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7/9/14 8:07 P

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by Mike Wobschall, Vikings.com

as of 7/7/2014

For a Viking fan who hasnít kept up with any of the offseason changes, how would you describe the new product they would be seeing on the first preseason game?
-- Charles D.
Bluffton, SC

The most recognizable change fans will see in this yearís Vikings squad is the defense. There have been significant changes to this side of the ball, both from a personnel standpoint and in terms of scheme and style. This yearís Vikings defense will feature a blend of returning contributors Ė Chad Greenway, Everson Griffen, Harrison Smith, Brian Robison Ė and fresh faces, such as rookie linebacker Anthony Barr, space-eating defensive tackle Linval Joseph and veteran cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. Also, the Vikings defense under new head coach Mike Zimmer will be a multiple, attacking defense that plays a mix of man and zone coverage and that is not predicated on rushing four and dropping seven into coverage.

On offense, many of last yearís contributors will return. But the biggest change will come at the top, with Norv Turner in place as offensive coordinator. Turner brings with him to Minnesota a wealth of experience and success while guiding NFL offenses. His offenses have produced the NFLís leading rusher five times, which is good news for Adrian Peterson, but Turner is also known for his mentorship of quarterbacks and an aggressive mentality when it comes to the passing game.

How are the linebackers shaping out with the mentoring of Mike Zimmer? Who do you see as being starters and what positions and formations do you believe we will be running?
-- Joshua S.
Dickinson, ND


It's a young group of linebackers, for sure. But they are coming along nicely and I'm anxious to see how the competition for spots on the depth chart unfolds during training camp and in the preseason. There's no question the presence of Zimmer helps this group. But it should also be noted that Greenway provides great mentorship for this group, as well, as do both linebackers coach Adam Zimmer (Mike's son) and defensive coordinator George Edwards, a linebacker coach by trade. With talent on the field, a leader in Greenway and great teachers in the three aforementioned coaches, the Vikings young but athletic linebacker group will make huge strides during camp and will go from a question mark to a strength by season's end.

As for starters and formations, that is all up in the air. In base defense, I expect Jasper Brinkley to be the starter at MIKE when the Vikings open camp, but Michael Mauti will push for that job, too. Greenway and Anthony Barr project to start on the outside. In nickel, itís fair to guess that Greenway and Barr will stay on the field, but thereís also a school of thought that suggests it could take Barr a while to be trusted as a starting nickel Ďbacker, so until then it could be Audie Cole or Gerald Hodges who step onto the field. Or it could be a combination of all of the above. Only time will tell. One thing I am sure of is the linebacker group will be fast, smart and physical, and they will improve as the season progresses. Another thing I'm sure of is Zimmer will be multiple with his defensive looks, particularly with how he uses linebackers.

I've heard a lot about players that are expected to make the leap in 2014. But I haven't heard a lot about how Harrison Smith is going to do. Do you think he is going to also make a leap from good defender to a great defender?
Jerick B.
Richmond, RI

Yes, I do anticipate a big-time season from Smith in 2014.He is not a one-trick pony at safety Ė he can bring the hammer in the run game, he can blitz, and he can cover. This versatility will allow the Vikings defensive staff to put Smith in a lot of different positions, and as such I feel Smith will be a key player for the Vikings in 2014.

Which undrafted free agents do you believe have the best chance to stick this year based upon talent and perceived need?
-- Mitch K.
Los Angeles, CA

Itís far too early to offer water-tight predictions on this matter, but in an effort to entertain the question I will submit two names to watch closely once we get to Mankato for training camp. The first is AC Leonard, an undersized but athletic and sure-handed tight end with excellent speed and a knack for getting open. I anticipate he will push Chase Ford for that third tight end spot, which will make for a fun training camp battle to watch next month because Ford is certainly no push-over. The second name is Antonio ďTinyĒ Richardson, an offensive tackle who played college football at the University of Tennessee. He saw some reps with the first team this spring in Matt Kalilís stead, and what Iíll be analyzing with respect to Richardson during camp is his potential to be a reserve swing tackle. Having a backup tackle who can play either side is an extremely valuable commodity for teams as they go through the process of whittling a 90-man roster down to just 53 players at the beginning of September.

How have our rookies picked in the later rounds Ė David Yankey through Jabari Price Ė been doing so far this offseason?
-- Steffan L.
Aarhus, Denmark

Letís not make this more complicated than it needs to be. Below are the players drafted from the fifth round through the seventh round, with a one-liner for eachÖ

OL David Yankey Ė Came in late because of Pac-12 rules, but projects to compete for a starting spot during camp and at worst will be a valuable swing reserve capable of playing multiple positions.

S Antone Exum Ė Came in right away and flashed, then cooled off, then started to heat up again. Appears to be making the transition to safety well, but still has a lot to learn.

CB Kendall James Ė Makes a ďwowĒ play every now and then and is at his best in situations like one-on-ones vs. receivers when his physical talent can shine.

DT Shamar Stephen Ė Hard to evaluate given contact restrictions during the offseason program, but has the frame to compete for depth chart positioning as a rookie.

LB Brandon Watts Ė Entrenched in an athletic, competition-filled and young position group, and will need to shine on special teams in order to begin carving a niche for himself on the roster.

DB Jabari Price Ė Had an impressive spring at Winter Park and seems to be picking up the mental part of the game quickly; anxious to see more of him during training camp.


Edited by: MORGANLAFEE at: 7/9/2014 (20:08)

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3/31/14 6:40 P

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by Mike Wobschall, Vikings.com

as of 3/31/2014

After Johnny Manziel's pro day last week, do you think the Vikings may potentially trade up? Or will they hope he slides down the draft board? Or potentially pick someone else?
-- Joshua S.
Dickinson, ND

As impressive as Manziel was at his pro day, I donít view the Vikings as any more likely to trade up for him now than they were previously. It remains a possibility, but at this point I wouldnít characterize it as any more than that. What could keep the Vikings, or any team outside of the top five picks, from trading up to get Manziel isnít necessarily a lack of interest, but the fact that the cost of moving up from No. 8 is too prohibitive.

My main takeaway from Manzielís pro day is that his workout confirmed what you can see on tape Ė he has great arm talent because he can make all the throws a quarterback needs to make and he makes them with velocity or touch, whichever is needed. He also displayed the ability to make difficult throws while on the move. Finally, I believe itís notable that Manziel performed so well while surrounded by such pomp and circumstance, the likes of which we rarely see for a pro day. That he performed that well with that kind of atmosphere helps build the case that he enjoys and perhaps flourishes on the big stage.

Is there any chance at all we fall into the talk of DeSean Jackson's new home?
-- Pablo A.

A chance? I suppose. But my sense is that the demand for Jacksonís services will be such that the price tag associated with signing him will not appeal to the Vikings. The Vikings conduct due diligence on every player that becomes available, so itís only fair to assume theyíve looked into and discussed the idea of signing Jackson. But Iím guessing many other teams have, as well, and given Jackson is a talented player right in the middle of his prime, heíll likely garner quite a bit of interest and, thus, a heavy price tag for the team that decides to sign him.


I loved our free agent signings. They really filled a lot of holes on this roster. Do you think because of these signings we could actually trade up in the draft to make sure we secure a franchise quarterback (Teddy Bridgewater hopefully) because there is less need at other positions? Also, do you think it would be smart to target linebacker Chris Borland with our second-round pick (or some other inside linebacker)?
-- Zach W.
Shorewood, MN

No, I donít believe the results of free agency for the Vikings dictates that the best move is to trade up from No. 8 in this yearís draft. Could the Vikings trade up? Yes, they certainly could and there are scenarios in which that would make sense. More likely, though, the Vikings will be in a position to stay at No. 8 and take the best available player or potentially rely on the depth of this yearís class and move back from No. 8 to a later spot in the first round to acquire more selections while still getting a solid player to plug into the lineup.

As for Borland, I really like his game. I came away from the Senior Bowl impressed with his physical style of play and his instincts. He doesnít fit the prototype in terms of size, but Iím finished with writing players off because of their lack of size Ė the success of players such as Russell Wilson, who was deemed by many to be ďtoo smallĒ should cause everyone to refrain from taking this critique too far. To me, Borlandís best attributes are his instincts, intelligence and toughness. Are there any traits aside from those three that matter more for inside linebackers? I donít think so. Iím not necessarily saying Borland is a ďmust-getĒ for the Vikings, but heís certainly worth considering as early as the second round, in my opinion.

A couple of scenarios Iíve seen have the Vikings trading back with the St. Louis Rams in the first round. What picks would the Vikings be likely to get in that kind of trade?
-- Thomas C.

Thereís no way to know for sure because every trade is different and is the product of a unique set of circumstances. But we can get in the ballpark based on precedent set by previous trades.

In this case, we need to look no further than in 2012 when the Rams traded the sixth overall pick to the Cowboys in exchange for the 14th overall pick and a second-rounder (No. 45 overall). Since, in our scenario, the Rams would be making a smaller jump (five spots) than the Cowboys made in 2012 (eight spots), the deal wouldnít be exactly the same. With the Vikings currently sitting at No. 8 overall and the Rams holding the No. 13 overall selection, perhaps a deal similar in structure would appeal to both sides Ė maybe the Rams sending the Vikings No. 13, No. 75 (third-rounder) and No. 141 (fifth-rounder) in exchange for No. 8. Just an idea.

Iím not familiar with Vladimir Ducasse, whom we signed last week. Is he a reliable backup or a starter?
-- Kathy K.

Ducasse, who measures in at 6-5, 325 pounds, has been both during his career to this point. He will be just 26 years old when the season starts and he has played in all 16 games in each of the past three seasons, with four starts. What he will be for the Vikings will be determined over the next four-to-five months during the Vikings offseason program (begins April 7), training camp and the preseason. Ducasse joins returning starters Brandon Fusco and Charlie Johnson as well as last yearís sixth-round pick, Jeff Baca, and Josh Samuda on the depth chart.

All draft talk is about the Vikings taking a quarterback or defense with their first-round pick. What about Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans? Not only would having Cordarrelle Patterson, Greg Jennings and Evans be a great trio for years and allow Jennings to play in the slot, but it would keep Evans from the Lions. Keeping Evans away from teaming with Calvin Johnson should be enough of a reason to draft him.
-- Mickey D.
Minneapolis, MN

I believe taking the best player available is the right strategy, regardless of position and positional need. But I also believe in using the draft to add players who can make a difference on your team. Melding those two strategies can at times be a tricky process. While I think the Vikings would improve their offense by adding Evans, I also think they can improve the team by passing on a first-round receiver and taking a player at a different position instead, provided that player is of equal ability.





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3/25/14 9:45 P

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by Mike Wobschall, Vikings.com

as of 3/24/2014

Is it easier and faster to turn around a defense or an offense in the NFL?
-- Kim W.

It takes more steps to turn around a defense, but the most important step required to turn around an offense Ė finding a franchise quarterback Ė is perhaps the most difficult step for an organization to make. With that in mind, Iíd say turning around a defense is typically a faster process than turning around an offense because itís so hard to find ďthe guyĒ at quarterback.


Do you believe Captain Munnerlyn will play on the outside at all, or is he just going to be a nickel cornerback?
-- Christian P.

Munnerlyn is a big-time signing for the Vikings because I believe that pairing him with Xavier Rhodes gives the Vikings an excellent starting pair of cornerbacks in their base defense. Another reason Munnerlyn is a big-time signing for the Vikings, in my view, is because he does perhaps his best work moving inside over the slot receiver in sub packages. When the Vikings go with their nickel or dime package, Munnerlyn can move inside and cover those quick receivers as well as come up and support the run with a fury.

Is it possible that a hard-hitting safety like Harrison Smith or Andrew Sendejo could transition to strong safety? I was very impressed with their hitting ability and would love to see the duo on the field together.
-- Kade T.
Grand Rapids, MN

Typically, the free safety has some range and is good in coverage and space, whereas the strong safety can play in the box when needed and bring the hammer versus the run game. Ideally, youíd like to have your two starting safeties be interchangeable to give your defense more flexibility. With Smith, I see a player who could be either a free or strong safety, depending on what type of athlete you have in the other spot. With Jamarca Sanford as the other starter, I like Smith as the free safety. But if the Vikings acquired or trained someone to play free safety, then I also think Smith could slide over and play strong safety.


Many agree an outside linebacker is the remaining piece missing on the Vikings roster. Based on the players still remaining in free agency, I suggest picking up an early-round linebacker in the draft. What are your thoughts on that?
-- James W.
Maple Grove, MN

Iím certainly not opposed to a linebacker being one of the Vikings early selections. The Vikings already have bodies in place to stage some good offseason and training camp position battles, but itís never a bad idea to add more talent to the mix. By most accounts, CJ Mosley is the draftís top inside linebacker, so if youíre one who believes the Vikings need a MIKE (middle) linebacker then perhaps the Alabama product is your guy. But if youíd rather see the Vikings move on an outside linebacker, players such as UCLAís Anthony Barr and Buffaloís Khalil Mack are early first-round considerations and then players such as Wisconsinís Chris Borland, Ohio Stateís Ryan Shazier and BYUís Kyle Van Noy are late first or second-round possibilities.

If Jared Allen signs elsewhere, will the Vikings get a compensatory pick in this year's draft? And if so, in what round?
-- Tom F.


No, if the Vikings receive a compensatory selection because of Allen signing with another team, it will come in the 2015 NFL Draft. Compensatory selections (maximum of four per team) are awarded to teams that have lost more (and better) free agents than they signed during the previous League yearís free agency period. These compensatory selections are determined based on a formula developed by the NFL Management Council that takes into account several factors, including the value of the contract signed by the lost free agent(s) and the performance of the lost free agent(s) with the new team.





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2/10/14 10:03 P

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by Mike Wobschall, Vikings.com

as of 2/10/2014

In order to improve their defense and give them some draft flexibility, I feel the Vikings need to at least sign a starting cornerback, linebacker or strong safety in free agency. Which position do you think is most likely or would be best based on team needs and the free agents out there?
-- Chad N.
Maple Grove, MN

Of the three position groups Chad mentioned in his question, I believe cornerback is the strongest in terms of top-end talent. Teams looking to add an impact starter at cornerback will be in luck this year during free agency because of the presence of guys such as Vontae Davis, Brent Grimes, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Charles Tillman and Alterraun Verner (pictured). That is not to say there arenít impact free agents at linebacker and safety, too, especially with some teams destined to make surprise cuts as they try to free up salary cap space.

One thing that the Vikings need is a quarterback. It doesn't necessarily need to be an elite quarterback, but someone who can make a few plays and can keep us afloat until we can find that elite quarterback. For my part, being at the eighth pick and seeing the teams in front of us, I don't think we would be spending our draft picks wisely to pursue whichever quarterback was left at No. 8. Would it be a wise move to pick up Michael Vick in the offseason so that we can spend our first-round pick on a player at a different position, and still try for, say A.J. McCarron or Aaron Murray, in a later round? How often do teams find success using that strategy? Or is it not something that happens all that often?
-- Luke S.


A couple things here. First, with this much time before the draft we canít assume which quarterbacks will be taken in front of the Vikings. We donít know who will be there and who wonít be there, so itís unfair to assume that any particular quarterbacks on the board at No. 8 wonít be worth the pick.

Secondly, letís take out the specific names mentioned by Luke in the question and just analyze the idea of signing a veteran quarterback in free agency, not taking a quarterback at No. 8 and then selecting a quarterback later in the draft. This can be a good strategy for a team to employ, and in fact itís something several teams have done recently. In 2012, Seattle signed quarterback Matt Flynn in free agency and then selected linebacker Bruce Irvin in the first round and linebacker Bobby Wagner in the second round before spending their third-round pick on Russell Wilson. Iíd say that worked out for them. Also, both Cincinnati and San Francisco selected quarterbacks in the second round of the 2011 draft after using their first-round picks on players at other positions. They still wound up with solid quarterbacks Ė Cincinnati selected Andy Dalton and San Francisco selected Colin Kaepernick Ė while also taking a special player at another position earlier in the draft.

I keep hearing that the Vikings will pick the best available player in the draft. But wouldn't it be wiser to select the player that best fits the Vikings scheme? That might not be the best available player. It is a team sport after all.
-- Richard C.
Pomeroy, OH

Teams factor scheme fits into their evaluations of players, so if a team believes a certain player is too incompatible of a scheme fit then that will show in the grade assigned to that player by that team. Letís use Auburn defensive end Dee Ford as an example. He had 10.5 sacks this past season and then was a standout at the Senior Bowl last month. But he measured in at 6-2, 243 pounds, which has led some to believe heís a better fit as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme than as a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. Each team will have to look at Ford and determine if heís a good fit for their scheme.


So far I've only heard talk about the Vikings going for a quarterback or a defensive player with the eighth overall pick. But how about bolstering our receiver corps with a big guy like Mike Evans out of Texas A&M?
-- Steffan L.
Aarhus, Denmark

There is so much time between now and the draft that a lot of different scenarios about what the Vikings do with their first-round will be presented. As we know with Vikings general manager Rick Spielman, anything is a possibility. In 2007, the Vikings selected a running back even though they didnít ďneedĒ one because Adrian Peterson was too special of a talent to pass up. The same thing happened in 2011 with tight end Kyle Rudolph. Weíve seen Spielman trade back in the first round and still get the guy he wanted (Matt Kalil in 2012) and weíve seen him trade back into the first round to select both Cordarrelle Patterson (2013) and Harrison Smith (2012). So yes, it is possible the Vikings choose to enhance a position not considered a ďneed,Ē such as receiver, with the eighth overall pick despite all of the pre-draft speculation centering on quarterback and defense.

I have been very impressed with the hiring of Coach Zimmer and the procedures they have gone through to put the staff together. When I saw the list of coaches, I was most enthused about the retentions of Mike Priefer, Jeff Davidson and George Stewart; all coaches who have done a very good job. I am glad we retained them. I look forward to a much more aggressive game plan on both sides of the ball next year, and a quick turn-around.
-- Brad R.
Delphos, OH

The fact that Zimmer decided to retain a handful of coaches from the previous coaching staff is a sign to me that he was intentional and thorough in his evaluation of the existing staff when he arrived. Many times when a new coach arrives, youíll see a ďhouse cleaningĒ because that new coach wants to ensure that heíll be able to establish his own culture. But Zimmer proved he was less concerned about that and more concerned about having the best possible staff in place for his first year on the job.





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1/13/14 10:46 P

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by Mike Wobschall, Vikings.com

as of 1/13/2014

A lot of people expect the Vikings to pick a quarterback in the draft. But current projections have the top three quarterbacks all going in the top five. Obviously that may change in the coming months, but do you see a possibility that the Vikings trade up from No. 8, maybe even to No. 1, in order to get a quarterback?
-- Michael
Chicago, IL

A trade of that magnitude seems unlikely, but that doesnít mean itís impossible. Either way, a lot will change between now and the draft so itís too early to speculate. One thing to keep in mind, though, is the possibility does exist that the Vikings will not select a quarterback with the No. 8 pick. If there is not a quarterback they deem worthy of being selected at No. 8, the team could then take the best available defensive player and fill a need on that side of the ball. The success of teams such as Seattle and San Francisco, who both feature starting quarterbacks taken after the first round, adds even more credibility to that approach.


I believe the Vikings have a nice core group of young players in Cordarrelle Patterson, Xavier Rhodes, Harrison Smith, etc. But my biggest fear is that some or most of these young players won't get a fair chance with a new head coach because he didn't bring them to the team. Do you share this fear of a new head coach?
-- Paul S.

I do not share that concern because while the team will be dealing with the transition of a new head coach and coaching staff, the organization will also be able to rest on continuity within the front office, particularly the personnel department. GM Rick Spielman is the one who drafted or signed that young, talented core of players and heís still at his post, and I believe Spielman will be able to establish and maintain a positive, cohesive working relationship with the new coach and staff to the point where the personnel department will identify, acquire and keep talented players that fit with what the coaching staff is trying to execute on the field.

What do you think of the idea of the defense switching from a 4-3 system to a 3-4 system?
-- Max M.
Minneapolis, MN

I am not married to one kind of system over the other. There are things to like about both schemes. I donít think the roster is perfectly suited for a 3-4 right now, but that doesnít mean the team canít switch and reshape the roster over time to fit that scheme. Whom the team hires as a head coach and, consequently, as a defensive coordinator, will obviously be a huge indication as to what direction Spielman wants to go.

Last year the Vikings re-signed most of their own free agents to keep continuity from the previous season. Do you see them doing that again this year?
-- Dave W.
Albany, NY

With roster limits expanded in the offseason, teams typically like to keep as many of their own free agents as possible, and I suspect the Vikings will fall into line with that philosophy this offseason. Retaining your own free agents does not preclude you from being players in the restricted or unrestricted free agent market so long as you are able to retain your own free agents at a fair price. The Vikings have done a nice job of this in the past and theyíve also done a nice job of reaching contract extensions with players before they hit free agency, re-signing Brian Robison this past season, for example.


I am greatly encouraged about the future of our team with the play of rookies Cordarrelle Patterson and Xavier Rhodes. It has not been near as easy to evaluate the play of fellow rookie Sharrif Floyd. Do you think he has future All-Pro potential? Will he be more effective at the three technique instead of the nose. I assume that is where he will play next year.
-- Kerry W.
Toledo, OH

I agree it wasnít as easy to evaluate Floyd this past season as it was Patterson and Rhodes. Unless youíre flipping on the film or talking to coaches, itís more difficult to accurately evaluate the guys in the trenches than it is guys who play out in space. With that said, my sense is Floyd progressed during his rookie season and did at times flash the potential of a player with All-Pro capability. He finished with 7.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and four passes defensed in part-time action, so itíll be interesting to see what his production level will be when heís a full-time player. In order to get to that All-Pro level, Floyd will have to earn more playing time and be more disruptive more consistently.




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11/12/13 10:30 P

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by Mike Wobschall, Vikings.com

as of 11/11/2013

When I talked to my co-workers after Thursdayís win, all they could talk about was how furious they were that the Vikings used timeouts to stop the clock during Washingtonís last drive. As a fan at the game, it didn't shock me that timeouts were called by Minnesota. Washington was pushing and had momentum building. From my seat, it seemed right to call time out, rest the defense for a few seconds, and make sure they had the proper setup. Have you heard any other outrage about this? Do you think the timeouts at the end played a role in the victory? Was it really that risky to call timeout and essentially give Washington a chance to organize?
-- Jared S.
St. Peter, MN

Ordinarily I would be a critic of what Leslie Frazier did in the final moments of Thursdayís win, but under the circumstances I thought calling timeouts on defense was a good move by the Vikings. A number of times this season the Vikings defense has given up a score in the exact scenario that was unfolding against Washington, and in many of those instances I feel a defensive timeout couldíve increased the Vikings chances of preventing a touchdown. Perhaps the best example of this is the Week 2 game at Chicago in which the Vikings gave up a touchdown to Martellus Bennett with 10 seconds to go on a play in which there was some uncertainty before the snap by Vikings defenders. A timeout there may have allowed the Vikings to be in a better defense. On top of all that, by calling timeouts when they did the Vikings were giving themselves time to put a last-second drive together to put Blair Walsh in scoring position should the Redskins have tied the game on their drive.

Another thing to remember on this topic is that stopping the clock on offense is not a problem; you donít need timeouts to do that. The offense can stop the clock with a spike, with an incomplete pass and by running out of bounds. The defense canít stop the clock unless they use a timeout. So from that standpoint, it makes more sense to err on the side of using timeouts on defense, which is actually what the Redskins did on the previous drive to preserve time for their final drive.


Where did Andrew Sendejo come from? I think he's earned a spot as a starter beside Harrison Smith
-- Ian S.
Strasburg, VA

Sendejo actually began his career with the UFLís Sacramento Mountain Lions and then broke into the NFL as a member of Dallasí practice squad. He played in two games for Dallas in 2010, then had a cup of coffee with the New York Jets, and then signed with the Vikings at the end of November 2011. Sendejo played in three games for the Vikings in 2011 and then in 13 last season, including the wild card playoff game at Green Bay. Heís a core special teams contributor for the Vikings and was asked to step into the lineup when Jamarca Sanford was injured.

I canít say heís done enough to leapfrog Sanford as a starter, but I will agree he played well for the Vikings in Sanfordís stead, particularly in the second half last Thursday. He had a number of missed tackles in the first half but bounced back nicely and was a factor in the Vikings defensive turnaround in the second half.

Do you know why Toby Gerhart isn't used more in 3rd and short situations? To me, he could be a modern day Leroy Hoard, who was known for ďif you need a yard, he'll give you three. And if you need five yards, heíll give you three.Ē
-- Kris A.
Utah

A couple things here. First, the reason you donít see Gerhart more in short-yardage situations is because the Vikings have the best running back in the NFL as their starter, and heís a very good runner in short-yardage situations. Secondly, Gerhart is a more dynamic runner than Kris has described. He may not have the lateral agility that Peterson has, but heís a shifty runner who is quicker than you think and he has the ability to make people miss while running with a north-south style. I actually think Gerhart is better in 3rd and long situations because A) heís a good pass protector and B) heís a good pass catcher out of the backfield.



I thought Christian Ponder played a heck of a game. The interception was bad, but he battled back each time the Vikings got the ball. The second half was AWESOME! To see Ponder make some excellent decisions and then to sacrifice his body for the near-touchdown was great. I hope that the Vikings can build off of this and win more games.
-- Dan G.

I agree. This was Ponderís best game since the Week 17 win last season, and the Vikings would win a lot of games if they got that kind of performance from Ponder on a consistent basis. Also, I have no problem with his decision-making on the play he was injured. With a Tom Brady, Drew Brees or Peyton Manning, youíd want them to step out of bounds or give themselves up via the slide well before contact, but with Ponder, who is fighting to keep his job and is looking to establish himself, you love to see that competitiveness and grit. He laid his body out on the line, and in his own way thatís displaying leadership and showing his teammates how much he cares and how much he wants to win.

Great win! Proud of the team for coming together. With the defense making crucial plays and with Ponder playing with command and responding to the first drive turnover. Love the willingness to make plays. Too bad he got hurt, but glad Matt Cassel stepped up. All-around team win and proud of this team for showing heart and it finally paid off.
-- Luis L.
Tempe, AZ

It was a good all-around win, with the offense playing well throughout and the defense coming alive in the second half. But Iíd be remiss not to mention the special teams. They dominated all night and while it took a second-half surge for the Vikings to win the game, it was great to see the special teams continue to play well and dominate for the duration of the game. Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer and assistant special teams coach Ryan Ficken have their guys playing at a high level right now.






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10/14/13 9:49 P

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by Mike Wobschall, Vikings.com

as of 10/14/2013

Do you think with the addition of Josh Freeman and of course all that Adrian Peterson was dealing with off the field this week was distracting enough to the point where the Vikings weren't fully prepared for Sundayís game?
-- Kris

I canít speak for individual players or the team as a whole in terms of whether they were distracted, but from my observations last week of the team and its individual components during practice and around the facility I canít use either the Freeman acquisition or Petersonís off-field situation as an excuse for what transpired against Carolina on the field. I didnít have a problem with the Vikings energy level or effort, particularly in the early stages of the game, and thatís where a distracted team (or players) would be exposed. What I saw was a Vikings team that was simply out-performed on the field in nearly every way by their opponent. Carolina was the better team on Sunday and the Vikings must respond to that this week by getting past this loss and moving forward to prepare to travel to New York to face the Giants on Monday Night Football.

What could make such a big difference in the team in one year? Especially the defense because it looks like other teams have the confidence to score at will. And teams are also confident they can stop the Vikings offense. What's up with the Vikings this year? It's impossible to point fingers. It's a team game.
-- Gary R.
Ashland, WI

If I could put my finger on exactly ďwhatís upĒ with the Vikings this season, I would march up to the front office and share that knowledge. Unfortunately, itís not as simple as identifying one or two issues, correcting them and then watching things unfold favorably the rest of the way. At various times this season, different aspects of the team have performed well while others have struggled. Then it seems at a different moment the performances are flip-flopped, and the Vikings just canít get everything going in the right direction at the same time. That is a vague explanation but I think itís also true. For example, the Vikings defense did a great job early in the season of taking the ball away Ė they were tied for third in the NFL with 12 takeaways after their Week 4 win against the Steelers. At the same time, though, the Vikings defense struggled with containing opposing running backs and that issue helped lead to defeats at the hands of the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears early in the season.

The bottom line is this Vikings team has the talent to win games and get back in the mix this season. This yearís roster is more talented than last yearís roster, and last yearís roster put together a 10-win season. In order to turn things around, the Vikings must improve a lot of areas and become a more consistent team that is capable of putting together a complete performance.





When will the coaches see that Josh Robinson is struggling on pass defense? Is there another capable backup that could replace him?
-- Terrel T.
Honolulu, HI

The coaches understand who is playing well and who isnít. They watch the games, they break down the film, they conduct practices and break down the film of that, and then they meet together to discuss personnel and strategy. I can assure you they have a good grasp of which players are playing well and which players arenít. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier was asked specifically about Robinson during his post-game press conference on Sunday. Hereís what he said:

ďThere are some things that we want him to do better. We rotated Marcus in there with him some and weíll evaluate it this week and just see whatís going on at that position.Ē

That affirms to me what I wrote above Ė that the coaches are aware of Robinsonís (and everyone elseís) performance. Weíll have to wait and see what happens this week and how next weekís game plays out, but I wouldnít be surprised to see the Vikings continue to experiment with the idea of playing Sherels a bit more on defense.

The one caveat to this is the injury to Xavier Rhodes. He injured his ankle against Carolina and was in and out of the game because of it. If the injury is severe enough where heís unavailable on Monday night against the Giants, then youíre going to see a lot more of Sherels and Robinson will likely continue to be heavily involved, as well.

We should be more creative with our offensive plays. When I heard Joe Webb was moving to wide receiver, I was hoping we would try some wildcat with him. We could also screen pass to Adrian more often. And with our offensive line struggling, we could try more outside runs, where Adrian can make plays as we all know.
-- Ben H. (age 15)
Rochester, MN (Go Marcus Sherels!)

This is a fair viewpoint and a suggestion I hear a lot from fans. But I would also submit to this discussion the idea that at times the Vikings struggle to execute some of the basic elements of their offense, such as the running game on Sunday against Carolina. The Vikings bread and butter is the power running game, with Peterson running behind fullback Jerome Felton and what is normally a very good run blocking offensive line. On Sunday, though, the Vikings couldnít get going on the ground. In fact, Peterson had just 10 carries for 62 yards. When a team isnít able to get the running game going, it restricts the ability to become more creative and dynamic because the offense is usually behind schedule in the down and distance.





Do you feel the rest of the season will simply be to determine if we have a future quarterback or plan on looking to the 2014 draft to find one?
-- Charles D.

That should be part of the teamís long-term plan, but I donít believe that should be the singular goal for the rest of the season. I understand sitting at 1-4 at this point is discouraging and is far from where we all envisioned the Vikings being, but itís not time to fold up shop, give up on 2013 and look to next season. Now is the time for the Vikings to look at whatís led to four losses in five games, correct the errors and find a way to improve and start winning games. There were plenty of moments last season when people counted the Vikings out, yet they ripped off four consecutive wins to close the season and make the playoffs. Going back to 2008, there were plenty of moments when people counted the Vikings out, but they finished the season well and wound up winning the division. There is no place in the NFL for teams and players that give up, and I donít expect this Vikings team to fall into that pitfall.




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10/8/13 9:42 P

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by Mike Wobschall, Vikings.com

as of 10/7/2013

The defense has allowed an average of 30 points a game. They are going to have to start giving up fewer points if they want to make a run at the division title or playoffs. Anyone out there we can pick up to help on defense that you can think of?
-- Joe B.
Princeton


The Vikings have allowed 29.0 points per game through four games, so Joe is correct that in order to achieve their goals this season the Vikings must find a way to reduce that number significantly. The good news is weíve seen different aspects of this defense play well at times this season. The secondary did a great job against Calvin Johnson in Week 1, for example, but the defense as a whole has struggled against running backs at times Ė Reggie Bush, Matt Forte and LeíVeon Bell have all found success against the Vikings. The pass rush was slow to go this season, but finally got on track in a victory against Pittsburgh two weeks ago. Also, the Vikings have done a great job of taking the ball away, as theyíre tied for third in NFL with 12 takeaways this season.

All of this leads me to the belief that the key is not going out and finding new players to replace current players. Rather, the key is to A) get healthy, which the bye week should have helped accomplish, and B) execute better as a group.

Just wondering who the emergency quarterback is since McLeod Bethel-Thompson is inactive most weeks. What would happen if Ponder and Cassel were injured in the same game?
-- YC Lindsay
Colorado

If Bethel-Thompson is inactive and both Cassel and Ponder are injured and unavailable during a game, a logical choice to be the emergency quarterback would be Joe Webb, who has been active every game this season and of course played quarterback up until this season. Last week in London, though, Bethel-Thompson was active with Ponder inactive, so had Cassel become unavailable Bethel-Thompson wouldíve come in to play.


If you had to pick a position that you think we have the most depth at, what would it be? And least depth? I know we could use a dominant strong safety (opposite Harrison Smith), but sometimes a by-committee approach will compensate just fine. I see Tampa Bay released Ahmad Black. Would he help? Or is strong safety a position of depth?
-- Tyler L.

When you have the best player at his position in the NFL, itís hard to say thatís not a deep position on your roster. So with Adrian Peterson at running back and then Toby Gerhart backing him up, I think running back is a deep position on the roster. But it might not be the deepest. I would submit two other positions as candidates for deepest position on the roster. The first would be defensive end, with Jared Allen, Everson Griffen and Brian Robison forming a talented trio. The second would be tight end, where Kyle Rudolph is the headliner but John Carlson and Rhett Ellison provide great depth and both contribute in their own unique way.

As for the position with the least depth, heading into the bye it was the secondary because two starters Ė Chris Cook and Jamarca Sanford Ė were injured and backup AJ Jefferson was also banged up. Hopefully, though, the bye week allowed those players to rest and recuperate so they can come back this week and be ready to prepare for Carolina




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9/30/13 8:16 P

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by Mike Wobschall, Vikings.com

as of 9/30/2013

How would you grade Matt Cassel's performance? Personally, I thought he showed a lot of poise for his first start of the season with a new team. He got progressively better as the game went on. He showed a ton of comfort, patience and decisiveness in the pocket. He finished the day with 9.9 yards per attempt, while also completing a high percentage of his passes and finishing by completing his last 11 passes.
-- Cody H.

I agree with everything Cody included in his question. In my view, Cassel should receive high marks from his coaches for the performance. I was particularly pleased with his drop back footwork, timing and habit of stepping up into the pocket to make throws. The best example of this was the second touchdown pass to Greg Jennings, in which Cassel dropped back with perfect footwork, stepped up into a clean pocket and delivered a pass with accuracy and authority. Granted, it was a great route by Jennings and that gave Cassel an easy target and big window, but Cassel still had to hold up his end of the bargain, and he did.

Another aspect of Casselís performance that is interesting and encouraging to me is that it coincided with other parts of the offense putting forth their best outings of the season, too. The Vikings offensive line was tremendous in paving the way for Adrian Peterson and providing a big, clean pocket for Cassel, and the Vikings wide receivers continued to play well in both the passing game and as run blockers. Was the increased performance from the line and the receivers a function of Cassel playing well, or vice versa? Was it some of both? Given the team-nature of football and how dynamic the game has become, I lean toward a little of both.

Great game by our backup quarterback, Matt Cassel. Do you think he secured the starting role after the win? Or will Christian Ponder play if he's healthy after the bye?
Kenny G.
South Milwaukee, WI

Thatís a decision that will be made by the Vikings in the coming days. There will be several factors that go into it, and at the top of the list may be the health of Ponderís ribs. Fortunately, Iíve never had a severe rib injury but weíre all aware they can be painful and there are also ancillary health risks associated with playing with a rib injury.

But thatís not the real issue at hand, I get it. The real question is whether Casselís performance on Sunday in the win over Pittsburgh was enough to convince the Vikings to replace Ponder. I donít know the answer, and all we can do is wait and see how Frazier responds to that very question as time goes on.



Great to get a win! Proud of all three units, but I'd like to praise the defense specifically. There were plenty of plays that could have derailed our momentum Ė a couple instances of holding against our defensive players not called by the officials, Josh Robinson's pass interference call, not having two starters). But they fought hard and made plays in response to having their backs against the wall. Robinson had two plays made at the line of scrimmage or for loss after his PI call, Chad Greenways interception, pressuring Big Ben all day and, of course, the game ending sack/forced fumble recovery. This is the team I've hoped to see and we have much potential to turn things around this season. SKOL Vikings!
-- Luis L.
Tempe, AZ

I appreciated this email particularly because most of the comments Iíve received from fans regarding the defense have pointed to flaws or mistakes. While Iím sure the defensive coaching staff and the defensive players will find plenty to correct when they review this game, the bottom line is the defense did enough to win the game, in conjunction with the offense and special teams. As Luis mentions, there was a fair amount of adversity for the defense to overcome and then the defense presented Pittsburghís offense with more adversity than it could handle.

Surrendering 434 net yards, 29 1st downs, 27 points and an eight of 15 (53%) 3rd-down conversion rate is a bit much for my taste. But again, the Vikings defense made enough plays to win the game and came up big in the gameís biggest moment, with Everson Griffen closing on Ben Roethlisberger for a strip-sack to end the game with only seconds remaining.



In the Vikings 0-3 start, it seemed like the offensive line was getting blown off the ball and looked less physical, yet in the game versus the Steelers, the Vikings won at the line of scrimmage, which gives Cassel a pocket to throw from and opens holes for AP to run through. Would you account for this improvement as the offensive line being more physical and having that sense of urgency, or just matchup problems for the Steelers?
-- Kris
Utah

A little of both. My sense is the offensive line started coming together in Chicago, took a step forward against Cleveland and has now taken a giant step forward against the Steelers. Iím encouraged by their progress, particularly because of their slow start during the preseason and even into the early stages of the regular season. The offensive line we saw on Sunday in London is a group of guys thatís easy to believe in and be excited about. With Jerome Feltonís help, the dominated in the run game and were spectacular in pass protection.




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9/16/13 10:39 P

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by Mike Wobschall, Vikings.com

as of 9/16/2013

Tough loss. It's hard to place blame on the team after playing a game they should've won. I find myself frustrated because this team is better than most people give them credit for, but I don't know where we went wrong. Should we have gone for it on 4th and goal? Was our defense out of position when we gave up the go ahead touchdown?
-- Louis L.
Tempe, AZ

There were mistakes made in the final minutes of the game that helped lead to the loss, and weíll get into one interesting situation in the next question. Without getting into specifics, Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier actually shouldered blame for the loss during his post-game press conference for some tactical decisions on defense down the stretch. But I wouldnít pin Sundayís loss solely on what happened in the final three minutes. There were plenty of other mistakes made earlier in the game that put the Vikings in the situation they were in later in the game Ė the Christian Ponder pick six, the Adrian Peterson fumble, too many return yards allowed to Hester, Matt Forte scorching us for 161 total yards, Martellus Bennett scoring twice, etc.

In the game of football, you win and lose as a team. Itís rare when a singular moment or play or player is the cause of a loss. I donít think there was a lone reason for the Vikings loss. It was a bad confluence of events, and itís something thatís happened to us far too often at Soldier Field.



I thought Christian Ponder played brilliantly down the stretch for us. But my question to you is: What did you think of the play call on 3rd and goal? We could have gone for the win with a play-action pass or just a normal pass. If nothing was there, just take the sack and no harm done. What are your thoughts on this call?
Nick K.
Mankato, MN

We have to remember that, particularly when it comes to analyzing play calling, hindsight is always 20-20. If the NFLís play callers had the benefit of hindsight when making decisions, there would be far fewer mistakes and the outcomes of games would be much different. On top of that, we frequently question play calling while disregarding execution. All plays called are designed to succeed Ė but not all plays called are executed properly. With that being said, one could argue the Vikings couldíve taken a different approach offensively at the end of the game.

Staked to a three-point lead with a 1st and goal from the Chicago 6 with 4:20 to play in the game, the Vikings essentially had a choice of two paths: 1) Put your foot on their throat by throwing caution to the wind and trying to score a touchdown by any means necessary, or 2) focus on running the clock and forcing the Bears to use their timeouts. To me, being a road team and playing in a building where you rarely win, Option 1 is the most appealing. Thatís why I loved the 2nd-down play call, with Ponder throwing to tight end Kyle Rudolph in man coverage. It was a miss by Ponder, but it was a great play call by Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave. The 3rd-down call (a run to Peterson) represented a change in philosophy from aggressive to conservative, and I feel once you pick a path (Option 1 or Option 2), you need to stay on that path. If youíve decided to forget about running clock and burning their timeouts on 2nd down, you may as well keep going with that philosophy on 3rd down. Also, if Option 1 was the choice from the beginning, I wouldíve gone for it on 4th down, as well. If you make it, the game is over. If you miss it, the Bears have the ball on their own 4 or 5 with 3:00 to play needing a field goal to tie and a touchdown to win. Granted, giving them a chance to tie with a field goal by going for it on 4th down instead of kicking your own field goal may seem like a questionable decision, but keep in mind it was raining and the field conditions were not good. If youíve forced a team to try a long field goal in those circumstances just to tie the game, youíre in good shape.

Ultimately, this kind of Monday morning quarterbacking/play calling isnít fair to the coaches and players who worked all week to prepare for the game and worked all day on Sunday to try and win. Frazier, Musgrave, Ponder and the rest of the team made the decisions that they thought gave the Vikings the best chance to win at the time. It didnít work out this week, but I was pleased with the playersí effort during the game.



Although they have given up a ton of points, I believe this is one of the best Vikings defenses weíve had in a while. They've been a menace in creating turnovers and stopping teams in the red zone.
-- Dustin F.

Very much agree, Dustin. I understand the Vikings have surrendered too many yards, particularly to running backs Reggie Bush and Forte, but we must also recognize that this defense is making plays, and theyíre making the kinds of plays the Vikings defense hasnít made in some time. Interceptions, pass deflections, forced fumbles Ė the Vikings defense is flying around and making plays in big moments. Following Ponderís 2nd quarter interception in Detroit last week, Erin Henderson came up with an interception. Harrison Smith and Kevin Williams both had big interceptions in Chicago. Letroy Guion forced and recovered a big fumble late in the game at Chicago. The Vikings are holding opponents to a 50% scoring clip inside the red zone Ė thatís an impressive stat. Yes, there are improvements to be made and the Vikings need to find a way to generate more quarterback pressure (just one sack in two games), but generally speaking I think the Vikings defense has displayed improvement from last season and Iím excited about the direction itís going.



What happened to our offensive line? Last year they were a force to be reckoned with, but this year they canít stop the pass rush or open any holes for Adrian Peterson. Is Jerome Felton the missing piece?
-- Greg S.

There have been some good moments by the offensive line through two games, and Iím thinking of the Vikings 4th-down conversion this past Sunday while running with Peterson behind Phil Loadholt as one of those moments; Loadholt, by the way, is playing tremendously well and the Vikings decision to re-sign him looks golden right now. But generally speaking, the Vikings offensive line can play better, and they will play better. This is a group of starters that all returned from last season and that are coached by a respected and talented position coach in Jeff Davidson. They didnít suddenly forget how to play or become bad players. This is a group that can be dominant with their run blocking and can be effective in their pass blocking Ė they just have to correct some errors. Missing Felton is not helping, I agree, but this is about the five starters and I anticipate them putting it together for a full 60 minutes beginning next Sunday in the home opener against the Cleveland Browns.

Do you think that maybe we are trying too hard at having a receiving threat? I just get the feeling that since we are trying to stretch the field for Adrian Peterson we may be losing our touch at the run game fundamentals. Always a fan of the purple. SKOL!
-- Miah H.
Sioux City, IA

I donít think the Vikings are erring in their attempt to establish a passing game. In fact, I thought Sundayís game in Chicago was a good step forward in that effort. It was encouraging to see Greg Jennings and Rudolph make a couple of big grabs in big moments Ė the Ponder-to-Jennings 22-yard connection on 3rd and 3 from the Bears 28 late in the game was particularly encouraging. As the passing game continues to take steps forward as it did on Sunday, itís only going to open up more opportunities for the running game.




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9/2/13 8:13 P

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by Mike Wobschall, Vikings.com

as of 9/2/2013

Joe Webb made the roster as the fifth wide receiver. Realistically in a game, how much, if any, does the fifth wide receiver play?
-- YC Lindsay
Colorado

The fifth receiver plays more than most people think, and itís largely because of special teams. From an offensive standpoint, the number of plays for which the fifth receiver is on the field will vary depending on the game plan for the week. It could be as little as 10-15 offensive plays or as many as 20-25. But when you add in special teams snaps to offensive snaps, the fifth receiver could be on the field for as many as 30-40 or more. Webb was a preseason standout on special teams this season and in fact threw a key block on Marcus Sherelsí 109-yard touchdown return against the Titans last Thursday night, so I anticipate Webb to see the field quite a bit.

I have not been totally absorbed with the preseason games, but from what I have seen, not only with Vikings games but games across the League, this new "leading with the crown of the helmet rule" that we thought would impact running backs has been a non-factor. Do you foresee this becoming more prevalent in the regular season? Did everyone just get all hyped up over this new rule for nothing? That being said, the MVP has not had a chance to bulldoze over some linebackers yet.
-- Brad M.

My initial reaction to this rule was that it would be over-blown before the season and that ultimately it wouldn't matter much because it would be called so infrequently. I still believe that to be the case. To my knowledge, it was not called one time in the preseason. There will be times in the regular season where the rule is broken and it is flagged, but I believe those instances will be few and far between.

I noticed Seattle released Antoine Winfield. What do think the chances are we extend the proverbial olive branch and sign him back? Thanks and Skol Vikings!
-- Kyle B.
Winona MN

Iím unclear on whether Winfield was ever released from Seattle or whether he voluntarily left the team, but the bottom line is it sounds as if he is going to retire. FOXís Jay Glazer reported it and Seattle Head Coach Peter Carroll also referenced a Winfield retirement via Twitter. That makes it sound to me as if a Vikings-Winfield reunion wonít happen. If Winfield does indeed retire, what a great career. He was probably underrated for much of his career, but I can honestly say Iíve never been around a better-tackling defensive player in my nine seasons with the Vikings.


I was really surprised seeing Stephen Burton get cut. He has made huge strides this offseason, and it sounds like he's got a great work ethic. To me, he just seems like a better choice for the team right now than Joe Webb, who's still very raw at wide receiver. Your thoughts?
-- Steffan L.
Aarhus, Denmark

Itís true that Burton has made big-time strides this offseason. After a couple of years of hard work, he started to make some plays and we finally saw that improvement translate into preseason games. Previously, the knock on him was that he made plays in practice but disappeared in games. Burton certainly erased those concerns because he had a quality preseason. I wish Burton could've made the roster. It's never fun to see guys get cut, and every year there are good players who get cut because teams can only keep 53 guys. Personally, I agree with the Vikings decision to keep Webb, for a couple reasons. First, I think Webb is a better contributor on special teams, and thatís an important role for a fifth receiver. Secondly, Webb's upside is higher than Burton's. Yes, Burton is a more polished receiver right now, but the spot is the fifth receiver spot and I'd rather have a guy with a higher upside even if he's not quite as polished.

How do you think we will start the season this year? By a dominating running game led by the beast Ė Adrian Peterson Ė to keep our power run identity? Or by trying to show the nation that we do in fact have a passing game by putting the ball in the air? Either way, I can't wait until kickoff on the 8th. SKOL VIKINGS!
-- Miah H.
Sioux City, IA

Itís tough to predict how the game will unfold and what the Vikings offense will do in response to what Detroitís defense tries to do. But itís not tough to predict that, despite the personnel upgrades the Vikings made in the passing game, this is still a team that starts and stops with the NFL MVP Ė Adrian Peterson. The Vikings offensive identity is smash mouth, run-it-down-your-throat, physical football, and thatís not going to change with Leslie Frazier calling the shots. With that said, an area where the Vikings must show improvement is the ability to be explosive in the passing game to counteract what defenses are doing to try and slow down Peterson and the ground gam



Do you know if and when the Vikings plan to recognize Cris Carter at halftime of one of their home games for his introduction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year?
-- Todd C.
Toronto, Ontario

Yes, the Vikings will hold a ceremony for Carter to honor his enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame at halftime of the November 7 home game against the Washington Redskins. That game is a Thursday night game that will be televised by NFL Network.

After having our official roster set, what is your win-loss prediction for the Vikings? And who do you think will shine a little bit more than everyone else besides Adrian Peterson?
-- Pablo A.

I don't make predictions on the Vikings record because I believe they can win every game on the schedule and it doesnít do anyone any good to see me predict a 16-0 record. So I will reserve comment on a record prediction. But there are several players on the roster who I think will shine this season for the Vikings, including linebacker Desmond Bishop, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, receiver/returner Cordarrelle Patterson, cornerback Xavier Rhodes and tight end Kyle Rudolph.





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8/26/13 6:08 P

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by Mike Wobschall, Vikngs.com

as of 8/26/2013

After Sunday nightís game, is there some concern in the building regarding the first team offenseís performance? We all know Adrian Peterson wasn't out there and we know the difference he can make. But certainly the coaching staff is ready for this offense to begin to stand on its own two feet and get off No. 28's shoulders. What do you think the coaching staff's answer or fix for the first team offense will be?
-- Derek T.

Certainly the first team offense didnít begin the game how youíd like to begin a game, going three-and-out on the first three possessions of the game and ending the first series with a lost fumble. I will say, though, there were some good things that happened after that, including a one-yard touchdown pass from Christian Ponder to Zach Line after the Chad Greenway interception and then a 78-yard touchdown drive engineered by Ponder that culminated in a highlight-caliber three-yard touchdown catch by Joe Webb. In total, Ponder had a solid stat line, completing 17 of 23 passes for 116 yards with the two touchdowns and an interception that wasnít his fault. So while I agree there are certainly plenty of issues to iron out before the regular season opener on September 8, I would also say there are plenty of things upon which to build.

Itís also important to remember that the first team offense didnít have Peterson for the first two games and they didnít have him for the majority of the time in San Francisco. Additionally, the first team offense didnít have fullback Jerome Felton on Sunday night, either. So the Vikings were without their Pro Bowl fullback and the reigning MVP. Under those circumstances, I think itís hard to get a truly accurate gauge on how the offense is progressing. The Vikings identity is Peterson running the ball, and the Vikings havenít done that once yet this preseason, therefore I have a hard time being too pessimistic about anything.


I feel the offense will come around at the start of the season. I like what I saw from Ponder and the wide receiver corps. I am concerned about the offensive line. They looked out of sync and were not playing their best football. Can you explain why this is occurring? I understand preseason is about evaluating the new players, so Iím trying to keep my expectations in check. I loved that catch by Joe Webb in the end zone.
-- Mike B.
Goodwin, SD

Itís not something I can adequately explain. But as I wrote in the five takeaways piece following Sunday nightís game, itís prudent to be measured in our criticism of the offensive line because A) itís an area of the team most of us know little about, especially relative to how much we discuss and observe the skill positions, and B) we have to keep in mind the offensive line is not blocking for Peterson and they didnít have Felton lowering the boom behind them. But for a group that represented one of the strongest areas of last seasonís team, itís odd to see such up and down moments in the preseason. The good news is this is the best offensive line in the division and all five starters are returning, so itís fair to expect massive improvement from this group once the regular season begins.

Is there any chance Matt Kalil has a sophomore slump? Mental errors the last couple games and struggling some in pass pro.
-- @M_Biggs_

I actually received quite a few emails regarding Kalil this week, and it caught me a bit by surprise. Granted, he did give up a sack on the first snap against Buffalo last week and then he had the two penalties in San Francisco, which Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier explained after the game is not something the team is interested in seeing much of going forward. But I am not concerned in the least about Kalil. He was a Pro Bowler last season as a rookie, and some of those personal foul penalties, while ultimately hurtful because they back the offense up, I actually view them as Kalil demonstrating a nasty attitude that I like in an offensive linemen. Kalil will be better-served to harness that nastiness and keep it between the lines and between the whistles, but Iíd rather have to rein a guy in than try and get him going.

I'm a huge Adrian Peterson fan (who isn't?). Ever since his rookie season, announcers and players alike have raved about his patented hand shake and how firm it is. I'm sure you have shaken his hand multiple times. Can you describe it in words how hard it is? Or does the reigning MVP take it easy on you?
-- Jared J.
Sacramento, CA

No, the reigning MVP has not taken it easy on me when it comes to the handshake. I can attest, itís as strong as advertised. I have moved on to the fist bump with him as to avoid any unfortunate injury to my hand.


Do you think the Vikings defense will run more exotic blitzes(or at least be more aggressive) this year? I like when we are aggressive, especially now when I feel we have the right personnel.
-- Darius F.

One trait of Frazierís that I admire is his ability to remain true to himself, and that personality trait carries through to his football team. In a pass-happy league, for example, coach Frazier remains committed to being a team that prides itself on running the football on offense and stopping the run on defense. With that in mind, I expect the Vikings defense to remain true to its roots, where it relies on four down linemen to create pressure on the quarterback, rather than bringing extra defenders to rush the passer to create that pressure. I will say, though, Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams, while coming from the same coaching tree as Frazier, may have a fiber or two in his body that likes to get aggressive in terms of dialing up pressures (linebacker rushes) and blitzes (defensive back rushes). The key, in my mind, is having players who can be relied upon in man coverage, because often times when you send an extra rusher or two to the quarterback you fall back into man defense. The addition of Xavier Rhodes at cornerback has, in my opinion, opened up the possibility of more blitzing by the Vikings defense. Again, I donít think the Vikings defense will change its identity or core philosophy, but I do think Frazier and Williams are willing to get aggressive at certain times under the right circumstances




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8/19/13 10:32 P

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by Mike Wobschall, Vikngs.com

as of 8/19/2013

Just curious on your thoughts of the first team offense. Don't you think they need more playing time in these games? I understand the team needs to evaluate the other guys, but obviously our offense is not close to ready and they are the ones who play the whole game in three weeks for the rest of the year.
-- Justin H.

I understand the frustration many fans have with how the first team offense has performed through two preseason games. While I agree with Justin and many of you whoíve written in that the offense is in need of showing improvement, I donít agree with the idea that they shouldíve played more than they have so far. Typically, starters play into the 3rd quarter of the third preseason game, and I anticipate just that for the Vikings first team offense. Perhaps more importantly, though, Adrian Peterson will likely play in the game and that will give us a truer barometer of where this offense is at in terms of development. So much of what the Vikings do offensively is predicated on having Peterson in the game that Iím not sure itís fair to cast a judgment on the offenseís progress without him in the game.

Iím not trying to make excuses for the offenseís lack of production to this point Ė they should be held accountable with or without Peterson. But we also have to be fair and realize itís going to be harder for the offense to move the ball without the threat and ability of Peterson, which they havenít had in the first two games.


I'm surprised by the mistakes between the center and the quarterback early in the game at Buffalo. Not only Christian Ponder, but also Matt Cassel fell prey to it. What do you think the cause was? Miscommunication? Bad field conditions? And how do you think the coaches are going to approach this?
-- Ian S.
Strasburg, VA

I was surprised by this, too. At this level of the game and at this point in the preseason, there isnít much tolerance by players or coaches for center-quarterback exchange issues. The very first thing the Vikings work at practice is center-quarterback exchange Ė the centers and quarterbacks are typically the first on the field and itís precisely for this reason.

Without talking to coaches or players about what happened in Buffalo with the exchange issues I can only guess at the reason for them. Itís not common for me to wager this kind of guess on a topic, but here it goes. I think it had something to do with some of the blitzes Buffalo was bringing. In the first two preseason games, offenses donít typically study film and then chart blitzes so they can then design protections and establish rules for every possible blitz an opponent may bring. Instead, offenses are more focused on executing basic principles of their own scheme. So when Buffalo blitzed as much as they did, it may have forced the center and quarterback to adjust more on the fly, thus resulting in miscommunication and mishandled exchanges. Again, just my guess based on no conversations with anyone who knows what did happen.

We saw Christian Ponder running a little bit of the no-huddle offense early on against Buffalo. That's something the Vikings didn't do a lot of last season. Do you think they will implement the no-huddle more this season?
-- YC Lindsay
Colorado

Whether or not a team intends to use the no-huddle with any regularity during the regular season, itís important for the offense to be capable of doing so because there is sure to be a time over 16 games in which itís necessary to run the no-huddle. Iím not sure if the no-huddle offense is something the Vikings will lean on this season, but I wouldnít read into them running it against Buffalo as a sign that itís going to be something they feature with much frequency. Itís likely more a matter of the team wanting to practice it during these exhibition games so that when the time comes to use it in the regular season they have some experience with it.

