2006 Mini-Camp Archives

May 14, 2006
"Rub a Dub Dub" by Vikes Geek


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Note: For those looking for Mr. Cheer Or Die's minicamp "sensory" report, scroll down one entry or click here.

Today, I begin a series of reviews of the Vikings’ May mini-camp with observations on the two positions critical to the Vikings’ 2006 prospects—quarterback and linebacker. And while mini-camp differs dramatically from the regular season, and even from the team’s regular pre-season camp, it does offer a glimpse of some of the things that we can expect out of the 2006 Vikings.

Quarterback

As the Vikings prepare for the 2006 NFL regular season, they can hold fast in the knowledge that their quarterback situation is in solid hands—as long as Brad Johnson does not get injured. The presumed depth chart for Vikings’ quarterbacks has Mike McMahon following Johnson, with J.T. O’Sullivan and Jackson following McMahon, respectively. What that means for the Vikings is that the team either needs to have Johnson stay healthy for 2006 or have either McMahon or O’Sullivan perform well beyond their collective eleven-year league totals.

With no-contact drills the order of the day, the Vikings made a few other discoveries about their current corps of quarterbacks—some good, some not as good, but also not unexpected. For his part, Johnson looked every bit the part of a quarterback capable of leading a West Coast offense. Johnson had very limited mobility in the pocket and limited zip on his passes during mini-camp drills, but he consistently placed the ball in the best possible location under the circumstances. That’s what the Vikings, like most West Coast offense teams, need from their starting quarterback and—barring an injury to Johnson—that’s what it appears they will have this season.

Less certain is what the Vikings have on their depth chart after Johnson. McMahon made some nice throws and showed some ability to move out of the pocket in drills against a phantom defense, but with McMahon everything appears to be about urgency. While Johnson looked calm under center, McMahon looked to be pressing. Likewise with O’Sullivan, who added a few awkward passes as if attempting to solidify his number three role. While it is far too early to know what McMahon and O’Sullivan can offer the Vikings in 2006, the brief, mini-camp preview suggests that Vikings’ fans can expect some stomach churning if either is called upon to lead a West Coast offense clearly designed to emphasize short, precision-passing over vertical slings.

As for arm strength, the clear leader in the Vikings’ quarterbacking corps at his point is Jackson. And one need not have the aid of radar to reach this conclusion. While Johnson touched passes to his receivers, Jackson rocketed them through the air with blazing speed. But where Jackson bested Johnson in velocity, Johnson clearly outshone the rookie in poise—a premium in the Vikings’ West Coast offense.

More so perhaps than his ability to read defenses or to learn an NFL offense, Jackson will need to develop the poise and composure necessary to understand that it’s not always about how quickly the ball gets to the receiver but where and how the ball get to the receiver. Johnson has that figured out. Jackson appears to be some time away from having that down—though, from the looks of things, probably not all that far off.

On several occasions, Jackson zipped passes to receivers twenty yards out with a nice tight spiral. On other occasions, however, Jackson misjudged the speed of his receivers, misread the player that was receiving double-coverage on a play, or tried so hard to show his arm strength that his overly tight grip resulted in duck-like passes. The positive note is that Jackson’s troubles appear to be related to pressing and lack of familiarity with the speed of the NFL. Over time, those issues should resolve themselves. And with that will come greater pocket composure. That won’t help the Vikings’ this season, but it should help the team down the road in a manner that McMahon and O’Sullivan probably cannot.

Linebacking Corps

While the Vikings appear set with their number one quarterback, somewhat the converse appears true of their linebacking corps. With several players either vying for playing time at new positions or outright new to the team, the Vikings’ linebacking corps remains in flux not only on the depth charts but also on the field.

The Vikings used several different players at linebacker during Sunday’s morning drills. Several things stood out from these drills.

