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Minnesota Vikings 2013 Training Camp: Day Seven Notebook

Oof, Arif writes this one a little late. But it's here for you to absorb while he goes back to write up scrimmage notes.

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

A day late and several dollars short, I'm posting my final notebook unless I find a way to get down to training camp with money enough for a hotel. More on that in another post.

These are distinct from my impressions at the scrimmage, so keep that in mind.

Thoughts of the Day

Adrian Peterson plays chess, evidently. And he plays it with his girlfriend, Antoine Winfield and Matt Cassel, which is kind of cool.

It's too easy to get drawn into the comparisons between football and chess, because they're made fairly hastily, without thought and only to emphasize that football has a cerebral aspect to it, too. That's fine, but chess doesn't have a reactive component to it in the same way-football consistently is finding ways to have the last reaction, where that's impossible in chess.

One of the reasons the read-option is so popular is that it flipped the switch on who gets the final say. Before, defenses adjusted to personnel on the field (the first time Coryell motioned a receiver to line up in the backfield, the defense called a timeout. Things have changed), then by formation and WR splits, then to tendency.

The offenses did the same, with the final pre-snap call on the quarterback. But the defense has an opportunity to disguise itself and get the final word.

Play-action changed this a little bit, but only superficially. Sucking a defense in on a predetermined call didn't mean the offense had the ability to make the final decision, only that it could disguise itself until later.

But the read-option lets the offense choose well after the defense has revealed what it's doing and it will be hard to push the decision later and later into the play (the play has already well started at that point). There is simply not enough time to react to what the offense will truly do at that point.

Chess does not have this moment. Every movement is discrete and players will have time (not unlimited, despite what you may believe) to react to it. There is no conditional action in chess, so there's a fair degree of static strategy that isn't replicated in football.

"Reaction time" and the race to force the other player to reveal his or her hand doesn't really exist (except in blitz chess) and often, players will seek to lose a step in order to see how the other one will react. Reti's opening for white, where the kingside's knight moves up above the bishop, is an example. It's a late-developing opening that allows a player to react instead of be proactive.

The point is that there are pressures that exist in chess and in football that do not entirely coincide.

But the key in both is constant repetition, study and natural talent.

When I played chess, I was never very good. I was the second board on our high school's pretty weak chess club, which means I played against the second-best player of the other high schools in the area. Nearly every one of them beat me, save for a few rural schools and our cross-town rivals, who were shockingly worse than us.

I'm not sure I had potential, but I definitely didn't have drive. At the "height" of my chess career, I played consistently at a 1600 rating, which Wikipedia would evidently class a "Class C" player, which would have put me in the top 18 percent of players.

That might seem impressive, but I was playing against 16- and 17-year-olds who were rated at about an 1800 (the top nine percent). Once I lost to a 7-year-old rated at 2100 (top 1.5 percent) in 20 moves (for a beautiful 22 move game, check out the Evergreen game). The rating system doesn't work well with percentiles because so many casual players populate the bottom of any tournament. Of players who played more than once a week, I was certainly in the bottom tier.

I talked to a lot of these players and their coaches and the consensus seemed to be that only about half of the players I lost to started out with more "feel" for the game than I did. But they cared a lot more about it and read books. Lots and lots of books. Many of the books were out of print or inaccessible to somebody who didn't have a great chess coach, but the point is that they were willing to submit the time and energy to improve on an activity that I had thought was just natural talent.

There's research to show that that's not true. Chess players, many think, are superior mental gymnasts, with better memory, intelligence and general acuity than the populace. That is likely true of the best chess players, but it looks like it is less true of the general chess population than we may have thought:

The most influential research of experts' memories focussed initially on chess experts. In their pioneering studies Chase and Simon (1973) showed superior memory for chess positions by chess experts. Chess players ranging from beginners to international masters were shown a position from an actual chess game (such as the one illustrated in panel A of Figure 1) for a brief time (normally 5 seconds) and then asked to recall the location of all the chess pieces. The ability to recall increased as a function of chess skill. Beginners at chess were able to recall the correct location of about four pieces, whereas international-level players recalled virtually all of the more than twenty pieces.

