Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier held his annual end-of-season press conference on Tuesday afternoon. Frazier meets with reporters multiple times per week during the regular season, but Tuesday’s press conference represents the last of these regular meetings of the 2012 season. Frazier will, of course, speak with reporters during the offseason, but this is the last extensive question-and-answer session he’ll have until most likely the Scouting Combine in late February.
Here are several notes and quotes from Frazier’s end-of-season press conference…
Proud of his team
The Vikings fell short of their ultimate team goal – winning the Super Bowl. But they accomplished many other goals throughout the 2012 regular season, including collecting enough wins to earn the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2009. For that, and for other unstated reasons, Frazier said he was proud of this year’s team.
“I’m very, very proud of our football team and what they accomplished this season,” Frazier said. “Our guys worked extremely hard going all the way back to April 23 when they came back into the building to really set a foundation for this 2012 season. Because of their hard work, we were able to secure a playoff berth. The foundation has been set for our team, without question.
“Our core identities showed up. The traits that we talked about throughout the year…being a tough, smart, disciplined football team. It was exemplified through this group of young men.”
Developing a young roster
I didn’t pay much attention to this aspect of the team until Frazier referenced it during his press conference, but 22 of the 53 players currently on the Vikings roster are listed as being in their 1st or 2nd season. It’s impressive that this team played so well so late in the season and qualified for the postseason with so many young players and so many young players at important positions.
Frazier credited his coaching staff for the work they did in developing young players and he also expressed gratitude to his veteran players for their leadership roles as well.
Frazier also said he didn’t anticipate changes to his coaching staff, barring any promotions some of them may receive.
Dome-field advantage is back
Frazier has said many times in the past that he understands how difficult an environment Mall of America Field can be for opposing teams. He mentioned it once again during Tuesday’s press conference, expressing appreciation for the support of Vikings fans and for the noise the crowd creates in the Vikings home stadium.
“I think for any team that comes to Mall of America Field, our goal going into the season, we wanted to make it extremely difficult for anybody to think that they could come here and win. Our guys, they got that done. To go 7-1 at home, with the support we got from our fans, that was a big deal for our success during the season.”
Frazier listed DE Jared Allen (shoulder) and P Chris Kluwe (left knee) as players who will likely undergo surgeries for ailments. He also listed LB Tyrone McKenzie (shoulder), RB Adrian Peterson (core muscle), QB Christian Ponder (triceps) and CB Antoine Winfield (hand) as players also dealing with injuries, but he didn’t indicate surgery would be needed for any of those players. Overall, none of the injuries should impact any of those players’ ability to participate minicamps, training camp or the 2013 regular season, according to Frazier.
Ponder is the Vikings starter going forward
Frazier was asked a series of questions about the team’s quarterback situation. He was unequivocal in saying that Ponder would be the team’s starter going into the offseason. He was vaguer about the depth chart after Ponder, saying Joe Webb would compete for the backup job behind Ponder and also mentioning McLeod Bethel-Thompson as someone who was involved in the team’s plans. Beyond that, Frazier wisely pointed out that it’s hard to prognosticate what will happen at that position – or any position – at this point in the offseason.
Futures for Kevin Williams, Antoine Winfield
Kevin Williams and Antoine Winfield have been productive players for the Vikings for many seasons, and both were vital components to the defensive effort in 2012. But both guys are also quite long in the tooth, with Williams having completed his 10th season and Winfield having completed his 14th. As it stands right now, though, it sounds like Frazier would love to have both guys return for the 2013 season.
“The intangible in this is a big deal when you’re trying to get the locker room the way you want it,” Frazier explained. “And both Antoine and Kevin are guys who have achieved a lot in our League, a lot of success. So to have star players with the demeanor and leadership qualities that they both possess, helped our football team in 2012, there’s no question about it.
“Would love to have those guys on our team going forward. That’s something we’re going to talk about when we have our personnel meetings with (General Manager) Rick (Spielman) and our personnel department. Just talk about their fit going forward. But from my vantage point, very appreciative of the leadership they provided this season, what they’ve meant in my time here in Minnesota, and I want them to remain Minnesota Vikings. They are great, great players and great people as well.”
