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 Visanthe Shiancoe

Vikings personnel review: Tight ends

Posted by: Updated: January 10, 2012 - 2:11 PM

Meetings are taking place at Winter Park this week with the Vikings planning a detailed player-by-player evaluation of their current roster. As they perform their in-house review, we’re following suit and delivering our own snapshot evaluation of each position group.

TIGHT ENDS

Get excited: Yeah, the Vikings had many, many other needs when they selected Notre Dame's Kyle Rudolph in the second round with the 43rd overall pick a year ago. But at least they won't need a pass-catching tight end when Visanthe Shiancoe leaves via free agency this offseason. After Rudolph's promising rookie season, there's reason to believe the 22-year-old will become an integral member of the team's offense for years to come. He might even become one of the better receiving tight ends in a league that's seen an explosion of them in recent years. Rudolph has size (6-6, 258), above-average speed for the position, outstanding hands and a massive catch radius. His 2011 numbers weren't exactly staggering (26 catches for 249 yards, a 9.6-yard average and three touchdowns), but he'll grow into the position as he takes over as the starter for Shiancoe. It'll also help him if the team actually acquired a legitimate No. 1 receiver.
 
Keep an eye on: Allen Reisner turned heads from Day 1 of last year's training camp. Media members called him "The Flasher" because he was one of those players who was always making flashy plays. An undrafted player out of Iowa, he had OK size (6-3, 248), moved well and caught everything that got near him. He made the team and then bounced back and forth between the active roster and the practice squad. He ended up playing six games and caught a 5-yard pass for a first down at Atlanta. He finished the year on the practice squad, but he'll be given a chance to be the team's No. 2 tight end when the team heads back to Mankato in August. At this point, Reisner's competition will be Mickey Shuler. He was the team's seventh-round pick in 2010. He was released before the season and ended up playing in six games with two starts for Miami in 2010. He rejoined the team late this season and probably would have played in the season finale if he hadn't sprained an ankle in practice earlier that week. 
 
Reason for worry: So who's going to actually block at tight end now that Jim Kleinsasser has retired his 6-3, 272-pound battering ram of a body after 13 seasons? Good question. Although true blocking tight ends are a dying breed (heck, Jimmy might have been the last one), the returning tight ends are going to have to improve as blockers. They don't have to level guys like Kleinsasser could. But they at least have to be able to throw the effective chip block on a consistent basis. Especially if the team can't upgrade the offensive line. With Kleinsasser gone and Shiancoe not expected back for a season in which he'll be 32, the Vikings have only Rudolph, Reisner and Shuler on the roster at this point. Neither Reisner nor Shuler is what you'd call a blocking tight end along the line of a Kleinsasser. Then again, who in the league is anymore? Kleinsasser could make this team next season. But he isn't about to pull a Favre and come back.

Frazier prepares to say good-bye to some free agents

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated: December 30, 2011 - 1:54 PM

The Vikings wrapped up their final (thank goodness) practice of the season on Friday. Afterward, coach Leslie Frazier talked about the 17 players who will become unrestricted free agents after Sunday's game against Chicago at Mall of America Field. 

"It's a tough deal when you have guys that can help you," Frazier said. "But in this age of free agency, most guys that can still can perform are going to want to explore. We'll do whatever we can with those guys that we really want to keep here, to keep here.

"But when guys have been contributors to your team and have helped you to get through what we've had to go through, you'd like to find a way to keep those guys around, believing that you're going to get it turned, and they're going to be a part of that turn. But you wish nothing but the best for every player who becomes a free agent. Hopefully, it works out that they're a part of what we're doing. But if not and they end up somewhere else, you want to see them succeed."

The 17 players who will become unrestricted free agents are: FS Husain Abdullah, MLB E.J. Henderson, OLB Erin Henderson, TE Visanthe Shiancoe, WR Devin Aromashodu, RB Lorenzo Booker, CB Benny Sapp, S Tyrell Johnson, LB Xavier Adibi, WR Greg Camarillo, DT Fred Evans, DT Letroy Guion, TE Jim Kleinsasser, OL Scott Kooistra, LS Matt Katula, S Jarrad Page and QB Sage Rosenfels.

