Sunday, February 1, 2015
Blog Page 132

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The drought is over and Vikings football has arrived! The Houston Texans visit the Vikings at Mall of America field for the first preseason game of the 2013 season.

We will have our live chats set up here at VT once the regular season rolls around, but for now, an open thread during the game for commenting is the route we’ll take.

Yes, it’s just Preseason. Yes, the guys will just be knocking the rust off tonight. Yet, I’m smiling ear-to-ear because football is officially back.

Enjoy the game! Go Vikes!

Advancing a 10-6 wildcard playoff team from a year ago into a Super Bowl contender this season will take a few blue collar players willing to step up to a larger and more productive roll in 2013. Here are three early camp standout performers that have their stock trending upward after experiencing limited rolls in 2012.

Jarius Wright was inactive for the first 9 games last season but preformed well in the final 7 starts filling in for the injured Percy Harvin. The 4th round pick from Arkansas has carried over that late season momentum to OTAs and training camp this year. Wright will get most of his playing time and production in the slot but has the ability to play on the outside if needed. His confidence and his comfort within the offensive system entering his second year are on full display early on. Wright will be a top target for Ponder whether he is throwing across the middle, deep down field or just looking for a short dump off. Wright is a do it all kind of player with great hands and speed. As a backup punt returner, he might even be called upon to catch a punt once in a while. Wright’s increased roll in the offense this year and his increased production will be a key component to a successful season.

John Carlson sat out all of 2011 with the Seahawks, and was not as effective as many had hoped in his first season with the Viking in 2012. An injury last year in camp limited his ability to develop timing and chemistry with teammates which ultimately set him back. After a healthy off-season, one which also included a contract restructure, Carlson’s play is now standing out in camp. The 12,000 fans that packed Blakeslee Stadium in Mankato for Friday’s annual night practice saw Carlson find the end zone 3 times. Carlson is a big redzone target at 6-foot-5 251 pounds which Ponder will look to connect with him more often this year. Carlson only caught 8 passes last season for the Vikings. Nonetheless, he is healthy and poised this year to regain the production he had in his first 3 NFL seasons when he collected 137 receptions.

Bobby Felder is an under the radar guy to most Viking fans, but he is quietly moving up the depth chart in camp. After going undrafted in the 2012 NFL draft, the cornerback from Nichols State impressed the coaches enough last preseason to land a spot on the practice squad. The Vikings have done a good job in the past of actively promoting from within the practice squad. After a year of hard work on the scout team, Felder is ready to step up to the 53 man roster. Felder has moved ahead of Marcus Sherels as the #3 nickel corner on the latest Vikings’ depth chart. The nickel spot is not the only position he is try to win. Felder has taken camp reps as a gunner on the punt unit (1st and 2nd team). He has taken 2nd team reps on the kick off team, kick return team, and also on the punt return teams.

Cristy Brusoe in her camp notes is impressed with Bobby Felder as a punt returner. She says “he has shifty feet and quickness that isn’t duplicated by anyone other than maybe AP.” Priefer may not be giving Felder many reps as a punt returner just yet, but Frazier might want to take a look him in a preseason game. In a recent interview with Vikings.com, Frazier talked about the punt returner competition behind Marcus Sherels. “We have a few different guys. We want to take a look at Stephen Burton a little bit. We’re probably going to give Bobby Felder a chance. We’re debating about whether or not we want (Cordarrelle) Patterson to have a chance to do it as well. Jarius Wright may get an opportunity. So we have a few candidates to potentially take a look at and we’ll just see how it goes as the games unfold.”

I can’t really say that the stock on Christian Ponder, Erin Henderson or Josh Robinson is up or down right now. So, unfortunately they didn’t make the list. With that said, the success of the Vikings will greatly depend on these players’ ability to improve upon their production from a season ago. I am not worried; odds are good they will all show signs of progress in 2013. I am optimistic that their stock will slowly travel in a more northerly direction as the regular season rolls on. Come playoff time, don’t be surprised if they are all enjoying “Rock Star” status in the state of Minnesota.

The Vikings appeared to take a major step backwards when they traded Percy Harvin to Seattle during the opening hours of the new league year.  With Harvin on the mend, however, Seattle appears to have been taken to the cleaners (at least in the short term) while Rick Spielman loaded his roster with youthful talent.  Those rookies could each end up being a major part of this team’s success in 2013, and is certainly a group the Vikings hope they can rely on into the future, so I wanted to take a moment to check in on how each of them are doing in training camp so far.

SHARRIF FLOYD, DT

The Vikings have made no secret about their plans to rotate defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Sharrif Floyd.  Taking time away from an old faithful type of guy like Williams is a pretty good indication that the coaching staff likes what they see in Floyd.  If Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer gets his way, however, Floyd’s impact won’t be measured solely on defense.

Priefer made it clear that Floyd’s athleticism, size, and quick feet make him a prime candidate to play on special teams.  Priefer said he would like to work Floyd into situations as a wedge blocker on returns, field goal protection, and as a guy that might be able to knock a kick or two out of the air.  In three years at Florida, Floyd blocked three field goals.

Floyd may not garner as much attention as his fellow first rounders, who stand to get more snaps in base packages, but the coaching staff sure seem to be sold on his abilities and want to find ways to let him make an impact in his first year.  He is currently listed behind both Williams and Christian Ballard on the team’s official depth chart, but that is very fluid this time of year.

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Perhaps no undrafted free agent is getting more attention right now than Vikings running back Bradley Randle. He has been very impressive in training camp and is quickly becoming a guy most Vikings fans are rooting for to make the final 53 man roster. I’m predicting he will.

Randle is only 5’7, but his speed has impressed many. He ran a 4.38 40 yard dash at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine, and frankly after seeing him in person during training camp, I’m sold on the kid. Not only is he fast, but he runs hard, breaks tackles, and is very shifty. Randle also has return capabilities on kickoffs and/or punt returns, although at least one of those spots will most likely belong to fellow rookie Cordarrelle Patterson.

He will have to compete with several others for the 3rd running back spot, including Matt Asiata, Zach Line, and Joe Banyard, but if Randle continues to impress and has a good preseason, I think the spot is his. His potential reminds me of that of a Darren Sproles, and I think if the Vikings haven’t seen that already, they will.

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