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Chris Kluwe, Christian Ponder, Jared Allen, Joe Webb, Kevin Williams, Leslie Frazier, McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Rick Spielman, Tyrone McKenzie
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 182 Comments »
Another great chapter in the Vikings-Packers border battle will unfold this weekend at Lambeau Field, as the two franchises meet in the Wild Card round of the 2012 NFL playoffs. This is a matchup that sells itself, but while we count down the hours until these teams square-off once again, let’s go over 6 of the Vikings-Packers storylines we’ll be watching this week…
1. Border Battle Moves To The Postseason
The third meeting in five weeks between border rivals Minnesota and Green Bay will take place in the postseason. Remarkably, this is only the second time these two clubs have met in the postseason, with the Vikings winning the first matchup 31-17 as underdogs at Lambeau Field. Saturday night’s game marks the third time in five weeks the Vikings and Packers will square off, and it also marks the 27th playoff season and 46th playoff game in Vikings history.
2. Does Green Bay Have An Answer For Adrian Peterson?
Adrian Peterson had a historic season in 2012, and his performances against the Packers were a significant reason why. Peterson rushed for 409 yards and 2 TDs in 2 games against Green Bay, averaging 7.4 yards per carry on 55 attempts and putting up huge totals of 210 yards at Lambeau Field in Week 13 and 199 yards on a career-high 34 carries in Week 17. Green Bay has proven they can yield a huge number of rushing yards to Peterson and still win – they defeated the Vikings in Week 13 – but you can be sure Green Bay would rather not sweat it out like that. Can the Packers come up with an answer for Peterson? It’s a fun subplot to watch.
3. Can Vikings Contain Aaron Rodgers, Packers Passing Game?
In similar fashion to how Peterson gives the Packers trouble, Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers has dominated the Vikings. In 2012, Rodgers completed 73.3% of his passes against the Vikings for an average of 325.5 yards per game and a TD-INT ratio of 5-1. The Vikings defense did a great job against Rodgers and Co. in the 1st quarter of last week’s game, forcing them to punt three times in three possessions. But after that, Rodgers caught fire and led the Packers to 4 TDs and 2 FGs in the Packers final 8 series. It’s hard to expect the Vikings defense to play for the whole game this Saturday the way they played in the 1st quarter on Sunday, but there has to be some kind of balance the Vikings can strike between the two for the duration of Saturday night’s game that can hold the Packers offense at bay.
4. Winfield’s Status Remains Uncertain
A big part of the Vikings effort to slow down the Packers passing game is the presence of CB Antoine Winfield. Unfortunately, whether or not Winfield will be able to play this weekend is a big question mark. Winfield injured his hand in the Vikings Week 16 win at Houston. He was able to start last week’s game against Green Bay, but was unable to finish the game because of the hand injury. Winfield was held out of practice on Tuesday, and Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said his top CB’s status would be a day-to-day situation all week.
5. Plenty Of Names To Watch On This Week’s Injury Report
Outside of Winfield, there are plenty of names to watch on this week’s injury report – for both teams. The Vikings will monitor shoulder injuries for a pair of starters – DE Brian Robison and S Harrison Smith. Special teams standout Tyrone McKenzie also has a shoulder injury. Peterson has been dealing with an abdomen injury, both WR Jerome Simpson and C John Sullivan were shaken up for a moment during last week’s game, and RT Phil Loadholt has been listed with a knee injury in recent weeks.
For the Packers, there’s plenty of good news on the injury front. WR Randall Cobb is expected to return, which could give Rodgers his full complement of receivers because Greg Jennings is healthy and Jordy Nelson is expected to play. Future Hall of Fame DB Charles Woodson has been cleared for a return to practice from a broken collarbone, LB Clay Matthews left but returned to the last week’s game and will play on Saturday and run-stopper CJ Wilson appears to have come out of last week’s game okay.
