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.


Midday report: First-unit offense aiming to correct fundamental flaws

Posted by: Updated: August 21, 2013 - 12:47 PM

The Vikings are readying to return to the practice field this afternoon as they continue preparations for their third preseason game, a Sunday nighter in San Francisco. This morning, following the team’s walk-through, receiver Greg Jennings, head coach Leslie Frazier and special teams coordinator Mike Priefer spoke with reporters. Here’s your quick midday update.

Clean-up needed

By now, it’s been well documented that the Vikings’ first-unit offense was erratic at best during the first half of last week’s preseason loss in Buffalo. Sure, the Vikings had the convenient fallback excuse of not having studied the Bills’ defense leading up to the game, leaving them flummoxed when new Buffalo defensive coordinator Mike Pettine unloaded a full array of pressure and looks. But still, in film review, the sloppy execution by the Vikings was inescapable.

“It jumped out at us as we watched the film,” receiver Greg Jennings said. “Just being fundamentally sound. They definitely played faster than us. They got to the point of attack quicker than we did -- I mean as a whole. Individually, there were definitely things I feel like that I could have done better as far as precession in my route running, different things to help the quarterback. But as a unit, we just got outplayed.”

Jennings made sure to scan the bench after the first unit offense produced only three points in five drives and reminded himself of another missing component: an MVP by the name of Adrian Peterson.

“I was coming to the sideline saying, 'Oh my gosh, what are we doing?' Like we were struggling,” Jennings said. “And then I saw this guy on the sideline that had this [number] 28 jersey on and he wasn't dressed. And I'm like 'Oh yeah, I forgot. We don't have a big part of our offense out here who draws a lot of attention.'”

Peterson’s presence, even if it’s just for a series or two Sunday in San Francisco, should provide a boost. Jennings, meanwhile, looks forward to playing into the third quarter, still needing to get into a rhythm after tallying just one 5-yard catch through the first two preseason games.

“I need the work because I haven't been here,” he said. “This is a new system, a new quarterback, a new team chemistry. So I need the work. I've got to feel comfortable in the offense in a game setting. In practice, it's cool. I've got it. Everything is kind of habitual now. But in the game, things kind of change up.”

Injury update

Leslie Frazier said four players will not participate in this afternoon’s practice.

Fullback Jerome Felton, of course, will be sidelined through the end of the preseason after undergoing an appendectomy last week. Receiver Jarius Wright, Frazier said, needs at least one more day to continue recovering from the concussion he suffered in Buffalo.

Rookie defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd is being held out this week after undergoing a minor procedure on his left knee. And offensive lineman Tyler Holmes will also sit out today with an ankle injury.

On the plus side, left tackle Matt Kalil will be back on the practice field for the first time since the Vikings exited training camp in Mankato. Kalil had knee soreness after the Buffalo game and did not practice Sunday or Monday.

Felder getting a long look on special teams

In the quest to find a punt returner, Bobby Felder may be wedging his way in front of incumbent Marcus Sherels. Felder had a 37-yard return in the second half of last Friday’s game in Buffalo and returned two other punts for a total of 25 yards. He was also impressive in punt coverage and continues to earn a longer look from the coaching staff. Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said Felder will be given every opportunity to unseat Sherels as the top punt returner and will see plenty of work Sunday in San Francisco.

“He does a good job of catching it,” Priefer said. “He does what we ask him to do as far as hitting the return – how we want to get it set up and then hitting it. And he broke a couple tackles the other night. So he’s doing what we’re asking him to do. That’s what we’re looking for, and hopefully, that will keep going for him.”

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