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Chase Baker, George Johnson and Troy Kropog were long shots to make the roster just four weeks ago, but hard work and consistent effort paid off for these young players.

 Chase Baker might have the best chance to stick. The undrafted rookie from Boise State had 11 tackles during preseason working on the inside of the defensive line. Standing at 6-1 298 pounds, Baker has just enough meat on his bones to earn a few snaps as a backup rotational depth player this season. During camp and preseason, he has been asked to learn the three-technique position while also staying focused on the nose tackle spot as well. Jared Allen said, “He has probably grown the most of all the young guys I’ve seen in camp. That is good because he just might be asked to play a role on this team. We’re hurting at D-tackle right now.” 

Lady luck has been on Baker’s side as Christian Ballard left the team for personal reasons, Sheriff Floyd and Kevin Williams have been banged up a bit which opened the door for Baker to get plenty of reps needed to win a roster spot. After spending his rookie year on the practice squad, Baker might be ready to take the next step in 2013.

George Johnson, the 6-4 265 pound 4th year DE beat out D’Aundre Reed and Lawrence Jackson to win the 4th and final DE roster spot. Johnson was promoted to the Vikings 53 man roster in late December of 2012 and has impressed the coaches enough this off-season to make the final cut in 2013. In 2010, Johnson was signed by Tampa Bay as an undrafted rookie out of Rutgers. Johnson worked his way up to playing in 2 games for the Buccaneers in 2011 before an injury put him on IR. Johnson looks to build on his 7 total career NFL tackles. Johnson’s 5 solo tackle in preseason lead all Vikings’ DEs, but in the regular season he will have a hard time taking snaps away from Jared Allen, Brian Robison or Everson Griffen.

Troy Kropog won the swing tackle position, at least for the next four weeks until DeMarcus Love comes back from his suspension. The 6-6 308 pound tackle from Tulane has been in the NFL for 4 years. Kropog was drafted in the 4th round of the 2009 NFL draft by the Tennessee Titans. The Vikings promoted Kropog from the practice squad to the 53 man roster last season when Percy Harvin was placed on IR. Kropog has played in 7 games with 0 starts in his NFL career. It will be interesting to see what the Vikings do with the backup tackle position in the next few weeks. Will Kropog stick when Love comes back, or will the Vikings look to upgrade the backup tackle position by signing a free agent? Frazier had talked about finding a swing tackle in the 2012 draft, but that did not appear to have happened. Was that just a smoke screen? Do the Vikings have confidence in Love or Kropog? Stay tuned… I don’t think this story has reached the final page.

The Vikings took on the Texans Friday night, and after having watched it twice (while also celebrating my daughter’s first birthday) I have come to the table with a look at some of the key takeaways from the contest.  The Vikings lost by a score of 27-13, but it is preseason so the final score is as inconsequential as a training camp scrimmage.  Instead, we try to dissect certain aspects of what happened in an effort to predict things to come.

GRADE A

  • The Vikings are believed to have finished their first week of the preseason without any additional injuries, at least no super serious ones, which is probably the most important thing about the game.  Rookie Sharrif Floyd had a good debut, with a couple of flashy plays (batted pass and tackle for a loss), but gave us all a scare when he hit the ground with a knee injury and was unable to return.  While he will have an MRI today, he is expected to be okay.  Often times, the best teams in any given NFL season are the ones that can stay the healthiest, so it was nice to see them come out of this relatively unscathed.
  • By all appearances, the Vikings got exactly what they expected when they signed veteran quarterback Matt Cassel.  Cassel looked exactly like Cassel has looked almost his whole career, which is to say he looked decent but unspectacular, which is an improvement over Joe Webb’s postseason performance that is still fresh in our memory.  Cassel had some very poor play on the line in front of him, but he still managed a decent outing completing 12 of 19 passes for 212 yards, a touchdown, and one interception.
  • The combination of Zach Line (1 catch, 61 yards, 1 TD) and Bradley Randle (3 rushes, 16 yards) has me excited, I must admit.  I have thought all along that Toby Gerhart would finish out his rookie contract as a Viking, and still consider it likely, but if Line and Randle can continue to make things happen in the preseason then the Vikings might feel tempted to explore trade options for Gerhart.  Line’s rumbling touchdown was quite impressive and Randle pass blocked as good as any Vikings running back since the days of Chester Taylor.
  • One penalty.  10 yards.  The entire game.  That’s the type of discipline that wins football games!

I really, really, really apologize for having been so absent of late.  Life kept me from updating VT at the rate you’ve grown accustomed to and I am sorry for that, but I am back now and ready to get back into the groove.  The Vikings minicamp is underway and the best way to get caught up is our weekly links feature.  Enjoy!