6. Freezing Forecast Set For Saturday Night
The weather.com forecast for Green Bay on Saturday shows a high of 26 degrees and a low of 15 degrees for the day, with snow possible and winds predicted to come from the west at 15 mph. It’s not the coldest we’ve seen Lambeau Field, but it’s the coldest game of the season for the Vikings and the elements will definitely be a factor in the game.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Brian Robison, Jerome Simpson, John Sullivan, Phil Loadholt, Tyrone McKenzie
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 86 Comments »
Vikings center John Sullivan is donating $150,000 to make a new University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital playground possible. To support Sullivan’s efforts, Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway, has donated $25,000 through his Lead the Way Foundation while the Vikings organization – through the Vikings Children’s Fund – has contributed the remaining $25,000 for the $200,000 project.
A ceremony will take place on Tuesday to name the playground and reveal renderings of the future project, which is set to open in Spring 2013. During the event, the playground will be officially named “Sullivan Playground” in Sullivan’s honor. Children wearing “Team Sullivan” t-shirts will celebrate the naming and refreshments will be served.
Immediately following the ceremony, Sullivan, along with teammates Brandon Fusco, Greenway, Charlie Johnson, Tyrone McKenzie, Kyle Rudolph and others, will host a “Halloween Huddle” for patients and their families in the lobby of University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital. The players will then make bedside visits throughout the hospital.
About the Sullivan Playground
Just outside of University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital will be the Sullivan Playground for patients and their siblings. The play space is secure, private and comfortable. Working with Landscape Structures, a Minnesota company focused on designing inclusive playgrounds for children of all abilities, Amplatz Children’s Hospital child rehabilitation therapists and child-family life specialists selected a variety of activities and structures that are fun and appropriate for all children, regardless of age and medical conditions. This playground and design will incorporate therapeutic, sensory and development elements as well as an innovative mixture of climbing, discovery, sliding, spinning and social function that are necessary for our patient and sibling population. The unique features have exploration elements with ground level interaction. As the first commercial outdoor slide ever made to accommodate children with IVs, the custom designed posts and attachments allow patients to climb ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) stairs and go down the roller slide without disconnecting from their devices.
Tags: Brandon Fusco, Chad Greenway, Charlie Johnson, John Sullivan, Kyle Rudolph, Tyrone McKenzie
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 9 Comments »
The Vikings Athletic Training Staff, along with Devin Aromashodu, Larry Dean, Percy Harvin, Michael Jenkins, Tyrone McKenzie and Jamarca Sanford, host a “Play 60” clinic at Catholic Charities-St. Joseph’s Home for Children on Tuesday.
Approximately 50 youth from St. Joseph’s Home for Children were led through a series of drills designed to teach the basics of football. Players delivered a positive message to the children about the importance of perseverance and teamwork, and they stressed the importance of being active every day.
NFL Play 60 is the NFL movement for an active generation and is aimed at getting children active for at least 60 minutes a day.
For the sixth consecutive year, the Vikings Athletic Training staff participated in support of the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation. St. Joseph’s Home for Children is recognized by the NFL’s Ed Block Courage Award Foundation as serving as a “Courage House” for the Minnesota Vikings. The Ed Block Courage Award Foundation is dedicated to heightening awareness of the plight of abused and neglected children. St. Joe’s provides shelter and intake services for Hennepin County children removed from their homes due to abuse or instability.
Since 1998 the Vikings have partnered with Catholic Charities St. Joseph’s Home for Children on numerous community events. The Catholic Charities program annually assists more than 2,000 children.
Tags: Deviin Aromashodu, Jamarca Sanford, Larry Dean, Michael Jenkins, Percy Harvin, Tyrone McKenzie
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 30 Comments »
There’s a long way to go before NFL teams have to make roster decisions, but there’s not a long way to go before teams take the field for their first preseason game. So while there’s still plenty of time for players to make their case for a roster spot, NFL teams began releasing their initial preseason depth charts this week.
You can find the Vikings initial depth chart by clicking here.
There aren’t any major surprises or developments in the depth chart, but here are a few notes…
– As expected, Brandon Fusco is listed as the starter at RG, with Geoff Schwartz as his backup. Chris DeGeare is listed as the backup at LG behind Charlie Johnson.
– Lex Hilliard is listed as the 3rd-team RB, with Derrick Coleman and Jordan Todman stacked evenly behind Hilliard.
– Veteran Joe Berger is listed as the backup center, with undrafted college free agent Quentin Saulsberry listed with the 3rd team.