To rule out that the superior memory of chess experts reflects a general superior ability to store any kind of visual information, Chase and Simon (1973) had chess players recall chessboards with randomly placed pieces (as illustrated in Panel B of Figure 1). With briefly presented random chessboards, players at all levels of skill had the same poor recall performance and were able to recall the correct location of only about four pieces-a performance comparable with that of chess beginners for actual positions from chess games. Further, Chase and Simon (1973) showed that when an actual chess position was shown using an unfamiliar notation (see Panel C in Figure 1), the chess expert was able to display a similar level of superior memory performance after a brief period of adjustment.

Ryan Leaf and Jamarcus Russell were naturally gifted quarterbacks. Russell could have been a better Ben Roethlisberger. Vince Young had charisma, leadership and physical talent. He reportedly did not have intelligence, but I won't speculate there.

What sets them apart is that they don't have maturity and discipline. Perhaps Young is a special case for whichever reason, but talent alone will never let a player skate by. Randy Moss is what many would call a notable exception to the rule, but I don't buy it. Randy Moss may have been like Bobby Fischer, who didn't work as hard as his contemporaries but still worked harder than most people do at anything.

To call players lazy, any player, misses a lot of context. Sure, he may have dogged it on a controversial interception by Ed Reed (a charge that makes no sense—I see no way for him to get the ball), but no one is so physically dominant that they can accrue the second-most receiving yardage in NFL history through laziness.

77 percent of Randy Moss' receptions were for under 20 yards, and he was a refined route runner. It wasn't that he had a full route tree (he really didn't) or that he was the most precise guy in terms of breaks and footwork (he didn't need to be) but that he was able to commit his body to selling so many different routes without revealing what he was going to do.

The Randy Moss Myth-Busting Career Defining Video Pt 3 "Not A Good Route Runner/Can Only Go Deep." (via Bruce Davis). Some of these require incredible precision and route-running. It's a beauty to watch

Watching film of Moss revealed a less one-dimensional player than you would expect, but expectations often define vision-a struggle I have myself when writing these notes. Bill Belichick called Randy Moss the smartest receiver he's ever worked with, and that's for a reason: Randy Moss read defenses exceptionally well and thrived in a system that many would call the most complex system for a receiver to pick up in the NFL.

It's a playbook that requires a lot of study and understanding, both of the plays and concepts within it as well as of an opposing defense. Randy Moss was a student of the game, like any NFL player, but simply may not have worked as hard as other great players. That's underselling how much work goes into being great.

So if Randy Moss is Bobby Fischer—an impetuous genius who might more be remembered for controversy than for the difficulty of the game he played—that's probably OK. Both worked relentlessly, but never as much as their peers.

I tried becoming great once. I spent months studying chess books and played like a 1600 player on a good day. A Russian chess coach whose student I played against told me that I had the possibility of becoming a 2000+ rated player. But I didn't have the work ethic or attention span to even approach that. I hung my hat on one thing (openings) and was OK in my mediocrity, because I liked watching TV and having friends. Because of that, I'm no longer even a solid 1300 player.

But chess, like in football, requires much more than natural talent.

Special Teams

Depth Chart

I skipped the special teams section yesterday, so I'm starting there.

First Punt Unit: Marcus Sherels (g), Josh Robinson (g), Andrew Sendejo, Harrison Smith, Robert Blanton, Rhett Ellison, Tyrone McKenzie, Marvin Mitchell, Larry Dean

Second Punt Unit: Bobby Felder (g), A.J. Jefferson (g), Christian Ballard, Michael Mauti, Brandan Bishop, LaMark Brown, Matt Asiata, George Johnson

Third Punt Unit: Brandon Burton (g), Stephen Burton (g), Gerald Hodges, Darius Eubanks, John Carlson, D'Aundre Reed, Collins Ukwu, Joe Banyard

I am missing two names for those. Some players had their jerseys tucked up underneath their pads and were also wearing visors which account for some of the misses. I think I am missing George Johnson on the second unit and Zach Line on the third one. They have taken punt unit snaps for the Vikings before. I was also surprised to see Audi Cole missing, as he's taken snaps here a lot, too.

