Jul 27, 2012; Mankato, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings fullback Rhett Ellison (40) catches a pass in drills at training camp at Blakeslee Stadium at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-US PRESSWIRE
We'll start off with the quick hits, then cover injury news, my own observations from practice video, media review and summaries of our 2nd and 3rd stringers after the jump.
- Percy Harvin is the primary kickoff returner. After that, Bryan Walters, Kerry Taylor, Jarius Wright, Marcus Sherels and Josh Robinson are competing for the spot. For more on the issues of having your primary offensive player also be your best returner, visit the Vikings blog.
- Jerome Felton is getting reps ahead of Ryan D'Imperio. Tom Pelissero says there's a good chance that two fullbacks make the roster, three if you include Ellison. MOAR, indeed.
- Christian Ponder 12 for 14 in first team 11-on-11s in early practices. That brings his count up to 28 for 31 in unpadded practices in 11-on-11s. A significant (nearly all) number of his throws in 11s are short and intermediate. He was 6-8 in 7-on-7s.
- Harvin and Devin Aromashodu are looking good on deep routes in one on ones
- Antoine Winfield is still killing it. Winfield popped a decoy screen by jumping Harvin's route. That forced Ponder to throw the screen to Kyle Rudolph, who had the pass batted out of his hands by Mistral Raymond. That drive ended up being a three-and-out. Winfield has been "on" for all of camp so far.
- We worked out two more unsigned cornerbacks after practice, possibly because of injuries.
- Yesterday it was Rudolph, today it's Harvin. Ponder connected to Percy quite a bit. Wobschall notes that in his opinion, Percy Harvin looks to be the most impressive camper so far. Sideline catches, diving catches, fantastic KR work.
- Despite more targets for Harvin, Rudolph still impressed those in attendance
- He also notes that Walsh kicked 6 straight 46 yard FGs, and 2 for 3 on 55 yarders. Hit a 60 yarder on Friday.
- Vikings worked on 3rd and long situations on offense and defense, and the Vikings first team offense looked good. 3 of 5 in conversions, two to Rudolph.
- Vikings are focusing more on special teams than most other squads. Unlike other iterations of the Vikings or other teams, they are starting every day with special teams install. Watch Kerry Taylor blow by some gunners, courtesy of Pelissero at ESPN1500.
- Meet the man behind the motorcycle the Vikes use on gameday!
- More camp photos!
- Reporter's watching Peterson's rehab work seem happy. He ran routes and caught passes for Sugarman. The Vikings will plan "live" situations for him, where he has to react, so we see how he moves when he doesn't know when or where he's moving. No timetable for return yet. If you want to take an interesting look at his early rehab, take a look at the video linked here. It's a great look, and includes clips of AP and Athletic Trainer Eric Sugarman using some unique methods (including playing video games, with a leg press as the controller) to aid recover. For some somewhat detailed coverage on the rehab, take a look at what Tim Yotter at Viking Update has to say. To see how AP ran in practice today, take a look below:
He scored seven touchdowns in seven runs against that cameraman
- Josh Robinson doesn't have a major limp, and the Vikings are optimistic that they have avoided a worst-case-scenario with him. He sat out the day. Again, should return soon.
- Stephen Burton is still sidelined for his toe injury, but Mickey Shuler has been activated off NFI list. Burton ran sprints and looked fine. We'll see him soon, as well.
- Nick Taylor is not practicing, and he apparently suffered a shoulder injury yesterday.
- Jerome Simpson went down in traffic clutching his knee, but looks OK and had his helmet on. Banged knees with Bowman. Second time Simpson got up slowly. Earlier got tangled with Cook in one on ones.
- Linebackers Marvin Mitchell and Corey Paredes hobbled off the field. I don't have any news yet on their progress.
The Vikings have had live practice video up on their website, and I was able to pop in to make some limited observations.
- Jarius Wright is cutting well, good footwork at the breaks
- I like Michael Jenkins' adjustment to the ball, but still some issues planting. I thought he looked faster than reports said. It turns out that Leslie Frazier agreed. Issues are mostly resolved.
- Audie Cole could use some more agility
- Matt Kalil drives well, keeps his knees in the right position, and has fantastic form. Might be more effective in the run game than I initially thought.
- Brandon Fusco has good burst.
- I liked D'Aundre Reed's movement. I apparently wasn't the only one (more below).
- Nick Reed needs to be quicker off the snap
- Webb looked choppy in his footwork when dropping back
There's a lot of media to get through, so the first thing I'll do is get you access to some interesting highlight vids. Unfortunately, none of them are embeddable. First is a video that is nominally about Frazier in the huddle, but really just contains good footage. Click here for it.
