Vikings Training Camp: Day 9 Roundup

Jun 19, 2012; Eden Prairie, MN, USA; A general view as Minnesota Vikings defensive linemen work on drills with a blocking sled at Vikings minicamp at Winter Park. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-US PRESSWIRE

After a hectic Saturday and Sunday, Monday's camp was relatively uneventful. We have a small debate over the wide receiver depth chart after Greg Childs, as well as a bit of a medical discussion about the nature of his injury. Still, football moves on, and we will as well. Quick hits, injury report, media review, and developments with our second and third teamers.

  • Ponder was 10/17 in 11s with a rotating receiver corps. He also threw one interception and took two "sacks." That puts him at 51/82 for the offseason, and 62%. There is a degree of consensus that he's been improving over the course of camp (and a large consensus that he's improved significantly more than last year).
  • There was nothing particularly notable about the first lineup of padded practices and walkthrough—Percy Harvin, Jerome Simpson, Toby Gerhart, Kyle Rudolph, Mickey Shuler, Christian Ponder, Matt Kalil, Charlie Johnson, John Sullivan, Brandon Fusco, Phil Loadholt. Don't read too much into Shuler's inclusion, that spot is the most uncertain; the Vikings are still looking into who will replace John Carlson in the preseason.
  • We've now seen a number of reps with Toby split out wide, and these have generally been two tight end packages.
  • Simpson stayed out of team drills, part of the Vikings' plan of reducing his reps as the season approaches in order to prepare for his absence for the first three weeks.
  • Harrison Smith finally got a shot at first team reps, although it was with the first team nickel package. Still, coaches must be liking what they've seen to move him up and replace Mistral Raymond on nickel plays in walkthroughs and padded reps.
  • Naturally, as soon as Raymond was back with the ones in the 7s, he picked off Christian Ponder in short yardage installation. This was reported to be the worst pass Ponder has thrown in camp.
  • In 11s, Letroy Guion did a good job of penetrating against RG Fusco to make a tackle on Gerhart in the backfield
  • Some of the goal line work finally favored the offense, as Gerhart ran in a touchdown and Ponder passed to Michael Jenkins for another
  • Still, each of the defenses—first, second and third—were massively ahead of the offenses, with good stuffs at the line and an occasional interception. This was a bigger problem for the run game than the passing game.
  • In particular, Erin Henderson and Chris Cook stood out to journalists at camp, and they both had excellent positioning in padded practices.
  • The no-huddle installation went well for Ponder, according to observers.

Big thanks to Vikings Fan Page, for helping to provide me with these updates. You can like them on facebook!

Injury report:

  • Greg Childs (knees) went in for surgery today. We at the Daily Norseman wish him well, even if that means no longer having a career in football. More on the story below.
  • John Carlson (knee) was seen jogging, but clearly has "a hitch in his gait," according to Tom Pelissero at ESPN1500. He's currently wearing a knee brace and is still targeting a return well before Week 1.
  • Robert Blanton (hamstring) also resumed jogging, but has no clear timetable
  • Both Jordan Todman (ankle) and Pat Brown (knee) were in pads, but got very light work in team drills, if any. They are day-to-day.
  • DeMarcus Love (shoulder/pectoral) does not need surgery, but will need over a week to return to strength
  • Kamar Jorden (wrist) was not in pads, and stayed on the sidelines. He is expected to be day-to-day.
  • Josh Robinson (hamstring) was in pads and took a few reps, although still not very many. He's progressing well.
  • Adrian Peterson will remain on the Active/PUP list for at least another week, according to Frazier. He was not at practice in order to attend a court hearing.
While I've posted about what I've learned about the patellar tendon tear, other media have also come forth with prognostications. The Star Tribune thinks there is a very high likelihood that this is the end of Childs' career. The Pioneer Press doesn't seem to take a strong stance, but heavily implies that the two previous NFL examples of bilateral patellar tendon tears bodes ill for Childs. ESPN1500 does a good job defending Spielman's draft decision on Childs and also argues (separately) that this isn't necessarily a death knell for his career.