Also keep in mind, the no-huddle is not necessarily a hurry-up offense. An offense can go no-huddle but still not technically hurry-up because they can still use most of the play clock before snapping the ball. This is something Peyton Manning-led offenses do quite frequently, with the objective being to exploit mismatches created by not allowing the defense to substitute.


You guys at vikings.com showed Blair Walsh kick a 60-yard field goal with what I think was room to spare. Does this mean that we could see a 60-yarder during the regular season?
-- Dan J.
Austin, MN

The 60-yarder Dan referenced happened during the teamís night practice at training camp in Mankato a couple weeks ago. Last yearís Walshís long was a 56-yarder, and Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer actually said earlier in camp that he believes Walshís leg has gotten stronger since the end of last season. All of that on top of the fact that Walsh made a 64-yarder on the second-to-last day of camp this year leads me to believe that he will at some point convert on a field goal try of 60 yards at some point, maybe even this season.

More than just the ability to connect on a field goal of that distance, though, a kicker needs the opportunity. There are risks involved in a team trying a field goal of this distance because a miss from that distance gives the opposing team the ball at the point where the ball was spotted, which on a 60-yard try would be midfield. Coaches are going to be hesitant to put their defense in that position, so circumstances and conditions are going to have to be near-perfect before Frazier is going to allow a try from that distance.

I know that our defense relies a lot on linemen getting pressure on the quarterback while allowing the defensive backs and linebackers to cover. Given this fact and also the fact that Jared Allen is the best pass rusher in the game, is it making it easier on opposing offensive coordinators to game plan for Allen by keeping him on the right side of the line? He still gets double digit sacks. But if he moved around the line, wouldnít that make it more difficult for other teams to game plan and double team him?
-- Carlos C.

I don't know that moving Allen from the right side to the left from time-to-time would make it more difficult for other teams. They would just take note pre-snap of where Allen lines up and then adjust their protection scheme based on his alignment. I'd rather see Allen stay right where he's most comfortable and let him continue to pile up the sacks and quarterback pressures.




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7/30/13 9:45 P

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by Mike Wobschall, Vikngs.com

as of 7/29/2013

When it comes to the linebacker situation, do you see Chad Greenway, Erin Henderson and Desmond being the three starting linebackers? Or do you see Henderson and Bishop at the MIKE with one starting and one as a backup with Gerald Hodges at the other outside backers spot?
-- Paul S.

For right now itís going to be Henderson in the middle with Bishop and Greenway outside. Thatís what Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier indicated to reporters when asked about this topic on move-in day. Frazier said the team felt more comfortable sliding Bishop to the outside while he learns the ins and outs of the defense, and Frazier also said the outside may suit Bishopís pass coverage, blitzing and one-on-one versus fullbacks skill set better. At the same time, Frazier did not rule out the possibility of Bishop moving inside, but for the time being itíll be Henderson playing the MIKE.

Would you assess how Joe Webb is picking up the receiver position? He is a very good athlete, and I believe if he can make the roster he would give us another explosive weapon when he touches the ball. I love your column!
-- Jeff S.
Kirkwood ,MO

By no means is it ďmission accomplishedĒ yet for Webb at receiver, but I have to say Iíve been impressed with how heís handled the transition, from Day 1 back in April through the first couple practices of training camp. When I first learned the team was going to switch him from quarterback to receiver, I was skeptical of how it would work. How often do you see quarterbacks successfully transition to receiver? Brad Smith did it for the NY Jets, Antwaan Randle El did it for Pittsburgh to some degree and Kordell Stewart did it there, as well. Those are just three examples I can think of through many years of watching the game, so I wasnít sure how well it would work. But so far, my initial reaction was wrong. Webb has made consistent improvement for the duration of the transition and now he has an excellent chance to make this team as a returner and contributor in some form on special teams. I would give him more than a passing grade to this point.





What do you think of the Vikings offensive line, and the spots that are open to compete for on the offensive line?
-- Zachary B.
Laredo, Texas

The offensive line is a strength of the Vikings roster at this point, a stance best supported by the fact that the team returns all five starters from last yearís group that helped pave the way for Adrian Peterson to rush for 2,097 yards and earn MVP honors. On top of that, General Manager Rick Spielman and his staff have been diligent about stocking the depth chart with quality reserves who may even be able to challenge for playing time. I wonít reference all the names right here, but 2013 draft picks Jeff Baca and Travis Bond are in that group, as are Joe Berger, Brandon Keith and Seth Olsen. Itís too early to single out any of those reserves as having a beat on a roster spot, but itís clear right now that the competition for those spots will be thorough and good.

I was watching a highlight video of Adrian Peterson, and surprisingly I noticed that Jerome Simpson was in many of the highlights making a big block downfield, sometimes even de-cleating blocks. Do you feel that Simpson could be underrated on his other abilities outside of receiving?
-- Steve E.
Wanamingo, MN

Yes, I do believe there are facets of Simpsonís game that are underrated, including his blocking ability. The Vikings have been consistent in saying that blocking is a priority for their receivers because they are helping to clear the way for the best running back in the NFL, so Simpson would not be on the team in consecutive seasons if he wasnít a good blocker.

Granted, Simpson did not have the kind of season he or the team envisioned a year ago, largely because of an injury he sustained early. That has soured some on his prospects for the upcoming season, but not mine. The Vikings passing offense is going to take a significant step forward this season, and I believe Simpsonís presence will be a big factor in that.





If it is true and the plan is to use Sharrif Floyd as a backup to Kevin Williams, how soon do you expect Floyd to earn a bigger role on the defensive line?
-- Trevor S.
Belmont, NC

You never know what can happen at training camp. Thereís a chance Floyd will impress so much during training camp and the preseason that the coaches just canít resist putting him on the field for a prominent role right away. Or it could take Floyd some time to get his NFL legs under him while he learns behind Kevin Williams. We just wonít know until well into training camp and likely a few preseason games. It wouldnít surprise me to see Floyd as a member of the rotation at defensive tackle to begin the season, but it also wouldnít surprise me to see Floyd be a regular contributor at defensive tackle in the teamís nickel package.

At training camp are there required social events that are exclusive to the team that are designed for the players to bond and essentially become a Viking fraternity?
-- Mathew D.
Peoria, IL

From time to time coach Frazier may organize such events, but most of the bonding happens in the cafeteria during dinners, going back and forth between meetings and practice, at the nightly team snack in the main lobby of the dorms and even on the practice field. This is an important aspect of training camp and is a big reason why some teams continue to use alternate sites for training camp rather than holding training camp at their regular practice facility.




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7/16/13 9:30 P

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by Mike Wobschall, Vikngs.com

as of 7/15/2013

What do you think the chances are that we will run the ball 35-40 times a game? It seems as though running early and often gives us our best chance to win, and brings out the best in quarterback Christian Ponder. What do you think the chances are that the coaches stick with that same blueprint?
-- Alex B.

The Vikings were a fairly run-heavy offense a year ago, but perhaps not quite as run-heavy as many would think given that Adrian Peterson had such a dominant season. With a total of 486 runs in 16 regular season games, the Vikings averaged 30.4 rushes per game, which ranked eighth in the NFL. The Vikings also registered seven games with 30 rushes last season. Interestingly, five of the seven teams with more rushes than the Vikings a season ago were also playoff teams.

Even the most run-heavy offenses in the NFL last season (Seattle, New England, Washington, Houston, Kansas City all had 500 ) didnít come close to averaging 35-40 rushes per game, so I donít expect the Vikings will reach that number this upcoming season, either. If anything, the Vikings may reduce their number of rushes per game because of the improvements theyíve made to the passing game, as Ponder has another season of experience under his belt and talented pass-catchers such as Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson were added to the mix. Thereís no question the Vikings strength is running the ball and thereís no question a good rushing attack will make Ponder a better passer, but thereís also no question that the passing offense will be improved from a season ago and that could yield fewer rushes and a few more passing attempts.

Blair Walsh did an outstanding job on kickoffs last year. But now that the Vikings drafted punter Jeff Locke who specializes in kickoffs, who will assume kickoff duties once the season rolls around?
--Nate H.
Clarksville, TN

My sense at this point is Walsh will retain kickoff duties in 2013, and special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said as much this past offseason. There could be a change down the road, of course, but as of this moment my guess would be that Walsh will be the man on kickoffs. Remember, he set a team record last season with 53 touchbacks and the Vikings as a special teams group ranked eighth in the NFL in opponentís average starting field position after a kickoff (20.8-yardline).

Barring any detrimental injuries, I feel this team could really be impressive in the upcoming season. Each year one or two new/less experienced guys on each team tend to really take a step forward and play impressive football. I feel many different Vikings are capable of doing this in the upcoming season. Although we can only make a guess, do you have a guy or two in mind that you see really coming on or impressing us this year?
-- Tyler R.

This is an interesting question, and it was actually the subject of a blog entry I wrote back at the beginning of the offseason program in April. In that entry I pointed out five Vikings who may be poised for breakout seasons Ė defensive tackle Christian Ballard, right guard Brandon Fusco, safety Mistral Raymond, cornerback Josh Robinson and wide receiver Jarius Wright.

If I could pick just two from this list, itíd be Ballard and Wright. In 2013 Ballard has an opportunity to take an even larger step forward than he did from 2011 to 2012. Perhaps Ballardís best trait is his versatility, as he can line up at defensive end or defensive tackle and heís also been a special teams contributor for Mike Prieferís group. But this year I see him almost exclusively as a defensive tackle and as a regular member of the rotation. Wright finished the season with 22 receptions for 310 yards and two touchdowns while playing in little more than a handful of games (inactive until Week 10), but now heís poised to earn a spot in the starting lineup and continue in 2013 where he left off in 2012 as a versatile receiver who can play inside or outside and who excels from the slot.

As we get closer to training camp, I get more and more nervous that the Vikings three first-round picks wonít be signed by the report date. Do you share this same feeling?
-- Paul S.

I canít see into the future nor do I have any inside knowledge on this, but at this point I donít have any worry that any of the three first-rounders wonít be signed. You see rookie training camp holdouts from time-to-time, but they seem to be far less frequent since the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was ratified and I believe that trend will continue this year, as well.





I would like to give a huge shout-out to Head Coach Leslie Frazier and his staff. They, along with General Manager Rick Spielman, have rather quietly assembled a team that appears to have quite potent potential. Here in Texas, and even in the national media, it seems all I hear is the "experts" think the Vikings will be an ďokayĒ team this year...improved but not enough to overtake the Packers and Bears in our division. I've got to say, for our staff to put together the quality pieces they have, and remain so far under everyone's radar like this, is quite an accomplishment. It makes me even more proud of them. They have quietly put together a team of players that look to me like they could be lights-out deadly on the field. It's exciting! SKOL to STAFF! Way to go!

SKOL VIKINGS!
-- Dares O.
Burleson, TX

Dares is an avid reader and frequent writer to the Mailbag and I wanted to share his email here to let all the other readers in on his optimism. I know there are a lot of fans out there who share in the optimism for the 2013 season, and I do as well. As for the analysts out there who donít share that optimism in the team, I feel you canít get mad at that because they have a job to do and they canít pick every team to do well. The Vikings were a playoff team a season ago and they have the reigning MVP on their roster, but every season is unique and all teams start from scratch as of next week when training camps begin.

I'm as excited as you to see the Purple get back in Mankato for training camp, but since it's the ďslow-periodĒ for professional sports, I'm wondering if you could help me out. A couple of my high school buddies and I have had a long-running debate on whether there are more or less than one google (1 with one-hundred zeroes behind it) grains of sand on Earth. What's your take?
-- Colby S.
Waseca, MN

There are more than one google grains of sand on Earth. Think about the deserts on this planet, the ocean floors, the miles-upon-miles of coastline and beaches, mountains, volcanos and river beds, and donít just think about the surface-level sand but think about how deep below the surface the sand can extend. I am as much or more convinced about this than about anything Vikings or NFL-related.

But in all honesty, this is one of my buddies from back home and we have indeed debated about this topic for years. I know it has nothing to do with the Vikings or the NFL, but Colby is right that this is the slow period for the NFL news cycle Ė one of the only ďslowĒ times on the NFL calendar. There are two bits of good news, though: 1) This slow period is about over (the Vikings report to training camp next week); and 2) Readers of the Monday Morning Mailbag are about to register comments below in support of my opinion that there are more than one google grains of sand on Earth, further beating down those whoíve disagreed with me, including my good buddy Colby




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by Mike Wobschall, Vikngs.com

as of 7/8/2013

With the Vikings linebacker depth this year, do you think they will rotate the new and younger guys in (with the exception of Greenway) like they did last year with Everson Griffen at defensive line and Jamarca Sanford and Mistral Raymond at strong safety?
-- Reed P.

Thatís a possibility, especially if the younger players perform well enough during training camp and the preseason. Keep in mind, we saw this at the nickel linebacker position last year when the Vikings decided to play Jasper Brinkley at times before eventually going back to Erin Henderson full-time. But I think thereís also something to be said for wanting a couple of guys to win the job(s) outright during camp so the defense can generate some continuity. Linebacker is not quite like the defensive line where a team benefits greatly from having a rotation; I think the team benefits from having that continuity. Ultimately, though, the bottom line is coaches will play the players who give the team the best chance to win, and if that means replacing starters mid-season, then thatís what the team will do.





Whatís your opinion on the progress of Christian Ponder during the Organized Team Activities and mini-camps?
-- Mike B.
Goodwin, SD

There was definitely progress made by Ponder and the offense as a whole during the offseason program. With Ponder specifically, I saw a quarterback who was surer of himself, from footwork in the pocket to decision making on his throws. His offseason progressed similar to how his 2012 season progressed, where I thought he looked great early before experiencing some ups and downs in the middle and then finishing strongly. The final two days of the three-day mini-camp were impressive performances from Ponder, which should springboard him into training camp with some momentum. Itíll be hard for Ponder not to be excited going to training camp with the weapons around him this year relative to what heís had around him the past two summers heading into camp. The additions of Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson on top of a healthy John Carlson and Jerome Simpson will complement greatly the emergence of Kyle Rudolph into a star and the improvement Jarius Wright will make into his second year. And letís not forget the transition of Joe Webb to the receiver group and the unknown upside of guys such as LaMark Brown, Greg Childs and Adam Thielen.

With all this talk about Adrian wanting to reach 2,500 yards and Ponder having a breakout season, it seems as though those would be opposing views. I believe both of these things can be done, but our defense is the key for that to happen. The only way we have enough downs for Adrian to have another big season and for our passing game to improve is to limit our opponentsí offense to fewer snaps by forcing more three-and-outs. Do you agree? And if so, does it seem like the defense is up for the challenge?
-- Joe S.
Yorkville, IL

I do agree. In fact the numbers would support Joeís assertion on this topic. Last season the Vikings defense was tied for 17th (Philadelphia, San Francisco) with 41 opponentís three-and-out drives. Comparatively, Denver led the NFL in this category with 60, and the Top 5 teams in this category averaged 55.2. A product of forcing fewer three-and-outs is a poor 3rd-down defense, where the Vikings ranked 27th, yielding 1st downs at a 41.3% clip. And if you ask me, this entire problem starts on 1st down. Last season the Vikings defense ranked 31st in allowing opponents to gain four or more yards on 1st-down passing plays, and they also allowed four or more yards rushing on 1st down 45.7% of the time. An improvement on 1st down, specifically on first-down passing, will improve the Vikings 3rd-down defense and their ability to get off the field in just three downs.

But I believe the defense is indeed up for this challenge. While lost Antoine Winfield has departed and the starting middle linebacker must be replaced, the additions that were made (Desmond Bishop, Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes) in combination with the development and progression of younger players (Everson Griffen, Christian Ballard, Josh Robinson, Harrison Smith) represent an upgrade for the defense relative to the personnel and performance from last year. I believe the Vikings have put together a defense that can rank in the Top 10 in scoring and yardage, and that can significantly improve against the pass on 1st down and overall on 3rd down.

The team is looking great! I can't wait for training camp to begin. I was wondering if you had a chance to evaluate RB Bradley Randle during OTAs? I understand he faces stiff competition for a roster spot, but I watched a few of his college videos and he looks like a dynamic playmaker. I believe we need a true change of pace back 3rd-down back, and was wondering how he was performing?
-- Damian B.

There are just some positions that are hard to accurately evaluate in OTAs and mini-camp because of the contact restrictions set forth by the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Iíve said this a lot about the defensive line and the offensive line during the offseason program, but I would also add the running backs to this statement. You canít see how well they break tackles, if they can hold onto the ball with defenders trying to rake it out, or if they can step up and repel a pressuring linebacker or blitzing defensive back in pass protection. Training camp and the preseason provides the proving grounds for running backs, and thatís where Randle will ultimately earn or not earn a place on the roster.

For the time being, though, I can tell you that Randle impresses with his quickness and speed, and he also appears to be a capable receiver out of the backfield. Those are all traits a team wants out of a 3rd-down back, so while Damian is right that there will be stiff competition for roster spots at running back, I believe Randle will be in the mix until the end of camp to indeed earn a place on the team.





The last two years we have come extremely close to breaking a record. Last year it was Adrian Peterson and the single-season rushing record and two years ago it was Jared Allen and the single-season sack record. Who is this yearís candidate to break a record or get near it, and which record? I would say Peterson, but not the rushing record Ė it will be the touchdown record.
-- Chris L.

Actually, the Vikings did have a player break a record. Blair Walsh made 10 field goals of 50+ yards, setting a new NFL single-season record. He also made three field goals of 50+ yards in a game, which tied a NFL single-game record.

But itís still an interesting question and prediction from Chris. I actually do think Peterson will challenge the single-season rushing yardage record again. Here are a few other possibilitiesÖ

-- Jared Allenís next safety will give him the NFL record for safeties in a career, as he is currently tied for first in League history with four career safeties.

-- The NFL record for kickoff return touchdowns in a season is four, set by Green Bay Packers rookie Travis Williams in 1967. Cordarrelle Patterson, assuming he wins the kickoff return job, can challenge that record.

-- The Vikings franchise record for single-season touchdown receptions by a tight end is 11, set by Visanthe Shiancoe in 2009. That is a record that will one day be broken by Kyle Rudolph. Could it be this season?

-- In 2009 Brett Favre had 10 games without an interception thrown, and last season Ponder registered the second-best season in that category with eight games without an interception. With another year of experience under his belt, with Peterson running as well as heís been running, and with a better complement of weapons at his disposal, I think Ponder can match or surpass Favre in this category.





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by Mike Wobschall, Vikngs.com

as of 6/3/2013

Apart from the obvious (Chad Greenway, Adrian Peterson), who impressed you the most during last week's Organized Team Activities (OTAs)?
-- Harry C.
England

On defense I thought defensive end Brian Robison had a good bounce in his step and I also saw defensive tackle Christian Ballard display good effort. In the back end of the defense I made note a few times of cornerback Jacob Lacey making plays in some of the passing drills and then I also thought cornerback Xavier Rhodes continued to look good.

On offense, receiver Jarius Wright looked quick and comfortable and tight end Kyle Rudolph looked like a playmaker. I also thought both Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel had good command of the offense and were sharp in making all the throws asked of them.

Itís early, itís OTAs and weíre only 3/10s of the way through, but those are a few standouts so far.

How did linebacker Gerald Hodges look last week during OTAs? What is your observation on him? He may be a rookie now, but he may have more potential.
-- Dustin V.
Iowa

My observation on him is that I think he plays bigger than he's listed, yet he still impresses me with his movement skills. To steal and reverse a line from defensive backs coach Joe Woods, Hodges is a big man with little man movement skills. There are times I see him out of position on a play, but for the most part I've liked what I've seen and I think he's a candidate to earn significant playing time even as a rookie.

Do you expect Jarius Wright and Jerome Simpson to have bigger impacts this year?
-- Ahmed A.

With quarterback Christian Ponder entering his second full season as the starter, with the addition of free agent receiver Greg Jennings and first-round pick Cordarrelle Patterson and with returning pass catchers such as Kyle Rudolph, Simpson and Wright having another year under their belts, I think the Vikings passing game will take a significant step forward in 2013. So by definition I think both Simpson and Wright will have bigger impacts this year.

Wright played in the final 10 regular season games and 1 postseason game last year, and in that time he collected 24 receptions for 323 yards and two touchdowns. I expect Wright will be in the mix from the beginning of the season this year and I also think he can increase his per-game production. As for Simpson, he dealt with injury a year ago and that took away some of the burst in his step. A healthy Simpson this season will give the Vikings an elite speed threat on the outside, which will be a great complement to the Vikings power running game and quick strike passing game that will feature Jennings and Wright.

I know weíve always had the option of purple pants, but very rarely have we used them. Iíve always thought the purple pants were unique and looked great. Do you think we may decide to incorporate the purple pants more often? If not, is there any reasoning as to why we only wear the purple pants on seemingly random games and so rarely?
-- Kyle L.
Minneapolis

I canít say for certain what the team will decide, but my sense is that the purple pants will make more frequent appearances going forward. The white jersey on top of purple pants is a clean look and would be my choice for the primary road uniform. Again, just my guess at this point but I wouldnít be surprised if we saw more of the purple pants in the near future.

I love our new uniforms, but the one thing I've noticed is a lot of teams have alternate uniforms, and as far as I can tell, we do not. Do you think the Vikings will sometime in the future bring out an alternate?
-- Kenneth W.
Pass Christian, MS

I wouldnít rule anything out, but Iím also not in a position to know or disclose what the plans may be in that regard. With the current uniform options, the Vikings have enough options for a primary home uniform, a primary road uniform and then a couple of alternates. In terms of colors outside of purple and white, though, Iím not sure what the NFLís rules are on that nor do I know what the Vikings have planned. For now we will enjoy the new uniforms as theyíve been presented this offseason, and to this point Iíve received near exclusively positive feedback from fans on that topic.




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by Mike Wobschall, Vikngs.com

as of 4/6/2013

Do you have a favorite rookie? I like Xavier Rhodes. Do you think he (as Deion Sanders did) could play on both sides some day?
-- Robert L.
Irvine, CA

I like all of our rookies and wonít point to a favorite, but I think Rhodes is a good choice. He was a clear standout during this yearís rookie mini-camp and Iím anxious to see him line up against our active roster during the upcoming Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and ultimately training camp later this summer. As for where heíll be able to play on defense, he could be the Vikings best cover cornerback so my thinking is that heís a candidate to play on the defenseís left side because that's the side the opposing quarterback can see the best and is most likely to target. You want your best coverage cornerback playing where the football is most likely to be thrown.

Why do I hear so little now of Audie Cole? He too was a seventh-round pick and rocked in the preseason last year. Now with the prospect of two more late-round linebacker options, doesn't Cole have the edge as he is the most developed and comfortable with the Vikings scheme? I agree with you that Erin Henderson is a good option, yet I can't help but think that we may have a strong starting middle linebacker in the waiting just one year out from his draft.
-- Jeff N.
Littleton, CO

You hear little about Cole because analysts and the public are more drawn to flashy names on the free agent market than they are to late-round picks who are developing. Itís much more attention-grabbing for someone to submit the idea of a Karlos Dansby or a Brian Urlacher as the fix at linebacker than it is to suggest a more organic option such as Cole or Henderson. Given the one year of equity he has built up with the team already, Cole does indeed have a chance to prove he can fill the hole at middle linebacker created by the departure of last yearís starter, Jasper Brinkley. But heís not the only current Vikings who could fill that role. As Jeff pointed out, Henderson is a candidate as is seventh-round pick Michael Mauti.

First off, I am very pleased with this yearís draft. With these types of moves it shows how serious the Vikings are about winning. Some analysts dog the Vikings for giving up too many picks for WR Cordarrelle Patterson, but if you want a player, why not go out there and get him! No problem with that. Perfect example of quality over quantity. With that being said, is Greg Jennings willing to spend the extra time with Patterson to go over routes and the playbook? Same with Kevin Williams. Is he willing to mentor DT Sharrif Floyd, knowing thatís his eventual replacement? Just curious. Go Vikings!!!
-- James G.
San Diego, CA

Those are both good questions because in todayís NFL, where competition for roster spots is so fierce and player movement is so common, sometimes you donít see players looking out for another playerís well-being, especially when theyíre in the same position group. But that wonít be a problem for the Vikings with these two situations. Jennings and Williams are both high-character players and consummate professionals on the field and in the meeting room. They will both be great mentors and role models for their younger teammate.

Don't you think the "hand wringing" over not drafting a top-tier linebacker prospect to play the middle (MIKE) is much ado about nothing? My thought on this is that in today's NFL, how often are we even in our base 4-3 alignment? I am willing to bet that well over 50% of the snaps are in nickel or dime. Thus, the role of the MIKE as a three-down player is greatly diminished. It makes much more sense to move Erin Henderson to the MIKE in base alignment since he is playing it in the nickel package. Then, you can rotate the other Ďbackers based upon their skill set and what you are trying to do.
-- Scott C.

This is exactly my thinking on the issue. It is important to have three quality starting linebackers, no question. But I think itís more important to have two quality linebackers and three starting-caliber cornerbacks to play in the nickel package. As Scott suggested, the Vikings did indeed play with two or fewer linebackers on the field more than they did with three or more linebackers on the field. Last season the Vikings played just 42% of the downs in their base 4-3 alignment.

As we all know, the end of the draft isn't really the end of the draft. With college free agents coming in, there is even more competition. Are there any promising guys in that group? I was a little disappointed that we didn't bring in some safety competition in the draft, although I am very happy with our haul in the draft overall. Of course you have only so many picks, but with Tony Jefferson not being drafted, I would have loved seeing us nab him after the draft. So, I guess I'm asking: 1) How do the rookie free agents look, and 2) Do you feel that we have enough next to Harrison Smith for a solid secondary next season?
-- Jeremy H.
Lincoln, NE

I came away from last weekend impressed with the Vikings class of undrafted free agents. Offensively, I thought former Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg had a strong arm and former UNLV running back Bradley Randle displayed good agility and a low center of gravity when carrying the ball. Defensively, former Ohio State linebacker Nathan Williams played like his hair was on fire and former Georgia Southern safety Darius Eubanks impressed several times during both team and seven-on-seven drills.

As for the depth at safety next to Smith, the Vikings are in good shape. I expect a repeat of last yearís competition between Robert Blanton, Mistral Raymond and Jamarca Sanford, and I wouldnít be surprised at all to see another name join the mix, perhaps even Eubanks or former NC State safety Brandon Bishop, who was also at this past weekendís rookie mini-camp.

I have been reading some articles on playoff predictions for this year. I was surprised to see that the same teams as last year minus the Vikings. We seem to be very underrated. Which I think was the same case last year, and that turned out to us making the playoffs. With all of the upgrades to the wide receiver core and to the defense, I see us as a better team this year. What is your opinion as to why other teams or sports writers just donít see us as a contender?
-- Tom G.
Hayward, WI

I canít speak for how or why other analysts say or write what they do. But I agree with Tom that the Vikings have improved the talent level on the roster through both free agency and the draft. Add to that the fact that quarterback Christian Ponder and several other young starters in the lineup will have another year of experience under their belt, and I think this young Vikings roster is set to take another significant step forward.


Edited by: MORGANLAFEE at: 5/9/2013 (22:05)

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4/1/13 10:31 P

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by Mike Wobschall, Vikngs.com

as of 4/1/2013

With the Vikings having multiple draft picks in the first round, and with GM Rick Spielman's love of draft picks, do you see the Vikings trading one of the first-round picks for additional picks since the draft is so deep this year? For example, the two second-round picks that Cincinnati has.
-- Adam J.
Hayfield, MN

I wonít go so far as to predict this happening, but I most certainly would not rule out the possibility of the Vikings trading back. If a particular quarterback or two, for example, remain on the board when the Vikings are on the clock at No. 23 or No. 25, it wouldnít be a shock to see a quarterback-needy team decide to trade back into the first round to satisfy that need on the first day of the draft rather than go to bed after the first round knowing they are going to have to compete with other quarterback-needy teams for the one or two top prospects who remain.

At the same time, given Spielmanís propensity to make draft-day trades, I also wouldnít rule out the Vikings moving up to grab a player they covet. The Vikings did this just last year, trading with Baltimore to get back into the first round so they could grab Harrison Smith.

I know the Vikings already have several Notre Dame players, especially at tight end. But could TE Tyler Eifert still be a realistic possibility for them? The Vikings utilize tight ends well, and Eifert is a good blocker and could help Adrian Peterson and Christian Ponder.
-- Mike D.
Chicago, IL

This is an intriguing question. At surface level one would say no in answering this question. But letís remember a few things on this topic. First, we all know that Spielman insists on staying true to the board and taking the best player available. Secondly, the Vikings have two first-round picks. And thirdly, both the Vikings first-round picks (No. 23 overall and No. 25 overall) fall right about where Eifert is projected to be selected. Considering all that, the question Mike has posed is one the Vikings may have to consider when theyíre on the clock in the first round.

This reminds me a lot of the situation the Vikings were in during the 2011 draft when they were on the clock in the second round and Kyle Rudolph was still on the board. There is one big difference, though: that was in the second round, not the first round. There are a lot of moving parts on this one, and at this point I wouldnít rule anything out, especially with how disciplined the Vikings are when it comes to staying true to their board.

Speaking with Harrison Smith and Kyle Rudolph at an event in Leeds (England) last week, they praised Manti Te'o's ability as a player. Given the Vikings need at the middle linebacker position, what do you think the chances are of the Vikings using one of their two first-round picks to select Te'o if he is available? Also, how do you rate Te'o as a prospect?
-- Rob W.
Leeds (UK)

Itís too hard to actually put a percentage on the chances the Vikings take Teío from my chair, but itís certainly within the realm of possibility given the fact that the Vikings starting middle linebacker from last season Ė Jasper Brinkley Ė signed a free agent contract with the Arizona Cardinals a couple weeks ago. Letís also remember that the Vikings have several of Teíoís former college teammates on the roster, so perhaps the locker room environment in Minnesota is better for Teío than other locker rooms across the League.

We addressed this topic in last weekís Pick 6 Video Mailbag.

Do you think our depth at slot receiver (Greg Jennings, Jarius Wright) will make us less likely to draft Tavon Austin if he falls to #23? Austin is tremendously talented, but plays primarily slot. Would the Vikings be better off choosing Robert Woods or Keenan Allen?
-- John R.
Suffolk, VA

Ordinarily, the presence of Jennings and Wright on the roster may preclude the Vikings from drafting a receiver in the first round who would play primarily in the slot. But when you consider the fact that Austin could also contribute as a kickoff and punt returner, the team may be willing to deal with a logjam at slot receiver by selecting Austin to join Jennings and Wright.

At the end of the day, itís about accumulating the best collection of players at every position that you can. The best way to do that is to take the best player available, regardless of position. Itíd be a shame to miss on Austin by taking a different receiver just because you perceived a greater need at another position.




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3/20/13 10:32 P

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by Mike Wobschall, Vikngs.com

as of 3/20/2013

With the singing of WR Greg Jennings, which I believe was a good addition to our team, do you think that will lead to Jarius Wright moving to the slot receiver position in place of Percy Harvin? Also, do you think we will select another good wide receiver with one of our first-round picks this year? If we do, our receiving corps will go from just okay to being a really good group in a short time.
-- Jeff
Kirkwood, MO

Wrightís size and skill set is such that he may be best playing from the slot. But we also saw moments in 2012 where Wright proved he could be a downfield threat as well - he had a 54-yard reception in his debut against Detroit and a 65-yard reception in Week 17 vs. the Packers. Jennings has that same (or better, even) versatility. I expect to see plenty of Jennings playing in the slot. Essentially, the signing of Jennings gives the Vikings great flexibility. It gives them flexibility in the early stages of the draft because now the team isnít as desperate for a playmaking wide receiver. It gives them flexibility on the field because you can line him up in the slot or out wide, you can motion him or shift him, and you can run a variety of different routes with him.

With the signing of QB Matt Cassel, what do you think we will do with Joe Webb? I know you've been a firm believer that he will stay at quarterback, but with four quarterbacks on the roster do you see a possible switch to wide receiver or a special teams role?
-- Brandon
Fond du Lac, WI

At this point I do not see Webb switching positions. I see Webb putting his best foot forward and competing for a roster spot as a quarterback. Eventually the coaching staff will make a decision on the quarterback depth chart, and if Webb is the odd man out then theyíll have to figure out the next step. They could keep four quarterbacks, they could trade Webb, they could cut Webb or they could ask him to switch positions. Switching positions is an easier-said-than-done proposition of course, so that may be the last resort. For now, though, I expect Webb will remain a quarterback and will show the coaching staff just how competitive he is by making the coaches make a tough decision in stacking the depth chart.

With the NY Giants putting a first-round tender on WR Victor Cruz, could you see the Vikings using that #25 pick (acquired from Seattle) to acquire him? Or is he asking for too much money for it to be worth it?
-- Dakota K
Newport, MI

My sense is that a Vikings-Cruz union is unlikely. In fact, it would surprise me if any team could pry the talented receiver away from the Giants. For starters, Cruz has to agree to join the club that is pursuing him. Secondly, any offer Cruz receives and accepts from another team can be matched by the Giants. Also, keep in mind that Cruz recently hired Tom Condon as his agent, and Condon is the agent who represents Giants quarterback Eli Manning.

Being able to bring Cruz into the mix would be great for the Vikings, don't get me wrong. But the cost associated with doing so is heavy. Not only would the Vikings have to give up their first-round pick (#23 overall), but theyíd also have to offer Cruz a lucrative free agent contract that the Giants would either be unable or unwilling to match. That seems like an unlikely scenario at this point for the reasons stated above.

With Antoine Winfield being released and Jasper Brinkley signing with the Arizona Cardinals, we need a couple replacements for those positions. Do you have any free agents in mind that could fill those roles? Or will the Vikings look to the draft to fill those positions?
-- Brad S.
Albertville, MN

I donít have any specific free agents in mind for the Vikings to fill holes on the roster at this point. Iím not saying the Vikings wonít be active in the free agent market moving forward, rather I expect the Vikings to take some time to assess the market and look for some bargain prices on players they believe can compete for roster spots during the offseason program, training camp and the preseason. A year ago the Vikings brought in veteran free agents such as Zack Bowman and Chris Carr Ė those are the types of free agents we could see the team bring in again this year, with optimism that those signings will work out better this year. Again, Iím not saying the Vikings are done with well-known names in free agency, I just think now is the time for the Vikings to look for bargain prices on those kinds of players.

But the team will still rely mostly on the draft to fill needs on the roster. The Vikings have had success doing this in the past, illustrated best by the fact that nine of the teamís 10 draft picks from 2012 are still on the roster. The Vikings have 11 selections in their arsenal at the moment, which gives the personnel department plenty of chances to increase the talent level and competition level on the roster.

It seems almost universally accepted that the Vikings will draft a wide receiver in the first or second round, but I'm not convinced of that. What advantages are there, if any, in waiting until the third and fourth rounds to draft multiple receivers while using our first two picks to address defense or offensive line? Maybe my optimism for Jarius Wright, Jerome Simpson and Greg Childs drives this question.
-- Bill S.
Reading, PA

The advantage to that approach this year is that the wide receiver class is deep. With some exceptions, the difference between many of the receivers taken in the middle rounds and many of the receivers taken at the end of the first round and in the second round may be negligible. With that being the case, a team looking to add receivers could rely on that depth by addressing other positions earlier and then going back to the deep receiver class in the middle-to-late rounds.

Iím not suggesting thatís what the Vikings or other teams looking to address the receiver position will do, Iím only pointing out Ė with the help of Billís question Ė that itís one option.




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1/14/13 5:10 P

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by Mike Wobschall, Vikngs.com

as of 1/14/2013

After watching these young quarterbacks in the playoffs running read-option offenses with great success, I was wondering if you think this would be a viable option for our offense. With Christian Ponder's athletic ability and the best running back in the league on our team, I could see the read-option being very effective.
-- Allen A.
Prior Lake, MN

I understand some of the performances of these young quarterbacks Ė particularly with their success running the ball out of the read-option Ė will have fans desiring their teams to employ the same tactics. But I donít believe itís a wise or prudent strategy for most teams in the NFL, the Vikings included. Iím more comfortable with an offense that asks the quarterback to be productive from the pocket, and to use his legs to make plays only when necessary (pocket breaks down, receivers arenít open, etc.).

Robert Griffin III is perhaps the best at running the read-option, and heís dealing with a severe knee injury/rehab right now as a function of being injured while running with the ball outside of the pocket. He suffered his original knee injury against Baltimore while running outside the pocket with the ball, and then he reinjured the knee while running outside the pocket with the ball against Seattle in the playoffs. Granted, all quarterbacks at times have to run outside the pocket, but running the read-option will obviously expose a quarterback to those hits with more frequency.

The read-option is an attractive and tempting offensive style, but I think in the long run itís foolís gold. The NFL is a passing league, and itís my belief that the key to long-term success on offense is not with running quarterbacks Ė itís with pocket passers who run only when there is no other option.

Do you expect an increase in prime time games for the Vikings next year? I'd really like to see a Thanksgiving game. We haven't had one of those for quite some time, and considering we have road games against both Detroit and Dallas, I feel like it could happen. What do you think fans should expect in regard to prime time games next year?
-- Joe H.

Given the star power on this team with guys such as Jared Allen and Adrian Peterson and given the teamís dramatic turnaround from three wins in 2011 to 10 wins in 2012, I absolutely anticipate an increase in scheduled prime time games for the Vikings.

The Vikings had just one scheduled prime time game in 2012, and Iíd guess that number will increase to three scheduled prime time games in 2013. Thatís just a guess at this point on my part, but Iíd think itís reasonable to speculate that both Sunday Night Football and Monday Night Football will want to put the Vikings on their docket next season, plus the NFL Network will likely try to put every team on its Thursday Night Football package at some point during the season.

Additionally, when you consider the fact that the three other teams in the NFC North are also attractive draws, that only increases the chances of the Vikings appearing in more games during prime time. Joe also makes a valid point that the Vikings will be on the road in both Detroit and Dallas this year, and we all know that they both host Thanksgiving Day games.

Do you think the Vikings should draft Georgia DT Jonathan Jenkins with the 23rd pick (in the 1st round)? Heís 6-3, 360 pounds. Remember how good the Vikings run defense was when Pat Williams was still here? Drafting Jenkins would allow for less run blitzes by our linebackers and allow for the linebackers to drop into coverage more frequently. With a great defensive tackle, the Vikings defense would ultimately improve against both run and pass.
-- Adam C.

Admittedly, I donít know this yearís draft class well enough yet to make any sort of determination on players that may or may not be a good fit for the Vikings. So I wonít comment on Jenkins specifically, but I will say that I appreciate Adamís point Ė that the Vikings defense is at its best when the defensive tackles play in such a way that the defense can rush four and drop seven into coverage.

Iím interested in seeing Kevin Williams return for the 2013 season. Next to him, I think the starting job is open for competition. Letroy Guion has been okay in that spot, but I think thereís still room for him to improve. Fred Evans has provided excellent depth, and I think he has a spot on this club as well. But I wouldnít be surprised to see the Vikings add some depth along the defensive line via the draft. Whether thatís with a 1st-round selection or not, only time will tell.

Do you think Kansas City Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe would be good fit for the Vikings as a true number one receiver? We need more depth in the passing attack, and Bowe has shown that with even subpar quarterback play, he can still be a very dangerous man to defend and make a passer look good.
-- Gabe M.
Coon Rapids, MN

I will qualify my opinion on this topic by acknowledging there is much about Bowe that I donít know, such as his medical history, personality, etcÖthose are all issues that matter and that must be vetted out with any player by any team recruiting them in free agency. Also, letís keep in mind that heís property of Kansas City at this point and thereís a good chance new head coach Andy Reid wonít let him sniff free agency.

With all of that being said, Bowe most certainly passes the eye test and I think heíd be a nice addition to the Vikings offensive attack. Gabe is correct that he can be a productive player even with substandard production at quarterback, as evidenced by the fact that heís had three 1,000-yard seasons (plus a 995-yard season) and a 15-touchdown season while playing with quarterbacks such as Matt Cassel, Damon Huard and Tyler Thigpen. Itís my belief that with Christian Ponder, the Vikings will have well above average production at quarterback, thus making Bowe even more of a lethal weapon in the passing game. I love Boweís catch radius, size and versatility.

Again, there are many aspects to this issue that I donít know, but I do know that Bowe passes the eye test





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12/13/12 12:01 A

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by Mike Wobschall, Vikngs.com

as of 12/10/2012

With so much talk about our passing game improving, it seems like nothing changed this week either. What do you think the Vikings can do to improve it before the St Louis game?
-- David G.
El Paso, Texas

The sub 100-yard passing outings are hard for fans to stomach given the fact that Christian Ponder was the 12th overall pick and is being groomed to be a franchise quarterback. I understand the frustration fans feel in that regard, and Iím hopeful that in time the passing game will take significant steps forward. But if you can refrain from analyzing Ponder through that lens and instead focus on what Ponder and the Vikings need to do to win games this season, I agree with Head Coach Leslie Frazier that against the Bears on Sunday Ponder did exactly what the team needs him to do.

There were several moments where the Vikings needed a big-spot completion from Ponder, and they got it. Two that come to mind immediately are 3rd-down throws. On the opening drive of the game, the Vikings faced a 3rd and 9 from the Chicago 28. Ponder fit a throw to Michael Jenkins between linebacker Lance Briggs and cornerback Kelvin Hayden for an 11-yard gain. Then, in the 4th quarter as the Vikings were trying to chew up some clock with a 14-point lead, Ponder rifled a quick slant into Jenkins on 3rd and 6 from near midfield following a timeout.

Those are the type of big-spot throws the Vikings need Ponder to make. And given the way Adrian Peterson is running the ball and both the defense and special teams are playing, if Ponder can make the majority of those five-to-six big-spot throws per game, the Vikings can be a very successful team going forward.

Good win for the Vikings to stay in the playoff picture. Credit to the defense and Adrian Peterson for playing a great game. My concern is about Christian Ponder and the passing game. It seems like guys can get open, but he's not passing the ball. His deep ball is also looking weak. What are your thoughts about his ability to make passes?
-- Shane K.
Duluth, MN

I donít have any doubt that Ponder can make all the throws necessary. Where I think itís still a work in progress is his timing and some of the pre-play and post-play decision making. The throw Ponder made deep down the middle of the field to Jarius Wright on Sunday is a good example of what Iím talking about. That pass was underthrown, as Wright had a few steps on the defenders but was forced to slow down in order to make a play on the ball. Had Ponder thrown that pass the same distance but just a bit sooner, the pass wouldíve been on time and Wright wouldíve caught it as he was gaining separation. The same throw that appeared to be underthrown would actually have been perfectly thrown had Ponder just been on time with the pass.

Do you believe Adrian Peterson is the most talented running back of all-time? I certainly do.
Justin F.
Charlottesville, VA

Iím probably not qualified to answer that question because I wasnít around to watch some of the greats play. As great as Peterson has been during his career, there are some who will argue that Jim Brown or Walter Payton were greater. And then there are others who would say that Peterson has indeed matched or even surpassed those historic names.

Peterson doesnít yet have the numbers to say heís the greatest. He doesnít have the longevity, either. And he hasnít led his team to a Super Bowl, yet. So from that standpoint, thereís more work to be done for Peterson.

But all things considered Ė physical ability, production, toughness, etc. Ė I think youíd be hard-pressed to find a running back in NFL history that possessed a better all-around combination of traits.

What do you think the chances are that Harrison Smith could win the Defensive Rookie of the Year? He's fifth among rookies in tackles. He also has a couple of interceptions returned for touchdowns, not to mention how he has transformed our secondary. While fellow rookies like Luke Kuechly and Lavonte David are having great seasons, Smith's presence seems to far more valuable to the Vikings defense. The same can be said about Matt Kalil on the offense. Although the Offensive Rookie of the Year will most likely go to Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, I think he should at least be considered based on holding down one of the toughest positions in football.
-- Josh
Eagan

Iím not sure what the chances are of either winning their respective rookie of the year awards, but thereís no doubt that both have made a profound impact on the Vikings this season. Both Kalil and Smith have been reliable and productive starters for the Vikings from Day 1 of the regular season. I agree with Josh that the offensive rookie of the year will almost certainly go to one of those two quarterbacks, but maybe Smith has a beat on defensive rookie of the year honors given his most recent interception returned f or touchdown. Iím sure there are several defensive rookies who are having seasons worthy of praise, but none more so than Smith in my opinion.

Do you see Sunday's game against St. Louis as an opportunity for Christian Ponder to gain more confidence in passing, as the Rams compared to the Bears do not have anywhere near as strong of a defense?
-- Mathew D.

Every week is an opportunity for Ponder to progress as an NFL player, but I would not single out the Rams as a weak opponent whom the Vikings can cushion their stats against. Under first-year head coach Jeff Fisher, the Rams have made drastic improvements, especially on defense. They currently rank 12th in total defense and 12th in passing yards allowed per game. They aggressively addressed personnel issues in their secondary over the previous offseason, signing free agent cornerback Cortland Finnegan and then drafting a pair of CBs in Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson. They also have some talent in their front seven with players like defensive end Chris Long and middle linebacker James Laurinaitis.




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11/19/12 6:23 P

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by Mike Wobschall, Vikngs.com

as of 11/19/2012

As we hit a crucial pair of back-to-back games against the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers, I don't see such a big difference between the Vikings and these two teams. That gives me cause for optimism. The whole division is tough, but I think the Vikings will get a road win against at least one of these teams and have a decent shot at both of them. Do you see any reason why we shouldn't consider these match-ups pretty even?
-- Brad L.
Schenectady, NY

The margin between victory and defeat in the NFL is razor thin, especially in games between familiar division foes such as Vikings-Bears and Vikings-Packers. In my mind, these matchups are even and Vikings fans should enter this final six-game stretch with optimism about their young team.

As you look at the Vikings remaining schedule, you see a bunch of games against tough opponents, specifically the four games against Chicago and Green Bay. But letís also keep in mind that those teams are looking at their schedules, too, and I donít think they see the Vikings as a cupcake opponent, either. So weíre in for some late-season drama and Iím excited to see this Vikings team make a push for the playoffs down the stretch. To make that push, though, the Vikings will have to find a way to win tough games on the road. Thatís a tall task, but itís a task I think this group of players can tackle.

A lot of talk about Adrian Peterson recently because of his amazing recovery and even more amazing performance to date. When do the MVP chants start? Would you consider him a front runner for that award right now? Thanks for your insight. SKOL!
-- Josh M.
Canton, SD

The MVP chants should start now. Peterson has been the heart and soul of the Vikings offense since he was drafted in 2007, and heís in the midst of his best season to date while coming back from a severe knee injury. Heís the NFLís rushing leader though 10 games by 123 yards (Marshawn Lynch), is on pace for over 1,800 yards and is averaging an insane 5.8 yards per carry. Over the last four games, Peterson is averaging 157.2 rushing yards per game, and if he continues that pace or remains close to it, heíll top 2,000 rushing yards. On top of all that, heís on pace for a career high in receptions, as well.

Iím not saying Peterson should be the run-away winner of the MVP award, but I am saying heís a legitimate candidate for the award at this point in the season.

Do you think Christian Ponder will finish the year playing like he did in the Lions game? Or will he continue to be up and down from week-to-week?
-- Andy
Columbia, MO

Because he has just 20 career starts under his belt, I anticipate Ponder will continue experiencing some ups and some downs. Itís only fair to allow that for a young quarterback. At the same time, the key for a young quarterback is to keep improving on a game-by-game basis. You can live with some mistakes as long as youíre also noticing improvement. Thatís what weíve seen so far with Ponder, and I anticipate that heíll continue to improve as the season progresses.

Andy pointed out the Lions game, and thatís the perfect type of performance to have from Ponder Ė 24 of 32 (75%) for 221 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. With the running game and defense the Vikings have displayed for much of the season, they wonít lose many games when Ponder has that kind of performance.

Do you think we are under-using RB Toby Gerhart this season? He was a player who produced big-time while Adrian Peterson was out with his knee injury.
-- Judah B.

Gerhart did indeed play well late last season after Peterson went down with his knee injury, and letís also keep in mind that he played well earlier that season when he filled in for Peterson while he was dealing with an ankle injury. Last season, Gerhart averaged 4.9 yards per carry on 109 attempts.

With that said, I canít agree that Gerhart is under-used by the Vikings. While Iíd like to get him more involved, I also recognize that he does play a role in this offense right now. Additionally, I wouldnít recommend taking any snaps away from Peterson right now. He has four straight 100-yard games, and the Vikings should keep feeding the beast.

Gerhartís value to this team lies in his ability to be a 3rd-down weapon (pass blocking, pass receiving) and in providing great depth behind Peterson. With Peterson on the roster, the Vikings have built their offense around a powerful and productive rushing attack. If youíre going to build your offense around the running game, you better have a good stable of running backs Ė not just one good running back, but a stable of them. And the Vikings have one of the best running back duos in the NFL with Gerhart in the fold, so from that standpoint Gerhart has tremendous value and is not being under-used.

What are the keys to scoring points on the Bears defense?
-- David S.
Burnsville, MN

If I knew the answer to that, Iíd be making a lot of money as an offensive coordinator for some NFL team. No one has been able to figure out how to score on this yearís Bears defense, as theyíve allowed just 14.8 points per game, second-best in the NFL behind San Francisco. But I believe the Vikings offense can solve the riddle that is the Bears defense.

To do so, Iíd like to see the Vikings lean heavily on Adrian Peterson. Certainly Chicago will make stopping Peterson their top defensive priority, but Iíd run it a ton until Chicago proved they could stop it. It will also be important for the Vikings to focus on winning the field position battle. Itís hard enough to move the ball against this Bears defense, but trying to do it while backed up deep in your own territory can turn into a flat-out disaster. Touchbacks for Blair Walsh and precise punting from Chris Kluwe can go a long way toward winning the field position battle and, in effect, giving the Vikings offense its best chance at keeping the Bears defense off-balance and moving the ball down the field.

Finally, itís also important to keep TE Kyle Rudolph involved. In last weekís win over Detroit, Rudolph reemerged in the Vikings passing attack with seven receptions for 64 yards with one touchdown. Itís not a coincidence, in my mind, that Ponderís big bounce-back performance after a few substandard weeks occurred in combination with Rudolphís reemergence.

Do you expect Jarius Wright to play against the Bears?
-- Jose
Venezuela

I am interested in seeing Wright active on game day going forward. Granted, the coaches know far more about who gives the team a better chance to win versus a given opponent than I do, but Iím curious to see the Vikings offense operate with Wright joining the regular cast of characters. We have to keep in mind that Jarius had just one catch after that first drive, so itís not as if heís lighting the world on fire (yet). But it was exciting to see some pop in passing game even without Harvin in the mix, and Wright was a big reason behind the success of the passing game versus Detroit last week. My guess is Wright will be active (pending health) in some or all of the Vikings remaining games.

The last time the Vikings played the Bears, Jared Allen recorded 3.5 sacks. What are the chances he can replicate this feat?
-- Jeremie O.
Harrisburg, SD

Iíve learned to never bet against Jared Allen, so it wonít surprise me if he does replicate that performance. Keep in mind, only four teams have allowed more sacks than the Bears (28), and no team has registered more sacks than the Vikings since the start of last season. Plus, Allen is having yet another good season with 7.0 sacks through 10 games. Can he collect 3.5 sacks against the Bears on Sunday? Iím not sure, but itís certainly possible and it would go a long way toward the Vikings pulling off the upset at Soldier Field.




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10/23/12 10:49 P

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by Mike Wobschall, Vikngs.com

as of 10/22/2012

Good win versus Arizona. I feel like we've got a lot to work on offensively, but our defensive play was greater than I had expected. I know we've added a lot of weapons on the defensive side of the ball, but what do you think is the major factor for this quick turnaround from last yearís defense?
-- Tosin
Maryland

Several factors have combined to help the Vikings improve on defense. First, the defensive line has continued to play well. They led the NFL in sacks last year, and this year the Vikings are tied for third in sacks with 22, including seven on Sunday against Arizona. The defensive line had six of those seven sacks. Also, the Vikings have a nice rotation going at defensive line right now that allows them to keep starters fresh throughout the game. The next factor Iíd point to is health Ė both Chris Cook and Antoine Winfield have been healthy this year. Last year they missed a combined 21 games, and it negatively impacted the defense. And finally, thereís no denying that the infusion of youth to the defense has given them an edge they didnít previously possess. First-round pick Harrison Smith has had a fantastic season, and he was rewarded for it on Sunday when he took an interception back 31 yards for a touchdown. Cornerback Josh Robinson has been impressive early in the season and is a regular contributor on the defense, especially as an outside cover corner.

Those three factors, along with a few others, have combined to help the Vikings make a profound improvement on defense.

I don't want to jump all over QB Christian Ponder for a poor performance or two, but is his increase in interceptions lately something to be concerned about? Do you think he will become more likely to revert back to his old ways of last season?
-- Shefflan S.

Although my inbox this morning would indicate otherwise, I can assure you the sky is not falling on Ponder and the Vikings passing offense. Yes, the interceptions are concerning because you never want to turn the ball over. Possessions and field position are too valuable, and turnovers cause you to lose both of those battles in a game. So from that standpoint, yes the interceptions should be concerning.

But the good news is weíve seen Ponder on the other side of the spectrum, so we know he can get back to that point. This is a quarterback who threw no interceptions through the first four games of the season and is still completing 67.0% of his passes for the year. This is also a quarterback who threw for 381 yards and three touchdowns against a playoff team (Denver) last year when he was just a rookie. The physical skill set is there for Ponder. Right now, he needs to figure out whatís causing the errors and get it corrected. Iím confident heíll be able to do it.

Ugly win. Minnesota was lucky to come away with a victory. The defense and special teams did okay, but that was one of the worst offensive displays (not including Adrian Peterson's running) that I have seen in a while. I understand that this is a young team and there will be growing pains and that the Vikings want to establish and maintain ball control, but I think they are way overdue for shots down the field. Jerome Simpson was almost a non-factor today, and I honestly can't recall a time when the Vikings attempted to stretch the field on the Cardinals. Is it just that our receivers aren't getting open, or is it Christian Ponder not wanting to turn the ball over and being too protective with it?
-- Greg S.

I canít agree that the Vikings were lucky to come away with a win on Sunday. The Vikings defense was dominant in registering seven sacks, holding Arizona to just 5.2 yards per play and keeping Larry Fitzgerald in check with just four receptions for 29 yards. On top of that, the Vikings averaged 6.1 yards per carry behind 153 rushing yards from Peterson and the special teams group did a nice job of neutralizing Patrick Peterson in the punt return game. This wasnít a case of the Vikings falling into a win or pulling a miracle out at the finish. Iíve been through plenty of experiences where I genuinely felt that the Vikings played well enough to win, but they wound up on the losing end. You take every win you can get, and you never apologize for it. This was a good win for the Vikings against a tough opponent.

As for the passing offense and its inability to get going on Sunday, I think it's probably a combination of factors, including but not limited to: inexperience at quarterback; inadequate pass protection; receivers not getting open; playcalling; plus other factors. I wouldn't place the blame at any one person's feet or as the result of any one aspect of the offense. In football, you win as a team and lose as a team. The same goes for subsets of the team, such as offense, defense and special teams. I would venture to guess that when the offense meets this week to review the Cardinals game and prepare for the Buccaneers game, all aspects of the offense will feel that they need to improve in order for the Vikings passing game to improve.

I know you have been sticking up for Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave, but his playcalling does not suit our offense. Iím sitting here watching the Vikings go three-and-out all 2nd half of this game. What is it going to take for him to figure this offense out?
-- Cody R.
Arizona

Iím not going to try and pull wool over anyoneís eyes by blindly defending an aspect of the team when itís apparent that something has gone amiss. With that being said, I donít think itís fair to blame any one person for the deficiencies in the Vikings offense from Sunday, and that includes coach Musgrave. Letís also remember, Musgrave is as responsible for the running game as he is the passing game. So whatever blame you want to assign to Musgrave for the passing offense on Sunday, an equal amount of credit should be given to him for the success of a running game that averaged 6.1 yards per carry on 27 attempts.

Running an efficient offense is about so much more than calling the right plays, or making the right throw or running the right route. A lot of things have to happen simultaneously, and there are going to be times when a wrench is thrown into the gears. There are going to be times when the defense has to pick it up for a low-scoring offense. There are going to be times when the offense has to pick it up for a leaky defense. And then, as we saw in Week 4 at Detroit, there are going to be times when the special teams come in and save everyone.