The second video is mostly Jasper Brinkley oriented and consists largely of an interview with him, but has some shots of him practicing. In the interview, he says that he is back to feeling healthy, that the team needs to work first and foremost on communication, he has a good relationship with coaches, middle linebacker is "second nature" to him and that he's really impressed with Everson Griffen, particularly that he brings a ferocious mentality, is quick and has nimble feet. Fairly typical player interview. Find it here.
For a more thorough accounting of Brinkley, take a look at what Brian Murphy at the Pioneer Press has to say. Brinkley has been working on his footwork and agility, it seems.
Third, there's an interview with Jay Glazer that Wobschall snagged. I'll go over it, but just know that it also has some camp highlights in it. The Harvin catch in the video alone is worth the watch.
- Jay and Allen did Mixed Martial Arts training together. Apparently helped both of them lose weight and increased Allen's effectiveness
- Glazer loves hanging out with players!
- Jay is high on the Vikings. He says the 49ers are a reason "you never know" who is going to break out after a bad season
- Glazer has some comments on what he thinks of the chemistry of the Vikings Front Office; he thinks the FO is great, and not filled with the petty politics of most teams.
- Glazer is better in this interview than he is a lot of time on air. I like him here.
Finally, there's an interview with Percy Harvin. The highlights here aren't as great, but might still be worth a look-see. Mostly, Harvin has some opinions on the rookie receivers. He likes them, and goes into some brief reasons as to why and what assets they bring. Other than that, he vaguely says that "Christian has improved a lot."
There are two pressers to cover. The first will be the Bill Musgrave presser, found here.
- Musgrave loves being able to set up the offensive program "how he wants to" without the lockout. More can be installed and he's assured of greater focus.
- Rudolph has been singled out-good offseason; he's gained strength without losing speed. Musgrave predicts that he will be a key contributor
- Comparing veteran John Carlson to sophomore Kyle Rudolph is difficult. Carlson is quicker and a bit smaller and Musgrave likes both of them for their intelligence
- Rhett Ellison's role "remains to be seen." Musgrave emphasized his versatility.
- Losing Kleinsasser has forced the Vikings to change what they can do on offense. It might take "two players" to replace Kleinsasser and all that he provides.
- We'll be looking for a big impact from our receiving group, especially in the first three weeks when we need to replace Simpson.
- Christian has a greater working knowledge of the offense, so we'll see more complicated reads/progressions.
- Toby Gerhart's visible strengthening will be "helpful" but it may not necessarily related to the AP situation
- Fusco and Schwartz are both taking first team reps at RG
- Simpson's biggest job is to learn the system right now; he knows a lot of it, but that's most important for Simpson
- Brings a lot to the table
- His speed should open up the playbook; let them do more
Take that for what you think it might be worth. The other presser is with Mike Priefer, the special teams coach.
- "As far as I'm concerned, Percy's our number one kick returner"
- ALL the punt returners improved over the course of this offseason! More seriously, he does go on to say that we won't know much about punt returners until pads, because it changes player mentality in some significant ways.
- Priefer loves Zack Bowman for his experience on a good special teams unit. Priefer grilled Bowman for information on what helped make Chicago successful.
- Mentality seems to be part of it. We don't have an established expectation of success on punt returns, just kick returns. That can change things.
- All nonstarters need to play special teams.
- Blair Walsh has had notable improvement. Made a 59 yarder indoors.
- Walsh still needs to prove himself. They'll be looking for ways to manufacture pressure. Fans, preseason games, etc.
- There's been a big change in kickoff returns since the NFL removed the wedge. For the Vikings, this has meant a focus on technique and finesse and less on physical force. Punts are now more important because of the kickoff rule changes
- There will be three distinct punt teams, punt return teams, kickoff teams and kickoff return teams for the first week.
The Vikings media vault isn't the only one with videos, however! Take a look at what Jeremy Fowler and Brian Murphy from the Pioneer Press have to say:
- Based on interviews and what we've seen, they'll absolutely be using more two tight ends sets than they did during the 2011 season.
- Ponder to Rudolph still a good connection in day two. Some comparisons to Gronk/Hernandez have been made, especially with Rudolph's physical improvement.
- There's a discussion of how to balance the importance of building Simpson-Ponder chemistry with making sure we have good receivers in the first three games. Vikes and press are still waiting for a 4th receiver to emerge.
- There's some more discussion on Walsh getting involved in more pressure situations. They reiterated Priefer's coaching to extend kicking time by a few tenths of a second.
- We might see full AP action in a couple weeks.
If you want a full story on the Blair Walsh business, pop over to the Pio Press article written by Murphy.