For what it's worth, I agree with all of them. The Childs injury is serious and could most likely spell the end of his career, but it doesn't mean he's down and out. Pelissero goes into great detail about Spielman's drafting strategy and notes, and specifically argues a few things of note: the first is that NFL teams traditionally draft high upside talent with red flags in the fourth round (Everson Griffen and Ray Edwards, for example) because the salary risk is low—$300,000.

The second argument that caught my eye was that there was no reason to expect this (or any other) injury to occur again. A quotation that effectively made his point: "A study co-authored by four physicians from the Steadman Clinic in Denver found 24 patellar tendon tears in 22 NFL players from 1994 to 2004. Every player participated in training camp the year after the injury, with all but a handful surviving final cuts."

For what it's worth, Childs' attitude has been great, going so far as to say, "Coach, I'll be back. I'm going to do just like I did before. I'm going to work as I can. I'll be back out here to help the Vikings."

Leading off the media review today will be the Star Tribune because they have another video. Summary:

  • They lead with Greg Childs, who consumes most of their time.
  • There's no likelihood of getting a veteran FA, but just opening up possibilities for current receivers on the roster. They discuss the pros and cons of three or four receivers.
  • Some discussion on Adrian Peterson, nothing new.
  • Don't expect too much "Vikings football" on Friday against the 49ers; we'll see a lot of our 3rd, 4th and 5th backs.

Mark Craig posted his notebook, which is particularly content-heavy today. In it, he covers Childs (a common theme), the noticeable improvement for Burton, the advice Walsh received (slow down on your kicks), Sherel's strong grip on the number one punt returner job, Jasper Brinkley's lack of doubt, and Jared Allen's disdain for preseason games (he got the first one off last year and wants that again).

Jerome Simpson compares Ponder to Andy Dalton, by way of Dan Wiederer. But not really, because NFL players don't do that too often.

Kent Youngblood gets into the mix at the Star Tribune and writes about the potential breakout season we could see from Kyle Rudolph. Mostly, he has giant hands, and he's big and fast. He also writes about the problems of using the replacement referees, including troubling interviews from former NFL refs. Highlighted are the potential safety issues and missed calls.

Over in St. Paul, the Pioneer Press ran their own story on replacement officials, with a native Minnesota referee providing the bulk of the criticism. Charley Walters, the author, does a pretty good job detailing some interesting specifics, but doesn't really mention that members of the NFLRA might be biased.

Brian Murphy wrote two articles, one on sophomore guard Brandon Fusco's attitude—he says it's his job to lose—and another, more detailed story on the Vikings' in-house options to replace Greg Childs.

Fowler noted that Harrison Smith and Everson Griffen got first team time, and also runs down a couple of other practice highlights.

The folks at 1500ESPN produced two notebooks, one from Judd Zulgad and the other from Pelissero.

In Judd's notebook, there is a small discussion on the "middle of the defense," where Spielman tells us we should expect more from Guion due to his positional focus at nose tackle (that he's no longer taking snaps at undertackle). Guion's additional strength along with his natural footspeed should help things here.

He predicts that Mistral Raymond will win the other safety job opposite Harrison Smith, and repeats a Spielman quote indicating that Brinkley has had a good camp.

Spielman calls Josh Robinson a bit of a steal, and emphasized his speed.

More than that, Judd's discussion with Spielman revealed the organizations public thoughts about Christian Ponder, who they've feel has unequivocally improved. In particular, the general manager likes the clear difference in Ponder's ability to make reads and go through progressions.

Zulgad, however, still likes the Blair Walsh story. Not only does he once again emphasize Walsh's leg, he talks about the biggest thing that has increased his accuracy (already reported; it's Priefer's advice to slow down). While doing live drills, Walsh has only missed two kicks of twenty six, both from over 40 yards.

Peliserro's notebook is a bit less of a read, and kicks off with a story about Brandon Fusco's aggressiveness, and his goals—he already plays very physically, so he'll want to become smarter about it. He says playing across Kevin Williams has prepared him immensely. There's some more on the Griffen story, which I briefly touch on below. Pelissero calls Tuesday the roughest day for the offense yet, with a number of three-and-outs—although he is quick to exonerate Ponder, who was the victim of a poor running game and drops.

