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.


Posts about Vikings training camp

Going camping: Vikings defensive backs preview

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated: July 24, 2014 - 9:42 AM

Throughout the offseason workouts and minicamp practices we were allowed to attend, new Vikings coach Mike Zimmer often drifted toward his defensive backs to quickly chew them out or coach them up. Zimmer got his start in the NFL as a defensive backs coach with the Cowboys, so this is nothing new. But his notable focus on the secondary is also necessitated by the fact that the Vikings ranked 31st in the NFL in pass defense last season. He will have a few key decisions to make on the back end down in Mankato, with two of his five starters still unsettled.

In the final installment of our “Going Camping” series, let’s take a look at the Vikings secondary.

WHERE THINGS STAND: The Vikings gave Zimmer some quality young defensive backs to work with. Free safety Harrison Smith had a frustrating 2013 season, but the talent is there. Xavier Rhodes, a 2013 first-round pick, made steady progress throughout his rookie season and is seen by some in the national media as a future star. The Vikings also signed former Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, who will play on the outside in the base defense and move inside in the nickel (given the way NFL offenses operate today, he will be in the slot a lot). But the rest of the secondary is uncertain. The battle at strong safety appears to be wide open, especially since incumbent starter Jamarca Sanford was sidelined throughout the spring. With Sanford and Andrew Sendejo sitting out, Robert Blanton and Kurt Coleman were given an opportunity to impress Zimmer, as was sixth-round pick Antone Exum. The Vikings must also choose their third cornerback -- which is basically a starting position in today’s NFL -- among Josh Robinson, Derek Cox and Marcus Sherels, along with rookies Jabari Price and Kendall James.

CAMP BATTLE TO WATCH: Whoever wins the safety battle will be expected to play more snaps, but one could argue the third cornerback will be more critical to the defense. The Vikings appear to be in good shape with Rhodes lined up on the left and Munnerlyn in the slot. But opponents will look to attack the weakest link, so another cornerback needs to step up. Robinson and Cox, who both disappointed in 2013 (Cox played for the Chargers), are the most likely candidates.

THE BURNING QUESTION: How good can Rhodes be in his second season? It’s easy to assume that he will continue to ascend, especially after he had a strong spring, but the development of young cornerbacks isn’t always linear. Especially when that young cornerback has to match up against wide receivers like Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Jordy Nelson.

Vikings postgame: Olsen OK after scary incident; cuts coming

Posted by: Chris Miller Updated: August 29, 2013 - 11:26 PM

Quick wrapup from the Metrodome, where the Vikings beat the Titans 24-23. Crowd was announced at 62,603, I'd say seats were 9-17ths occupied.

No Vikings starters played, but it was an entertaining game. Both teams punted once each, and it moved right along.

The only delay came when Vikings guard Seth Olsen was down for about 10 minutes after taking a knee to his helmet while blocking. He was strapped to a board and went off on a stretcher after being basically motionless. The Vikings announced a neck injury. Olsen was OK in the locker room afterward, going through his normal routine, but couldn't speak to the media because of the NFL's concussion protocol.

Other injuries: Bobby Felder, maybe in a battle for the reserve cornerback and No. 1 punt return spot with Marcus Sherels, left on the final play of the third quarter because of a right ankle spain. And defensive end D'Aundre Reed also sprained an ankle.

Sherels had a 109-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and an interception after missing Sunday's loss at San Francisco because of his father's funeral.  Quite a comeback and quite a statement in his battle to make the team.  Chip is writing about Sherels for the paper.

Coach Leslie Frazier said cuts will be discussed tomorrow and revealed Saturday.  The team must get from 75 to 53 by 5 p.m. on Saturday.

Matt Asiata carried eight times for 32 yards and a 1-yard TD on the Vikings' opening offensive series.  He was replaced by Joe Banyard, who carried 13 times for 62 yards and scored on an 11-yard pass from McLeod  Bethel-Thompson.  MBT was 19-for-26 for 187 yards and the TD, and had one picked.

Blair Walsh missed from 45 but made from 25 in the fourth quarter. The second, with 1:38 left, decided the game.

Desmond Bishop had a nice game at linebacker with seven tackles, two for loss.

Lots of hopeful faces in the locker room, but more than a few looks of resignation from the 30 or so players how have to worry about their jobs.

Banyard, a bubble guy, said if he makes the team "I might cry. I really might cry. I will definitely have to thank the good Lord, and then I'll just cry because I know this is where I want to be."

Joe Webb, the converted QB trying to make the team as a WR, said "I am going to get a peace of mind, and hopefully the coaches will make the right decision."

Former Minnesota State (Mankato) standout receiver Adam Thielen, a long shot to make the roster: "It has been awesome. I couldn't have asked for a better situation. It has been a blast just being here."

 

 

How would you shape the Vikings' roster?