 

Frazier was asked to evaluate E.J. Henderson, who has been with the team since 2003 and has been a starter since 2004.

"I think he's done a lot of good things," Frazier said. "After the bye, he really came on for us. He struggled a little bit early in the year, battling with injuries. But after the bye, he came back and had played better. That's in large part due to his health. We did some things to take some reps off him as well. His leadership has helped us to get through a tough season and his play has been very good for us. There are some things that he would like to do better, but overall I think he did a good job."

Asked if he thinks Henderson can still be a starting middle linebacker next season, Frazier said, "I think he does. The thing he's dealing with now is just staying healthy. The biggest thing is to stay healthy enough to participate and practice and get what he needs from practice and a game. But he can definitely still be a 16-game starter."

In other news:

  • Tight end Mickey Shuler, who was promoted from the practice squad this week, sprained his ankle early in Friday's practice and probably won't play on Sunday. He was listed as doubtful.
  • Listed as probable after participating in all of Friday's practice were: QB Christian Ponder (concussion), RG Anthony Herrera (lower back), SS Jamarca Sanford (shoulder), CB Asher Allen (concussion/shoulder) and CB Benny Sapp (shoulder). Ponder and Allen were cleared early in the week after passing the league-mandated concussion test.
  • Running back Adrian Peterson had his knee surgery today in Birmingham, Ala.

Christian Ponder vows to be more aggressive against Washington

Posted by: Updated: December 21, 2011 - 1:53 PM

Christian Ponder wants to let loose Saturday. He said as much after practice this afternoon, eager to put woeful performances against Detroit and New Orleans behind him as quickly as possible.

Ponder was 11-for-21 for 115 yards with four turnovers against the Lions 10 days ago when he was pulled in the third quarter. His attempt to rebound against the Saints didn't go much better. Through three quarters, he completed four of 13 passes for 18 yards and was sacked three times. The rookie finished that game 14-for-31 for 120 yards with two TD tosses to Toby Gerhart. But much of that production came long after the game was out of reach and the Saints defense had let off the gas.

Ponder thinks his turnover binge the previous two weeks -- seven total turnovers against Denver and Detroit -- might have had him a little gun shy.

"This past game I think I became a little too conservative and threw some balls away and didn't try to make plays," Ponder said. "And I think by the time we started playing better and I started throwing the ball better in the fourth quarter, it was already too late obviously. So I have to go out and have fun and know that we can make plays left and right and not be conservative with the ball. ... That's not me. I can't play not to lose. I have to play to win."

On Monday, Visanthe Shiancoe said teammates

must continue to support Ponder without being onoxiously encouraging

to the point that they get in the young quarterback's head.

Ponder appreciates the vocal support he's been getting in the midst of his recent struggles.

"It always helps hearing positive things from teammates and knowing that they're going to have your back," he said. "They've done a great job of not being in my head too much. They don't really give me advice; obviously they don't play the quarterback position. But they do a good job with, 'Keep your head up. Let's stay competitive. We believe in you.' Those kind of things mean a lot. It's great to know those guys have your back."

Injury update: Both cornerback Asher Allen and guard Steve Hutchinson missed today's practice as they continue recovering from concussions suffered Sunday against the Saints. It is not yet known whether either player will make the trip to Washington. If Allen were out, the Vikings would likely start Benny Sapp and Brandon Burton at cornerback with Marcus Sherels playing the nickelback role and Cedric Griffin relied on at times as well. Hutchinson's absence would force Joe Berger into the starting lineup at left guard. Berger has started at two other positions this season, playing center during the Week 7 loss to Green Bay when John Sullivan was out with a concussion. Berger also started four games in place of Anthony Herrera at left guard while Herrera was dealing with an MCL injury.

