Vikings still have concern at linebacker depth

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 23, 2013 - 12:05 AM

 

Near the end of Thursday’s practice, after a play near the sidelines, Vikings middle linebacker Erin Henderson came off the field in pain, then kicked a cooler.

The good news: It was not as serious as it appeared.

Henderson had his heel stepped on. After having the heel — which was bloodied — bandaged and the ankle taped, he returned to action briefly before leaving the field before practice ended.

“He just went in to let them take a look at his heel,’’ coach Leslie Frazier said. “He should be fine.”

Still, it pointed up how precarious the Vikings’ depth is at linebacker, particularly in the middle. Second-year player Audie Cole replaced Henderson with the first-team defense.

Frazier said Cole has improved significantly in his second season. “We have more confidence in him today as a middle linebacker than we did a year ago,” Frazier said. “I think he’s going to be a capable guy should something happen to Erin.’’

More plays, better execution

The Vikings, keeping with their intent to prepare for Sunday’s preseason game in San Francisco as if it were a regular-season game, went so far as to have crowd noise played during some drills. The starters will play into the second half, the first drive will be scripted.

And quarterback Christian Ponder is looking for a more efficient outcome from the offense.

“We want a higher level of execution this week,” Ponder said. “It’s against a great opponent, it will be a great barometer for us as a team. We want high execution and a lot of plays.”

Aussie style suits him

Vikings rookie punter Jeff Locke had a strong performance in Buffalo after an up-and-down preseason debut. He had a 48.9 average and a 39.7 net — a figure hurt by a 34-yard return that special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said wasn’t Locke’s fault — in seven punts. Most impressive were the three punts Locke had downed inside the 20, including two inside the 5.

Locke has proved he has the leg for the big punts. But his situational punting is proving a plus, particularly the Aussie-syle kick he utilizes on a shorter field. The kick is designed to produce an end-over-end ball flight that, when done correctly, will often produce a backward bounce. That is particularly useful when trying to down punts deep in an opponent’s territory. Nearly a third of NFL punters employ some variation of the kick. But Priefer said Locke is unique in that he gets the desired bounce while keeping a lot of hang time.

Locke learned the style in college from Aaron Perez, whom he followed at UCLA. But it took him a while to perfect it. “It took me two years to be able to do it,” Locke said. “I couldn’t get it to go downfield at all; it used to just go straight up in the air. In the summer before my junior year I finally figured it out.’’

The result: He had 60 punts downed inside the 20 in his final two seasons with the Bruins.

Etc.

• With Sharrif Floyd out after a knee procedure and Christian Ballard (personal) not with the team, the Vikings’ depth at defensive tackle has taken a hit. “We don’t want to overwork Kevin [Williams],’’ Frazier said. Chase Baker will get extra playing time Sunday as the team wants to get a good look at him. “He’s had a good camp, and he does some things to make you take notice,” Frazier said. “This is a golden opportunity for him.”

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Chicago WSox - LP: J. Guerra 2 FINAL
Cleveland - WP: B. Shaw 3
Pittsburgh - LP: F. Liriano 3 FINAL
Cincinnati - WP: J. Cueto 6
Miami - LP: B. Hand 1 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: J. deGrom 9
Washington - WP: T. Roark 10 FINAL
Philadelphia - LP: K. Kendrick 3
Toronto - LP: R. Dickey 0 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: D. Price 3
St. Louis - LP: C. Martinez 2 FINAL
Milwaukee - WP: W. Peralta 11
Boston - WP: C. Buchholz 11 FINAL
Houston - LP: B. Peacock 0
Detroit - LP: J. Verlander 2 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: Y. Ventura 5
Atlanta - WP: J. Teheran 10 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: T. Wood 7
LA Angels 9 Bottom 8th Inning
Texas 7
Arizona 3 Top 7th Inning
San Francisco 8
San Diego 0 Top 7th Inning
Los Angeles 1
Minnesota 6 Top 7th Inning
Colorado 5
Oakland 3 Bottom 8th Inning
Seattle 1
NY Yankees - C. Whitley 7:05 PM
Baltimore - K. Gausman
Portland 9:00 PM
Seattle
Winnipeg 34 FINAL
Montreal 33
Ottawa 11 FINAL
Edmonton 27
Calgary 34 FINAL
Toronto 15
Brt Columbia 26 FINAL
Saskatchewan 13
Los Angeles 90 FINAL
Connecticut 64
Seattle 60 FINAL
Minnesota 77
San Antonio 6 1st Qtr 5:17
Phoenix 8
Chicago 15 1st Qtr 1:41
Atlanta 14
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pm
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pm
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pm
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pm
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis Noon
Sep 14 - vs. New England Noon
Sep 21 - at New Orleans Noon
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which local pro team are you most excited about?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close