The Vikings, at 5-2, are off to a great start. And a big reason for the great start is the play of the Vikings offense. This past Sunday, the Vikings defense held the fort down. One of the Vikings strengths this season is how they are playing as a team. We saw that once again on Sunday in the win over Arizona.




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by Mike Wobschall, Vikngs.com

as of 9/30/2012

Itís been a long time since weíve seen a Vikings secondary perform like this, Mike. What has happened? Iím asking this question with joy and excitement, but seriously, what has happened to make this turn-around for the Vikings pass defense?
-- Jim S.
Annapolis, MD

There are three aspects to the Vikings pass defense that stood out to me on Sunday in Detroit. First, it looked to me as if the plan put in place by the coaching staff was executed very well by the players. Rarely did we see a Lions receiver in open space with no defenders around him. When this does happen, more times than not itís a result of poor execution. Second, I think the Vikings are tackling well. If a receiver did uncover and make a catch on Sunday, the Vikings did a great job of swarming to the ball and stopping the receiver before he could generate many yards after the catch. Third, I loved how the safeties Ė Jamarca Sanford and Harrison Smith Ė played. They were physical with receivers after they made receptions and they even knocked the ball out of receiversí hands several times after it appeared they made a catch. The combination of big hits in the middle of the field and the habit of knocking the ball from a receiverís hands after a catch represents a big-time improvement in my eyes.

Living in California makes it almost impossible for me to see the Vikings play. So, did the offense look off a bit? The stats make it seem like that.
-- Paul S.
California

I wouldnít say the offense as a whole was off. The offensive line did a great job in the run game, and Adrian Peterson looked as good as heís looked all season. The Vikings averaged 4.5 yards per carry, and Peterson had 102 rushing yards on 21 carries (4.9 yards per carry). On the flip side, though, it was a bit more difficult for the Vikings to get going in the passing game. Quarterback Christian Ponder was responsible with the ball and stayed away from turnovers, but he had just 111 passing yards on 16 of 26 passing. There are some games when the passing game carries the offense, some games when the running game paces the attack, and some games when both or neither are clicking. For the Vikings on Sunday, the running game set the tone for the offense and it turned out to be a productive day on the ground.

What were your impressions of WR Jerome Simpson? Do you think the Vikings got him involved enough?
-- Tracy S.
Mesa, AZ

The Vikings offensive coaching staff did a great job of getting Simpson involved in the game. Simpson drew a pair of pass interference penalties on deep passes Ė one for 31 yards and another for 26 yards Ė that both led to scores. For the game, Simpson was the Vikings leading receiver, hauling in four receptions for 50 yards, including a huge 27-yard catch on a fade route that Ponder threw to him on 2nd and 11 from the Minnesota 19 with just 2:53 to play in the game. Simpson provides the Vikings passing game with an element that was missing before his arrival Ė the ability to win versus coverage consistently downfield. The penalties he forced Detroit into are hidden yards, and the confidence Ponder has in going to Simpson down the field in big spots is invaluable to this offense.

Did Christian Ponder take a step back in his game against the Lions? I know he didn't have any turnovers and wasn't given many opportunities to throw, but it seemed like he was much more uncomfortable in the pocket and struggled this game. Your thoughts?
-- Julian S.
Kalamazoo, MI

Sunday was certainly not a sharp performance by Ponder or the Vikings passing game, but to call it a step back in Ponderís development is certainly overstating what happened. Ponder opened the season with three very good outings, and even after Sunday heís completing 68.3% of his passes and has a passer rating of 97.7 for the season. As Julian said in the question, Ponder was careful with the ball and avoided turnovers despite not being able to get things moving through the air. I chalk this performance up to a tough game against a good team on the road, and I anticipate Ponder bouncing back in a big way next week in a home game.

Everson Griffen is everywhere! He is constantly making plays for us, yet I see that he is not a starter. Do you think heís earned a starting spot now with 2.0 more sacks against Detroit?
-- Ashley K.
Minneapolis, MN

Thereís no question that Griffen has been a productive player for the Vikings, on special teams as well as on defense. I understand where Ashley is coming from on this, but I actually Griffenís production on defense so far this season is in large part a function of the fact that he doesnít start. Coming into the season, the Vikings defensive coaching staff committed to establishing more of a rotation along the defensive line, with the goal being to keep guys fresh throughout the course of games and through the course of the long season. With the rotation in place, what youíre seeing is guys such as Griffen playing in the late stages of these games with fresher legs, and then theyíre going against offensive linemen who have been playing the whole game.

To answer Ashleyís question: I do think Griffen is playing well enough to be a starter on an NFL team. But I also think Griffen is better-suited to be in the role that heís in with the Vikings. I expect heíll continue to produce at this kind of level.

WR Jarius Wright has been inactive ever since his ankle injury in the last preseason game. Is he ever going to return? I think he, Simpson and Harvin would be amazing to see on the field at the same time.
-- AJ C.
Greenville, PA

I thought Wright was on track to play in each of the last two weeks, but heís been inactive both games. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier indicated late last week that Wright is very close to being able to return. At this point, itís a matter of his health and a specific weekís game plan that will determine if Wright plays or not. Itís a long season, and weíre only a quarter of the way through it, so there will be plenty of opportunities for Wright down the line.

Great game Sunday at Detroit. Itís really encouraging to see a game where the special teams and defense are the ones to carry the club. That being said, and despite the 102 yards from Adrian Peterson, did the lack of offensive scoring bother you? It might be a lot tougher trying to keep offenses like the Packers down to 13 points, or having to rely on Percy Harvin and Marcus Sherels to come up with the great plays they had this game.
-- Dan A.
Iowa City, IA

I understand that the Vikings offense did not account for a touchdown on Sunday, but I think those with concerns about the offense are prisoners of the moment and are not considering the entire body of work the offense has produced this season. Also, letís not forget that the Vikings were able to move the ball on the ground against Detroit, they were just unable to convert that into touchdowns.

Iím not going to say that the offense can rest on its laurels and act like nothing needs to improve. All facets of the team should strive to improve each week. But Iím also not going into panic mode after one game in which the offense didnít produce any touchdowns.




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9/25/12 10:45 P

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by Mike Wobschall, Vikngs.com

as of 9/24/2012

We played a really good San Francisco 49ers team and we were able to pull off a victory that a lot of people did not see coming. My only concern: Although Christian Ponder has shown a huge improvement from last year, I am still not sure if he can keep this up and compete with the teams in our division. What are your thoughts so far, as we are sitting here with a 2-1 record?
-- Alex B.
Phoenix, AZ

I donít share the same concern. Ponder has shown improvement from the beginning of the offseason program in April, and that improvement has continued up until this point. Thereís no question in my mind that Ponder can play at a level that allows the Vikings to be competitive within the NFC North. Another reason Iím confident Ponder can play at such a level is that beyond just showing improvement, heís been consistent in his performance, completing at least 60% of his passes in all three games and not yet throwing an interception. The Vikings should be pleased with Ponderís progression to this point and Vikings fans should be confident in their young franchise quarterback.

I was so impressed by what the Vikings did on Sunday against the 49ers. Itís easy to see that we are very strong in passing offense. But our running game seems not as strong. What do we need to do to get more yards from Adrian Peterson on the ground, instead of just the little gains? Great to see the win. SKOL!
-- Kayla K.
North Dakota

If you look at this weekendís game against the 49ers as a one-game sample size, I can see how youíd come to this conclusion. But letís remember, the Vikings faced an elite run-stopping defense this week and they actually fared quite well. In 2011, the 49ers yielded just 77.3 yards per game, and heading into Sundayís game against the Vikings the 49ers allowed an average of 63.5 rushing yards over the first two games. The Vikings gained 146 yards on the ground, a total the 49ers havenít given up since November 21, 2010. The Vikings did a great job of running the ball, and staying committed enough to the run that it kept the 49ers defense off-balance. That allowed Ponder to be effective passing the ball. There are some weeks when the running game will lead the way for the Vikings, and there will be others when the passing game leads the way.

How are the Vikings going to integrate WR Jerome Simpson into the offense?
-- Tristan G.
San Diego, CA

This is the question of the week. Simpsonís dominant characteristic is speed, and speed is one characteristic you canít coach into players. Thereís no question his return to the lineup adds another dimension to the Vikings offense, primarily the dimension of a downfield threat who can win versus coverage consistently.

I will say, though, that the perception is Simpson is a one-trick pony who will run ďgoĒ routes exclusively. But Iím not convinced thatís the case. I think there are other areas of the field where you can use Simpsonís speed, such as on intermediate routes (slants) and on shorter routes (shallow crosses, screens). Basically, the answer to this question is ďweíll have to wait and see.Ē Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier and Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave will surely be asked this question, but theyíll do the smart thing and keep the answer close to the vest. It will be interesting and fun to see how Simpsonís role begins and then evolves as the season progresses.

I really believe Christian Ponder has arrived. But as you know, with Jerome Simpson coming back this week, do you think Christian Ponder will fall into the trap of trying to get the ball to him rather than just working the offensive system like heís been doing?
-- Darnell
Vikings fan since Ď98
Los Angeles, CA

Thatís an interesting question, and itís something that could easily happen to a young, eager quarterback whoís happy to see one of his better weapons back on the field. But I think Ponder will be able to avoid this trap. Ponder has done a great job through the first three games of not forcing passes downfield or to certain receivers. Heís shown a willingness to take what the defense gives him, and live to see another down. This habit of good decision making indicates to me that he wonít fall into the trap of forcing passes to Simpson now that heís returned to the lineup.

What is the deal with WR Jarius Wright? Was he a healthy scratch? Hurt? Can we expect him to play next week? If he does play, what will his role be, considering weíre also getting Jerome Simpson back? I think our offense has potential to be dangerous with the addition of these two.
-- Adam
vikings.com Blog commenter

Frazier was not asked about this after the game, and without hearing what he had to say about it I hesitate to make a guess. Wright not being active could be for any number of reasons, from health to this weekís particular game plan. Perhaps Frazier will be asked about Wright on Monday during his customary day-after-the-game press conference.

This is another interesting facet of Simpson returning to the lineup. The Vikings will have to shift the roster around a little bit with Simpson returning, and that could alter the teamís plan with Wright moving forward as well.





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by Mike Wobschall, Vikngs.com

as of 9/17/2012

What did you think about that loss? And I think Ponder is making strides on becoming a solid quarterback. What are your thoughts?
-- @Cmager21

It is a hard loss to take, largely because of how close the Vikings came to winning the game despite a generally unproductive and undisciplined effort for much of the day. As frustrating as fans might be with the Vikings performance through the first three quarters, they should also appreciate the teamís resiliency and fight in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, thatís not enough to win in the NFL. You have to be good in the first three quarters, too. Ultimately, a slow start for the offense in the first half, too many penalties and the inability to slow the Colts down through the air was the recipe for a close loss on the road.

As for Ponder, I agree that heís making solid strides. He displayed improvement during the offseason and the preseason, and there have been times during the first two regular season games where weíve seen that improvement on the field of play. I think Ponder would be the first to say heís not where he wants to be, but he is on the way. Heís played great in the fourth quarter of the first two games, so the next step is to be consistent. Coaches (and fans) would prefer a player have a standard of performance rather than a tendency to be hot and cold.

We seem very predictable. Run Adrian Peterson, pass to Kyle Rudolph, screen pass to Percy Harvin. Do you see this changing when WR Jerome Simpson returns?
-- Steve G.

According to my count in going through the official play-by-play, the Vikings had 24 first-down snaps before the final drive of the game, which lasted just two plays before the clock expired. Of those 24 first-down snaps, the Vikings called 12 runs and 12 passes. That is balanced, but when you take a closer look, youíll see that the Vikings called 10 first-down runs to three first-down passes in the first half, and then flipped the script in the second half by calling nine first-down passes compared to two first-down runs.

So while you could point to a running tendency on early downs in the first half against the Colts, we also have to remember that the Vikings have a talented one-two punch at running back and they were playing a defense that they thought they could run against. Then, in the second half, the Vikings offensive staff made adjustments to the plan and called more passes on first down. I give the coaching staff credit for making that adjustment. Sunday was the second consecutive week where we saw the offense perform better in the second half compared to the first, a sign that the right adjustments are being made at halftime.

Iím not sure how the return of Simpson in Week 4 will change the Vikings playcalling on certain downs. Iím confident Simpsonís return will allow the Vikings to stretch the field vertically more often, Iím just not sure what the breakdown will be on certain downs.

Why did we only throwing the ball 10 times in the 1st half? Christian Ponder threw it 25 times the 2nd half and itís no coincidence we scored our only two touchdowns in that time. Why is the playcalling so limited early on?
-- Jake L.
Annapolis, MD

I donít view the playcalling as limited. Ponder was asked about this during his post-game press conference, and he explained that the Colts played a lot of Cover 2, which takes away a lot of opportunities to throw it deep when the coverage is played properly. That forces a playcaller to lean on the run a bit more with the safeties so far from the line of scrimmage and it prompts the quarterback to adjust by taking what the defense gives him on passing downs rather than force a deep pass into coverage.

When is the last time an opposing quarterback looked below average versus our defense? Iím thinking a passer rating of below 80.0? It seems that every quarterback is Hall of Fame versus us. Even Tim Tebow threw like an All-Pro against our defense
-- Shawn

Defending the pass was an issue for the Vikings in 2011, no question about it. The Vikings ranked 26th in passing yards allowed and they ranked last in passing touchdowns allowed a year ago, which is largely what prompted the Vikings to begin making changes to the secondary this past offseason. The Vikings selected a safety in the first round, a cornerback in the third round and another safety in the fifth round to help shore up the pass defense. The Vikings signed Zack Bowman and Chris Carr in free agency to add a veteran presence to the group, but they were both cut after the preseason. In yet another move to address the secondary, the Vikings traded for cornerback A.J. Jefferson before the start of the season. Clearly, the Vikings understand their deficiency in pass defense, and theyíre trying to fix the issues. So far, the results just havenít been there.

Shawn is right, the Vikings have rarely made life difficult on opposing passers. While they did lead the NFL in sacks last season, they were still unable to prevent opposing passers from producing. Only two opposing passers had passer ratings below 80.0 last year Ė Chicagoís Josh McCown in Week 17 and Arizonaís Kevin Kolb in Week 5. This year, both Blaine Gabbert and Andrew Luck registered impressive passer ratings, as well.

This is an issue for the Vikings defense right now, and you can be sure that coaches will be working behind the scenes at Winter Park this week to make improvements before the San Francisco shows up at Mall of America Field for a Week 3 showdown.






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by Mike Wobschall, Vikngs.com

as of 8/27/2012


The Vikings offense made a lot of mistakes with four turnovers last game, but I thought the defense really stepped up and played well. What do you expect the offense will try to improve on this week besides the obvious Ė trying to lower the turnovers?
-- Ethan M.

Overall I was pleased with a lot of what we saw offensively from the Vikings last Friday, but the turnovers were a killer. The Vikings offense first-team offense did have four three-and-out series, which you donít want to see, but they also had a 10-play, 39-yard drive that resulted in a missed field goal and a four-play, 47-yard drive and 10-play, 56-yard drive that ended in lost fumbles. Three of the Vikings four lost fumbles came in Chargers territory, two of the four were in the red zone and one of the four was inside the five-yardline. What does that mean? It means the Vikings offense did a good job of moving the ball (averaged 4.5 yards per play and had 22 first downs), but did a poor job of protecting it.

So outside of protecting the ball, I donít have a whole lot about which to complain from the Vikings offense. On Thursday in Houston, though, itíd be great to see some of the Vikings reserve offensive linemen separate themselves from the pack and itíd also be great for a receiver or two to show some play-making ability outside the numbers.

One guy who has stepped up his game this preseason has been LB Jasper Brinkley. I didnít think the Vikings should go with him. Now Iím beginning to think maybe he is the guy. Is he going to be our starting middle linebacker this season?
-- Kurt A.
Los Angeles, CA

One of the players Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier has talked about the most following the last two preseason games has been Brinkley. After being out of action last year and for some of the offseason program due to injury, and then not playing overwhelmingly well in the preseason opener in San Francisco, a lot of fans questioned the Vikings decision to stick with Brinkley. But over the last three weeks, including the past two preseason games, Brinkley has progressed a tremendous amount and looks the part of a starting-caliber middle linebacker in the NFL. The key now is for Brinkley to A) stay healthy, and B) keep progressing.

Brinkley is a great defender vs. the run and he understands how to play the part of a middle linebacker when it comes to leadership and making the calls. The two biggest elements of his game to work on now are consistency and playing the pass. It wonít take teams long to figure out not to run against the Vikings when Brinkley is in the game and to attack via the air instead. So if Brinkley can be sound in his drops against the pass, he will enhance his role on the defense and make it more difficult for the opposing offense to move the ball.

Not sure if youíre into fantasy football, and Iíve not seen a fantasy football question in the Mailbag. But Iím curious to know your thoughts on RB Adrian Peterson and TE Kyle Rudolph from a fantasy football angle. We all believe those guys are good players because we love the Vikings, but do you think they are both good fantasy football options this year?
-- Antonio
Minneapolis, MN

Iím definitely no expert when it comes to fantasy football, but I do enjoy playing fantasy football and Iím always happy to include a Vikings-relevant fantasy football question in the Mailbag.

I think a lot of people are missing the boat on Peterson. With him coming off an injury and with the way Toby Gerhart has looked, Iíve noticed Peterson going later than Iíve ever seen him go in fantasy football drafts Ė or go for the lowest value Iíve seen in auction leagues. To me, Petersonís fantasy value should remain up there with the top running backs because I believe his production will not decrease this year. Yes, Gerhart has shown that heís worthy of more touches, and those touches have to come from somewhere. But Peterson has also shown me that heís going to be an elite offensive weapon this year even coming off his injury. My advice is to go after Peterson, and if you get Peterson make sure you handcuff him with Gerhart for depth.

As for Rudolph, heís going to emerge as a starting-caliber tight end in fantasy football this year. Most leagues are 10-team or 12-team formats, and in those leagues I would recommend Rudolph as a starter. Gone are the days when there arenít enough productive tight ends to go around the league for starting lineups, and Rudolph is a part of that. Where Rudolphís value is even higher is in points-per-receptions (PPR) leagues, because I think Rudolph will be a frequent target of Ponderís up and down the field.

I was just wondering why the Vikings don't take a chance on WR Plaxico Burress? I understand we have a young receiving corps, but we need help at receiver, and Burress is willing to play for the minimum. It's a low-risk, high-reward move for the Vikings. I'm sure QB Christian Ponder would love that huge target. I bleed purple and can't wait for the season to start.
-- Ben
Shakopee

I understand the concern a lot of fans have with the Vikings receivers, but I donít share that concern. While the Vikings wide receiver corps Ė outside of Percy Harvin and Jerome Simpson - has underwhelmed at times so far, I think the Vikings will be fine without hitting the veteran free agent market. Harvin and Simpson will provide the Vikings with a solid one-two combination for most of the season, and then having tight ends Kyle Rudolph and John Carlson working the middle of the field will be a big boost to the passing game as well. Outside of those four players, the Vikings donít need huge performances from some of the reserves. If Michael Jenkins stays healthy, heís a reliable veteran who will contribute. Manny Arceneaux, Devin Aromashodu and Jarius Wright are competing for rosters spots as well, and each of those three guys has shown the ability at some point during training camp to play a productive role with the team, too.

Veteran receivers on the street, such as Burress, Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens are always popular with fans because theyíre household names with a history of production. But the key word in that sentence is ďhistory.Ē The Vikings are concerned with who can help them now and in the future. The guys currently on the roster fit the bill in that regard, and Iím looking forward to watching a few of them step up in 2012.

I know that what I see on television or at a game is totally different than what a coach can see, whether at practices or a game. But I keep liking what I see in QB Sage Rosenfels. For what you see at practice and games, are you seeing what I am seeing?
-- Brian G.
Keokuk, IA

I give Rosenfels a lot of credit because for much of his career heís been the type of quarterback teams like to have on their roster Ė a true professional who knows how to play the position, how to work with other quarterbacks on the team, and how to help the team in preparation and in a game even though he doesnít play a prominent on-field role. At the same time, for much of his career he hasnít been the guy teams give the reigns to as far as being that franchise quarterback. But Rosenfels continues to plug away, and as a result he adds value to a roster because of his experience and ability to help younger quarterbacks. On top of that, when he does get in the game, he performs well. Last Friday, Rosenfels was six of six for 51 yards and a touchdown, which was the go-ahead score late in the game.

As long as Rosenfels can drive a team down the field like that, heís going to have a place in the NFL as a backup quarterback.





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8/20/12 5:32 P

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by Mike Wobschall, Vikngs.com

as of 8/20/2012

I'm stoked that RB Adrian Peterson is healed from his injury, and I can't wait to see him in action. However, is it a little too soon to get back on the metaphorical horse? Toby Gerhart is looking awesome, as usual, and I think we'd be okay if Adrian took a game or two Ė or maybe even wait until WR Jerome Simpson gets back for the Lions game in Week 4. I think the Vikings are more than capable to take on the Jaguars and Colts, and I believe our defense can take on Alex Smith and Randy Moss.
-- Brandon
South Texas

This was a topic in last weekís Mailbag as well, and I wanted to include it this week so I could reiterate my stance on the matter. I donít share the concern that Peterson is coming back too soon because I know the Vikings medical staff and both GM Rick Spielman and Head Coach Leslie Frazier would not allow Peterson on the field unless heís ready to go. When it comes to players returning from injury, you play them when theyíre ready. From my understanding, once an athlete is healed from his injury, it doesnít matter if he rests zero more weeks or 100 more weeks Ė you canít get more than 100% healthy. So if Peterson is 100% healed Ė and I know the team would not allow Peterson back on the field if he werenít 100% healed Ė then Iím in favor of him getting back in the action.

Based on what you have seen from training camp and the first two preseason games, what wide receiver(s) besides Jerome Simpson and Percy Harvin ) do you believe will surprise people this season?
-- Adam R.
San Francisco, CA

Being around these guys as much as I am, I have a belief in each of them because I see how hard they work and I see what specific aspects of the position are their strengths. So I think many of the receivers currently on the roster have the potential to surprise this year. If had to narrow it down to just a few, though, Iíd point to veteran Michael Jenkins and youngsters Manny Arceneaux and Jarius Wright.

Itís easy to forget that Jenkins was a reliable receiver for Christian Ponder last season before he was lost to injury. Jenkins had three or more receptions in eight of the 11 games he played, and he also had a nine-catch game and a 100-yard receiving game before going down. Arceneaux is a developmental receiver the Vikings acquired from the Canadian Football League; heís deceptively fast and is a sound route runner. Wright is not as sudden an athlete as Percy Harvin Ė the player many have compared him to Ė but I think that in time Wright could develop into a productive receiver in this offense because of his versatility and dependability.

What is going on with TE John Carlson? Is he going to get any playing time against the Chargers this Friday night? And how has Rhett Ellison looked?
-- Lee S.
Bonita springs, FL

Iím hopeful that Carlson will get back in the mix soon, particularly with Kyle Rudolphís status for Friday night in question because of concussion-like symptoms following last Fridayís game. Carlson suffered a knee sprain during training camp and has been working hard since the injury to get back into playing form. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said on Sunday after practice that Carlson is progressing. At this point I donít have reason to think Carlsonís absence will be prolonged into the regular season. Carlson will be an important part of the Vikings offense this season, so Iím looking forward to his return to the field soon.

As for Ellison, heís looked very good since arriving in Minnesota following the draft in April. He was one of the most impressive players at the teamís rookie minicamp in May, and Iíve been impressed with Ellisonís versatility and pass-catching ability throughout the offseason programs and training camp. I believe Ellison will be a solid, productive player in the NFL for a long time.

What is the overall team attitude this year compared to last year, knowing they are underdogs and coming off a disappointing season?
-- Michael (CA_Vikings_Fan)
Baja California, Mexico

I certainly cannot speak for the players as a group, but I can tell you that my sense is the players are continuing to build camaraderie on and off the field, which has led them to also build up confidence. This is not surprising, given the young talent thatís been added in addition to a solid group of core veterans that exists on the roster as well. The external expectations may be low for this club, but my sense is that the players are anxious to get the regular season started so they can begin to exceed expectations.

With LB Audie Coleís great preseason game last Friday, I heard many fans saying he should start. While I donít think he is ready to start, how would you feel about getting him involved in nickel packages?
-- Gabriel F.
Costa Rica

It was a lot of fun to see Cole make a couple of big-time plays on Friday night. Keep in mind that Cole also had a sack last week against the San Francisco 49ers, so maybe the Vikings have identified a late-round sleeper who can make some plays at the NFL level. Letís also remember, though, that coaches consider the entire body of work when they evaluate players and ultimately award starting positions. Itís not just about one or two games, or one or two plays in a game. Coleís outstanding performance from Friday night will count in the coaches' eyes, but it's part of a large evaluation that takes into account the rookie minicamp, the offseason program, Organized Team Activities, mandatory minicamp, training camp and the preseason.




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8/14/12 9:32 P

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by Mike Wobschall, Vikngs.com

as of 8/12/2012

I am skeptical of the Vikings wide receiver core. I think the Vikings should look into trading with other teams to add more competition to our receiver squad. If anything, they should search free agency for some receivers. I might even go on a limb and say the Vikings should consider going after Mike Wallace. My question is basically, do you think the Vikings should find some more depth at receiver, or will the players they currently have eventually work out?
-- Chad O.
Grand Forks, ND

Iíve received a lot of wide receiver-related questions this offseason and those questions have only intensified after one preseason game. The wide receiver position is a high profile position in the NFL and the Vikings donít have a lot of household names, so I understand the concern some have with the Vikings group. Many fans want the team to take a serious look at veterans on the free agent market such as Plaxico Burress, Braylon Edwards, Lee Evans and the recently-released Chad Johnson.

I donít share those concerns, however, and I feel those veterans are not a great fit for the Vikings. The Vikings theme this offseason has been to get a younger core of players who can play together for a long time. None of the veterans mentioned above fit that theme. Are some of the above-mentioned players an improvement over some of the players on the Vikings roster right now? Perhaps, but the veterans are short-term fixes, while the youngsters on the Vikings roster represent potential long-term solutions.

You may have come away from the preseason debut unmoved by the performance of the Vikings wide receivers, but keep in mind that A) Percy Harvin wasnít on the field and B) the Vikings offensive game plan was very vanilla. Once the regular season rolls around, Harvinís presence will make the group look better and Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave will be more inclined to get creative with the receivers. There were a few drops by the Vikings receivers, and those need to be eliminated, but for the most part I think the Vikings should stick with their current group and try to develop the young talent.

Of the undrafted rookies on the Vikings roster, who has made an impression on you as a diamond in the rough through training camps so far?
-- Mike G.

One undrafted rookie free agent who has stood out to me so far during training camp has been cornerback Bobby Felder. Heís a 5-11, 200-pound defensive back out of Nicholls State who has a knack for being around the ball. Felder finished fourth all-time in school history with 12 interceptions and he led his team in that category as a senior with five of them, so itís not surprising to see him display good coverage and ball skills during camp. Nothing from him stood out from the first preseason game, so heís a guy Iím looking forward to watching this Friday at home against the Buffalo Bills.

Defensive tackle Anthony Jacobs, a Northfield, MN native and product of the University of Minnesota, stood out to me during the first preseason game. He was all over the field in the second half, even running down a screen pass to display some athleticism. Heíll be another guy to watch this week in practice and then on Friday night in preseason game #2.

Are you concerned that RB Adrian Peterson is being rushed back too early? Why not wait a while longer to make sure heís fully healthy before getting back on the field? Heís too important to our offense.
-- Donald R.
Shakopee

I donít have that concern whatsoever because I know the Vikings medical staff and both GM Rick Spielman and Head Coach Leslie Frazier would not allow Peterson on the field unless heís ready to go. All of those involved in this decision certainly understand the importance of Peterson to the offense and they understand the investment the club has made in Peterson, so they will not expose him to injury and the club to risk by putting him back on the field too early.

When it comes to players returning from injury, you have to play them when theyíre ready. At some point, more rest does the player no good because once the injury is healed, itís healed. You canít be 110% healed, you can only get up to 100%. And if Peterson is 100% healed, then Iím in favor of him rejoining the team.

I was surprised to see QB Christian Ponder and the Vikings first-team offense play as much as they did on Friday against the 49ers. How much do you think theyíll play this week against the Bills? Maybe the whole first half?
-- Gary S.
New York City, NY

Itís always difficult to predetermine how much a player or group of players will be on the field in a preseason game because you donít know how a game will flow. If, for example, you plan to only play the first-team offense for one series and then on their first series they go three-and-out, you might want to put them back out there for another series. Conversely, if you plan to play the first-team offense for two-to-three series, and then they go on an eight-play scoring drive, that might be enough.

For this Friday against Buffalo, Iím thinking the Vikings will have a similar plan for playing time. And then against the Chargers two weeks from now (the third preseason game), I think first-stringers will see extended action, perhaps even into the second half. Itís only a guess at this point ,and Iím sure this is a topic Frazier will address in the middle of the week.





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8/7/12 5:43 P

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by Mike Wobschall, Vikngs.com

as of 7/23/2012

Outside of Toby Gerhart, what other running backs are impressing in training camp? And who will be the backup until Adrian Peterson gets back?
-- Nick
Grand Ledge, MI

Itís too early to know who will round out the running back depth chart, but right now there is a robust competition unfolding for the honors. Newcomer Lex Hilliard has been taking many of the second-team reps and has displayed the kind of all-around game head coach Leslie Frazier prefers. He seems to have a lead in the competition, but there are two others trying to overcome him. There have been times when Jordan Todman has flashed, and his value is boosted by virtue of the fact he could be a kickoff or punt returner. Undrafted college free agent Derrick Coleman has looked good during camp at times as well, specifically in the teamís 9-on-7 rushing drill.

With the recent injury of WR Greg Childs and us already being slim at the wide receiver position, do you see us bringing in a free agent? There are still a couple good free agents available such as Plaxico Burress, Terrell Owens and Mike Sims-Walker.
-- Almir K.

I could very well be proved wrong on this if the Vikings sign a receiver at some point this week, but I donít view the Vikings as depleted at receiver with the loss of Childs. Donít get me wrong, the loss of Childs is unfortunate. Itís not a good deal for the team and itís a heart-breaking turn for Childs. This is one of the hardest parts about the game Ė watching a player become severely injured and become unable to play.

With that being said, Childs was a fourth-round pick entering his rookie season. Itís not as if he was a major producer for the team a season ago and now the team is looking to replace a key contributor. Childs seemed to be improving since he was drafted by the Vikings, but whoís to say he was ahead of guys such as Devin Aromashodu, Stephen Burton, Michael Jenkins and Jerome Simpson? The loss of Childs is most certainly unfortunate and Iím hopeful heíll be able to rehab his injuries and make it back for next season. But I also believe the Vikings have sufficient depth at the position to be able to move on without bringing in an over-priced veteran who will take reps away from a younger player with developmental potential such as Manny Arceneaux, Burton and Kamar Jorden.

How has Charlie Johnsonís transition to left guard been going? And how has RT Phil Loadholt looked so far in camp?
-- Rob (aka: West Coast Viking)

To this point it appears both players have performed well. Itís been explained to me that Johnson is a more natural fit at guard because of his body composition and style of play, and now Iím beginning to see that. Johnsonís value at left guard is two-fold because heís also the kind of veteran that a first-year player such as Matt Kalil can learn from both on the field and in the meeting rooms.

Loadholt has taken the first-team reps at right tackle. One issue he had at times last season was procedural penalties, but I havenít noticed one mistake of that nature by him during camp. He looks fit, is playing with confidence and is poised to have a solid and improved season.

Every time the name Josh Robinson is brought up, all we hear about is his speed and potential with the special teams. How has he done strictly as a corner? Does he look like he will make an impact in the secondary at some point during the season?
-- Jake

Annapolis, MD

Itís a great question Jake. You are right that speed and return ability are the top attributes and talking points with Robinson. But the Vikings need players to step up at the cornerback position this year, too, and as a third-round pick Robinson is a guy the team will look to in that regard. I was not at the teamís Saturday night practice because I was at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony, but from the reports I read Robinson was one of the more impressive players. This is a great development for the Vikings and for Robinson because he had been dealing with a hamstring injury that cost him some practice time the last week or so.

Robinson is a guy to watch this week to take a huge step forward during practice. His athleticism is impressive, and if he can get some practice time in I think he has a chance to develop into a consistent contributor in the secondary.




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7/23/12 5:35 P

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by Mike Wobschall, Vikngs.com

as of 7/23/2012

From your opinions I get a sense that you feel very positive about the youth and competition throughout the team. My question is what two positions (one offense, one defense) do you think will be the most competitive and won't have a starter decided until it comes down to the wire?
-- Hudson V.
Champaign, IL (originally Minneapolis, MN)

Thereís no question that youth and competition are two aspects of this yearís training camp roster that standout to me, especially after the 9-23 record produced by an older Vikings roster the past two seasons. Vikings GM Rick Spielman, Head Coach Leslie Frazier and their staffs have done a nice job of blending veteran leadership with youth in their shaping of the roster to this point.

Two positions I see being ultra-competitive and not being decided until late in the preseason are at safety and the third running back spot. As a 1st-round pick, Harrison Smith is a strong candidate to emerge with a starting spot at safety. But who lines up next to him at the other safety spot is a question that may not be answered until the end of the preseason. At running back, Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart have the first and second positions locked up. After that, though, Frazier indicated earlier in the offseason that the team will be looking for an all-around back to fill out the depth chart, not just a scat back who would be used primarily in the passing game.

What will the Vikings strengths be on defense? Do you see the improved secondary being a strength? Or the defensive line that had 50 sacks last year? Or maybe the under-the-radar linebackers?
-- Chris L.

Without question the strength of last yearís Vikings defense was the defensive line, as they led the NFL in sacks and boasted the 2012 NFL sack king (Jared Allen Ė 22.0). I see the Vikings defensive line being even better overall in 2012, which means by definition it will be the strength of this yearís team.

With that being said, I also expect the Vikings secondary will make a significant step forward with the return of Chris Cook and Antoine Winfield on a regular basis and with the additions of Harrison Smith at safety and Zack Bowman, Chris Carr and Josh Robinson at cornerback.

I noticed the NY Jets will not be re-signing S Jim Leonhard, probably because he has displayed durability issues over the last two seasons. Given our struggles in the secondary and especially at the safety position, do you think it would be wise to sign him? If nothing else, to at least heat up competition for the starting job?
-- Jamie
Minneapolis, MN

Itís never a bad idea to add a talented player to the roster and/or to beef up the competition at a position. Leonhard is certainly a talented player, and his veteran presence would help any team. Iím not sure if the Vikings are a good fit for him or not. There is already expected to be a spirited competition for playing time at safety, and that competition will feature young players such as rookies Robert Blanton and Harrison Smith, second-year player Mistral Raymond and Jamarca Sanford. At this point, I think the Vikings may be better off letting those youngsters compete for time and develop, rather than bringing in a veteran player who is 29 and is trying to come back from a torn patellar tendon.

In an interview I saw of Josh Robinson, he said that he will do anything to make the team, even if it's playing on special teams. That being said, do you think the Vikings will try him out as a return specialist this preseason?
-- Jon
Blaine, MN

I anticipate Special Team s Coordinator Mike Priefer incorporating Robinson into the mix at either or both the kickoff and punt return roles. Robinsonís speed is unquestioned Ė he was the fastest player at this yearís Combine Ė and he showed me tremendous burst and suddenness during his time working in the Vikings offseason program. Suffice it to say, Robinson possesses the physical traits you want out of a kick/punt returner. In addition, Robinson also has experience returning punts in college, averaging 15.2 yards per return as a sophomore at the University of Central Florida.

I love RB Toby Gerhart's work ethic. He played well when in for Adrian Peterson last year. Now, do you see him as a goal line/ third-down back, or an every-down back?
-- Matt
Seattle, WA
I see Gerhart as an every-down back in the NFL. In fact, I think he'd be a starter on many teams in the NFL. In Minnesota, though, heís playing behind the best running back in the NFL, so itís hard for him to see much action when Peterson is healthy. I do believe Peterson will return to the lineup healthy early in the season Ė perhaps as early as Week 1 Ė but even so I also believe the Vikings will find a way to use Gerhart more frequently. To use Gerhart as just a third-down or goal-line back would a waste of his talents, in my opinion.




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7/16/12 5:36 P

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by Mike Wobschall, Vikngs.com

as of 7/16/2012

We know that offensive line will consist of Matt Kalil, Charlie Johnson, John Sullivan and Phil Loadholt, but who will most likely win the starting right guard spot?
-- Jake P.
Lakeville, MN

Jake brings up one of the training camp battles Iíll be watching closely with this question. My sense is Brandon Fusco will open training camp as the starting right guard, but both Geoff Schwartz and Chris DeGeare could battle him for that job. Fusco made huge strides this offseason and is the type of player it seems all good teams have somewhere in the lineup Ė a late-round selection from a small or Division II school who works hard over multiple seasons to earn a starting job.

Schwartz was a free agent acquisition of the Vikings this past offseason and has the ability to play multiple positions along the offensive line. DeGeare was a fifth-round selection of the Vikings in 2010 and will provide depth along the interior of the offensive line if he doesnít win a starting job.

What are the PROS vs. CONS in having most of the divisional games in the latter part of the season?
-- Joe U.
Florence, AZ (and Duluth, MN)

The Vikings play just one divisional game (at Detroit) in the seasonís first nine games, but then play four divisional games in the seasonís final six weeks. One disadvantage of that layout is that teams tend to lose players to injury as the season goes on, so if the injury bug bites the Vikings they may have to play divisional games near the end of the season without players who were in the lineup early in the season.

On the flip side, the advantage of this layout for the Vikings is that theyíre a young team that will improve as the season goes along. This means that thereís a good chance the Vikings will be playing their best football at a time of the schedule when theyíre playing divisional games.

Should the Vikings be worried about their young defense or is this a good problem to have?
-- Matt J.
Seattle, WA

One of the two or three main takeaways I had from the Vikings nine-week offseason program was how young the Vikings defense will be in 2012. There is more than a sufficient amount of veteran leadership with players such as Jared Allen, Chad Greenway, Kevin Williams and Antoine Winfield, but after those four the defense will be a young group. This is a circumstance that cuts both ways. There will be mistakes that occur on defense that are born from inexperience. But there will also be a bunch of great plays that are the product of youthful athleticism and impulse. I view this as a good ďproblemĒ to have because young players can gain experience over the course of a season, but an old team cannon gain youth over the course of a season.

What sort of player will John Carlson be in this offense, and how is he an improvement over Visanthe Shiancoe? I know he is younger, which is the direction the team is going, but how about game play?
-- Ben M.
Stuttgart, Germany

Iíll reserve my opinion on the type of player Carlson will be for the Vikings until I see most of training camp and a few preseason appearances, but as of right now my sense is Carlson will be a significant part of the Vikings passing game. Carlson did miss last season because of injury, but when healthy heís a productive and reliable pass-catcher. He has two seasons of 50 receptions and heís averaging 11.1 yards per reception for his career.

Not many teams used two-tight end formations more than the Vikings last season, and it wonít be surprising to see Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave continue that strategy in 2012 with Kyle Rudolph and Carlson in the fold. I expect to see them on the field together frequently.

The Seahawks recently released WR Mike Williams. He's a big receiver and would be very helpful in the red zone for the Vikings. He had a very good season two years ago, but struggled last year because of the quarterback situation in Seattle. He comes at no risk and is only 28 years old. Do you see any chance of the Vikings signing him?
-- Aaron
North Dakota

As is the case when any player becomes available, the Vikings will do their due diligence on Williams and consider whether or not heíd be a good fit. Williams has been a great redemption story, coming back from being a first-round bust in Detroit to catching fire in Seattle with 65 receptions for 751 yards in 2010. But last season he caught just 18 passes in 12 games and fractured a leg.

With 12 receivers already on the roster, my guess is that Minnesota wouldnít be a preferred landing spot for Williams. The Vikings might be better off using training camp and preseason repetitions on the young receivers they currently have rather than on a veteran free agent





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by Mike Wobschall, Vikngs.com

as of 7/2/2012

Will Christian Ponder's arm strength have an effect on how successful he is? Or will the west coast system and his good accuracy make up for it?
-- Derek S.
New York

Arm strength is not a weakness of Ponderís. When he was coming out of college I remember arm strength being cited as a question mark of his, but then I also remember being impressed with his arm strength the first time I saw him throw in person. He doesnít have a cannon like weíve seen from Brett Favre and others in the past, but Ponder is certainly on par with NFL passers in terms of arm strength. In this offseason along, Iíve seen him air out passes on the money to speedsters such as WRs Devin Aromashodu, Percy Harvin and Jerome Simpson.

Furthermore, while arm strength is an important characteristic for all quarterbacks, itís just one part of the skill set. A quarterback can have the strongest arm in the world, but it does him no good if he doesnít know where heís going with the ball and if heís not accurate when he does throw. Fortunately for the Vikings, they wonít have concerns with Ponder in terms of knowing where to throw the ball, and Iíve seen a sharp increase in Ponderís accuracy over the offseason program.

Is there still work to do and improvement to be made for Ponder? Yes, there is. But the good news is Ponder doesnít lack any vital traits quarterbacks need to make it at this level.

I think that CB Antoine Winfield is underrated. He is a dominant defensive back, hands down. Do you think the rookies can learn a lot from him?
-- Luis N.
Tulare, CA

Thereís no question about it. The Vikings have a young secondary when you look at the cornerback and safety positions top-to-bottom. Having a veteran such as Winfield in the meeting room and on the field with those youngsters is going to be important for this Vikings defense. I asked this question to several of those young players, as well as to Winfield and DBs coach Joe Woods over the offseason, and everyone was in agreement that there is significant value to having Winfield around for his veteran presence to the younger defensive backs.

What sort of impact do you see DE Everson Griffen and LB Jasper Brinkley making this year? Also, what do you think of DT Christian Ballard?
-- Mike D.
Chicago, IL

I expect all three of those players to have a significant impact on the Vikings in 2012. Weíll start with Brinkley. He missed some time during the offseason with injuries, and of course we all know he missed the entire 2011 season with an injury. So durability questions about Brinkley are fair, but heíll enter training camp healthy and ready to go. If he remains healthy, I see Brinkley being the guy at middle linebacker for the Vikings and I see him playing well.

Ballard and Griffen will also have impacts. While they may not be starters, at least not right away, both players have the versatility to play multiple positions, which makes them valuable pieces to the defense. Ballard will be in the defensive tackle rotation, an area where the Vikings are looking for improvement, and he also has the athleticism to move out to defensive end in a pinch. As for Griffen, he played first-team right defensive end when Jared Allen wasnít around this offseason, and when Allen is around youíll see Griffen slide over to the left side and see reps there. Of course thereís also been talk of having Griffen play some linebacker in 2012 as well, so itís apparent that Griffen will have great opportunity to contribute defensively this year.

Do you think we are going to bring in any free agents before training camp? If so, who do you think we will mainly look at, and what positions?
-- Joe G.

This is something Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier was asked on the last day of minicamp. Here was his response:

ďThereís a chance of that. Weíre actually going to meet this afternoon and talk through some of that with myself, Rick (Spielman), George Paton, and some of the other scouts. Weíre going to see whatís out there and talk about our current roster, where we are. Weíre going to spend the rest of this summer and training camp as well trying to make sure we identify the right guys that are all available and try to come out with the best 53 (players) that we can.Ē

Keep in mind, the Vikings signed a free agent last week in defensive end Jeff Charleston, so that tells you the team continues to monitor the available players and will not hesitate to make a move if they feel itís the right fit and the appropriate time.





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6/26/12 5:19 P

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by Mike Wobschall, Vikngs.com

as of 6/25/2012

Has LT Matt Kalil shown the ability to adjust to the speed of the NFL during practices?
-- Sean R.
Dauphin, Manitoba

Without the team being in pads and with contact prohibited during the offseason program and mandatory minicamp, itís difficult to get an accurate gauge on the progress Kalil is making. From what Iíve seen and heard so far, though, Kalil seems to be doing well with learning the offense and proper technique. C John Sullivan recently said this of Kalil:

ďAll you have to do is go watch how he moves. Heís a freak, an absolute freak. Iím just talking about movement skills. He is so fast for how big he is. Itís unbelievable. Iím talking great technique. Iím talking cutting off a linebacker from the back sideÖHe moves incredibly well. I canít say heís a road-grader yet because obviously we donít have pads on, but Iíd be shocked if he werenít. Heís a monster.Ē

Hearing that from a veteran leader such as Sullivan is obviously a great sign.

Does WR Percy Harvin still want to be traded? Shouldnít we be worried that our best offensive playmaker doesnít want to be here?
-- Sheri S.
Minneapolis, MN

What happened with Harvin last week is something that you see periodically in the NFL as just a part of the business side of the sport, but I can understand why it caught fans off-guard and caused anxiety. Fortunately, the Vikings and Harvin did a great job working through the process and now the situation seems to have settled down. This was a great test for the Vikings organizational structure with Rick Spielman as the GM working in coordination with Head Coach Leslie Frazier to handle a player-team issue. Both Spielman and Frazier did a nice job of handling the issue.

Following the conclusion of last weekís mandatory minicamp, Harvin tweeted the following: ďI'm really clueless on the crazy reports...had great prac today ....to all my real fans and real vikes fans see u at Mankato..saluteĒ

That is an indication to me that the team and Harvin got on the same page and the situation is now water under the bridge.



The Vikings have few players on the NFL's Top 100 Players list (Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen). Why is it that LB Chad Greenway doesn't get more respect around the League? It is obvious the Vikings think he is a top performing linebacker with the new contract he was offered and signed, but he hardly ever gets any recognition outside of Minnesota. I personally think he is a very talented player. Am I just bleeding purple, or does the rest of the League just underestimate his ability.
-- James M.

Greenway is underestimated nationally, in my opinion. Heís everything you want out of a linebacker Ė athletic, durable, productive, and heís a leader on and off the field. Greenway has led the Vikings in tackles every seasons since 2008, including a career-high 154 tackles last season; heís also led the team in tackles for a loss the past two seasons. Since missing his rookie season with a knee injury, Greenway has not missed a game, and he earned his first Pro Bowl appearance this year.

Part of the reason for Greenway not gaining the national recognition his performance deserves may be the fact that the Vikings have had two subpar seasons at the same time Greenway was having his best performances. Also, Greenway has just 2.0 sacks, 1 forced fumble and 0 interceptions over the past two seasons, so while his tackle numbers have been gaudy, the splash plays have been infrequent. A lot of times, itís the splash plays that draw attention to a playerís accomplishments.

What are the Vikings going to do at middle linebacker? Jasper Brinkley is nicked up again and is unproven. After him there doesnít seem to be depth. Will the Vikings look to add a free agent before training camp?
-- George W.
North Platte, NE

Itís fair to be concerned about Brinkleyís durability given his injury history, but itís also too early to give up on him. The Vikings are invested in Brinkley given the fact that heís developed from a fifth-round pick back in 2008 to a reliable starter at the end of 2009, and given the fact that the Vikings stuck with him through a hip injury that cost him all of last season. Aside from the investment the team has in him, Brinkley also has the skill set you want out of a middle linebacker. He can fill gaps in the run game, he can move side-to-side to cover the whole field and chase running backs, and heís determined to improve against the pass. Brinkley has missed practice time this offseason, which is disappointing, but itís not reason to give up on him, especially if the next best option is to bring in a free agent off the street.

What can you tell us about QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson and his chances to make the roster? The kid has great size at 6-4, 230 pounds. Does he have the intangibles to make it in the NFL? What is his arm strength like? Etc.
-- Jim S.
Hawley, MN

Bethel-Thompson was a standout at the Vikings rookie minicamp this past April, largely because of his arm strength and also because he was the best quarterback in the camp. From what I can tell through nine weeks of the offseason program, he does everything asked of him and has shown signs of improvement. The Vikings obviously have their starter in Christian Ponder and a backup in Joe Webb, but they also have a solid No. 3 option in Sage Rosenfels, so itís going to be tough for Bethel-Thompson to earn a spot on the 53-man roster. But he could do it, and he could also impress the Vikings enough in training camp to earn a spot on the practice squad.

Regardless of what happens with the Vikings, Bethel-Thompson is on the way to proving that he belongs in the NFL in some capacity, even if itís as a developmental quarterback during the early stages of his career.




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by Mike Wobschall, Vikngs.com

as of 6/18/2012


I'm loving the team so far, Mike! I'm looking forward to seeing the team play this season. Are there any second-year or third-year players that you see really stepping up this year?
-- Brendan S.

You canít have Pro Bowlers and 1st-round picks at every position, so every season teams are dependent on individuals stepping up their performance to make a positive impact. This is a topic we covered at the launch of the Vikings offseason program in a story titled ďEight Candidates Poised For Breakout Seasons in 2012.Ē After you finish reading the Mailbag, check out that story to read more about who we think could have a breakout season and why.

As a primer for that, Iíll give you one offensive and one defensive player who I see stepping up in a big way this seasonÖ

TE Kyle Rudolph: It was a surprise to most when the Vikings selected Rudolph with a second-round choice last year, but it makes complete sense now with Jim Kleinsasser retired and Visanthe Shiancoe on the market as a free agent. Rudolph is the Vikings No. 1 tight end and heís the odds-on favorite to become Ponderís favorite target. At 6-6, 258 pounds, the former Notre Damer has the prototypical size for a field-stretching tight end in the NFL and heís gotten rave reviews so far in OTAs from teammates such as Chad Greenway, Erin Henderson and Ponder.

LB Erin Henderson: For a while it looked like Henderson wouldnít be back with the Vikings, but eventually the two sides agreed on a re-signing and the Vikings defense could benefit greatly if Henderson has a breakout season in the hopes of parlaying it into a big-time free agent contract next offseason. Henderson is a heady player who is always around the ball, and itíll be interesting to see if he has a consistent role in the Vikings nickel package.

Other than DT Kevin Williams, who stood out the most to you at the defensive line position during OTAs?
-- Joe G.

With no pads and contact prohibited, itís a little more difficult to notice outstanding play in the trenches. But a couple of defensive ends who stood out to me were Everson Griffen and Brian Robison looked. Robison, who is entering his sixth NFL season in 2012 and is the incumbent starter at left defensive end, looked fresh and was his normal enthusiastic self during practice. There were several times when Robison was in the backfield and in position to make a disruptive play, both against the pass and against the run. Robison is known as an edge-rushing defensive end, so itís a sign of improvement to see him in the backfield defending a running play. Griffen was lining up at first-team right defensive end with Jared Allen absent, but once Allen returns I expect Griffen will slide back to the left side and play on a rotational basis with Robison. But Griffen did show that he can play both end positions, which gives the defensive line some depth and flexibility.

In watching Jarius Wright, I can't help but compare him to Percy Harvin with his size and speed. Will we be seeing him play in the slot a lot more and Percy playing in the backfield more because of Adrian Peterson's injury?
-- Israel
El Paso, TX

This is a question for one of the Vikings coaches to answer, but I understand Israelís line of thinking here. Harvin is 5-11, 184 pounds, while Wright measures in at 5-10, 180 pounds. So they are similar in listed size. I donít know how the Vikings offensive staff plans to deploy each player, but I do know that both Harvin and Wright are versatile athletes that have the ability to make plays from multiple spots on the field. We did see the Vikings use Harvin in the backfield several times a season ago, and it wouldnít be a shock to see that same strategy used at times in 2012.

Who do you think has the best chance to start at safety alongside Harrison Smith? Robert Blanton, Mistral Raymond, or Jamarca Sanford?
-- Daniel H.
Barron, WI

That's a good question, and one of the most important questions this coaching staff will need to answer before the regular season begins. Daniel. In the NFL, you shouldnít assume that anyone will have a starting spot. So while Smith is a 1st-round pick and might be the preferred choice by the team at one of the safety spots, he still has to display to coaches that heís capable of playing at a level that is acceptable. Iím confident heíll be able to do that. If Smith does earn one of the starting positions, Daniel named the three players who will be competing for the other spot. At this point, it's too early to make the call. There is a lot of practice time and plenty of preseason game reps to go before the coaches will name a winner to that competition.

Can you give us any info on WR Kamar Jorden and CB Bobby Felder? How are they doing?
-- Jessie S.
Brooklyn Park, MN

Jorden was a player who really stood out to me early in the Vikings offseason program, and he continued to catch my eye during OTAs. The undrafted rookie out of Bowling Green is a work progress, but heís got one of the Leagueís best WR coaches working with him and should be able to develop nicely. Listed at 6-1, 203 pounds, Jorden plays taller than that because of his slender build and fluid movement in going up and competing for passes. As for Felder, he caught my eye last week when he grabbed a couple of INTs during an OTA practice. You can easily see that Felder plays with passion, and there are many times when heís around the ball. The key for him during training camp will be not only being around the ball, but making plays around the ball as well.
I'm loving the team so far, Mike! I'm looking forward to seeing the team play this season. Are there any second-year or third-year players that you see really stepping up this year?
-- Brendan S.

You canít have Pro Bowlers and 1st-round picks at every position, so every season teams are dependent on individuals stepping up their performance to make a positive impact. This is a topic we covered at the launch of the Vikings offseason program in a story titled ďEight Candidates Poised For Breakout Seasons in 2012.Ē After you finish reading the Mailbag, check out that story to read more about who we think could have a breakout season and why.

As a primer for that, Iíll give you one offensive and one defensive player who I see stepping up in a big way this seasonÖ

TE Kyle Rudolph: It was a surprise to most when the Vikings selected Rudolph with a second-round choice last year, but it makes complete sense now with Jim Kleinsasser retired and Visanthe Shiancoe on the market as a free agent. Rudolph is the Vikings No. 1 tight end and heís the odds-on favorite to become Ponderís favorite target. At 6-6, 258 pounds, the former Notre Damer has the prototypical size for a field-stretching tight end in the NFL and heís gotten rave reviews so far in OTAs from teammates such as Chad Greenway, Erin Henderson and Ponder.

LB Erin Henderson: For a while it looked like Henderson wouldnít be back with the Vikings, but eventually the two sides agreed on a re-signing and the Vikings defense could benefit greatly if Henderson has a breakout season in the hopes of parlaying it into a big-time free agent contract next offseason. Henderson is a heady player who is always around the ball, and itíll be interesting to see if he has a consistent role in the Vikings nickel package.

Other than DT Kevin Williams, who stood out the most to you at the defensive line position during OTAs?
-- Joe G.

With no pads and contact prohibited, itís a little more difficult to notice outstanding play in the trenches. But a couple of defensive ends who stood out to me were Everson Griffen and Brian Robison looked. Robison, who is entering his sixth NFL season in 2012 and is the incumbent starter at left defensive end, looked fresh and was his normal enthusiastic self during practice. There were several times when Robison was in the backfield and in position to make a disruptive play, both against the pass and against the run. Robison is known as an edge-rushing defensive end, so itís a sign of improvement to see him in the backfield defending a running play. Griffen was lining up at first-team right defensive end with Jared Allen absent, but once Allen returns I expect Griffen will slide back to the left side and play on a rotational basis with Robison. But Griffen did show that he can play both end positions, which gives the defensive line some depth and flexibility.

In watching Jarius Wright, I can't help but compare him to Percy Harvin with his size and speed. Will we be seeing him play in the slot a lot more and Percy playing in the backfield more because of Adrian Peterson's injury?
-- Israel
El Paso, TX

This is a question for one of the Vikings coaches to answer, but I understand Israelís line of thinking here. Harvin is 5-11, 184 pounds, while Wright measures in at 5-10, 180 pounds. So they are similar in listed size. I donít know how the Vikings offensive staff plans to deploy each player, but I do know that both Harvin and Wright are versatile athletes that have the ability to make plays from multiple spots on the field. We did see the Vikings use Harvin in the backfield several times a season ago, and it wouldnít be a shock to see that same strategy used at times in 2012.

Who do you think has the best chance to start at safety alongside Harrison Smith? Robert Blanton, Mistral Raymond, or Jamarca Sanford?
-- Daniel H.
Barron, WI

That's a good question, and one of the most important questions this coaching staff will need to answer before the regular season begins. Daniel. In the NFL, you shouldnít assume that anyone will have a starting spot. So while Smith is a 1st-round pick and might be the preferred choice by the team at one of the safety spots, he still has to display to coaches that heís capable of playing at a level that is acceptable. Iím confident heíll be able to do that. If Smith does earn one of the starting positions, Daniel named the three players who will be competing for the other spot. At this point, it's too early to make the call. There is a lot of practice time and plenty of preseason game reps to go before the coaches will name a winner to that competition.