The two players who appeared to attract most of the coaches’ verbal attention were rookie first-round pick Chad Greenway and veteran Napoleon Harris. The coaches clearly are intent on ensuring that Greenway is ready to play at the beginning of 2006, often pulling him aside during drills to point out mistakes that they appeared to let slide for others less likely to make the team or to play big minutes. Despite some issues with one particularly awkward sled, Greenway neither particularly impressed nor disappointed on Sunday—a fair start for a rookie on whom the Vikings will be counting in 2006.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the veteran linebacker Harris, who either lacks the speed to keep pace with the tight end—a troubling matter in its own right—or simply is unable to take the proper angle to the ball. Or, more frightening, both. If Harris truly is the best option that the Vikings have at middle linebacker, the team is in for more of the same at that position that Vikings’ fans have seen the past two seasons.

There may be hope yet for Harris, however. For what is most striking about Harris is not his coverage failures, but the difference between him and the other linebackers from a physique perspective. At 255 pounds, Harris is easily the heaviest of the Vikings’ linebackers—ten pounds heavier than the next heaviest linebacker, E.J. Henderson, and twenty pounds heavier than the lightest Vikings’ linebacker, Heath Farwell. Added to that weight difference is the matter that most of Harris’ additional bulk appears to be in his upper body. That might make for some nice drives if and when Harris is able to wrap up a player, but, added to his overall heavier playing weight, it might also explain why Harris has so much difficulty with lateral movement and with staying with the tight end. Reducing the higher weight bench reps might alleviate this problem and offer an easy solution to Harris’ coverage problems. If not, Harris might be on the outside looking in very soon.

Up Next: The Short List—Unknowns With a Shot, Others With Not.

Posted by maasx003 at 10:38 PM
"Minicamp 2006 Report - Update V" by Mr. Cheer Or Die



The new helmet. (Click image for larger)


Please Note: As with the last VU Vikings minicamp report, we at the VU overloaded the University of Minnesota server. So,if the page is loading slowly or not at all.....please be PATIENT. Page loads may be slow during peak periods.

Coming Monday will be Vikes Geek take on the session we attended. So came back then! Do to heavy workload at my real job, I will not be providing a written summary this time around. But I was able to provide the photography, audio, and video that follow. Enjoy. And really people, this is the most balanced I've seen the team on both sides of the ball in some time. We'll be just fine.

What did you like or not like about the coverage of minicamp, both in terms of what we did at the VU as well as the local Big Boys....the STrib and Pioneer Press? Leave a comment at the end of this entry. Have a question about a player, etc? Also leave a comment at the end of this entry and Vikes Geek or I will try and answer for you.

Thanks all!

Instant Gratification: Fifth Update

Numerical Roster

Alphabetical Roster

Panoramic Photo of Indoor Practice Field

Audio (direct download link here) from special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, and defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin. Love the reporter that thought Ferraro was Bevell! Available also on the VU Podcast page for those wanting to download to their MP3 players or just need an embedded audio player.

Top Five Photos for the Day (Others are coming and will be loaded as links to keep the page load fast)



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Tarvaris Jackson. (Click image for larger)



Chad Greenway is a blur of motion. (Click image for larger)



Big Bad Brad Johnson was a calm eye in a hurricane of activity. (Click image for larger)



Rookie Cedric Griffin looks good in purple. (Click image for larger)

All photos now uploaded to the Flickr Photo Stream (and will be posted here as well). For those that can't wait for direct blog photos, just click on any photo from the Flickr stream seen at top and you'll be whisked away to the VU Flickr photo stream.

Video Update: We had to take the videos down for a bit to let the University of Minnestoa server catch its wind. They are now back up but if the server starts to strain, we'll again bring them down for a bit. Thanks for your patience.

Video

Please keepin mind I'm not ESPN. So bear with the quality as I am Iimited with my upload size and space. But then, the STrib and Pioneer Press aren't going this far for Vikes fans, are they? In fact, I think their respective minicamp coverage has been horrible.

Also with video, I have found it best to let it load completely. The first time through may be "jumpy" but then play it again and the second time it will be better for you.

Chad Greenway runs a drill.

Ben Leber runs a drill.

