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.


Rookie QBs have been a problem for Vikings defense

Posted by: Kent Youngblood under Quarterbacks, Vikings, Vikings coaches, Leslie Frazier, Vikings defense, Vikings players, Antoine Winfield, Brian Robison, Leslie Frazier, Vikings draft Updated: October 29, 2012 - 2:59 PM

 Speaking from experience, Vikings defensive end Brian Robison gave Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson an enormous compliment Monday. Robison described Wilson – the rookie out of Wisconsin – as a combination of Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck.

If you’re a Vikings fan, a chill should have just moved the length of your spine.

The Vikings will be facing their third much-heralded rookie quarterback of the season when the Vikings travel to Seattle for Sunday’s game. And the first two – against Luck in Indianapolis Week 2 and against Griffin in Washington Oct. 14 – didn’t really go so well. The Vikings lost both games.

But back to that comparison: “It’s just the things (Wilson) can do with his legs and his arms,” Robison said. “Just his smarts. He’s always looking downfield for guys. That’s what he wants to do, make plays in the passing game. But if he has to tuck it and run, he has the wheels to do it.”

Wilson has completed 129 of 210 passes for 4-4 Seattle, for 1,466 yards, 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions and a passer rating of 82.2. He has run 36 times for 128 yards.

Wilson didn’t come with quite the fanfare of either Luck or Griffin, who were drafted with the first two overall picks in April’s draft. Wilson – whose lack of height {he’s 5-11} was questioned by some – was the sixth quarterback taken in the draft, going in the third round to Seattle.

But Wilson has the second-highest passer rating among rookie QBs, behind only Griffin. And the Vikings are impressed with what they’ve seen.

“It seems we keep playing these rookie quarterbacks who can make plays,” Robison said. “and so we have to make sure that what has happened with the last two doesn’t happen with this one.”

 

Gap control

Much will be written this week about the Vikings’ struggles in run defense of late. But here’s a phrase you’re going to hear a lot of: Gap control.

That’s the Vikings’ story, and they’re sticking with it. Both Robison and cornerback Antoine Winfield stressed gap control when it came to shoring up the run defense.

First, Robison: “The simple answer to that is we’re not in our gaps. Guys aren’t in their gaps and then we’re missing tackles. And that’s all the way across the front. That’s the front guys,  that’s linebackers, that’s DBs.”

Now, Winfield: “Guys were out of their gaps. It happened in the Tampa Bay game. And missed tackles. Just shore up your tackling and stay in your gap.”

 

Ready to return

Vikings second-year safety Mistral Raymond, who was starting until dislocating his right ankle Sept. 23, said he is pain-free and ready to go. But he doesn’t know whether that will mean a return to the starting lineup.

“I’m available,” he said. “But, to what extent they want to use me, what role they’ll have me in, that’s totally up to the coaching staff.”

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said Raymond will be evaluated after a full week of practice, then his role will be decided upon.

Another thing  Raymond isn’t sure of is how long it will take for him to get back into the swing. He’s spent the last five weeks on the sidelines or in the training room. “I’ve never been in this situation,” he said. “I’m just going to try to make every day feel as natural as possible, go out and do my work and just try to be on the same beat with the rest of the guys. We’ll go from there.”

 

Getting closer?

Every Sunday rookie receiver Jarius Wright said he wakes up wondering if this will be the week he makes his NFL regular-season debut.

So far it hasn’t happened.

Wright, who spent some extra time after Monday’s workout practicing his routes, keeps working and waiting. “In case my number is called I want to be ready to go,” he said.

Both he and the coaches agree that he has come a long way since being drafted. “I’m 85 to 90 percent a different player from the beginning of the season to know,” Wright said. “Seeing guys go out there and play, and seeing defenses has definitely helped me.”

So when will that debut come?

“I think he has to continue to improve and keep working hard like he’s doing in practice,” Frazier said. “I don’t know that there’s anything more he has to do. But he’s improving, and he’s come a long way.”

 

Filling in

Cornerback A.J. Jefferson figures to get a lot more opportunity on the field with Chris Cook out with a broken arm. Jefferson was, acquired in an Aug. 31 trade from Arizona – where he appeared in 18 games over two seasons with the Cardinals – and has spent his time here adjusting to what the Vikings do on defense. Namely, run a lot more cover-two.

“It’s a complete turnaround,” Jefferson said. “Everybody knows we’re a cover-two team. In Arizona we played a lot more man-to-man. But it’s still football. I’ve been doing it a long time.”

Jefferson became the team’s third cornerback in passing situations when Cook left Thursday’s game and Josh Robinson replaced Cook with the first team. For the most part, Jefferson held up well.

 

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