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 Vikings

Access Vikings morning walkthrough: August 4

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated: August 4, 2014 - 7:11 AM

Every day On most days, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening that day.


--- After years of turbulence, the Vikings are all rowing together.

--- Rookie G David Yankey is trying to play catch-up.

--- OLB Chad Greenway taught rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater a lesson.

--- Check out this photo gallery from Saturday night’s practice under the lights.



--- Former Packers (and Vikings) QB Brett Favre will have his number retired in Green Bay.

--- Former Minnesota S Brock Vereen has climbed the Bears’ depth chart.

--- Lions RB Theo Riddick has impressed in camp, but he has a lot of competition.


After getting yesterday off, Vikings players will be back on the field at 10:30 a.m. for today’s morning walkthrough. This afternoon, the Vikings practice at 3:30 p.m., and they’ll be in pads.


Last season, with Norv Turner coordinating their offense, the Browns ranked fifth in the NFL in offensive pace of play, according to Football Outsiders. The Browns ran one offensive play every 24.96 seconds of game time. That pace trailed only the Eagles, Bills, Patriots and Broncos. The Vikings, meanwhile, ranked ninth last season in offensive pace at 26.22 seconds per play.

Access Vikings morning walkthrough: August 3

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated: August 3, 2014 - 7:48 AM

Every day On most days, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening that day.


--- Who is George Edwards and what exactly does he do around here?

--- S Jamarca Sanford is used to having to battle for a starting position.

--- Rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater finished last night’s practice strong.

--- GM Rick Spielman is quizzing coach Mike Zimmer on in-game decisions.

--- OLB Anthony Barr is working to become a better pass rusher.

--- C John Sullivan is hoping for improved health and improved play in 2014.



--- Packers rookie WR Jared Abbrederis tore his ACL in camp.

--- Lions rookie TE Eric Ebron is starting to show improvement.

--- Two Bears rookie defensive tackles are getting rave reviews.


After last night’s night practice, Zimmer is giving players the day off. They’ll be back tomorrow.


Few, if any, NFL teams used running back screens less often than the Vikings did a season ago. Less than 1.8 percent of Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder’s attempts were running back screens, according to Pro Football Focus. Those percentages should be on the rise with Norv Turner calling the plays. We have already seen Adrian Peterson and Jerick McKinnon get involved in the screen game in camp practices, and both looked dangerous in the open field, particularly Peterson.

Barr working hard to become a better pass rusher

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated: August 2, 2014 - 12:31 PM

As I wrote in this story in today’s newspaper, Vikings outside linebacker Anthony Barr has been wearing a few different hats for the Vikings, who are already putting the rookie’s versatile skill set to use. But one of the things that excites them most is his upside as a pass rusher coming off the edge.

Barr had 23.5 sacks in two seasons as a 3-4 outside linebacker at UCLA. His size and his success in that scheme left some draft analysts scratching their heads, saying he wasn’t a fit for the Vikings. The Vikings quickly made it clear, though, that they had a special role in mind for their top pick.

That role includes rushing off the edge in sub packages or blitzing up the gut as a stand-up ‘backer.

Barr has already impressed veteran teammate Brian Robison with his pass-rushing prowess.

“He’s got good speed,” Robison said yesterday. “A lot of us are speed rushers on this team. The one thing that we do well is beat guys with speed then try to set up other moves off of that. I think he’s no different. He’s a great speed guy off the edge and has decent moves to go along with it.”

Barr showed off one nice counter move during yesterday’s practice. After lining up over the outside shoulder of left tackle Matt Kalil, he burst off the line toward the inside. Kalil shuffled to his right to deny a path to quarterback Matt Cassel, but Barr dusted him with a spin move to the outside. He chased after Cassel but couldn’t get there in time as the quarterback had quickly rolled to his right.

While Barr is usually with linebackers coach Adam Zimmer during position drills, he also spends time working with defensive line coach Andre Patterson, who is helping him with his pass-rushing moves.

