Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.

Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.

Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.

Posts about Ray Edwards

Jared Allen excited about Vikings' d-line depth, still not eager for rotation

Posted by: Updated: August 6, 2013 - 1:18 PM
Jared Allen has one predominant wish for Friday’s preseason opener against Houston at Mall of America Field.
“I’m hoping I’m not playing. I can have a day off,” Allen said.
In August, that’s status quo for the five-time Pro Bowl defensive end. But once September rolls around, Allen continues to make it clear he has little desire to come off the field unless absolutely necessary. So while chatter continues to swirl about the Vikings’ defensive line depth and the impressive rotation that might blossom because of it, Allen hopes all the in-and-out switching occurs elsewhere.
“For six years I’ve been facing this question: Am I rotating?” Allen said. “And I think I’ve won the battle most of the time. So we’ll see.”
In five seasons with the Vikings, Allen has averaged 15 sacks. Coming off a 2012 season in which he was slowed by injuries to his left shoulder and right knee, Allen feels refreshed and is eager to return to top form. So maybe Everson Griffen, whom the coaching staff believes has earned more playing time, will need to find his openings at left end behind Brian Robison or inside as a nickel rusher in pass situations.
“That’ll be up to the coaches to make that decision and guys to handle it how they handle it,” Allen said. “I think we have an ability to fill in and do some things pass rush-wise that are pretty special.”
Allen said the first Vikings’ defense he played on alongside Kevin Williams, Pat Williams and Ray Edwards was special. But this unit, he believes, has the potential to be the best he’s ever been a part of because of all the quality depth. At present, Griffen, Sharrif Floyd, Fred Evans and Lawrence Jackson are all back-ups.
“This is how good teams stay good and develop,” Allen said. “I always look at the Steelers. They seem to continue to create new guys in their system. And our defensive line in Minnesota has always been kind of a staple."
The Vikings’ depth up front should force opposing offenses into a “pick your poison” scenario, creating favorable one-on-one opportunities.
“You can’t focus on one person on this defensive line. I think everybody along that line is capable of making an impact on the game. That’s where our advantage is. So as far as who’s going to rush where, what, why, how, that to me isn’t a big thing. The advantage is the mismatches we can create when offenses choose to take one person away. And now another guy has to win. And we have the ability to.”
Still, Allen hopes the rotation concept on the d-line doesn’t become a rhythm disrupter.
“When you rotate too many people, if I don’t know where you’re going to be, I can’t rush the way I want to rush,” Allen said. “Half the time you’ll get a sack, because you’re playing off of somebody. For example, I know within the first couple steps where Kevin is going to be. So I can adjust my rush accordingly. … That’s the feel you get and that’s the complications you get when you put too many people in. And that’s where I think guys say I need this rhythm. I need to know where people are at.”

Chris Cook eager to face Rodgers

Posted by: Chris Miller Updated: December 26, 2012 - 3:56 PM

Chris Cook is looking for redemption Sunday when the Vikings meet the Packers.

The Vikings’ third year cornerback was torched during his rookie season by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Cook, coming off early season arthroscopic surgery on both knees, was pulled by coach Brad Childress after Rodgers lit up the visiting Vikings for 166 passing yards in the first quarter of a 28-24 victory on Oct. 24, 2010.

Things got worse six weeks later when the Packers beat the Vikings 31-3 at the Metrodome. Cook gave up receptions of 47 and 39 yards to James Jones, and was pulled by Childress after Jones caught a 3-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Cook was yelled at by teammate Ray Edwards on the sideline, and after the game both Cook and cornerback Asher Allen were criticized by teammates.

Childress was fired the next day.

Cook missed both meetings last season after an arrest for domestic assault on the eve of the first Packers game, which he spent in jail. He was inactive for the rest of the season, and missed the Vikings’ 23-14 loss to the Packers two weeks ago because of a broken arm.

“I’ve been looking forward to this game,” Cook said. “My rookie year, I was coming off both my knee surgeries, and they were picking on me – a lot. I expected that coming off two knee surgeries. But I don’t have knee problems now, so we’ll see how it goes this week.”

