blog. For the premier edition of After (Film) Review, we’ll focus on the offensive line.

With an off-day between Saturday’s game and the posting of this report, the Star Tribune’s Mark Craig beat me to the punch a little bit on analyzing the offensive line’s performance against the Cowboys. But it looks like we came to the same basic conclusion: the offensive line showed improvement. Specifically, the return of starting RG Anthony Herrera to the lineup was a big boost for the offensive line. While Craig was also complementary of LT Charlie Johnson, I was actually as impressed and maybe a touch more impressed with C John Sullivan.

For what it’s worth, we should temper somewhat the enthusiasm because this was just a preseason game and Dallas didn’t exactly come after the Vikings offense with a blitz-heavy attack. As 1500ESPN’s Tom Pelissero notes, Dallas “rushed more than four men three times in 18 dropback passes (16.7%) and rushed three on six occasions (33.3%), while the Vikings used at least one chip or extra protector eight times (44.4%), not including four bootleg plays.”

All in all, though, I thought the offensive line’s performance on Saturday was encouraging. This group has been much-maligned over the last 12 months, but I have a feeling that they will be much improved in 2011. Let’s get to a few specific examples of solid play from the first-team offensive line…

1st Offensive Series
– On the Vikings first 3rd-down play, Herrera pulled to take out LB Anthony Spencer and RT Phil Loadholt blocked to his inside and took out DE Igor Olshansky to open up a hole for Adrian Peterson to pickup 7 yards and the 1st down.
— On 3rd and 1 a few plays later, LT Charlie Johnson cleared out and sealed DE Kenyon Coleman and a pulling Steve Hutchinson finished off CB Orlando Scandrick to allow Peterson to pickup 5 yards and another 1st down.
— On the next play, McNabb went play-action fake to Peterson and was given a perfect pocket. This enabled WR Bernard Berrian time to make a double-move and run past the Dallas secondary. McNabb hit him in stride for a 49-yard TD.
— Totals for the drive: Peterson 5 carries, 29 yards; McNabb 2 for 2, 54 yards, TD)

2nd Offensive Series
– The Vikings picked up 13 yards on the first play of the series with a Percy Harvin reception, then on the second play of the series Peterson gained 9 yards on the ground. LT Charlie Johnson and TE Jeff Dugan double-teamed DE Jason Hatcher and FB Ryan D’Imperio and Harvin took care of Spencer, which gave Peterson room to dance around both James and Scandrick to gain 9 on the ground going wide left.
— On 2nd and 1, Sullivan handles NT Jay Ratliff long enough and Herrera seals off Olshansky so Peterson can cutback from the left to the right and pick up 5 yards and the 1st down.
— On 1st and 10 from the Minnesota 47-yardline, the Vikings featured a two-TE set. The line provided a solid pocket for McNabb, but the QB couldn’t find an open receiver, so he fled to the right and then found Berrian, who broke open and caught McNabb’s pass for a gain of 15 yards.
— Totals: Peterson 2 carries, 14 yards; McNabb 4 for 5, 37 yards)

3rd Offensive Series
On 2nd and 7 from the MN 17, McNabb changed the play at the line of scrimmage and the Vikings ran wide left with Peterson. TE Kyle Rudolph was just good enough to seal off LB Sean Lee and Sullivan got to the second level to block James from the play, which is ultimately why Peterson was able to dash forward for a 15-yard gain. Hutchinson pulled on the play to take out Elam.
— On 2nd and 10, Booker carried and went up the middle to gain 10 yards. Johnson sealed Spencer off immediately, Sullivan handled Ratliff, Hutchinson took care of Lee and Herrera came off his initial block to prevent James from making a stop early in the play.
— On 1st and 10 from the DAL 47, McNabb made his best throw of the night. McNabb was in the gun, with Booker and Kleinsasser in the backfield as protectors. McNabb rifled a pass into WR Michael Jenkins on a slant for a gain of 17. There was a nice pocket for McNabb and #5 got rid of the ball quickly. Preseason TV analyst Mike Mayock said: “For anyone who thinks that Donovan McNabb doesn’t have it (anymore), take a snapshot of this throw.”
— Totals: Peterson 2 carries, 18 yards; Booker 1 carry, 11 yards; McNabb 2 for 4, 25 yards, INT)

