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.”

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Houston 1 FINAL
Miami 1
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Minnesota 7
St. Louis 3 FINAL
Detroit 4
Baltimore - WP: T. Wilson 10 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: S. Baker 2
Boston 9 FINAL
Tampa Bay 6
Toronto 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 8
Atlanta 5 FINAL
Toronto 3
Washington 2 FINAL
NY Mets 10
Chicago Cubs 5 FINAL
Cincinnati 9
San Diego 3 FINAL
Texas 2
San Francisco 9 FINAL
Seattle 8
Colorado 4 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 18
Cleveland 3 FINAL
Milwaukee 2
Oakland 10 FINAL
Chicago WSox 4
Los Angeles 5 FINAL
LA Angels 4
Kansas City 10 FINAL
Arizona 5
Atlanta 100 FINAL
Charlotte 115
New York 80 FINAL
Chicago 111
Golden State 108 FINAL
Milwaukee 95
Oklahoma City 89 FINAL
Utah 94
Denver 114 FINAL
Portland 120
Nashville 4 FINAL
Washington 3
Arizona 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
San Jose 3 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 2
Anaheim 3 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
NY Rangers 2 FINAL
Boston 4
Tampa Bay 0 FINAL
Detroit 4
New Jersey 1 FINAL
Carolina 3
Florida 2 FINAL(OT)
Montreal 3
Ottawa 3 FINAL(OT)
Toronto 4
Los Angeles 1 FINAL
Minnesota 4
Columbus 4 FINAL
St. Louis 2
Buffalo 3 FINAL
Colorado 5
Dallas 4 FINAL(OT)
Vancouver 3
Arizona 78 FINAL
Wisconsin 85
Canisius 73 FINAL
NJIT 78
Notre Dame 66 FINAL
Kentucky 68
San Jose 1 FINAL
New England 2
Orlando City 2 FINAL
Montreal 2
Los Angeles 0 FINAL
D.C. 1
Sporting Kansas City 1 FINAL
New York City 0
Red Bull New York 2 FINAL
Columbus 1
Portland 1 FINAL
Vancouver FC 2
Colorado 0 FINAL
Houston 0
Seattle 0 FINAL
FC Dallas 0
Texas 54 FINAL
(1) Connecticut 105
Dayton 82 FINAL
(8) Louisville 66
(16) Duke 55 FINAL
(4) Maryland 65
Gonzaga 69 FINAL
(6) Tennessee 73
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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 NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9

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