Cook said Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFL.

“He’s Brett Favre-like, but I feel he makes better decisions at times,” said Cook. “He’s crazy accurate, that’s the thing that stands out. He can put balls in places the other guys can’t put it in. It’s amazing to me to me. Every time I watch him I think, man, this guy, he’s great.”

Holiday presents

Houston running back Arian Foster bought Segways for his offensive linemen, so the question about what Adrian Peterson will do for his offensive line has been bandied about at Winter Park.

“We’ll see how it all plays out, how many yards he gets, when we win the game,” said center John Sullivan. “All I’m hoping for is a good performance from him and our offense and our entire team. The playoff berth is all we reaIly care about. I don’t really care about presents. I’m not too focused on that right now.”

Robison, Winfield ready

Defensive end Brian Robison (sprained shoulder) missed the Vikings’ 23-6 victory over the Texans on Sunday, which was doubly troubling to him because he played college football at Texas. He expects to play Sunday against the Packers.

“I’m doing much better, doing a lot of stuff hard in the rehab room, just trying to get it back,” Robison said. “I feel like I got a good range of motion, it’s just getting the strength back in it.”

Cornerback Antoine Winfield, who fractured a bone in his right index finger, expects to play Sunday with his right hand padded.

Reliable rookie

The Pro Bowl rosters will be announced tonight, and Vikings rookie kicker Blair Walsh has an outside chance of making the NFC team. Walsh has an NFL record nine field goals of 50 yards or longer.

“It’s one of those things where it happens, it’s awesome, if it doesn’t happen, keep on pushing,” Walsh said. “I’m more focused on what I have to do in practice. Accolades are great and all, but this game is more important.”

After a poor senior season at Georgia, it was a bit of a surprise when the Walsh was drafted by the Vikings in the sixth round. He has made 32 of 35 field goal attempts, however, and all 32 conversion attempts.

“I knew I was capable of doing it from the start,” Walsh said. “The biggest surprise is the number of attempts we’ve gotten. Thirty-five attempts is a lot. It’s a different beast at this level, each kick is so important, it matters so much when the game is so close.”

Veteran Ryan Longwell, who was cut to make room for Walsh, tweeted his support for Walsh’s Pro Bowl candidacy on Sunday.

“It was one of the most humbling things I’ve ever had said about me by anyone,” Walsh said. “My response was 100 percent truthful -- guys like him have set the bar for other kickers who come in the league, and they hold us to a higher standards, and we try to emulate careers like his.”

Ford added

The Vikings signed tight end Chase Ford to their practice squad. Ford, a rookie from Miami, has been on both the Philadelphia and Dallas practice squads this season. Tight end Allen Reisner, who has been on and off the Vikings’ roster the past two years, was claimed by Jacksonville after the Vikings cut him on Saturday. The Jaguars also signed guard Mark Asper, who had been waived by the Vikings.



Fourth round: Will Vikings continue building D-line here?

Posted by: Updated: April 12, 2012 - 11:36 AM

At this point, everyone from the expert draftnik to the most casual Vikings fan has discussed the Vikings' No. 3 overall pick ad nauseam. But what about the team's nine other picks? What might a team with numerous holes to fill do on Days 2-3 of this month's NFL draft? On Monday, Access Vikings began a round-by-round look at the team's history in Rounds 2-7 since Rick Spielman began overseeing the team's draft preparation as director of player personnel in 2007. We'll also take a look at players Spielman, now the team's general manager, might select later this month.

 [[[ See our previous breakdowns: ROUND 2, ROUND 3 ]]]


VIKINGS' PICKS: 98th overall, 128th overall (compensatory), 134th overall (compensatory).

