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.

In the trenches: Daly sizes up the Vikings' youth on the d-line

Posted by: under Vikings, Brian Robison, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams Updated: August 2, 2012 - 2:06 PM

We had a chance to visit some with defensive line coach Brendan Daly this morning after the Vikings' walkthrough. Daly, back with the Vikings after spending the last three seasons with the Rams, expressed his giddiness in reuniting with d-line standouts Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Brian Robison, whom he helped coach from 2006-08. But Daly also understands his long-term success will hinge on his ability to bring along the Vikings' younger linemen. We asked him to give us his quick synopsis of a quintet of players.

On Letroy Guion, entering his fifth season and in line to be the starting nose tackle this season ...

“Letroy has confidence here now. I haven’t been around him in awhile. He has come a long way from when I was here last [in 2008] and he was a rookie. He’s always been a very talented guy. Physical ability is not an issue with Letroy. This camp, he’s been unbelievably dialed in and focused. I’m very impressed with the way he came back. We asked him to drop a little bit of weight. And to be perfectly honest, that was one of my concerns through the summer – whether he was going to show up at an acceptable level from a conditioning and weight standpoint. And he hit it out of the park. He’s in great shape. He’s lighter than what he’s been the past couple of years. I think his body feels better. And I think he’s seen himself moving and playing a little bit better because of that. He’s done a great job so far. So we’ll see. I’ve always felt Letroy has a tremendously high ceiling. We just have to keep working him day after day to get him there. And he’s willing to make that investment, too. His mentality is right where you want it to be right now."

On D'Aundre Reed, whose been receiving widespread praise for his growth over the offseason ...

"Mentally, D’Aundre has come a long way. Versaility-wise, he’s a guy who gives us tremendous flexibility. He can flip both sides, play left end and right end without much issue. And he’s gone down inside and done some pass rush stuff inside where he can use his athleticism to create some nice mismatches. So we’ll see how things play out. But we’re really excited about his development and where he’s come. And that versatility that he brings to the table is such a major plus."

On Christian Ballard, who will back up Kevin Williams at defensive tackle ...

“Christian is a very good athlete. We asked him to put on a little weight over the offseason. And he did that. He did a great job with that and he improved his strength. So it’s been really encouraging to see the way he came back to camp. He has always had a little bit of athleticism and a knack for rushing on the inside as a pass rusher. And he has improved tremendously in his run-game technique. But he has a ways to go there. He’s going to have to continue to get better there. But in my mind, I have zero doubt that he’s going to continue to evolve and ascend into the type of player we all need him to be. And I think he wants to be that player. He’s done a great job doing what we’ve asked.”

On rookie defensive tackle Trevor Guyton, whom the Vikings drafted in the seventh round in April ...

"They moved him around quite a bit at Cal. Trevor isn’t necessarily an undersized guy. But [at 6-foot-3, 280 pounds] he’s a lighter guy. And I see him in that three-technique mode. I really do. He has a very similar body type and frame structure as Ballard. He’s not quite as long as Christian. But he’s similar in size. He has good movement skills and plays with a decent pad level. With some technique work, we can take him up a notch. He played a lot of five-technique at Cal. So moving him down inside to the three is a little bit new to him. And he’s working through some of the issues. And to be totally honest, he’s a rookie in training camp scrapping and battling right now. He’s trying to get his feet under him and he’s getting his first taste of NFL football. He has a ways to go. A ways to go. And it’s a little too early to gauge much of where he’s at. He’s still getting his nose bloodied and learning the ropes right now. But usually guys like him have a chance. Because again, mentally he gets it. He understands what we’re asking him to do. He just needs reps. He needs a significant amount of time to get the technique things we’re asking him to do under his belt."

On Everson Griffen, who is making the transition during camp from defensive end to linebacker ...

"Everson has such a unique skillset. He’s a linebacker at this point. But he’s obviously got some pass rush skills and we don’t want him to get too far away from that entirely. So he’s taking a few reps here and there coming off the edge and doing a nice job when he’s down there. But he’s a linebacker at this point. That play [Tuesday, in a one-on-one pass rush drill, where he manhandled Lex Hilliard] was impressive. Those flash at you. He has that skillset and he has that ability. He’s so unique because he moves so well and he plays well off his feet. I’ll be honest, he has impressed me. I’m not watching him play in and play out. But you’ll see him flash as a linebacker doing the things that [linebackers coaches] Fred [Pagac] and Mike [Singletary] ask him to do."


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