Can you give us any info on WR Kamar Jorden and CB Bobby Felder? How are they doing?
-- Jessie S.
Brooklyn Park, MN

Jorden was a player who really stood out to me early in the Vikings offseason program, and he continued to catch my eye during OTAs. The undrafted rookie out of Bowling Green is a work progress, but heís got one of the Leagueís best WR coaches working with him and should be able to develop nicely. Listed at 6-1, 203 pounds, Jorden plays taller than that because of his slender build and fluid movement in going up and competing for passes. As for Felder, he caught my eye last week when he grabbed a couple of INTs during an OTA practice. You can easily see that Felder plays with passion, and there are many times when heís around the ball. The key for him during training camp will be not only being around the ball, but making plays around the ball as well.




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6/11/12 5:28 P

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by Mike Wobschall, Vikngs.com

as of 6/11/2012



Why didn't the Vikings address the wide receiver position during the offseason? There were plenty of big names out there and they didn't make any moves.
-- Stephen W.

Thatís not true, Stephen. The Vikings made multiple moves this offseason to address the position, including drafting both Greg Childs and Jarius Wright in the 4th round and signing free agents such as Jerome Simpson and Bryan Walters. Granted, none of those names are house-hold, but that doesnít mean they canít make significant contributions to the Vikings. On top of that, the Vikings have veterans Percy Harvin and Michael Jenkins returning in addition to youngsters Devin Aromashodu, Manny Arceneaux, Stephen Burton and Kerry Taylor coming back from last year as well. Some will argue it doesnít appear to be a formidable group on paper, but I believe this is a group with big-time upside that will surprise people this year.

I also disagree with the idea that it takes big names to fix big problems. There are numerous examples of players who lacked big-name credibility that ended up being big-time contributors for their teams, including: Victor Cruz (undrafted), Miles Austin (undrafted), Marques Colston and Stevie Johnson (7th round), Antonio Brown (6th round) and Brandon Lloyd and Brandon Marshall (4th round).

With the exception of Chris Cook, should we be concerned about the team's size at cornerback? Is the smaller, faster guy a scheme thing, or simply a result of the talent availability at that position? Do you think that our cornerbacks will be more competitive at the line of scrimmage this season?
-- Darin
Tacoma, WA

Size of the Vikings cornerbacks is not a concern to me. Without going through each teamís roster, itís hard to know what the average height and weight is of a cornerback in todayís NFL. There are advantages and disadvantages to having both big and small defensive backs, but either way height and weight are not near the top of the list of factors to consider when judging a defensive back or players at any other position. Look at Antoine Winfield. For a long time heís been one of the smallest cornerbacks in the NFL, but heís also been one of the best in the League and heís the best-tackling cornerback Iíve ever seen play.

Playing defensive back Ė or any other position Ė in the NFL is more about technique, athletic ability, instincts and competitiveness. Whether itís at the line of scrimmage, the point of attack or down the field, I expect the Vikings entire secondary will be improved in 2012 and Iím looking forward to watching them play.

I have noticed that many of the better teams around the League often go into a no huddle offensive mode. It makes the defense waste valuable timeouts, and doesn't allow for substitution packages. I don't recall ever seeing the Vikings in any sort of no huddle. Do you think that might be something we add to the menu in coming years? Or is our coaching staff not comfortable enough with our quarterbacks to do this?
-- Shawn T.
Olathe, KS

At this point in the preparations for the 2012 season, I wouldnít rule anything out. The no-huddle is something all teams work hard on in practice because itís probable that teams will have to execute it during the season, whether by design or not. A lot of times when it comes to the no-huddle offense or any other offensive strategy, itís as much about what the coaches are comfortable with as it is what the players are comfortable executing.

I noticed in Christian Ponder's interview with NFL Network last week he mentioned WR Stephen Burton has been impressive. And you have mentioned him in your OTA coverage as well. What are the odds of him being a top three or four receiver entering training camp?
-- Paul S.

Entering camp, Burton has a good chance to be a top three-to-four wide receiver on the team, largely because heís a returning veteran with game experience from last season. The real question is, can he maintain or improve that standing during camp and the preseason? The wide receiver position battle is going to be a fun one to watch this summer, and Burton is a big reason for that.

With a rocky season for the Vikings secondary last year, the Vikings did a quality job at adding some depth to the cornerback position this offseason. Who do you think will emerge as our top four cornerbacks? In your opinion, will there be much improvement?
-- Jack M.
Plymouth, MI

Itís too early to tell who will emerge as the preferred cornerbacks on the roster and itís also unfair to wager any water-tight estimations. Fans may be sick of hearing this answer, but it remains true when weíre this far from the start of the regular season. There are so many things that can and will happen between now and the start of the season, that any guesses at this point are futile.

Regardless of the players who emerge as the regular contributors, the Vikings secondary, and the cornerback position specifically, is in a good position to improve. Cook and Winfield will be back on the field after missing most of last season, and as Jack noted in his question the Vikings have added quality talent during the offseason, including the selections of S Harrison Smith (1st round), Josh Robinson (3rd round) and Robert Blanton (5th round).

Can WR Percy Harvin do the same things Steve Smith does for the Carolina Panthers (play on the outside, be a #1 wide receiver, etc.)?
-- Dave V.
Derby, KS

Itís dangerous to make comparisons such as these because Harvin and Smith are different players who play on different teams and are asked to execute different offensive tactics. With that being the case, Harvin and Smith also share several physical traits and aspects of their skill sets, so I understand the basis of Daveís question.

Smith is a great player and has been for a long time. To me, heís especially lethal playing as an outside receiver and running vertical routes. Granted, heís dangerous on short and intermediate routes, too, because of his explosive ability with the ball after the catch. Harvin, on the other hand, is productive out of the slot when the ball gets to him quickly. But, he also has great deep speed and can be a dangerous receiver on deep passes, too.




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6/4/12 6:17 P

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by Mike Wobschall, Vikngs.com

as of 6/4/2012

Who do you see returning punts and kickoffs this season? Will we continue to see Percy Harvin back there at all? I've heard CB Josh Robinson has a chance. What is he like back there?
-- Brendan S.

It's too early to tell who will be returning kicks and punts this year. I'm not sure if the Vikings coaching staff would agree, but the ideal situation could be for someone to step up and take both the starting kick and punt return roles; it could be a different guy for each spot, or the same guy for both. Under that circumstance, Harvin could be used primarily on offense and the Vikings could be more creative in how they utilize him. Harvin could still be used as a return specialist on occasion, but his primary and nearly exclusive role would be as an offensive player. Again, thatís my opinion and is not necessarily how the coaching staff views the situation.

No one has stepped up in that role yet, but we've only had three OTA practices so it's still very early. Robinson is certainly a guy to watch in that respect, as is cornerback Marcus Sherels and new wide receiver Bryan Walters.

Thanks for all your coverage on Organized Team Activities (OTAs) the last week! I did not hear much about QB Joe Webb. Did you see anything from him that stood out to you? While I do hope Christian Ponder succeeds, do you think Joe Webb ever has a chance to be a starter?
-- Jon K.
Berthoud, CO

With just three days of practice and roughly 90 players on the roster, itís hard to cover and provide an update on each player. The lack of a Webb update in no way reflects a lack of production by him on the field, so Iíll be sure to keep a close eye on him during this weekís OTA practices.

As long as Webb (or any other player) is on the roster, he has a chance to be a starter. NFL coaches are in the business of winning games, so theyíre going to do whatever it takes (within the rules) to win games, and playing the best players is the best way to win games. So if Webb proves heís the better player, heíll be on the field, and the same can be said for players at other positions.

Everson Griffen played 24 snaps at three different defensive positions (OLB, DE and DT) against the Detroit Lions last year. Do you think the Vikings will continue to move Griffen around at different positions again this year? Do you think he will get a chance to compete for a starting spot somewhere?
-- Carl K
Huntington, IN

Without being inside the minds of the coaching staff (or at least inside the meetings rooms of the coaching staff), itís too early to tell what the plan is for Griffen at this point. About all we know for sure right now is the team will do well to have Griffen on the field as much as possible, whether itís on special teams and/or on defense. Whether the team plays him at defensive end, linebacker or on special teams, Iím open to all possibilities and will support however the team decides to deploy him.

I liked what WR Devin Aromashodu did last year. He had some moments where he looked solid. He hasn't gotten much mention this offseason with the addition of Jarius Wright and Greg Childs. Think he'll make the 53-man roster and be able to make an impact this year?
-- Martin D.
Austin, TX

I won't offer a guess as to whether Aromashodu will make the 53-man roster at this point because there is such a long way to go before that decision has to be made. But I do agree with Martin that Aromashodu was a solid player for the Vikings last season and has the potential to be a productive player for the Vikings in 2012. Aromashodu looked good last week in OTAs, particularly during the 7-on-7 portions of practice.




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5/21/12 10:51 P

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By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

as of 5/21/2012

With Christian Ponder set at quarterback for the Vikings, do you see Joe Webb being used more in wildcat formations or possibly as a wide receiver in the red zone given his leaping ability? Given Webb's athletic ability, shouldn't Coach Frazier find a way to get him in the lineup more often?
-- Jimmy G.
Dallas, TX

There's no questioning Webb's athleticism, and I certainly understand the opinion of those who want to see him on the field, even if itís at a position other than quarterback. But my sense is Webb will train at quarterback this offseason and into training camp, and I anticipate he'll remain a quarterback for the duration of the 2012 season, most likely as the backup to Ponder. Keep in mind, though, that Webb is not automatically relegated to backup status. Thereís no rule that states Webb canít outperform Ponder and win the starting job, and itís already clear that Webb has the capability to come into a game and perform well should Ponder leave due to injury.

Again, I understand the opinion many have of wanting to train Webb at an alternate position. But in my view, that opinion underestimates how hard it is to switch positions and perform at a high level, and it also underestimates Webbís ability and potential as a quarterback.

What does the future hold for DE Jared Allen on the Vikings? He is only 30, but the Vikings need a few years to compete. Do you see them eventually trading him and getting solid draft picks for him? Or do you see the Vikings trying to win with him before he retires? Also, who do you see as the Vikings #2 receiver for Ponder this year? Will WR Jerome Simpson be the guy, or will they be relying on TEs Kyle Rudolph and John Carlson?
-- Mike
Chicago, IL

Because Allen is still in his prime and is coming off a 22.0-sack season, thereís little doubt in my mind the Vikings could come away with a rich accumulation of draft choices in exchange for trading him away. But in this specific instance, Iíd rather see the Vikings hang onto the Allen and continue rebuilding with him as a centerpiece of the defense. It shouldnít take the Vikings ďa few yearsĒ to be competitive again, especially with Allen in the fold and with how quickly NFL teams are able to turn their fortunes around. What Allen provides to the defense is too valuable to trade away, even for valuable draft picks that could be used to add talented rookies in future years. The fact that Allen had a career-best season in what turned out to be a 3-13 campaign says more about the deficiencies in the rest of the roster last year than it does about how important Allenís production is to team success.

As for the #2 receiver for Ponder this year, I expect Rudolph will be as productive or more productive than the second-most productive wide receiver. If Simpson, one of the rookie receivers from Arkansas, or any other wide receiver jumps up and makes my prediction wrong, more power to them; that would be great. As it stands today, though, I see Rudolph being one of Ponderís top targets in the passing game.

I was wondering for how many more seasons the Vikings were going to play at Mall of America Field, and how many are they planning on playing in the University of Minnesotaís stadium?
-- Paul S.

There is no concrete answer right now and itís likely going to be more of a fluid situation than one that can be planned out, but my best guess at this point is the Vikings will play all of 2012 at Mall of America Field and all of the 2015 season at TCF Bank Stadium. Anything in between that time frame is up in the air at this point.

I read somewhere that the Packers are going to release WR Donald Driver. Is there any chance the Vikings would consider adding him to the roster?
-- Luke T.

As they do with every player that becomes available, the Vikings will likely evaluate Driver and discuss what he could add to the team, but my guess is the Vikings will not sign him. It's not that the Vikings have an embarrassment of riches at wide receiver, but there are a sufficient number of receivers on the roster right now and many of them are younger players who represent a better long-term option than Driver. Give the Vikings current situation (rebuilding after a 3-13 season), Iíd rather see a roster spot dedicated to giving a young player the chance to develop than to a veteran looking to extend his career.

As a life-time Vikings fan, I have been very pleased with this offseason. Getting the stadium deal done was a huge relief. I think GM Rick Spielman did a stellar job with the draft this yearÖno wasted picks and two extra for next season. I also think he did a good job with free agency. However, I have a question. I don't like our situation at 3rd-down running back. I know they want Toby Gerhart to take this role, but I just didn't see the level of play we needed. I consider this a vital position, especially with a developing quarterback. Any chance the Vikings go out and sign a Chester Taylor or Thomas Jones?
-- Jeremy

I do not sense the Vikings want Gerhart to be a 3rd-down running back. He is more of a feature back than the prototypical 3rd-down/scat back running back. I actually thought Gerhart was more than sufficient last season, especially when he had to fill in for Adrian Peterson after his injury. Gerhart ran for 109 yards on just 11 carries after Peterson exited the Washington game with his knee injury. He also has a 4.5 yards-per-carry average for his career and he rushed for 4.9 yards per carry last season.

So in one respect, Jeremy is right that the Vikings don't have an established, traditional 3rd-down type of running back, but I also don't think that's a need for this team with the best running back in the NFL (Peterson) on the team and with a talented backup (Gerhart) also in the fold. I can't think of many situations, even on 3rd down, where I'd rather have a scat back in there instead of either Peterson or Gerhart.

Hey Mike,
I have been a Vikings fan since I was 10 years old. I just want say Iíve never seen a workhorse like AP. He is a machine, and I don't know how anybody could bet against him. I know he will be back Week 1.
-- Larry K.
Kinston, NC

I couldnít agree more, Larry. Working for the team and getting to know the players personally does infect me with a natural bias at times, but I do my best to step away from that bias when Iím analyzing issues on the website. Bias or not, I donít understand how anyone cannot root for Adrian, whether heís recovering from an injury or breaking tackles on his way to the end zone.




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By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

as of 5/14/2012

It was great to hear the news about the stadium last week. What are the basics with the stadium? When will the team be able to play in it?
-- Jules A.
Chicago, IL

Jules is right, last weekís stadium news was certainly great. Many fans emailed me their sentiments regarding the passage of stadium legislation last week, and Iíve included two of those emails at the bottom of the page to conclude this weekís Monday Morning Mailbag.

While we donít yet know all of the basics, here are a few of the facts that were stated in the Associated Press story (written by Jon Krawczynski) that we posted on vikings.comÖ

-- The projects estimated cost is $975 million, with the Vikings and NFL putting up $477 million, the state pledging $348 million and the City of Minneapolis in for $150 million.
-- The Vikings and the University of Minnesota reached a preliminary agreement to allow the Vikings to play in TCF Bank Stadium while the new stadium is being constructed. The Vikings will pay the University of a fixed fee ($250,000) per game, plus the team will also throw in concession and sponsorship revenue that will push the total amount per game to $300,000 ($3 million per season).
-- The new stadium will likely be scheduled to open for the 2016 season.

With all the attention being on the draft the past two months, Iím curious about how RB Adrian Petersonís recovery is going. Is he still set to come back and help us mid-to-late fall? Whatís his timeline and how is he recovering? Also, how is RB Toby Gerhart looking? Will he be ready to be our starter for the first portion of the year if Adrian isnít back?
-- Riley L.
Duluth, MN

Last week Peterson held an on-field demonstration for members of the media to display his progress in recovering from the knee injury; Peterson also answered questions from reporters following the workout. After watching the workout and listening to Peterson answer questions, you canít help but be optimistic about his prospects for returning to the field in time for Week 1. In fact, Peterson said heíd be surprised if he wasnít playing in Week 1.

With that being said, the Vikings have made it clear theyíre going to be cautious with Peterson and not allow him to come back too early. The idea of having Peterson on the field for Week 1 is appealing, no doubt, but not if it comes at the risk of Peterson re-injuring the knee.

ďIím not going to say with certainty that Adrian is going to play in our first game,Ē Vikings Head Athletic Trainer Eric Sugarman said last week. ďThat wouldnít be fair to me, to him (Peterson) or to this organization; thatís a long way off from now and we certainly have a long road to go to get to that point.Ē

As for Gerhart, my sense is that heís recovered from his knee injury and good to go.

I try not to question the front offices of any team, especially the team I love, but I disagree with this going young idea, at least not as fast as the Vikings have been. I understand it's better for the future, but I don't want to end up like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last year and be too young to fast. Don't you think there should be more veteran starters and leaders on the team?
-- Paul S.

There has been an effort to get younger on a part of the Vikings personnel department this offseason, but at the same time the team has done a nice job of balancing that youth movement with retaining quality veteran players to not only contribute on the field but also provide veteran leadership. The presence of DE Jared Allen, LB Chad Greenway, RB Adrian Peterson, C John Sullivan, DT Kevin Williams and CB Antoine Winfield will provide the locker room with sufficient veteran leadership.

Do you think the Viking have any interest in signing DT Albert Haynesworth to a one-year, prove-it deal? I think it is a low-risk, high-reward idea because we have very respected veteran players on the defensive line in Jared Allen and Kevin Williams, and Haynesworth knows these players are the leaders.

I don't expect the Vikings will pursue Haynesworth. He doesn't fit the profile of the type of player the team is looking to add as the rebuild the roster and look to build a team that will compete for the long-term. The team is not treating the 2012 season as a write-off, but thereís more to gain for the organization in adding youth to the roster than by taking a chance on veterans who are looking to extend their careers. Iíd rather the Vikings take a risk on a young, unproven player and hope his potential is realized than take a risk on a veteran player and hope that he can get his act together and regain his old form.

I know that there are some additional formalities that are needed to seal the deal, but I want to congratulate the Vikings on finally getting their stadium! If I still lived at home I would have been able to be more personally active in this process, but as a fan who still makes it back home for a few games a year, I'm thrilled that the Vikings will be staying home for the remainder of my lifetime. It would have been a sad day to see the team go the way of the Lakers and North Stars, which both broke my heart.

Please pass along my thanks to the Wilf family for staying patient and keeping to their promises. In my view, the way they've handled the team and the organization, they should be included among the best ownership groups in the NFL. I also wish you and your family the best, as I'm sure there's been some anxiety that's been caused by this ordeal.
-- Bruce P.
Binghamton, NY

I just want to congratulate the Wilfs and Vikings organization for getting the stadium deal through the Minnesota Legislature. I can only imagine how hard a fight that was to get enough votes to pass a stadium in this economy. Thank you to the representatives in the Minnesota Legislature for sticking with the bill, even though it looked dead. I would like to thank the Fans in Minnesota that could directly influence the legislature with constant communication and demonstration. Those of us in different states and locations did our best, but not to the extent you all did. Thank you for keeping the Vikings in Minnesota. I will, as I promised in the vikings.com Blog, be getting a ticket for a Vikings game in the new stadiumÖprobably a lot more than one. Again, Thank You!
-- Mike B.
Goodwin, SD






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By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

April 17, 2012

I personally really like Notre Dame S Harrison Smith and would love to take him in the 2nd round (#35 overall). But aside from Percy Harvin, we have no wide receivers, which is not an ideal situation. I just saw ESPNís Mel Kiper, Jr. projecting us to take Smith, but Todd McShay projected WR Alshon Jeffrey as our pick. To me, I think Smith should be the no-brainer pick, but what do you think? Also what do you think about bringing in Braylon Edwards? Clearly he's not the answer, but what can it hurt? It wasnít too long ago he was playing very well with the NY Jets. He canít cost a ton. Rick Spielman has done nothing but express the importance of surrounding Christian Ponder with weapons, but really has yet to add one.
-- Alec D.
Brooklyn Park MN

I like Smith and Jeffery, but at #35 I feel more comfortable with Smith than I do with Jeffery. I donít think itís a no-brainer, though. Identifying the right players to take at the right time is not a no-brainer process.

There is a downside to bringing Edwards to the team. Youíre right that weíd like to add weapons to Ponderís arsenal and youíre also right that Edwards has been a productive player at times. But now two teams (actually, three teams) have given up on him, and I think itís largely because of his knee injury but also because of some attitude problems. The downside to bringing him aboard is that heíd be a very short-term option and his inclusion in the offense would eliminate the development of younger receivers that we have on the roster. Since Edwards is not the kind of player that will ďput us over the top,Ē I donít see the value in bringing him in for a short time when we could instead use the practice and game reps to give younger, unproven players a chance to gain experience and prove themselves.

How do you feel about the possibility of drafting WR Nick Toon out of Wisconsin or possibly WR Marvin McNutt out of Iowa in the 3rd round? I would like to see LT Matt Kalil in the 1st round at either the 3rd or 4th overall pick. And in the 2nd round I think that S Harrison Smith out of Notre Dame would be a very good addition to the secondary. How do you feel about all of this?
-- Matt J.
Westby, WI

The 3rd round is the earliest Iíd take a shot on Toon, but I would support the idea of taking him at that spot. The 3rd round is too early to take McNutt, in my estimation.

As for Smith, a lot of people have been asking about him lately and he was even reference in the first question of todayís Mailbag. Safety is obviously a position of need for the Vikings, and Smith is the second-best safety in this draft. So it makes sense to link Smith to the Vikings. Now, even though heís the second-best safety in this draft, some may question whether #35 overall is too early to select Smith. Others will say that safety is such a big need for the Vikings at this point, that reaching slightly to get the second-best safety in the draft is worth it. For those fans who want the Vikings to select Smith, the biggest hurdle to that outcome may be the fact that the Vikings have enough needs that thereís a good chance a player at a different position will still be on the board at #35, and the Vikings will stay true to the board and take that player (perhaps a defensive tackle or linebacker). Weíll see what happens, but I would not be surprised to see the Vikings take Smith at #35.

I am still enjoying the Wobcasts, they were a great addition to the website. Now to the draft, which of the these three players (WR Stephen Hill, S Harrison Smith, or CB Janoris Jenkins) would you like the Vikings to pick with their 2nd-round pick and why, assuming all three are still on the board. And which player do you think the Vikings can realistically take with #35?
-- Martin G.

This is an interesting dilemma because all three players fill a position of need for the Vikings and because it wonít be a total shock if any/all of them are available when the Vikings select at #35 overall. I would pass on Jenkins because of his well-publicized off-field concerns, so it comes down to Smith and Hill. Iíd take Smith because heís the higher-rated player in my rankings, but also because heís in a position group that is not nearly as deep as Hill.

I would never assume a certain position WILL be taken by a team, but I want to focus on only the wide receiver group for the 2nd round. There will most likely be four or five legitimate choices at the position available when the Vikings are on the clock at #35 overall. Do you have an opinion for who would be best for the Vikings? Do the SEC players get a little bump because of the level of competition? I would be happy with anyone, but Reuben Randle, Alshon Jeffery and Stephen Hill all seem like logical choices that may be available. Does Brian Quick fit the team?
-- Chaz H.

The wide receiver group is one of the deepest in this draft, so it's a challenge to sort them all out, especially because most of them are late 2nd-round to 5th-round grades. As always, though, teams are influenced by need and are prone to overvalue players that fit their position(s) of need. This will most certainly happen to teams with this year's wide receivers. As for playing in the SEC, perhaps those players receive a slight bump. But as is the case with most individual factors, it's just a small part of the entire evaluation process.

With all of that being said, about the only wide receiver after Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd and Kendall Wright that I would feel comfortable taking in the 2nd round is Stephen Hill. And that's only because of his enormous upside. I'm not entirely convinced he'll become a productive pro wide receiver, but if he does and if he realizes his full potential, he will be well-worth a 2nd-round selection. After Hill, my wide receivers of choice in the 3rd round and beyond are: Jeffery, Mohamad Sanu, Randle, Marvin Jones, Brian Quick, Chris Givens and Nick Toon; I like Quick a lot after watching him first-hand at the Senior Bowl. Other guys to throw in there include Joe Adams, Jarius Wright and DeVier Posey.

I think I speak for many of the fans when I say GM Rick Spielman is making some solid moves this free agency. More importantly, many of these moves will set the Vikings up nicely in the draft as well. However, it occurred to me this morning that there are still a few solid play makers available in free agency, which brings me to WR Plaxico Burress. Hereís a guy that, though he is on the backswing of his career at 34, is still making big plays (especially in the red zone) and is fighting hard for his career. I understand the Vikings are looking to carve out a young roster, but Plaxico is still a very solid player that can come in, contribute right away, still has a lot left to prove and, he likely wonít break the bank since as of yet, there doesn't seem to be a team out there willing to jump on board and sign him. While on the subject of wide receivers, what are your thoughts on Alshon Jeffery? Iím crossing my fingers that the Vikings will draft him in the 2nd round. Thanks for all your hard work this offseason mike!
-- Derek T.

Burress is an interesting option. His age and wear and tear concern me quite a bit, but he does possess a combination of size and skill set that is intriguing, especially for a team looking to add weapons and develop a young, franchise quarterback. I'm surprising myself here, but if Burress could be acquired for a modest price ($2-3 million per year), I would consider taking a swing with him.

As for Jeffery, I think he has tremendous upside. But as is often the case with player who possesses huge upside, there is a big downside as well. And that's what drops his value, in my estimation. It feels a little too early to take him at #35 overall, but I also think he's going to be gone before the Vikings select in the 3rd round. So thereís a dilemma with Jeffery, and ultimately Iíd probably side with another player.

Hi Mike! I was wondering what your thoughts were on the possibility of moving Everson Griffen to middle linebacker if E.J. Henderson is not re-signed. It seemed that Griffen really progressed over the year on special teams and as a backup on defense. Even with Jasper Brinkley coming back, I think middle linebacker would be a good fit for Griffen because he is very athletic and wonít be getting much playing time at defensive end with Jared Allen and Brian Robison in place.
-- Sam S.
Bismarck ND

Sam has the right idea, but Iíd adjust it slightly. To me, Griffen is better-suited to play outside linebacker because of his size and athleticism. A middle linebacker is more of a thumper and stoutly built. An outside linebacker you want to be more athletic and rangy. Obviously Chad Greenway has one of the outside linebacker spots locked down, and then the Vikings re-signed starting outside linebacker Erin Henderson a few weeks ago. So there might not be a spot for Griffen at outside linebacker right now, but that doesnít mean he couldnít work his way into the mix during offseason workouts and training camp. Or, Griffen might remain a part of the rotation at left defensive end with Robison. Iím not sure how it will play out, but Iím interested in seeing Griffen on the field more, and if moving him to linebacker is the way to do it, Iím all for it.





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By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

3/19/2012

The Vikings need help in a lot of places, with wide receiver being my main concern. Do you think WR Michael Floyd could drop to us in the 2nd round? He has off-field issues, so teams might shy away from him. Or do you see us taking WR Stephen Hill out of Georgia Tech in the 2nd round because Floyd will be off the board?
-- James B.

I will be shocked if Floyd is on the board when the Vikings choose in the 2nd round (#35 overall). James is right that he does have off-field concerns for some people, but he also logged an impressive time in the 40-yard dash at the Combine and he has prototypical NFL size for his position and skill set. I anticipate him being a mid 1st-round pick, with teams such as the Jets (#16), the Browns (#22) and the Steelers (#24) as potential landing spots.

As for Stephen Hill, heís become the apple of the publicís eye, and itís all because of his performance at the Combine. Fans are of the ďheight-weight-speed-needĒ mindset, so impressive Combine performances can inflate a playerís status in the publicís eye. And sometimes, this can happen to coaches and/or scouts as well. As a result, Hill went from a relatively unknown to a player fans want their teams to take in the 1st round. To me heís a 3rd-round value at best, but I wouldnít be surprised to see some team reach into the 2nd round to get him. He has blazing speed and heís 6-4, so perhaps heíll transition to the NFL very well and be worth a high pick. I donít think the Vikings will take him in the 2nd round, but if heís on the board in the 3rd round then I can see him being a possibility for the Vikings.

This draft is loaded with mid-round wide receiver prospects, so the Vikings will be in good shape when it comes time to choosing a receiver or two to add to this roster.

Just a thought on the Vikings 1st-round draft pick. I realize that taking LT Matt Kalil seems like a solid idea. But I believe you have to take a playmaker with that pick, and I would take Morris Claiborne to pair him with Chris Cook and have two corners in this pass-happy league. As you know, our division alone has Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford. Iíd love to hear your opinion on this.
Bill S.
Indonesia

It's an interesting idea, but I think the Vikings will be better-served to take Kalil. In my opinion, 2012 is all about the development of quarterback Christian Ponder. While we want the entire team to be solid, I think this is a two-year rebuilding project and the most important phase is Ponder. We need to know if he's the answer at quarterback, and that canít be accurately determined unless he's adequately protected and has quality weapons around him. Taking Kalil is a giant step toward making sure he's adequately protected.

Donít get me wrong, itíd be great to add a player the caliber of Claiborne in this draft. And for some teams, heís the guy they should target. For the Vikings, though, I believe Kalil should be the target at #3.

Could you help me with my understanding of the restricted free agent process? Once a team assigns a tender offer to a restricted free agent (1st round), could another team interested in that player offer less than its 1st-round pick (like a 2nd- or a 3rd-round pick) in order to talk with and potentially sign that player? Or is everyone locked into only accepting the 1st-round pick? This is just a general NFL free agency type of question and less about Pittsburgh WR Mike Wallace. Perhaps Pittsburgh would prefer to trade him to a team outside of their conference and division. Please feel free to use this as an example, if you would like.
-- Bill D.
Fairfield, CT

For starters, a restricted free agent (RFA) is a player with three or fewer accrued seasons whose contract has expired. An unrestricted free agent (UFA) is a player with four or more accrued seasons whose contract has expired. The RFA signing period began on March 13 and expires on April 20, while the UFA period goes from March 13 to July 22. Also, according to this piece by ESPN.com NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert, there are three levels of RFA tenders under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. A player who receives a 1st-round tender will receive a $2.742 million one-year contract; a player with a 2nd-round tender will be paid $1.927 million; and the third tender is an original round tender (round that player was drafted in) and will pay the player $1.26 million. So, using Wallace as an example, a team that wants to sign him would have to give the Steelers a 1st-round pick and then sign Wallace to a contract. You may not offer draft-pick compensation below the round the tender requires.

I've been reading a lot about the upcoming draft. Like most fans, I watched some of the prospects at the Combine. I'm a huge Vikings fan and have been for a long time. I know this is an important draft and free agency period. One player in the draft that I find very interesting is WR Devier Posey. He's never played with a good passing quarterback, but still put up some very good numbers at Ohio State. I know the scouts due a great job finding talent. I just have a feeling about Posey. Sure would like to see him wearing Vikings purple. I would appreciate your opinion.
-- Doug
Wabash, IN

I got a very close look at Posey at the Senior Bowl because he played for the Vikings coaching staff on the North squad, but unfortunately NFL scouts werenít able to get a great look at him this past season because he was suspended for 10 games. I thought his Senior Bowl performance was good-not-great, and it sounds like thatís how he grades out as well. This scouting report from Wes Bunting of the NationalFootballPost.com characterizes Posey as a player with natural ability and good athleticism but also with some concerns in facing press coverage at the NFL level and being a consistent playmaker. Bunting has Posey ranked as the 16th best wide receiver in this yearís draft, and that makes me wonder if heíll be a 4th- or 5th-round selection.

With Ryan Longwell going into his 16th year, Iím wondering if the Vikings have plans to use a late-round pick on a kicker. I have nothing against Longwell, but he does not consistently kick into the end zone, thereby sometimes giving opposing teams great field position. At times this has come to haunt the Vikings. With extra picks in the late rounds it would seem to make a lot of sense. Iím thinking about Blair Walsh (Georgia), Carson Wiggs (Purdue) and Randy Bullock (Texas A&M). Wiggs had a 67-yarder last spring.
-- David B.
Byron, Minnesota

You're in my head, David. I've actually formulated this same opinion, with the genesis of the opinion coming from my time at the Senior Bowl when Wiggs was on the Vikings coaching staffís North squad. He impressed me at the Senior Bowl, and I wouldnít be surprised if a team used a 6th- or 7th-round pick on him. I donít know if the Vikings plan to add a kicker in this yearís draft, but with 10 selection its certainly a possibility. That is not an indictment on Longwell in the least. Heís been a great contributor for the club since he signed here and I think heíll be the kicker in 2012. But at some point Longwell will retire, and the Vikings need to have a plan in place for his successor. If that plan was consummated this offseason or during the 2012 season, I wouldnít be surprised.







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By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

3/12/2012

The St. Louis Rams are clearly set up for good drafting over the next three years after they traded out of that spot with Washington. It is pretty clear that they could use a big-threat wide receiver on that team. Since they just fleeced (in my opinion) the Redskins for picks, what are the chances the Vikings try to leverage a deal with the Rams so that they can be sure to grab Justin Blackmon? What are your thoughts on this happening? I personally think it is a move that would set up both the Vikings and the Rams for years to come.
-- Kris
Richmond MN, currently deployed to Kuwait

First off, thank you for your service, Kris. I wish you a productive deployment and a safe trip home very soon. That would be a great scenario for the Vikings, but I don't see it happening, at least not with the Rams. The Vikings are in a great position at sitting at #3 following the Rams-Redskins trade because they essentially hold the #1 pick for all non-quarterback selection. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III will go 1-2 to the Colts and Redskins, respectively, so now the Vikings have roughly six weeks to see if any team wants to jump up to their spot to grab a specific player, whether it is Blackmon, Kalil or even cornerback Morris Claiborne.

I donít expect that team to be the Rams because theyíre likely quite content to hold onto the bevy of picks they just acquired and sit back at the #6 spot to take the best available player when they're on the clock. Much like the Vikings, the Rams are coming off a disappointing season and have enough holes to fill that they can find an immediate impact player for their roster at #6. Even so, it wouldn't surprise me if Blackmon was on the board at #6 and St. Louis was able to nab him without having to trade up.

I think Christian Ponder is our guy at quarterback. He only has one year under his belt and it bothers me that some of the fans are already giving up on him. I think he will be a great quarterback once he gains more experience. Does the negative talk about Ponder bother you?
-- Ian S.

I try not to let negativity from fans about aspects of the team bother me, but I do agree with Ian that it's far too early to start giving up on a player that was selected just a year ago in the 1st round. I've mentioned this many times in the past, but look at how the NY Giants have been rewarded after their patience with Eli Manning. It wasn't until his fifth season in the NFL that Manning completed 60% of his passes or registered a passer rating of above 80.0. Giants fans surely grew frustrated with Manning and undoubtedly there were those who felt the Giants needed to move on from Manning. But the Giants understood the value of having patience with a 1st-round quarterback, and that patience has paid off big-time because Manning is now a two-time Super Bowl champion and a two-time Super Bowl MVP.

I'm not saying that Ponder will be a two-time Super Bowl MVP by his fifth season, but I am saying we don't yet know that he can't do that. Saying right now that Ponder will never be a good quarterback is as unfounded as a supporter of his guaranteeing that Ponder will one day be a Hall of Famer. It's just far too early to make a water-tight judgment on Ponder, and in fact I think the single most important aspect of the 2012 season for the Vikings is to find out if Ponder is the answer long-term at quarterback.

My opinion on the draft is that the Vikings should take LT Matt Kalil with their 1st-round pick and use their 2nd and 3rd round picks on a CB and WR (unless a good opportunity for a great value pick arises, of course). What are your thoughts on this, and who do you like as Day 2 prospects for CB and WR?
-- Ben B.
Little Falls, MN

I like the idea of addressing either cornerback or wide receiver in the 2nd round, but as Ben indicated in his question, it's also important to not force a pick just because it fits a position of need. The best strategy to build a talented roster is to take the best available player and trust that his talents will flourish on your team in some way. That's exactly what the Vikings did in 2007 when they selected Adrian Peterson at #7 even though they had a 1,000-yard rusher in Chester Taylor and a capable backup in Mewelde Moore already on the roster.

In terms of Day 2 prospects at cornerback and wide receiver, I like the following players: CBs Stephen Gilmore, Chase Minnifield and Josh Robinson; WRs Chris Givens, Stephen Hill, Alshon Jeffery, Mohamed Sanu and Kendall Wright.

Love having your opinion and I read everything you post. I am, like most experts, predicting we snag Kalil in the draft. If we also grab a top tier free agent WR to line up opposite Percy Harvin, I am extremely confident in Ponder (also with a full offseason to digest offense and all that) to allow us to compete for the playoffs. In your opinion, what other ways would you like/foresee the Vikings to supply Ponder for success besides Kalil? Thanks!
-- Sean
Frostburg State University

The number one player on free agent wish lists seems to be wide receiver Vincent Jackson, but Iím thinking that another team will be more interested in him than the Vikings, such as Buffalo, Chicago, New England or even San Diego. The good news is that there isnít a steep drop-off in the market after Jackson if you factor in long-term production value as well current talent level. Other soon-to-be free-agent wide receivers to consider are Pierre Garcon, Mario Manningham and Robert Meachem. I believe any one of those three receivers could help Ponder take another step in his development as an NFL passer in 2012, and my first choice of those three would be Garcon. Heíd be a prototypical Rick Spielman-type of free agent signing Ė a guy coming off his rookie contract who was productive with his former team and has a career arc that is on the upswing.

Do you think Peyton Manning has a chance of going to the Vikings?
-- Jack M.

Rarely do I use the word ďneverĒ or the phrase ďno chance,Ē but Manning signing with the Vikings this offseason as a free agent is about as close as Iíve come to using either of those to describe a possibility. Itís not a good fit for Manning in Minnesota, for a variety of reasons ranging from his salary demands and the Vikings cap situation to his new teamís chances of making a deep playoff run. Given the division the Vikings play in and the fact that the Vikings are coming off a 3-13 effort in 2012, I donít believe Manning has Minnesota in his crosshairs. At this point, Iíd say the four most-likely landing spots for Manning are, in alphabetical order: Arizona, Dallas, Denver and Miami.

Do you think the Vikings would be willing to select an offensive guard with their 2nd-round pick (#35 overall)? I ask because when I watched the Combine, I saw players from Wisconsin and Iowa who I would love to see added to our offensive line. I might be talking out of turn, but I love Christian Ponderís potential, and hated seeing him on the ground every other play because the offensive line was weak. Draft LT Matt Kalil with the #3 pick and then a guard with #35.
-- Erik M.
Hoople, ND

If an offensive guard is the best player available when the Vikings are on the clock at #35, I donít think theyíll hesitate to select that player. Given the Vikings are in rebuilding mode, as they should be at this stage, the best draft philosophy is to take the best available player. The best interior lineman in this draft, in my opinion, is David DeCastro. Heíll be gone by the time the Vikings 2nd-round pick comes around, so after that the names to watch are Wisconsinís Kevin Zeitler and Georgiaís Cordy Glenn, who might have position flexibility to play both guard and tackle in the NFL.

Hey Wobby, huge fan and I think you do a great job communicating with the Vikings fan base and it is appreciated by us who bleed Purple. Assuming the Vikings take Kalil with the 1st-round pick, I think the Vikings will go defense, primarily linebacker or safety with that 2nd-round pick. I prefer the Vikings sign S LaRon Landry in free agency and then draft a speedy linebacker who is good in coverage, such as Zach Brown or Lavonte David. But if S Mark Barron falls, do you think the Vikings will pull the trigger in the 2nd round on him? Much like Kyle Rudolph last year, he will not be able to work out and could slide to the 2nd round. I think they will deal with cornerbacks via free agency and later rounds. Gotta love draft season!
-- Ben M.
Inver Grove Heights

If Barron is there at #35, I think the Vikings will pounce. In fact, I believe Barron is one of just a few guys for whom the Vikings would trade up if he was available in the late stages of the 1st round. Lavonte David is another guy that I am enamored with right now. I think heís the kind of player who can matchup with some of these beastly TEs who are too fast for LBs and too physical for safeties.







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By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

3/5/2012

A lot of talk going on about Rick Spielman wanting to trade down in the 1st round. I read the St. Louis Rams are definitely trading their pick (#2 overall), so I have another take for the Vikings. What do you think about the Vikings trading up? I'm talking about the Vikings trading their 2nd-round pick (#35 overall) and one of their compensatory picks to get up to the bottom of the 1st round so they can select a defensive tackle, wide receiver, cornerback or safety. Your thoughts? Once again, thanks for all your work.
-- Alan A.

At first blush, I donít anticipate this is a route the Vikings will choose because I believe there will be multiple players still on the board once the end of the 1st round nears, which will cause Spielman and Co. to stay put at #35 rather than move up. For example, if there are four-to-six players that have similar grades, and a team is only five spots away from selecting, that team will be more willing to stay put and just grab the best remaining player, rather than to move up and sacrifice resources (future draft choice) in order to grab a specific player.

With that being said, I am very much in favor of the strategy Alan laid out IF a player the Vikings truly covet, and are afraid will be gone before #35, is available. That could be a guy such as wide receiver Michael Floyd or safety Mark Barron. Weíll see what happens, but right now Iím thinking there will be enough talent available in the late stages of the 1st round and early stages of the 2nd round that the Vikings will be willing to stay put at #35 and choose the best player available.

If New Orleans does not put the franchise tag on offensive guard Carl Nicks, I think the Vikings should try to sign him. It would give instant credibility to their offensive line, along with their 1st-round pick Matt Kalil (potentially). Do you think there is any chance of that happening? I also think the Vikings should try to sign a good cornerback in free agency. Also, when will we know what we have in terms of compensatory picks, and how many we will be awarded? I agree with your assessment of Christian Ponder; Rome was not built in a day. Best regards.
-- David B.
Byron, MN

The Saints will not be placing the franchise tag on Nicks because they chose to place the exclusive rights franchise tag on quarterback Drew Brees. This means that unless Nicks and the Saints are able to come to agreement on a contract extension in very short order, the Pro Bowl offensive guard will become an unrestricted free agent on March 13. While Nicks would certainly represent an upgrade on the Vikings offensive line, donít expect the Vikings to pursue him. Nicks will command a gigantic contract with a lot of money guaranteed and a lot of money on the front side of the contract, and I donít think entering into that kind of agreement with an interior lineman is the best way for the Vikings to improve their roster. There are other greater needs on the Vikings roster right now, and the Vikings will be better off addressing those needs rather than breaking the bank for Nicks.

As for the compensatory selections, they will be awarded to teams near the end of March at the Ownersí Meetings. The Vikings are expected to receive two draft choices for the losses of Ray Edwards and Sidney Rice in free agency last offseason, and Iím guessing that at least one of those choices will be a 4th-round pick.

Why does it seem that so many other teams look to be seeking solid players in free agency, and the Vikings appear to be sitting on their hands? I know the best way to build a team is through the draft, but it would be a huge help to have some solid veteran play as well. And with so many holes to fill to get back to contention, it would make fans more excited about the team if we saw some form of intent to improve from the front office. Rick Spielman saying that re-signing guys like C John Sullivan is making a splash in free agency doesn't make it look like he's trying to improve this team to me, not when there will be guys available like WR Mario Manningham and DBs like Brandon Carr and Cortland Finnegan. The Vikings should be jumping at any opportunity to grab anyone that can help from Day 1, not just draft a bunch of rookies and try to develop them with nobody to help them along.
-- Rick S.

Free agency hasnít even begun yet and some fans have already decided that they donít like what the Vikings are doing. I understand that, coming off a 3-13 season, fans are anxious to see improvement in this team, but we have to remember to remain patient because building and maintaining an NFL roster is a never-ending process and improving a roster takes more than few months to accomplish.

Rick is right that the best way to build a long-term competitive roster is through the draft, and thatís precisely how Spielman and Co. will try to improve this Vikings roster. In fact, re-signing guys such as Sullivan, Chad Greenway and Adrian Peterson before and during last season is a great example of building through the draft because all three of the players were drafted by Spielman and the Vikings.

With that being said, I actually do believe the Vikings will be aggressive in free agency when the time is right. Iím not convinced that that time is right now for the Vikings, but maybe Iíll be wrong and the Vikings will make a few splashy signings. Maybe the Vikings will pursue wide receiver Vincent Jackson. Maybe theyíll try to sign Carr or Finnegan. Iím not sure what the plans are, but I know the front office and coaching staff is working hard to improve this roster. For now, though, Iím much more excited about the prospect of adding young, unproven players to the roster and trying to develop them into a talented, cohesive team than I am about over-spending in free agency and trying to patchwork things together that way.

Wobby, with Jim Kleinsasser retiring and Visanthe Shiancoe a free agent, what do you think of possibly trading a mid-round pick for an established tight end/H-back? There don't seem to be many options as free agents. I'd love to see the Vikings land a guy like James Casey from Houston. Heís 6-3, 245 pounds and 27 years old, but only entering his fourth season. He can play tight end/fullback and was a wide receiver in college. What do you think?
-- Michael
Inver Grove Heights, MN

I agree that a solid blocking tight end who has some versatility (and also some special teams ability) is a need for the Vikings. Thereís no questioning the value Kleinsasser had to this franchise for more than a decade, and the Vikings would be wise to find another player to fulfill that role. Michael brings up an interesting option in Casey, but I hesitate to acquire a player in that type of role via trade because itís typically not the most economical way to acquire a player. If youíre adding a player who can be as impactful as Jared Allen, then you can live with paying that price. While I think a Kleinsasser-type player adds value to the offense, I donít think the value is requisite to overpaying by acquiring that player via trade. Iíd rather see the team try to acquire this type of player either in the draft or through undrafted free agency.

Hey Mike, nice coverage on the Combine. It seems to me that everyone has us taking LT Matt Kalil with the #3 pick, unless of course the St. Louis Rams don't trade away the number two pick (highly unlikely). I would be thrilled with this outcome (selecting Kalil), and turn my gaze to the 35th pick of the draft. I know 40-yard dash times aren't everything, especially at the Combine when players can cut weight and train specifically for speed, but CB Josh Robinson out of UCF came out and ran a 4.33. And, according to Mike Mayock's comments, Robinson has pretty good ball skills. At 5-10, he won't be the biggest corner, but he has played both press and off-man coverage. I haven't heard a lot of talk about him in the media. Considering the Vikings need at DB, is this a guy we take a look at if he is still available in the 2nd round?
-- Taylor
Le Sueur, MN

Now that Iím sold on Kalil being the best pick for the Vikings at #3, Iím intrigued with the idea of trying to figure out what would be a good fit for the Vikings in the 2nd round (35th overall pick). I hadnít yet considered the possibility of Robinson in that spot because I donít think his value is quite that high, but then again itís not necessarily always about value. Itís about finding and acquiring good players, and Robinson might very well be a good football player. Thereís no doubt his speed in intriguing, and you have to wonder if Robinson would also be able to help on special teams as a returner with that speed.

To me, one of the most important factors in identifying cornerbacks who will fit in well with the Vikings is their ability to play man coverage. The Vikings have been primarily a zone coverage team in recent seasons, but Head Coach Leslie Frazier mentioned to PA and me during a radio appearance at the Combine that the Vikings will consider playing more man coverage this year.

Do you think the Vikings may express interest in Russell Wilson, in the later rounds of the draft?
-- Jamie
Wisconsin

There is no way of knowing at this point whether or not the Vikings will select Wilson in the draft, but it wouldnít surprise me if the Vikings Ė and all 31 other NFL teams Ė had some sort of interest in Wilson. He played for the Vikings coaches on the North squad during the Senior Bowl, and he was impressive. I was down in Mobile for the week of the Senior Bowl practices, and I was not expecting Wilson to impress me the way he did.

Iím not comfortable saying Wilson will be ready to start games in the NFL in 2012, but I do think he has an NFL future and heís also a guy Iíd love to see succeed. At the Senior Bowl he was a solid player, great leader and carried himself quite well. I was impressed with his athleticism and presence in the huddle as well

At first blush, I donít anticipate this is a route the Vikings will choose because I believe there will be multiple players still on the board once the end of the 1st round nears, which will cause Spielman and Co. to stay put at #35 rather than move up. For example, if there are four-to-six players that have similar grades, and a team is only five spots away from selecting, that team will be more willing to stay put and just grab the best remaining player, rather than to move up and sacrifice resources (future draft choice) in order to grab a specific player.

With that being said, I am very much in favor of the strategy Alan laid out IF a player the Vikings truly covet, and are afraid will be gone before #35, is available. That could be a guy such as wide receiver Michael Floyd or safety Mark Barron. Weíll see what happens, but right now Iím thinking there will be enough talent available in the late stages of the 1st round and early stages of the 2nd round that the Vikings will be willing to stay put at #35 and choose the best player available.

If New Orleans does not put the franchise tag on offensive guard Carl Nicks, I think the Vikings should try to sign him. It would give instant credibility to their offensive line, along with their 1st-round pick Matt Kalil (potentially). Do you think there is any chance of that happening? I also think the Vikings should try to sign a good cornerback in free agency. Also, when will we know what we have in terms of compensatory picks, and how many we will be awarded? I agree with your assessment of Christian Ponder; Rome was not built in a day. Best regards.
-- David B.
Byron, MN

The Saints will not be placing the franchise tag on Nicks because they chose to place the exclusive rights franchise tag on quarterback Drew Brees. This means that unless Nicks and the Saints are able to come to agreement on a contract extension in very short order, the Pro Bowl offensive guard will become an unrestricted free agent on March 13. While Nicks would certainly represent an upgrade on the Vikings offensive line, donít expect the Vikings to pursue him. Nicks will command a gigantic contract with a lot of money guaranteed and a lot of money on the front side of the contract, and I donít think entering into that kind of agreement with an interior lineman is the best way for the Vikings to improve their roster. There are other greater needs on the Vikings roster right now, and the Vikings will be better off addressing those needs rather than breaking the bank for Nicks.

As for the compensatory selections, they will be awarded to teams near the end of March at the Ownersí Meetings. The Vikings are expected to receive two draft choices for the losses of Ray Edwards and Sidney Rice in free agency last offseason, and Iím guessing that at least one of those choices will be a 4th-round pick.

Why does it seem that so many other teams look to be seeking solid players in free agency, and the Vikings appear to be sitting on their hands? I know the best way to build a team is through the draft, but it would be a huge help to have some solid veteran play as well. And with so many holes to fill to get back to contention, it would make fans more excited about the team if we saw some form of intent to improve from the front office. Rick Spielman saying that re-signing guys like C John Sullivan is making a splash in free agency doesn't make it look like he's trying to improve this team to me, not when there will be guys available like WR Mario Manningham and DBs like Brandon Carr and Cortland Finnegan. The Vikings should be jumping at any opportunity to grab anyone that can help from Day 1, not just draft a bunch of rookies and try to develop them with nobody to help them along.
-- Rick S.

Free agency hasnít even begun yet and some fans have already decided that they donít like what the Vikings are doing. I understand that, coming off a 3-13 season, fans are anxious to see improvement in this team, but we have to remember to remain patient because building and maintaining an NFL roster is a never-ending process and improving a roster takes more than few months to accomplish.

Rick is right that the best way to build a long-term competitive roster is through the draft, and thatís precisely how Spielman and Co. will try to improve this Vikings roster. In fact, re-signing guys such as Sullivan, Chad Greenway and Adrian Peterson before and during last season is a great example of building through the draft because all three of the players were drafted by Spielman and the Vikings.

With that being said, I actually do believe the Vikings will be aggressive in free agency when the time is right. Iím not convinced that that time is right now for the Vikings, but maybe Iíll be wrong and the Vikings will make a few splashy signings. Maybe the Vikings will pursue wide receiver Vincent Jackson. Maybe theyíll try to sign Carr or Finnegan. Iím not sure what the plans are, but I know the front office and coaching staff is working hard to improve this roster. For now, though, Iím much more excited about the prospect of adding young, unproven players to the roster and trying to develop them into a talented, cohesive team than I am about over-spending in free agency and trying to patchwork things together that way.

Wobby, with Jim Kleinsasser retiring and Visanthe Shiancoe a free agent, what do you think of possibly trading a mid-round pick for an established tight end/H-back? There don't seem to be many options as free agents. I'd love to see the Vikings land a guy like James Casey from Houston. Heís 6-3, 245 pounds and 27 years old, but only entering his fourth season. He can play tight end/fullback and was a wide receiver in college. What do you think?
-- Michael
Inver Grove Heights, MN

I agree that a solid blocking tight end who has some versatility (and also some special teams ability) is a need for the Vikings. Thereís no questioning the value Kleinsasser had to this franchise for more than a decade, and the Vikings would be wise to find another player to fulfill that role. Michael brings up an interesting option in Casey, but I hesitate to acquire a player in that type of role via trade because itís typically not the most economical way to acquire a player. If youíre adding a player who can be as impactful as Jared Allen, then you can live with paying that price. While I think a Kleinsasser-type player adds value to the offense, I donít think the value is requisite to overpaying by acquiring that player via trade. Iíd rather see the team try to acquire this type of player either in the draft or through undrafted free agency.

Hey Mike, nice coverage on the Combine. It seems to me that everyone has us taking LT Matt Kalil with the #3 pick, unless of course the St. Louis Rams don't trade away the number two pick (highly unlikely). I would be thrilled with this outcome (selecting Kalil), and turn my gaze to the 35th pick of the draft. I know 40-yard dash times aren't everything, especially at the Combine when players can cut weight and train specifically for speed, but CB Josh Robinson out of UCF came out and ran a 4.33. And, according to Mike Mayock's comments, Robinson has pretty good ball skills. At 5-10, he won't be the biggest corner, but he has played both press and off-man coverage. I haven't heard a lot of talk about him in the media. Considering the Vikings need at DB, is this a guy we take a look at if he is still available in the 2nd round?
-- Taylor
Le Sueur, MN

Now that Iím sold on Kalil being the best pick for the Vikings at #3, Iím intrigued with the idea of trying to figure out what would be a good fit for the Vikings in the 2nd round (35th overall pick). I hadnít yet considered the possibility of Robinson in that spot because I donít think his value is quite that high, but then again itís not necessarily always about value. Itís about finding and acquiring good players, and Robinson might very well be a good football player. Thereís no doubt his speed in intriguing, and you have to wonder if Robinson would also be able to help on special teams as a returner with that speed.

To me, one of the most important factors in identifying cornerbacks who will fit in well with the Vikings is their ability to play man coverage. The Vikings have been primarily a zone coverage team in recent seasons, but Head Coach Leslie Frazier mentioned to PA and me during a radio appearance at the Combine that the Vikings will consider playing more man coverage this year.

Do you think the Vikings may express interest in Russell Wilson, in the later rounds of the draft?
-- Jamie
Wisconsin

There is no way of knowing at this point whether or not the Vikings will select Wilson in the draft, but it wouldnít surprise me if the Vikings Ė and all 31 other NFL teams Ė had some sort of interest in Wilson. He played for the Vikings coaches on the North squad during the Senior Bowl, and he was impressive. I was down in Mobile for the week of the Senior Bowl practices, and I was not expecting Wilson to impress me the way he did.

Iím not comfortable saying Wilson will be ready to start games in the NFL in 2012, but I do think he has an NFL future and heís also a guy Iíd love to see succeed. At the Senior Bowl he was a solid player, great leader and carried himself quite well. I was impressed with his athleticism and presence in the huddle as well






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By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

9/5/2011

With DT Kevin Williams dealing with his foot injury, I feel like this two-game suspension really plays into the Vikings hands in regards of getting him healthy and back on the field. That said, who should we expect to fill in for him? Should we expect Christian Ballard? Or with Adrian Awasom making such a case for himself, might they start Brian Robison on the inside and play Awasom at defensive end?
-- Taylor
vikings.com Blog commenter

I anticipate itíll be Letroy Guion who steps in at defensive tackle for Williams. Guion, who stands at 6-4, 303 pounds, was drafted by the Vikings in the 5th round (#152 overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft and since that time heís steadily progressed into an important member of the defensive line rotation. Now, heís poised to take another step forward early this season as he prepares to fill in for Williams. Free-agent acquisition Remi Ayodele will be the other starter at defensive tackle. Both Awasom and Ballard will be in the rotation, but Guion is the guy whoíll step into the starting lineup.

