Sunday, March 29, 2015
Blog Page 166

The Vikings return all 4 defensive ends from the 2012 squad. The top of the depth chart is loaded with talent but Rick Spielman still signed guys that could steal that final roster spot away from D’Aundre Reed. Reed was a 7th round pick by the Vikings in 2011 but has yet to earn a single tackle in 2 regular seasons with the team. As a matter-of-fact he has collected only 1 solo tackles in the preseason games. The writing might be on the wall for D’Aundre because the Vikings signed free agent Lawrence Jackson from Detroit in the off season. Jackson was a 1st round pick by the Seattle Seahawks in the 2008 NFL draft. Jackson started 51 games at USC… Phillip Rivers is the only other NCAA player to accomplish that statistic. The 6 year pro is listed at 6’4’ 271 pounds and has played in 69 NFL games. Jackson has 19.5 sacks and 141 total tackles in his career. Yea, I would say that’s and upgrade.

The Vikings also signed undrafted rookie free agent Marquis Jackson from Portland State. Last season Marquis had 36 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. Prior to Portland State, he racked up 14 sacks and 36 TFL in 2 seasons with Texas Southern. Marquis has terrific movement skills and explodes at the point of attack. At one time he was highly rated player that just didn’t play with consistent urgency in 2012. USC had interest in Marquis, but academic problems stop him from becoming a Trojan.

At the bottom of the defensive end depth chart is undrafted free agents Collins Ukwu and George Johnson. The good news is the Vikings will not need to play Jared Allen, Brian Robison or Everson Griffen much in preseason so those 2 might see some playing time. The bad news is Ukwu and Johnson are long shots with the Vikings.

The Vikings return all 5 starters on the offensive line that was ranked 2nd in the NFL in rushing last season. In 2012, under second year offensive line coach Jeff Davidson, the big boys up front took important steps forward in production and consistency. The team saw all 5 guys as a unit start all 16 games, while giving up just 32 sacks compared to 49 the previous year. I would not be surprised to see all 5 guys win the starting jobs again this year and continue to improve as a unit.

Center John Sullivan, a 6th round draft pick in 2008, is the longest standing offensive lineman on the team and has been the leader and anchor in the middle as a starter since 2009. If Sully can stay healthy, he might have a chance to earn a spot in the Pro Bowl before his career is over.

Tackle Phil Loadholt owns the next longest tenure as a Vikings’ lineman. The Mammoth 2009 2nd round pick made headlines this off-season by signing a new 5 year contract. Loadholt is one of the top run blockers in the league and will lock down the right tackle spot again this season.

The left tackle spot belongs to 2012 first round pick Matt Kalil. The former USC star was chosen for the Pro Bowl after debuting as a rookie starter. The Vikings are counting on Kalil to have another Pro Bowl year protecting Ponder’s blind side.

We’re burning our way through the offense, and Carl will top it off by previewing the offensive line tomorrow morning, and there has been a theme throughout this “Camp Battles” feature:  Most of the competition involves the bottom of the depth chart.  The tight end position is really not much different as there projects to be very little movement near the top of the positional depth chart.

Kyle Rudolph doubled his catch total (53) in his sophomore season,  while nearly doubling his receiving yards (493) and he tripled his touchdown mark (nine).  Rudolph has been one of Christian Ponder’s favorite targets since day one and he projects to be one of the league’s better tight ends in 2013.  Not only will he remain atop the Vikings depth chart, I highly recommend adding him to your fantasy team, as well.

The oversized contract of John Carlson was restructured this offseason which should help him remain on the roster.  The Vikings signed him hoping to replicate some of the success that other teams, namely the Patriots, had been experiencing with two pass catching tight ends on the field.  “Underwhelming” is a kind way of describing Carlson’s 2012 season with the Vikings.  He only notched eight catches for 43 totals yards.  He threw a number of nice blocks throughout the season, but that wasn’t enough to keep him from being a running joke within Viking-fan circles.

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Infamous for his flip over a defender and his extra curricular activity with a funky leaf, Jerome Simpson’s now scores some “honest” credit for a recent off-season workout. Simpson was spotted running sprints and catching passes at the private training camp of the All-Everything wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

The CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) doesn’t allow players to use team facilities during this time period before the start of training camp, so Fitzgerald brings his camp home to Minnesota. Every July since 2009, The University of Minnesota has allowed Larry and 25 to 50 of his friends to workout and use the stadium, practice fields, weight rooms and other facilities.

This camp is known for being very intense with conditioning, lifting in the weight room, and the competition on the field. Fitzgerald has a reputation for being a workout warrior, so I’m hoping some of that work ethic will rubs off on Simpson. Wide receivers at the camp also get quality instruction on route running techniques by former Vikings’ great Cris Carter.

Sidney Rice had a Pro Bowl season in Minnesota after attending his first Fitzgerald camp in 2009. Last year Everson Griffen attended the camp and he went on to have a solid year collecting 26 tackles and 8 sacks in a rotational roll.

Jerome hopes that his time at the Fitzgerald camp will be a step in the right direction for him as well.

“I wanted to work with one of the greats,” Simpson said, via Chip Scoggins. “I got an opportunity to come down here and work with him so I wanted to take full advantage of it.”

“I’m trying to pick his brain while I’m here and try and get in the same position that he is,” Simpson said. “He’s a great receiver. When I was in college, I always looked up to him. It’s an honor to be able to train with him.”

Last season Simpson had 26 catches for 274 yards for the Vikings. Can Simpson “flip” those numbers into something more productive this year?

Spoiler Alert:  Barring injury (or murder charges), Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson are guaranteed spots on the opening day roster for the Vikings.  Jerome Simpson and Jarius Wright may not have the same amount of security as those two guys, as the Vikings have invested considerably less in them, but they also seem close to “locks” for opening day.

That leaves a whopping eight wide outs vying for a remaining one, or maybe two, roster spots.  Watching the depth chart at receiver shake out as training camp progresses should be quite entertaining.  Whether it is evaluating Joe Webb’s chances in his new(ish) position, tracking Greg Childs and his progress in his comeback attempt, following local boy Adam Thielen, or simply waiting for someone to unexpectedly emerge, the battle for those last spots will provide plenty of intrigue.

So, I want to hear from you.  How will this all end up?  The poll below allows for you to select as many receivers as you like.  Check the box if you think the player will survive through the final roster cuts.  Keep in mind, however, the Vikings are likely only going to keep five or six wide outs.

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