– D’Aundre Reed is lasted as the backup left DE and Nick Reed backs up Jared Allen at right DE.
– Tyrone McKenzie is in the lead for backup middle LB duties, with Audie Cole listed as the 3rd-team middle LB. Everson Griffen is also with the 3rd-team, listed at the weakside LB position.
– Marcus Sherels backs up Antoine Winfield at one CB position and Chris Carr is behind Chris Cook at the other CB spot. Based on my observations at practice, Carr would be ahead of Sherels in any 3-CB defensive alignment.
– Mistral Raymond and Jamarca Sanford are listed as starters at safety, with Harrison Smith behind Sanford at FS and Eric Frampton behind Raymond at FS. This is a fluid position, and Smith has been getting more and more reps with the 1st-team.
– Percy Harvin is listed as the top kickoff returner and Sherels is listed #1 at punt returner. Sherels also backs up Harvin at kickoff return and rookie WR Jarius Wright is listed as the backup punt returner.
Tags: 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp, Audie Cole, Brandon Fusco, Chris DeGeare, D'Aundre Reed, Derrick Coleman, Eric Frampton, Everson Griffen, Geoff Schwartz, Harrison Smith, Jamarca Sanford, Joe Berger, Jordan Todman, Lex Hilliard, Marcus Sherels, Mistral Raymond, Nick Reed, Percy Harvin, Quentin Saulsberry, Tyrone McKenzie
Posted in All | 147 Comments »
There is a natural ebb and flow to training camp practices – some days the offense is better, some days the defense stands out. The Vikings offense got off to a fast start at 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp and capped off a good first 10 days with a sound showing in Saturday night’s practice.
Come Monday, though, the defense jumped up. After a day off on Sunday, the Vikings returned to the practice fields for their customary morning walk-thru followed by an afternoon practice, working under hot and windy conditions that did nothing to help the offense’s cause.
DE Brian Robison was a standout performer for the defense, providing a steady pass rush off the edge in the base 4-3 defense and then sliding inside on occasion to play DT in the nickel package. Robison teamed up with a fellow lineman twice during a drill versus the offensive linemen to execute an effective stunt. On the first play, Robison lined up on the outside and stunted inside, with Kevin Williams looping outside. The maneuver was enough for Robison to slip inside past a pair of offensive linemen. On the second play, Robison used a similar stunt in tandem with fellow DE D’Aundre Reed to create a pressure.
During the team’s live goal line period, LB Chad Greenway and DT Letroy Guion teamed up to halt the first-team offense on the initial snap, and second-team middle LB Tyrone McKenzie also burst through the line later in the period to make a splash play. McKenzie was another player who stood out during Monday’s practice. He takes care of a leadership role on the Vikings second-team defense and also possesses the athleticism to be a productive linebacker in nickel packages.
LB Marvin Mitchell and S Mistral Raymond each tallied INTs at various points in the practice as well. Mitchell has run with McKenzie at times in the second-team nickel package while Raymond has spent most of his time with the first team and second team at safety.
A few other notes…
Childs has knee surgery Monday
The road to recovery for Greg Childs after he tore the patellar tendon in both knees Saturday night has begun. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said Childs was to undergo surgery on Monday.
“So, we don’t know what the long-term prognosis is, but we are all hoping for the best,” Frazier said. “But our players, it was hard for them, obviously it is hard for Greg and his family. We’re all pulling for him through this situation.”
Gerhart looks good
Toby Gerhart is the Vikings starting RB and Frazier says the third-year pro has looked good so far in camp. Gerhart will likely get the start in Friday’s preseason game at San Francisco, but don’t expect him to get too many carries.
“He’s been looking well,” Frazier said. “He’s practicing well, has great confidence in what we’re doing, what we’re asking of him. He doesn’t seem like a guy who is ready to settle for being a backup running back, which is a good thing.”
Who will handle return duties?
At this point in training camp, charting the guys who are included in the kickoff and punt return rotation is nearly a full-time job. On Monday, I saw WR Stephen Burton, CB Chris Carr, DB Reggie Jones, CB Josh Robinson, CB Marcus Sherels, WR Kerry Taylor, WR Bryan Walters and WR Jarius Wright all take turns in the punt return rotation.