Tom suspects Jasper Brinkley may be a bit annoyed with all the questions he's been getting about his health. He has a small interview with Brinkley in the notebook.

The most significant development from ESPN1500, however, was the release of the Vikings' official depth chart. Like Pelissero points out, there aren't an extraordinary number of surprises, although it's not the depth chart the Vikings will use against the 49ers, as Schwartz is listed as the first backup to right guard, and has Arceneaux behind Childs. Still somewhat illuminating, though, as it has Burton ahead of Wright and Jenkins ahead of Aromashodu. Expect it to change as the preseason progresses, both as a result of injuries and talent evaluations.

The ESPN mothership and its NFC North blogger Kevin Siefert took the time to visit Vikings training camp, and produced a "Training Camp Confidential" on the Vikings. It's another good read, but has been covered in a lot of roundups. The new information includes a bit about Greenway's locker room influence, how Ponder has clearly improved over last season, and again a small emphasis on the middle of the defense, with a brief mention of Guion at nose tackle and Smith at safety, and a larger story on the fact that Brinkley is healthy. Zulgad did a better job on this specific story, to be honest.

He also goes through the trouble of pointing out reasons for optimism—clear franchise vision and an easy early schedule—and reasons for pessimism, which include a tough division.

There's a bit of official Vikings media to cover, although I'm going to save that for tomorrow because this story has crashed twice while writing it, and rewriting is a pain.

Twos and threes:
  • Joe Webb had a poor day and threw 6 for 14 and had one interception. That leaves him 49 for 77 overall with a completion rate of 64%. He did, however, showcase his athletic ability once more and scramble after a broken play for a touchdown.
  • He looked shaky in the no-huddle, and overthrew a number of out routes.
  • Sage completed all three of his passes, but is still having a bad camp, with a total completion rate at 37% from a 23/63 performance.
  • Conversely, McLeod Bethel-Thompson had a good day and connected on 6 of his 8 thrown balls. That puts him at 16/28 overall and a completion rate of 57%
  • During the morning walkthroughs, Jarius Wright was the only one taking punt returns, but once the pads came on, we saw Marcus Sherels, Stephen Burton and Bryan Walters in the mix. All four will take punt and kickoff return duties against the 49ers on Friday, with Harvin getting the day off of returns.
  • The second team starting reps went to Lex Hilliard, Michael Jenkins, Rhett Ellison, Mickey Shuler, and Stephen Burton, but there was quite a bit of rotation at receiver. As it stands, Jenkins and Burton are the current 3rd and 4th receivers—although this could easily change by Friday.
  • 3rd team install had a number of wide receivers, with Emmanuel Arceneaux, Jarius Wright, Bryan Walters, Devin Aromashodu and Kerry Taylor taking the large proportion of the reps (leaving the beleagued A.J. Love and injured Kamar Jorden without some reps).
  • Derrick Coleman was the 3rd team RB.
  • Trevor Guyton was promoted to the second string in drills, and Marvin Mitchell and Larry Dean solidified their spots as the backup linebackers. Mitchell made the most of his time on the second string with the lone interception of Joe Webb during the no-huddle drill.
  • Speaking of, Harrison Smith finally got some first team work in, mostly with the nickel package, replacing Mistral Raymond. He still didn't take the majority of the snaps here, but is getting a serious look.
  • Tyrone McKenzie has been great, according both to what I've seen and what the reporters have seen. He made a number of plays, including a good tackle in the backfield of Hilliard and great stops in goal line situations.
  • Everson Griffen is still very raw at linebacker, and has made some clear mistakes. Nevertheless, he has great potential here, and nearly intercepted MBT (the pass deflected... for a completion). The Vikings will continue to rotate him in at a defensive end position during play, but not during practices. He and D'Aundre Reed are definitely the primary backups of Allen and Robison.
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