Do you think the Vikings are going to wait the day of the game to announce who won the other safety position? And if so, do you think that strategy is going to give the Vikings an edge?
-- Chad M.
Douglasville, GA

My interpretation of the situation at safety, where Tyrell Johnson and Jamarca Sanford are battling for playing time, is that Head Coach Leslie Frazier and the defensive coaching staff arenít trying to hide the identity of the other starter, itís just theyíve yet to solidify their choice and it might actually be a situation that changes throughout the year due to injury and/or performance. Whoever lines up as the starter this week, that doesnít guarantee the same player will be the starter in future games. Frazier and his coaches will put the best player in the starting lineup each week, and a lot of factors go into that decision.

I've noticed that a lot of veterans were cut. Was this because the Vikings are looking for a younger team? One roster cut that I noticed that I really don't like was the release of Heath Farwell for Larry Dean. Farwell, from what I have seen, has been a staple and solid producer on special teams. Dean did not impress me at all during preseason; it seemed like he was constantly missing his assignments. What is your take on keeping Larry Dean over Heath Farwell?
-- Swiss C.

Ability, age, salary and position flexibility are just a few factors that coaches and scouts consider when theyíre shaping the roster. And shaping the roster is not an activity that ends now; itís an on-going process that Vikings VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman continuously monitors. All decisions, including the decision to release Farwell, are made with many factors in mind. Without being in the personnel meetings, I canít speak to exactly why Farwell was released and Dean was kept. But certainly a combination of the factors I mentioned above Ė ability, age and salary, specifically Ė were taken into account and ultimately that decision, and all decisions made by Spielman and Frazier, was made with both the short-term and long-term interests of the club in mind.

I was disappointed to see Farwell go because heís a guy Iíve gotten to know very well over my seven seasons here; his rookie season was my first year as well. But that is part of life in the NFL and while Farwell lost his opportunity to play with the Vikings, another player Ė Larry Dean Ė has earned an opportunity to play here. Iíve actually been impressed with Dean this training camp and preseason, specifically with his kick coverage ability.

What is the likelihood that we can sign both Chad Greenway and Adrian Peterson before they hit the free agent market without using the Franchise Tag on Peterson next year? (I really want to see both players locked up long-term before this season is done).
-- Darnell T.
vikings.com Blog commenter

Itís hard to assess the progress of contract talks between the Vikings and these players because all parties involved have done a nice job of keeping those discussions private. In my experience, the quieter these discussions remain, the more likely it is they progress to a result that pleases both sides. I canít see into the future, so I donít know if the Vikings will be able to ensure Greenway and Peterson are Vikings for the long-term. But I do know that both players fit into the long-term plans of this organization and I also have a feeling that both players are interested in being here.

I noticed that the Vikings only have five linebackers on their 53-man roster. I thought that was kind of strange. Do the Vikings plan on signing any of the players who got cut from other teams? If so, who might they sign?
-- Chad B.

As many of you have probably seen by now, the Vikings signed former Houston Texans linebacker Xavier Adibi on Sunday. To make room for Adibi, the Vikings waived tight end Allen Reisner. Adibi who measures in at 6-4, 242 pounds, was drafted by the Texans in the 4th round (#118 overall) of the 2008 NFL draft out of Virginia Tech. Houston employs a 3-4 defensive scheme, so itís hard to compare what his role was in that defense to what it will be in the Vikings scheme. But watch for Adibi to backup Vikings middle linebacker E.J. Henderson. It wouldnít be surprising, though, to see Adibi train at outside linebacker and also on special teams.

What is the reason we are keeping 10 offensive linemen on the 53-man roster? Have the young backups looked that good or is it considered a very weak position for our team in general? I would like to think the young guys looked really good because we cut two linemen that made the team last year Ė Ryan Cook and Chris DeGeare. The concern I have is that if one of the starters goes down, we don't have any backups with any significant game experience. That is a little scary because our offensive line hasn't been extremely healthy over the last few years. What do you think?
-- Brian S.
Sioux Falls, SD

Brian brings up a good point in that 10 offensive linemen is a little high compared to what the Vikings have done in the past. I went back and looked at the Vikings roster on September 5 for 2009 and 2010, and in both seasons the Vikings had eight offensive linemen on the roster at this time of the year. Again, without being in the personnel meetings, I canít speak to exactly why the Vikings have made this decision. But Iíd also point out that the roster maneuvering and shuffling might not be over yet, either.

With regard to the offensive linemen on the roster, itís a fairly young crew, especially when you get to the backups. As Brian points out, this means that there is little game experience behind the starters, and while that could serve as a disadvantage in a pinch, it also serves as a positive for the long-term development of the offensive line.

Mike, I really like What Coach Frasier has done so far - the staff he's put together, developing a group of players that are tight with each other. I see great things for this club. I just wanted to say to Coach Frasier: So far, great job! I know a lot of people gave bad grades for the draft. As far as I'm concerned, I've been pleased with the young guys and with the others brought in. So far, he's done a great job and I'm very pleased.
-- Don W.

I agree with you, Don. In fact, this is the topic we chose to lead our first installment of the Sunday Slant. Itís clear to me that Frazier has the Vikings heading in the right direction and Iím excited to see him continue to lead this team and franchise into the future.





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By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

By 8/8/2011

First, I would like to thank you for the excellent work you have been doing at giving us fans a great insight into the ongoing Vikings practices; I particularly enjoy that you are giving players "the eye test," which at this point in football often says a lot more than just stats. With that said, in your opinion between the backup QB's, who is closer to passing, or maybe is already passing, your eye test: Ponder, Webb or Bomar?
-- Derek
Duluth, MN

Itís a bit unfair to rank them at this point because weíre only a week into camp and the offenses are at such a natural disadvantage. Offense relies on rhythm and timing and the offenseís ability to create that cohesion was delayed because of the lockout. But the Vikings QBs have improved every day and Iím encouraged with the progress.

To answer the question directly, Iíd give a slight nod to Webb and thatís mostly because he entered camp #2 on the depth chart and he hasnít done anything to lose that status. Ponder has been solid and is capable of winning the job, but he just hasnít had enough time to unseat Webb as the backup. Thereís still a long way to go in camp and the preseason, so a lot can happen yet.

I know itís early as far as the 2011 Vikings roster goes, but do you see a position where the Vikings have more than enough depth stockpiled, so much so that they might be able to trade someone for draft picks to replace the ones we gave up to get McNabb, or to get a player in return that can give us more depth in the defensive secondary or offensive line?
-- Bob P.
Mississauga, ON

I donít know if there is enough depth where the Vikings could trade someone to acquire a draft pick or another player, but I do think there is very good depth at WR. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said the team expects to keep five WRs and I think itíll be hard to whittle the group down to that number; in other words, the Vikings will probably have to release a very good football player. The guys who are, in my mind, in the mix for those five spots are: Manny Arceneaux, Devin Aromashodu, Bernard Berrian, Greg Camarillo, Percy Harvin, Juaquin Iglesias, Michael Jenkins and Jaymar Johnson. Thatís not to discount the other WRs on the roster (Stephen Burton, Andre Holmes and Dominique Johnson), but the first eight I mentioned are in line right now for the potential five roster spots.

Have the Vikings been looking at Joe Webb as a WR in the practices? If so, how is he doing?
-- Drew P.
vikings.com Blog commenter

I have not seen the Vikings working Webb at WR and I donít expect to see that until the regular season nears. Webb has a good chance to win the backup QB job and I donít see the Vikings taking practice time away from him at QB until they know how the backup competition shakes out. But regardless of where Webb ends up on the depth chart to start the season, I think the Vikings offensive coaches are going to be creative with how they deploy Webb. His talents will not go to waste sitting on the bench, especially with the new QB rule this year.

Many people get worked up in recent stats and performances, but I'm an avid believer that numbers are a direct result of mindset. After losing to the Saints in the 2009 NFC Championship game, I got the sense that overall excitement and motivation was down throughout the entire Vikings organization, fans included. That mindset seemed to bleed through the season, causing widespread frustration and disgruntlement. The way I see it, everybody felt like we beat ourselves that year, which caused a giant downward spiral in team moral. This season seems to be a fresh start after a long storm, making me believe that the Vikings can once again rise to the potential that we all saw in 2009. Do you agree?
-- Sean S.
Los Angeles, CA

Yes, I do agree with the sentiment that this season feels like a fresh start for the Vikings, and thatís largely because of Leslie Frazier taking over as head coach. Last year I felt as though the Vikings were trying to maintain what they had built during the 2009 season. This year it feels to me as though the Vikings are trying to build up to a new goal and a new sense of accomplishment. I think this yields a competitive atmosphere where everyone is trying to prove their worth on the team and earn a job.

Do you think the Vikings defensive schemes will be more like they played against the Eagles (in 2010) with the blitzing or mostly just four down linemen rushing, as itís been in the past? And, do you think that on obvious passing downs Brian Robison will come inside to be a DT like he has in the past?
-- Chad M.

I know the perception is that the Vikings will suddenly become a blitz-happy defense with new defensive coordinator Fred Pagac in place. Iím not denying that Pagac will be a bit more aggressive in dialing up blitzes (CBs rushing the passer) and pressures (LBs rushing the passer), but Iíd also submit to you that Pagac isnít going to call something like that every play. Also keep in mind that Leslie Frazier is still in a position where he has influence on the defense. Pagac is calling the shots on a play-by-play basis, but Frazier is still going to have a presence. The other thing to keep in mind is that defensive philosophy and playcalling changes from game-to-game depending on the offenseís strengths and tendencies.

As for Robison, ideally I think the Vikings would like him to be the starting left DE and have him play almost exclusively in that spot so that other players can get into the rotation at DT. Obviously the Vikings will put the best players out on the field and theyíll put them in a position to succeed, but ideally I think the Vikings would prefer to keep Robison at DE and see what a few of the other linemen can do in the rotation.

If LeRon McClain and Lawrence Vickers are still free agents, and we donít re-sign Fahu Tahi, and itís safe to say AP is going to be the focal point of the offense this season, do you see the Vikings investing in a quality FB this season? Especially a guy like Vickers, who seems to be strong in the run blocking category.
-- Ethan F.

McClain was a free agent but he signed with the Kansas City Chiefs last week. If the Vikings decide to keep a FB on the roster, I think itíll come down to either Ryan DíImperio or Matt Asiata. The other option, if DíImperio or Asiata donít play well enough to earn a roster spot, is for the Vikings to rely on one of the TEs they keep to fulfill the FB role. Ideally, though, I think Frazier and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave would prefer that DíImperio or Asiata win that job.





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By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

As of 6/20/2011

Have the coaches ever thought of using Toby Gerhart in a fullback role? Just from what Iíve seen, he is a ďfootball playerĒ and I envision him as a Tom Rathman or Mike Alstott type of player. I think it would keep defenses off balanced if Gerhart could lead block for Adrian Peterson and run some FB dives. Iíd love to know if the coaches have ever considered it.
-- Shawn
vikings.com Blog commenter

I canít speak for the coaches as to whether theyíve ever considered moving Gerhart to FB, but I can speak for myself and say that I donít see it as a great fit because I think heís better utilized as a RB. Keep in mind, Gerhart played RB at Stanford and was the runner-up in 2009 Heisman voting. He also won the 2009 Doak Walker Award (nationís top college RB), the 2009 Archie Griffin Award (college footballís MVP) and the 2009 Jim Brown Award (another award for college footballís top RB). Heís a pure RB with the combination of power to break tackles and quickness to make tacklers miss him. One of the first things I noticed about Gerhart last year when he arrived at training camp and started practicing was that he wasnít as big as I perceived and he was much quicker and shiftier than I perceived.

I understand the comparisons to Alstott and Rathman. Gerhart (6-0, 231) is similar in frame to Alstott (6-1, 248) and Rathman (6-1, 230), but Gerhart is more nimble and really is more of a pure RB than Alstott and Rathman.

The simple question is, Christian Ponder or Joe Webb? It's bittersweet with the decision-making process here, and if we don't go after a veteran QB, which we still might do, I have to say I hope to see more of Webb than Ponder. What are your thoughts?
-- Kyle S.
Charleston, SC

Itís far too early to formulate an opinion on which guy should be the starting QB for the Vikings in 2011, but I think the goal is for either Ponder or Webb to end up starting games this year, not a veteran. Any veteran the Vikings add will be brought in to help mentor the young QBs and literally teach them how to practice and how to play the position in the NFL. The work stoppage hasnít helped that process because minicamps and Organized Team Activities (OTAs), where coaches install their offense and new players become acclimated to their teams, were cancelled. If the Vikings bring in a veteran QB yet this offseason, that veteran could end up starting games early in the season, but ultimately I think the Vikings are going to push hard for either Ponder or Webb to end up starting the most games in 2011.

What do you see the Vikings doing if Sidney Rice decides to sign with another team?
-- Tyler K.
Rochester, MN

At this point we donít know if Rice will be able to test the free agent market once a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is ratified. The new CBA will set forth whether players need 4 or 6 accrued seasons to be eligible for unrestricted free agency. If itís 4 seasons, then Rice will be able to test the market; if itís 6 seasons, then Rice will be under contract with the Vikings.

If Rice becomes an unrestricted free agent, then the Vikings will likely make re-signing him a high priority. He was a valuable part of the offense in 2009 and then the offense missed him in 2010 when he was unavailable for much of the season because of a hip injury. Also, Rice was a 2nd round pick who developed into one of the NFLís top WRs, so the Vikings have some sweat equity with him and would like to see him remain with the club for many years to come.

If, however, he hits the open market and decides to play elsewhere, the Vikings will have to adjust. Percy Harvinís role would likely increase in that scenario and Bernard Berrian would also have a greater opportunity. After those two guys, some young players will have the chance to step up and produce. Freddie Brown (practice squad player from last year), Stephen Burton (7th-round pick of the Vikings this year), Juaquin Iglesias (free agent pickup from late last season) and Jaymar Johnson are just a few of the young players who will battle for a roster spot leading up to this season. Also, donít forget about Emmanuel Arceneaux, whom the Vikings signed from the Canadian Football League (CFL) after last season.

Aside from players currently on the roster, the Vikings could look to the free agent market to fill a vacancy created by Riceís departure. Again, because we donít know what the new rules will be as a result of the next CBA, itís hard to assess the market for free agent WRs. But Iím guessing there will be several WRs out there, such as Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes, Vincent Jackson and James Jones.




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6/13/11 4:28 P

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By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

6/13/2011

Mike, what positions do you believe the Vikings need to address during free agency and can you provide some possible candidates?
-- Alex L.
Rockford, IL

Itís hard to formulate an opinion on that right now because we donít know which players will be free agents and which players will still be under contract when the work stoppage is over. Eventually a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) will be ratified by the owners and that new CBA will help set the free agency market. For example, the rules of the previous CBA were such that DE Ray Edwards and WR Sidney Rice would not become free agents until they have 6 years of service. If the same rules apply in the new CBA, then Edwards and Rice will still be under contract in Minnesota, which means that DE and WR would suddenly become less of a need. But if the new CBA calls for just 4 years of service before unrestricted free agency, then Edwards and Rice will NOT be under contract and therefore DE and WR could become needs for the Vikings.

Without knowing what the new rules will be under the future CBA, itís basically impossible to speculate on how teams will or should operate in free agency. We donít know team needs and we donít know which players will be free agents.

I know thatís not the answer fans want to read, but thereís not much else to say on the matter at this time. It seems like there is positive momentum towards getting a deal done, so hopefully the owners and players can continue to work together and come up with an agreement.

Do you think the Vikings will have any interest in Plaxico Burress? I know people are concerned with his antics on and off the field. I think someone can scoop him up for dirt cheap. With Rice's future hanging in the balance, why not take a shot at a player of Burress' caliber?
-- Rod G.
Midland, TX

It would surprise me if the Vikings were in the bidding to sign Burress once the work stoppage concludes. Thereís no doubt heís been a key contributor for both the Steelers and Giants in the past, but keep in mind that heís been away from football for 2 full years while serving a prison sentence and also keep in mind that when the 2011 season begins Burress will be 34 years old. Heís not a spring chicken anymore and I think the Vikings wonít view him as a good fit at this point. Leslie Frazier is entering his first full season as head coach and although I anticipate a lot of roster turnover, I donít think Burress fits the profile of what the Vikings are looking to add. As a rising star coming off his first contract, Rice is a much better fit for the Vikings and I think the team will invest its resources in re-signing Rice before they consider adding a veteran who has already seen his better days.

I believe that Matt Hasselbeck has said that he will not return to the Seahawks. He listed the Vikings as one of 4 teams that he would like to join. Do you see this happening?
-- Chris

Iím not aware of a time when Hasselbeck definitively said he wonít be returning to Seattle. Hasselbeck and the Seahawks were in contract talks before the work stoppage, but werenít able to get a new deal done in time. I think Seattle will look to re-sign him once the work stoppage concludes. However, if Seattle does not reach a deal with Hasselbeck, then I think heíll enter the free agent market as an excellent option for a team looking for veteran leadership.

The question is, does Hasselbeck represent a good option for the Vikings? I certainly think he has the ability to be a solid starting QB for a lot of teams and I also believe heíll be a great mentor for a young QB, but Iím not sure heís a great fit in Minnesota. If the Vikings pursue and sign a veteran QB, I think it has to be a guy who is comfortable with not taking a lot of practice reps and not playing in many games. The Vikings want to develop Christian Ponder and Joe Webb at QB, so any practice reps that a veteran takes is just fewer reps for Ponder and Webb. Iím guessing Hasselbeck still has a year or two left in him, which means he wonít be interested in coming in and being a short-term option at the position.





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5/30/11 5:06 P

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By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

As of 5/30/2011

New Vikings offense coordinator Bill Musgrave has stated his new offense will be influenced by the one he helped run in Atlanta as QB coach. Mike Mularkey (Atlantaís offensive coordinator) has a smash mouth style in Atlanta and favors a power-running attack. Can we expect a lot of two-back and two TE sets designed to help the run game and set up a play action passing attack?
-- Carl K.
vikings.com Blog commenter

Itís hard to know for sure the style of offense Musgrave will implement in Minnesota because weíve had no minicamps or Organized Team Activities (OTAs) this offseason. Typically thatís where new coaches install a good amount of their scheme. But I think Carl is not far off in his thinking. Given the type of offense Musgrave previously worked under and given Leslie Frazierís comments since being named head coach about the importance Adrian Peterson has on this team, I do think youíll see some power-running tendencies in the Vikings offense. This isnít really a surprise, though, because it plays into the strengths of one of the best players (Peterson) on the team.

In terms of how exactly Musgrave will go about installing more of a power running game, Iím not sure. There are a lot of traditional ways to establish a power-running game and Iím sure Musgrave will also put his creative juices to work and come up with new ways to establish a dominant rushing attack. This will only help whoever it is that plays QB for the Vikings in 2011.

I was just wondering about the TE position because the Vikings now have two pass-catching TEs with Visanthe Shiancoe and Kyle Rudolph and two blocking TEs with Jim Kleinsasser and Jeff Dugan. Do you think that Musgrave will implement the two TE set? It would be a good strategy because the Patriots used it and Tom Brady ripped up that field with it. Rudolph also said that his best strength is creating mismatches. Can Christian Ponder, or whoever steps in Day 1 for the Vikings, rip up that field with the two TE set?
-- Alan H
Washington, NJ

Without going back and researching how often the Vikings used two TEs in 2010, Iím going to guess that the team will use more of that formation in 2011 under Frazier/Musgrave. Rudolph is too talented a player to not have him on the field and weíve seen the value Shiancoe has to this offense. As Carl K. was mentioning in the first question, the two TE set can help establish a power-rushing attack (and then a nice play-action attack). But it can also create problems in the vertical passing game if both of the pass-catching TEs are on the field at the same time.

There are several significant differences weíll see in the offense this upcoming season, and I think the two TE sets are just one of the new wrinkles.

If Christian Ponder is the starter Week 1, do you think we will still utilize Joe Webb's skill set? Against the Buffalo Bills last year he saw some action as a kick returner and a little receiver, before he injured his hamstring. With his speed and elusiveness, it would be a shame to not at least run 2-5 plays per game with him. Leslie Frazier said that he simply is too freakish an athlete to keep off the field. So, the question is, IF Ponder is the starter, will we still see something of Joe Webb?
-- Malte Dengsoe

The short answer is ďyes.Ē Itís clear that Webb is too good of an athlete to simply allow him to sit on the bench if heís not the starting QB. But thereís one issue that could make it a bit more difficult to incorporate him if heís not the starter. If Webb is the backup, then the Vikings have to be extra careful about how much they use him in a non-QB role because of his responsibilities as the backup QB.

Another thing I would add to this particular discussion is to be careful not to assume that Webb wonít be the starter. Obviously by drafting a QB in the 1st round the design is to eventually have that player be the starter. But ultimately the coaching staff will put the best players out on the field, and itís not at all inconceivable that Webb will turn out to be the best option, especially considering the abnormal offseason weíve had.





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5/24/11 10:16 P

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By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

5/23/2011

Is TE Kyle Rudolph, who the Vikings drafted in the 2nd round this year, going to take the place of TE Visanthe Shiancoe?
-- Christopher Y.

For the 2011 season at least, Rudolphís role will not be to replace Shiancoe in the lineup. Rather, Rudolph will be a complement to Shiancoeís presence in the offense and he gives the Vikings passing offense yet another weapon. Several teams Ė the Patriots being the most prominent Ė have had success recently in using 2 TE sets. A TE such as Rudolph presents defenses with tough matchup problems because LBs typically arenít athletic enough to cover them and DBs are too small to cover them.

If Shiancoe were to suffer an injury in 2010 or if he decides to leave via free agency when his contract is up, the Vikings already have his replacement in the fold. But the thinking in selecting Rudolph this year was to add another piece to the passing game, not to replace Shiancoe.

The only way QB Christian Ponder is going to get a fast start is by being thrust into the role as our #1 QB. His experience and youth will allow him the ability to break loose and make plays. Do you think Leslie Frazier and the management team went after him because he is as close to NFL ready as any rookie?
-- Tim S.

I donít think itís fair to say that Ponderís only chance of starting fast is by being thrust into a starting role right off the bat. Weíve seen young QBs experience success through several types of development. Guys such as Sam Bradford, Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan and Mark Sanchez stepped into the lineup right away and it worked out. Yet others such as Matt Cassel, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger sat for a period of time before playing and that worked out, too. So while I think Ponder has the ability and will be given the opportunity to earn the starting job right away, I also know that itís entirely possible the best route for him will be to learn behind a veteran for some period of time, whether itís only a few weeks or itís a full season.

As for why the Vikings targeted Ponder, Iíd guess that his potential to jump into the starting role right away was a factor. His experience and intelligence were two factors that stood out to Frazier and VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman and they are also factors that will aid Ponderís development in the NFL. Other reasons the Vikings went after Ponder are his toughness, performance in big games and personality (good leadership qualities, well-liked by teammates).

What chances do you feel we have of obtaining a high-profile CB in free agency? Our secondary was decimated last year and with all of the injuries we have had I don't feel confident in any of them coming back from injury and doing a good job for us. We need to make serious adjustments or I feel we will be next to or the weakest team in the division.
-- Darwin H.
Sioux Falls

I wonít be surprised if the Vikings are in the market for a CB during free agency, but I donít agree with Darwin that serious adjustments need to be made in the Vikings secondary. I wonít excuse some of the poor play that we saw during the 2010 season, but I must also acknowledge that the secondary was impacted by injury. When you lose a starter (Cedric Griffin) and then a top pick (Chris Cook) early in the year, itís tough to recover from that.

The Vikings have invested a lot in their secondary and itís been mostly with draft picks. Griffin and Cook were 2nd-round picks, Asher Allen was a 3rd-round pick and Brandon Burton was added this year as a 5th-round pick. So again, I think having Cook and Griffin return from injuries will be helpful and will create some great competition in that group. But I also wouldnít be surprised to see a free agent added to the mix, although I donít know how ďhigh-profileĒ that player will be. Iím less concerned with the playerís profile and more concerned with how good of a player he is.

This is something that should be discussed among the Vikings coaches - Jasper Brinkley is a run-stuffing LB. With his size and talent, he could start in the middle on run downs and EJ Henderson could start at Ben Leber's vacated spot. On obvious passing downs, Henderson could man the middle alongside maybe his brother, Erin, with Chad Greenway on the other side. It would strengthen the Vikings defense against the run, which slid quite a bit last year. What do you think?
-- Steven W.
Camden, NJ

I understand where Steven is coming from with this opinion, but I see a couple of hurdles. First, letís not assume that Ben Leber wonít be back. Leber does a lot for this team, from stepping up as a leader when Henderson was lost to injury in 2008 and 2009 to performing well in big games (2009 playoffs Ė 12 tackles, 4 passes defensed and 1 INT). Heís a good locker room guy, a smart player and heís also a dedicated member of the local community. I hope Leber is back. Secondly, while it would be great to get Brinkley on the field in situations where he can succeed (running plays), we also have to keep in mind that itís important to have continuity, especially at the middle LB position. As a middle LB, Henderson makes the calls on the field, and itís more effective to do that from the middle LB spot as opposed to being on the outside. Additionally, the skill set for a middle LB is different from that of an outside LB. So just because Henderson is a solid middle LB for the Vikings in this scheme, that doesnít mean heíll be as effective playing on the outside.

Do you think the Vikings improved on defense through the draft? Do you believe DL Christian Ballard will possibly be the only Viking rookie to make any such impact in the coming years from the defensive pick selections? I do like CB Brandon Burton, but we have a lot of depth in my opinion at DB and Iíd say it's going to be hard for him to even get on the field.
-- Andrew D.
Ukiah, CA

I do think the Vikings improved defensively in the draft, mostly because of Ballard but also because of Burton and LB Ross Homan. Ballard has some position flexibility, meaning he can slide outside and play DE or slide inside and play DT, depending on personnel packages and game situations. With Ray Edwards a possible free agent and with Kevin Williams possibly facing a suspension, the Vikings may have a need at either or both spots at some point in the 2011 season.

With Burton and Homan I think you have young players with a chance to develop roles on this defense. Theyíll certainly be called to contribute on special teams immediately, but I think both players could turn out to be contributors on defense, too. DBs coach Joe Woods told me that Burton is an excellent athlete in space, which means he has very good cover skills. Heíll need to improve against the run, but it sound like heíll have a chance to be a very good player in coverage for the Vikings secondary. Homan is a guy who has great instincts and intelligence. At Ohio State, Homan received the defensive signals from the sidelines and was a leader on and off the field for the Buckeyes. Spielman also said that Homan has the athletic skills to be a 3-down LB in the NFL, meaning he has the potential to be good enough to play both on obvious run downs and in nickel (obvious passing) situations.

Let's also not forget about S Mistral Raymond and DE D'Aundre Reed. Raymond played both CB and S in college and I think he'll be in the mix to earn a spot on the 53-man roster coming out of training camp. Raymond can also be a special teams contributor. I know less about Reed, but he has prototypical size for an edge-rushing DE in the Vikings scheme. My early guess is he'll play the same position as Jared Allen - not a bad mentor for a rookie.





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5/9/11 5:49 P

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By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

5/9/2011

Nnamdi Asomugha is an unrestricted free agent. With the age of Antoine Winfield and the recent injuries to Cedric Griffin, is it safe to assume that the Vikings will make a considerable push to sign someone the caliber of Asomugha?
-- Anthony A.
Connecticut

The Vikings have continually tried to improve the CB position in recent offseasons, so I wouldnít be surprised at all to learn heís on the radar. But you also have to keep in mind that there will be a huge market for Asomugha, so itís likely that the bidding for his services will go so high that the Vikings have to consider other options. The good news is that both Griffin an Winfield will enter the 2011 season healthy and then 3 recent draft picks Ė Asher Allen, Chris Cook and Brandon Burton Ė will be competing for playing time and could develop into solid players. I know those 3 young players donít have the same sizzle as Asomugha, but at some point teams have to develop young talent rather than relying on the free agent market to improve their team. With how much the Vikings have addressed the CB position in the draft recently, I think at some point those moves will pay off and the CB position will be well-stocked.

Did any of the Vikings players, especially the rookies, get a playbook during the brief moment that the lockout was lifted over draft weekend? I was thinking that if the lockout lasts for a while, it would've been beneficial to get the players playbooks so they can study them and learn them even if they can't have contact with the coaches. If some players have playbooks and some donít, can players share the playbook and help each other learn?
-- Tim C.

I donít know for certain how many players got their hands on a playbook during the brief lifting of the lockout over draft weekend, but I do know that Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier and his staff, along with VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman, were working hard during the draft to take advantage of the brief reprieve from the lockout to speak with players on the roster. Frazier said during one of his press conferences during the draft that the team was working within the rules and guidelines to communicate with players.

Any chance the Vikings might be try to get a trade with the Bengals for Carson Palmer? It sounds like heís serious about retiring and you would think they would rather get a draft pick at least instead of nothing.
-- Jerry W.
vikings.com Blog commenter

I try to refrain from saying thereís no chance at something happening, but I think a union between the Vikings and Palmer is unlikely because the trade compensation required to acquire the QB is going to be pretty high. Whoever tries to acquire Palmer from the Bengals will be doing so because they believe he can be their starting QB for several seasons, therefore the Bengals have every right to ask for significant compensation for an asset such as that. With the Vikings having just used a 1st-round pick on Christian Ponder, Iím not sure the Vikings want to use more high-round picks on another QB.

This question assumes that there will be free agency and that WR Sidney Rice could leave via free agency (hopefully not). I noticed that Percy Harvin flourished last year when the Vikings had a big threat receiver on the field, such as Sidney Rice or Randy Moss. Somebody like Chad Ochocinco could be useful, if only to draw double teams. Remember what Terrell Owns did last year when Ochocinco attracted all the coverage? What are your thoughts?
-- Chris

I really like Ochocinco as a player when heís on his game. If you look at his career numbers, you see a very productive player who can change games with big-play ability. Ochocinco averaged 1,374 receiving yards (and 8.6 TDs) per season from 2003-07. The reason that number is so impressive is because there were only two WRs (Brandon Lloyd and Roddy White) who recorded more than that total in 2010 and Andre Johnson was the only player to surpass that number in 2009. But there are 2 drawbacks, in my opinion, to adding Ochocinco to the Vikings. One drawback is that heís 33 years old. Iím not saying he canít produce at an elite level anymore, Iím only suggesting that it gets harder and harder to perform at that level once you get on the wrong side of 30 years old. The second drawback is that Ochocinco can be an emotional player and he has a tendency to stray away from the team concept when things arenít going well.

Ultimately, I think Chris is right that Ochocinco would be a great complement to the Vikings WR corps, especially if Rice decides to leave via free agency. I would love to see him in purple but itís not something I expect to happen, given a variety of reasons, not the least of which is we donít even know when free agency is going to begin because of the labor situation.

What are the chances of the Vikings picking up LB Mark Herzlich once the undrafted rookie players are allowed to be signed? After the season the Vikings had last year, bringing in someone who loves life and the game of football so much that he overcame cancer, yet still ended up pursuing his dream to a competitive level, would be a major boost of moral for the team, the fans and to Mark Herzlich as well. I see nothing but upside when it comes to this guy, so I think it would be insanely foolish for the Vikings to pass on him as everyone did in the draft. To be honest, I think the Vikings fan base would love to see both Herzlich and Mistral Raymond make the final 53-man roster. God knows I would buy both of their jerseys. SKOL !!!
-- Josh G.
Annapolis, MD

The same line of thinking applies to Herzlich that applies to Asomugha in that the market will dictate how aggressively the Vikings pursue this option. Josh is 100% correct that the stories of Herzlich and Mistral Raymond are inspirational and that watching them make an NFL roster here in Minnesota would be awesome. The hurdle for the Vikings Ė and all teams interested in Herzlich Ė is that many teams will be in the running for his services, so teams are going to have to decide how much their willing to pay to sign Herzlich. On top of that, Herzlich is basically an unrestricted free agent, so he gets to decide where he wants to play. The Vikings could very well offer him the richest contract, but if he doesnít think the Vikings are a good fit for him, then heíll choose to sign somewhere else.

The 2011 Vikings Post Draft Guide mentions that Brandon Burton scored on 10 kickoffs and punt returns in high school. He didn't get many chances to return punts and kickoffs at Utah partly because they had All-American returner Shaky Smithson, who lead the nation in punt returns last year with a 19-yard average. Do you think Brandon Burton or 7th-round choice WR Stephen Burton might get a chance to return a few kickoffs or punts in camp or preseason? Who do you think will be returning kicks and punts for the Vikings this year?
-- Carl K.
Huntington, IN

I do think both Brandon Burton and Stephen Burton will get a shot at returning kicks in training camp. From what Iíve gathered so far, Stephen Burton will certainly get a shot at this and his ability to demonstrate potential as a returner could go a long way toward convincing coaches to keep him around with either a spot on the 53-man roster or on the practice squad. When you get to rounding out the bottom of the roster after training camp, position flexibility and ability to contribute on special teams are huge factors.

Ultimately, I think itís too early to know who will be returning kickoffs and punts for the Vikings in 2011. Certainly youíd have to consider both Burtons as possibilities, as well as returning players such as Lorenzo Booker, Percy Harvin and Jaymar Johnson.

Mike Ė Thanks for taking the time to read my e-mail. Since the Vikings took Christian Ponder at # 12, I have heard a lot of negativity about this pick. Fans don't seem to be very happy about this draft, criticizing present players and not happy about who we drafted. As a true fan we should be behind all our players. Last year was a bad year. Feeling down is kind of natural. Take a guy like Bernard Berrian - it's no secret that he and Brett Favre did not click. That doesn't mean Berrian is a bad WR. Go back and notice that when Favre was out, and other QB's were in the game, the ball started to find Berrianís hands a little more. Bryant McKinney manned up and admitted he had a bad season, and has committed to working harder in the offseason to be better this year. Fans may not be happy with where these guys were drafted, or they might not understand who we drafted and why, but the fact is they are all Vikings now, and they are all committed to working hard to make our team a winner. They all deserve our support. Take a look at the personal story behind S Mistral Raymond and tell me you can't cheer for a young man like that. Letís just start being the best fans in the NFL. Go Vikings! Thanks again Mike.
-- Nate A.
Minot, ND

Thanks for the email, Nate. I included Nateís email this week because it pumped me up for football. Fans have every right to be displeased with their teamís performance, whether it be on the field of play or in the draft or in the player acquisition department. But fans should also trust and understand that the franchise and its caretakers (coaches, front office, scouts) are making decisions with one thing in mind Ė improving the chances for success. Hopefully the labor situation is resolved soon so we can get back to our normal football lives and look forward to what will be an exciting 2011 season.





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5/2/11 5:18 P

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By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

As of 5/2/2011

Even with the Vikings drafting Christian Ponder, is there any chance that in Week 1 Joe Webb will be starting at QB?
-- Zach W.
Shorewood, MN

Yes, at this point it appears the competition of the starting QB job will be wide open. Webb impressed both Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier and VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman at the end of the 2010 season and I think Frazier will hold a competition for the job.

Do you think the lockout will affect Christian Ponderís play? Heís a smart guy and I think he can pick up the offense great with (offensive coordinator) Bill Musgrave at the helm. And if the lockout does affect his play, would it be fair to call him a bust if he flops his first year?
-- Vikecodin
vikings.com Blog commenter

If the work stoppage lasts throughout the entire month of May and early June, then I do think it will impact the ability of rookies all across the NFL to integrate into their new teamís offense or defense. In todayís NFL, the Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and minicamps in the offseason are important times for teams to build chemistry, and in the Vikings case, learn a new offense with a partially new offensive staff in place. In the end, though, this is where one of Ponderís best attributes Ė his football intelligence Ė will come into play. Despite the hurdle the work stoppage could create, Ponder has the mental aptitude to overcome it.

As for the ďbustĒ question, I donít think itís fair to ever call a draft pick a bust after just 1 season, whether thereís a work stoppage or not.

Now that the draft is over, and the lockout is back on, what is your opinion on what the 2011 NFL season will look like? Also, I've noticed one player in the draft that stuck out to me that didnít get selected is LB Mark Herzlich. What is your take on him? He once was projected to go in the 1st round before being diagnosed with cancer. I think he would be a good fill in for the team.
-- Brandon K

Itís tough to know right now what the future holds for the work stoppage. Iím still confident that weíll have a ďnormalĒ regular season in 2011, but Iím not sure when the labor issue will be resolved and whether or not itíll be resolved in a timely enough manner that teams will be able to hold offseason workouts and a normal training camp

As for Herzlich, I was really rooting for him to be drafted this past weekend. His story is an inspiring one and itís a story that makes you proud of the human spirit. I think Herzlich will be in high demand once the NFL opens undrafted free agency. Heíll be able to choose the team he wants to join in training camp and it wonít surprise me in the least if he makes a 53-man roster. If youíre unfamiliar with Herzlichís story, I recommend reading up on it.

I would like to say that I am very impressed with the Vikings draft. I felt that they made solid choices, and I am excited to see what Ponder does in the future. My question is regarding free agency. I saw on ESPN that Reggie Bush thinks that he is done in New Orleans. Is there any chance that the Vikings might try to pick him up? I think adding Bush would allow the Vikings to have even more weapons for Ponder and would help beef up the special teams. Is this even a realistic option? Thanks!
-- Jon K.
Saint Paul, Minnesota

After the Saints drafted RB Mark Ingram in the 1st round, Bush indicated on Twitter that he thought his time in New Orleans was done. But the Saints arenít so sure, however, as Sean Payton has publically said there is a plan to have both Bush and Ingram in the backfield. So, Iím not sure that Bush will become available to teams in free agency.

If Bush is made available, I think there will be high demand for him because of his versatility and kick/punt return ability. I agree with Jon that adding Bush would be a big score for the Vikings, Iím just not sure it would be a big enough priority for the Vikings that theyíd be willing to outbid several other teams for his services.

I know we addressed the QB issue in the draft with Ponder, but how likely is it that we go after McNabb or another veteran QB?
-- Jack
Australia

I donít know the Vikings plan for free agency, and Frazier didnít indicate the plan during his post-draft press conference, either. But my guess at this point is the Vikings will take a long, hard look at the QB market in free agency and seriously consider bringing in a veteran to be in the meeting room with Rhett Bomar, Ponder and Webb.

Iím curious on why the Vikings waited until the last round of the draft to select a WR. With Sidney Rice headed for free agency, I would have thought this would have been addressed earlier. I realize with the lockout things could change with Rice and he could stay with the Vikings. Do you have an opinion regarding why the Vikings really didnít address the WR issue in this draft? I would think that once the lockout is resolved and free agency can start, the Vikings will address this issue.
-- Paul H.
Denver, CO

There are a number of potential reasons the Vikings didnít select a WR until the 7th round of the draft. First, there couldíve been players the Vikings targeted but other teams grabbed them before the Vikings had their chance. Second, the Vikings may have determined there were greater priorities at this point, such as OL and QB. And third, the Vikings might have decided to address the WR position in free agency rather than the draft, which wouldíve allowed them to focus on other areas during the draft and then focus more intently on WR during free agency.

Of the Vikings picks in the 6th and 7th round, which of those guys have the best long-term potential?
-- Darren A.

Itís tough to know at this point because Iím not entirely familiar with many of these players and I donít want to discredit any of them without seeing them perform on the field. But if I had to take a guess, the names that stick out to me are LB Ross Homan (#200 overall) and OL DeMarcus Love (#168 overall).

The Vikings have a solid core of starting LBs and a good group of reserves, but Homanís style of play and versatility will allow him to fit right in. A huge factor in his favor is special teams; Homan is the type of player that thrives on special teams and that gives him an edge over others. Another reason I think he has some potential to stick with the Vikings is that Spielman said Homan has the skill set to potentially play all 3 downs at LB, which you donít see from all LBs.

With Love, the Vikings have an OL who has experience playing both OT and OG and also has experience playing on both the right and left side. Love had a great 2009 season and then fell off a bit in 2010. But because he played so well in Ď09, you know he has it in him. I think new OL coach Jeff Davidson will get the best out of Love.

How much time does Brandon Fusco need with OL coach Jeff Davidson until he has a realistic shot of challenging John Sullivan for the starting center role?
-- Kyle

I donít expect Fusco to be challenging Sullivan for the job this upcoming season, but perhaps Fusco can surprise us and make it a good competition right from the start. I think the Vikings view Fusco as a developmental prospect who will progressively get better, much in the same way Sullivan did under Matt Birk back in 2008. The most challenging part for Fusco will be the mental part of the game. This is probably the strongest part of Sullivanís game.




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By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

As of 4/11/2011

Many times it seems that teams are affected by the other teams in their division during the draft. How much will that be true for the Vikings this year? Do the Vikings need to draft as a priority CBs or better pass rushers because Green Bay has a good passing game? Does Ndamukong Suh from the Lions force the Vikings to get a top notch guard or a bigger center?
-- Craig R.
Boston, MA

This is a great question, Craig. I think teams definitely take into consideration the behavior and personnel makeup of teams they play frequently, especially teams within their division. I don't think this factor is necessarily the driving force behind decisions, but I think it's at minimum something they factor in, even if only slightly.

When Everson Griffen was drafted in the 4th round last year, he was thought of as a steal whom many believed had 1st-round talent. If that is the case, then why is he not being considered as a strong candidate to replace Ray Edwards should Ray leave for free agency? I ask this question because there are many mock drafts that have the Vikings looking at selecting a DE with the 12th pick. Have the Vikings giving up on Griffen? If not, why not look at upgrading the OL or DB or even the interior line instead of DE? Just wondering...
-- Steven W.

The Vikings have not given up on Griffen. I think the reason you see so many people projecting the Vikings to take a DE in the draft is because either A) they aren't aware of Griffen having that potential and/or B) a DE will be the best player available on the board when the Vikings choose and it's always a good idea to take the best available player as opposed to drafting for need. This draft is very deep on the defensive side of the ball and especially on the defensive line.

Another thing I would say about the mock drafts that you read is it's important to remember that mock drafts are simply guesses by people outside the organization. Just because the "experts" predict the Vikings will take a DE does not mean the Vikings will ultimately take a DE. I remember the 2007 draft when the Vikings selected Adrian Peterson. No one had the Vikings taking a RB in their mock drafts because the Vikings didn't need a RB - Chester Taylor was on the roster. But teams don't draft for need, at least the Vikings don't. Teams take the best available player, regardless of position. The Peterson pick is proof of that philosophy.

Is WR Emmanuel Arceneaux the real deal or is he a question mark? If he is a question mark, then along with Sidney Rice being a potential free agent and the availability of Bernard Berrian, how does this all impact the way the Vikings draft? Thanks for your consideration, Mike, and keep up the great work!
-- Michael R.
Wayzata, MN

For those who donít remember, Emmanuel Arceneaux is a WR the Vikings signed after the regular season. He was one of the Canadian Football Leagueís (CFL) top WRs over the past 2 seasons, compiling 63 receptions for 858 yards and 7 TDs in 2009 and 67 receptions for 1,114 yards and 5 TDs in 2010. He played college football at Alcorn State and was also a good student Ė 3.0 GPA.

To answer Michaelís question, I donít know if heís the real deal. He was in the CFL, but we have yet to find out if he is in the NFL. Heís 6-2, 211 pounds, so he has the size to be a physical receiver in the NFL and heís been productive in the CFL, so I definitely think he has a chance to make the Vikings roster and contribute in 2011. With that said, though, I donít think the Vikings are counting on him being a significant piece. If he is, thatís great, but I donít think itís something the Vikings are counting on. I think their plans for Berrian and Rice are much more significant to their draft strategy than their visions of Arceneauxís potential.

With free agency up in the air, should the Vikings still draft best player available in the 1st and 2nd rounds? Their needs are deep, but a defensive minded coach should start with his strengths first. Is an offensive lineman taken in the #12 spot worth that pick?
-- James L.
South Dakota

Taking the best player available is always the best strategy. Itís the best way to build a competitive roster that is full of talented players. When you deviate from that strategy, youíre more likely to select busts and reach for players. Again, I point to the Adrian Peterson pick in 2007. RB was not a need for the Vikings that year, but arenít Vikings fans glad the team took the ďbest player availableĒ strategy? I would think so.

So regardless of the status of free agency and need, taking the best player available is always the best strategy. Remember, it happens frequently when multiple players have the same grade on draft boards. At that point, teams can prioritize those players by team need if they wish. But I think itís foolish for teams to leave a player on the board who has a higher grade than another player.

As for offensive line, I would say that there is a good chance that thereís a lineman available whoís worth the #12 pick. Tyron Smith is an OT from USC and I think heís worth the 12th overall pick in the draft. If heís there, the Vikings might consider him. While the Vikings have a pair of starting OTs already, adding a player as talented as Smith cannot hurt your team. You can always find room to add a good football player to your roster, regardless of position.




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By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

As of 2/28/2011

I think we should trade up higher to a 1st-round pick. Maybe to the 2nd or 3rd pick. From my point of view, Iíd rather us draft DBís for our first draft picks. What do you think?
-- Charles N.
Honolulu, HI

Iím not opposed to the Vikings addressing the secondary during the draft, but I'm not convinced trading up is the best way to do it. If anything, perhaps trading back to acquire additional draft choices to use in identifying and selecting players who can fill spots on the depth chart is the way to go. Yes, an elite level CB would be there at #2 or #3 if the Vikings traded up, but I think it would be too costly to get up there and then the Vikings would wind up with 1 elite prospect who may or may not pan out instead of a larger group of prospects that has a chance to produce multiple productive players.

I was wondering about Sidney Riceís health. Is he working out yet? Iím really concerned if and when we get a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), will he be ready to play when the regular season starts?
-- Shawn
vikings.com Blog commenter

While meeting with reporters at the Combine, Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier was asked about Riceís health and indicated the Vikings feel comfortable with his situation. Frazier also said a contract offer had been extended to Rice. If that is the case, we can assume Rice will be good to go for the season because I find it hard to believe the Vikings would extend him a contract offer if there was doubt heíd be ready to play in 2011.

What do you think about DB Kendric Burney from UNC and DB Richard Sherman from Stanford? What would they contribute?
--Nicoles W.
Suffolk, VA

As I sit here and put together this weekís Monday Morning Mailbag, the DBs have not worked out at the Combine, so itís hard to get into much of an analysis of these players. Add in the fact that I havenít watched film on them, and my opinion should be taken with a grain of salt.

With that being said, Iíll say that Burney is 5-9, 186-pound CB who missed some time in 2010 due to NCAA violations. Heís also a bit undersized for what the Vikings defense usually looks for in a CB. The NFL.com scouting report says heís not effective at pressing receivers at the line, either, and that heíll be a Day 2 pick. That makes me question whether heíd be a good fit for the Vikings defense.

Sherman has some size at 6-3, 195 pounds, but thereís no scouting report for him on NFL.com and I havenít seen him workout at the Combine. I donít have an opinion on him, but I do like his size.

I noticed that it's looking more and more like the Raiders will let CB Nnamdi Asomugha go into free agency. Personally, I think one of the main areas the Vikings need to improve on is their pass defense and Asomugha would certainly be a very large presence in any pass defense, as well as an added asset to our run defense. I think the Vikings should pursue him. What are your thoughts?
-- Jordan L.
Minneapolis, MN

Because of the money Oakland has given CB Stanford Routt and DT Richard Seymour this offseason, itís very possible they wonít be able to re-sign Asomugha. If thatís the case, my guess is a lot of teams will enter the bidding for him and that will make it tough for the Vikings to acquire him. The high demand for his services will also drive his price tag up and Iím sure a lot of teams will be priced out because of this. So I agree with Jordan that itíd be great to have Asomugha in purple, but I donít anticipate that happening and itís largely because I think a team with a bigger need will be willing to pay him more than the Vikings.

The NFL has become a passing league, and even with Adrian Peterson the Vikings have to protect the QB better. Also, there is a need to put more pressure on the opposing QB as well. When teams do those two things, their chances of success go up. With that in mind, I would like to see the Vikings draft a defensive lineman in the 1st round, then maybe a QB in the 2nd round. Help for the offensive line can come in the later rounds. What do you think?
-- Dave
Manitoba, Canada

I think itís a mistake to target specific positions in certain rounds; that sounds like a sure way to reach for a player and wind up with a bust. The best way to add productive players to your roster and fill holes in your roster is to take the best player available. Often times teams will go on the clock and there will be multiple players with similar rankings. At that point teams can choose based on which need is stronger.




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By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

2/14/2011

I was just wondering what you think about the idea of CB Antoine Winfield switching to safety because it would seem that safety is one of the main problems we have on defense. What do you think our needs are to again become one of the elite teams in the NFL? I think that our main needs are S, C, G and DT.
-- Austin P.
Kindred, ND

Iíve heard a lot of people suggest that Winfield would be a good candidate to move to safety at some point in his career. Iíve never really seen that as a good fit, but if it will prolong his career then Iím all for it. However, I think now is not the time for Winfield to switch positions. Heís at his best when heís covering a slot receiver while simultaneously posing the threat as a blitzer and run-stopper from that slot position. The Philadelphia Eagles were unable to solve the problem of Winfield blitzing from the slot position and Iím looking for the Vikings defense to utilize this strategy more frequently during the 2011 season. As long as Winfield is an elite-level defender covering slot receivers, I donít think itís wise to move him out of his position.

As for the Vikings needs to become an elite team in the NFL, I think the prominent need is a franchise-caliber QB. You can have the greatest compilation of position players ever assembled, but if you donít have a QB who can manage the game and make clutch plays down the stretch, then you donít have a complete team. The Vikings need to figure out who their franchise QB is going to be. Is it Joe Webb? Tarvaris Jackson? A veteran or an incoming rookie? Thatís the biggest need on this roster right now, and once that need is solved everything else will fall into place.

I know the Metrodome doesn't belong to the Vikings, but, the Purple Thoughts message board had a fantastic idea for what to do with the old roof. Cut it into small pieces and sell the pieces as memorabilia and as a fundraiser for the new stadium. 4x4 pieces sold for $5 each could yield nearly 4 million pieces and $20 million. Pieces autographed by past and current Vikings could be sold for more. Someone also suggested the pieces could signify an "honorary stock certificate".

I think it's a great idea. Please pass it on to someone within the Vikings organization!
-- Steve K.

Iíve actually discussed this same idea with someone else and we thought it was a good idea, too. In fact, Iíd love to have a piece or two for myself to hang up in the office or around home somewhere. The main issue, though, is what Steve pointed out Ė the Vikings donít own the Metrodome and therefore canít control what is done with the old roof. Maybe some at the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission (MSFC) has already considered this ideaÖif so I hope they follow through on it because I think many Minnesota residents and Vikings or Twins fans would be interested in acquiring a piece of the old roof.

First off, I just want to say that I am very pleased with the direction that the Vikings are heading. My question is, do you think that there is a QB worth taking with the 12th overall pick in this yearís draft? And, do you think he will be available at that point? If not, is there another player or position that you have in mind?
-- Adam B.

I do think there is at least 1 QB who will prove to be worthy of the 12th overall selection in this yearís draft. The difficult part is obviously identifying which QBs are worthy of that pick. By most accounts, Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert is worthy of a top pick. I donít think Gabbert will be available when the Vikings pick at #12, though. After that, I think you have to look at guys such as Jake Locker, Ryan Mallet and Cam Newton. Will they have careers worthy of the 12th overall pick? Iím not sure, but that is a question these NFL teams have to figure out.

If the Vikings decide there is not a QB available who is worthy of the #12 pick, then they have 2 options. The first option is to take a player at another position. If they choose that course of action, the best thing to do is to pick the highest-rated player on their board, regardless of position. The lone exception here would probably be RB. If they arenít comfortable investing the #12 pick in any of the available players, their next option would be to trade back, potentially later into the 1st round. This would give the Vikings additional picks in the draft while also preserving a 1st-round selection.

Will the Vikings trade up to get CB Prince Amukamara? In my opinion, they do. But I want a professionalís outlook.
--Nicoles W.
Suffolk, VA

Although any team would be lucky to have a player like Amukamara (a top 5 prospect in this yearís draft), it would strike me as surprising to see the Vikings trade up from #12 to get Amukamara. Itís not that Amukamara isnít worthy of aggressively trading up to acquire, itís just that the Vikings have multiple other areas of the team theyíd like to address via draft picks and therefore I donít see them surrendering the picks it would require to move up to grab Amukamara.

Canít Plaxico Burress be a possible pick up for the Vikings if he is able to play?
-- Conor M.

Yes, Burress will be an unrestricted free agent once he is released from prison and therefore is a possible pickup for the Vikings and any other NFL team. Burress has been serving prison time for the past 2 years after pleading guilty to a firearms charge stemming from an incident in a New York-area nightclub in which a gun in his waistband was discharged into his leg. Many people will support their team picking up Burress because theyíve seen the success QB Michael Vick has had after serving time in prison. But I caution against making that comparison for 1 significant reason: When Vick was released from prison and re-entered the NFL, he was 28. Burress will turn 34 before the next football season begins and I donít think heíll have as easy a time returning to form.

I keep hearing about Jake Locker's accuracy problems. The announcers at the Senior Bowl kept talking about him being "wild high" with some of his throws. When they showed him in slow motion it was mentioned that he seemed to be over-striding. As a former college pitcher, I can attest to that as being the problem. Your release point changes and the ball comes out high. It's an easy problem to fix. I was very impressed by the young man's grasp of the game when I listened to a couple of his interviews. Also in his favor with his character in the fact that he stayed in school an extra year to get his team to a bowl game when he could have come out and maybe been the 1st overall pick. He is probably a very good bet to also be a very upstanding citizen who won't be an off-field distraction.
-- David W.

With more than 2 months between now and the 2011 NFL Draft, Iím not about to go on-record and endorse one of the QBs in this yearís draft class. Itís too early for that. But I will say that Locker is on a short list of draft-eligible QBs this year that piques my interest. I like that he stayed through his senior year and from what Iíve heard he has good leadership qualities and has impressed NFL personnel people with his interviews. As David pointed out, many have knocked his accuracy but keep in mind that the biggest knock on Brett Favre coming out of Southern Mississippi was accuracy.




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2/7/11 9:42 P

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By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

2/7/2011

Will free agent signing be delayed until a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is done? I think the Vikings needs are: 1 QB, 2 OL, 3 DBs in the draft. I was wondering if you agree or disagree and what your thoughts are.
-- Mike B.

Yes, there will be no free agency or any other offseason activities past the NFL draft unless and until a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is reached. Thatís why the CBA issue is such an important one. I think that the recent postseason and also the upcoming draft will keep the mind of football fans occupied, but I also think those activities prevent the common fan from realizing the magnitude of this issue.

As for the Vikings needs in the draft, I think Mike identified 3 important ones. Although Iíd also say itís less important to address perceived team needs and more important to focus on identifying the best player available and selecting that player, regardless of position. Of course this strategy has its boundaries Ė I wouldnít recommend the Vikings taking a RB with their 1st-round pick Ė but for the most part, taking the best available player is the best way to build your roster and avoid selecting players too early.

What is the latest with Cedric Griffin's recovery? He is on track to participate in the beginning of training camp, if there is a training camp? -- Adam W.
Devils Lake, ND

I canít comment on the specific condition of Griffinís knee or where heís at in his recovery schedule, but I do know heís been diligently rehabbing the knee since he injured it early in the season and heís been around Winter Park most days since the season ended. At this point Iíd be thoroughly surprised if Griffin wasnít ready for training camp. Remember, this is the second consecutive year Griffinís rehabbed a serious knee injury, so he has that advantage during this rehab process. He also has the advantage of personally knowing someone who has successfully come back from 2 major knee injuries Ė LB Chad Greenway has suffered and recovered from significant injuries in both knees.

Do you think we will be able to trade for QB Donovan McNabb and then he can possibly tutor/mentor Joe Webb? Then Webb can be our QB of the future and we can use our 1st-round pick on a CB of FS instead of another QB.
-- Corey J.
Houston, TX

Iíd be a bit surprised if that was the path the Vikings took to address their QB issue. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier has been clear in explaining his desire to find a young, franchise-caliber QB in the draft. I think adding a couple rookie QBs to go along with Webb and counting on (at least) one of them to hit is a better philosophy than putting all of the eggs in Webbís basket and then paying a premium price for a veteran such as McNabb to come in here and be a bridge for a season or two.

I know that the overwhelming feeling for this draft is for the Vikings to take a QB in the 1st round. I happen to agree with it. That being said, there may be other needs depending on who we re-sign. I was wondering what your thoughts where on drafting a DT, OLB or an OT in the 1st round and grabbing a QB in the 2nd round or beyond. I personally like Andy Dalton and Pat Devlin for later-round prospects.
-- Chaz H.