4th Offensive Series
– On the first play of the series, Peterson ran behind the LG for a 5-yard gain. Johnson and Kleinsasser combined for a kickout block on DE Sean Lissemore and Sullivan sealed NT Josh Brent out of the play.
— Peterson gained 3 yards on a pitch wide right. The play was actually blocked well, but OLB DeMarcus Ware chased the play down from the back end; he was intentionally left unblocked because the play was going to the opposite side. But that’s why Ware is a perennial Pro Bowler. However, this was the first time Ware was a factor in the game (5:00 to play in 1st half).
— Totals: Peterson 2 carries, 8 yards; McNabb 1 for 3, 6 yards.

5th Offensive Series
– McNabb hit Booker for a 12-yard gain on 1st down, but the Vikings went 3-and-out after that; gave up a sack on 2nd down.

End of 1st half: Vikings had 216 yards (157 for Dallas), 12 first downs (9 for Dallas) and 89 rushing yards (22 for Dallas).

6th Offensive Series
– On 3rd and 4 out of the gun formation, McNabb was protected great against a 4-man rush and he lofted a pass for Jenkins down the right side; Jenkins won the one-on-one matchup against CB Mario Butler to make the catch for a gain of 26 yards and the 1st down.
— Totals: Peterson 3 carries, 12 yards; McNabb 1 for 3, 26 yards

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Vikings Players React To Leslie Frazier Hiring

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 3, 2011 – 3:28 pm

I’m sure we’ll be in touch with several Vikings players over the next several hours to get their comments about the Vikings choice to hire Leslie Frazier as head coach. So instead of writing separate entries for each player quote, we’ll compile a long list here and continually update it, with the newest quotes at the top.

DT Kevin Williams: “We’re excited that Leslie is going to get the chance to be the head coach for the future. He’s put in his time and worked his way up and showed what he could do already this year. He’s a guy who can relate to how the players feel and what they’re going through and that’s important. He’s been where we are and he’s earned our trust.”

DE Jared Allen: “I’m very happy for Leslie to have this opportunity. He’s a great coach and a great person. He provides an excellent work environment, he’s determined to win, and as a former player, he relates to the guys in that locker room. That’s all you can ask for.”

WR Percy Harvin: “Coach Frazier is the perfect fit for this team. This season and the last six weeks were tough on everyone but Coach Frazier did a great job in keeping us together. Now that we know he is leading this team it’s on the players to get his back and go out and win him some ball games. I know the 2010 season just ended but I’m already looking forward to the 2011 Vikings.”

LB Chad Greenway: “It’s great news that Leslie got the job. Guys respond to him and he’s got great respect in the locker room. Coach Frazier deserves this opportunity and I know he’s going to make the most of it.”

LG Steve Hutchinson: “At the end of the season as interim coach he was well-respected by the team. Everyone in the locker room is confident in Leslie and you saw a renewed sense of urgency under him. Leslie has a track record as a player and at a championship level. He’s won a Super Bowl as a coach as well. He knows what it takes to make those strides to get this team there.”

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DeGeare May Have Promising Future With Vikings After Solid Rookie Year

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 3, 2011 – 10:57 am

The 2010 season was not a typical one for any player in the Vikings locker room, but just imagine what it was like for the team’s rookies. Although they’ve been playing football for most of their lives, first-year players come into NFL locker rooms unsure of what to expect.

But even the most veteran players couldn’t have prepared or expected what happened to the Vikings in 2010, from a disappointing 6-10 record to all of the weather-induced adversity the team faced in the final month. Through it all, though, Vikings rookie G Chris DeGeare seems to have come out of it well and no worse for the ware. In fact, I think he’s gotten a lot better and there seems to be a place for him in the Vikings future.

“I definitely learned a lot. It was crazy; a lot of stuff went on,” DeGeare said on Monday as he packed up his locker. “The veterans told me it’s not typically like this every year and I believe them. I’ve just to keep improving and come back next year to be a better player.”