The movement of Gerald Hodges down the punt chart would worry me a bit if I wasn't so confident that Spielman in particular liked Hodges. I may or may not have heard him discussing things.

I wouldn't read too much (one way or the other) in the Burton Brothers (they are not brothers as far as I know) as third-team gunners.

They may not even be that much, given that Mistral Raymond and Xavier Rhodes were out of practice with their injuries. Mistral Raymond generally plays with the second punt unit and has played on the first team unit as well, while Rhodes is a second-team gunner. Desmond Bishop was also missing, too, but was injured after these practice drills, so I wouldn't count that.

I think it is likely that Raymond and Rhodes would normally be second-team guys, with Brandan Bishop and Bobby Felder moving to the third team with Brandon Burton and Joe Banyard and dropping out entirely.

First Punt Return: Andrew Sendejo, Robert Blanton, Matt Asiata, Rhett Ellison, Christian Ballard, Larry Dean, Josh Robinson, Chris Cook, Marvin Mitchell, Tyrone McKenzie

Second Punt Return: A.J. Jefferson, Bobby Felder, George Johnson, LaMark Brown, Audie Cole, Zach Line, D'Aundre Reed, Gerald Hodges, Joe Webb, Brandan Bishop

It looks like Brandan Bishop got an extra look because of Rhodes' injury, and Felder may have jumped up to the second punt return unit due over Thielen, who shouldn't be happy he's not taking those snaps (especially with an injury to the roster). He wasn't taking any punt returner snaps, so his absence on both sets of units should be troubling for him.

Punt returners: Cordarrelle Patterson, Stephen Burton, Josh Robinson, Bobby Felder, Marcus Sherels, Joe Webb, Jerodis Williams, Bradley Randle.

Let's talk Locke.

I don't know as much about punting-I might even know a bit more about Long Snapping-but it seems like Locke has shown what you want to see in a drafted punter in training camp. Like kickers, you won't really get a sense of anything until games, but that is a little less true of punters.

Locke has shown, so far, two different types of punts (as far as I can tell) in camp - the torpedo punt (a normal, spiraling punt) and the Australian-style punt (a ball traveling through the air end-over-end). It looks like he'll use the Aussie punting in shorter yardage situations, where you want to care more about control and getting it out of bounds, which is largely where he practiced that type of punt.

The Vikings Corner blog (something I've recently just picked up watching after his excellent tweets about training camp caught my eye) noted that his maximum punt hang time was 5.6 seconds. I didn't time every punt I saw, but I could believe it-some of those just stayed in the air. On the other hand, that is insanely high.

For the second practice that I decided to time it, Locke recorded an average punt time of 4.7 seconds, and consistently stayed around there. The max I recorded was 5.1 seconds.

That average time is very high, even for seasoned players with a few seasons under their belts. The average maximum hang time in 2012 was 5.25 seconds last year, and the absolute max was 5.8 seconds (Shawn Powell of the Buffalo Bills). The average rookie punter seems to be at about 4.3 seconds from what I can gather, so Locke's 4.7 second average is humongous. Less reliable sources have indicated that the NFL average is about 4.6 seconds per punt, so this is probably a big deal.

With work from Priefer, Locke might be able to get a hang time on average of nearly 5 seconds. One of the reasons Ray Guy never kicked a punt that was returned for a TD had to do with hang time, and it's a significant part of special teams.