Posted by: Chris Miller Updated: August 29, 2013 - 3:30 PM

The Vikings, who have their final preseason game against Tennessee tonight at 7 at the Metrodome, will have to cut their roster to 53 by 5 p.m. on Saturday.

The eight-man practice squad can be formed from eligible players after those players clear waivers. In general, practice squad-eligible players haven’t been active for more than eight NFL games and can’t be on the practice squad for more than two years. So, yeah, the Vikings can’t stash Joe Webb on that practice squad, folks.

Here is the Vikings’ unofficial depth chart. Feel free to make yourself part of the team’s staff and figure out which 22 players you can whack to get to 53. Keep in mind you will have the practice squad, which means there are 61 guys around, but it’s often hard for teams to sneak rookies through waivers, so be careful about your cuts.

 VIKINGS DEPTH CHART
(*rookie)

OFFENSE (35)
WR: Jerome Simpson, Cordarrelle Patterson*, Joe Webb, Rodney Smith*
LT: Matt Kalil, Kevin Murphy, DeMarcus Love
LG: Charlie Johnson, Jeff Baca*
C: John Sullivan, Joe Berger
RG: Brandon Fusco, Seth Olsen, Travis Bond*
RT: Phil Loadholt, Brandon Keith, Troy Kropog
TE: Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson, Rhett Ellison, Chase Ford, Colin Anderson*
WR: Greg Jennings, Jarius Wright, Stephen Burton, Adam Thielen*
QB: Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel, McLeod Bethel-Thompson
FB: Jerome Felton, Zach Line*
HB: Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart, Matt Asiata, Joe Banyard

DEFENSE (37)
LE: Brian Robison, Everson Griffen, D'Aundre Reed
NT: Letroy Guion, Fred Evans, Chase Baker, Anthony McCloud*
UT: Kevin Williams, Sharrif Floyd*, Everett Dawkins*, Spencer Nealy*
RE: Jared Allen, Everson Griffen, George Johnson, Collins Ukwu*
SLB: Chad Greenway, Larry Dean
MLB: Erin Henderson, Audie Cole, Michael Mauti*
WLB: Marvin Mitchell, Desmond Bishop, Tyrone McKenzie, Gerald Hodges*
LCB: Josh Robinson, Xavier Rhodes*, Marcus Sherels
RCB: Chris Cook, A.J. Jefferson, Brandon Burton, Bobby Felder
SS: Jamarca Sanford, Mistral Raymond, Andrew Sendejo, Darius Eubanks*
FS: Harrison Smith, Robert Blanton, Brandan Bishop*

SPECIAL TEAMS (3)
P: Jeff Locke*
K: Blair Walsh
LS: Cullen Loeffler

KEEP IN MIND: RETURN DEPTH CHART
KR: Cordarrelle Patterson*, Marcus Sherels, Stephen Burton, A.J. Jefferson
PR: Marcus Sherels, Bobby Felder, Jarius Wright, Stephen Burton

Note: DT Christian Ballard (Active/Left Squad) does not count on the current roster; Felton will start the season with a three-game suspension and will not count against the 53-man roster.
 

Frazier says league agrees hit on Williams was dangerous

Posted by: Chip Scoggins Updated: August 27, 2013 - 3:36 PM

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier talked to NFL officials about the low hit that injured veteran defensive tackle Kevin Williams and said the league agreed that Joe Looney's actions were unnecessary and dangerous.

“I have talked to the league about it; they concur,” Frazier said. “It's not the type of play they want in the game for player safety reasons. There's a big emphasis regarding player safety and that play really endangers our players' safety. It's not something that the league wants. It's not something that any of us want as we are trying to make the game safer for our players.”

Looney, a 49ers backup lineman, hit Williams in the knees away from the play when he wasn't looking. Williams escaped ligament damage, but he suffered a hyperextended knee, a significant bone contusion and a posterior capsular strain.

Looney told reporters in San Francisco that he didn’t intend to injure Williams and was just trying to finish his block. Vikings players weren’t buying it.

“I think the hit was uncalled for,” linebacker Chad Greenway said. “Really quite ridiculous. It’s something we specifically talked about in our meetings with the league, with the refs, before the preseason games started. It was just unnecessary. He wasn't going to make the play. He wasn’t going to be a part of the play.

“You can say what you want, you didn't mean to hurt him, didn't mean to, but the reality is you did that, and you didn't have to. And now you have a guy who's been one of the best at his position for a long time dealing with an injury he shouldn't have to deal with. I think the reality is, if the roles were reversed, and the defensive guy was going into a quarterback or a receiver, or a high-profile player, you tell me what would happen.”

Frazier reiterated that the team hopes Williams will be available to play in the season opener Sept. 8.