DeGeare was a 5th-round pick of the Vikings last April and did a nice job integrating into the Vikings system through offseason workouts and training camp. In fact I came away from training camp encouraged by his progress and hopeful he would be an important part of the offensive line rotation. But a high ankle sprain derailed him early in the regular season and he had to work hard to get back into form.

He accomplished that task and was a key cog in the offensive line late in the season. I’ve been told by people who would know that DeGeare was solid in relief of injured LG Steve Hutchinson and that he was sometimes the best Vikings player on the field.

“I got hurt early on this season with a high ankle sprain,” DeGeare explained. “But I did have a great training camp and I was just happy I was able to contribute. I’m happy to chip in and showcase my talent.”

DeGeare played both guard and tackle at Wake Forest University, giving him valuable experience in multiple positions and also equipping him with a mindset to be a versatile offensive lineman in the NFL. Also working in DeGeare’s favor is the fact that he plays behind and learns from a guy like Steve Hutchinson, who has been to 7 Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl.

“The man has so much knowledge and so much experience,” DeGeare said. “He’s a future Hall of Famer and really anything he says to me I take with all seriousness and take it into account. I’m truly blessed to be playing behind a guy like that and being able to have the type of relationship that I do have with him.”

All-in-all, it was a solid season for DeGeare after he was sidelined early with injury. It was encouraging to see him perform well in the offseason program and at training camp, but it was promising to watch him perform on the field in the regular season. It looks like the Vikings may have found a sneaky little prospect in the 5th round.

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Steve And Landyn Hutchinson Host Early Holiday Party At Amplatz Children’s Hospital

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 23, 2010 – 7:21 am

Steve Hutchinson and his wife, Landyn, hosted an early Holiday Part for young patients and their families – roughly 100 people – at the University of Minnesota Children’s Amplatz Hospital on Tuesday.

This is a tradition the Hutchinsons have started, as they hold a similar event each year on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

The event took place at its usual location – the Bridges Cafeteria – and several of Hutchinson’s teammates joined as well, including Ben Leber, Freddie Brown, Patrick Brown, Jon Cooper, Phil Loadholt and John Sullivan. The Hutchinsons purchased gifts for each patient at the party and then Leber led the group of players on visits to patients throughout the hospital who were unable to attend the event.

Since signing with the Vikings in 2006, the Hutchinsons have been active in the local community. They regularly host Holiday parties at the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital and Hutchinson also hosts a golf tournament each summer that benefits the Hospital. Hutchinson also hosts a separate celebrity golf tournament each year that benefits Mott’s Children’s Hospital and he took part in the 2008 Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener.

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Favre Updated From “Out” To “Questionable”; Hutchinson To IR

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 20, 2010 – 12:06 pm

The Vikings have updated QB Brett Favre’s status for tonight’s game from “Out” to “Questionable.” Favre will try to throw about two hours prior to kickoff and then a final determination will be made on if he can play. If Favre is able to play in the game, it is not known if he would start or be in a backup role.

The Vikings have notified both the NFL and the Chicago Bears of the update.

“Brett Favre attempted to throw the football two days ago and was unable to, due to pain in the SC joint and residual numbness from a  brachial plexus injury,” Vikings Head Athletic Trainer Eric Sugarman said. “He delcard himself out at that time. He woke up this morning feeling much improved. His symptoms and function have improved dramatically over the past 24 hours. In fairness to him and his team, he would like to be given the opportunity to play tonight if physically able.”

Be sure to check with at 6:00 p.m. tonight for the official list of Vikings inactives.

In other news, the Vikings have placed LG Steve Hutchinson on Injured Reserve and have promoted R.J. Archer from the Practice Squad to the Active Roster.

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Lots Of Lineup Changes For Vikings

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 5, 2010 – 10:43 am

The good news is that RB Adrian Peterson will be able to play today after battling an ankle injury all week. The bad news is DE Ray Edwards (ankle), WR Percy Harvin (illness) and LG Steve Hutchinson (thumb) will not be able to play after battling their injuries/ailments this week. As a result, the Vikings have tweaked their lineup significantly and we’ll break it down right here.