Chaz brings up a great point. Vikings fans are basically expecting the team to use the #12 overall pick on a QB. But I think thereís a legitimate chance that the Vikings donít do that. They could trade back from #12, pick up an extra selection or two and then take a QB later in the 1st round. Or they could do as Chaz suggests and take a player from a different position with the #12 pick and select a QB in a later round. Other QBs who will be available in the 2nd round and beyond that I think are intriguing are Florida Stateís Christian Ponder, Iowaís Ricky Stanzi and Nevadaís Colin Kaepernick.

I know this question hasn't been addressed yet, but one concern I am curious about is about our kicking situation next year. Are the Vikings planning on re-signing Ryan Longwell? Or do you expect them to maybe pick up a kicker in the 7th round or maybe as an undrafted free agent? -- Julian S.
Kalamazoo, MI

The Vikings have not said publically what they plan to do in regard to Longwell, but at this point my guess is theyíll try to bring him back. Longwell has been reliable and nearly automatic with FGs and PATs, something that teams should not take for granted. The one issue with Longwell can be kickoffs. In recent seasons heís focused on accuracy with his kickoffs as opposed to depth, so if the club decides to change its philosophy there they could be faced with a tough decision on Longwell. Absent the team deciding to dedicate a roster spot to a kickoff specialist, Iíd be in favor of bringing Longwell back and continuing to focus on accuracy and coverage with kickoffs and keeping the reliable FGs and PATs as opposed to focusing depth with kickoffs and possibly sacrificing Longwellís reliable with FGs and PATs.

Are there any talks about re-signing Chad Greenway and Sidney Rice and, if so, how close are they to being re-signed? Will the Vikings be signing the CFL sack leader Ė Phillip Hunt?
-- Rogerthevikefan
vikings.com Blog commenter

Thereís been a lot of external talk Ė or at least external questions Ė about whether the Vikings will re-sign those 2 players but there hasnít been as much chatter internally. Prevailing thought is that the Vikings will address both playersí contract issues once a new CBA is reached. While a few teams have re-signed players even with the CBA impasse hovering, for the most part weíve seen teams put off contractual issues, which makes sense.

As for Hunt, I donít know if the Vikings will be signing him. You can never have enough talented defensive linemen and Hunt certainly represents potential talent along the line. Heís a 6-1, 248-pounder whoís spent 2 years in the Canadian Football League (CFL). He led the league in sacks with 16.0 last season and it would be no surprise if he gets another shot with an NFL team during training camp; he spent time with the Cleveland Browns previously.




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By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

1/31/2011

With the news of the Philadelphia Eagles more than likely tagging Mike Vick as a franchise player, do you think the Vikings will go after a QB like Kevin Kolb since he has said that he wants to be traded if Vick is that starter? Also I just wanted to say I loved watching AP and Winfield play well yesterday in the Pro Bowl. SKOL VIKING NATION!!
-- Dan B.
Sterling, IL

The first thing to remember about this is that unless and until a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is reached, teams will be unable to acquire Kolb or any other player via trade. And, even if a new CBA is reached, that might not happen until deep into the summer. That would mean that teams could be reluctant to trade for a starting QB at that point because the new QB wouldnít have a sufficient amount of time to learn the offense.

Even if the Vikings were able to navigate through those hurdles, I still think acquiring Kolb will be a tough task to accomplish for a couple reasons. First of all, it wonít cost the Eagles much to keep him as their backup in 2011 ($1.4 million), which makes him a great insurance policy behind Vick, who tends to miss multiple games each year. Second of all, the Vikings could have a tough time putting together the right package to send to Philadelphia in exchange for Kolb. Letís say the cost includes a 2nd-round pick in this yearís draft. The Vikings have already traded away their 3rd-round pick, so trading away the 2nd-round pick (plus other picks Philadelphia would surely as for) would deplete the franchiseís stock of draft picks for 2011.

I am posing this question because I have noticed that almost every coach on the staff has changed. With so many coaching changes, how do they all mesh in such a short period of time to get themselves and the entire player roster to mesh and believe in their different philosophies? What direction are we heading? We used to be an Adrian Peterson-led team until we acquired Brett Favre. Are we heading back to our running ways, or are we going to develop our team around a new QB?
-- BK

Actually itís not accurate to say that ďalmost every coach on the staff has changedĒ because several position coaches from last yearís staff will remain on the staff in 2011. The Vikings retained their defensive coordinator (Fred Pagac), DL coach (Karl Dunbar), DBs coach (Joe Woods), TEs coach (Jimmie Johnson) and WRs coach (George Stewart). In addition to that, many other assistant coaches have remained on staff, which will help with continuity as Leslie Frazier breaks in a few new coaches.

Most of the changes to the staff did occur on offense, though, with the positions of offensive coordinator, offensive line coach, QBs coach and RBs coach featuring new individuals (other new additions included special teams coordinator Ė Mike Priefer Ė and LBs coach Ė Mike Singletary).

But I digress. To get back to the question, itís clear to me that coach Frazier has made finding a young QB a priority. With that being said, thereís no question in my mind that Frazier is intent on getting the Vikings back to the basics of being a team that excels at running the football and stopping the run. Thatís the type of team he seems to want to mold.

Have you heard anything surrounding Donovan McNabb and the possibility of him playing for Minnesota next season?
-- Adam W.
Devils Lake, ND

No, I havenít picked up on any chatter regarding a union between McNabb and the Vikings. I think that was a more prevailing thought in previous years with Brad Childress as head coach in Minnesota, but obviously thatís not the case anymore, so I think the McNabb-to-Minnesota rumblings will vanish.

I am excited for the Vikings next season. Without Brett Favre, there is a lot of speculation about who will be the QB for the Vikings for the 2011 season. How likely would it be that the Vikings will get Donovan McNabb (having troubles with the Redskins), Vince Young (could be let go by the Titans) or another QB from another team? Or will we stick with Joe Webb, since it's most likely that Tarvaris Jackson may be let go as well?
-- Aaron
Fridley MN

A couple of things to clarify from the question. The answer to the question above takes care of the McNabb idea. With Webb, itís not a matter of the Vikings ďsticking with Webb.Ē Heíll be under contract and will be a part of the Vikings offensive plan for 2011 and beyond, perhaps at QB but also in other roles given how versatile he was as a college player. And as for Jackson, his contract expires and my guess is that heíll want to take a look at the free agent market and see what else is out there.

Prevailing thought is that the Tennessee Titans will indeed release Young and I think there will be a market for his services. I donít know if the Vikings have interest in Young or not, but I know that many will link Young to Minnesota because Tennesseeís former QBs and RBs coach Ė Craig Johnson Ė is the Vikings new QBs coach. Now, Johnson having worked with Young previously does not automatically mean heíll want to bring Young aboard in Minnesota, but it does mean that heíll have a valuable opinion in the decision-making process regarding Young.

Ultimately I think the Vikings will focus much of their efforts on finding a QB in this yearís draft. If you asked NFL coaches and scouts, theyíd tell you that the preferred route of finding a QB is to invest in one during the draft and groom him to be your starter.

What do you think about the Vikings drafting QB Ricky Stanzi from Iowa? Do you think he could fit in our system well? If not, who do you see as being the Vikings QB in 2011-12?
--Dante C.
Roberts, WI

Iím not comfortable declaring that Stanzi does or does not fit well into the Vikings offensive system because Iím still uncertain as to what that offensive system will be. With new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave in the fold, thereís a very good chance the offense will be fundamentally different from what weíve seen in the last 4 seasons.

With that being said, I am comfortable saying that I think Stanzi has a chance to be an NFL starter. He won a lot of games at the University of Iowa and he played the game with a competitiveness and zeal that I like. I think whichever team selects him in the draft will watch him come to camp and compete his tail off.

Do you think that the Vikings would look at QB Adam Weber of the Minnesota Golden Gophers? He didnít win many games his senior year, but he put up what I think to be pretty impressive numbers. He went 205 of 368 for 2,679 yards with 20 TDs and 9 INTs (passer rating of 129.90). Iím not sure where heís going to fall in this yearís draft, but Iím sure it will not be in the 1st round. He had a lot of college experience and seemed very trainable. I think he could be a decent fit with the Vikings. -- Matthew G.
Winona, MN

I can assure you Weber will not be selected in the 1st round and I actually wouldnít be surprised to see him go undrafted. But, itís interesting Matthew brings Weber up because thereís actually a big part of me that hopes he winds up as an invite to Vikings camp this spring/summer. Some of the same things that I like about Stanzi I also like about Weber. I also think some of Weberís positive traits were either hidden or de-emphasized because of the lack of success the Gophers had as a team.




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By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

As of 1/10/2011

Whatís the latest on the interview/s that happened on Friday? Is Josh McDaniels likely to be hired in some capacity and was Mike Singletary actually interviewed for a coaching job? Also, who do you see the Vikings pursuing at QB? Kyle Orton, Kevin Kolb or maybe a rookie?
-- Rory
vikings.com Blog commenter

At this point Iím not comfortable saying anyone in particular is likely to be hired, but I would say that Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier will have his coaching staff finalized in the near future, perhaps by the end of this week. McDaniels was reportedly at Winter Park on Friday for interviews Ė prevailing thought is that the interview was with respect to the offensive coordinator position Ė but what exactly resulted from those interviews is not yet known. As for Singletary, a teammate of Frazierís on the Chicago Bears in the 1980s, it sounds like he has not been in for an interview, although given how familiar Frazier and Singletary are with one another youíd think a formal interview would not be necessary.

On the QB question, I think the Vikings will pursue all avenues to address this position Ė free agency, draft and current players. I wouldnít be surprised to see the team acquire a veteran, use a draft choice on a QB and also take a long look at Rhett Bomar and Joe Webb. At this point there is no incumbent, so the more competition the better. As for specific names, such as Kolb and Orton, I think that largely depends on the identity of the offensive coordinator and the status of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) process.

What kind of moves do you think will happen during the offseason with all of our free agents? Would we be looking more into the free agency or would it be in the draft for players. Also what free agent players are likely to be back with the Vikings?
-- Brandon K.
Ely, MN

A lot of questions regarding free agency poured into the Mailbag this week and I chose to include this one because of how general it is. The first thing to remember about this offseason is that nothing will happen after March 1 until a new CBA is reached between the owners and the playersí union. Until that new CBA happens, there will be no free agency, no trades, no signing of draft picks, no minicamps, no Organized Team Activities, no training camp and no season. Donít look for anything to happen in terms of free agency until there is a new CBA.

In terms of Brandonís specific question, Iím anticipating that the Vikings will use both free agency and the draft to address their roster needs. Obviously the draft is the best way to build your roster, but using free agency is a good way to supplement that building process. Generally teams like to address their own free agents before looking at the open market. I think the Vikings will take a hard look at trying to re-sign both LB Chad Greenway and WR Sidney Rice before they take a long look at players on the open market. Outside of that, Iím not sure what to expect because of the new coaching staff and the in-flux status of the CBA negotiations.

I was wondering if you think players like CBs Nnamdi Asomugha or Champ Bailey could end up with the Vikings this season. The Vikings are in need of a solid cover corner, and both of them will be available this offseason.
-- Jacob W.

My guess is the Vikings will take a close look at both Asomugha and Bailey, just as they do with every available player. Ultimately, though, I think the price tag will wind up being too high. Keep in mind, there will be several other teams in the market for these players, which will drive the price up even higher. My guess right now is Asomugha will end up with the Houston Texans and Bailey will stay in Denver or go to the Washington Redskins, where his former head coach Ė Mike Shanahan Ė is calling the shots.

I know we have a lot of people with contracts expiring and Frazier has been quoted as saying the roster could be "dramatically different". Is he planning on starting a youth movement? Clearing out some vets and letting some young guys get some playing experience?
-- Chaz H.

I think itís less about having a ďyouth movementĒ and more about taking a global look at the roster and adjusting it to fit the schemes and strategies of Frazierís coaching staff. Thereís natural roster turnover every offseason in the NFL Ė on average 30% of a teamís roster changes from year-to-year Ė but I think the roster turnover is also naturally higher when a new head coach is in the house. ďDramatically differentĒ is a relative term, so Iím not sure how dramatic itíll be. But I think 30% is in the ballpark for the turnover the Vikings roster will see before the start of the 2011 season.

I heard we have something like 17 free agents this offseason. Obviously we can't keep them all. But to me, Sidney Rice and Chad Greenway are two young and dare I say dominant players at their respective positions. To me we cannot afford to try to replace those two guys. I would love to keep Ray Edwards as well but itís going to cost. Do you think we could keep all three of those guys if the team wanted? And do you agree about Sidney and Chad? Thanks.
-- JT W.

I agree with JT that both Greenway and Rice are players that the Vikings would rather not have to replace. Greenway was the clubís leading tackler in 2010 and heís been a tackling machine since coming back from a season-ending knee injury his rookie season in 2006. Heís exactly what you want out of a 1st-round pick Ė a player who quickly progresses from rookie to starter to star and is a 10-year starter at his position.

As for Rice, I considered him a must re-sign player once he made that diving 31-yard TD reception against the Buffalo Bills. That play proved to me that Riceís sensational season in 2009 was not a fluke and was not exclusively a product of Rice playing with a future Hall of Fame QB. I believe Rice is a dynamic playmaker and a lethal threat down the field and in the red zone. He brings an offensive element that is not easy to duplicate.

With all of that said about both players, I donít think anyone is truly irreplaceable. Iím sure the Vikings have re-signing Greenway and Rice as high priorities, but we have to remember that this is a business and there is always a price to doing business. Hopefully both of these players, their agents and the Vikings can sit down and hammer out fair agreements once we reach a new CBA.

I do think itís possible the Vikings could retain all 3 players Ė Greenway and Rice, plus Edwards Ė but Iím the least confident on Edwards. Certainly Edwards has proven to be a productive player and itís been great to see him develop from a mid-round pick to a starting-caliber DE, but I have a sense that heís anxious to test the free agent waters and see whatís out there. Itíd be great if he returned, though, because heís been productive in this defense.

Iíd like to know the status on TE Jim Kleinsasser. Will he be back again next year? All he has done in his career is just play the game the way it should be and he is a good example of every day hard work and you never hear him spout off about anything. I wish there were more players like him. And of course he's from ND.
-- Mark W.
Valley City, ND

I anticipate Kleinsasser will be back for the 2011 season. I havenít noticed a dropoff in his play and I know the Vikings value his skillset. Mark is right Ė Kleinsasser plays the game the way it should be played and heís such a rugged, blue-collar player that itís hard not to like what he brings to the table. I know heís a respected player around the NFL and I hope he returns for another season.

Bill OíBrien was a former offensive coordinator for Duke University and is currently the QBs coach for the New England Patriots. Any chance the Vikings interview other people for the offensive coordinator position? New England assistants always seem to become great coordinators.
-- Carl K.

Again, I donít know the status of interviews or of how close Frazier is to finalizing his staff. I will say the one hurdle to interviewing a guy like Bill OíBrien from New England is that his team is still in the playoffs, which means that going forward non-playoff teams will not be able to talk to coaches whose teams are currently in the playoffs. Those interviews will have to wait until that particular team is out of the playoffs, which might preclude a non-playoff team from interviewing certain coaches because those non-playoff teams want to finalize their staff as quickly as possible.

With the season over, how do you feel about rookies Chris Cook and Everson Griffen? Unless I missed something, most of your talk about this yearís draft picks has centered around Toby Gerhart (who I personally believe worked out great), Joe Webb, and recently a little about Chris DeGeare. Did Cook and Griffen perform up to NFL standards?
-- Kínet
vikings.com Blog commenter

This is a good question and I think the best way to summarize both of these players is to say they are still works in progress. Cook had a terrific training camp and I know the team has high hopes for him, but he went through a pair of knee surgeries early this season and that really prevented him from progressing any further. I anticipate heíll have another solid offseason and training camp and that heíll be on the radar of Vikings fans during the 2011 season. He has great size for a CB and his best attribute is his physicality. I also think heís a player who thrives on confidence, so heíll continue to get better once he can get back on the field and start making plays again.

Griffen surprised the Vikings a little this year with his ability to be a special teams contributor. He was buried on the defensive depth chart a bit because of the talented and deep defensive line we had, but Griffen was still able to get on the field because of his special teams capabilities. So, I think that sets the table nicely for him to have a good offseason and training camp, which should put him in line for more special teams opportunities and perhaps even a more prominent place in the defensive line rotation. He has a nice blend of speed and power, and I think once he can shore up some technique issues heíll be a more reliable NFL defensive linemen.

Although neither player was productive as a rookie, I think both Cook and Griffen are trending upward for the Vikings defense and will become contributors, perhaps as early as the 2011 season.




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1/3/11 9:36 P

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By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

as of 1/3/2011

Since it seems that the Vikings are going to keep Leslie Frazier as head coach, I was wondering what the feeling is about him in the organization and how do you feel about him most likely being the coach of the Vikings?
-- steven
vikings.com Blog commenter



First of all, I need to qualify this answer by saying that at the time this weekís Monday Morning Mailbag was published, nothing official had been announced regarding the hiring of Frazier. But prevailing thought and multiple national reports on Sunday indicated that Frazier would be the next head coach of the Vikings.



I certainly canít speak for everyone in the organization, but the general feeling Iíve observed is one of excitement for Frazier to be offered the job. And I concur with that feeling. I think Frazier deserves a shot to be a head coach in the NFL, I think Frazier will be a head coach in the NFL in 2011 and I hope itís with the Vikings.


I have seen the Vikings use old washed-up QBs for a long time now and I think itís time to start fresh. I would love to see the Vikings go out and try to draft a Ryan Mallet or a Jake Locker type QB. What do you think the chances are of us going after one in the draft and who do you think we have the greatest chance of selecting?
-- Julien

There isnít one single team or personnel man in the NFL who would prefer an ďold washed-up QBĒ over a young stud. Teams typically turn to veterans because injuries have ravaged their depth chart or because an attempt to groom a young QB is not succeeding. Every team is looking for that next franchise QB, but not every team can have one. They are few and far between and they are hard to identify. So no one would disagree with Julienís assertion that the Vikings need to find a fresh start at QB, but itís just not as easy as going to the grocery store to pick one out.

The Vikings have tried to have a fresh start many times in recent years, itís just that people donít look at it that way because the prospects didnít develop into quality starters.

Ultimately, I think the chances are good that the Vikings will identify a QB or maybe 2 QBs early in the draft. As for the specific individual, I donít even want to begin guessing because I donít know how the Vikings personnel staff feels about certain players. But if the QBs whom the Vikings covet are selected before the Vikings pick, they arenít going to settle for someone else just so they can take a QB in the 1st round. Selecting a QB in the early rounds of the draft is not something a franchise does lightly. Itís a strategy that can be implemented but it canít apply to every player. NFL teams and scouts have opinions on every single draft-eligible player, and if the opinion on a player is a negative one or if a player doesnít fit the team, then the team wonít select that player, even if they have a need at a certain position.

Why hasnít the league fined Asante Samuel for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Sidney Rice?
-- Malte D.
Denmark

My understanding is that Samuelís hit was actually not illegal, despite the fact that he was penalized on the play. The league reviewed the play and apparently concluded that Rice was not a defenseless receiver, therefore Samuelís hit on Rice was legal. In drawing this conclusion, the NFL also must have judged that Samuel did not ďlaunchĒ himself at Rice to make the hit, otherwise he wouldíve been fined.

Itís also my understanding that the NFL could change its rule to make the type of hit executed by Samuel on Rice illegal.

Hereís a more comprehensive breakdown of the play and the NFLís ruling on it, complete with a statement from an NFL spokesman.

Iím just wondering what pick the Vikings will have in the 2011 NFL Draft?
-- Tim D.
Waseca, MN

The Vikings finished with a 6-10 record, which puts them in a tie with 7 other teams who also finished with 6 wins. In addition, 6 teams finished with fewer than 6 wins and will be ahead of the Vikings in draft position. That means the 7 teams with 6 wins will be spread out between the #7 and #13 positions, with the tie-breaker being strength of 2010 schedule. To directly answer Timís question, the Vikings hold the 12th overall pick in the 1st round of the 2011 NFL Draft.

As a reference just for fun, here are the last 5 players to be selected with the 12th overall pick in the draftÖ
2010: RB Ryan Matthews (San Diego Chargers)
2009: RB Knowshon Moreno (Denver Broncos)
2008: T Ryan Clady (Denver Broncos)
2007: RB Marshawn Lynch (Buffalo Bills)
2006: DT Haloti Ngata (Baltimore Ravens)

I know that we traded away Rosenfels and Reynaud to the Giants, and then Jayme Mitchell to the Browns, but I have been having trouble finding the specifics of each trade. Everything that I come across says they were traded for "undisclosed draft picks". Can you provide me with the specifics of each trade and/or a full list of the picks that we own for the 2011 Draft?
-- PurpleParody
vikings.com Blog commenter

To be honest I actually canít do that right now because I donít know the information. Some of those ďundisclosed draft picksĒ have still not been disclosed (at least to my knowledge) and some of the trades involved draft picks in future years. In addition to that, teams are awarded compensatory picks for free agents lost during the offseason, and since the free agency period obviously hasnít come and gone yet we donít know how many compensatory picks the Vikings will have.

We do know, though, that the Vikings have the 12th pick in the 1st round and they also have their 2nd round pick in 2011. But stay tuned to vikings.com for more information on this topic.

How is it that a receiver (or other player) can have possession of the ball and reach out and extend the ball just over the goal line (or into the in endzone) and then lose possession via fumble or the ground and it is called a TD because the ball broke the plain. And yet a receiver who catches the ball in the endzone and has possession who does not maintain possession all the way to the ground is ruled an incomplete pass? As in the Detroit game on Sunday when it was reviewed to see if the Detroit receiver broke the plain of the goal line (after extending) before losing possession of the ball on the tackleÖ
-- Brian C.
Corpus Christi, TX

I understand where Brian is coming from and Iíve had this same discussion with co-workers and friends. At first blush the rule does seem inconsistent and I actually think this is a rule the NFLís Competition Committee will re-evaluate this offseason. Many teams have been burned by this rule and its application this season, including the Lions, who lost a game at Soldier Field because of a play involving this rule. The Vikings have also come up on the short end of the stick multiple times because of this rule, specifically on Sidney Riceís catch in Philadelphia last week and Visanthe Shiancoeís catch at Green Bay earlier this season.

The best way I can explain the difference between a ball-carrier extending to break the plane of the endzone and then losing possession and a potential pass-receiver trying to make a catch in the endzone while going to the ground is that the ball-carrier who is extending the ball has already established and demonstrated possession. The potential pass-receiver, on the other hand, has not established possession and does not establish possession until receiving the ball, controlling it, getting 2 feet in bounds and then maintaining control (possession) through the act of going to the ground. The key is going to the ground during the act (of catching a pass). For the ball-carrier extending the ball to break the plane, he is not ďgoing to the groundĒ to establish possession (he already has possession), whereas the pass-catcher must ďgo to the groundĒ in order to complete the act of catching the pass (gaining possession).

Confusing, right? Thatís why I think the NFLís Competition Committee will take a closer look at this rule this offseason.

I just wanted to say that the Vikings fans are the greatest! I came to Minneapolis for the Green Bay game. It was my first NFL game. I had to see Brett Favre play at least once. It was a big deal for me being that Iíve been a Favre fan since 1992 and Iím also from Mississippi. But I just wanted to say that everybody I met and came across up there were just some of the nicest folks IĎve ever met and I had a great time in your city and I look forward to maybe coming back one day. Thank yíall! See ya!
-- Jason P.
vikings.com Blog commenter

Thanks for the kind words, Jason. I agree that Vikings fans are the greatest and Iím pleased that you had such a positive experience in Minnesota and at the Vikings game. You are always welcome to return and we look forward to having you at a game again soon.




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11/29/10 10:19 P

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By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

11/29/2010

First of all, I want to congratulate the Vikings on their win today (Sunday). We looked good on both sides of the ball. Iím curious as to whether or not we have any shot at making the playoffs. Iím pretty sure there is a sliver of a chance, but Iím not certain. I want to give props to Tobey for filling in for Adrian Peterson; great job.
-- Bobby Hayes
vikings.com Blog commenter

Thereís no question that getting the win on Sunday is exciting and provides this team with a much needed spark, but as of right now the chances of the Vikings making the playoffs are quite remote. I saw a statistic somewhere last week that if the Vikings won their final 6 games of the season they would have a 14% chance of making the playoffs. One down, 5 to go.

I agree that defensively and offensively the Vikings were sound against Washington on Sunday. I was particularly pleased with the Vikings rushing attack and their rushing defense. As I wrote on the vikings.com Blog Sunday night, Gerhart was solid while filling in for Peterson. Defensively, the Vikings allowed just 29 yards rushing on 13 carries, which is an average of 2.2 yards per attempt; also, the longest run the Redskins registered was 4 yards.

From a special teams perspective, Chris Kluwe and the punt coverage team was solid for most of the game. They did allow a long return for a TD but it was nullified because of penalty. Ryan Longwell was true from 31 yards on a FG try and was perfect on PATs. The kickoff coverage team has some leaks to correct Ė Brandon Banks averaged 30.8 yards per return and had a 65-yard return in the 3rd quarter.

Was there a noticeable difference in the teamís attitude on the sideline this week with Leslie Frazier compared to (Brad) Childress?
-- Dan G.
Houston, TX

Itís a little tough for me to answer that because I spend most of the game in the press box; Iím on the field for pre-game warm-ups and then for the final moments of the game. I guess thatís a question for a player or assistant coach to answer. From a general standpoint, though, my observation was that some individuals (I wonít name names) were a little looser this week than in previous weeks. But I think thatís a natural consequence of change and not necessarily unique to this particular change of Childress leaving and Frazier taking over.

Why havenít we seen Sidney Rice go deep for a jump ball or a fade route in the corner of the endzone?
-- Alex Lawson
vikings.com Blog commenter

Brett Favre did throw a deep pass to Rice early in the game on Sunday, but Rice was running down the right seam and Favreís pass faded toward the middle of the field and fell incomplete. One reason we might not be seeing those types of routes for Rice is because coverage is taking it away. I expect Rice will continue to see defenses try to take him out of the game, but I also expect that Rice will have opportunities for jump balls and endzone passes. Heís still working his way back into form.

Coach Frazier commented (during his post-game press conference) that when Peterson got hurt they didnít want to change their game plan. Now that Gerhart has established himself in this game, what opportunities could he open up for the Vikings that we may not have had before? Also, if Ray Edwards needs to take a game or two off to recuperate (leg injury), could we see Everson Griffen play a little on his side, or is he exclusive to Allenís side? Hopefully we get AP and Edwards back in the game ASAP. It goes without saying that they are great playmakers and key members of the team.
-- Kínet
vikings.com Blog commenter

I wouldnít say that Gerhart gives this Vikings offense opportunities that it hasnít had previously, but I do think Gerhartís progression into a reliable contributor gives the Vikings offense versatility, much in the same way Chester Taylor helped give the offense versatility when he was the complementary back to Peterson. Gerhart is a good receiver out of the backfield and he showed on Sunday against the Redskins that he can be relied upon to carry the ball as well. I expect Gerhart to continue to get significant touches going forward and I think one of his strengths will be in the screen game.

Should Edwards be forced out of action for an extended period of time, thereís no question in my mind that Griffen will get more looks on defense. But I think itíll be Brian Robison who gets the start in his place at LDE, with Griffen rotating in to keep everyone fresh.

What is your opinion on Letroy Guion and his ability to collapse the pocket? If Pat Williams were to retire after this year, would Guion be the new starter on the defensive line?
-- Dustin
vikings.com Blog commenter

Iíve really been pleased with how Guion has progressed since the Vikings drafted him in 2008. He was selected in the 5th round of the 2008 NFL Draft but was inactive for 15 of the teamís 17 games that season. Then in 2009 he played in 7 games and began to show substantial progress. The next step in his progression came during training camp this past summer, where he was one of the teamís best performers. Now weíre seeing that progress translate onto the field during games and he registered his 1st career sack on Sunday against Donovan McNabb. Suffice it to say, I like his ability as a pass rusher from the DT position and I also think heís stout against the run. He plays low and has good leverage and heís just a strong, burly guy in the trenches.

Iím not sure if heíd be the starter at that DT spot if Pat Williams retires next season. There is so much that can change between now and then that itís tough to gauge, especially with Jimmy Kennedy on the roster and a full offseason of player movement (draft, free agency, etc.) still to come. Regardless of all that, though, I think itís safe to say that Guion is in the long-term plans of the Vikings




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11/22/10 10:09 P

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By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

11/22/2010

Hey Mike, after watching the game today (Sunday) I was astounded by the lack of play from our DB's. Missing tackles, blown coverages, dropping interceptionsÖis there anything we can do to correct this?
-- Julian S.

Green Bay had a lot of success passing the ball against the Vikings on Sunday, with QB Aaron Rodgers throwing for 301 yards and 4 TDs. When you see an offense produce that efficiently, odds are the problems with the defense are a combination of rush and coverage. And I think thatís what weíre seeing with the Vikings.

As I look back on this Packers game and other losses during the season, I donít find myself blaming either the rush or coverage exclusively. Neither group is performing well consistently and therefore opposing offenses are finding success.

As for the DBs on Sunday, we saw the most recent example of how the loss of Cedric Griffin is impacting this defense. Antoine Winfield is having a nice season, but the Vikings have had trouble filling the other starting spot, with Asher Allen, Chris Cook and Lito Sheppard all getting a crack at it. Originally, those players were designed to be 3rd, 4th and 5th corners in this defense, and as 3rd corners they would be solid. But with Griffin going down for the season, theyíve all been bumped up a spot and then the Vikings had to go sign Frank Walker to fortify the depth.

As for correcting it, I donít think thereís a magic answer or a free agent out there who will make a huge difference. What has to happen is the guys currently on the roster have to fix their mistakes and start playing better.

With playoff hopes pretty much gone, isnít it a good time to sit Favre and see what Tarvaris Jackson and Joe Webb can do?
-- Alex K.
Duluth, MN

Along with the status of head coach Brad Childress, I think this issue will be talked about the most this week. At 3-7 itís fair to say that playoff chances are vanishing and when that happens, itís natural to want to look further down the road and plan for the future. The problem with that thinking, though, is there are certain individuals invested in this season who (rightfully) want to do what it takes to win now. The argument can be made that seeing what Jackson and Webb can do does not give the Vikings the best chance to win right now.

So the decision makers in the Vikings organization are faced with a dilemma. Making the situation even stickier is the fact that Favre is a 20-year veteran and a future Hall of Famer. I donít want to see him go through the indignity of not starting and I also donít think heís any more responsible for this disappointing season than others on the team. In football you win as a team and lose as a team. When things were going extremely well for the Vikings last season, Favre was quick to spread credit around to his teammates. Itís only fair, then, that in a disappointing season the blame is also spread around.

So the answer to the question is tricky. For the short-term, I donít think itís time to see what Jackson and Webb can do. For the long-term, it is time to see what they can do. Itís a tough decision to make and itís also a decision that requires a lot of information that I donít have.

Is there a chance that our coaching will start getting creative, while finding and attacking opponentsí weaknesses? Or are they content now to simply battle for the best player in the draft?
-- PurpleParody
vikings.com Blog commenter

I can assure you that the coaching staff will not be content to look ahead to the draft. They, and all NFL coaches, are coaching for their jobs every season and every week.

As for attacking the opposing teamís weaknesses, thatís precisely what NFL coaches attempt to do and thatís what I see the Vikings coaching staff doing each week. Iíve taken lots of criticism from fans about the lack of creativity by the coaching staff and also about the playcalling. But I donít think either have been a problem for the Vikings this season. Offensively, Adrian Peterson is more involved in the passing game and Percy Harvin is getting a lot of touches. I think the problems have been mistakes, such as penalties and turnovers.

I have often been curious about road games. What are the accommodations like for the players? Do they have curfews? Do all the players have their own rooms? Do their families stay at a different hotel if they travel to the game? Where do you stay and how much contact do you have with the players? How much access does the press have at the hotel?
-- Lisa C.
West Hartford, CT

Accommodations are very nice for the players and the entire traveling party for road games. Our Operations staff does a great job with everything, from security to transportation to hotels.

Iím not sure on the roommate situation Ė my guess is that some players are doubled up in rooms and others Ė veterans Ė are not. There is a curfew for the players and thereís really a pretty regimented schedule for them from the time we board the plane to the time we head to the stadium on game day. Typically their families have the opportunity to stay at the same hotel.

As a member of the traveling party, I do stay at the same location as the players and there is frequent interaction with them. People in the traveling party generally try to stay out of the way of the coaches, players and other football staff personnel. Itís a business trip for everyone.






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11/15/10 10:17 P

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By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

It appeared to me after watching this game that there is a lack of fire in the team. Have you seen this? I am wondering what it will take to fire up this team as I saw at Mall of America Field against the Cardinals.

-- Mike B.

No, I havenít seen a lack of desire or a lack of fire in the team. Last weekís overtime victory against Arizona showed me that the teamís mental approach is where it needs to be and I think that approach carried over into this weekís game against Chicago. There are a number of factors that led to the Vikings disappointing loss on Sunday to the Bears, but I donít think a lack of effort or desire is one of those factors.

Do you think assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier will have to start considering mixing in more blitz packages against Green Bay next weekend? While at times on Sunday the front four seemed to be getting more push up front, Jay Cutler still had way too much time and shredded the Vikings DBs I thought. Aaron Rodgers will do the same if heís that relaxed in the pocket, and at what point do you say, ĎThis plan isnít working. We need more pressure?í I would have thought that would have been halftime today, but thatís just my 2 cents.
-- favrefan
vikings.com Blog commenter

The Vikings defensive scheme is predicated on applying pressure to the QB with the front four defensive linemen, something the Vikings did very well last year in tallying a league-high 48 sacks. But in light of the lack of pass rush the Vikings have had for much of the season, I think this is a fair question.

I donít know how often the Vikings blitzed (DBs rushing the passer) or brought pressure (LBs rushing the passer) against Chicago, but because there wasnít a lot of pressure put on Cutler it seems like there was very little blitzing. Regardless, itís hard to expect the Vikings to completely change their philosophy and start blitzing frequently because the defense is built a certain way with certain personnel. However, it appears that something needs to change in order for the Vikings to start tallying sacks the way they did a year ago. Sending DBs and LBs more frequently may (or may not) be the answer. Itís a fair question to ask, though.

It appeared that Adrian Peterson was not utilized hardly at all the 2nd half. He seemed to be doing fine in the 1st half, particularly the 1st quarter. They went to Toby Gerhart A LOT in the 2nd half. He seemed to handle the ball OK, but why did they stop going to Adrian and not get him more involved with the game on the line?
-- VIKINFANLV
vikings.com Blog commenter

I canít agree with this comment/question and the numbers donít support it, either. Gerhart had 4 carries for 20 yards in the 1st half and 0 carries in the 2nd half, while Peterson carried the ball 9 times for 37 yards in the 1st half and 8 times for 14 yards in the 2nd half. Additionally, Peterson had 2 receptions in the 1st half and the 2nd half, while Gerhart had 1 reception in each half. So Peterson was utilized much more than Gerhart, especially in the 2nd half. Peterson had 10 touches (and was targeted another time) in the 2nd half, so I thought the Vikings did a nice job of keeping him involved in the game plan, even late in the game when the Vikings were forced to pass much more than run.

Hey Mike Ė I, along with many Vikings fans, are wondering if or when we could start using Tarvaris Jackson in some packages. I really think he and Joe Webb could spark the offense, especially when we are deep in our own territory and need the mobility to extend plays so our receivers can find gaps in the defense. I would love to hear an answer as to why we couldnít include a couple packages give Jackson and Webb great experience, even if we just have them do some QB runs. Yes, Brett Favre could be the starter, but that does not mean he has to do it alone. I truly believe that we can still win out and go deep into the playoffs.
-- Gabriel

This question can be answered in a similar way to the question about the Vikings calling more blitzes on defense. Originally, the Vikings offense is not setup in a way that is conducive to this idea. But given how the offense has performed this season and given the Vikings record and position in the playoff chase, itís fair to wonder if this might be a good idea.

The first thing to remember is the Vikings have a future Hall of Famer at QB, so on the surface it makes no sense to include offensive packages that put him on the sideline. You donít see the Colts with Peyton Manning or the Patriots with Tom Brady using the Wildcat or other exotic schemes that put the starting QB on the sideline. But again, the Vikings offense is struggling to find a rhythm and produce, so perhaps an unorthodox scheme or a shift in philosophy is in order. Again, I still believe in Favreís ability to produce in this offense, but using Jackson or Webbís mobility may (or may not) be the answer. Itís a fair question to consider.

Why did the Vikings continue to kick to Devin Hester, even after he picked up big return yardage on multiple occasions?
-- Eric A.
Oklahoma City, OK

The Vikings kick coverage units Ė especially the punt coverage team Ė have been very good this season. In fact, the Vikings punt coverage team ranked #1 in the NFL (allowing 3.5 yards per return) going into the Bears game. But I think a couple of injuries caught up to the Vikings, specifically the absence of both Asher Allen and Jamarca Sanford and then the loss of Eric Frampton during the game.

I think the Vikings anticipated that Hester could cause problems, so they punted the ball toward the sidelines and made adjustments on kickoffs. The absence of those key coverage guys listed above plus some poor tackling allowed Hester and the Bears return units to pickup big chunks of yardage. Suffice it to say, I think there was a good plan in place to contain Hester (angling punts to the sidelines) but some things happened on the field that allowed Hester to make a difference.

Weíve all noticed the absence of Sidney Rice throughout this season. But with the added loss of Bernard Berrian and now possibly Percy Harvin, where does that leave our receiving core? Is there anyone that the organization is looking into? Possibly off the practice squad? Greg Camarillo and Greg Lewis canít do it all alone.
-- Tom
vikings.com Blog commenter

Tom is right, the Vikings canít rely on 2 receivers to carry the load in the passing game. Fortunately, though, I think Rice is close to returning and I also think Berrian will be able to return to the lineup this week against the Packers. As for Harvin, weíll have to wait a day or so to see how he came out of the game and also to see if heíll be able to practice and play this week. Ultimately, the Vikings have players on the current roster who can get the job done.

I donít think the Vikings will look to free agency to add to the WR position. Camarillo, Hank Baskett and Lewis provide adequate depth behind the trio of Berrian, Harvin and Rice, especially with those 3 players in line to return to the lineup soon. For what itís worth, the Vikings do have Freddie Brown on the practice squad.

After our loss to the Packers in Green Bay earlier this year, what changes do you foresee the team implementing to turn the luck in their favor this week?
-- Purple Parody
vikings.com Blog commenter

Well the biggest change in this game against Green Bay will be that the Vikings will play at home. The Vikings have been good at home over the past 2 seasons and I expect a good effort from them this week against a division rival. But thatís not a change the team will implement.

To be honest I donít foresee many big changes to the game plan or the approach to the game for this week. I truly believe the Vikings have the right personnel and strategy to be a successful team, itís just not translating to the field. So rather than see a bunch of drastic changes, Iíd rather see the team continue to approach the game the way they have over the last 2 seasons and just execute better.

What is the status with Tyrell Johnson? Is he not understanding the defensive schemes? For a 2nd round pick to be inactive and out-played by Husain Abdullah and Madieu Williams tells me he doesnít have the ďitĒ to be effective in this league. Is it too early to use ďbustĒ?
-- Dac
Bloomington, MN

Yes, itís too early to call him a bust. This is a question that Frazier could answer far better than I can, but I think a large part of it is that Abdullah has just improved so much with this club that the coaching staff had to play him more on defense. We saw that improvement on Sunday against Chicago when he had 2 INTs. As for Johnson, he has the physical capability to play defense in the NFL and thereís no reason to give up on him. Heíll continue to learn even though heís not playing and heíll have a chance
to earn back his spot during the offseason and training camp next summer.



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By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

Posted Nov 1, 2010

I was under the impression that the Vikings picked up Rhys Lloyd in the offseason to possibly take over the kickoff role from Longwell. But they got rid of him and continue allowing Longwell to come up short of the 10 yard-line most times. He has one TB this season. Why aren't the coaches addressing this? I'm sure they needed the roster space that Lloyd was taking up, but why not have Kluwe try kickoffs?
-- Andrew S.
Minneapolis, MN

The idea in adding Lloyd this past offseason was to take a look at using a roster spot for a kickoff specialist. The Vikings experienced first-hand the value a kickoff specialist can bring when both the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints blasted touchbacks (TBs) in the playoffs last year and essentially took Percy Harvin out of the game as a kickoff returner. But the sense I got from observing and then from the Vikings decision not to keep Lloyd is that Lloyd didnít perform in training camp to the level they anticipated and ultimately the Vikings decided the roster spot would be better utilized by a position player than a kickoff specialist.

As a result, the Vikings focus on placement rather than distance on kickoff. And Longwell has done a pretty good job. Andrew is right in that the distance hasnít been great for Longwell, but the end result is what matters. The Vikings are yielding 22.4 yards per kickoff return on average and theyíve given up zero return TDs. Credit for those numbers go to both Longwell and the coverage unit. And although the 22.4-yard average isnít top 10 (itís 13th best in the NFL), itís not a poor number and apparently itís good enough to keep the Vikings from thrusting Kluwe into that role.

Another angle to consider on this is that kicking off can be an advantage for Longwell when he sets up to kick FGs during the game. Being the kickoff specialist, Longwellís warm-up during pregame and experience kicking off during the game in outdoor venues gives him a better idea of how the wind is behaving. Longwell is 6 of 6 on FG tries this season and the kicking game in general has been excellent so far in 2010, so I donít anticipate the Vikings doing much to change things up.

Did you agree with (Brad) Childressí decision to go for it on 4th and goal from the 1 yesterday (Sunday vs. New England)? Last week we were conservative at the end of the half by not going for a TD against Green Bay and now this week we were aggressive by going for it.
-- Christie L.
Chaska, MN

As I sat in the press box watching the game (and chatting with fans on vikings.com) and that situation presented itself, I said to the person sitting next to me that I would go for it, with the reason being that FGs arenít going to beat the New England Patriots in their own stadium. Now in hindsight you can argue that it was the wrong decision. But head coaches donít have the benefit of hindsight in the heat of the moment and they have to make a decision that they feel is best for the team and gives the team the best chance to win.

Hey Mike, I was just wondering what Sidney Riceís status is and when we can expect to see him back on the field? Thanks.
-- Brian P.
Eden Prairie, MN

This is one of the most frequently-asked questions I receive every week. And I donít mean to avoid the topic by giving non-answers, but the truth is I donít know when to expect Rice to return. Heís clearly making progress in his recovery and heís been around the team during practice (but not practicing), even during portions of practice that are open to the media. So it appears heís close to returning but an exact timetable is not known, at least publically. Stay tuned for more on that.

I noticed the other day that WR Jaymar Johnson was on the Injured Reserve. I missed what happened to him. Is he out for the whole season? He seems like he is getting better every year and can be a solid receiver for the Vikings. I really like Johnson and hope the Vikings have no intention of moving him when healthy.
-- Nate A.
Minot, ND

Johnson injured his wrist during the preseason and surgery was required to repair it. Factoring in a lot of circumstances, the Vikings decided to place him on IR. This allows the Vikings to retain his rights for the season Ė rather than simply waiving him with an injury settlement and having him sign with someone else Ė and it also ensures Johnson of a job. Ultimately Johnson rehabbed the injury and appears to be in good shape now. Based on what Iíve seen, I think the Vikings plan to hold onto him for the time being and continue his development. He was a 7th round pick of the club back in 2008 and has come a long ways under the tutelage of Vikings WRs coach George Stewart.





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By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

Posted Oct 24, 2010

What was up with not trying to score at the end of the 1st half? We had timeouts and enough time to drive down the field. This really came back to bite us at the end and I donít get it with all the weapons we have on offense and a great kicker in (Ryan) Longwell?
-- Jason M.
Pelican Rapids, MN

This is an issue a lot of people emailed me on this morning and I think itís a debate that can go both ways. My analysis on it was that the Vikings took the smart approach by taking a lead into the locker room at halftime on the road. A lot of fans donít like the decision because they want the offense to remain aggressive and try to add point on the board right before halftime. But the team has to weigh the chances of success in that plan against the risks associated with that plan.

I thought the Vikings took the right approach to it. They were content to run the clock out because they were backed up on their own 20. But after Adrian Peterson picked up 10 yards on 2nd down, the Vikings actually called a timeout to try and take a shot down the field. After that didnít work out, they decided to run the clock out and take that lead into the locker room at halftime. So itís not as if the Vikings completely laid down at the end of the half with no attempt to score. They took a deep shot to WR Randy Moss down the field and it didnít work out, so they decided to avoid a sack-fumble or INT, which wouldíve given Green Bay a chance to score at the end of the half instead, which wouldíve been a huge bummer.

I can see both sides to the argument, but I wouldíve done what the Vikings did.

Every team that loses feels this way, but the refs seemed to be one-sided all night and only making calls against the Vikings. There were at least 3 TDs taken away that I can think of and not very many penalties called against Green Bay.
-- Emily
Minneapolis, MN

Iím sure it seemed unfair because the Vikings did have 3 TDs taken off the board Ė two of which were the right calls but Iím not sure on the Visanthe Shiancoe TD Ė and I think Green Bay was given a TD that shouldnít have counted in the 2nd quarter. It looked to me that Packers TE Andrew Quarless didnít make that catch in the back of the endzone and the officials missed the call.

Itís also frustrating that the Vikings were penalized 6 times for 40 yards and Green Bay was penalized just twice for 20 yards. I certainly am not suggesting any impropriety on the part of the officials, but itís just tough to watch Jared Allen get held on a screen play with no call and on the other hand see Vikings CB Frank Walker get called for a holding penalty on a pass that wasnít anywhere near catchable. Defensive holding can be called on un-catchable passes (pass interference canít), so it wasnít a mistake on the officialís part, but itís hard to accept that holding call when holding isnít being called against Green Bay on a play that Allen was pursuing in wide open space.

What can be done to get more pressure on the QB? Thatís been a big part of our defense and this year we donít seem to have it. Seems like we should blitz more or do something to get to the QB because our pass defense is not holding up.
-- Andy T.
Mason City, IA

From a numbers standpoint, the Vikings pass defense came into Sunday nightís game ranked 6th in the NFL. I think a large part of that is because teams have to block the Vikings a certain way (double-team Jared Allen) and that take away from their passing attack. But Andy is right in that last night Packers QB Aaron Rodgers had plenty of time to survey the field and complete passes.

The Vikings defense is predicated on putting pressure on the QB using the front four defensive linemen, which allows the LBs to drop back in coverage. Even with the lack of pressure to this point in the season, I donít think the Vikings need to dramatically alter their approach. Weíve seen the front four get pressure on the QB in the past, so we know they can do it again. The Vikings defense is at its best when the front four are applying pressure, so I think thatís what the Vikings should continue to try and do going forward, rather than altering their approach and finding a new strategy.

With that being said, dialing up a blitz (secondary rushing the passer) or LB rush every now and then is a good change of pace strategy. I think CB Antoine Winfield is a great blitzer, but sometimes you donít want to take him out of coverage. I also think E.J. Henderson is skilled at rushing the passer, so maybe weíll see him get in there a little bit in the coming weeks.

My Son and I have been season ticket holders for a few years now and I can tell you that the money we pay out on the tickets is well worth it. We get to spend the entire day together and if you break down the hours for a father and son to be with each other the tickets are really inexpensive. We both love the Vikings and football. I wish people could understand that football in not just a game but itís a part of our life. My son and I have spent so many hours together because of the Vikings. We have always been together enjoying the Vikings and we have shared the wins and the loses together. Russ and I have so many memories of the times we spent together watching our Minnesota Vikings. If people could just open their minds and try to understand that building a stadium for the Vikings is not about giving millions of dollars to a rich owner, itís about providing opportunities for fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, families to build memories together that last a lifetime. Building a stadium is preserving a way of life not only for the people of Minnesota but for people in North and South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Montana and other states in the Midwest. We are very blessed to have an owner like Mr. Wilf. I believe we have the best owner in football and as a state we should do everything we can to help him. I think of Mr. Wilf not only as the owner of our Vikings but also as a caretaker who watches over this very important Minnesota Asset. He needs a lot of support now so letís get together as Minnesotans have always done and do the right thing and help Mr. Wilf take care of our beloved Vikings.

Thanks Mike for taking time to read this.
-- Rick H.
Alexandria, MN





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I must have missed last week and am a couple days late this week.

By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

Posted Oct 18, 2010

With 2 games in the books now, what impact has Randy Moss had on the offense? It still doesnít seem like weíre ďclickingĒ on offense even with him in the lineup, but Iím guessing there are affects that we just arenít noticing yet?
-- Esther C.
Duluth, MN

This would be a great question to ask Brad Childress, Darrell Bevell or Brett Favre, but from my standpoint Iíve noticed several ways Moss has impacted the Vikings since his arrival here. First, I think his presence gives the offense some confidence that it was lacking, especially with Sidney Rice on the sidelines. Secondly, Moss is superior at the physical nature of being a WR, from route running to catching the ball to his speed. Thirdly, he has 9 receptions for 136 yards and 1 TD in 2 games, which is good production and will cause opposing defenses to continue paying attention to him. That attention will open other things up in the offense, such as Percy Harvin in other parts of the passing offense or Adrian Peterson in the running game. Finally, Moss brings intangibles to the team, such as his leadership. QB Brett Favre mentioned in his post-game press conference that Moss stood up at halftime of Sundayís game and spoke to the offense about getting it in gear. Also, Moss has been in the building early every morning lifting weights and doing the things that professional football players should do. Heís been a good leader already with the Vikings.

What are the Vikings going to do to shore up the offensive line so their talented playmakers can get a chance to do their thing?
-- Rick B.

This is by far the most common question I had sitting in my inbox this morning. And I think itís a legitimate concern at this point. The offensive line needs to play better in order for the offense to get rolling. But at the same time, we need to be careful not to throw too much blame at the feet of the offensive line. Itís easy to point to a lineman whenever the QB is sacked, but there are times when that sack should not be attributed to poor offensive line play. Sometimes the QB held the ball too long or called the wrong protection scheme. Sometimes the receivers didnít get open. Sometimes a RB or a TE didnít pick up a blitzer. Sometimes the defender just made an outstanding play. So while I agree the offensive line needs to improve, I also want to point out that itís not always the offensive line that is responsible for the sack.

Anyway, I think the right people are in place to get the offensive line fixed. Once C John Sullivan can get back in the lineup, the Vikings will have the same offensive line they had a year ago when the offense averaged 29.4 points per game. So that tells me the personnel is okay, itís technique and scheme that need to be addressed and tweaked. I believe that will happen sooner rather than later.

With the problems that our backs have picking up the blitzes, what is the chance that we try to get a 3rd down back to help with that issue as well as making sure we do not over work Adrian?
-- Jeff
vikings.com Blog commenter

As with the offensive line, Iíd say that the Vikings currently have the right personnel to fulfill this role. Itís a matter of those players fixing their technique to perform better. Peterson has done a nice job at times this season of picking up blitzers; but there have also been times where heís missed. The same can be said for other RBs and FBs, such as Toby Gerhart or Fahu Tahi or Albert Young. What must happen is the players must watch film of their performance, notice the errors and then fix those errors on the practice field this week.

When is Sidney Rice able to come back? I think with him in there we could have a better offensive push.
-- Pharewynd
vikings.com Blog commenter

Beginning this Tuesday (October 19) and continuing through November 9 (the day after the conclusion of Week 9), players on Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform (PUP list) are permitted to begin practicing for a period of 21 days. On the day after or at any time before this 21-day period expires, the team must activate the player to its 53-man roster. If the Club chooses not to activate the player, then the player goes back on the PUP list and is unavailable for practice or games for the remainder of the regular season and postseason.

This means that Rice is eligible to begin practicing at any point between now and November 9. Once the Vikings allow Rice to practice, the 21-day period begins and the team has 3 weeks to determine if and when Rice is able to play in a game.

Rice was out at practice late last week playing catch on the side (not participating in practice), but his movements were limited.

It was an impressive win against the Cowboys on Sunday. Now looking ahead to an ailing Green Bay Packers team, what do think are some of the key points to going 3-3?
-- Oliver I.

I havenít had a chance to dig too deeply into this matchup yet because Iím still digesting Sundayís win. But my immediate thoughts are that a lot of focus will be on the Vikings offensive line this week. I also think the health of some important Green Bay players, such as LB Clay Matthews, will be important. Finally, I think special teams will factor into the outcome significantly. The Vikings benefited from outstanding special teams play in their win against Dallas and Iím guessing next Sunday nightís game will be closely contested, meaning a play or 2 on special teams might make a huge difference.


Edited by: MORGANLAFEE at: 10/21/2010 (21:17)

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By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

Posted October 4, 1910

Ryan Cook played well last game when he played for John Sullivan at C and we racked up rushing yards. Do you think with Sullivanís injury and Cookís performance that the Vikings might consider making a permanent switch there with Cook as the starting C? I recall that Cook played the position in college, right?
-- Dean B.
Kansas City, MO

Itís my belief that the Vikings offensive line is at its best when Sullivan is healthy and playing. Iíve seen Sullivan evolve from a rookie backup to full-time starter over the past 3 years and I like the continuity the line has with him in the middle and I also like the fact that Sullivan has been developing with a Hall of Fame QB taking snaps from him. Thereís no doubt in my mind that Sullivan is a better player for having Brett Favre as his QB and also for having a guy like Steve Hutchinson playing right next to him. So, I donít the offensive staff will consider making a switch at C unless Sullivan is too banged up to play.

With all of that said, the Vikings ran the ball very well against Detroit a couple weeks back and Adrian Peterson had his best game of the season with 160 rushing yards and 2 TDs. So Dean is right in that Cook came in for Sullivan and played well. I think you have to credit Cook a great deal for being able to jump into the fray at a momentís notice and play as well as he did.

Whatís up with Sidney Riceís rehab? Is he close to returning?
-- Aubrey W.
Charlotte, NC

ďClose to returningĒ is a relative phrase, so I donít know that I would say heís close to being back on the field. Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress will likely be asked this very same question during Mondayís press conference, so perhaps weíll all have a better idea on a realistic timetable for his return after today. I havenít gotten a good feel for where Rice is in his recovery from the hip injury. Heís been optimistic when speaking with reporters about his rehab, so thatís a good sign. I think itíll be an issue that is constantly changing and Iím sure there will be good days and bad days for Rice as he tries to return.

Mike, the Vikings have a difficult schedule this month with games at Jets, at home against Dallas, at Green Bay and at New England. Do you think after this stretch of games weíll know the fate of the Vikings season?
-- Jeanne
Vadnais Heights, MN

My honest opinion is that we wonít know the fate of the Vikings season 1 month from today. Should the Vikings go 4-0 through that stretch of games, Iíll feel strongly about the Vikings team and their chances of making the playoffs, but I wonít feel certain about whether theyíll make the playoffs or not. Conversely, if they lose 3 or 4 games this month, I wonít be counting the Vikings out, either. As tough as the schedule appears to be in October, I think it appears just as favorable in the final 2 months, with 3 games in a row at home in December against non-playoff teams from a year ago.

Fans and football followers love to look ahead and speculate on what might or might not happen, but what teams need to do internally is not look ahead at all and instead focus on the next opponent. I think the best way to not become overwhelmed is to only focus on the task at hand. The phrase ďtake it one game at a timeĒ is a tired clichť, but I think itís the right frame of mind to have for any team because it keeps the focus narrow, which yields fewer distractions and better performance.

It seems like most teams prefer a late bye week. But do you think the Vikings needed their bye this week because of some injuries?
-- William H.
Mason City, IA

Most head coaches would probably tell you theyíd prefer a bye as late as possible in a season, but ultimately a team has no control over the timing of its bye and instead of worrying about when the bye takes place they focus on utilizing the bye as best they can whenever it occurs on the schedule. For the Vikings this year, a Week 4 bye allowed them to take a break after roughly 2 months of non-stop football, beginning with training camp near the beginning of August and then ending with the victory over Detroit on September 26. In addition to that, several starters who were a bit banged up got a breather early in the season to get as healthy as possible and recharge for the remainder of the schedule.

One player in particular who I think will benefit from this past weekís bye is Percy Harvin. He missed most of training camp and much of the preseason for a couple of reasons, so I think he was still in the process of catching up over the first 3 weeks. Also, his bruised hip may have slowed him a half step. Perhaps the time off between the Week 3 win and this weekís Monday night game at New York will allow Harvin to heal, catch his breath from a fast-paced last month and get back on the field at full strength and full speed. I anticipate Harvin having another step or two of explosiveness coming off of this bye and I think weíll all see that on Monday night in New York, particularly on his kickoff returns and at times when he can run after making a catch.

