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.


Cutting corners will be tougher in this year's secondary

Posted by: Mark Craig under Quarterbacks, Vikings, Packers, Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, E.J. Henderson, Kevin Williams, Percy Harvin Updated: August 4, 2012 - 1:40 PM

MANKATO -- The first full week of training camp ends with a two-hour controlled scrimmage at 7 tonight at Blakeslee Stadium. Here's what we've learned and what needs to happen:

Quarterbacks

What we've learned: After being asked 15,679 times whether having a true offseason made a difference in the progress from his rookie season, starting quarterback Christian Ponder should be allowed to smack the 15,680th person who asks this question. Let's move on, folks. Said receiver Percy Harvin: "The difference is huge. His progressions, reading defenses and confidence level has been like night and day. He believes in himself this year."

What needs to happen: Coming off a shaky week, at best, Joe Webb needs to re-instill the confidence around him that's expected when one is the unquestioned No. 2 quarterback. When asked about Webb's inconsistency and inaccuracy,  offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said: "Joe is always going to look better in games than he will in practice at this stage in his career."

Running backs

What we've learned: Toby Gerhart's added upper-body mass makes him an even bigger load in short-yardage situations. As cornerback Chris Cook said on the field seconds after trying and failing to stop Gerhart in a goal-line drill: "Man, you gotta get low if you want to stop Toby's big" um, butt.

What needs to happen: Second-year pro Jordan Todman needs to return from an ankle injury that's knocked him out the past two practices. He's the ideal change-of-pace back with speed and quickness that no other back on the roster, except Adrian Peterson, possesses. But each missed practice helps kill Todman's chances of closing the gap on veteran Lex Hilliard in the battle for the No. 3 running back job. Hilliard leads based on his four years of special teams experience in Miami.

Offensive line

What we've learned: A sports hernia suffered by Geoff Schwartz essentially ended the right guard competition before it had a chance to start. Schwartz declined comment after this morning's walkthrough, citing the team's policy on injured players talking to the media, but he could be out four to six weeks or longer. With injuries mounting on the offensive line, the Vikings added two undrafted rookie guards: Bridger Buche of Eastern Michigan and Grant Cook, a 6-4, 318-pounder who was released by the Packers last week. Defensive lineman Eric Latimore and receiver A.J. Love were released to make room for the O-line reinforcements. We've also learned that left tackle Matt Kalil, the fourth overall pick, can handle himself in the NFL

What needs to happen: Someone other than Chris DeGeare needs to step up as the No. 2 right guard. DeGeare and veteran Joe Berger can play the position, but it's better if DeGeare focuses on backing up the left guard position, while Berger sticks to backup center. Undrafted rookie free agent Quentin Saulsberry, the only player to start and play in every game (49) at Mississippi State, is a longshot to watch.

Tight ends/receivers

What we've learned: Kyle Rudolph will be a popular target for Ponder in this offense. The second-year tight end has had an excellent camp and will benefit underneath if receiver Jerome Simpson lives up to his potential as a deep threat. Simpson was the camp star of Week 1. "He's just fast," said left guard Charlie Johnson.

What needs to happen: Someone other than Simpson and Harvin has to start standing out consistenty at receiver ASAP, especially with Simpson having to start the regular season with a three-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy. Rookie Greg Childs has shown the most raw talent and made the play of the week -- a 26-yard touchdown in which he outjumped cornerback Brandon Burton and caught the ball by pinning it to the Burton's back.

Defensive line

What we've learned: The team, as usual the past few years, has some impressive depth. That includes some classic edge rushers such as D'Aundre Reed showing that he can also rush from the tackle position in passing situations. If Reed, who was inactive for all 16 games a year ago, can rush from the tackle position like he has in some camp situations so far, the Vikings' pass rush will be even more formidable than it was a year ago when it led the league with 50 sacks.

What needs to happen: Letroy Guion needs some preseason action to prove that he can handle the move from under tackle backup behind Kevin Williams to playing nose tackle at a relatively light 303 pounds. If he doesn't have the bulk, can he make up for it with quickness? Said Allen: "Letroy has feet like no other."

Linebackers

What we've learned: Griffen is wildly talented and can play multiple defensive positions as well as stand out on special teams. However, the switch to linebacker won't be successful after just a week or two of focusing on the position. He's flashed in camp, but he's also been inconsistent while running with the third team.

What needs to happen: Like Guion, middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley just needs some actual game experience to show that he's ready to assume former Viking E.J. Henderson's old position. For what it's worth, Brinkley has not shown signs of the injuries that have plagued him for most of the past year. He missed all of last season because of hip surgery and then missed a lot of OTA and mini-camp time because of a combination of hip and groin issues.

Defensive backs

What we've learned: These aren't your 2011 Vikings secondary. This outfit looks NFL worthy and then some so far. Chris Cook and Antoine Winfield are back and looking strong. Chris Carr has been a solid third corner, if not a capable No. 2 if the Vikings want to limit the 35-year-old Winfield to the nickel back role. Josh Robinson is a lock to make the team, but the third-round draft pick lost a lot of ground by missing seven practices because of a hamstring injury. 

What needs to happen: Defensive coordinator Alan Williams said the team is likely to keep either five or six corners. If veteran Zack Bowman makes the team, as expected, the pressure mounts on the lower-tier guys such as Brandon Burton, Marcus Sherels and Reggie Jones. One of them needs to shine like Sherels did during last year's preseason in order to make the team.