 

Frazier not worried about his future, even if season ends at 2-14

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated: December 19, 2011 - 3:05 PM

It's the question that's going to keep popping up with the Vikings barelling toward a 2-14 record, which would be the worst among 51 years of Vikings football:

Are you, coach Les Frazier, concerned about your future if you finish the season at 2-14. Frazier reportedly has been assured he's coming back. Of course, it doesn't take a genius to realize he wouldn't be the first coach in the history of sports to be fired after what apparently was a vote of confidence by an owner.

"I'm really not. I'm really not," Frazier said when asked that a day after the Vikings lost to the Saints 42-20 at Mall of America Field. "I know what we're trying to get done. I'm really optimistic about the future. It's difficult, and as crazy as that may sound, I think I have a good idea of what we need to do to not be in this situation in the future. No. Not concerned about 2012 at this point, other than the Washington Redskins, 2011. That's really where the focus has to be."

In other news:

  • Cornerback Asher Allen has a concussion and must pass the league-mandated test before returning to practice.
  • Left guard Steve Hutchinson also suffered a concussion. He left Sunday's game with a lip laceration. It was later determined that he had a concussion.
  • Safety Jarrad Page is day-to-day with a hamstring.
  • Adrian Peterson (ankle) and Christian Ponder (hip) didn't aggravate their injuries.
  • Frazier also talked about the future of Cedric Griffin, the former starter who didn't play on defense even after Allen suffered his concussion in the first quarter. "That's something that he and I will have to sit down and talk about. We'll sit down with [VP of Player Personnel] Rick [Spielman] and the three of us will talk about his role. In these final two games, we're going to need him in some form or fashion to help us. We were strapped yesterday, especially when Asher went down. I have to sit down and talk to him about his role in these final two games to see how he can help us." Asked if it was a lack of trust, Frazier said: "Not a lack of trust, but there are some things that he and I have to talk about to make sure that we are on the same page on certain things. I still have confidence that he can help us in situations. I really do. But he and I need to sit down and talk through some situations." Frazier said it's not an off-the-field issue with Griffin.
  • Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, talking to reporters in the locker room today, said some players quit on Sunday. "I would say, ya know, you could see some guys hung it up. Not a lot though. Like a very small handful of guys. That’s very, very, very disappointing, man."

Final gun report from Ford Field

Posted by: Updated: December 11, 2011 - 3:19 PM

Postgame snapshot from Ford Field where the Lions beat the Vikings 34-28.

Good news: At least the Vikings’ two biggest playmakers showed up this afternoon. Defensive end Jared Allen had three first-half sacks and now has 17.5 sacks for the season. He needs five more over the season’s final three games to tie Michael Strahan’s single-season NFL record. Allen went over 100 sacks for his career with a second quarter takedown of Matthew Stafford. Offensively, Percy Harvin provided a spark with 109 yards from scrimmage and a 6-yard touchdown catch late in the first half. We’d also be remiss not to give Joe Webb his due credit. He led two second-half touchdown drives, showing off his eye-opening athleticism on a 65-yard touchdown run and keeping the Vikings in the game to the final play.
 
Bad news: Christian Ponder may have been healthy enough to start this afternoon. But the Vikings may have been better off in Ponder had taken the week off. The rookie quarterback had an atrocious afternoon and the misery started right away. On the Vikings’ first snap, Ponder was hit and stripped by Cliff Avril and Detroit’s Stephen Tulloch recovered the fumble in the end zone for a Lions touchdown. Ponder also threw three interceptions, one returned 30 yards for a score by Detroit’s Stephen Tulloch. Ponder was 11-for-21 for 115 yards on the day with TD tosses to Harvin and Visanthe Shiancoe. But he was yanked from the game for good midway through the third quarter, replaced by Webb.
 
Extra point: Stafford threw for 131 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter, connecting on a 57-yard scoring strike to Titus Young and a 12-yard TD to Brandon Pettigrew. But once the Lions built a sizable first half lead, they became conservative with their playcalling. Stafford had 11 completions for 96 yards in the final three quarters.
 
Next up: The Vikings will host the Saints at Mall of America Field next Sunday. New Orleans sits atop the NFC South and held off Tennessee 22-17 this afternoon to improve to 10-3.

 

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