  • The Vikings have parted ways with a number of players this offseason and it is always interesting to keep tabs on how they are doing in their new surroundings.
  • Pro Bowl fullback Jerome Felton could see an expanded role in his second season in Minnesota.
  • Greg Childs is packing on the pounds and waiting patiently for his chance to prove himself.
  • It didn’t take more than one measly season for Harrison Smith to establish himself as one of the NFL’s most feared tacklers.
  • Chad Greenway underwent a minor operation on his knee but says he’ll be ready for training camp.
  • Terrell Owens thinks he could be a good fit in Minnesota… by which I assume he means as a season ticket holder.
  • We look forward to speed and athleticism being the source of numerous Cordarrelle Patterson highlights, but Greg Jennings says he possesses another unique trait that will separate him from other rookie wide outs.
  • When he took the nameplate off his locker, Antoine Winfield knew he wouldn’t be returning to the Vikings.
  • An extensive look into what Jared Allen did in 2012 and what we can expect in 2013.
  • Adam Thielen, Josh Robinson, and John Carlson were among the standouts from the first minicamp practice.
  • Mike Priefer spoke to reporters about the respect he has for Chris Kluwe and the decision to cut him.
  • Despite the Vikings kicking the tires on linebacker Desmond Bishop, Erin Henderson won’t accept the notion that he isn’t the guy to man the Mike position this year.
  • It is nice to see Kenechi Udeze back as a member of the Vikings once again.
  • Linebacker Michael Mauti is nearly ready to start competing for a roster spot.
  • While the Vikings posted ten wins in 2012, some are expecting disappointment during the coming season.
  • Let this page load to get a little glimpse at the minicamp action.
  • Adrian Peterson and Mistral Raymond are two guys not practicing during minicamp.
  • The Vikings might visit London three seasons in a row while their new stadium is being built.
  • Coordinator Alan Williams says Desmond Bishop had a good workout with the Vikings.

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OTAs have not produced, knock on wood, any devastating injuries for the Minnesota Vikings.  Still, there are two guys that will not be practicing until training camp rolls around.

Jared Allen joined his teammates this week, but Leslie Frazier gave Vikings.com an update on the situation and has made it clear we shouldn’t expect to see him in action until the team goes to Mankato.

“We probably won’t see him until we get to training camp, but from everything that Eric Sugarman and our staff has told me medically, he is doing great,” said Frazier. “There won’t be any problem when we get to training camp and we’re looking forward to having him when the time comes. But the fact that he’s in town, he’s doing his rehab here, coming out to our practices, that’s a good thing. It’s good to have him in our meetings as well.”

Frazier also clarified that the staff is being cautious because of Allen’s shoulder and that his knee rehabilitation is more of a secondary issue.

Jacob Lacey signed as a free agent this offseason, and seemed like a guy with a solid chance at being a key reserve, but he will have to wait until training camp to try and earn his spot on the roster.  Lacey suffered a thumb injury during Tuesday’s practice and underwent surgery on Wednesday, according to Access Vikings.

Lacey was the nickel corner with the second team prior to the injury, with Josh Robinson playing that role with the first team, so the injury really seems to open the door for Bobby Felder to make a case for himself.

One of the biggest keys to the success of a football team is their ability to stay healthy, as well as prove deep enough at any given position to help cover for the unhealthy, and so it is important to keep tabs on the injuries plaguing the Vikings roster even as early as OTAs in May.

For the second day in a row, Jared Allen remains the only player absent from OTAs, but there is no indication that his absence has anything to do with injury.  As we mentioned yesterday, Tom Pelissero of 1500 ESPN says Allen had family obligations this week, and it isn’t particularly abnormal for him to miss OTAs.

Wide out Greg Jennings faces big expectations in 2013 as he tries to improve on his last two injury riddled years in Green Bay.  That is why it is disappointing to hear that Jennings was a scratch only two days into OTAs with an ankle injury suffered yesterday.

“His ankle’s a little bit sore,” Frazier said to 1500 ESPN. “But he’ll be fine. Nothing serious. He’s on the side working with (head athletic trainer) Eric Sugarman.”

Meanwhile, fellow wide outs Greg Childs and Chris Summers were also unable to participate.  Childs is really no surprise, considering he tore both patellar tendons during the 2012 preseason.  An inspirational return from Childs would certainly be a welcomed surprise, but getting any sort of contribution from him in 2013 would indeed be a, well… surprise.  Summers has the potential to compete for a roster spot at the bottom of the depth chart, but he will have to recover from his ankle injury in short order to avoid another season spent on the practice squad.

NFL MVP running back Adrian Peterson had surgery for a sports hernia on February 7th, but that isn’t expected to slow him down much, as it did little to slow him down as he played with the injury for weeks prior to the end of last season.  Peterson says he is “pretty much 100 percent” and was able to fully participate in all the drills and 11-on-11 skirmishes.  Minnesota’s offense lives and dies with Peterson so the importance of his health status simply cannot be stressed enough.  It is a good sign to hear that he is doing so well at the end of May.

Center John Sullivan had microfracture knee surgery this offseason and is not currently participating in OTAs.  After a season that arguably landed him among the top the centers in the league it will be a major disappointment if he has to miss any time, or doesn’t start the season at 100%, but that is not expected to be the case.

Linebacker Michael Mauti, drafted in the final round of this year’s Draft, was expectedly unable to participate.  Mauti’s list of past injuries is so long it can only be written on a scroll, but he could also represent one of the true steals of this class if he can recover from his latest knee reconstruction and stick to the Vikings roster, and he has the talent to challenge for a starting role in the future.  The first order of business, however, will be to get the Penn State product back to full health.

That might seem like a lengthy list of injuries, but outside of Childs and Mauti there is no indication that we need to consider any of them overly serious, and this is the time of year when displays of toughness will often take a backseat to precautionary measures.  We’ll be sure to keep you updated should any other developments surface.

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