Depth Chart

QB: Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel, McLeod Bethel-Thompson, James Vandenberg
LT: Matt Kalil, Kevin Murphy, DeMarcus Love
LG: Charlie Johnson, Jeff Baca, Tyler Holmes
C: John Sullivan, Joe Berger, Camden Wentz
RG: Brandon Fusco, Seth Olsen, Travis Bond
RT: Phil Loadholt, Brandon Keith, Troy Kropog
TE: Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson, Rhett Ellison, Chase Ford, Colin Anderson
HB: Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart, Joe Banyard, Bradley Randle, Jerodis Williams
FB: Jerome Felton, Matt Asiata, Zach Line
SE: Jerome Simpson, Cordarrelle Patterson, Stephen Burton, Rodney Smith, Chris Summers
FL: Greg Jennings, Jarius Wright, Joe Webb , LaMark Brown, Adam Thielen, Erik Highsmith

"11" offense

QB: Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel, McLeod Bethel-Thompson, James Vandenberg
LT: Matt Kalil, Kevin Murphy, DeMarcus Love
LG: Charlie Johnson, Jeff Baca, Tyler Holmes
C: John Sullivan, Joe Berger, Camden Wentz
RG: Brandon Fusco, Seth Olsen, Travis Bond
RT: Phil Loadholt, Brandon Keith, Troy Kropog
TE: Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson, Rhett Ellison, Chase Ford, Colin Anderson
HB: Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart, Joe Banyard, Bradley Randle, Jerodis Williams
SL: Jarius Wright, Stephen Burton, Adam Thielen
SE: Jerome Simpson, Cordarrelle Patterson, Rodney Smith, Chris Summers
FL: Greg Jennings, Joe Webb, LaMark Brown, Erik Highsmith

Note that because of the way the depth chart generally plays out that Patterson and Jennings would likely play the slot before Burton or Thielen. Burton is playing more slot snaps in camp this year than I expected, given that he rarely got time there in the season last year.


Still no day as good as Day 5 has appeared, but neither has he had a very worrisome day since then. In team drills, he was under pressure fairly often and still managed to find ways to move the ball. For whatever reason, he didn't get a lot of conversions (notably, two of these plays would have been converted had it not been for drops).

I noted a few plays where a player busted open deep before the throw that Ponder chose to ignore, but it is easy to oversell this problem. Quarterbacks generally will choose one side of the field they begin their reads on and sometimes they're wrong. But this was a problem for Ponder later in the year, and it should be corrected.

His best play of the day was a good read of the coverage along with Jennings to make a route adjustment to go deep along the sidelines. It was a solid play that deserves attention. On the other hand, he also threw more than one pass that were either miscommunications or poor anticipation, with the ball hitting the ground far away from the receiver.

Overall, it was a decent day for Ponder, but he didn't really challenge himself (like he did on Day 5).

An aside, Geno Smith has evidently thrown zero interceptions with the first team in camp so far. He's alternating first team reps with Mark Sanchez. If I'm the Jets front office, that makes me more worried that they either aren't testing him or that the defense isn't as good as they thought, not that Geno is amazing.

That's the sort of skeptical lens that I think is important for these sorts of performances-it's difficult to celebrate good play or lament bad play simply because knowing what the other half of the team is doing is part of the equation.

Generally speaking, I'll try and diagnose and make the call based on what I see, which is why I'll defend my poor opinion of his Day Three despite what was evidently "an overthrow drill" to see what receivers could do.

Matt Cassel was Cassel. He threw an interception to Robert Blanton and was too willing to dump it off. His biggest problem was holding on to the ball too long, and I don't think the receivers were so covered that what he was doing made sense. A lot of touch sacks from the second-team defensive line.

He also threw a near-interception to A.J. Jefferson. Cassel started off the day looking better than the other QBs, but quickly got worse-he was deflected at the line, threw a bad ball to Patterson and underthrew a checkdown route to Matt Asiata.

McLeod Bethel-Thompson then took his shot at being the better QB, but couldn't make it past the first few (good-looking) throws. After some quick reads for small gains, including a pass that had rare touch from the laser cannon he has, he crumbled under pressure.

James Vandenberg played better than he ever had before in camp. He is the fourth quarterback.

Wide Receiver

I don't have as many notes on the receivers as I would like, but those days happen. Cordarrelle Patterson is still missing detailed work, this time not working back to the quarterback and missing a thrown ball by Cassel because of it. As a punt and kick returner I didn't see anything I disliked from him and again liked his burst.

