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sharrif floyd

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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2013 Training Camp - Christian Ponder
(Photo by Chris Price.)

Vikings players reported to training camp this past Thursday and two days in we already have some catching up to do. Though the first two sessions were without pads, there are still some interesting notes from Friday and Saturday.

  • Let’s talk health first… Through the first two days of camp, the Vikings have emerged relatively unscathed. The biggest piece of injury related news was that nose tackle Letroy Guion was forced to leave the first day of camp with a right elbow injury. Guion, who is presently in competition for his spot with backup Fred Evans, had x-rays done that night to determine the severity of the injury. Luckily, the images came back negative and he should be participating again soon.
  • Now on to Christian Ponder as he has been the primary focus of media and fans the first two sessions. The word out of camp so far isn’t good for #7. Talk has been that Ponder has struggled early with accuracy and often checking down to his tight ends. Ponder threw an interception to Blanton in passing drills, an almost-interception on a pass to Greg Jennings which was dropped by Jamarca Sanford, etc… And apparently, struggles in the passing game continued into Day 2. It’s worth noting that the weather has been nasty at Mankato with some pretty strong gusts. Of his performance and the weather, Ponder told reporters, “The first day was tough with the wind especially… On certain throws, you try to [put] touch on the ball, and if you do that it’s gone. A couple hung in the air and the wind took them away and it looked like some bad plays. It’s going to happen.” Kevin Seifert of ESPN North notes that Ponder did have some nice passes if you’re a glass half full kind of guy.
  • Cordarrelle Patterson has already become a fan favorite at camp with a pretty nice sideline, one-handed grab.

The Vikings avoided taking a hit to their depth at defensive tackle this offseason by renegotiating the contract of veteran Kevin Williams.  Additionally, they bolstered the position for this season, and into the future, by spending one of their first round picks on Florida standout Sharrif Floyd.

The also spent a late pick on Florida State tackle Everett Dawkins in an effort to proactively ease the inevitable transition the front four will see very soon.  Dawkins may have an uphill battle to make the roster, but it is obvious the Vikings are preparing to move on from at least some of their current veterans, such as Williams.

While nose tackle Letroy Guion had a disappointing first year a starter, veteran Fred Evans showed up big on a number of key plays last season, and they should continue to compete for each other’s playing time.  Fourth year player Christian Ballard has been largely mediocre throughout his career so far, but even he has shown some flashes that provide some intrigue heading into 2013.

Second year player Chase Baker, along with undrafted rookie Anthony McCloud, round out the competition for spots on the bottom of the depth chart.

Age and injuries seem to be catching up with Williams, as he hasn’t played at an all-pro level for a few years now, but he can still get the job done and the hope is that being fully health will actually result in some improved play.  It can’t hurt that he is now in the final year of his contract with the Vikings and has publicly stated his intention to play beyond 2013.  He will almost certainly go into the season as a starter, albeit rotated out of the lineup more often than we are used to seeing, but his presence will likely prove to be quite valuable as the season wears on.

[NOTE FROM ADAM:  Please welcome reader “Carl K” for joining the ranks of many of you fine readers that have submitted guest posts over the years.  Well done, Carl K, well done!]

Written By Carl K

Minnesota Vikings Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams has a little more swagger heading into his second season thanks to a successful first year and an off-season that landed him a few more playmakers. GM Rick Spielman made a splash by drafting DT Sharrif Floyd and CB Xavier Rhodes in the first round of the NFL draft. The Vikings also drafted linebackers Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti along with signing free agent linebacker Desmond Bishop.

Williams is eager to see his squad put on the pads and mix it up in training camp, but he was quick to give Xavier Rhodes some praise after a solid OTA mini camp. “He got his hands on some balls and he’s not giving up deep balls. That’s the big thing because a lot of guys like to sit on passes and you see them intercept balls and you say “wow” and then a lot of balls are going over his head. And he’s not giving up either. He’s tough down low and up top.”

Williams is a former defensive backs coach with the Indianapolis Colts and you can tell he is very excited about his two big physical corners Chris Cook and Xavier Rhodes. “Both guys are tall. They are long. They can go get the ball, unbelievable ball skills so to be able to have two guys outside and don’t forget about Josh, don’t forget about the other guys that can really run. They’re physical so you’re not limited to one type of defense. You can play a variety of things and when you can take the outside guys away it makes it easier for me to make the calls and mixing up the coverages.”

Alan Williams has plenty of talent, depth and options to work with when it comes to drawing up defensive schemes heading into the 2013 season. So, with just days before the start of training camp, I can only speculate and conjure up images of how Williams will use his new personnel. Last season the Vikings lined up in a nickel cover 2 zone most of the time. I expect to see more of that again this year against the pass happy NFC North teams . However, with two big corners on the outside that can press and Josh Robinson over the slot, we just might see more man coverage. If the Vikings can have success in man coverage from the base 4-3 or in a nickel, Williams could get creative with some hybrid formations or personnel groupings. Three linebackers, three corners and a single high safety could allow Desmond to do what he does best… play down hill and put some pressure on the QB. Gerald Hodges is former safety with good coverage instinct so I expect to see him get some playing time in passing situations. The Vikings cover 2 defense typically doesn’t showcase a lot of man coverage, blitz packages from the linebackers or hybrid formations, but this year Williams could show the NFC North quarterbacks a new wrinkle.

Jerry Jones is known for being a business guru and one of the most tenacious, and invasive, owners the NFL has ever seen.  For some reason, though, the Dallas Cowboys have become somewhat of a joke (loving this sentence so far) and the latest episode involves yet another leak of their draft board.  The folks at Blogging The Boys managed to decrypt the background of some photos and reveal a full seven-round draft board in the Cowboys war room.

The results show, among other things, that the selection of center Travis Frederick was indeed a reach by their own assessment which solidifies reports that the pick was a contentious one between various members of the team’s brass.  The Cowboys have Frederick with a second round grade, according to the report, and the Cowboys selected him at #31 after trading backwards with the Niners.  Five players that they graded as first round prospects were available to them at #18 and they could have had their pick of the bunch had they not traded down.

The other items you might find most interesting about this revelation are where the Vikings selections stacked up on the Dallas board.  Sharrif Floyd was not only their highest ranked defensive tackle, but he was ranked as the fifth best player in this class.  Wide out Cordarrelle Patterson was also the highest ranked at his position and came in at 13th overall for the ‘Boys.  Cornerback Xavier Rhodes was their second highest cornerback and they had him at 11th overall.

That means that the Vikings, who never owned a pick higher than 23rd this year, managed to get three prospects on their roster that were in the top 13 on the Dallas draft board.  Meanwhile, the Cowboys went into the event with the 18th selection, and managed to get zero players that they had graded out as first rounders.

To top it off, the Cowboys had third round grades on both linebacker Gerald Hodges and defensive tackle Everett Dawkins, whom the Vikings nabbed in the fourth and seventh rounds, respectively.

The Vikings and Cowboys have a long and bitter history, with the Vikings a lot more bitter than the Cowboys, so these are the little pleasures we have to enjoy from time to time.  According to Jerry Jones’ draft board itself, we got ourselves three franchise players in the Draft, and unlike the Cowboys of the 90’s we didn’t have to deal away our star running back to do it.

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