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 before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.

With OTAs drawing to a close, Leslie Frazier evaluates several key players

Posted by: under Vikings, Leslie Frazier, Leslie Frazier Updated: June 12, 2012 - 4:53 PM

The Vikings are completing their third and final week of Organized Team Activities this week and will be back on the field for a mandatory three-day mini-camp next week as well. After today's practice at Winter Park, head coach Leslie Frazier took a crack at assessing several key players. Here are the highlights of what Frazier had to say ...

On linebacker Erin Henderson, who seems to be growing more vocal and assuming a greater leadership role on the defense ...

"He has become more vocal. I don’t know if it’s because E.J. is not here but some of it is the inexperience we have also at the linebacker position without Chad [Greenway] being here. He has become more vocal. He understands he’s in a role now where we need him to step up and speak up and really help the young guys that are on our defense as well as the linebacker position. He’s growing."

On cornerback Chris Carr, who was signed as a free agent this spring to bolster depth in the secondary ...

"His smarts, that’s the thing that jumps out at you. You know, getting a veteran, he’s going to be a guy who has a real good feel for the NFL game. But the way he has picked up some of the things that we’re trying to incorporate with our defense and his leadership as well has been a real plus in the meeting room. He’s provided something for us that we didn’t know we would get -- his leadership along with his smarts ... He can help us. He has the experience, he has the wherewithal to play in our league. He’s familiar with most of the receivers he’s going to line up against so his attention to detail and the fact that he’s a good athlete and a smart player he can help us."

On what he wants to see from safety Jamarca Sanford, a starter last season who is trying to retain his grip on that role ...

"Probably for Jamarca, just when we get the pads on, that’s when it’ll show up, where his fit will be -- whether he’s going to be a starter for us or what role he’ll play. He’s an outstanding special teams player as we know, one of the best in the League. But for him to be an effective defensive back, when we get the pads on, can he make those open field tackles consistently? That will be key for him [plus] being able to show the range in pass defense that we need. And if he can get that accomplished in his second year as a potential starter, it’d be good for our defense. But putting the pads on will determine what happens with him down the road."

On rookie Robert Blanton, who's making the transition from cornerback to safety ...

"There are some things you look at and you just know will take a little bit of time, just getting accustomed to being out in space. That’s different for him. When you have the sideline as a twelfth man at times, you don’t have that safety. There’s a lot more space and the angles are a lot different. That takes time. But he’s getting it and we have to continue to expose him to more situations and we’re doing that. I think he’ll get it, but it’s just a matter of how fast it’ll be. Will it be before the Jacksonville game or will it be a little bit after that? ... I don’t look at this as a developmental season. This period that we’re in right now is more developmental because it’s not something he’s done very much of. But we’re hoping he’ll challenge for a starting job. That’s why we drafted him when we did."

On second-year tight end Kyle Rudolph ...

"The thing that stands out is, obviously, those hands. I mean he’s got great hands for a tight end. And as a receiving tight end, although we don’t have him in pads right now, seeing his effort when we’re trying to block without pads gives you hope. Because with Jimmy [Kleinsasser] retiring, that’s an area where we’ll need someone to stabilize the line of scrimmage. And Kyle's shown he has the potential to be that person. And we know what he can do receiving."


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