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 mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Vikings giving reserve defensive end Jackson a long look

Posted by: Updated: July 31, 2013 - 12:54 PM

It’s been almost a week now since the Vikings reported to training camp. And the proceedings here in Mankato have been just the way the Vikings like it so far. Drama-free. Injury-free. A lot of important work getting done with very little sizzle or fanfare.

In other words: the public relations staff has needed to keep the media room fridge stocked with Dr. Pepper, providing a caffeine fix to keep reporters from dozing off.

Practice will continue at 2:30 p.m. today, hopefully outdoors after the morning walk-through was brought inside due to rain. And we’ll be making our rounds keeping tabs on a few of those lower-tier guys battling for a roster spot.

Among them: defensive end Lawrence Jackson.

Jackson is entering his sixth season in the NFL. He was an under-the-radar free agent signing by the Vikings right around draft time in April. He arrives with experience as a starter in Seattle (2008-09) and a dependable role player in Detroit (2010-12). And he’s now looking for a window of opportunity on a Vikings defensive line loaded with depth.

There are no questions as to who the Vikings top three ends are: Jared Allen, Brian Robison and Everson Griffen. But there’s an opening for a fourth end. And Jackson will compete throughout training camp with D’Aundre Reed and George Johnson for that role. It’s also worth noting that Allen, Robison and Griffen will all be eligible for free agency next March if the Vikings don’t deliver contract extensions before then.

So in many ways, getting a feel for Jackson’s skillset may be as much about 2014 and beyond as it is about this season.

Here’s what coach Leslie Frazier had to say about Jackson after Wednesday morning’s walk-through.

“He’s a guy we think has pass rush ability from the tapes that we saw from when he was up in Detroit. Did some good things. We want to see how he handles the run. That’s a big part of what we do on defense. And to see how consistent he can be both as a run defender and a pass rusher. And if we can get that consistency out of him and maybe get some of that pass rush that we saw when he came out of college as one of the top rated defensive ends in the [2008] draft, if we can get some of that, it should help our football team.”

Frazier also shoved aside the notion that the presence of Allen, Robison and Griffen lessened the urgency to find a dependable fourth option at end.

“In our league,” Frazier said, “the more pass rushers you can get, the more you want. You never want to turn down pass rushers. You need them, man. And if he can show us that he can help our football team as a pass rusher, he’ll find his way onto our roster.”

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