Jerome Simpson is still a hot and cold player, and he didn't get open very often despite his speed. Like I've mentioned before, what happens before he gains leverage seems to be a crapshoot, and it doesn't look like he can get it often. But afterwards, he's hard to catch.

Jarius Wright had a good day after several days of being OK. I saw more of his slot snaps than normal, and he was able to outduel Sherels and Robinson in the slot more often than not. This is particularly good because the slot position is relatively new to him. Having a different set of moves to learn is difficult and probably the reason he didn't see the field for so long.

I don't have many notes on Greg Jennings, although I suppose he dropped a pass.

Stephen Burton continues to confuse me. Some days, he looks like he has acceleration and sharpness, and other days he has a long buildup. He's getting more precise in routes, but I would like him to generate moves at the release. In Day 7, he was able to get by Lacey on a short route and was able to get open off to the sideline for Ponder to fit in a pass. He was fine in return work.

LaMark Brown really bothers me, because as he fixes one of his perceived problems, he creates new ones. He dropped several passes in Day 7 even as he found ways to get open.

I don't have much to say on Webb, either. He was unimpressive in returns and didn't get open all too often in team drills.

Rodney Smith looked in fine form, faking out Jamarca Sanford for a deep touchdown without having to put too much speed behind it. He did later have a problem getting open against Greg McCoy, but for the most part had a good day. Erik Highsmith couldn't do the same, and Brandon Burton (as well as a few others) made sure to quiet Highsmith throughout the day.

Hometown favorite Adam Thielen had another up-and-down day. Despite getting open in one-on-ones, he dropped a few passes, not just in scrimmages, but in individual matchups as well. He's still getting more receptions than most are in similar opportunities despite the drops, so it might be worth the trouble. If he could hold on to the ball a little better, though, he could win that fifth or sixth receiver spot a lot more easily.

Offensive Linemen

Again, I didn't get a good read on a lot of the offensive linemen. Phil Loadholt had a much better day in this practice than I noted on other days, and I could see that continuing. I'm not sure if it's because he moved his feet better or simply had a better feel for the outside, but he largely contained his man. He still gave up some bad pressure later in the day to Griffen and Robison, so that's notable, but he was fine earlier in the day.

Brandon Fusco still looks good and did fine not just in ones with Kevin Williams trying to give him pressure, but has been able to use his footwork and create positive adjustments.

Seth Olsen had a poor time against Everett Dawkins. The Vikings evidently trust him, however and moved him inside with Berger moving out on a few snaps. Perhaps they feel this is a more natural position for Olsen. This could just as easily be a sign of confidence as it is a way to hide deficiencies. That second interpretation is harder to believe, as it shouldn't be hard to move someone down the depth chart.

Travis Bond did alright in third team snaps, but I wouldn't be surprised if he is the reason Olsen hasn't moved down—Olsen may not be good, but the other two guards below him (Bond and Holmes)—might either be simply worse (Holmes) or not ready (Bond). That said, Bond is difficult to move around and I expect him to make the roster above Olsen.

Charlie Johnson did fine against Christian Ballard in ones, but had a worse time of it against Kevin Williams in scrimmages. Still, he's looked better than we've seen out of him in the regular season.

Jeff Baca had a poor time of it, but was paired against Sharrif Floyd, a matchup I'll forgive him for unless he ever gets starting snaps.

Matt Kalil did just fine against Jared Allen, both in scrimmages and ones, but had a lot more trouble with Everson Griffen, where they traded wins. His footwork to the outside is excellent, and all he needs to do is adapt better to false outside steps that break inside.

What surprised me more was that Camden Wentz was doing fine, playing against Anthony McCloud, who has shown a lot of strength on other days. DeMarcus Love did even better, playing against a number of defensive ends and holding them off. A poor day to show it, but better than nothing.

Tight Ends

Nearly nothing. I don't have any notes on Kyle Rudolph, except that he was a solid all-around run blocker. John Carlson showed up a bit more, and found himself to be an excellent outlet receiver as well as an end zone threat, showing up with at least one touchdown against difficult coverage.