“We are going to make sure that we use the right guys and the guys that we think have the best chance,” Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer said. “If a guy is on the bubble, will he make it (the roster) because he is a good punt returner or kickoff returner? That will be key Friday night (preseason game vs. San Francisco). Hopefully we can make them punt a few times and we’ll go out there and get some reps for our guys.”
Tags: 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp, Brian Robison, Bryan Walters, Chad Greenway, Chris Carr, D'Aundre Reed, Greg Childs, Jarius Wright, Josh Robinson, Kerry Taylor, Kevin Williams, Leslie Frazier, Letroy Guion, Marcus Sherels, Marvin Mitchell, Mike Priefer, Mistral Raymond, Reggie Jones, Stephen Burton, Toby Gerhart, Tyrone McKenzie
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 61 Comments »
On Tuesday as I walked out to afternoon practice here at 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp, I asked followers on Twitter if there were any players they’d like me to pay special attention. We received many responses, so instead of responding to each person individually, we decided to put all the responses together and share it that way so everyone can read about the players that are tipping the curiosity of the fans.
And to make it as Twitter-realistic as possible, each comment below is in 140 characters or less (that is the character limit for a Twitter message). Here we go…
DL Christian Ballard: Second-team DT on Tuesday. Looks significantly bigger and better this year compared to last year. Will contribute.
S Robert Blanton: Sat out practice on Tuesday. Has been good to this point. Still learning defense obviously.
LB Audie Cole: Best I’ve seen him look on Tuesday. Great swim move during pass rush drill. Strikes well.
CB Bobby Felder: Had impressive INT during 1-on-1 drill. Won’t surprise me if he impresses during preseason. Plays with energy.
FB Jerome Felton: Was running with the first team at FB. Solid blocker. Also a special teams contributor.
LB Everson Griffen: First-team kickoff coverage; third-team LB. Explosive rushing passer off edge. Plays with energy.
DT Letroy Guion: First-team DT. Having a great camp. Good movement skills, very good strength. Anchors well.
DT Trevor Guyton: Third-team offense. Also plays special teams. Good movement. Role TBD.
LB Tyrone McKenzie: Big jump up from last year. Plays second-team MIKE LB. Impressive INT on Tuesday. Vocal on field.
S Mistral Raymond: Mostly first-team reps, some second-team. Seems better-versed in defensive scheme this year.
DE Brian Robison: Same ‘ol B-Rob. Plays with passion. Exclusively first-team left DE. Good inside pass rush moves.
OL Geoff Schwartz: Plays multiple positions with second and third teams. Role still TBD.
WR Jerome Simpson: Great speed. Gets open a lot. Love him on comeback routes. Good after the catch.
S Harrison Smith: Opened camp with the second team, but has begun to take some reps with first team. Looks the part. Plays bigger than listed.
Tags: Audie Cole, Bobby Felder, Brian Robison, Christian Ballard, Everson Griffen, Geoff Schwartz, Harrison Smith, Jerome Felton, Jerome Simpson, Letroy Guion, Mistral Raymond, Robert Blanton, Trevor Guyton, Tyrone McKenzie
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 22 Comments »
The energy level picked up a notch at 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp on Monday, as the Vikings donned pads for the first time and guys were flying around making plays. With 90 players and roughly 120 minutes of practice time, it’s hard to catch all of the best action. But here’s a quick review of the top plays I saw on Monday…
– We’ll begin at the end of practice, where the Vikings offense and defense went toe-to-toe in a goal line drill. The situation was 1st and goal from the 1-yardline with 8 seconds remaining on the clock and the offense needing a touchdown to win the game. The best action came when the third teams were on the field. QB Sage Rosenfels took the snap and lofted a pass to the back corner of the end zone for rookie Jarius Wright, who made an acrobatic catch over CB Corey Gatewood and tried to tap both feet in bounds before being shoved out of bounds. The official signaled touchdown, which prompted a celebration from the offense and heavy protest from the defense, all in good fun. The best protest – or at least the most comical protest – came from DE Jared Allen, who wasn’t involved in the play. “This is not college! This is not college! This isn’t high school,” Allen bellowed with a huge smile on his face. “You gotta have two feet in!” Allen was in the official’s face as if he were a baseball manager arguing a call with an umpire, and the entire display was a moment of levity to conclude what was the team’s most intense practice of camp so far.