SINCE 2007: The Vikings have done well in this round. With the three picks they've used, they beefed up their defensive line with Brian Robison, Everson Griffen and Christian Ballard. They've also been active when it comes to trades involving this round. In 2007, they traded their fourth-round pick and a sixth-rounder to move up four spots and  take Robison. Later in the fourth round that year, they traded a pick to Denver for a sixth-rounder (Rufus Alexander), a seventh-rounder (Chandler Williams) and a third-rounder in 2008. Although Alexander and Williams didn't stick, the third-rounder in 2008 was used as part of the Jared Allen trade. So not bad there. However, in 2008, the Vikings used their fourth-rounder as part of the package to move up in the second round and take Tyrell Johnson. Not so good. In 2009, the fourth-rounder was traded to Houston for Sage Rosenfels, who was supposed to challenge for the starting quarterback job until Brett Favre arrived fashionably late. And in 2010, the Vikings flipped fourth-round picks as part of the deal that sent the Lions the 30th pick in exchange for the 34th pick. The Lions got the 128th overall pick, while the Vikings got the 100th pick, which was used to pick Griffen.  

HITS: 2.

1, Brian Robison, DE, Texas, 102nd overall 2007: He came in with the perception of being an undersized project whose most interesting trait was an ability to throw the shotput a world-class distance. He was confident, bordering on cocky. And for good reason. The dude can play. He was a valuable backup for four seasons. Then he made disgruntled left end Ray Edwards expendable. Robison took over the starting job in 2011 and proved he can be an every-down player. He also had eight sacks, giving him 21 1/2 in his career. 

2, Everson Griffen, DE-LB, USC, 100th overall 2010: At one point, Griffen was projected as a first-round pick. Character concerns dropped his stock considerably. At pick 100, those concerns were well worth the risk. The Vikings not only landed one of their best special teams player, they got a freakish athlete who's 6-3, 273 pounds and runs a 4.6. When the Vikings go with a 3-4 nickel package, it's only because Griffen as a roaming, rushing linebacker is a matchup problem for offenses. Griffen also is strong enough to play inside at tackle in passing situations. Look for the Vikings to continue to use him in creative ways. 


1, Christian Ballard, DL, Iowa, 106th overall 2011: One could argue that he's either a hit already or is a safe pick to become one. He's got the size, strength, quickness and overall flexibility to play nose tackle, under tackle or left end. With Letroy Guion moving to nose tackle, Ballard probably will replace Kevin Williams at the three-technique as early as 2013. Ballard started two of 16 games last year and was surprisingly good on special teams. It's odd when defensive ends and defensive tackles are good special teamers, but that's what the Vikings have in Griffen and Ballard.


1, Marcus Forston, DT, Miami, Fla.: A powerful fire-plug at 6-1, 300. He had 12 tackles for loss, including three sacks as a sophomore in 2010. He might have been a higher projection this year had a knee injury not limited him to three games a year ago.

2, DeQuan Menzie, CB, Alabama: He's the Tide's "other" corner, opposite Dre Kirkpatrick, a first-round projection. Menzie is known as an intelligent player, a good tackler and a guy who would fit well in a zone scheme. His 40 time was in the 4.6 range, which might be a concern.

3, Aaron Henry, S, Wisconsin: Had a strong pro day with a 4.5-second 40 and a 39.5-inch vertical. An interesting mid-round prospect who's 6 feet tall, 208 pounds.

4, Tommy Streeter, WR, Miami, Fla.: A 6-5, 215-pound vertical threat who's raw, but worth a look in the fourth round. Had a team-high eight TDs and a 17.6-yard average on 46 catches a year ago.

5, Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia: I covered his dad, Frank, a corner for the Browns from 1984-92. Frank was an exceptional press corner. That's not something the Vikings ask a lot of with their corners, but it's sure worth looking at a guy with Frank's genes and direction. ranks Chase as the 14th corner available. Minnifield had arthroscoping knee surgery last month. He's expected to be ready for training camp, if not much sooner. the 5-10, 183-pounder had 13 interceptions in his four seasons.  

[[[ See our previous breakdowns: ROUND 2; ROUND 3. ]]]



Vikings receive two compensatory picks for 2012 NFL Draft

Posted by: Updated: March 26, 2012 - 3:01 PM

The Vikings will have 10 picks to use during next month's NFL Draft, valuable currency for a team in rebuilding mode. This afternoon at the owners meetings in West Palm Beach, Fla., the organization learned it would receive a pair of compensatory fourth-round draft picks after losing receiver Sidney Rice and defensive end Ray Edwards to free agency last year.