Tarvaris Jackson plays catch with J.T. O' Sullivan. Note the smooth delivery motion. Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell stands nearby in black with purple cap.

Tarvaris Jackson and they man he may force out.....J.T. O' Sullivan...in passing drills.

Tarvaris Jackson throws right at you.

Chad Greenway shows good lateral movement.

Photo Roll: Complete

Chad Greenway during stretching drills

Another look at the new practice uniforms

Greenway finishes a drill.

Rookie Ryan Cook taking it all in.

Tarvaris Jackson takes off helmet

Jackson looks on.

Jackson during a drill.

Jackson drops to pass.

Ben Leber, good player or Foley folly?

Dontarrious Thomas & Greenway

Good set of guns on Greenway.

Rookie Cedric Griffin takes a breather.

Mike McMahon was sharp in this session.

Can't decide if like that white jersey stripe or not. You?

Another shot of Cook. Sorry, but the indoor practice sessions always limit our views.

Darren Sharper's DOB is 11/3/75. DC Mike Tomlin's DOB is 3/15/72.

Sharper takes a blow.

Sharper and safety Will Hunter

#32 Taurean Henderson, #33 Steven Jackson and Ciatrick Fason.

Special Teams Coordinator Paul Ferraro

Cedric Griffin grants an interview post practice.

Jackson sans helmet I

Jackson sans helmet II

Jackson sans helmet III

Erasmus James grants an interview post practice.

A happy offensive coordinator

Bevell holds court.

Tomlin fields a question.

The defensive coordinator is happy as well.

Yet To Come

Column by Vikes Geek (Monday)

Posted by maasx003 at 1:31 PM
"Minicamp Sunday"

Lousy, stinking weather. Still cold and raining in the Twin Cities this morning. I really, really wanted to bring you outdoor photos for this minicamp, but it is not to be. I just received word from the Vikes that Sunday practices will also be indoors (unless it really clears in the afternoon which is highly doubtful). So, I will trudge through all the rain puddles to Winter Park and observe this morning's 10:40 am practice session along with Vikes Geek.

Lousy, stinking weather. In any event, expect updates, photos, podcast and videos sometime within a day or so. It is Mother's Day, you know.

As with the previous minicamp, cameras can only be in use during the first thirty minutes of the practice. Practice is closed to the public. Mr. Cheer Or Die will be issuing live reports, and "crap-cam" photos from his cell phone while practice is going on. You can access these live updates via the VU Moblog site.

Posted by maasx003 at 7:52 AM
May 13, 2006
"Minicamp Update"

MiniCamp Note

Yesterday the VU informed you that Vikes Geek and Mr. Cheer Or Die would be attending the Saturday morning practice session which kicks off this years team minicamp. We've been monitoring the weather, and it looks horrible for Saturday morning. It looks very much like rain the first part of the day which would move practice indoors. And we've already been down that road. So, it is most likely that VG and COD will instead attend the Saturday afternoon practice, scheduled to begin at 3:10 pm CST.

In any event, expect updates, photos, podcast and videos by the end of the weekend.

As with the previous minicamp, cameras can only be in use during the first thirty minutes of the practice. Practice is closed to the public. Mr. Cheer Or Die will be issuing live reports, and "crap-cam" photos from his cell phone while practice is going on. You can access these live updates via the VU Moblog site.

Posted by maasx003 at 1:03 AM
April 7, 2006
"Mini-Camp Summary" by Mr. Cheer Or Die

Note: be sure and click on the links provided within the story for photos! And check out the VU Podcast page and VU Videocast page for other mini-camp material. And as stated on the VU Moblog page, the media was limited to using cameras (video or still) to just the first 30-minutes of practice. Still, there are over seventy photos below for you to look at. Feel free to share them or use them anyway you want. Just be sure to credit the Viking Underground and please be aware the VU has a Creative Common Copyright licenses listed for this blog. Thanks!

It was cold and very gusty outside but very quiet inside as I watched Team Purple go through stretching drills during the first practice of the veteran mini-camp which started Friday and ends Sunday. As new head coach Brad Childress took his pulse, literally, he also took a pulse on his team for the very first time.