With Williams sidelined, depth at defensive tackle has become a concern. Frazier said rookie Sharrif Floyd (knee) was expected to do some work in practice Tuesday but will not play in the final preseason game Thursday night. Christian Ballard remains on the active/left team list. Frazier did not give a timetable for his return.

Felton update

Frazier said the team knew Jerome Felton’s three-game suspension was always a possibility when they re-signed the Pro Bowl fullback this offseason. Felton’s suspension is the result of his DUI charge last year, which was later reduced to careless driving.

“You always knew that there was potential,” Frazier said. “You didn’t know if it would happen. His incident was some time ago. But it was always looming that this could possibly happen.”

In Felton’s absence, Frazier said the team will look to tight end/fullback Rhett Ellison and possibly rookie Zach Line to fill the void.

On Ellison, Frazier said: “He’s one of the hardest working players on our team. It’s hard to outwork Rhett. He comes prepared every single day. Seeing his work ethic his rookie year, I was so impressed. You just don’t see very many rookies with his maturity and just understanding the time that you have to put in to be good at your craft. He has not let up from his rookie season. I don’t think we can overwork him. He’ll be ready when we line up against Detroit. But yes, we could add more to his plate and we probably will have to now.”

Injury update

** Frazier said cornerback Chris Cook is OK after leaving the game because of a groin injury.

** Linebacker Erin Henderson is still bothered by a heel injury.

** Safety Mistral Raymond suffered an AC joint sprain of his shoulder and is doubtful for Thursday night.

** Wideout Greg Childs was placed on the Reserve/Physically Unable To Perform list. He has been on the PUP list since camp started while trying to recover from surgery on both knees. The move means he won't be eligible to play through the first six weeks of the season.

Vikings training camp snapshot: Defensive line

Posted by: Updated: July 26, 2013 - 12:41 AM

Aaaaand …. here we go! In many ways, the Vikings’ 2013 season officially gets underway Friday – first training camp walkthrough at 10:30 a.m., first practice at 2:45 in Mankato. And yes we know a lot can and will happen between now and Sept. 8, the day the Vikings open the regular season at Detroit. But taking the 90 players currently on the roster, we’re delivering our in-depth position-by-position report as a primer for the opening of camp.

DEFENSIVE LINE

Currently on roster: 16

Likely to make opening day roster: 9

Certain to make the team: Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Brian Robison, Everson Griffen, Sharrif Floyd, Letroy Guion, Fred Evans

On the bubble: Christian Ballard, Lawrence Jackson, Everett Dawkins, D’Aundre Reed, George Johnson

Practice squad candidates: Chase Baker, Anthony McCloud

Camp depth: Collins Ukwu, Marquis Jackson

Biggest offseason developments: The Vikings were stunned when star defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, widely projected as a top 5 pick for April’s draft, was still on the board when they came on the clock at No. 23. They didn’t hesitate a second in making Floyd their top pick, the first of three first-rounders they nabbed. … The Vikings also restructured the contract of defensive tackle Kevin Williams, reducing his 2013 pay by $2 million and eliminating the 2014 season from his current deal.

What we’ll be watching: Allen and Robison were each hampered significantly in 2012 by injuries. Allen dealt with a torn labrum in his left shoulder and a meniscus issue in his left knee for most of the season. And Robison played through an elbow injury for most of the year before a severely sprained shoulder hindered his mobility even more for the final two regular season games and the playoffs.

Those physical setbacks were a partial reason the team’s sack total dipped from 50 in 2011 to 44 last season. But now both veteran ends feel as if they are back at full strength and aiming to stay as fresh as they can.

Allen’s disdain for the dog days of training camp are well documented. And he figures to add at least a couple of quips weekly to reinforce those sentiments. So it won’t be a surprise if the coaching staff ends up giving Allen several afternoons off during the stay in Mankato to keep him fresh physically and mentally.

On the interior, once the pads come on, we’ll be eager to see just how quickly Floyd adapts and excels in the middle of the defense. And it will also be a big camp for Guion, the incumbent starter at nose tackle who will have to fend off Evans to retain that role.

Star Tribune offseason excerpt:

All in all, Allen feels terrific. He’s re-energized. He’s dedicated. He’s eyeing a dominant 2013 and believes he has three or four more good seasons left.

But there is also an intriguing subplot lurking.

In April, Allen turned 31. Two months earlier, he had surgeries to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder and a meniscus problem in his right knee. And, oh yeah, he has entered the final year in his six-year contract.

So with all factors considered, could this really be Jared Allen’s last season as a Minnesota Viking? A farewell tour?

To be clear, that’s not Allen’s desire. But it could be his reality. Which is why he refuses to spend much time thinking about life beyond January.

“I pray about it,” Allen said. “I talk to my wife. And we’ll end up going where the good Lord takes us. But I don’t know where that path is headed.”

-- May 24

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