In addition to Harvin, other players who may have healed up a bit with the bye include Bernard Berrian, Chris Cook, Brett Favre, Cedric Griffin and Sullivan.




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By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

Posted Sep 27, 2010

Mike, in your opinion what do you think Hank Baskett can offer us at the WR position?
-- Miko
Palmdale, CA

Baskett is a player with great knowledge of the Vikings offense because of his time as an undrafted free agent here with the Vikings in 2006 but mostly because of his 2 stints with the Philadelphia Eagles, who run a scheme similar to the Vikings. Heís a bigger body (6-4, 220 pounds) who provides the QB with a wide target and heís also a guy the QB knows will be in the right place at the right time (because of his knowledge of the offense). He also has the ability to come in on special teams and fulfill a role.

I felt that Ryan Cook gave us a better push in the running game than John Sullivan. Is this a result of Sullivanís injury since preseason or is Ryan Cook actually stronger? If Cook plays like he did, we should keep him in to help Adrian Peterson break off those big plays.
-- Lao
vikings.com Blog commenter

Iím not ready to say that Cook is a stronger player than Sullivan or that the reason Peterson had so many rushing yards against Detroit was because Cook was in the game. Letís remember that Peterson had 145 rushing yards last week and Sullivan was in at C. At this point I think the Vikings are a better team when Sullivan is in there, but what we learned on Sunday is that Cook has the ability to be a solid player at C and thatís something that should push Sullivan and everyone else along the line to continue to improve. Cook has been moved all along the line during his Vikings career and maybe his solid performance on Sunday at C will light a fire under him and provide some motivation to continue playing well.

The Vikings face a staunch defense from the NY Jets coming off the bye week. Will Sullivan and Visanthe Shiancoe be at 100% by then? Will Toby Gerhart have an opportunity to redeem himself from his fumble this past game?
-- Kínet
vikings.com Blog commenter

We should learn a little more about the injuries to Shiancoe and Sullivan later on Monday during head coach Brad Childressí press conference, which will be streamed live on vikings.com. My sense is that Shiancoe should have time to heal up; Iím not sure on Sullivan. He may have re-aggravated the same calf injury heís been dealing with the past 6 weeks or so.

As for Gerhart, I both he and Albert Young will be sharing game day duties this season. Gerhart was inactive in Week 1 and Young played. In Weeks 2 and 3, though, Young has been inactive and Gerhart has played. It wouldnít surprise me to see Young get the nod against New York when the Vikings come out of their bye. Ultimately, though, Gerhart will have the chance to redeem himself. Heíll be a part of this offense for the next few years and itís mostly a matter of the Vikings figuring out what role heís going to play.

What were your impressions of Bryant McKinnie from Sundayís game? He always gets targeted for criticism and I feel it is only fair that when he completely shuts down one of the opponentís better defensive linemen he should get some props, too. Kyle Vanden Bosch was never heard from all day and I think only got credit for 1 tackle. Way to go Big Mac!
-- Michael R. (a.k.a MGR4FUN)
Wayzata, MN


I think Michael raises a good point. Vanden Bosch came into Sundayís game coming off of 2 strong performances in Weeks 1 and 2, but against the Vikings and McKinnie he wasnít productive. Vanden Bosch had 1 tackle and 1 pass defensed, but outside of that he wasnít a factor in the game and that was mostly due to McKinnie. Itís easy to blame the offensive line when things donít go well, but on Sunday against the Lions things went pretty well. Peterson rushed for 160 yards and 2 scores, the Vikings averaged 5.6 yards per play and the ultimately won the game. The offensive line surely deserves some of the credit for all of that.

I've read over your previous posts and have not seen anything about the possibility of adding in a Wildcat type package using Joe Webb, or possibly using him temporarily as a receiver, as our current receiver core is struggling at the moment. Watching Webb in action in the preseason, and seeing his athleticism, I think the Vikings could do well to add him into offense scheme. What do you think?
-- Chris S.

I'd like to get Webb onto the field, too, but it's easier said than done. The 1st hurdle to overcome is the 3rd QB rule, which states that if a team's 3rd QB enters the game prior to the 4th quarter, the other 2 QBs become ineligible. So either the Vikings have to wait until the 4th quarter to use Webb or they have to not designate him as the 3rd QB, make him an active player and take away a 45-man roster spot from another player who would ordinarily play more snaps. Ultimately, using a 45-man roster spot on Webb will hurt the Vikings depth at another position and the benefit is being able to use Webb just a handful of times in a game.

The 2nd hurdle is developing a package of plays that Webb would feel comfortable executing. This is easier said than done. It's not as simple as just handing him the ball and letting him run. During the preseason he looked great, but he looked great against guys who currently don't have jobs in the NFL; he was playing against 3rd and 4th string players. Putting him on the field now means heíll be playing against starters and I'm betting his productivity would reflect that.

The 3rd hurdle to overcome is the fact that using a Wildcat type of package for Webb would essentially take Favre out of the game. Favre is the best or at worst the 2nd-best offensive player on the field and it makes no sense to take him off the field and insert Webb. If you're the Dolphins you can use the Wildcat because taking Henne out of the game isn't a huge loss. But taking Favre out of the game should not be an option. The Vikings should have Favre touch the ball on every offensive snap.

As for using Webb at WR, Iím not sure thatís a great option at this point either because A) it would hinder his development as a QB because he would have to train at WR and that would take away from his time with the QB group and B) it would take him a while to learn the offensive system as a WR and then it would take him time to develop a rapport with Favre. Iíd rather see the Vikings continue to develop him as a QB as opposed to making a switch mid-season out of desperation and throwing him in the WR group.

I'm with you in that it'd be great to get Joe Webb's athleticism on the field. But there are a lot of hurdles to overcome AND we don't know how he'd perform against this level of competition. At some point the Vikings need to see how he performs, but I'm not sure that a Wildcat type of package is the way to go, at least not right now.




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9/20/10 10:13 P

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As of 9/20/2010

By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

Do you think the recent struggle on offense puts added pressure on the Vikings to pay the steep price for Vincent Jackson?
-- NsRhea
vikings.com Blog commenter

The slow start the Vikings offense is experiencing will cause those following the Vikings (fans, media) to call for the Vikings to acquire Jackson. So in that sense I do believe there is added to pressure on the Vikings to add Jackson. But I donít believe the Vikings internally will push harder to acquire Jackson in light of Sundayís loss to Miami. Iím not sure what the Vikings level of interest is in Jackson, but I donít think itís suddenly risen because of the loss to Miami. Whatever the Vikings level of interest was in Jackson on Saturday, I think itís the same Monday, regardless of what happened on Sunday.

The reason it makes sense for the Vikings to have that outlook on Jackson is because pushing harder to acquire a player 1 day after a poor performance is too much of a knee-jerk reaction. A teamís goal is always to add good players when the opportunity presents itself, regardless of how the team is playing. So whether the Vikings were 2-0 or 0-2, if Jackson becomes available and the Vikings believe he is a good player, they should be interested in acquiring him.

Whatís the update on Cedric Griffin and Chris Cook injuries?
-- Dustin
vikings.com Blog commenter

Both CBs worked out on the field before Sundayís game with trainers, but obviously neither player was active for the game. With a bye week coming after the Detroit game next week, I can see the Vikings sitting both Cook and Griffin 1 more game to give them an extra week to make sure theyíre healthy and ready to go. At this point the Vikings defense is not in desperate need of either player Ė the defense has surrendered just 21 points in 2 games.

My sense is that Griffin is closer to returning than Cook, although if the Vikings wait until after the bye week I think theyíll both return for the Week 5 Monday Night Football game at the NY Jets.

I think the coach should be blamed for this loss (against the Dolphins). Early in the game they had a chance for a FG and went for it on 4th down and did not make it. So early on in the game with no score he should have taken the FG and it came back to haunt them at the end of the game when all they would have to do is kick a FG to win the game.
-- Chris Chai

This is classic Monday morning quarterbacking and I donít agree with Chris. The decision Chris is referencing occurred on the 1st series of the game and thatís why I think itís nonsensical to point to that missed scoring opportunity as the reason the Vikings lost the game. Had the Vikings kicked that FG and gone ahead 3-0, that wouldíve set off a whole new chain of events during the game. With that decision to not kick a FG being so early, Iíd have to point out that there were many, many more plays that were made on the field between that 1st series and the last series and those plays are the reason the Vikings lost, not the decision to go for it on a 4th down.

Mike,
Just a short note telling you thanks for including the email from Lisa C. of West Hartford, CT in last weekís Mailbag; it was good to be reminded about staying positive and I've been thinking the same. I really think Childress is doing a great job as coach and not given much credit for what is good with the team; only the bad. It's supposed to go both ways, and I say we are fortunate to have him and the other assistant coaches. However, too many times us fans want something so bad (Super Bowl title) that we get into the complaining mode mainly because we donít have the capacity to do anything to change the situation. I believe that what we can do is to get behind our team and cheer them on no matter what the outcome. I suppose being a fan like myself that lives outside of Minnesota has its drawbacks, but one thing is clear: I love my Vikings and am proud of them, win or lose. I hold fast to what improvements they have and don't take for granted what terrific owners the team has.

I do have faith that someday the Vikings will have their Super Bowl title. When, I don't know but for now I keep on cheering and pray that the Lombardi Trophy will soon be ours. Skol!
-- Barb V.
Ashland, Wisconsin






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9/13/10 9:42 P

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As of 9/13/2010

By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

Do you know if the trade rumors involving WR Vincent Jackson and the Vikings are true? It seems like a good fit even though he will be suspended for 2 more games. The Vikings have a bye week where he can come in and work with Brett Favre for a week or so and be ready for game #4. He provides a tall WR when Sidney is out and even when Sidney is back, they can put Jackson on the other side of Rice and that provides an extra WR with the uncertainly of Percy Harvin week-to-week. And if they did get Jackson, who would be the odd man out? Bernard Berrian?

I donít know if itís true or not, but I wouldnít be surprised either way. From a schematic and personnel standpoint, I think heíd be a nice fit. From a salary and trade compensation standpoint, Iím not sure how it fits. It might fit nicely or it may not; thatís ďabove my pay gradeĒ as they say. I donít think anyone would be the ďodd man outĒ and I especially donít think it would be Berrian. In fact, the addition of Jackson would help Berrian as much as any other receiver in the lineup.

What was the point of abandoning the running game in the 2nd half against New Orleans? We were having some time-consuming drives and with some success....60 yards in the 1st half. It seemed that there was no attempt at the running game in the 2nd half.
-- Timothy C.

The Vikings had 6 rushing plays in the 2nd half, which doesnít sound like a lot. But when you consider the Vikings had just 18 offensive snaps in the 2nd half and just 1 complete drive in the 4th quarter, itís a bit easier to understand why there wasnít as much emphasis placed on the run. In addition to that, the Vikings needed a TD during the last drive of the 4th quarter and at that point they went into an all-pass series of plays. With a future Hall of Famer such as Favre at QB, I donít think itís necessarily a bad idea to place the ball exclusively in his hands in that situation. If the game had turned out the other way, and the Vikings had scored a TD on that 4th-quarter drive, people would not be criticizing the Vikings for their playcalling.

Here is what Childress said in response to being asked about ďgoing away from the runĒ in the 2nd half: ďI canít tell you exactly how many plays there were in the second half; we had a couple of gainers in the very first series of the second half if I am not mistaken. Adrian had a plus-12, but that was only a four-play drive. It was like on first down we go 12 yards and essentially go three-and-out from that point on. Just kind of got behind the eight-ball a little bit in terms of the down and distance. Youíre looking at normal down and distance; once we ran it for six yards and we werenít able to get a first down in the next two downs. We just werenít able to go back and lean on the run or be patient enough with the run, because when youíre three and out youíre typically behind in down and distance.Ē

I know Brett Favre was trying to take all the blame on himself after the game on Thursday for missing plays, but really apart from Visanthe Shiancoe and maybe Greg Camarillo, no one seems to run their route completely. Iíd love to see a trade for Randy Moss for maybe Bernard and a mid-level pick. Is this still crazy?
-- Sam R.

Without watching film from Thursdayís game I canít really confirm the idea that Vikings receivers werenít running their routes well. It may or may not be true, but Iím not going to place a blanket assessment on the route-running ability of Vikings receivers after watching 1 game. On top of that, Vikings WRs coach George Stewart is one of the best and most-experienced in the business. Heís a stickler with details, such as the intricacies involved in route-running. So if I had to guess, Iíd say route-running is not an issue with Vikings WRs.

As for the idea of acquiring Moss and/or involving Bernard Berrian in a trade, I donít see how that would work. The comparison between Berrian and Moss aside, Iím a lot higher on Berrian than fans seem to be at this point. Berrian led the NFL in average yards per catch in 2008 and then his production tailed off last year because of a hamstring injury that bothered him for much of the year. Now heís back healthy again and heíll have Favre throwing to him; I like that combination. I donít think Berrian will take the league by storm and lead in TDs, but I think heíll have a handful of big games where he is a difference-maker. Heís a nice bit player to have because he plays well in big games (see: last yearís NFC Championship Game), has the ability to stretch the field with his speed, is a veteran who has seen everything a defense can throw at him and actually has good hands (although he dropped a pass on Thursday night).

The season is upon us; no more complaining about the Coach, TJack or anything else pertaining to the Vikings. Hey, I am guilty too, but negativity and bad vibes can only hurt the team during the season. From now until we hoist the Lombardi in Dallas, all Viking fans should remember the power of positive thinking, and send all our best thoughts out to the team. When the Vikings are behind in a game, fans have to keep believing and keep cheering. Even when we lose a game, we all have to suppress any negative thoughts, and stop criticizing the powers that be in Winter Park. It doesn't help and negative thoughts only translate into failure.

Several years ago I lived in Mississippi and I marveled at the Saints fans. No matter what happened they always believed in their team. I rarely heard any complaining, which was amazing as the team was pretty bad. Maybe all of that positive energy helped the Saints have some lucky wins last year in the regular season. They won the NFC game, when on paper the Vikings were superior in almost all categories, and beat the Colts of all teams in the Super Bowl. It wasn't Voodoo! It was the magic of an entire region believing and loving their team. They believed it was their destiny and so it became a reality.

Vikings fans have the power to send a Viking ship load of positive energy, belief in a dream, and good karma on the field every time the Vikes play. I have been a Favre fan for many years. I
would truly enjoy seeing a fairy tale ending for him, and for the Vikings in their 50th year. So letís get that good karma going and most importantly keep it going no matter what is happening! This year the Vikings are a team of destiny.
-- Lisa C.
West Hartford, CT

That was an email I got from Lisa, a frequent emailer of mine, last Monday leading up to the Saints game. I appreciate those kinds of emails and her sentiment. Itís nice to get a few of those emails mixed in with all of the negative comments that flow in so freely. Thanks Lisa!




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9/6/10 3:02 P

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As of 9/6/2010

By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

What are our top 3 priorities to help secure a Viking victory on opening night?
-- Corwin O
Vancouver, WA

1. Get off the field on 3rd down defense Ė The Saints obviously possess a potent offensive attack capable of lighting up the scoreboard, so any time the Vikings defense gets a chance to get off the field on 3rd down theyíve got to do it. The Vikings had a nice 3rd-down defense in the preseason, as opponents converted just 29% of their 3rd downs. Against New Orleans in last yearís NFC Championship Game, the Vikings defense held the Saints to just 3 of 12 on 3rd downs.

2. Pressure on the QB Ė The Vikings offensive line must protect Brett Favre and the Vikings defensive line must find a way to apply pressure to Saints QB Drew Brees. As Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said on Sunday, Brees is a rhythm passer and the best way to disrupt him is to get him off rhythm. Sacks tend to do that.

3. Special teams play Ė The Vikings and Saints are similar in a lot of ways, so this game is likely to be a tight one all the way to the finish. With that being said, special teams could provide either team with a chance to gain a slight edge in this matchup, whether itís with return yardage, field position or clutch kicking.


Is CB Cedric Griffin back to practicing? I know he wonít play against New Orleans, but when should we expect him back?
-- Chad M.
Douglasville, GA

Yes, it was good to see Griffin back out on the field with his teammates. Iím not sure when to expect him back, but Chad is right in that it appears it wonít be this week against New Orleans. Perhaps weíll get a better idea of a timeline when assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier meets with the media today. It is possible that the Vikings will wait until after their Week 4 bye to bring him back, which would give Griffin an extra week to get back to full strength.


With the recent cut of WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, do you see the Vikings going after him? And with WR Vincent Jackson still angry (with the Chargers) do you see a future trade being possible?
-- Rich D.
vikings.com Blog commenter

Coach Childress said on Sunday that at this point the Vikings arenít interested and that the team is more inclined to look at a WR that knows the West Coast offense. But that doesnít mean the possibility of Houshmandzadeh coming here is gone, it just doesnít seem likely at this point. As for Jackson, Iíd describe his chances of landing here the same way as Houshmandzadehís Ė possible but unlikely. The cost of acquiring Jackson is high Ė first a team has to work out trade compensation with San Diego and then the team has to work out a new contract with Jackson. Itís an expensive proposition to acquire Jackson, especially when you consider he must serve a suspension to start this season that could be as much as 6 games or as little as 3 games.


What did we get out of the trade for Sage and Reynaud?
-- A-McCoy13
vikings.com Blog commenter

Childress indicated on Sunday that the Vikings received a 5th round pick for Rosenfels and ďpossibly a 7thĒ round pick for Reynaud.


Is there some reason the Vikings only kept 4 WRs on their roster? Are they still planning to deal a trade, or are they convinced that they have enough depth? Donít you think the Vikings need more depth?
-- jif
vikings.com Blog commenter

Thereís certainly a reason to only keep 4 WRs and Iím sure itís just how the numbers played out when Childress and VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman sat down and shaped the roster. Thereís a saying that goes ďyouíve got to give something to get somethingĒ and I think in order for the Vikings to be strong in one part of the roster they had to give a little bit on another part of the roster. For example, the Vikings kept 10 defensive lineman and 7 LBs, which means the Vikings will have great depth at those 2 positions. But you canít have great depth at every position, so one position has to lose a guy that it potentially couldíve kept.

With all of that being said, itís possible the Vikings will add another WR before Week 1. And itís also possible the Vikings will go into Week 1 with those 4 WRs and then theyíll add another receiver down the line, when that need becomes a priority.


Edited by: MORGANLAFEE at: 9/13/2010 (21:43)

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8/30/10 9:26 P

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As of 8/30/10

By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

Do you see the Vikings going after WR Antonio Bryant? The Bengals have released him and I think he could bring a lot to this team IF his knee is okay. Also, do you see Chris Cook getting the starting job come September 9th against the Saints?
-- Kyle
vikings.com Blog commenter

I donít see the Vikings pursuing Bryant, for a few reasons. First, I donít think his knee is where he wants it to be and the last thing the Vikings need right now is another injured WR. Secondly, my guess is Bryantís salary demands will be higher than the Vikings would be willing to pay. And thirdly, the Vikings adequately addressed their WR needs last week by signing Javon Walker and trading for Greg Camarillo. While those 2 players may not be as sensational as Sidney Rice was last year, they stabilize the position. Also, Iím not sure Bryant would be as sensational as Rice was last year, either. Iím comfortable with what the Vikings have at WR at this point.

As for Cook, I do think heíll be the starter in New Orleans Week 1. Heís progressed very well as a rookie and he looked the part on Saturday night against Seattle. I thought he looked comfortable in coverage on the right side and I also saw him come up and make 2 nice plays in the open field.

I know the talk is about Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels on who is making the team. I guess right now in the preseason Rosenfels has been looking more comfortable in the pocket, seems to be reading the defenses and overall has given a better performance than Jackson. Is that because he is primarily going up against mainly the 2nd stringers? And if so, wouldnít you like to see what he can do against the 1st stringers?
-- Aaron
vikings.com Blog commenter

Without watching more film of both guys over training camp and the preseason and without speaking with a coach or two about it, Iím hesitant to proclaim which of the 2 QB is playing better and what the reasons are for it. On the surface, it seems clear that Rosenfels is playing better, especially given his numbers against the Rams and then the TD drive he led on Saturday night against Seattle. I think Aaron brings up a good point in that Rosenfels has been going against lesser competition than Jackson and I would like to see how Rosenfels performs against a better caliber of competition.

Weíve seen Jackson and Rosenfels in competition for over a year now and Jackson has had the upper hand the entire time. Itíll be interesting to see the next chapter in this competition, which could come as early as Thursday night in the preseason finale.

With the developments at WR do you think they would consider moving Darius Reynaud back to WR with some of the associated formations that were originally scheduled for Percy Harvin? My thought process is that with Harvin being moved to the outside, other than possible reverses or end arounds, he will not be getting as many carries. Reynaud, who has played both RB and WR, has some of the same skills as Harvin.
-- Cory W.

I donít anticipate Reynaud being moved back to WR; my sense is heíll continue to work with the RBs in practice. Thatís not to say, though, that Reynaud couldnít be utilized in similar fashion to Harvin, specifically lined up in the slot and then motioned into the backfield, or lined up in the backfield and then sent on a pass route after the snap. I agree that Harvin and Reynaud have similar skill sets, but I would also say Harvin is superior to Reynaud in Harvinís role. Ultimately, I think each player will have a different role in the offense this year and there wonít be a lot of overlapping in their responsibilities.

I know this is kind of a general question but here it goes. I know that when you put a player on IR he is out for the season. I know that if you come to some settlement agreement that player can sign with any other team. So if we want to keep a player on IR, can we for the whole season? Who pays that player? Can this be used for some sort of little reserve for the team next year? I do realize that the players only have a limited shelf life but sometimes it is better to deal with devil you know more over than the devil you don't.
-- Todd S.

Once a player is placed in IR, he is out for the season, remains on your roster but does not count toward the 53-man limit and is paid by the team. But the rules governing the IR are set up in a way that prevents teams from using IR as a way to stash players. One example is players who are placed on IR and have fewer than 4 seasons accrued are exposed to waivers before they land on IR.

I really liked what FB Ryan DíImperio put on tape Saturday night. Do you think it was enough to make the cut? He gives it up on special teams as well and he is pushing Fahu Tahi, who is feeling him and I believe has elevated his game some because of it. Any way they keep both players?
-- Michael R.
Wayzata, MN

No, what DíImperio put on tape Saturday night was not enough alone to make the roster. Instead, the Vikings will look at his entire body of work since arriving here to determine if heís worthy of a spot on the 53-man roster. I will say, though, that given the fact DíImperio is a converted LB, I think heís given a good accounting of himself and has a shot to make an NFL roster some day. It would surprise me to see both DíImperio and Tahi on the Vikings 53-man roster.

Which WRs are looking most in-sync with Brett Favre right now?
-- Chad M.
Douglasville, GA

To be honest, this is tough to assess right now because Favre has thrown just 27 passes since returning to the club. Even in practice, there isnít 1 receiver who stands out as being more in-synch with Favre than any other. Bernard Berrian has had a nice camp and looks to be in top form, so I anticipate him and Favre having a nice connection this season. And Iíd say that Greg Camarillo, Percy Harvin and Visanthe Shiancoe will all develop a good rapport with Favre as time goes on. For now, though, itís hard to say and if I had to point to 1 guy I guess itíd be Berrian.




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8/24/10 11:12 P

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As of 8/23/2010

By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

At the 49ers game, it did not look like the offensive could protect Brett Favre any better than last year during the Saints game. I saw the Saints game this week and there was Darren Sharper with at least 2 unnecessary roughness calls. It wonít help Favre if they call it after he has been hit. He needs better protection. I donít understand how the 49ers just ran right over everybody to lay Favre flat. Is there something Favre did wrong, or it must be our offense. Whatís up?
-- evalu8er
vikings.com Blog commenter

I think itís unfair to compare the 49ers game on Sunday night with the Saints game from last year. Favre was in for 4 snaps, 2 of which were running plays. Yes, Favre took a hit and got sacked, but we didnít see a significant enough sample size from Favre and the 1st team offensive line to gauge whether or not theyíve improved from last year. Plus, starting center John Sullivan wasnít in there, making it even more difficult to evaluate.

As for the sack, I think Adrian Peterson was the person responsible for LB Patrick Willis. It looked like Peterson recognized everything well, he just missed on the block. Either that or there was a mix-up from either the center or Favre on a protection call and thatís why Willis knifed into the backfield. Regardless, I think itís too early to make a judgment on the offensive line, although I agree that they need to improve for the 2010 season.

Did anyone stand out to you on Sunday night against the 49ers? It seemed like a boring game, but Iím sure someone played well.
-- Gene I.
Rice Lake, WI

There were 2 players that stood out above all others for me and they both are defensive players. One was middle LB E.J. Henderson, who was back on the field for the 1st time since injuring his leg in Arizona. At the time of his injury, there was speculation that he might not play again, or that if he did play again he wouldnít make it back to regular form. But on Sunday night, we saw the E.J. of old. He had 7 tackles and 1 of them was for a loss. More importantly, it was how he made the tackles. His tackle for a loss (TFL) came when he knifed through the line of scrimmage and tripped up RB Anthony Dixon.

The other player who stood out to me was DE Jayme Mitchell, who also had a nice game last weekend against St. Louis. On Sunday night against San Francisco, Mitchell had 4 tackles and 2 TFL. Perhaps the most impressive play came when he stayed home and was able to shut down an attempted reverse by the 49ers defense.

How is Sidney Rice rehabbing right now? Is he doing any drills with the team? And do you think he will be ready for the season opener?
--Chad M.
Douglasville, GA

Rice is not doing any drills with the team because heís on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, which means heís prohibited from partaking in practice. But he has been working on the side with members of the Vikings training staff. It looks like when he runs in a straight line, heís fine. Heís also able to stick around after practice and play catch with other receivers. My sense, based on things heís said and based on how heís been working on the side, is that he has a bit more trouble with cutting OR with stopping/starting and change of direction. So heíll have to work those issues out before he can return.

At this point I must admit that Iím a bit concerned that Rice wonít make it back for Week 1. But only time will tell; thereís still a long ways to go until the regular season begins.

I have never understood why the NFL holds on to clear-cut non-roster guys all through the preseason. It seems to me that if you know a guy isn't going to make the cut why not let him go and try his luck with another team, at least after camp or the 1st preseason game? I can understand that you want to make sure that you have depth in case of injury or something else that may come up. But, when you are overloaded, like we are at RB, is it really helpful to have roster guys missing out on reps? I can also see the argument that we wouldn't want to give another team a player that could potentially hurt us. However, if they aren't good enough for our squad, could they really beat us? I just think that it is a waste of our time and the player's time to hold on to a team-perceived dud.
-- Brent
Boise, ID

I understand what Brent is saying but I would also submit that hanging onto these types of players is actually doing the player a favor. Even if it is obvious that a player wonít be making the team, itís still nice for that player to be on a roster so that he can put some things on film for other teams to look at. Letís take Ryan Moats, for example. I donít know if heíll make the team or not. But if he does end up being cut, heís at least going to have several snaps of game action on tape for other teams to look at and decide if they want to sign him. Perhaps if the Vikings didnít sign Moats, no team wouldíve signed him and heíd be sitting at home waiting for a job.

On top of that, you really donít know when youíre going to need depth. Itís conceivable that 1 or 2 RBs could be injured or unavailable to play in a preseason game, then the team is going to need all the RBs it can get. Darius Reynaud sprained his ankle during training camp. Itís possible that something couldíve happened to Adrian Peterson or Ian Johnson around that same time as well, then some of those back-end RBs wouldíve been needed to take significant practice reps in Mankato.

So you never know when youíre going to need extra bodies and itís certainly not a bad thing to have guys around that can be trusted to take reps when the time comes.




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8/16/10 10:21 P

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As of 8/16/2010

By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

I was wondering about WR Logan Payne; what do you think the chances are that he will be on the Viking roster for Week 1? It seems everywhere he goes there is nothing bad to say about him but he never seems to make the teams. What quality does he lack that keeps hurting him?
-- Johnny B.
Land O' Lakes FL

Iím not going to speak to any qualities that he lacks because I havenít followed him every step of his career. I can only go on what Iíve seen of him during his tenure with the Vikings, and what Iíve seen from Payne is improvement. I remember watching him during OTAs and the mandatory minicamp and coming away unimpressed. But during training camp heís been impressive and has taken advantage of extra reps created by the absence of Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice. Then he goes out and has a nice game on Saturday night, which will only help his chances of making the 53-man roster.

Itís far too early to start making predictions on who will and will not make the final cut, but right now Iíd give Payne a legitimate chance because of his ability to display improvement and because of his game this past weekend. The key for him now will be to keep improving during the preseason and then have that improvement translate to more in-game success during the preseason.

Why are the defensive players always trying to knock RB Toby Gerhart down and take pleasure in beating him up? Is that what teammates do with a rookie who could be a very important part of the team this season? Maybe respect will come with more time?
-- Whitney L.
Sacramento, CA

My observation on this is that the supposed mistreatment of Gerhart during practices has been exaggerated. You see, ALL RBs and WRs get hit in camp and are at times knocked to the ground. It's just that Toby is a rookie and has big name recognition, so any event involving him is going to gain more exposure. You donít hear about Albert Young getting hit. Or Garrett Mills. Or Ian Johnson. But they get hit just as much as Gerhart does in practice. It's just that Gerhart has more sizzle to his name, so you hear about him more often.

We have heard about Chris Cook, Gerhart and Joe Webb, but what about the other draftees or free agents who are looking good?
-- Doug
Hastings

The 2 that come to mind immediately are Payne and OL Chris DeGeare. We talked about Payne in the 1st question, so Iíll move on to DeGeare. He was a 5th round selection of the Vikings this year and heís performed well enough to be considered a top candidate for a key reserve role along the offensive line. Although he played both G and T in college, DeGeare has been working mainly at LG in training camp and has also spent some time at RG. I havenít gotten a full report yet from anyone on how he played on Saturday night, but I will shortly. The next step for DeGeare is to improve this week and then give a good accounting of himself in Sunday nightís preseason game at San Francisco.

Mike Ė We are in danger of losing the Vikings! The state of Minnesota has stepped up to help the Gophers and the Twins build new stadiums...so why not the Vikings? They bring in a ton of money to the area and they bring a sense of pride to so many of us! They have been a huge part of our lives and I can't imagine life with them not in Minnesota. Minnesota has lost a pro basketball team, a pro hockey team and soon will lose a professional football team without some major help or intervention. Do we need a miracle or can something/will something realistically be done?
Skol Vikings!!!!!
-- Craig D.
Newell, Iowa

It wonít take a miracle to get it done. Rather, it takes our State Legislators and local community and business leaders working together with the Vikings to come up with a long-term stadium solution that will keep the Vikings in Minnesota and also benefit the state of Minnesota. This is an issue thatís been on the table for a long time and itís also an issue with a solution that only gets costlier as time goes on. Positive momentum was generated last Legislative session, so now our leaders need to take the next step in finding a solution.

To learn more about the stadium situation and to learn what you can do to help, go to www.minnesotamomentum.com.

Do you see the Vikings putting more screen plays into their game plans? It seems with a weapon like Adrian Peterson they would use this more than they have. It would also slow the rush down. Getting AP outside is a big key, and the screen play could be the ticket to some big gains.
-- Randy
vikings.com Blog commenter

I actually think the Vikings use the screen pass quite well in their game plans. Randy is right in that the screen pass is a mechanism to slowing pass rush and heís also correct in that getting Peterson the ball in open space is a good thing for the Vikings. But also remember that playcalls are often determined by the defense. You donít want to try and jam a square peg into a round hole, as Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress says so often, so I donít anticipate seeing the Vikings utilizing the screen more often that is necessary. But I do see the Vikings using the screen on a regular basis again in 2010 because it plays to the strengths of several offensive weapons, including Peterson and WRs Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin.

Iíve heard that there has been a good battle for the starting S spot opposite Madieu Williams between Tyrell Johnson and Jamarca Sanford. I know Johnson has the upper hand right now, but who do you think will win the starting job by Week 1? Do you think Sanford has a good chance at winning it?
-- vikings012
vikings.com Blog commenter

Because Johnson entered camp as the starter and because weíve only been through 2 weeks of camp and 1 preseason game, my estimation is that Johnson remains the starter at this spot. But because there is a competition, I think Sanford has a legitimate chance to win the starting job during the preseason. Heís been sprinkled into the 1st-team defense rotation throughout camp and I anticipate that to continue over the next couple of weeks. Ultimately, Iíd expect Johnson to hold Sanford off for the starting job, at least to start the season. From there weíll see if Johnson solidifies his spot in the starting lineup or if Sanford continues to push him for the starting job. Either way I think the Vikings win because they have good competition between 2 solid players.




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By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com - Posted Aug 9, 2010

Whatís your take on the play of QB Tarvaris Jackson during this camp so far?
-- John C.
Carrington, ND

I thought his first 2 days were actually pretty rough, but I like what I've seen since. He said late last week that heís become more comfortable every day and I have noticed improvement as camp has progressed. Now, the key is to see this improvement during a real game situation.

What's the deal with DE Everson Griffen? I've been covering training camp reports pretty closely and am yet to hear a word. Is he consistently 3rd-team? If so, what have you seen that would cause this? Rumor had it he had the athletic ability to push Edwards for the job.
-- Gideon S.
Accord, NY

There was never a thought that Griffen would push Edwards for a starting job this year. Edwards is a 5-year pro coming off a career-best year in 2009, so his job was never in question. But Griffen came to the team with some high hopes because of his production in college and raw athletic ability. He does have the athletic ability everyone thought, but he needs to work on his technique. His first 4 days of camp were filled with inconsistent performances, but he's actually had a couple of good days in a row since those early days of camp. I think he'll continue to work with the 3rd team and some with the 2nd team. I also think he'll make the 53-man roster.

The Vikings lost a couple key backup players, such as OL Artist Hicks and RB Chester Taylor, this offseason to free agency. Mike, with 1 week of training camp now in the books, who would you say at this point has the early lead in filling those positions?
-- Carl K
Huntington, IN

With both positions, I donít envision just 1 player filling the role. At RB, my sense is that both Toby Gerhart and Albert Young will be called upon to complement starter Adrian Peterson. Young is a more complete back at this point because of his 3 years of experience in the offense, but Gerhart has a higher ceiling and the team will want to develop him as quickly as possible. As for replacing Hicks, rookie 5th round pick Chris DeGeare might ultimately end up being that type of player for the team, but right now heís focusing almost exclusively on LG rather than learning multiple positions. That means a guy like Ryan Cook might be asked to be a primary reserve at 3 or 4 spots along the line.

I assume Brett Favre's ankle surgery has prevented him from getting his legs in top condition, which could mean he should skip a couple of regular season games. I understand the Iron Man does not miss games, but it might be the time to start sitting out a few, and getting strong. His consecutive game record would end, but so what! It will end if he retires. My question is: Do you think there is any way Favre would consider missing a few games, rather than deciding sometime in August he is unable to play. A few extra weeks can make a world of difference in Favre's performance, as well as his ability to protect himself. Any thoughts?
-- Lisa C.
West Hartford, CT

Lisa raises an interesting point. But I think part of Favre's decision on whether to come back or not hinges on his fitness after the ankle surgery. He's rehabbing the ankle currently so that if he does come back he'll be able to go 100% right out of the gate. In other words, if Favre doesnít have 100% of his fitness when itís time for him to report to the team, then he wonít come back to the team. My sense is that if he comes back, heíll be ready to go 100% the day he returns.




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By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

8/2/10

Last season Sidney Rice was by far the most improved Vikings player. Who do you see making the biggest jump this season?
-- Ali S.
Shoreview, MN

If I could choose a Vikings player to make a Sidney Rice-like jump in 2010, itíd be C John Sullivan. Heís worked hard ever since he step foot in Minnesota but especially since he took over the starting C job last year. Sullivan was a constant at Winter Park this offseason and heís also a great guy to have around the team. On top of that, a big step forward for him in 2010 would really make a difference with this offensive line and, in turn, the entire offense. I thought he played well enough last season and I think he can improve for the 2010 season.

To answer Aliís question directly, though, Iíd say itís going to be RB Albert Young on offense and CB Asher Allen on defense. Both players will have enhanced roles compared to last year and both players were active in the Vikings offseason program. I think Young will be a factor in the offense because heís a well-rounded back with experience in this offense and I think Allen will be a factor on defense as CB Cedric Griffin works his way back into the lineup after the knee injury.


Ian Johnson seemed to do very well in last seasonís preseason games and was placed on the practice squad. What are his chances of making the team this year? With the stable full of solid RBs, will he get many reps? Will he get more of a chance to make the team on special teams?
-- Tim M.
Boise, ID


Tim hit the nail on the head with his question about the reps. The Vikings are deep right now at RB and there just arenít enough reps to go around. Based on what Iíve seen through 4 practices of training camp, itís Toby Gerhart and Albert Young who are vying for that RB2 job right now. Johnson could help fortify his chances by being a contributor on special teams, but right now heís fighting an uphill climb. We still have a long ways to go here in camp plus we have 4 preseason games to play, so this position battle is nowhere near decided. I like Johnson and I
hope he plays well over the next month.


Hey, did Ryan Moats arrive and participate in training camp? I havenít heard anything about him since we signed him. Could you give me an update on his status?
-- Joe H.
Sioux Falls, SD

Moats did arrive here at training camp and heís taken part in all 4 practices. Itís a bit too early for me to tell exactly how heís doing, especially because Iím not familiar with him (this is his 1st year with the Vikings). He provides a veteran presence that is good for that position group, but I think heís in a similar place as Ian Johnson in that theyíre behind Gerhart and Young on the depth chart.


I haven't heard much about Cedric Griffin in a while. How has he recovered from his injury? Can we expect to see him practicing with the team and possibly making a start this season? Thanks, and of course, Skol Vikes!
-- Greg J.
Medford, NJ

Griffin was placed on the Active/PUP list to start camp, a precaution the Vikings are taking while he continues to come back from the knee injury he suffered in the NFC Championship Game last year. From what I could tell, Griffin was a bit frustrated by being placed on this list but heís been a good soldier about it. Griffin seems to be moving around pretty well, so hopefully heíll be taken off the PUP list in the near future and can be out there, although it wouldnít surprise me to see him remain on the PUP list through the preseason.

Do you know if the Vikings are planning to pick up a veteran OG or OT? Or are they going with youth for OL depth?
-- David
vikings.com Blog commenter

At this point Iíd have to say they will look to their young guys to provide depth along the offensive line. If 5th-round pick Chris DeGeare can assert himself as a solid reserve at a few positions, I think the Vikings will have solid depth along the offensive line. Ryan Cook is a guy who can play all 5 positions, DeGeare might be able to play up to 4 positions (2 for sure) and then thereís a big crop of undrafted rookies who have a shot to make an impression on the coaching staff over the next few weeks.




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By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

7/26/2010

With the depth of the Vikings defensive line, do you notice more DEs and DTs rotating in and out on obvious passing downs to give the Williams Wall and Jared Allen breathers? As we have all seen the last few years, Kevin Williams and Jared have played nearly every down and Pat is in on most 1st downs and other situational distances. Also, with DTs Fred Evans and Jim Kennedy on the roster and the rest of the DL unit now comfortable under Leslie Frazierís defensive scheme, are the Vikings prepared if the Williams Wall is slapped with a suspension at any time, or is that a dead issue till the next offseason?
-- Vernon
Lindstrom MN

Yes, I do anticipate the Vikings will have an aggressive rotation going along the defensive line this season, especially at DT. The Vikings used this tactic last year as well, but with Pat Williams getting another season older and with much of the depth returning from last year, the Vikings are in a position where they can rotate players in and out to keep the unit fresh.

As for the suspension question, itís a pending legal matter so I donít have much of a comment there. The coaching and personnel staff will continue to prepare for the season and theyíll go through the season as if the Williams Wall will be intact, and if something happens where one or both of them are unavailable, then other players are going to have to step up. Vernon mentioned Evans and Kennedy, but also donít forget about guys such as Letroy Guion, Brian Robison and 4th round draft choice Everson Griffen.



Who do you see making a surprise impact for the team as Percy Harvin did last year as he became a go to guy for Brett Favre?
-- Michael T.

Iíd go to the other side of the ball for this yearís new impact player and pick CB Lito Sheppard. Heís a 9-year veteran whoís been to a pair of Pro Bowls and I think heíll regain some of his top form and be a starter for the Vikings while Cedric Griffin recovers from injury. Sheppard has played under assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier in the past and I think heíll adapt quickly to the Vikings defensive scheme. I also think Sheppard will benefit from the pressure the Vikings front 4 defensive linemen can put on the QB.



Who has the best chance of making the team as the 3rd RB?
-- Rogerthevikefan
vikings.com Blog commenter

That is one of the training camp battles Iíll have my eye on the most. If I had to select a favorite to win the job right now, itíd be Albert Young. He has 3 years of experience in this offense as a RB and heís shown at various times during his career the ability to be a reliable RB, whether it be carrying the ball, in pass protection or as a receiver out of the backfield. Young faces some good competition, especially with Darius Reynaud switching from WR to RB, so weíll see how everything shakes out coming away from training camp and the preseason.



Whatís your opinion on rookie QB Joe Webb? Could he be the long-term development QB that fans have been looking for? Donít get me wrong, I happen to be a big fan of Tarvaris Jackson and I know he will get his chance down the line. However, young Mr. Webb appears to have a very similar skill set to what TJack brought to the Vikings a few years back. Can you speak to Webbís arm accuracy?
-- Michael R. (a.k.a. MGR4FUN)
Wayzata, MN

My opinion on Webb is incomplete at this point because Iíve really only had a limited look at him so far. But Iím encouraged by what Iíve seen and I think at some point in his Vikings career (not this year) heíll be a candidate to be the starting QB. Heís obviously a gifted and natural athlete, evidenced by the fact that he excelled in college as both a QB and WR. But now he has to transition that to the pro level and prove that he belongs in the NFL. Weíll know a lot more about him Ė including his arm accuracy Ė once training camp gets underway and once we see him on the field during the preseason. There is a chance that Webb is the long-term developmental QB for which fans have been longing, and thereís a chance Webb is more of a versatile player who will switch between the positions




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By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

Posted Jul 19, 2010

Mike, I am a little concerned about John Sullivan and his overall strength to hold his own. Last year running up the middle for Adrian Peterson was inconsistent. Can John Sullivan increase his strength to the level where he can dominate defenders in the running and passing game? If not, what about the center for the Jets who is in a contract dispute?
-- Todd B.
Waukesha, WI

Yes, Sullivan has the ability to improve and make the offensive line more solid in 2010. Thereís no doubt he has room to improve coming off of last season, but itís also important to remember that last season was Sullivanís first as a full-time starter. With that in consideration, he did well in starting every game (including a playoff game) and working with a Hall of Fame QB in Brett Favre. The Vikings scored nearly 30 points per game, Favre had 33 TD passes and Peterson had the 3rd best single-season rushing effort in franchise history. Now with a full season under his belt as the starter at C, Sullivan has a chance to take another big step forward and continue to assert himself as the leader of the offensive line.

How well does this yearís Vikings defense stack up with their defense from last year? And can they stay healthy and not run out of gas the whole 2010 season?
-- Andrew W.
Winona, MN

With the exception of injured starters CB Cedric Griffin and LB E.J Henderson, the Vikings return all starters from the 2009 team and they also re-signed some key backups, such as DT Jimmy Kennedy and CB Benny Sapp. In addition, the Vikings added 2 new CBs in 2nd round pick Chris Cook and veteran Lito Sheppard.

Operating under the assumption that Griffin and Henderson will miss some time to begin the season, here are 3 keys for the Vikings defense if they are to take a step forward in 2010:

1: Jasper Brinkley (at MLB) and Sheppard (at CB) must step up in camp and give the coaches and fellow players confidence that they can fill in for injured starters.
2: The defense must be solid in fundamentals, such as tackling and being in position. The offense should be able to score points again this year and that puts less pressure on the defense and allows the defense to focus on keeping everything in front of it.
3: The front 4 Ė DEs Jared Allen and Ray Edwards and the Williams Wall Ė must be able to put pressure on the QB as they did last year, allowing the LBs and secondary to focus on coverage.

The offensive play calling last year was decent, but not proficient. Do you see the Vikings offensive minds looking to push (be more aggressive) with the offense and focus on attacking defenses? We seemed pretty conservative in this area, opting often to punt rather than take a chance, for having so much talent.
-- David H.
St. Paul, MN

I donít agree that the Vikings were conservative in this area and I also think the staff did a nice job of attacking weaknesses. Think of it this wayÖthe Vikings had the NFLís 5th best overall offense and the NFLís 2nd best scoring offense; they also had the 3rd most 1st downs. To your point, they did only go for it on 4th down 12 times during 2009, but they converted 8 of those 12 attempts. Also, there were 18 teams had more punts than the Vikings in 2009.

So I donít expect much change in philosophy in 2010. I thought the Vikings were fairly aggressive, especially after the first 2 games of the season once Brett Favre was comfortable in the offense.

Any talk about WR Marko Mitchell? As a Redskins fan, I was shocked when he was cut. Literally 2 days before he got cut, (WRs coach) Keenan McCardell was raving about him (explain that one). He can jump like a deer and has good speed, too. I think his main problem is he doesn't do anything else other than play WR
-- Tracy G.
Mason City, IA

To be honest there hasnít been much buzz about Mitchell, yet. He was acquired by the Vikings on June 28 (the offseason program had already concluded), so I havenít seen him on the field or in the weight room. I like his size (6-4, 218 pounds) and I know he was a draft pick (7th round), so I think he has a chance to stick here. But if, as Tracy says, he doesnít have any special teams ability, he might have an up-hill climb making this roster. But perhaps heíll have a role on special teams here. Or perhaps heíll be able to push Jaymar Johnson and Greg Lewis for one of the last WR spots on the roster. Time will tell.

As of right now, the Vikings RB position is quite stacked. I thought we were done addressing this position when we drafted Toby Gerhart. Can you tell me how we plan on using Ryan Moats?
-- Miko A.
Palmdale, CA

Remember that building an NFL roster is a never-ending process, so a team is never done addressing any position. Iím not sure how the Vikings plan to use Ryan Moats. As is the case with Mitchell, I have not seen Moats on the field or in the weight room since we acquired him. Iím guessing Moatsí role will become more and more clear once training camp is underway and we see him working with the offense. My guess is heíll be a veteran presence on a fairly young RB depth chart who can do a number of things solidly, including pass protection and taking a look at running plays.




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7/5/10
By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

With the starting positions at S pretty much set for the team, the identification of the backups seems to be the only real uncertainty going forward. I am particularly interested in your opinion regarding the upside potential of Husain Abdullah and Eric Frampton to be starters at S should both Tyrell Johnson and Madieu Williams go down. Both seem to be really only special team role players. Could we be caught short at the position during the season? Am I wrong on this as we have only gotten to see those players infrequently during the past season or two?
-- Bob H., Richmond, VA

Depth at S is not a concern for the Vikings at this point because of the 2 names Bob mentioned in his question but also because of the potential Jamarca Sanford flashed last year as a rookie. Sanford was a solid member of the special teams group last year and he also stepped into the defensive lineup toward the end of the regular season. So with Sanford and the pair of Abdullah and Frampton providing depth behind Johnson and Williams, I think the Vikings should feel comfortable with their depth.

What are Ryan D'Imperio chances of making the team? He was a great FB in high school and I believe he's a great fit for the Vikings.
-- Alessandro LaCroce, WTP, NJ

DíImperio probably has an uphill climb because heíll begin training camp behind Fahu Tahi on the depth chart and because the Vikings are deep at RB. With so much depth at RB, thereís a chance the offensive staff chooses to keep an extra RB as opposed to a FB. But even if the Vikings stick with a FB, Tahi is that guy right now and DíImperio will have to climb the depth chart quickly to move ahead of Tahi. With all of that said, though, DíImperio does have a chance during camp to earn a spot on the 53-man roster as well as on the practice squad.

I really enjoy reading your posts on vikings.com and your regular updates, especially since I don't live in the Twin Cities area. How is Tarvaris Jackson doing this offseason? I remember last offseason before Brett Favre decided to join the Vikings that there was a report that TJ was one of the hardest working Vikings. Is he still improving and putting in the hours? Or has he settled in to thinking that Favre will be back and he'll be 2nd team again? I personally still believe he is a capable QB if he is given a legitimate chance to prove himself, but I haven't heard much about him lately with all the Favre news.
-- Tim C.

Some of those questions are for Jackson to answer, but my view on it is that heís had the right mindset during Favreís tenure with the Vikings and I believe #7 has been doing the things he needs to do to improve. Itís hard for the casual fan to see this because Jackson doesnít appear in many games, therefore the improvements he makes are during practices and offseason workouts. Also, the improvements Jackson needs to make are not always physical improvements.

As we get closer to the start of training camp, Iím wondering when we might start seeing more of our draft picks signing contracts.
-- Curtis M.

I havenít been given any indication that more signing are imminent, but I do see the Vikings positioning themselves to be able to sign draft picks in the next few weeks. Iím not anticipating any of the draft picks missing training camp time because of contractual impasses.

Elite pass-catching TEs are able to force opposing defenses to bring an extra CB on the field. Does Visanthe Shiancoe get this type of respect? What is your opinion on having 2 pass-catching TEs (who can block) on the field at the same time? Do you believe that could force teams to take off the extra LB? If so, this could be a very good advantage for our running game. Based on your observations, could Mickey Shuler be that all-round TE who could force team to defend him with a CB? I know we have Jeff Dugan and Jim Kleinsasser, but while they are good blocking TEs I personally do not think they have the requisite speed to be ďweaponsĒ in the passing game.
-- Christopher S.

Shiancoe has earned the respect of defenses around the league for his pass-catching ability, although Iím not sure on how often heís covered by a CB and how often heís covered by a LB. Iím guessing he sees coverage from both positions and probably also is covered by Ss from time-to-time. For some teams, having 2 pass-catching TEs might work great, but at this point I donít see that being the optimal setup for the Vikings offense. With talented WRs such as Bernard Berrian, Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice, I think itís more beneficial to use 1 TE (Shiancoe) in the passing game as opposed to 2 or more TEs.

AS for Shuler, perhaps he has the potential to 1 day be a reliable target in the passing game, but without watching him play 1 game or participate in 1 full-contact practice, Iím a bit uncomfortable setting too high of expectations for him. I was impressed with him during the offseason program and mandatory minicamp, but those activities are a far cry from regular season action.






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6/28/10 12:48 P

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6/28/10
By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

First I just want to say thanks so much for everything you do with the website. You do a great job, keep it up! If RB Darius Reynaud does not make one of the RB spots, will he possibly return to being punt returner?
-- Joe H., Sioux Falls, SD

Operating under the assumption that Reynaud makes the 53-man roster out of training camp, I anticipate heíll be in the mix to return punts regardless of his role in the offense. Iíd actually submit to you that Reynaudís special teams ability is an advantage for him as he battles for a spot at either RB or WR. Players who can fulfill multiple roles are more valuable than players who are pigeon holed to just one position or one role.

I've been a die-hard Vikings fan since 1964. What are Colt Anderson's chances of making the 53-man roster? He's a great S and outstanding special teamer. Go Vikings!
-- Tom Hart, Butte, MT

Anderson is a guy that really works hard at his craft and has shown during his time with the Vikings an ability to play both defense and special teams, as Tom mentioned in his question. The problem for Anderson, who joined the Vikings as an undrafted rookie free agent before the 2009 season, is that heís not near the top of the depth chart at S and there are also a handful of players at his position (i.e. Husain Abdullah and Eric Frampton) who can also contribute as core special teams players. As well as Anderson has represented himself with the Vikings over the last year, heís got an uphill climb to make the 53-man roster out of training camp. But I must say that I like Anderson and I hope he finds a way to stick around the Vikings.

Chester Pitts is a very good OG and is available in free agency. I read that the Vikings are interested in him and have at least given him a call. Is there any chance of acquiring Pitts or anyone else as a new offensive lineman that can contribute this year for the Vikings?
-- Ryan T., Maple Grove, MN

The answer to the question is yes. There is a chance the Vikings will acquire another offensive linemen via free agency to improve the team. Vikings VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman has said frequently that building and maintaining an NFL roster is a never-ending process. Exploring the free agent market and entertaining the idea of signing players, regardless of position, is part of that process. As it relates to Pitts specifically, itís my opinion that heís a player the Vikings will consider signing. There are several factors that go into this decision - the playerís health and contract demands being two of the most important Ė so nothing feels probable or imminent. But it is something worth following because Pitts is a good player who could be in high demand once training camp nears.

Which one of the players on the Vikings roster would most likely play in the World Cup? Would any of them even be competitive?
-- Curtis, vikings.com Blog commenter

By virtue of their NFL jobs, Iím going to say that Chris Kluwe, Rhys Lloyd and Ryan Longwell would have the best chance to succeed in soccer. I believe Lloyd was actually an outstanding soccer player in high school. But Iíll also throw out 2 more guys who might be pretty tough soccer players Ė G Anthony Herrera and RB Ian Johnson. Both guys love talking about soccer and therefore Iíve concluded that they might actually be good at playing soccer, too. But I also have to say that none of the players Iíve mentioned above would be very competitive in World Cup competition.

Is there a rift between Adrian Peterson and the Vikings? Are they trying to change his running style? I heard they want Adrian to be more patientÖwouldnít that affect his mentality?
-- Ryan, vikings.com Blog commenter

No, thereís no rift between Peterson and the Vikings. The issue with #28 not being at minicamp was a significant issue, but I donít see it having any sort of long-term ramifications on the relationship between player and club. From what Iíve seen and heard, it sounds like patience is something for Peterson to work on for this season, but I donít think that translates to a change in running style. Peterson is an aggressive runner who fights for extra yardage and takes on defenders and I donít see that changing.

What was the point of signing Ryan Moats when we are loaded at RB? Will Percy Harvin still return punts? I hope they only use him specifically at WR.
-- diehardvikesfan, vikings.com Blog commenter

I think itís never a bad idea to add good players to your roster and the addition of Moats to the RB corps was an example of adding a good player. You just donít know whoís going to be injured or become unavailable, especially during training camp and the preseason. In recent years Iíve seen people question the Vikings for bringing too many DL to camp and then by Week 10 of the regular season people are criticizing the Vikings because they arenít deep enough at that position. So I think itís never a bad idea to add a good player and I also think Moats is a good player who brings a veteran leadership to the RB position.

As for Harvin, he didnít return punts last year and I donít anticipate heíll do it this year, either. I do think heíll be returning kickoffs because he was perhaps the best kick returner in the league last season.




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6/21/10 12:45 P

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6/21/10
By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

Obviously with the recent issues with DT Albert Haynesworth in Washington, there has been speculation about his availability. With DT Pat Williamsí probable retirement at the end of the season, and a low cost in terms of a trade for Haynesworth (i.e. 3rd round draft pick for an incredibly good player) Ė do you think the Vikings are strong contenders to get Haynesworth?
-- Ben W., Newcastle, Australia

I would not characterize the Vikings as strong contenders to acquire Haynesworth, largely because of the cost and also because of some attitude problems heís displayed in Washington. In my estimation itís going to cost more than a 3rd round pick to get Haynesworth and then whoever does acquire him will also have to pay out the balance of his hefty contract. Given the Vikings payroll and looming CBA impasse, I donít see a Haynesworth acquisition working out financially in Minnesota. Aside from being an expensive player, Haynesworth is also a risky player to add to the team because of his attitude. Heís only a year removed from signing a massive free agent contract with Washington and heís already unhappy and holding out from mandatory team activities.


How are S Husain Abdullah and CB DeAndre Wright doing? Have they made any improvements and can Wright make the 53-man roster? Also, how are TE Mickey Shuler, FB Ryan D'Imperio, DL Everson Griffen, OL Chris DeGeare and CB Marcus Sherels doing? Where are they performing the best and what are their chances on making the 53-man roster
-- Ricky J.

DeAndre Wright has probably improved since last season but I donít think itís enough for him to make the 53-man roster. The Vikings are deep at CB and Wright isnít near the top of that group. But, because of his improvement, I think Wright has a chance to stick with the club as a practice squad guy. Abdullah is a solid special teams player and a reserve safety. He has a good shot to make the 53-man roster as a special teams standout. I havenít really seen a ton of improvement from him over the offseason, but that doesnít mean he hasnít improved; it just means I havenít noticed it.

All of the rookies you mentioned have actually been doing great. DíImperio has the highest hill to climb because of his position change, but he, along with Sherels, has been doing well and I look forward to seeing them at training camp. Both Griffen and DeGeare have chances to make the 53-man roster as reserves and eventually carve out niches for themselves as regular contributors down the road. Shuler has looked good catching the ball and Sherels has actually made some plays defending WRs and in the punt return game.