Harvin is not the only WR inactive for the Vikings today – Hank Baskett and Greg Lewis are also inactive. That leaves Bernard Berrian and Sidney Rice as the starters, with Greg Camarillo as the top reserve. Also, QB Joe Webb was not listed as the emergency QB, which means he’s on the active 45-man roster and could jump in at WR. That would be fun to watch. Where else might Webb be able to play today? Perhaps some snaps as a wildcat QB? Kick returner?

The Vikings top reserve offensive lineman is Ryan Cook, but he’s already in the lineup replacing Anthony Herrera, who was placed on Injured Reserve. So filling in for Hutchinson on the left side will be rookie Chris  DeGeare, whom the Vikings selected in the 5th round of last April’s draft. DeGeare has been inactive for the Vikings this season and has been battling an ankle injury, but he’s the next man up and we’ll get a good gauge at where he’s at in his first-year NFL development.

Brian Robison will start in place of Ray Edwards today, but also watch for Everson Griffen to get more time in the defensive line rotation.

This is just the 2nd game Harvin has missed in his career, with the first being last year’s home game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

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Frazier Senses Good Energy For Vikings As Game Day Approaches

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 2, 2010 – 3:49 pm

It sounds like the Vikings are carrying energy and momentum generated from last weekend’s win over the Washington Redskins – the Vikings first road win in over a year – into this week’s preparations for the Buffalo Bills.

“A good spirited practice this afternoon,” Vikings Interim Head Coach Leslie Frazier said to reporters on Thursday. “Guys seem to really be in a groove. They know our opponent is a very good football team and they understand what we’re going to be up against on Sunday.”

The Vikings are going up against a 2-9 Bills team, but it’s a Bills team that has played better than its record would indicate. They’ve been in 7 games that have been decided by 8 points or fewer, including 5 of 6 games that have been decided by 3 points or fewer, and they’ve lost 3 games in overtime. They took the Pittsburgh Steelers to overtime last week and they ripped off 35 unanswered points on the road against Cincinnati a couple weeks ago.

While all of those numbers indicate the Bills have the potential to give the Vikings all they can handle this Sunday, Frazier takes some comfort knowing his team will be playing at home.

“The good thing is we’re playing at home and we’re going to try and draw from the energy of our fans,” Frazier explained. “We’re going to need our fans in a big way in order to be successful on Sunday. Hoping that place is as loud as its ever been; if that’s the case, then it should bode well for our football team.”

– Frazier said Percy Harvin was unable to practice on Thursday because of episodes related to migraines.
— Ray Edwards (ankle), Steve Hutchinson (thumb) and Adrian Peterson all missed a 2nd consecutive day of practice on Thursday but will try to get on the field Friday to gauge how close they are to being able to play on Sunday.

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A Look At Potential Backup Plans

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 1, 2010 – 2:05 pm

It’s far too early to speculate (accurately) on whether DE Ray Edwards (ankle), LG Steve Hutchinson (hand) and RB Adrian Peterson (ankle) will be able to play on Sunday. All 3 are dealing with injuries coming out of last weekend’s win over the Washington Redskins and all 3 will be monitored closely leading up to this weekend’s game.

Whether they end up playing or not, the Vikings will have backup plans in place to make sure the team doesn’t miss a beat on Sunday while battling the Buffalo Bills. Let’s take a look at potential backup plans should any of the 3 players be unable to play.

DE Ray Edwards
It’s an inexact exercise to pinpoint how playing time will be distributed along the defensive line. More than any other position on the field, defensive line sees a rotation of players coming in and out of the game to keep legs fresh and effort level high. I’m guessing Brian Robison would get the start should Edwards be unable to go, but it’s a safe bet that every lineman who’s active will see more snaps in this scenario, including rookie Everson Griffen and DTs Fred Evans, Letroy Guion and Jimmy Kennedy.