He and Rudolph are locks to make the roster, as is Rhett Ellison, who I couldn't grab much of.

Chase Ford continues to impress over Colin Anderson, but still isn't doing enough to justify a spot as the fourth tight end. He's done well as a receiver and makes difficult catches. Unfortunately, he's not really getting open enough to be a reliable end in important situations.

Running Backs

Notably, Adrian Peterson did a good job blocking on screens and helped the offense move down the field. So too did Toby Gerhart.

There wasn't a lot I could see from the other running backs, although I'll not that Matt Asiata had a good day. It's difficult for running backs on the second and third team to do well because of the dominance of the defensive line over the offensive line, but Asiata still seemed to do well in his limited opportunities.

Joe Banyard did well to get open on a few plays, but I didn't see him run it as often as before. He still looks like he could be the fourth-best running back on the roster simply because he won't have as many negative plays as others.

Bradley Randle is a fine player, but Day 7 was not a great example of it. He touched the ball in the flats but didn't get much from it, and didn't have many runs on the day to his credit.

Jerodis Williams is a shifty player who could get yards a bit more consistently than the other players on the roster, but I have yet to see anything approaching a breakout run.


Depth Chart

RDE: Jared Allen, Everson Griffen, George Johnson, Collins Ukwu, Marquis Jackson
UT: Kevin Williams, Christian Ballard, Sharrif Floyd, Everett Dawkins
NT: Letroy Guion, Fred Evans, Chase Baker, Anthony McCloud
LDE: Brian Robison, D'Aundre Reed, Lawrence Jackson
CB: Josh Robinson, Xavier Rhodes, Jacob Lacey, Roderick Williams, Greg McCoy
CB: Chris Cook, A.J. Jefferson, Brandon Burton, Bobby Felder
SLB: Chad Greenway, Larry Dean, Tyrone McKenzie
MLB: Erin Henderson, Audie Cole, Michael Mauti
WLB: Marvin Mitchell, Desmond Bishop, Gerald Hodges
S: Jamarca Sanford, Mistral Raymond, Andrew Sendejo
S: Harrison Smith, Robert Blanton, Brandan Bishop, Darius Eubanks

Nickel First Team

RDE: Jared Allen, D'Aundre Reed, Collins Ukwu
UT: Kevin Williams, Christian Ballard, Sharrif Floyd
NT: Everson Griffen, George Johnson, Chase Baker
LDE: Brian Robison, Lawrence Jackson, Marquise Jackson
NCB: Josh Robinson, Jacob Lacey, Marcus Sherels
: Xavier Rhodes, A.J. Jefferson, Bobby Felder, Greg McCoy
CB: Chris Cook, Brandon Burton, Roderick Williams
SLB: Chad Greenway, Larry Dean, Tyrone McKenzie
WLB: Erin Henderson, Audie Cole, Michael Mauti, Desmond Bishop
S: Jamarca Sanford, Mistral Raymond, Andrew Sendejo
S: Harrison Smith, Robert Blanton, Darius Eubanks, Brandan Bishop

Evidently, the Vikings and I see the same thing in regards to Baker's speed, because they did not put a defensive end in their third team nickel nose tackle spot. We may be reading too far into the tea leaves, but that could be at least carry a small amount of significance-they could have simply put Fred Evans or Letroy Guion in those snaps. Baker will surely get a practice squad invite, in my eyes.

Defensive Line

It's unsurprising that Everson Griffen is explosive, and it's too bad that he has to play behind Robison. He's a favorite for having a breakout year from many, but I think the only way he does that is through many more snaps. Griffen is one of the few linemen in the NFL that are more athletic than Brian Robison, but Robison's experience and skill should keep Griffen behind him for now.

Not that Robison isn't worth his spot. He's a fast guy and showcased it on Day 7 in drills and in 11-on-11s. Loadholt has a well-known problem with speed rushers, and it seems fit that he has to go up against Robison and Griffen every day in practice. Robison put a few pressures over Loadholt on the day, although didn't get as much done against him as his reputation would have you believe.