– The Christian Ponder-to-Kyle Rudolph connection was as strong as ever on Monday, with Rudolph being a popular target of Ponder’s yet again. Midway through practice Ponder rifled a pass down the middle of the field to the goal line, leading Rudolph perfectly and putting the pass just out of the reach of LB Chad Greenway. Despite a gamely attempt by Greenway to deflect the pass, Rudolph was able to haul in the reception for a TD. “Kyle’s got like four or five inches on him in height, let alone wingspan. If you just get the ball up, he’s going to get it.”
– WR Devin Aromashodu is good for a flashy play or two each practice, and that was the case on Monday. Aromashodu ran a go route down the left sideline and made what turned out to be an excellent back shoulder reception while leaping over a defender. The pass came from QB Joe Webb.
– LBs Jasper Brinkley and Everson Griffen delivered a couple big-time hits. Brinkley met RB Lex Hilliard near the line of scrimmage during the second-to-last team period of practice and came out on top of the confrontation. Griffen saw FB Ryan D’Imperio make a reception in front of him and then saw fit to end the play abruptly by putting a big hit on the FB.
– Veterans Chris Carr and Tyrone McKenzie combined to force a turnover during a 7-on-7 drill. Carr tipped a pass and McKenzie, playing middle LB, got underneath the deflection to collect the INT and run the other way with a convoy of blockers in front of him.
– RB Jordan Todman flashed his greatest asset – speed – during the second-to-last team period of practice. Todman took a handoff that appeared to be designed to go inside and bounced out wide left. Todman gained the edge on the defense and raced down the left sideline for what would’ve been a TD run of at least 65 yards.
– Rosenfels displayed some athleticism near the end of practice during a team period. On the play, Rosenfels sprinted right after feeling pressure from his left and bought just enough time to hit rookie receiver Greg Childs near the sideline. Childs tapped both toes in bounds to complete the play, making up for a drop on a deep pass he had earlier in the day.
Tags: 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp, Chris Carr, Christian Ponder, Devin Aromashodu, Everson Griffen, Greg Childs, Jared Allen, Jarius Wright, Jasper Brinkley, Jordan Todman, Kyle Rudolph, Sage Rosenfels, Tyrone McKenzie
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 36 Comments »
Vikings players report to 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp on Thursday and the team’s first practice is on Friday, which means we only have a few more days to complete our Roster Rundown series. We continue the series today by taking a look at the four quarterbacks and 10 linebackers the team will bring to training camp…
Head Coach Leslie Frazier has been clear this offseason that Christian Ponder is his starting QB. Ponder played in 11 games and started 10 during his rookie season, producing mixed results and battling injuries. But this offseason the results have not been mixed – Ponder made huge strides during the offseason program and is poised to take a big step forward in 2012. Jobs are not handed out in the NFL, so Ponder will have to perform well enough to retain the starting job. Based on his performance in the offseason program, though, that shouldn’t be a problem.
After Ponder the Vikings will see Joe Webb battle Sage Rosenfels for the backup job. These two have contrasting styles and are at different points in their careers. Webb surely has designs on becoming an NFL starter one day, and he can continue that quest during camp. Whether he ultimately beats Ponder for the job or not is a separate issue from whether he continues his development as an NFL passer. Rosenfels is a 12-year veteran who is a great complement to the QB meeting room that includes three young players still learning the ropes.
Aside from Ponder and Webb, the other youngster is McLeod Bethel-Thompson. He joined the Vikings via a futures contract this past January after starring at Sacramento State and then playing for the San Francisco 49ers, the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the UFL and then the Miami Dolphins. Bethel-Thompson, an undrafted college free agent, has impressive arm strength and was clearly the best QB in the Vikings rookie minicamp. He was on the Dolphins practice squad to finish the 2011 season, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him make the Vikings practice squad (at a minimum) after this year’s training camp.