“I’ve just got to continue to work at that and hopefully I can make an impact when I’m asked to rush the passer,” said Barr, who is trying to get used to rushing from a three-point or four-point stance.

Head coach Mike Zimmer said the Vikings still have to develop him "a little bit more" as a rusher.

"In college, you can run around guys," Zimmer said. "You can't do that here in this league."

Still, they expect immediate contributions from Barr, who should start right away. They have been impressed with him from a mental standpoint, saying he has been a sponge, soaking up Xs and Os.

“He’s really one of those guys that want to learn,” Robison said. “With rookies, you sometimes have to pull them along, but he’s doing a great job of getting into our defense, getting into our book, learning our schemes and things like that. We look forward to him having a huge year for us.”

Access Vikings morning walkthrough: August 2

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated: August 2, 2014 - 7:21 AM

Every day On most days, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening that day.


--- The Vikings are pleased with what they have seen from top pick Anthony Barr.

--- The Vikings had a sloppy practice yesterday.

--- Why the heck are the Vikings blaring that bullhorn at practice?

--- The mystery at middle linebacker continues for the Vikings.

--- K Blair Walsh thinks a 33-yard kick is a reasonable distance for the extra point.



--- A look at why Lions WR Calvin Johnson is such a nightmare to cover.

--- The Packers haven’t gotten much production from recent first-round picks.

--- The Bears are looking for DE Willie Young to refine his finishing touch.


After their 10:30 a.m. morning walkthrough, the Vikings will hold their second night practice of Camp Zimmer at 7:30 p.m. It is not a scrimmage, but there should be live tackling in some drills.


Head coach Mike Zimmer has said on several occasions that tackling ability will be a major determining factor in the battle at safety. And understandably so, because the Vikings had no safeties who ranked in the top 40 in the league in Pro Football Focus' tackling efficiency rating in 2013. Harrison Smith was the team’s most reliable tackler, missing one tackle for every 9.1 attempts and eight total tackles overall. Jamarca Sanford and Andrew Sendejo fared a little worse.

Vikings K Blair Walsh: 33-yard PAT a good start

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated: August 1, 2014 - 12:40 PM

Vikings kicker Blair Walsh was one of five kickers to miss an extra point try last season. Not one kicker missed more than one attempt, while 30 kickers made all of their attempts.

The NFL competition committee took notice in the offseason and will make PATs a little more difficult during the first two weeks of the preseason.

Preliminary discussions began with making extra points a 43-yard attempt but the NFL settled on experimenting with 33-yard PATs. Walsh was adamant about establishing extra points at 38 yards during the offseason but said a 33-yard attempt is a good start.

“If you start going to that 40-49 yard range, you’re going to have games decided by whether guys can make extra point tries from that distance,” said Walsh, who went 43 of 44 on PATs last season. "I don’t think that’s what the commissioner wants or the competition committee.

“I think you’re still going to get a couple of timely misses if you had it all year. I just don’t know if that’s how people want the games to be decided. You already get enough grief from people that say games shouldn’t be decided by kicker. I obviously disagree with that. So it just makes your kicker more and more important and more valuable.”

Walsh said he’s practiced from 33 yards since OTAs after the NFL announced the change. He said he’s also practiced at TCF Bank Stadium, where the Vikings will play their first two preseason games, and hasn’t missed an attempt yet from the new spot.

“You can’t always get attempts in a preseason game because you don’t know how it’s going to go,” Walsh said. “Being in that stadium for the first time, those will be like short attempts for us.”

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said nothing will change from a protection standpoint during the first two weeks. While PATs will still be spotted at the 2-yard line and not the 15 during the regular season, Priefer understands that will probably change at some point in the future.

“I’ve kind of accepted that fact,” Preifer said. “It’s going to be tougher for the northern cities that have the wind and the weather. A 33-yard field goal, to me, is still not a chip shot."


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