Lawrence Jackson had a bit of lag, but he made up for it with better technical control and much better hand movement than the DEs below him on the roster. I'd still like him to play a little faster, however. I didn't note anything about his strength one way or the other because the nature of the drills didn't really allow it.

Sharrif Floyd is just fun to watch and I can't wait to see him on the field. He's been dominant against the second and third team linemen. He plays with both strength and speed, it seems.

Like I've said before, Marquis Jackson isn't showcasing any speed, be it in drills or live play. Collins Ukwu is clearly a better player, but I doubt either end up making the squad. He just seems sluggish to me. Ukwu's burst is better, but short and unsustained, it seems.

Chase Baker needs to play a bit more refined as it seems he's a little less corralled and has a lot of wasted movements. Watching him play next to Kevin Williams in drills for a short period of time provides an excellent contrast of styles. Baker weighs less and has decent acceleration, but just can't control his hands or his body as well.

Speaking of Kevin Williams comparisons, I noted that Fred Evans seems to be athletic and capable. His strength is... strength, it seems. But he has explosion off the line as well. He flashes much more than Letroy Guion, to me, and I do think he should start.

George Johnson could do a very good job in one-on-ones against Brandon Keith, which is too bad. Keith is a big guy, but not really a tackle in terms of speed and footwork.

Anthony McCloud seems to have a motor going, but I didn't note quick get-up speed. Christian Ballard is playing with extremely powerful arms, and I didn't really know how powerfully he hit until today. I was sadly disappointed that Everett Dawkins didn't seem that quick or strong, as I pegged him for more than that. Honestly, some of the 1-techs looked faster. I hope I'm wrong about that.

I liked what I saw out of Collins Ukwu, although when paired against Troy Kropog he was stuffed. His long arms are doing well for him and he has more bend around the edge than he had before.


Didn't see too much of the linebackers. The nickel 7s revealed a little bit about their coverage capability, but not very much.

Erin Henderson is hitting his zone drops quickly, despite not playing with a backpedal, but Cole looks a little stiff. Mauti is playing in coverage with a bit of authority, but he might need to trust himself a little more as he's breaking to the ball a little slow.

Tyrone McKenzie, who I haven't been extremely kind to, looked pretty good in coverage and was able to shut down the shorter/underneath zones or prevent big YAC. I also saw him spilling into run gaps well.

Larry Dean is a fast player who I didn't see much out of in coverage, good or bad.

Gerald Hodges is supposed to be a cover linebacker, and I have no problem believing that, but he'll be limited in that capacity until he gets drilled in exactly what the Vikings want, including the types of decisions and reads he has to make, as well as where he has to drop.

I honestly did not see enough of Marvin Mitchell, which I'll need to correct.


Starting safeties Harrison Smith and Jamarca Sanford generally looked fine in zones and interception drills (Sanford can evidently catch in non-live situations), but Sanford struggled a bit when asked to play man coverage—not something he'll be asked to do a lot. What I like a lot about Smith is that his quick backpedal helps disguise coverages—he can line up in the box and creep forward, but move at or right before the snap to rotate with Sanford and shift from a Cover 3 or Cover 1 look to a Cover 2 or different shade of the Cover 1 defenses.

Xavier Rhodes didn't get on the field, and neither did Mistral Raymond. I'm hearing their injuries are not serious and the team is simply taking precautions.

Chris Cook was better (or at least looked better) in play, mugging receivers at the line and getting close in coverage to knock things down. To Cook's credit I haven't seen him give up too many receptions, I just haven't seen much of him at all at this point. For now, he's one of the only defensive backs on the roster who has a good enough sense of space and his own acceleration to play trail technique effectively.

A.J. Jefferson continues to impress in coverage and my only issue with him on Day 7 was his poor play against the run, where he couldn't read blocks or the runner to get into position or shed blocks consistently.