There was disgraced OT Mike Rosenthal relegated to second string work. But then my eye quickly saw offensive-center Matt Birk chatting with new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Birk worked out the entire practice and showed no ill effects from the multiple hernia surgeries from the last year.

My ear was quickly drawn to the loudest voice on the field. No, not Fred Smoot but defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin. Tomlin strode up and down the field as the players stretched prior to the start of practice. Childress stood quietly by reviewing his schedule and plays.

In previous years, during warm-ups I would be able to hear the players joking and laughing it up. Even last year under former head coach Mike Tice I would have heard Pat "The Planet" Williams having a side conversation with Kevin Williams while P-Will barely moved a muscle. Not to mention this joker:


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But, even the loquacious, smiling Fred Smoot was all work and made not one peep during stretching.

After stretching the various positions broke down across the field. Much to my delight, the linebackers ended up right in front of me. Yes, there was Ben Leber the former Charger.


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Napoleon Harris, relegated to second string of the depth chart last year, still ran with the second team this year. Newly acquired Ben Leber was dressed and ready to play and was running with the first string, however. Leber was focused and running well during drills.

The man that everyone had guessed to be the starting MLB this season was if fact on the first string but not at the MLB spot. That belonged to Mr. Dontarrious Thomas (and that is a MLB stare!) while E. J. Henderson was playing outside with Leber.

Also working out nearby were the running backs. First jersey that I spied was that of FB Tony Richardson. And as all of you who read the Moblog already know, this guy was the first string RB during drills on Friday. Ciatrick Fason was running second string behind Chester Taylor as Mewelde Moore sat out of passing drills. Running back coach Eric Bieniemy had the lads running pretty hard but no one seemed out of shape. No Robert Smith nausea attacks of any kind. Just some hands-on-hips.


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Richardson, who was brought in to knock people on their asses, was in the backfield on 2-WR sets playing in front of Taylor and often the recipient of short passes.

Way across the field were the red-jersey's of the quarterbacks. The QB position is my second worry spot, ranked only behind the linebacker corp. And seeing the names of J.T. Sullivan and Mike McMahon made me feel a bit more queasy than assured. McMahon, show here being watched by QB coach Kevin Rogers, seemed especially tentative. I felt that McMahon should have not been so, having been under Childress at Philadelphia. But again, this was the first practice. And his throws were more crisp than those of Big Bad Brad Johnson.

Across from the linebackers were the wide-receivers.


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And all eyes (and hands!) were on Mr. Motivation, Koren Robinson. K-Rob was in continual motion on the line and in drills. He looks ready to take-up where he left off last season. Also back with the first string was Travis Taylor who seems to be the third receiver in 3-WR sets. This is because Troy Williamson was playing first string in 2-WRs set so it seems that the new coaching regime is ready to fly. Personal favorite Chris Jones was also back and looking very good in passing drills once again. But it was K-Rob making the circus catches again. And again.

I interrupt this summary to make a plea: I want one of these purple balls!!!! They should play purple balls at the Dome for all home games. These look way cool. OK, sorry about that. I now return you to the summary


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Also excited about all aspects of the practice today was Vikings owner Zygi Wilf. Wilf continues to run with a nearly 90% approval rating here on the Viking Underground (poll to the left). Wilf was all over the field observing the team today while also speaking with the local media.


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Wilf had to be as pleased with me to the play of the defense. The defense, in my thoughts, outplayed the offense during scrimmages. Smoot was the day's MVP with a beautifully defended pass against Jermaine Wiggins, knocking the ball out just as it hit Wiggins' hands. And Smoot had an INT of a BBB thrown ball which had the defense hootin' and hollerin' all the way into the end-zone. And Dovonte Edwards was without a doubt the fastest DB on the field. Let's just call Dovonte the Road Runner. Beep-beep!


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Pro Bowler Darren Sharper, shown here with Dustin Fox, also looked to be in great form. A sight surprise was seeing Tank Williams run with the first team. But then Willie Offord was out so I'm not sure who will get the nod here.

