Sunday, March 29, 2015
Blog Page 164

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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Football was life for Cris Carter.  Upon reaching the highest honor the game has to give, however, Carter spoke very little about playing it.

He didn’t talk catches or toe taps.  He didn’t reflect on individual touchdowns.  He had no championships to reflect on.  Instead, he passionately outlined the path it took for him to achieve greatness, which wasn’t as simple as a workout routine or practice regimen.  It was navigating life, real life, that made Carter’s journey to the Hall of Fame so intriguing and improbable.

Carter actively chose to honor those along the way that helped him.  Those, like his brother Butch, that taught him how to man up and take care of those he cared about.  His wife that put her dreams on hold because she believed in his.  His coaches in college and in the pros, including Buddy Ryan who had to cut Carter after a troublesome beginning to his professional career in Philadelphia.  He thanked a member of the Vikings ownership for putting him in touch with a friend that was able to get him sober, and keep him sober, from the moment he landed in Minnesota.  He thanked all of you, and said he is in debt to Vikings Nation, for making him feel comfortable and wanted in his time here.  He thanked Reggie White for being the first man ever, when Carter was 22 years old, to tell him he was loved.

The speech was incredible.  It was emotional and passionate.

In fact, the only thing wrong with it is that it was given about five years later than it should have been.

Thank you, Cris.  And well done, sir.

Linebackers coach Fred Pagac and the rest of the Vikings’ staff will have a tough time in camp and preseason trimming this group of linebackers down to the top 7 guys. The 2012 squad had 7 backers on it, so unless the Vikings eliminate the 3rd QB spot to make room for an extra linebacker this year, I think the Vikings will be forced to cut 3 of the 10 linebackers in camp.

At this point the only certainty is that 2012 All-Pro Chad Greenway will be back as the starting strong-side linebacker. The 2006 first round pick from Iowa started all 16 games last year and finished with 148 combined tackles which ranked 3rd in the NFL. Greenway’s leadership will be needed again this year as Pagac will probably rotate the other linebackers in and out as he did last season.

With some degree of certainty I can say that undrafted rookie Nathan Williams has no chance to make the 53 man roster. An ankle injury that required surgery in June has him sidelined on the PUP list which may put the screws to any opportunity show what he can do.

This off-season the Vikings moved Erin Henderson, last year’s starter on the weak side, to the middle linebacker spot. It looks like this move will stick through camp and preseason but I wouldn’t mortgage the farm that he will start all 16 games in the middle. Henderson was the Vikings 7th leading tackler with 50 solo stops last season on the outside. So far in camp Leslie Frazier is encouraged by Henderson’s transition to the middle, and Erin appears hungry to hold on to his new job. Some early camp notes and highlights include a couple big hits from Henderson and some overall solid play.

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