Update VIII contains photos, video, comments on the running backs. Coming next, not sure as the rest of the week gets very, very busy. I'll add more when I can. I apologize for the limited effort today! But the team looks to be a contender!
Update VII contains photos, video, comments on the wide receivers. Coming next, running back.
Update VI contains photos, video, comments on the quarterbacks. Coming next, wide receiver.
Update V contains photos, & comments on the linebackers, kickers, special teams. Coming next, quarterback.
Update IV contains photos, video, comments on the defensive backfield. Coming next, linebackers, kickers, special teams.
Update III contains photos, video, comments on the defensive line. Coming next, defensive backfield.
Update II contains initial comments and some photos. The next update will be Defensive Line.
Update I includes the roster. Currently working on photos and video. Will post as the day goes along.
If all goes well, I should be posting photos, video, and audio later on today from the Vikes second OTA practice of the season.
Currently overcast and chilly (54 degrees) so not sure if practice will be outside or indoors.
I'll also be sharing things with the Daily Norseman, so be sure and check out that site over the next few days as well.
The morning started out chilly and cloudy. By the time I arrived at Winter Park, the skies were blue and it was warming up a bit. It became windy was practice went along which affected a few of the drills.
The first thing I spied was a huge banner outside the SE entrance to the indoor practice field.
And I still would not believe that the Vikes actually had Jared Allen on the team until I saw the big grin on his mug. Allen has the motor of John Randle, the speed of Chris Doleman, and the charisma of a stage entertainer. I asked one Vikes front office staffer if Allen really was that genuinely happy and the reply was quick, "Yes, he is such a great guy."
Missing were Matt Birk, Chester Taylor, and Bryant McKinnie.
I spent the most time watching the defensive line. Little wonder considering how much money the Vikings put into it this off-season with the aquisition of Allen.
Allen was in every drill and seemed very at ease. Hate to say it this way, but a nimble cat-like quickness that is very deceiving. Here is a guy who doesn't look quick, but watch his feet in a drill and Allen is one of the quickest on the field.
Pat Williams was also in attendance but was one the few players who while at practice, didn't really seem to practice. Not like Pat needs it anyway. But then again.....how does that man move so fast? At any rate, it was Fred Evans filling in for Pat the Planet for first line drills today.
Erasmus James was also at practice, sporting a knee brace. Not all that bulky if you ask me compared to some braces I've seen. So, either his knee is coming along fine or knee braces have come a long ways.
The line was looking very cohesive. I can't wait to see Allen, the Williams', and Ray Edwards open the season. And you know they'll only get better as the season progresses and they continue to gel as a unit.
But it truly was a showcase for Allen and he soaked it up. His new teammates seem to rellay enjoy playing along side of him. And he is always smiling. Good start for the new lad.
I also like his stance at the line and the power he leads with. The moves necessary to become a successful defensive end in the NFL seem to come naturally to Allen. It's like he doesn't even have to think....which just adds to the quickness.
If you don't believe me, just look for yourself. Enjoy!
Antoine Winfield is flying high....literally.
Winfield has been one of the most vocal Vikings in relation to defensive talent the past several years. The fact that he is still employed by the team emphasizes just how important he is to the success of the defense.
Darren Sharper has done his best to support Winfield. And until Sharper loses the map to the Fountain of Youth, he should still be a force in the defensive backfield this coming season. He certainly looked smooth today.
Still, Sharper and Winfield were often victims of a pass happy opponent the last several season due to the ability of the front four to crush the run and the lack of a true pass rushing defensive end. Enter Allen, and one part of the equation seems to be solved.
Enter Madieu Williams, who until Allen arrived, was the Vikings top free agency aquisition this past off-season. Williams looked very comfy in the backfield today. It was as if Williams has been with the team for 2-years instead of a few months.
And there were other glimmers of future help. Rookie free agent safety Marcus Griffin out of Texas caught my eye as a kid with some speed and natural safety skills. We'll see if he makes the cut later this summer.
Back to WIlliams for a moment. It was he who had one of the funnier moments today when he underplayed the gusty wind and missed a ball, dropping immediately to do some push-ups. Check the video below.
As long as Sharper plays as well as last season, the DL puts some pressure on the QB's, and the DL continues to crush the run, I think Winfield will continue to feel as if he is soaring.
Linebackers, Kickers, & Special Teams
I will admit that I hardly spent any time observing any of these units. Practices fly by and one is only allowed a certain amount of time to use the ol' camera. I figured you'd want more on Allen than seeing a photo of Chris Kluwe or Ryan Longwell...not that we don't love those guys.
I spent enough time at the LB drills to see the first unit of Chad Greenway, Ben Leber, and E.J. Henderson were there. I'm really not worried about this unit. Greenway came on late last season, Leber surprised us all, and Henderson was Pro-Bowl worthy. Mix these guys in with the aforementioned DL and DB units and we should be seeing the Vikes land in the Top 10 for defensive stats this year....if not Top 5.
The kicking staff was there. They were out early, then they stood around. They shuffled through some stretches then stood around again. The life of Riley. I wish I was a punter.
My two favorite special teamers were also at OTA. Heath Farwell was sporting a clean shaven head and is taking a lot more, um, grief from his teammates. A sure sign that he has their respect. And Cullen Loeffler, our long-snapper, didn't miss a beat today and was spot on with his snaps. He heaved one between two bystanders (myself being one of them) directly to a office worker from about 34-miles away. Still not sure how he did it.
