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Young WRs Catching A Good Opportunity

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 10, 2010 – 12:55 pm

The Vikings entered 2010 Verizon Vikings Training Camp with WR being one of their strong points. As it turns out, 2 of the top 3 WRs have missed all or most of training camp and several younger or more inexperienced players have been given more opportunities as a result.

Sidney Rice, who had a breakout season in 2009 and earned his 1st Pro Bowl, was placed on the PUP list to begin camp because of a hip injury that has hindered him since the NFC title game. Rice still isn’t practicing and his return doesn’t seem imminent. Then on Tuesday morning, Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress disclosed to reporters that WR Percy Harvin, last year’s AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, is dealing with migraines. The migraine issue is one that bothered Harvin last season and it comes at a time when Harvin is also grieving the death of his Grandmother.

So with 2 of the top 3 Vikings WRs off the field, things have gone a bit differently than expected for WRs coach George Stewart’s group. A trio of veterans have done what’s expected of them. Bernard Berrian has stepped up and had a great camp, both in on-field production and in leadership ability. And then 2 other veterans – Jaymar Johnson and Greg Lewis – have also been there to take on an extra load with Harvin and Rice out of action.

But what’s been just as pleasing to see is the progression of the Vikings young WRs, such as 2nd-year pro Taye Biddle and former Golden Gopher Logan Payne.

“They’re getting opportunities,” Stewart said of his young and inexperienced receivers. “And that’s what you want to see. To practice and show the coaching staff what you can do. These young guys trying to make the football team, it’s important for them to get work and they’re making the most of their opportunities.”

Berrian, who’s had the best camp of any Vikings WR, agrees with Stewart’s assessment.

“They’re doing a great job coming in, especially the new guys, and adjusting to the playbook and learning plays,” Berrian explained. “They’re being thrown in there, still being young and having to learn things, they’re doing a good job of making plays.”

It’s an encouraging sign that individuals such as Berrian and Stewart have been pleased with what they’ve seen from the young WRs, but the proof will be in the pudding when the Viking suit up for preseason action. The team’s 1st preseason game will be this Saturday in St. Louis.

That’s when we’ll see if the Vikings WRs are catching on.


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OTA #5 Observations

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 24, 2010 – 3:17 pm

A few observations from Monday’s OTA…

– K Rhys Lloyd was one of several veterans who didn’t participate in last week’s OTAs but did participated on Monday. Lloyd was signed by the Vikings this offseason and will be the team’s kickoff specialist in 2010. This will allow K Ryan Longwell to focus exclusively on FGs and PATs. I watched Lloyd work today during the early part of practice and I was impressed with what I saw. He would take about a step and a half and boot the ball off a tee from the 35-yardline to the goal line. Lloyd’s leg strength is obvious and it’ll be interesting to see how his addition impacts the Vikings special teams unit.

– I spent some time during individual drills observing the RB group, which consisted of Ryan D’Imperio, Ian Johnson, James Johnson, Darius Reynaud and Albert Young. The particular drill I watched required the RBs – one at a time – to engage, lift up and shed a heavy blocking sled. The drill is designed to improve blocking technique. As you may or may not know, RBs coach Eric Bieniemy is one of the most vocal position coaches on the staff and he’s also known to let his players hear it if they make a mistake. On Monday the RB group went through 3 full cycles of that drill without coach Bieniemy stopping a player one time. That’s pretty impressive.

– The WR position is one of the most glamorous in football. When fans think of WRs, they think of silky smooth athletes and TDs and TD celebrations. But there’s just as much tedious practice work required of WRs as any other position on the field. And on Monday I watched WRs coach George Stewart work with his group on a drill that required the WRs to run a quick comeback route, catch the ball and then turn up field. Obviously catching the ball is paramount in a WR drill, but coach Stewart was focusing intensely on small details, such as heel placement on the pivot, arm action on the turn and tucking the ball away after securing it. Coach Stewart has been in the league for 22 years now and he’s coached great receivers such as Terrell Owens, Jerry Rice and Roddy White, so it’s no surprise he’s concerned with the details.

– WR Taye Biddle and QB Sage Rosenfels hooked up for the play of the day during offense vs. defense work. Biddle ran a go route down the right sideline and Rosenfels’ pass arched over a pair of defenders and into the hands of Biddle for what would’ve been a TD. The degree of difficulty was high because both players were fighting a strong breeze on the play.


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