LG Steve Hutchinson
Ryan Cook is the top reserve lineman for the Vikings, but he’s already in the lineup as Anthony Herrera’s replacement. As a result, rookie Chris DeGeare would get the call should Hutch be unable to go. DeGeare was selected in the 5th round of last April’s draft and he’s been among the inactives for the Vikings this season; he’s also been dealing with an ankle injury but is in-line to play if the need arises.

RB Adrian Peterson
We saw Peterson’s backup in action on Sunday against Washington, as rookie Toby Gerhart stepped in and picked up the slack. Gerhart rushed 22 times for 76 yards and 1 TD in Peterson’s stead, displaying the type of grit and toughness you’d like to see out of a RB. Obviously the Vikings are in a better position with both Gerhart and Peterson going, but last week was an indication that Gerhart can be the lead guy in a pinch. If it’s determined ahead of time that Peterson can’t play – as opposed to during the game – it’s likely that Albert Young would be activated for game day and join Gerhart and FB Fahu Tahi on the depth chart.

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Frazier Updates Injuries To Edwards, Hutch, Peterson

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 1, 2010 – 12:21 pm

Three key starters for the Vikings came out of last weekend’s game against the Washington Redskins with injuries that have put their status for this weekend’s game – and practices leading up to the game – against the Buffalo Bills in question.

Vikings Interim Head Coach Leslie Frazier briefly went through each player’s current status with reporters this morning following his team’s walk-through and here’s what he had to say…

Adrian Peterson – left game in 2nd quarter with ankle injury
“It is an ankle sprain. It’ll probably be day-to-day, maybe going all the way up to Sunday as to whether or not he’s going to be playing. We’ve all got our fingers crossed. We’ll see what he’s able to do today. May or may not be on the practice field, we’ll see. But we’re hoping that he’ll make it to Sunday.”

Ray Edwards – left game with ankle injury and did not return
“With Ray Edwards, his ankle injury is probably a little bit worse than we thought. But still, there’s a chance he’ll be able to play on Sunday as well. But he’ll be in the same situation where we’ve got to wait and see how he progresses over the course of the week.

No ligament damage. His is much more tender than Adrian’s was. He’s not quite putting quite as much weight on that ankle as you would hope three days after the game. We’ll see how he does today.

What we’re not certain about, and I’ve got to get some clarification about it, his is on the border of being a high ankle sprain.”

Steve Hutchinson – injured hand during game and was able to play through it
“With Steve Hutchinson, his thumb is a little bit worse than we thought. He actually fractured that thumb, so he’ll have to be cast and heavily bandaged in order to play. That’ll be a day-to-day thing as well; he’s got to get out and see how he functions with the work that they’re going to do with his thumb, so we’ll see. He’s obviously a vital part of our success on the offensive line and he’s a tough guy. But we’ll see how he does over the course of the next few days.”

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Severity Of Edwards, Hutchinson, Peterson Injuries Not Known Yet

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 29, 2010 – 4:09 pm

A trio of Vikings starters suffered injuries on Sunday against the Washington Redskins and both the severity of those injuries and the status of each player for next week’s game against the Buffalo Bills is unknown.

RB Adrian Peterson left the game in the 2nd quarter because of what Vikings Interim Head Coach Leslie Frazier characterized as an ankle sprain. It looked as if Peterson was set to re-enter the game but that never happened and in fact Peterson’s status was downgraded from probable to questionable during the 2nd half.

“He wanted to get back in the game, he was coming up to me, of course I don’t know, I’m keeping up with what’s happening on the field and what’s going on there, and I have our trainer to fill me in on where he was,” Frazier explained. “They just said, ‘Nope, let’s hold him.’ That’s what I will do again. I will defer to our trainers, and they will tell me when he’s ready to go.”

DE Ray Edwards also injured his ankle and was not able to return to the game. Frazier said Edwards’ injury is similar to Peterson’s.

Lastly, LG Steve Hutchinson injured his hand in the 2nd quarter but was able to stay in the game.

“We will learn a little bit more about that as the day goes on,” Frazier said. “He’s got to go through an MRI, x-rays, so on and so forth, so we will see what’s going on there.”

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