There are questions at linebacker for the Vikings as they head to training camp, but the good news is there also appears to be sufficient talent at the position as well. Chad Greenway is the best of the group and prepares to enter his seventh NFL season in 2012. Greenway has led the club in tackles the past four seasons and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him do it again this season. The other starting linebacker should be Erin Henderson, who returns to the club motivated after signing a one-year contract this past offseason. Last season was Henderson’s first as a full-time starter, and I’ve identified him as a player poised for a breakout season this year.
Jasper Brinkley enters training camp as the team’s middle linebacker, but there are questions about his durability. Those questions are fair because Brinkley missed all of 2011 with an injury and then missed parts of the team’s offseason program this year as well. Brinkley has declared himself 100% healthy as we approach training camp, though, and once he’s able to stay on the field I see him solidifying the Vikings starting group of linebackers. When E.J. Henderson was lost for the season in 2009 with a leg injury, Brinkley stepped into the lineup and played capably as the Vikings made a run through the playoffs. That experience along with natural progression that comes from two complete seasons after that should have Brinkley prepared to fulfill expectations this season.
After the three starters, there will be great competition for reserve spots among the Vikings LB group. Only two of those players competing for reserve spots are returning veterans. They are special teams standout Larry Dean and two-year veteran Tyrone McKenzie. Dean made last year’s team as an undrafted free agent based on his special teams ability, and he’ll have to be a standout in the same way this preseason to make the roster. McKenzie was the player asked to step into the middle linebacker role this offseason when Brinkley was out of action.
Outside of Greenway, the most veteran NFL player in the Vikings LB group is Marvin Mitchell, a six-year pro the Vikings signed this offseason in free agency. Mitchell had been with the Saints, and with the Vikings he’ll provide depth at multiple LB positions and he’s expected to be a contributor on special teams as well.
The remaining LBs are 7th-round draft pick Audie Cole, former CFL standout Solomon Elimimian and undrafted college free agents Tyler Nielsen and Corey Paredes. At NC State, Cole led the team in tackles while playing both inside and outside LB. Nielsen was a standout at the University of Iowa and Paredes went undrafted out of the University of Hawaii.
Elimimian will be interesting to watch because he’s undersized but he’s also a player who clearly knows how to play the position. He was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Rookie in 2010 and helped his club (BC Lions) win the Grey Cup in 2011. In two CFL seasons, Elimimian tallied 175 tackles, 9.0 sacks and 2 INTs and was voted the league’s “hardest hitter” by his peers.
After the three projected starters, LB jobs are wide open for the Vikings. An ability to contribute on special teams will be crucial for those looking to win a roster spot, but so too is demonstrating sound technique and knowledge of the defensive system. I expect most of the decisions to be made at this position to come down to the final two preseason games later in August.
Tags: Audie Cole, Chad Greenway, Christian Ponder, Corey Paredes, Erin Henderson, Jasper Brinkley, Joe Webb, Larry Dean, Leslie Frazier, Marvin Mitchell, McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Roster Rundown, Sage Rosenfels, Solomon Elimimian, Tyler Nielsen, Tyrone McKenzie
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 101 Comments »
Chad and Jenni Greenway, along with teammates John Sullivan, Robert Blanton, Rhett Ellison, Tyrone McKenzie and Harrison Smith, will sponsor the 6th annual Greenway’s Gridiron Gallop 5K fun run/walk at Lake Nokomis this Sunday – Father’s Day.
Joining the Greenways and other Vikings players will be Vikings cheerleaders and Viktor the Viking. Funds raised by the event will go toward Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board youth athletic programming.
Race Day check-in and registration will take place at the Lake Nokomis Bath House (located at 4955 West Lake Nokomis Parkway, Minneapolis, MN 55417) from 7:30 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. The event will begin at 9:00 a.m.
Players, along with cheerleaders, will be signing autographs for all participants. The event is $30 in advance and $35 the day of the event. The cost is $10 for a child (10 and under) in advance, $15 the day of, to participate in the 8:30 a.m. Kids Fun Run. All pre-registered participants are guaranteed a free t-shirt.
To register, go to www.minneapolisparks.org and click on “activities and programs” and then click on “community special events,” or register in-person the morning of the event.
Tags: Chad Greenway, Harrison Smith, John Sullivan, Rhett Ellison, Robert Blanton, Tyrone McKenzie
Posted in All | 17 Comments »