Jeremy Fowler has an article up, too. It's about Everson Griffen. What stands out in that story is that Griffen feels even faster than he was before.
Dan Wiederer and Mark Craig for the Star Tribune naturally produced their own video.
- There's generally a low general injury total
- Craig is a bit concerned in general about hammy problems for Robinson—might take some time, it seems
- Matt Kalil v. Jared Allen is "not about who is better; it's about making both of them better"
- Harvin is indeed back, will take #1 KR duties. Craig and Wiederer like his strength.
Also be sure to peruse Wiederer's notes. Most of it was already covered in the sections above or will be covered below, but he also has a bit about how Harrison Smith Harrison Smith hasn't quite earned the starting job—yet. He is definitely learning the defense and is starting to look better, however.
Mark Craig has a nice story posted on what we should expect as soon as the pads come on, particularly between Kalil and Allen. Jared's attitude is great; he won't go in looking to clown Kalil, but will use the time to try new moves or focus on mechanics while also providing Kalil with important tips. Like indicated above, Jared is focused on winning, not beating Kalil: "My goal here isn't to beat Matt Kalil ... it's all about trying to make each other better"
Finally, the Don weighs in. He's optimistic about the offense. He and Spielman had a conversation, and apparently everyone he drafted is really good. Huh.
Over at ESPN1500, Tom Pelissero's notebook is always a good read. He covers a few things I touched on above or will get to below. Aside from that, he reiterates what we heard about a month after the draft, that we want to slow Walsh's kicks down by a few tenths of a second. Fusco and Schwartz are trading first team looks, but Fusco seems to be the current favorite.
Did you want to know more about the Kalil deal? ESPN1500 has the dirt. Kalil signed a 19.7 million dollar fully guaranteed 4 year deal, with a 5th year option (I assume triggered by the Vikes). Base salary is: 390k year one, 1.3 million year two, 2.2 million year three and 3 million year four. Signing bonus proration means the cap hits are 3.6m in the first season and 6.3m in 2015.
People outside the Holy Trinity had their say as well.
The Associated Press chimes in on their own with a story about Kalil and Allen. More interesting is a story by Sports Illustrated on how Kevin Williams may round out his career (SPOILER ALERT: He thinks he'll play at a high level for a while).
Finally, some 2nd and 3rd string news.
- Lex Hilliard is ahead of Jordan Todman right now. This spot will likely be driven by special teams play.
- Marcus Sherels is doing fairly well on the punt team; nice shake on defense against two gunners.
- No clear 4th WR on the depth chart. Kerry Taylor is taking these reps, but still unlikely he takes the spot. That's more about making sure everyone takes reps
- Robert Blanton dropped a pick in one-on-ones, but put himself in that position for the second consecutive day.
- Emmanuel Arceneaux has improved significantly as a route runner. This might help him create the separation that many (including me) have criticized him for missing.
- Andrew Sendejo picked off Sage Rosenfels on a pass intended for Aromashodu off of a deflection in 7-on-7s.
- Mickey Shuler displayed some nice work in the pass-catching game after returning from injury.
- Rhett Ellison looks good. Scope his hands on the far side of the play:
- If that video is any indication, Childs looks like he's come back. Would like a slightly better plant and quicker cuts, though.
- Joe Webb started off tentatively and waited a little bit too long in the pocket. All indications are that yesterday was probably more of a bad day than anything. He was 7-9 today (total: 12-20). Rosenfels was 2-5 (6-10) and McLeod Bethel-Thompson was 4-5 (4-5).
- Bethel-Thompson had a LOT of zip on his throws. Incredible arm strength.
- My prediction on Bowman's chances looks to be dead wrong so far. He's adequate in position practices, but extremely proficient in special teams work (Which makes sense, given his work with Hester). Priefer loves picking his brains, as I alluded to above. This will put some pressure on Robinson, but more on Bobby Felder, Brandon Burton and Marcus Sherels. Nick Taylor, Corey Gatewood and Reggie Jones are relatively unimportant at this stage, so it may not affect them on way or the other. Given the heavy competition for punt returner, Sherels has particular reason to worry.
- D'Aundre Reed is crushing camp. Consistent pressure, and a number of touch sacks off of speed rushes. He figures to be a good backup end, and is right now in a position to be an inside rusher on nickel packages, which could enable a full switch for Griffen to OLB. Leslie Frazier isolated him in the presser, too, as "Showing up quite a bit."
Like I said, you might not be seeing much of me this Sunday (although there's a chance I spend a lot of time here, who knows?).
I look forward to updating you all from camp on Monday! I you haven't already, you can follow me on twitter, where I'll provide updates. I promise I won't try to spam: Follow @ArifHasanDN.