Thursday, June 30, 2016

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Arif: Harrison Smith
Mike Zimmer is not too concerned about cornerbacks getting interceptions and the design of the defense makes it more difficult for them to, so the safeties who always have their eyes on the quarterback are the best bets. In this case, it’ll be one of the top safeties in the NFL, Harrison Smith, who has shown not just a talent for grabbing interceptions, but returning them, too.

Andy: Harrison Smith
Smith had 5 of the Vikings’ 13 interceptions in 2014, leading the team. He’s a ballhawk who could benefit greatly by a physical safety like Taylor Mays or Antone Exum stepping up and letting him roam more instead of spending time in the box (although Smith is equally as effective there, if not more so). I think Smith busts out with a career high 7 INTs in 2015, makes his first Pro Bowl, is in the All-Pro discussion, and is rewarded with a lucrative long-term extension. (Hopefully before the whole blowing up part. That way he’ll be cheaper).

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Adrian Peterson’s return dominated headlines this week, and rightfully so, but the Minnesota Vikings are a team of 89 players — giving fans plenty to read , watch, and listen to as we inch closer to Training Camp. I’m excited that Peterson is back in purple and gold, but I can’t wait to see how T.J. Clemmings develops at right guard, how Scott Crichton has grown in his second year with the Vikings, and how a slew of other players perform come July 24 — the start of training camp in Mankato.

Before I jump into some of the week’s best stories from around the Internet, I want to give a quick shoutout to Lindsey Young. I only started writing for Vikings Territory in February, but in four short months, I’ve come to appreciate the effort, enthusiasm, and excellence that Lindsey pours into every post. That comment goes for everyone at Vikings Territory — this is an absolutely awesome group of people — but you don’t have to look further than Lindsey’s two most recent stories to see what I’m talking about. Give her profile of Bud Grant and this morning’s piece on “Babs” a read when you get the chance; it’s definitely worth your time!

And now, a collection of some of this week’s Vikings work from our community of writers, bloggers, and reporters:

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You just can’t help but feel bad for former Viking wide out Greg Childs.

Once heralded as possessing first round potential as a receiver out of Arkansas, where he was teammates with current Viking Jarius Wright, a severe knee injury saw Childs drafted by the Vikings in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Wright was also selected by the Vikings in the same round.

Childs suffered a freak injury to both of his knees during his rookie training camp and spent his entire Vikings career on the mend. Eventually, in March of last year, the Vikings released the receiver despite positive reports about his progress and determination.

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    When Babatunde (“Babs”) Aiyegbusi walks into a room—or onto a football field—you’ll notice him. At 6’9″, 351 lbs, Aiyegbusi is hard to miss. When the two of us meet for an interview, my 4’11” frame next to his is comical, to say the least, and he offers a firm but friendly handshake that engulfs my hand in his own.

    But there is a lot more to Babs than just his size. He’s an incredible athlete, a hard worker, a fast learner, and one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.

    When the Vikings first signed Aiyegbusi, shortly after he traveled from Poland for a workout in San Antonio, one of the main stories behind the lineman was his lack of football experience. After all, Aiyegbusi never played college football. He’s been called a number of things by scouts: “raw,” “rookie,” “project.”

    Aiyegbusi has played for a German league team since 2012; I ask him if these “newbie” labels bother him. He grins, shaking his head no.

    I’ll take whatever they call me,” he says. “It’s all true. I came here to develop. The only things I brought [were] physical ability and a heart to play football. I love this game, and I know with hard work I can achieve a lot […]. I’m here to develop, to work on my technique, to be useful for the team. That is my goal.

    Aiyegbusi speaks highly of the NFL coaches and trainers here, saying he trusts them completely to understand his abilities and his role on the team.

    “The National Football League, the Minnesota Vikings—this is more than a name, colors, a brand. These are people who have knowledge; they know me better than I do.”

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    What? Not a Adrian Peterson story?

    When Mike Zimmer took the helm of the Vikings, there was little doubt that we’d see high turnover on both sides of the ball. Being the defensive minded coach that he is, Zimmer wasted no time bringing in new talent on defense.

    Since joining the Vikings, Zimmer has brought in 6 new major contributors (Barr, Johnson, Joseph, Waynes, Munnerlyn, Kendricks) to the defense.

    With so many new faces donning horns for the first time, there are unanswered questions about who will fill what roll for the team in 2015, especially at linebacker.

    Viewed as a major weakness for the team two years ago, Zimmer and General Manager Rick Spielman have done a nice job restocking the depth chart at the positions, allowing the team to have the luxury of having some flexibility.

    The flexibility is a major facet of Zimmer’s defense, as he is widely known to move players around frequently. There were times last year, where then rookie linebacker Anthony Barr would swap with defensive end Brian Robison. Barr, is a pure talent at rushing the passer, Robison is so athletically gifted, you can trust him in coverage. The variety and unique defensive sets are what give Zimmer and the Vikings an advantage against most offenses.

    Moving through OTAs, I wanted to take a look at who the Vikings currently have under contract and how they may potentially fit the defense.

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