Special teams

What we've learned: As advertised, rookie kicker Blair Walsh has a giant leg. He's been booming kickoffs out of the end zone.

What needs to happen: Walsh needs to face the pressure of a field goal attempt that means more than ending a training camp practice. So far, he's handled that minimal pressure well. 

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Tennessee 7:25 PM
Jacksonville
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
Atlanta 127 FINAL
Cleveland 98
Phoenix 111 FINAL
Charlotte 106
Dallas 117 FINAL
Detroit 106
Utah 105 FINAL
Miami 87
Orlando 92 FINAL
Boston 109
Brooklyn 89 FINAL
Toronto 105
Memphis 117 FINAL
San Antonio 116
Milwaukee 97 FINAL
Portland 104
Houston 115 FINAL
Denver 111
Indiana 100 FINAL
LA Clippers 102
Ottawa 2 FINAL
New Jersey 0
Boston 3 FINAL(OT)
Minnesota 2
Dallas 2 FINAL
Vancouver 0
Langston 65 FINAL
North Texas 78
Delaware State 72 FINAL
St Francis-NY 64
James Madison 72 FINAL
Ball State 52
SIU Edwardsville 65 FINAL
Campbell 70
St Francis-PA 67 FINAL
Duquesne 52
North Florida 77 FINAL
Florida State 93
Catawba 69 FINAL
George Mason 99
Ferrum 48 FINAL
High Point 106
Hampton 55 FINAL
Illinois 73
Gardner-Webb 65 FINAL
Jacksonville 68
Longwood 60 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 71
Arkansas State 69 FINAL
Miss State 55
Tennessee 72 FINAL
NC State 83
NC A&T 55 FINAL
Ohio State 97
Manhattan 56 FINAL
Pittsburgh 65
Robert Morris 57 FINAL
Toledo 83
Char Southern 58 FINAL
Wofford 64
Kennesaw St 90 FINAL
Youngstown St 84
Barber-Scotia 52 FINAL
NC Central 108
Detroit 70 FINAL
UCF 75
Liberty 70 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 73
TX A&M-CC 73 FINAL
Denver 83
Ark-Pine Bluff 61 FINAL
Houston 56
UT Martin 54 FINAL
Illinois State 64
Milligan 76 FINAL
Louisiana 115
Abilene Christian 44 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 83
USC Upstate 73 FINAL
Memphis 83
Alcorn State 56 FINAL
Murray State 94
Central Mich 80 FINAL
Northwestern 67
Georgia State 54 FINAL
Old Dominion 58
TX-Pan American 69 FINAL
Saint Louis 75
Ill-Chicago 46 FINAL
SMU 67
Texas State 60 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 66
SC State 39 FINAL
Texas Tech 101
Missouri State 70 FINAL
Tulsa 74
Chicago State 60 FINAL
Western Ky 75
Morehead State 50 FINAL
Green Bay 66
Northern Colorado 82 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 92
Winthrop 62 FINAL
Auburn 80
New Mexico St 55 FINAL
Baylor 66
San Diego St 62 FINAL
Cincinnati 71
Eastern Mich 46 FINAL
Michigan State 66
Loyola Marymount 58 FINAL
Stanford 67
Incarnate Word 82 FINAL
Grand Canyon 80
Northeastern 58 FINAL
Cal Poly 60
Central Arkansas 55 FINAL
New Mexico 76
Howard 45 FINAL
Pepperdine 53
Portland 73 FINAL
UNLV 75
CS-Northridge 56 FINAL
Oregon 79
Grambling St 38 FINAL
Washington 86
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Western Carolina 79 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 66
(21) Miss State 66 FINAL
Louisiana 51
(25) DePaul 109 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 84
Liberty 64 FINAL
NC State 67
Elon 77 FINAL
Campbell 51
Akron 73 FINAL
UCF 64
Richmond 77 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 67
Montana 70 FINAL
Seattle 64
(7) Stanford 46 FINAL
Chattanooga 54
Florida A&M 69 FINAL
Southern U 80
Oklahoma 72 FINAL
(13) Duke 92
Savannah State 56 FINAL
Auburn 62
Northern Colorado 43 FINAL
South Florida 84
Youngstown St 73 FINAL
Robert Morris 65
Siena 75 FINAL
Sacred Heart 65
Vermont 63 FINAL
St Francis-NY 61
(1) South Carolina 69 FINAL
Hampton 49
Fla Gulf Coast 91 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 46
Texas Southern 92 FINAL
Houston Baptist 80
Northwestern 88 FINAL
UNLV 84
NC A&T 70 FINAL
Appalachian St 72
NC Central 52 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 67
Drexel 50 FINAL
Quinnipiac 74
Cincinnati 52 FINAL
Northern Ky 66
Alabama State 53 FINAL
Georgia Tech 77
Morehead St 69 FINAL
USC Upstate 75
Arkansas State 59 FINAL
Kent State 44
American Univ 60 FINAL
Manhattan 52
UNC Greensboro 60 FINAL
St Bonaventure 78
Arkansas-Monticello 56 FINAL
Northwestern St 61
Prairie View 70 FINAL
Sam Houston St 51
McNeese State 59 FINAL
(3) Texas 76
Yale 90 FINAL
Wagner 65
Oakland 61 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 54
Eastern Kentucky 62 FINAL
Alabama A&M 56
SIU-Edwardsville 47 FINAL
Northern Ill 69
McMurry 25 FINAL
TX-Arlington 82
Portland 65 FINAL
Eastern Washington 72
North Texas 42 FINAL
San Francisco 60
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

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