The Vikings have reported that the two compensatory picks they'll receive will be the 33rd and 39th picks of the fourth round.

The Vikings now have three picks in the fourth-round plus an additional seventh-round pick as well, bringing their pick total to 10.

Chat OT: Vincent Jackson on the way? E.J. Henderson out the door? The asking price for RG3?

Posted by: Updated: February 29, 2012 - 4:06 PM

Many thanks for the enthusiastic and intelligent participation earlier this afternoon on our Vikings live chat. A full transcript of that session is now available.

Still, 80 minutes wasn’t long enough to address all the valuable questions that were asked. So we’re going into overtime now with a half-dozen of the best questions that were left in the queue when the chat ended.
Here goes …
Gav asks: Why do people want V-Jax so bad? He's 29, by the time we're any good he will be over the hill. Do we really want to throw money at a 29-year-old?
Vincent Jackson is a Pro Bowl-caliber weapon at a position the Vikings need to upgrade in a hurry. Beggars can’t be choosers. Here’s the deal: the Vikings averaged only 5.8 yards per passing attempt in 2011. Their three quarterbacks posted a rating of 74.6. (That’s Colt McCoy, Matt Cassell, Rex Grossman territory, by the way.) Big plays were hard to come by. And if you take away Percy Harvin’s stellar production in 2011, the Vikings’ other top four wideouts combined for 80 catches for 1,146 yards and four touchdowns. Jackson? He’s averaged 17.5 yards per catch over his seven NFL seasons. Last season, he had three games with at least 140 yards. Jackson is a legitimate vertical threat. And the Vikings are a team in need of a legitimate vertical threat. As for Jackson’s age? As receivers go, 29 isn’t nearly as scary as it is for running backs.
Still,there is a valid question that needs to be asked about when the Vikings feel they’ll be able to legitimately contend again. If, hypothetically speaking, Rick Spielman determined the Vikings won’t realistically be able to make a playoff run before the 2015 season, then obviously it would make no sense to break the bank for Jackson on a deal for three years or less. This is exactly the kind of math and analysis Spielman was promoted to provide. He is now the man in charge of the long-term vision, charged with molding the wish list accordingly. So the question is valid in this sense: the Vikings not only need to make sure Jackson would fit their offense, they’ll need to determine if he can be part of their long-term plans. If so, he may be the best free agent receiver on the market in two weeks.
Fishdawg asks: Dan: You say that the Rams will trade the No. 2 pick no matter what. I am thinking that the Rams are wanting too much. Teams may shy away if the asking price is too much and the Vikings are more reasonable.
If only one team were interested in Robert Griffin III, your shy-away theory might have some validity. But at present? In a league where stellar quarterback play means more than anything else, the RG3 hype will undoubtedly give the Rams a ridiculous amount of leverage with the No. 2 pick. Say you’re Cleveland or Washington or Miami or Kansas City or Seattle and you really want to make a run at Griffin. Well, each of those quarterback-needy teams will have to put together a trade package that’s not only fair but one that will trump all the other suitors. So you can see why St. Louis is downright giddy these days.
If the Rams’ asking price seems to high for a team, it’d be Russian roulette to commence trade talks with the Vikings in the hope that all of the other RG3 shoppers get scared off too. That’s not going to happen. The Rams are holding that No. 2 pick for major ransom. And the only way that changes is if the free agent quarterback market goes absolutely bonkers with many of these quarterback-starved teams investing their futures heavily in guys like Matt Flynn, Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn and Chad Henne. As you can see, there are far fewer crown jewel signal callers available then there are teams searching for a crown jewel signal caller. So this week, the biggest NFL storyline can be summarized in three words: Congratulations St. Louis.

