Now that the Vikings have set their 53-man squad, coach Leslie Frazier said he believes he has a really good chance of having a good team, and that this roster will be better in certain areas from last season's 6-10 squad.
"We've created some competition at some positions that we didn't have competition before," Frazier said. "But time will tell if we're actually better.
"I think we've created some good competition at tight end, at wide receiver. I think on the defensive line, we've created some competition for some of our guys. Linebacker we've changed a little bit, as you know, our [weak-side] linebacker position is a lot different. We have a number of different positions where we've made some changes. Our record will probably have something to say about that, whether or not we've improved, but I think we have."
The Vikings will go into Sunday's opening game at San Diego minus Kevin Williams, Pat Williams and Ray Edwards, three-fourths of the defensive front four from last year. Kevin Williams is serving a two-game suspension, Pat Williams hasn't caught on with a team and Edwards signed with Atlanta.
"We're going to be a different defensive line than what we've had in the past," Frazier said. "But it gives some other guys an opportunity to step up to the plate. We think Letroy Guion will do a good job for us. We're counting on Fred Evans to play well for us. If they do then we'll be all right. Brian Robison is one of those guys we've been playing periodically the past three or four years, so a chance for him to start. Letroy has matured so much, he's got a lot better, and so has Fred Evans. I think they have the ability to step in and play."
The Vikings also will have a change at linebacker with Erin Henderson replacing veteran Ben Leber, who is now with St. Louis.
"Erin has played well for us as a starting outside linebacker," Frazier said. "Of course we signed Chad Green- way, which we're excited about, and E.J. [Henderson] -- both of those guys are solid, and Erin is the new guy."
Sold on McNabb
Frazier is sold that veteran quarterback Donovan McNabb will do the job at quarterback for the Vikings.
"He's really been terrific in so many ways," Frazier said. "A great leader for us, developing good chemistry with his receivers. He's been good; we're glad we have him."
Frazier was asked to compare McNabb with Brett Favre. "They're two different quarterbacks," he said. "Brett is a Hall of Famer, Donovan has a chance to be a Hall of Famer. They both are great players. They both know how to win in this league, they're both tremendous competitors, they have a lot of similarities."
Regarding star running back Adrian Peterson, Frazier said: "In this preseason, he did a terrific job, and now we finally get a chance to get ready for the regular season."
Frazier realizes the Vikings are facing a strong San Diego team.
"They're a good team, a very challenging team in all phases," he said. "They were the No. 1 offense in the league a year ago, the No. 1 defense in the league a year ago. We'll have our hands full.
"We should be all right. Our guys are looking forward to the challenge. It's the National Football League, you have to go into every game believing you have a chance."
Ryan in Japan
Terry Ryan, the former Twins general manager now doing a lot of scouting for the team, is in Japan looking for some good ballplayers.
Despite the fact infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka has been a flop this year, the Twins still would go after the right Japanese player.
Meanwhile, the presence this week of Wayne Krivsky, a former assistant GM under Ryan, started the rumor that Krivsky, now under contract with the Mets, might rejoin the Twins.
However the word was that if Krivsky did join the Twins, it would not effect the status of current GM Bill Smith, who will keep his job.
Krivsky and Smith are close friends, and they had dinner at Target Field on Tuesday.
• The Vikings are $4 million under the $120 million NFL salary cap but don't plan any additions at the present time.
• Monte Kiffin, a former defensive coordinator with the Vikings and other NFL teams and now an associate head coach at Southern California under his son, Lane, sang the praises of the Gophers coaching staff following the Trojans' 19-17 victory Saturday in Los Angeles, talking about those coaches as a group. Before the game, Kiffin approached Gophers coach Jerry Kill and said to him that he believed Kill had better athletes at Northern Illinois, but he no doubt had a change of heart after the Gophers blanked the Trojans in the second half.
• As for Kill, after reviewing Saturday's game on film, he said: "Marcus Jones, a true freshman from North Carolina, he played as well as anyone we have at wide receiver. He blocked well, he didn't make mental errors, he caught the balls, did a great job. He's an explosive kid and he made some explosive plays for us." Jones made three catches for 51 yards.
• In this era of college football, you have to pay big money to get nonconference opponents. New Mexico State is getting $800,000 to play here Saturday and another $800,000 when it visits in 2016.
• South Florida's Skip Holtz became only the third Notre Dame graduate to coach a team to a victory over the Irish, joining Gerry DiNardo, who led LSU past the Irish in the 1997 Independence Bowl, and Eddie Anderson, who as Iowa coach beat Notre Dame in 1939 and '40. Holtz, the son of former Irish and Gophers coach Lou Holtz, was the first Notre Dame to coach against the Irish in Notre Dame Stadium since DiNardo in 1998.
• A few former Gophers players made practice squads around the NFL. Offensive lineman Dominic Alford is with the Browns; quarterback Adam Weber signed with the Broncos; and Traye Simmons signed with the San Diego Chargers for a second season. Also, Minneapolis native and former Armstrong and Wisconsin standout David Gilreath signed with the Colts practice squad.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. • firstname.lastname@example.org