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 4 Downs: Blanton, Barr, Leonard, winning

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion under Vikings Updated: July 28, 2014 - 3:17 PM

Surprisingly, yes. Harrison Smith is obviously a lock to start, but Robert Blanton has a leg up on Jamarca Sanford and Kurt Coleman at this point. Andrew Sendejo still hasn’t participated with a back injury, and he’s pretty behind at this point with a new scheme. Head coach Mike Zimmer said he likes how smart Blanton plays but wants to see his instincts and ability to tackle. At this point, expect Blanton to start the first preseason game against the Raiders next Friday to give Zimmer a good gauge on how Blanton can react in those situations.

Anthony Barr looked pretty impressive on Sunday in 1-on-1 drills and 11-on-11 periods. He blew right by fullback Jerome Felton, who is a pretty good blocker, in a 1-on-1 rep. We always mention Barr’s size and strength. That was on display all day in practice. In this rep, he towers over running back Jerick McKinnon. It almost looks like someone created the tallest player possible on Madden to block the shortest. Now think about other running backs having to stop that coming off the edge on third downs…

Every Monday during the offseason we’ll take four questions from Twitter for our weekly mailbag using the #VikingsST hashtag.

The pass rushing ability is there, but we haven’t had a good look at his ability in coverage due to the rain on Sunday. We’ll get a good chance to see that during Monday night’s practice.

It likely jumped after Chase Ford entered camp with a foot injury and said he won’t be available until the regular season. Leonard is getting some reps with the second team and made a few good blocks in pass protection on rookie defensive end Scott Crichton. It depends on what the Vikings think of Ford when he’s healthy, but Leonard definitely has a chance to crack the roster. Worst case scenario, the Vikings would probably put him on the practice squad, which there's a shot of getting activated during the season if there’s an injury.

The Vikings have a good foundation with some young pieces on the roster. Watch and see how some of them develop -- like wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, cornerback Xavier Rhodes, offensive tackle Matt Kalil, defensive end Everson Griffen. That will be how the Vikings win more football games, which is what everyone with vested interest in the franchise should care about.

And to think we made it through one of these without mentioning Teddy Bridgewater. Oh, wait.

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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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