Noah asks: Any chance you see the Vikings selecting a DT? I think it was a bigger weakness last year than most people imagined and our DEs took some pressure off them. If so what round?
Obviously, we know receiver, corner and safety will be top priorities. But the Vikings would like to see improvement at defensive tackle as well. And, as luck has it, the defensive tackle class is loaded this year. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said this past weekend at the combine that he has upwards of seven defensive tackles holding first-round grades right now. Yet it’s unlikely we’ll see seven defensive tackles taken in the first 32 picks. So maybe the Vikings can steal a high-quality tackle at the top of Round 3 (perhaps a guy like UConn’s Kendall Reyes or Boise State’s Billy Winn or Southern Cal’s DaJohn Harris) or with one of their picks in Round 4, where targets might include Michigan’s Mike Martin, Texas’ Kheeston Randall or Alabama’s Josh Chapman.
Guest asks: If their draft stock falls and they are available in Round 3 do you see the Vikings picking up Alshon Jeffery (work ethic/weight issues), Vontaze Burfict (grandiose personality issues), or Janoris Jenkins (drugs/ethics issues) in the draft or do we keep it completely "clean" this draft?
Jenkins: absolutely not. With the Chris Cook fiasco still hanging out there, the Vikings can ill afford to go after a cornerback with so much baggage and risk attached – even if Jenkins is clearly a first-round talent. Three arrests and a dismissal from the University of Florida program last spring will be enough to repel the Vikings away.
Jeffery’s issues are far less serious and he came to the combine at a svelte 216 pounds, proof he can keep himself in good shape when the stakes are high for him personally. The Vikings, if they were to gamble on a guy like Jeffry, would have to decide for themselves whether they have the means to keep him motivated and on task. If they feel they can, the kid’s potential is intriguing.
Burfict? He may have looked impressive at the combine. But, as you mentioned, there are questions as to whether he can control his temper and fit into an NFL locker room without disruption. Other critics also wonder if he has enough instinct to be a consistent playmaker. I’d also wonder whether the Vikings would roll the dice on a linebacker in Round 3 when the draft pool has great depth at cornerback and receiver, two positions they need to address with greater urgency.
Drew asks: Do you think E.J. Henderson will be back at linebacker? Also, the Vikings are said to have up to 10 draft picks this year. Why is it “up to 10 picks” and not just 10 picks?
I don’t see E.J. back in 2012. He’ll turn 32 before the season starts, has nine NFL seasons and 125 regular-season games on his odometer and was hampered significantly last season by knee problems, ceding his role as the nickel linebacker to younger brother, Erin. With Jasper Brinkley returning to the mix and general manager Rick Spielman asserting his intention to make the roster younger, letting Henderson walk will be one of the tough business decisions the Vikings will likely make in the coming weeks.
As for the draft picks, the Vikings’ are expecting to get two additional compensatory picks, most likely in the fourth round, as a result of Atlanta signing Ray Edwards and Seattle signing Sidney Rice. But compensatory picks aren’t officially doled out and announced until late March, usually near the owners meetings, which will be held March 26-28 in West Palm Beach, Fla. Until those compensatory picks are officially announced, you’ll see that cautious verbage included.
To recap, the Vikings will have all of their own picks from this year’s draft, minus the sixth-rounder they sent to Washington last summer in the trade for Donovan McNabb. They have one extra sixth-round pick and an additional seventh-rounder from other trades. And they figure to get those other two compensatory picks from the Edwards and Rice transactions.
Tino asks: Other than Hutch, which other vets could be shown the door in the name of cap room/youth movement? Winfield?
It’s possible Antoine Winfield could be shown the door. But odds are the Vikings will bring him back with the hopes of drawing from his veteran leadership to energize their secondary. Winfield would likely assume a nickel corner role predominantly. Fellow corner Cedric Griffin is another candidate to be sent packing. Keep an eye on guard Anthony Herrera too, a feisty veteran whom coach Leslie Frazier admires for the energy he brings to the o-line. But Herrera’s price tag (a base salary in excess of $2.6 million in 2012)  and age (he’ll turn 32 in June) put him in on the short list of players who might be on the way out of Winter Park.


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