The D-Line was ready for some head bangin' as well. The first string were ends Erasmus James & Kenechi Udeze with the Williams Bros. Wrecking Crew clogging the middle. Coach Childress seemed to spend a fair deal of time observing them.

At the end, Coach Childress met with the media. He was a little tight-lipped as you can hear on the VU Podcast page. But you know what? I like it when the local media gets pissed off at our coach because he isn't giving them the easy story. Boo-friggin'-hoo. But I'm sure at some point in the near future you are going to be hearing some whining from the media babies.

Owner Zygi Wilf also addressed the media and took some questions about the stadium. Wilf again pressed that all three stadium issues...the Gophers, Twins, and Vikings.....need to be addressed.

I hope you enjoyed this little personal summary. See you all next week! I leave you now with the strangest sight of the day.


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Other Photos

RB Adimchinobe Echemandu


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FB Joey Goodspeed


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RB Tony Richardson


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RB Ciatrick Fason


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LB Heath Farwell


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WR Kelvin Kight


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WR Marcus Robinson


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WR Ryan Hoag


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LB Napoleon Harris


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LB Ben Leber


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WR Jimmy Redmond


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DB Darren Sharper


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DL Pat Williams


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DL Kevin Williams


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K Ryan Longwell


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Posted by maasx003 at 7:00 PM
"Minicamp Update II" by Mr. Cheer Or Die

I have uploaded photos from the first minicamp session to the Flickr page. You will start to see photos along the upper banner, changing each time you refresh the page. Just click on any photo to view the Flickr photo stream.

I have also started posting video. The first video from minicamp shows Ben Leber and E. J. Henderson running a linebacker drill. You can see this video on the VU Videocast page. More video should appear soon as I work on uploading them.

I also have decided to try and complete my report complete with photos sometime this evening. So stay tuned.

Posted by maasx003 at 6:13 PM
"Minicamp Update I" by Mr. Cheer Or Die

I'm working as fast as my fingers will allow. Here is a document that contains roster and coaching information. Note that Fred Smoot now wears #21 and Troy Williamson now wears #82.

Also now available on the VU Podcast page is a podcast with myself along with Brad Childress and Zygi Wilf post practice.

For those joining us in progress, you can see some early reports and photos over on the VU Moblog page. These were "crap cam" photos with the real deals coming yet this afternoon.

The next updates will be the digital photos, such as the one of Troy Williamson sporting his new number shown below. My camp summary should be up sometime this weekend.


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Stay tuned! For now, you have the podcast and various things to keep you busy!

Posted by maasx003 at 2:11 PM
"Coming: Minicamp Sounds and Sights" by Mr. Cheer Or Die
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I always abhor posting a teaser on the chance that something comes up to impede with my planned schedule and prohibit me from attending the Vikings first minicamp session of the 2006 season, but I'll take that risk.

If all goes according to plan, I will be at Winter Park Friday morning to watch the 10:30 am - 12:30 pm (CST) practice. The practice will be held indoors so the photos may not be as crisp as you are use to seeing. But I'll do my best to bring you some exciting shots.

If you can't wait, there are two things you can do to bide your time:

1) I'll post some photos "live" using my cell phone. These are "crap cam" photos of poor quality but at least you'll be able to see some early stuff directly from practice itself. These photos would be posted to my VU Moblog page.

2) Starting as early as Friday afternoon, I will begin the slow process of editing and then uploading photos. I'll start by uploading directly to my Flickr site. So you will start to see photos from minicamp interspersed with my other personal photos along the top. Just keep refreshing the page and a new set of five will appear. Or you can watch the Flash Flickr box along the right which updates automatically.

I'll then work over the weekend on adding some written entries in the vein of a minicamp report and analysis complete with all the photos. I also hope to have some audio for all you podcast devotees.

But be patient as it is also The Boy's 6th birthday party on Saturday and I will be breaking away for that important event.

Until then.


Posted by maasx003 at 1:33 AM