Early on in practice, a player with jersey number 28 was warming up Sidney Rice, the speedy second year wide receiver. This was warming to my cold, cold heart. But it was not to be, once the offense took the field there was Tarvaris Jackson easing behind center (not Matt Birk who was AWOL). And the first time I watched T-Jack take a snap this off-season, what do you think he does? Watch the YouTube video to find out.
But this is not to bash Jackson. He certainly seemed a lot more confident on the field than at this point last year. He was reading the defense and making audibles at the line, albiet a bit tentatively.
Then there was ol' Gus Frerotte back for another term with the team. Gus did not excite, but I didn't see any mistakes. And he avoided making any cranial contact with concrete walls. Always a good thing. And Brooks Bollinger was also at OTA. That's five QB's when the team usually has four in any given camp. To me, that's a sign for concern.
As I mentioned before, Birk was not in attendance and no one expects him to be at any of the voluntary workouts this coming off-season. Thus, T-Jack was lining up behind any willing center today.
If there was another positive note to T-Jack today, it was that he was placing his feet in better throwing positions than last season when he was throwing the ball off of any foot. He must have been working on that skill this off-season as I thought he looked a lot more seasoned in that regard.
Another thing I liked was that Adrian Peterson stood by the QB unit for a whole series of drills. I could see him talking with each QB. What they were talking about, haven't a clue. But just the fact that Peterson did that showed true leadership and dedication to the whole team.
I observed rookies John David Booty and Kyle Wright as well. Booty is not going to win any races. Both were nervous. Both made some good throws sprinkled with the usual 'doh!' moments. It will be interesting to see if the Vikes pick up another vet before the season starts.
Coach Brad Childress is still speaking to how much Jackson has improved while also adding that he has a ways to go. I know that if I see any more Culpepper-esque fumbles at the snap, I'll be closing my eyes during the exchange this season.
For now, Jackson is the man. Enough so that he was one of three players to address the media after practice. The others being Peterson and Allen. Jackson certainly didn't turn down any soft-ball questions. So, maybe, just maybe, he will be the guy this coming season.
Here are some highlights of QB drills and Jackson speaking with the press after practice.
OK, so I wasted the most film on the wide receivers. There are reason for that. One, its the position I played in high school. Two, I think this unit is due to have a breakout year. Three, there is this kid that is incredibly fast.
Jaymar Johnson is a kid the Vikes selected in Round Six of this year's draft. And the kid has some wheels. I haven't seen this much raw speed since, hate to say it, #84 about a decade ago. I'm not sure if the Vikes have plans to have Johnson return kicks but I will implore you to call the front office today and ask Coach Childress to put him back there and see what he can do. Great hands as well. Just watch #11 in the WR drills below and you'll get a understanding. And let me finish by saying Johnson was 5-yards in front of every WR in wind-sprints at the end of practice. Going 100% to impress? Probably so, but the speed is there and cannot be denied.
First there was the pure enjoyment of watching Peterson and Rice play toss. Sort of harkened back to the days of just being a kid and enjoying the game for what it is. And these two clearly enjoy the game.
Wide receivers certainly like their compression socks and UnderArmor gear. I paid great attention to this today as compression socks are all the rage in triathlons now. I even got a pair a few weeks back to sped recovery and they are great. Here are Aundrae Allison and Justin Surrency wearing UnderArmor and compression socks respectfully.
New in purple this year, direct from the Bears, is Bernard Berrian. The roster shows him as being 6'1" but he seems smaller. Just a comment. He's got the good quick feet as you saw in the video above.
Robert Ferguson was asking people "which way it was to Kiln, Mississippi" as he had to visit a former teammate that will have his jersey retired when the Vikes open the season in Green Bay.
My eye kept going back to Berrian and the aforementioned Johnson. Johnson was with Berrian on every drill. Perhaps by coincidence, but I'd like to think by design. Hey, I could be getting all Sid Hartman about the kid sporting #11, but I think he is a lock to make the team at WR.
Berrian did drop a few balls, but nothing of any great consequence. Watch the drill YouTube video and you'll see the quick feet, so I expect the former Bear will be getting off the line fairly easily this season. As long as the ball comes within a few feet of him, he'll make the catch.
Last year's return sensation Andrae Allison has to get a new number. I'm sorry, but #84 should be stored in moth-balls for a few years. It's just too painful. Allison made some nice catches, however.
Another good looking rookie was Nate Jones, a FA out of Texas. Jones displayed some nice speed as well. Nothing like Johnson, but he's another one to keep an eye on.
If the year is to be successful in terms of ROI (return on investment) then certainly all eyes will be on Berrian. And so far, the market is bullish. So chalk up a WR unit to go along with an impressive running game and the Vikes are just a solid QB performer away from having the real deal.
It certainly is a happy group of receivers. Leave it to Robert Ferguson and Visanthe Shiancoe to display the celebration happy hand slap TD dance...whatever!...for '08.
First up, Chester Taylor was not at OTA. No biggie. And Peterson was there and ran team drills but did not participate in RB unit drills. Have no idea why. I sniffed around and no one seemed to know. He was playing with his shoes quite a bit, as you will see in the YouTube video a bit further down. But again, to alleviate any fears, he did run team drills.
Other than that, Peterson had a pretty easy practice and mostly played casual observer. I think he wanted to be invited in with the kickers. The kickers were having none of it. Maybe Adrian isn't cool enough for them.
I did get to observe former Minnesota Gopher Thomas Tapeh. I do hope this was a smart move as we were looking pretty good at FB last season. But I'm not going to second guess just yet.
There was another FB that I watched as well. Naufahu Tahi ran well, and impressed.
All in all, pretty dull day for the RB's. And we know it won't stay this way for long. To the video!