If you can't tell already, I really like Robert Blanton and his interception of Matt Cassel is just another tick in the box. It was a good read and break, and although Cassel overthrew it slightly, it was a heady play by Blanton. If Sanford doesn't step his game up, it may not be long before Blanton gets his way onto the starting lineup.

Greg McCoy looked bad, then good. Being able to rough up people several inches taller and a few pounds heavier is nice, but generally speaking, I would like him to do a better job in off coverage. He doesn't know what to do with cushion or where he should break, and keeps allowing intermediate receptions.

Bobby Felder looked fine and his temporary move up the chart due to Rhodes' absence is treating him well. I didn't see him get beat too often and cover well.

I did not catch much of Brandon Burton, Brandan Bishop, Andrew Sendejo, Roderick Williams or Darius Eubanks.


After a week in the books and a weekend ahead, let's put a projected depth chart down!

QB: Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel, McLeod Bethel-Thompson
LT: Matt Kalil, Kevin Murphy
LG: Charlie Johnson, Jeff Baca
C: John Sullivan, Joe Berger
RG: Brandon Fusco, Travis Bond
RT: Phil Loadholt
TE: Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson, Rhett Ellison
HB: Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart, Matt Asiata
FB: Jerome Felton
SE: Jerome Simpson, Cordarrelle Patterson
FL: Greg Jennings, Jarius Wright, Joe Webb
*SL: Jarius Wright, Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson

RDE: Jared Allen, Everson Griffen
UT: Kevin Williams, Sharriff Floyd, Christian Ballard
NT: Fred Evans, Letroy Guion
LDE: Brian Robison, Lawrence Jackson
WLB: Desmond Bishop, Gerald Hodges
MLB: Erin Henderson, Michael Mauti, Audie Cole
SLB: Chad Greenway, Larry Dean
CB: Chris Cook, A.J. Jefferson
CB: Xavier Rhodes, Josh Robinson, Jacob Lacey
S: Harrison Smith, Robert Blanton
S: Jamarca Sanford, Mistral Raymond, Andrew Sendejo
*NCB: Josh Robinson, Jacob Lacey

LS: Cullen Loeffler
K: Blair Walsh
P: Jeff Locke
*PR: A.J. Jefferson
*KR: Cordarrelle Patterson

Practice Squad:

FB: Zach Line
WR: Adam Thielen
WR: Rodney Smith
Bradley Randle
TE: Colin Anderson
DT: Chase Baker
DE: D'Aundre Reed
CB: Bobby Felder

A roster that has two fewer offensive players than defensive players is going to have an offense heavy practice squad, even without a quarterback. Reed and Felder are still eligible for the practice squad.

Obviously, I would be worried about putting Thielen and Smith through waivers (and dropping Chris Summers entirely), but there's not really a choice. It's hard to keep six WRs (unless they keep 8 OL, but they wouldn't have enough tackles to do that)

Joe Webb will run the scout team against read-option guys, and Randle should help there, too.

Naturally, I would like Thielen, Felder and Randle to make the squad proper, but it's tough. I had Rodney Smith ahead of Thielen based on camp performance, so he would be the next WR in, not Thielen. Smith is an able and willing learner who clearly puts his body on the line when making plays. Thielen is a hard worker, too, but needs to do more work than Smith because his frame won't let him get away with some of the things that Smith's will.

I put Colin Anderson on that PS because, although Ford has looked better in team drills, Anderson offers more as a long snapper. Also, Ford has looked much worse in actual drills, so who knows?

So far, Matt Asiata has looked better than Bradley Randle in camp, so it is difficult to put him ahead. It's certainly possible with a few good preseason games and such. That's how Asiata made it, after all.

The spot I might have to change the most is DT, because I could see a deserving player in a different position instead.

This was difficult, as I initially gave a spot to Everett Dawkins on the practice squad and a spot to Chase Baker on the roster. But I moved Baker down to the practice squad because Ballard should help the team more and there's no reason he should be cut.

This roster seems unrealistic as I don't think I have any UDFAs from this year making the roster. If one does, I could see it at WR or CB. DT is an outside shot.

What do you think?