I just wanted to see if you knew if Sidney Rice was going to Larry Fitzgerald's summer workouts again? They seemed to pay off brilliantly this year so I hope he goes. Also if he does go, do you think he would take Percy Harvin as well? Iíd love to see them both hit 1,000 yards or more next season!
-- J.T.

Rice was actually asked this same question during mandatory minicamp and he told reporters that he would indeed be working out with Fitzgerald, Jr. again this summer. As for Harvin, I donít know if heíll tag along with Rice or not, but Iíd guess heíll have his own workout plan down in Florida.


Great job on the blog and stories on vikings.com. You have many Vikings fans up here in Canada who read your work and we love it! Do you see any of the Vikings 2nd or 3rd stringers being dangled as trade bait to build up the number of draft picks for next year's draft? I certainly like their depth at DL, LB and WR and I can see one of their developmental players, like Jaymar Johnson, attracting interest from other clubs so they don't have to be dependent on the waiver wire rules. Do you agree?
-- Bob P., Toronto, ON

I could be wrong here, but I donít see this scenario unfolding for the Vikings. Most teams have a load of developmental prospects of their own and as a result you donít see a lot of trades in the NFL involving these players. This personnel tactic is common in baseball, but not common at all in football.


Will you keep a sharp eye on DT Letroy Guion this training camp and at the end of camp tell us if he can play at the top level of DTs? Is he just an average DT or he can become one of the league TOP DTs?
-- Pat P.

I will do that. Pat brings up an interesting position battle to watch during training camp. Obviously the starters at DT are set with Kevin Williams and Pat Williams. After that, though, there are several players battling for a few spots and Guion is right in the middle of that mix. He was a 5th round pick in 2008 and although he hasnít played a ton, heís managed to hold down a roster spot. So obviously the coaching and personnel staffs see some potential in the Florida State product and perhaps that potential will come out during camp.




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6/14/10
By Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

We all know that E.J. Henderson was seriously injured during the 2009 season. What is the status on his recovery and the MLB position?
-- Tyler U.


Henderson was able to participate in individual drills during this past weekendís minicamp, an encouraging sign as he battles back from a leg injury that ended his season. Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress indicated on Friday that Henderson has been aggressive in his rehab and he also said the LB hasnít ďhad a whole lot of setbacks.Ē

With all of that said, the Vikings must also continue to prepare for the season knowing thereís a chance Henderson wonít be the Week 1 starter. In that scenario, itís likely that Jasper Brinkley will be the man in the middle of the Vikings defense. He filled in capably for Henderson last season and Iím betting heíll be an improved player in 2010. Brinkley was solid against the run but was less than great in pass coverage. Judging by what Brinkley told reporters on Sunday, heís worked hard on improving in that area and Iíd feel confident in Brinkleyís ability to hold down the middle LB spot until Henderson comes back.

Where will Chris Cook be on the depth chart this season? Could he be a backup to the 2 starting CBs? Or will he be a 3rd stringer? Who will be the 2 starting CBs when Cedric Griffin comes back?
-- Ricky J.

Assuming Griffin comes back and is healthy, I think the 2 starters are Winfield and Griffin. Then itís an open competition between Benny Sapp, Asher Allen, Cook and Sheppard for the rest of the depth chart. The Vikings are deep at this position and Iíd feel good about any combination of those players. Since you asked specifically about Cook, I think heíll begin the season behind many of these CBs on the depth chart but I also think heíll be active for most games because heíll be a contributor on special teams in kick coverage.

Can we get an update on how the early draft picks have been looking in camp, and what roles you expect them to fill on the roster?
-- Ryan G.

Iíll give a quick thought on each draft pick for youÖ

Chris Cook: Flashed during OTAs but is still clearly thinking a lot on the field.
Toby Gerhart: Perhaps overwhelmed right now, but heíll eventually be comfortable and he looks very fast and quick.
Everson Griffen: Tough to tell with contact prohibited, but heís often staying after practice for extra work.
Chris DeGeare: Iíve heard rumblings that heís looked good, but again, hard for me to tell without contact.
Nathan Triplett: Like Cook, still thinking a lot on the field. Special teams is where the moneyís at for him.
Joe Webb: Quick climb from WR to QB to taking snaps with the 2nd team on Saturday and Sunday.
Mickey Shuler: The most surprising draft pick so far; has looked great catching the ball.
Ryan DíImperio: Big-time improvement in catching the ball; still thinking a lot out there.

Has Jaymar Johnson been working much on punt returns this year or is he running more routes as a wide receiver?
-- Dave M.

Heís been doing both, as heís done throughout his career with the Vikings. Johnson needs to have an outstanding training camp this summer to complete his climb from a 7th round draft pick to a practice squad player to an active player on the 45-man game day roster.

I have been a fan since the late 60's. I noticed in watching Tarvaris Jackson play that he does very well when in a hurry-up offense. Also, he does well when moving out of the pocket. Maybe the team and coaches should play to his strengths.I think he thinks too much when he is in the pocket and then he gets in trouble. I believe an up-tempo offense will play to his strengths.
-- Willie Jones


Because of his athleticism, Jackson does play well at times when heís moving out of the pocket. But I wouldnít say Jackson plays well exclusively in situations when heís out of the pocket or in a hurry-up offense. Although his career has been tumultuous at times with the Vikings and his development hasnít been ideal, itís important to remember that heís won some games here and he actually won 5 consecutive games. My point is that when you win 5 games in a row as a QB, youíre doing more than just 1 or 2 things right. Winning 5 games in a row is going to require you to make plays from inside and outside the pocket. Youíre going to have to come back from deficits and also hold leads. Youíre going to have to pick up big 1st downs through the air and also make plays with your feet.




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6/7/2010
I was wondering if you've noticed anything in OTAs or heard anything in the rumor mill regarding the FB position. The Vikings used Jeff Dugan once in a while at FB and I thought his blocks were much more solid than Fahu Tahi's. Dugan, also being a TE, has better hands as well. The Vikings also drafted Ryan D'Imperio and hope to turn him into a FB. What does this mean for Tahi?
-- Zach -Chicago, IL


This position is certainly one to watch as we go forward with minicamp this weekend and then training camp later this summer. To Zachís point, there are a lot of names in the mix at this position and the Vikings could go any number of ways. I paid attention to this group of players during OTAs and I really couldnít glean anything from those workouts.


What this means for Tahi is that he has some competition at his position and heís going to have to earn a spot on the roster. His performance in the past and how valuable heís been to the Vikings is probably a matter of debate, but it actually doesnít matter. For what itís worth, I think heís been an important factor in the offense. What matters now is figuring out this position and how it will fit into the Vikings offensive scheme.


At this point I think youíd have to make Tahi the favorite to win the job, but thereís a long a way to go before final roster cuts. DíImperioís biggest hurdle is learning the position Ė he played LB in college. If Dugan can solidify himself as the clear-cut 3rd TE and then also continue to contribute on special teams, perhaps the offensive staff will rely on him to FB as well. Itís tough to say as of now, but this is a position battle to watch as we move forward.


Will the Vikings consider moving Toby Gerhart to FB? I know we have Tahi, and I think he's a decent FB, but it's just a thought. Gerhart seems to fit the mold of a FB. It probably won't happen, but what do you think?
-- Joe H., Sioux Falls, SD


No, I don't think that will happen. Gerhart's skill set is more of a pure RB than a FB. He obviously has the ability to run with the football and he's actually quite good coming out of the backfield as a receiver. He'll have to improve his blocking skills Iím sure and then of course he'll need to become more familiar with the offense. But Gerhart is a bona fide RB who will be productive for the Vikings in tandem with Adrian Peterson.


The NFL has a 53-man roster limit during the regular season. Out of those 53 guys, how many are eligible to play in the game each week? QB Sage Rosenfels, along with a few others,was inactive for most of the season last year. What circumstances or rules would allow an inactive player (such as Sage last year) to actually play in a game he was listed as inactive for?
-- Carl K., Huntington, IN


The 53-man roster is trimmed down to 45 on game day, meaning 8 players are listed as inactive. This decision is made by teams 90 minutes prior to kickoff of their game. Those 8 inactive players may not enter the game under any circumstance, with one exception. Typically, one of these 8 inactive players is the 3rd QB. In that case, a 3rd (or emergency) QB may enter the game but if he does so before the 4th quarter, the other 2 QBs listed on the roster may not play for the remainder of the game.


How well do you think the O-Line can mesh after being together for Year 2?
-- J. Charles


Chemistry along the offensive line is not an issue of concern for the Vikings in 2010. Last yearís starters paved the way for the NFLís 2nd-highest scoring offense, 5th-ranked total offense and 8th-ranked passing offense. The line also had 2 Pro Bowlers last year in G Steve Hutchinson and LT Bryant McKinnie. All of that success came with a pair of 1st-year starters Ė RT Phil Loadholt and C John Sullivan who did a great job of stepping in and contributing. On top of that, remember that RG Anthony Herrera was dealing with shoulder and concussion issues for much of the season.


The Vikings offensive line took some heat during the season and they continue to do so this offseason. Iím not suggesting the line was perfect in 2009, but I also think theyíre taking on a little more criticism than is fair.


With all of that said, I wouldnít rule out the Vikings adding players to the mix this offseason who could help.




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5/24/10 12:40 P

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May/24/2010
I am personally a big fan of CB Asher Allen. In the limited playing time he received last year, I thought he was quite impressive for a 21 year-old rookie. With the additions of free agent Lito Sheppard and 2nd round draft pick Chris Cook, how do you see the rotation of cornerbacks working out for the 2010 season?
-- Max M., Edina, MN

This is a good question and one that will be answered with activities such as OTAs, mandatory minicamp in June and then training camp later this summer. The defensive coaches and Head Coach Brad Childress will look at the defensive tape of these preseason activities to see who is performing well. Part of this decision will be attrition - who can stay healthy? And part of it will also be versatility - who can also contribute on special teams? Lots of time to figure it all out.


I am a Viking fan who lives in Georgia. My parents also live here and have had season tickets to the Vikings for the past 15 years. It would be awful if they couldn't pass the vote for the new stadium. There are only 31 cities that have an NFL team. Think about the future. Please remind all the fans how important it is to have an NFL team. There are always going to have to be taxes paid for something, why not something that brings enjoyment and also profit for Minnesota? I don't have much power here, but I have sent a few emails and made some calls to Governor Pawlenty. Don't give up Viking fans!
-- Stephanie, Woodstock, GA

Thanks for the support, Stephanie. I think you made some good points and you also hit on the thing that all Vikings and stadium supporters should remember Ė send emails and call your representatives to voice your opinion.



How is Everson Griffen doing so far in OTAs? How is his technique and is there anything that stands out? I know itís too early to tell, but is he good as advertised?
-- Carl, Elk Grove, CA

Youíre right in that itís too early to tell what kind of player Griffen is going to be for the Vikings. To be honest I really havenít spent much time speaking with him or observing him during OTAs, so the jury is still out in my book. I will say, though, that I saw him spending time after practice with DE Brian Robison and a couple of assistant coaches. The knock on Griffen was that there would be flashes of brilliance from him but that there would also be times in games where he would disappear. So spending extra time working with veterans and assistant coaches is a good sign that Griffen is trying to improve and take every chance he can to get better at the NFL level.

Ultimately it is too early to tell and we really wonít even know after the mandatory minicamp in June. I think weíll have a better idea in late August, once we get a couple of preseason games under our belt and we see him live and in action.



Do you think that Joe Webb will be able to make the 53-man roster? If we let him go to the practice squad, chances are another team will scoop him up just because of pure athleticism and ability. I think that he should make the roster just because of his high ceiling of potential as an athlete. Where do you think the Vikings stand with Webb?
-- Joe H.

As I just mentioned with Griffen, I think itís too early to make a determination on how the Vikings feel about him and whether heíll make the team or not. The first issue that must be sorted out is, what position will he play? Head Coach Brad Childress said last week that Webb has the aptitude to play QB, but the Vikings have 4 other QBs (including Favre) already on the roster. Webb played WR in college and could project to be a WR in the NFL, too, but heíll need some polishing before he can contribute during the regular season. So there are a lot of ways this one could go and itís far too early to make an educated guess.


This issue has been discussed before, but do you see any free agents still available who could help shore up the offensive line? While not a dire need, it does appear to be one of the weak spots (the other being safety) on the team. Other than briefly showing some interest in Chester Pitts (and drafting unheralded Chris DeGeare in round 5), the coaching staff appears to be treating this as a non-issue.
-- Tom H., Washington, DC

I donít agree the staff is treating this as a non-issue. There are 14 undrafted OL at OTAs right now who are potential additions plus thereís a chance the team looks to add Pitts before training camp. I would support the addition of Pitts to add depth and competition, I like the chances of DeGeare developing into a contributor and I wouldnít be surprised if one of the undrafted players makes the team to add depth.




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5/18/10 9:38 P

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When will the Vikings start signing their draft picks? Any thoughts on a time table? Also, will Ryan Perrilloux be signed around that same time frame, or do you think the Vikings have verylittle interest in him?

-- Carl K., Huntington, IN


The signing of draft picks across the NFL is something that usually takes a little while to start happening, but once the first couple sign then they all fall like dominos. A lot of the process is slotted, where players selected higher in the draft sign first and then the player selected earlier follow suit. I would expect that once we get into the early part of June youíll start to see players sign contracts.


As for Perrilloux, I donít anticipate the Vikings will sign him. If they did, it could happen anytime between now and the start of camp. Because he was an undrafted player, he doesnít fall into the slotting process I described above.


Is there a reason why the Vikings have not pursued LB Antonio Pierce?

-- Jared H.


The Vikings evaluate and discuss every player thatís available on the market, so Iím sure there is a reason the Vikings havenít pursued Pierce. Because Pierce has been a starting middle LB since 2004 and because the Vikings have E.J. Henderson coming back from injury, I can see why some might see Pierce as a good fit with the Vikings. But thereís more that goes into acquiring a player than just matching up positions. My guess is that the neck injury that Pierce suffered last year that caused him to miss half the season along with him being 31 years old are a couple of factors that cause hesitation on the Vikings part. But there could be other reasons the 2 sides havenít gotten together, too. It could be that the Vikings reached out to him and he either demanded a salary that the Vikings didnít feel comfortable with or Pierce just wasnít interested in being here. There are many potential reasons why Pierce hasnít been linked to the Vikings.


Sidney Rice is an outstanding WR. Are the Vikings working on a new contract for him? I would love to see him with the team for a long time.

-- Jorge C., Tijuana, Mexico


Iím sure extending Rice is a priority for the Vikings front office but I donít expect any movement on that front until the owners and the playersí union reach a new agreement on a CBA. The most recent CBA expired this offseason and I donít think youíll see the Vikings extend any current players until we have some more clarity on what will happen in the future.


Iím curious how things are coming with Percy Harvin and his migraines? Iím not sure what is all being tested, but Iím sure itís a lot.

-- Adam H.


It sounds as if Harvinís migraines have continued during the offseason, but it also sounds as if doctors have found a plan to deal with them. This is something Harvin can speak to himself the next time he meets with reporters, so I donít want to put words in his mouth. This is also something heís dealt with for most of his life, so I think they have a pretty good idea of what causes them and how to deal with it.


I don't understand how people can say Toby Gerhart is a very similar RB to Adrian Peterson. Toby is a downhill thumper and doesn't have the speed or elusiveness that Adrian has. Two years agoeverything I read seemed to say that Chester and Adrian were too similar andthe Vikings were criticized for having Chester on the field on 3rd downs because they were taking their best player (Adrian) off the field.Now that Chester left for Chicago, all I read is that we don't have a 3rd down back and Toby doesn't fill that role.I agree that Toby doesn't fill that role, but Adrian does.He proved last year that he can catch passes out of the backfield, protect the passer and is great in the screen game as well.Toby can come in to spell Adrian on 1st and 2nd downs and can run for short yardage in 3rd and short situations.Not only that, but he catches the ball out of the backfield better than people give him credit for. I was hoping the Vikings would draft Toby because I look at him as a great change of pace back compared to Adrian. Look at the success the Giants had with Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward 2 years ago. I think it is a great addition and we may have a better one-two punch than last year from the standpoint ofpurely running the ball. Am I crazy or does this make sense? Thanks for listening.

-- Brian, Sioux Falls, SD


Amen! Your argument makes complete sense and it is the same argument Iíve made on the website several times. I totally agree with you.



What is the current status of Ray Edwardsí contract talks?

-- Alyssa K.


Iím not sure if there are talks going on. The Vikings offered Edwards a contract (a 1-year RFA tender) and he hasnít signed it yet. I expect heíll sign by June 14.




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5/11/10 12:15 P

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Monday Morning Mailbag
Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

Posted May 10, 2010

Is there any chance the Vikings will look to take a chance on QB JaMarcus Russell? They should be able to get him at a reasonable price, he has a strong arm and give the kid a break, he was stuck in Oakland.
-- Dave, vikings.com Blog commenter


You never want to say never, but the Vikings signing Russell has only the smallest of small chances of happening, in my view. Even with Brett Favreís pending status, the Vikings still have 2 QBs (Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels) on the roster who will compete for position on the depth chart and both of those players represent superior alternatives to signing Russell.


I agree that Russell deserves another shot, but he wouldnít be a good fit in Minnesota because he wouldnít see a lot of reps during practice and thatís what he needs (among other things) to improve.


With Albert Haynesworth expressing an interest to join the Vikings, is there any chance that the Vikings look to add him to the squad? He would be a good replacement for Pat Williams when he retires.
-- Chris, Eden Prairie, MN


This was easily the most popular question submitted to the vikings.com Mailbag this week and often times John Hendersonís name was also in the mix. Also, many of the Haynesworth/Henderson questions referenced the potential Williams Wall suspension.


I think both players have a lot left to offer. Henderson is an athletic DT who can play on all 3 downs and would be a quality starter for the Vikings. Haynesworth has been a dominant force at DT over the past several years and he, too, can play all 3 downs. He is good against the run and can also rush the passer.


But I also have my reservations about adding both players. Cost is certainly one factor, from what the trade compensation would be for Haynesworth to what kind of guaranteed money Henderson would command. Can the Vikings afford those price tags? Also, any team that acquires Haynesworth is going to have to seriously examine his attitude. Heís currently refusing to participate in some of the Redskins offseason activities because heís reportedly not happy with the new scheme that head coach Mike Shanahan is going to employ. That kind of attitude is concerning and itís something a team who wants to acquire Haynesworth is going have to be sure is addressed before the player is added.


Ultimately, I think both players would be good fits in Minnesota from a talent and schematic standpoint, especially if the Williams Wall is going to be suspended (we donít know that they will be suspended). But some of the issues we addressed in the paragraph above this one have to be addressed and assuaged before the Vikings could acquire them.


Since we signed K Rhys Lloyd, are we seriously thinking about having 2 kickers for the 2010 NFL season? Or are we going to have competition between Rhys and Longwell for the job?
-- Miko. Palmdale, CA


I donít envision Lloyd challenging Longwell for a roster spot, rather, I see the Vikings using Lloyd as the kickoff specialist and Longwell as the FG and PAT kicker. The Vikings saw last year in the playoffs against Dallas and New Orleans what having a kickoff specialist can do. Percy Harvin and his ability to shift field position with productive kick returns were taken out of the game completely because the Cowboys and Saints had kickers who could boot the ball through the endzone.


I know that special teams coordinator Brian Murphy has done a lot of studies on the value of a kickoff specialist and I think heís willing to give it a try in 2010. Having a player with a strong leg for kickoffs will be even more important for the Vikings this year because of the potential bad-weather games the team could have at New England, at Chicago, at Washington and at Philadelphia Ė all of those games are in Week 8 and beyond.


Toby Gerhart is a great RB. How do the Vikings plan on using him this year? He is basically the same type of RB as Adrian Peterson, so will they just use him on 3rd downs or if Peterson gets hurt? Or will he even get the RB2 spot?
-- Jacob from Dayton


Weíll find out how the Vikings plan on using Gerhart once training camp gets here and then the season gets underway. I imagine theyíre going to use him a lot of different ways, from short-yardage carries to catching passes out of the backfield to giving Peterson some relief throughout the course of the game.


But one part of your question I want to address is the idea that Gerhart and Peterson are ďbasically the same type of RB.Ē I donít quite agree. Peterson, though very powerful when he puts his shoulders forward, is an elusive and speedy back with excellent home run potential Ė he was 2nd in the NFL last year in runs of 25+ yards. Gerhart, on the other hand, will likely excel more in the NFL by going straight ahead and running between the tackles to use his brute strength and powerful legs. I think Gerhart and Peterson are nice complementary backs and I donít see them as having the same style.


I am from Kansas City and would like to know what fans from other cities can do to help in the process to get a new stadium. How can our voice be heard? My finances are not deep, but I do try to get to Minnesota at least once a year to see my favorite team - the Vikings - play.
-- Danny, vikings.com Blog commenter


One of the best things you can do is simply be engaged in this issue. You can do that by visiting vikings.com frequently and also by visiting www.minnesotamomentum.com. This is our grassroots website and it serves as a great resource for stadium supporters to educate themselves and also ďrecruitĒ other supporters to join in on the momentum. Check out the site because it will have more ideas on how you can become active in helping Minnesota find a long-term stadium solution.




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4/27/10 3:10 P

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Good info.

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4/27/10 12:16 P

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Monday Morning Mailbag - Draft Edition
4/26/10

Hey Mike, when the Vikings used their 1st pick in the draft on Chris Cook, I was pretty confused. They needed a S more than a CB, so why not go for Taylor Mays instead?
-- Rich, vikings.com Blog comment

I think your claim that the Vikings needed a S more than a CB is a debatable one. Remember, the Vikings have both starting CBs Ė Cedric Griffin and Antoine Winfield Ė coming back from injuries. Cook gives the Vikings another player in the secondary who has the potential to play early in the season if either Griffin or Winfield arenít ready to go in Week 1.

On top of that, though, remember that teams generally donít draft for need. So even if the Vikings decided they needed a S more than a CB, they still wouldíve drafted Cook over Mays because they had Cook higher than Mays on their draft board. Iím guessing most other teams didnít have Mays as high on their boards as fans thought because Mays Ė regarded by many fans as a 1st round pick Ė wasnít drafted until the 49th overall pick. So teams in 48 other spots didnít deem him worthy at their selection Ė the Vikings werenít the only team who passed on him and Iím sure there was a reason for it. From what I heard on TV this weekend, Mays has stiff hips and many scouts think heíll struggle in pass coverage.

Weíll find out on Mays as he career develops Ė I hope he develops into a good player. But I can see why the Vikings decided on Cook over Mays and Iím glad they did so.

Hey Mike, I was just wondering why the Vikings didnít draft a potential future QB in the draft. I donít know about you, but I donít trust Tarvaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels to be the future of the team at QB and I feel like the team passed up on some great young QB talent in Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy. I am by no means upset with the teams draft picks, especially with that great Toby Gerhart pick, but not picking up a QB confused me. Skol!
-- Chris, vikings.com Blog comment

By far this is the most-talked about issue among Vikings fans following the draft. And Iíd also say that generally itís a source of frustration for Vikings fans. All of that is understandable to a point, but at the same time we have to realize that not everyone agrees on the evaluation/value of a certain player. While some think Clausen or McCoy or Pike or Tebow are franchise-type of players, others might find serious flaws in their game. Does Clausen have an attitude problem? Is McCoyís arm strong enough? Is Pikeís broken arm sufficiently healed? Will Tebowís loop in his throwing motion be a problem? All of these questions are important and concerns about any of those issues could cause a team to look a different direction.

If youíre the Vikings and you donít have the type of grade assigned to those players that indicates they could be franchise-type QBs, why draft them? You may think Clausen is the next Montana, but that doesnít mean he will be. Just like the Vikings think Gerhart is the answer to the RB2 spot Ė he might not be, but the Vikings think he will be and thatís why they drafted him.

Not taking Clausen or McCoy or Pike this past weekend doesnít mean the Vikings think Jackson/Rosenfels is the long-term answer. It just means they didnít think anyone in the draft was the long-term answer, either.

Why wouldn't the Vikings take Tony Pike with one of their late picks instead of the guy they took from UAB?
-- Dave, Sublette, IL

Once QBs Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy were off the board, one of the biggest complaints/comments Iíve received from fans and readers was about QB Tony Pike. And I was beside myself at the number of people who couldnít believe we werenít taking him. He was the 204th player drafted and the team that did end up drafting him (Carolina Panthers) is the same team that drafted Clausen, so it doesnít appear the Panthers think of him as a franchise-type of QB.

Look, Iíve got nothing against Pike. I hope he turns out to be a good pro QB. But there are a lot of reasons for a team to shy away from expecting him to be a franchise-type of QB. He was only a starter in college for 2 seasons and he only played in 27 college games. Heís dealt with injury (broken left arm) and when he did come back from injury during 2009 he did not perform well (19 passes deflected and 3 INTs in his final 3 contests). Also, heís 6-6, many teams view as too tall Ė although Joe Flacco is 6-6 and heís doing fine.

Anyway, thereís was some outrage by Vikings fans that Pike wasnít taken in the later rounds. But I found it a bit perplexing, especially given his injury history and lack of experience. And the QB the Vikings took from UAB Ė Joe Webb Ė isnít going to play QB for the Vikings. Heíll be a WR in Minnesota and will have a chance to develop a role that could include Wildcat-type of duties, given his experience taking snaps and handling the ball.

The way I feel, you can never have too many offensive lineman. And this draft was loaded with offensive lineman. Is there any specific reason why we didnít draft more offensive lineman?
-- Miko Palmdale, CA

Coming into the draft, the Vikings had 10 offensive linemen on the roster and then they added another Ė former Wake Forest G Chris DeGeare. Of the 11 linemen on the roster right now, 7 are under the age of 23 and Ryan Cook is just 24. Add to that the 6 undrafted rookie free agent OL who will be here next weekend, and youíve got 17 OL on the roster and youíve got 14 of them on the roster who are 24 or younger. So there are a lot of developmental prospects on the roster, which could explain why the Vikings chose to go in other directions during the draft.

Not drafting one of the upper-level OL that may have been available when the Vikings were on the clock doesnít mean the Vikings donít value the position, it just means they decided to address other areas and perhaps take players who were rated higher on their board at the time.

Also, it looks as if most other teams were in-line with the Vikings in terms of OL in the 2nd round because once the Vikings took Chris Cook with the 34th overall pick, there wasnít an OL selected until pick #45 and there were only 3 total offensive linemen taken from pick #33 to pick #64.


Mike, Iím very disappointed the Vikings failed to move up for CB Devin McCourty or Kyle Wilson and instead settled for CB Chris Cook. With that being said, I have 3 questions. How much of a talent drop off do you sense between Cook and Wilson/McCourty? Can Cook contribute Day 1 in our defense? Where do you see the CB depth chart as of week 1?
-- Alex L.

Alright, letís give a paragraph to each of your 3 questionsÖ

On the talent drop off: I donít know how the Vikings had the 3 CBs you mentioned graded, but if I had to guess it would be McCourty, then Wilson, then Cook. But I would also guess that there was only a marginal difference in those grades. If the Vikings thought there was such a big drop off between McCourty/Wilson and Cook, then I donít think they wouldíve traded back from #30 to #34.So, I donít see much of a talent drop off between Cook and the other 2 CBs.

On Cook contributing Day 1: My sense is that Cook will have a great chance to contribute right away. He said during his conference call with reporters that he can bring more to the Vikings than just defense. He is a willing special teams contributor and heíll have that chance. Beyond special teams, though, Cook will probably be in direct competition with Asher Allen and Benny Sapp for time on defense. Cook has 1 trait that both of those players donít have (as much of), and thatís size. Cook stands at 6-2, 212 pounds, while Allen (5-9, 194 pounds) and Sapp (5-9, 190 pounds) are much smaller.

On the CB depth chart: The Vikings donít have a depth chart at this point in the season, so itís kind of elementary to guess what it would be at this point. But letís give it a shotÖGriffin/Winfield (starters), Sheppard (3rd CB), Allen/Cook/Sapp (4th CB) and then DeAndre Wright also battling for a spot.

Great pick with DE Everson Griffen. I was wondering, what is the chance of having Griffen rotate in as a LB to help out the defensive line so it would allow us to have our addition of DL Mike Montgomery and also Ray Edwards and Griffen on the field at the same time? Sounds to me like that would be a 1st rank rush defense.
-- Dusting, vikings.com Blog comment

Vikings VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman and Director of College Scouting Scott Studwell both said this past weekend that Griffen has the strength and ability to move to DT in nickel situations, so I see the potential of Jared Allen, Edwards, Griffen and Kevin Williams being on the field at the same time. Ultimately, the addition of Griffen to the DL rotation just ramps up the competition for all of those guys, from DEs such as Edwards and Brian Robison to DTs such as Fred Evans, Letroy Guion and Montgomery (I think Jimmy Kennedy has a spot if healthy).




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4/19/10

As much as Iwould love to see the Vikings come away from the draft with a big-time RB, Ifeel it would take a serious slide by one of those players in order for the Vikings to end up with one.That said, I like the idea of moving Darius Reynaud to RB. However, Iam concerned about his blocking skills, given that he probably hasn't thrown too many blocks in passprotectionsince his high school days in Louisiana. So what's the deal, Mike, is this move for real? Ibelieve Reynaud could help us out, and it would be a shame if all of this movement was justsmoke and mirrors.

-- Zach N., Bloomington,IL

Moving Reynaud to RB is definitely not smoke and mirrors. He was a productive and established RB in high school and as you mentioned, he has the skill set to be a good runner in the NFL. As far as his pass protection is concerned, youíre exactly right in that this is a hurdle in the transition. Itís something heís going to have to work on a lot and this is why NFL teams have position coaches. Reynaud will improve in this area Ė as well as in his footwork Ė and hopefully the transition will go smoothly.

Anyone following the mock drafts has seen that most experts predict the Vikings will address the secondary with their 1st round pick. Iíve seen both CBs and safeties going to the Vikings. Which position, of those two, do you think the Vikings are most likely to address?

-- Anthony A., Owatonna, MN

I would say CB for a couple of reasons. First, I actually think the top 3 safeties Ė Eric Berry, Earl Thomas and Taylor Mays Ė will all be gone by the time the Vikings pick at #30. Second, a rookie 1st round CB has a better chance to contribute in Year 1 than a S. With both Cedric Griffin and Antoine Winfield coming back from injuries, itís possible that a rookie will join Asher Allen and Benny Sapp in the rotation for playing time early in the 2010 season.

Could you see the Vikings moving up (or down)to get a specific player they like? The Vikings have a history of going after certain players they have an eye on.

-- Mike, Chicago, IL

Certainly, I can see this. Trading during the draft is sometimes a great way to find value. There might be a player you really like that falls close to you, and then you jump up and grab him before another team with a similar need drafts him. You can also decide to trade back, knowing there are a handful of players youíd like to draft that can help your team but you donít favor any of them over the others.

I donít know if the Vikings will draft a QB or not. But if they do, what will happen with Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels? Do the Vikings trade or cut one of those players?

-- Julie S., Iowa City, IA

They would probably keep both QBs so they would have enough arms at training camp. Whether Favre comes back or not, thereís a chance he wonít be at training camp, so that leaves the Vikings with just 2 QBs currently on the roster. Some teams actually bring 4 QBs to camp, so I would expect the Vikings to add at least one more QB before training camp starts and then to also keep both Jackson and Rosenfels.




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4/12/2010
To submit a comment or question to the mailbag, send an email to Mike Wobschall at wobschallm@vikings.nfl.net. Remember to include your name and town on the email.

With all the strides he has made since being drafted, do you know if the Vikings have tried at all the sign WR Sidney Rice to an extension with his contract being up after next season? And if not, do you would know why that is?

-- Drew L., New Richmond, WI

I donít know if there have been discussions between the Vikings front office and Sidney Riceís representatives regarding a contract extension. One hurdle in these discussions and negotiations could be the current CBA negotiations. The league and playersí union are trying to hammer out a new agreement and it must certainly be difficult for teams and players to work out new deals with so much in flux at this point.

Iíd like to see the Vikings lock Rice up for several seasons, but I donít anticipate much happening on that front until the NFL and the NFLPA agree to a new CBA.

A couple of questions surrounding replacing Chester Taylor. 1) The Vikings have moved Darius Reynaud into the RB mix. My opinion is this nothing more than a stop-gap measure by the Vikings. Neither Reynaud nor Albert Young have the ability to replace Taylor. Do you concur with this? And 2) The Vikings need to spend a high draft choice for a RB this year (at least 2nd or 3rd round pick). What is your opinion on this?

-- Paul H., Denver, CO

Letís answer each question one at a timeÖ

1) I donít agree with your assessment of Reynaud and Young or that moving Reynaud to RB is a ďstop-gap measure.Ē Both players could potentially be solid RB2 guys in the NFL. In terms of Reynaud, look at it this way: what were his chances of making a difference as a WR? Not very good with Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin and Bernard Berrian already in the fold. What are his chances of making a difference as a RB? Iíd say much better because there is a spot on the depth chart open for competition, and he could win it. So moving Reynaud to RB is a good example of the Vikings managing their talent and trying to maximize what they currently have on the roster.

2) I think itís too presumptuous to say what you said, that the Vikings ďneed to spend a high draft choice for a RB.Ē If a top-notch RB isnít available in the 2nd or 3rd round, then the Vikings shouldnít use a pick on one. Why waste such a high draft pick on a player who doesnít rate as high? Just because you need a position doesnít mean you should reach for a guy in the draft. Itís always best to take the best player available, regardless of position.

Mike, thanks for having something interesting to read Monday Mornings! It is great for distant fans to still feel connected with the Vikings. I keep reading how Vikings analysts are so high on Devin McCourty. Although I agree that he could be great in the NFL, why is he being considered a better CB than Boise State's Kyle Wilson? In my opinion, and the opinion of almost everyone at NFL.com and ESPN, Wilson is the better CB. However, most Vikings-related articles that I have read place McCourty higher. I understand that McCourty played in a far better conference than the WAC, but anyone who even tried to challenge Wilson got burned. Please shed some light on this for me. Thanks!

-- Brent B., Boise, ID

I'm not sure why McCourty is so highly-touted for the Vikings over Wilson, although I will say Iíve seen both names tied to the Vikings in various mock drafts. The one thing McCourty does that Wilson doesn't is cover kicks, I believe? If that's true, perhaps that's a reason to have McCourty higher.

I would give a slight edge to McCourty in size. But I would give the edge to Wilson in top end speed, ball skills and cover ability (slightly). I think both players can be overpowered by bigger receivers, but they'll get better at that with technique at the NFL level.

I really think the differences are pretty negligible at this point and an argument for one over the other can be made in both cases. I will try to get into the film room this week and take a look at both players to see if I can glean anything off the tape. If I can get some sort of advanced analysis on both players, Iíll mention something on the vikings.com Blog, so stay tuned there.

At this point, though, I don't know which player I would prefer in the Vikings system...

I have several questions. 1) What is the status of LB EJ Henderson and CB Cedric Griffen? 2) With E.J.ís injury, will the Vikings look for a middle LB in this yearís draft? 3) How content are we with RG Anthony Herrera and C John Sullivan? I think G/C Maurkice Pouncey should be the pick at #30 if he's there. Lastly, if Devin McCourty and Pouncey aren't available at #30, how likely is RB Jahvid Best as the choice? I think he'd be a great pick to complement Adrian Peterson. Thanks!

-- Alec J., St Cloud, MN

Letís answer these questions one at a timeÖ

1) Henderson and Griffin: They are both currently rehabbing their injuries at Winter Park and seem to be on the road to complete recovery.

2) Not sure if the Vikings will look specifically for a middle LB, but I expect the team will select another LB in this year's draft.

3) I was encouraged with Sullivan in his 1st year as a starter. He played the entire season with a future Hall of Famer (Brett Favre) taking snaps from him. The Vikings went deep to the playoffs with Sullivan calling the shots along the line. That's a very good start for him. I think Herrera had his moments in 2009 but he also struggled some. The good news is that most of his struggles came after his concussion, and I think he'll be fully recovered for the 2010 season and I expect to see the "old" Herrera back at it. He's very strong and tenacious, so I don't have any problems with the Sullivan/Herrera combo for next season. With that being said, I believe in selecting the best player available, so if Pouncey is there he certainly could be the pick. That's why we chose Adrian Peterson in 2007. Picking Peterson was not an indictment against Chester Taylor, rather, it was a function of the philosophy that dictates taking the best available player.

4) As good a player as he was in college and as good a career as he could have in the NFL, I personally don't like taking Jahvid Best at #30. I'm happy with Albert Young, Darius Reynaud or Ian Johnson trying to fulfill that RB2 role and using the 1st round pick on another position




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Interesting information.

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It seems the Vikings have some very particular needs this offseason. One I've been hearing about is a RB, mostly for 3rd downs. But is there something wrong with Adrian Peterson to where he can't be an "every down back?" He's got speed, strength, his blocking could use some work, along with his catching. But wouldn't it just make more sense to teach him how to work on 3rd downs rather than replace him on 3rd downs? Also do you see the Vikings moving up for a QB in the draft?
-- Josh


This is a good question, Josh. If this were 10 years ago, perhaps thatís how the Vikings would approach it. But because the game is so much more violent now Ė players are bigger, stronger and faster than ever and are enduring collisions that are hard on their bodies Ė it benefits teams to have more than one RB who is a capable ďevery downĒ type of player. Instead of having one RB take 350-400 carries per season, teams would rather split those snaps up into 2 or 3 players. The Dallas Cowboys have even taken it a step further and have gone to a 3-back approach with Marion Barber III, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice. So itís not that Peterson doesnít have the skill set to be a true every down back, itís that the Vikings are trying to prolong his career and increase his effectiveness and efficiency by using a 2-back approach.


As for the QB, I donít see the Vikings moving up in the 1st round to grab a QB, but I could see them moving up in a later round to grab a QB they like.


The NFL recently altered its overtime rules. I think it is a start, but why complicate it by saying a TD wins it and that the other team only gets a possession if the original team does not score or only kicks a FG? Why not just make it that each team gets the ball at least once and then go to the sudden death rules after that?

-- Brian


Personally I donít like the new overtime format. I think itís silly and has too many if/or propositions. I liked the old format and the drama of a true sudden death period. The new format takes strategy away from the game at the end of regulation. Now instead of pressing at the end of the game to try and score, teams have reason to sit on the ball and rely on the overtime period because they know thereís a good chance that theyíll get at least one possession. Why risk a turnover while trying to drive for a last-second score from your own 25 when you know that if you run the clock out youíll get another offensive possession in OT?


Football is a game with 3 phases Ė offense, defense and special teams. The college OT format takes away the special teams phase of the game and it basically takes away the defensive phase because the college rule automatically places the offense on the 25-yardline. Itís not real football.


A game in overtime should be played the same way a game is played in regulation. One team kicks off, the other team returns the kick, then we have offense vs. defense. While I agree that a coin flip is not the ideal way to determine possession in overtime, the true sudden death format of overtime is the best structure Iíve seen. Maybe instead of changing the overtime structure they could just change the way a team is awarded the ball. For example, why not have the team with the most net yards in the game get the ball to start overtime? Then play a sudden death period just as we have for decades.


What is the likelihood of Antoine Winfield possibly being transitioned to safety? If we were to draft a CB in the 1st round this year, and both Winfield and Cedric Griffin were to come back healthy, it seems to me we might have a lot of extra talent at CB. Do you think Winfield could be as successful as a safety?
-- Darryl I., Queensland, Australia


My impulse is to say that Winfield may not transition to safety very well because of his size; when I think of safeties I think of bigger athletes. But #26 is also an undersized CB and that certainly hasnít stopped him from becoming one of the best players at his position. So Iím not going to doubt Winfieldís ability to become a solid NFL-caliber safety down the road in his career, especially if the move will prolong his career. But even as he comes off the foot injury from last year, I donít believe now is the time to move him to safety, even if the Vikings draft a CB next month.


So, yes, I think Winfield could be successful as a safety and Iím all for the move if it prolongs his career as a Viking down the road. But I donít believe now is the time to make the move.


Could you see the Vikings moving up about 10 spots in the draft and taking either Taylor Mays or Earl Thomas? Which player do you think would be a better fit?

-- Brent H.Ontario, WI


Both Mays and Thomas are safeties and both will transition nicely from a physical standpoint to the NFL level. Because of the depth on the defensive side of the ball in this draft, I tend to think moving up 10 spots to grab a safety might be a bit too aggressive for the Vikings. With that said, if thereís a guy the Vikings really want and heís still available once we get to the 20s, perhaps the Vikings will feel inclined to go and get him.




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Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

I've been hearing rumors about CBs Phillip Buchanon and Lito Sheppard. Personally, I like Sheppard better even though I know he is coming off his worst season. Do you think we are shooting to sign a veteran DB such as these two and draft a 1st-round CB? Also with the drama in Philly with head coach Andy Reid wanting to keep Donovan McNabb and the organization perhaps wanting to keep Kevin Kolb, what are our chances of acquiring Kolb? He seems like a promising prospect.

--- Alec D., Brooklyn Park, MN

The chances of acquiring Kolb seem pretty slim for the Vikings, especially considering is the QB of the future for Philadelphia and considering the price tag associated with prying him away from the Eagles.

As for the veteran CB, I guess it wouldnít surprise me to see the Vikings sign one over the next couple of weeks. Re-signing Benny Sapp was important for the Vikings because he brings stability and experience to the secondary. Phillip Buchanon doesnít do a whole lot for me and Iíve not heard any rumblings about Lito Sheppard.

The Vikings certainly wonít hesitate to take a CB in the draft.

How would a guy like Tim Tebow fit in to the Vikings system? He seems to be a leader and with all the playmakers in the Vikings organization, would he fit in and do you think the Vikings could draft him?

-- Zach, Ramsey, MN

I think Tebow can be a good player in the NFL, and good football players can fit into any system. However, I have some reservations about the Vikings drafting Tebow. He is a developmental prospect and I donít think that gives him much of a shot at helping the Vikings out anytime soon. In theory, the Vikings could draft Tebow anyway and have him learn from the bench for a few years, but I think a team other than the Vikings will be willing to use an early-round pick on him.


Are the Vikings considering any changes to the offensive line? It seems to me Favre was man handledand sacked alot last season.

-- Lisa C., West Hartford, CT


The Vikings allowed 34 sacks in 2009, which ranked in a tie with 4 other teams for 15th most. So giving up sacks wasnít a huge problem. Also remember that some of the sacks and hits to Favre last season were the result of Favre holding onto the ball longer than he should. Granted, Favre holding onto the ball longer than he should allows him to make the great plays he makes, but it also puts him in situations where he is forced to absorb hits.


With that being said, I donít see any changes to the starting lineup along the offensive line. But with Artis Hicks going to the Redskins and with Ryan Cook status somewhat uncertain, the Vikings will need to add some bodies to the roster for depth.

I think the draft is the #1 place for the Vikings to look. They should be able to add a good player or two during the draft that has some long-term development potential. Also, Iím sure the Vikings will be able to find some undrafted rookie free agents that may be able to fill out the depth chart.


Jamarca Sanford impressed me with the limited opportunities that he was given. In my opinion he outplayed both Madieu Williams and Tyrell Johnson. Was his lack of playing time a result of a perceived weakness in range? He seems to be a very sound tackler and big hitter. If he continues to develop, I hope he gets an opportunity to start.

-- Chris, Eden Prairie

I agree, Chris, Sanford impressed me during his rookie campaign, too. I donít know that I can say he outplayed Johnson and Williams, but he was impressive, especially if you consider he was a 7th round draft pick. As we head to the 2010 season, I hope Sanford continues to impress the coaching staff and I hope plans are made that will allow him more defensive snaps.

The reason he didnít play more on defense during the 2009 season was because of Johnson and Williams but also because he played in so many special teams phases.




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Do you think the Vikings will look at trying to sign CB Leigh Bodden? It appears with the injury to Cedric Griffin that a CB might be a priority for the Vikings. Thanks for all your information.
-- Eric J.

I havenít spoken to anyone in the building about Leigh Bodden, but I must admit that of the UFAs still available Bodden seems to me like a great fit for the Vikings. He played well in New England last season Ė 55 tackles and 5 INTs in 15 games Ė and heís also garnering plenty of interest among NFL teams. Those are both good signs. I also like his size Ė 6-1, 193 pounds Ė and his experience Ė 8 years in the NFL.

What Iím not sure about, though, is if heís considered to be better in man coverage or better in zone coverage; I guess that would determine whether or not he would be an ideal fit in Minnesota.

The other aspect to consider is how much he commands in terms of salary. Remember that the Vikings can only offer a 1st-year salary greater to or less than the salary that either Artis Hicks or Chester Taylor will receive in the 1st year of their deals with Washington/Chicago. And, after the 1st year, the salary canít escalate by more than 30%.

Suffice it to say, I think itíd be great for the Vikings to bring Bodden to town but there are also a number of potential hurdles that the Vikings would have to clear.

Hey Mike! After such an amazing college career at Boise State, do you think Ian Johnson will have any chancefor the #2RB position now that Chester Taylor is gone?I know he went undrafted, but so did John Randle.
-- Eric, Big Sky, MT

I would never say a guy has ďno chanceĒ to earn a roster position, but I will say that Johnson has an uphill battle to earn that spot. He must first compete with Albert Young for the job and remember that last year Young beat him out for the #3 spot. Also, he must beat out any RB the Vikings add to the roster between now and training camp Ė this includes free agent RBs and RBs added through the draft.

Johnson has the chance to be a contributor on an NFL team some day, but I think he faces a stiff challenge to be that kind of player for the Vikings in 2010.

Here in the middle of all the free agent and draft questions I have just a generic, fun question for you. In a straight 40-yard dash, who do you think wins Ė Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin or Bernard Berrian? Is there another horse in that race I donít know about that I should be considering?

-- Nate A., Minot, ND

Percy Harvin.

There actually might be another player on the Vikings roster to put in that race Ė WR Jaymar Johnson. I think Berrian comes in a close 2nd behind Harvin, but it seems to me that #12 will get to his top speed the quickest of the bunch and that will be too much for the other 3 to overcome.

With that being said, Adrian Peterson is the player Iíd least like to run into at the finish line and I think if you extended the race to 100 yards, Berrian would be closing the gap quickly.

The Raiders put a 2nd round tender on QB Bruce Gradkowski. Do you think that thiscould be a fix for the Vikings QB issue? Personally,I think a 2nd round pick for a younger, semi-proven player is a reasonable price. If Favre doesn't come back this year, then Gradkowski offers experience and ability as a potential starter or at least in a competition with Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels. If nothing else, he's cheap at less than $1.8m and would allow us to focus on our secondary in the draft.

-- Dave B.

I donít see this as a viable or prudent option for the Vikings. Why go after a guy such as Gradkowski and give up a 2nd round pick when you already have players such as Jackson and Rosenfels? Also, I donít think Gradkowski is better than either Jackson or Rosenfels. Gradkowskiís career passer rating is just 65.9, while Jackson and Rosenfels have ratings of 77.9 and 81.2, respectively.

Iím a big Sean Weatherspoon fan. Do you think the Vikings would draft him and, if so, do you think he would suit our style of play? Go the Vikings!

-- John D.


I canít really answer either of those questions definitively Ė I donít know where the Vikings have Weatherspoon slotted on their board and I canít say Iíve watched him play much. But based on what I know about him, I have a few thoughtsÖ


-- His size might be a little concerning. Heís listed at 6-1, 239 pounds, which would make him the 2nd-smallest LB on the Vikings roster behind Heath Farwell. Ideally, especially for a 1st round prospect (which Weatherspoon is), youíre looking for a good combination of size and agility. Weatherspoon has the agility, but the size isnít quite there.


-- Speaking of agility, thatís something that seems appealing about Weatherspoon. The reports Iíve read state that heís fluid in the hips, which means he has potential to be a good player in pass coverage and also good at moving from sideline to sideline.


-- Another thing I like a lot about Weatherspoon is that he was a 4-year player at Missouri and he was also very productive. Those are 2 great traits to see in a 1st round prospect. Youíd be surprised, actually, at the number of so-called 1st round prospects who donít have that specific combination.






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Hey Mike, Iíve got a quick question for you about the Vikings draft. Thereís no doubt that CB, DT and the OL must be addressed. Which one should they draft first? Personally, I think that they draft a DT first (Dan Williams or Brian Price) then address CB in the 2nd round (Patrick Robinson or Perrish Cox). I think there is a deeper pool of talent at CB than at DT. What do you think they should address first?
-- Brad, Laramie, WY

I know people get tired of hearing this, but the Vikings should draft the best player available Ė aka the highest player on their board - when it's their turn to select. While the Vikings may have a need at CB or S today, that might not be the case down the road. That's why it doesn't pay to draft by need.

For example, let's say the Vikings have a RB ranked high (early 1st round grade) on their board and it turns out he's still there at #30. Instead of taking the player they have rated right near the top of round #1 where theyíre selecting, they should that RB even though RB isn't a "need." I'd rather have an additional good RB who I had a high rating on than a player at a position of need who I had rated lower. You never know when someone will get injured or suspended or sick or benched.

A good example of this philosophy is the Vikings 7th round pick last year, Jamarca Sanford. Safety was no a position of need for the Vikings during the draft, yet the Vikings had a good grade on Sanford and he was available when it was their turn to choose. So they took him, and it turns out he played a lot on special teams and even took some defensive snaps late in the season.


Hey Mike,
Big Vikings fan here. Do you know what free agency is going to look like for the Vikings? Are there any players that the Vikings are looking to pursue? I know that our DBs are hurting a little. Would we look into someone like Dunta Robinson? Thanks
-- Brandon K., St. Michael, MN

Because of the new rules in the Final League Year, I really donít know what free agency is going to look like. There will be no salary cap or salary floor, so itís difficult to predict how teams will approach free agency Ė they could spend wildly, not at all or somewhere in the middle.

In addition, much of what the Vikings will do in free agency centers on what tenders they assign to their restricted free agents, such as QB Tarvaris Jackson and DE Ray Edwards. Watch for the announcement on what tenders the Vikings offer these players in the next few days.

You mentioned Dunta Robinson Ė the Vikings will be unable to pursue him because heís an unrestricted free agent (UFA) and the new rules of the Final League Year prohibit the Vikings from signing a UFA until they lose one of their own. And, even once the Vikings lost a UFA, they canít offer a contract to another UFA that is larger than the contract signed by the UFA they lost.


What are the chances of the Vikings going after RB LaDainian Tomlinson? I feel he would be an asset if we cut Albert Young.
-- Erlynn M., Dumfries, VA

Tomlinson is a different story than Robinson in that the Vikings could actually pursue LT because he gained his free agent status by being released from his contract by San Diego. But with that said, I don't anticipate the Vikings signing him.

The Vikings first priority seems to be re-signing RB Chester Taylor. And if that happens, there would be no room for Tomlinson or any other veteran RB looking for much playing time. Even if the Vikings arenít able to bring Taylor back, I think the draft might be a better option for them to fill the #2 RB spot than the free agent market.

With all of that in mind, Iím also not sure that Tomlinson would want to come to MN. I know heís looking to win a Super Bowl and the Vikings do represent a chance for him to do that, but also consider that in MN he not only wouldnít be the best player on his team anymore, but he wouldnít even be the best RB on his team. His role would be as a backup, where he would play primarily on 3rd downs and whenever Adrian Peterson needed a breather. I donít think thatís the scenario LT covets and I think he could find a better one for him with another team.




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2/22/10 10:06 P

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I agree, there must be a solution out there.



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ONADIET9's Photo ONADIET9 Posts: 274
2/22/10 1:37 P

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I don't think anyone wants the Vikings to leave MN. I'm sure a solution will be found. Think Positive.

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MORGANLAFEE's Photo MORGANLAFEE Posts: 11,208
2/22/10 1:03 P

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I hope you are right ONADIET9 and Favre comes back.

Hi Mike, what are the chances the Vikings look to sign Chad Pennington or Marc Bulger? Both QBs are good, but under-appreciated so they wonít cost much money. When he's healthy, Pennington is a great QB and would do well with our great offensive weapons. And even though everyone has forgotten about Bulger, he is also a good QB. Think back to the days in St. Louis with Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce at WR - Bulger put up good numbers and with our offensive talent, he would also do well in Minnesota. What are the odds we sign one of them?
-- Debby B.

Without knowing how our coaches, personnel staff and scouts feel about either player, itís tough for me to put a percentage on the chances of the Vikings acquiring one of the QBs mentioned above. But with both Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels on the roster, and with Brett Favreís pending status, Iíd be surprised if either Bulger or Pennington were acquired by the Vikings.

If we were to operate under the assumption that another QB will be added to the roster before the 2010 season, my money would be on that player being either a draft pick this April or an undrafted rookie free agent.

Hey Mike, weíve been reading you for a few years now and like how you break things down for us. I remember the 2007 draft when people were saying that the Vikings were going to select Brady Quinn and they got Adrian Peterson instead. Now, I hear that Brady could be available. Could the Vikings possibly get him?
-- Tom S., Billings, MT

Possibly? Yes, anything is a possibility. But just as acquiring Bulger or Pennington would surprise me, trading for Quinn would surprise me as well Ė for 2 reasons.

First, I expect the Browns will keep Quinn and groom him to be their long-term answer as a starting QB, thus making him unavailable to acquire. Secondly, the Vikings would be required to surrender a healthy compensation package in order to acquire Quinn, and thatís not something I see the Vikings being interested in doing.

Any rumors or thoughts about the Vikings going out and trying to acquire an All-Pro middle LB or a big name D-lineman (if Pat Williams retires)?

-- Kevin G., Sioux Falls, SD

All-Pro players are hard to acquire. It's not as simple as deciding you need one and then going to the supermarket to pick one up. On top of that, remember that 2010 is the Final League Year (an uncapped year) and the rules of free agency in the Final League Year put strict restrictions on the ability of the final 4 teams (Colts, Jets, Saints, Vikings) to acquire free agents.

I expect the Vikings will address either or both DT and LB in this yearís draft. It seems as if Pat will be back for 2010 and hopefully E.J. Henderson will be, too, but the Vikings will surely consider acquiring depth for both positions and also prepare for the time when both Pat and E.J. are no longer options (which hopefully isnít for a while).


What do you think the chances are of the Minnesota Vikings becoming the Los Angeles Vikings? I can't imagine Minnesota without the Vikings, but I am getting awfully scared watching what the outcome will be after their lease ends in the Mall of America Field (Metrodome). Thanks!
-- Ian H., Duluth, MN

I donít know what the exact answer is here, but the chances are certainly greater than 0%. The state of Minnesota and the Vikings must continue to move forward and progress in finding a long-term stadium solution for the team. Only a long-term stadium solution will keep the Vikings here Ė playing in the Metrodome is not a long-term option for this team.





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ONADIET9's Photo ONADIET9 Posts: 274
2/17/10 9:57 A

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I think Farve will play one more year. 20 and out.

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MORGANLAFEE's Photo MORGANLAFEE Posts: 11,208
2/16/10 12:44 P

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Why did the Vikings trade for and re-sign Sage Rosenfels? I watched his games with the Houston Texans last year - not a pretty display of QB abilities. I believe, had Favre not signed, that if Rosenfels started we would have lost more games than we won. Another question: Will Tarvaris Jackson start next season if Favre retires?

-- David U., Chaska, MN


The Vikings traded for and re-signed Rosenfels before last season because they wanted to add competition to the QB position. At the time of the Rosenfels acquisition, Favre was not with the Vikings. Also, I think itís unfair to Rosenfels to look at his numbers and games while he was in Houston and come to the conclusion that he wouldíve run the Vikings into the ground. He was a backup in Houston, and itís hard to enter the starting lineup and impress people when you play for a team that is a .500 squad.


Additionally, Iím not sure how you can believe that the Vikings wouldíve lost more games than they wouldíve won with Rosenfels at QB. First of all, if Favre hadnít played for the Vikings last year, Jackson wouldíve been the starter (by virtue of the fact that he was the backup to Favre all season). Secondly, the Vikings were 10-6 in 2008 with Jackson under center, meaning Favre at QB represented a 2-game win improvement. I donít see how having Jackson or Rosenfels under center in 2009 would have resulted in a record worse than 8-8. I donít follow your logic or thinking there.


As for the prospects of Jackson starting next year if Favre retires, Iím not sure. There is so much that can happen between now and the start of the season. Jackson and Rosenfels will battle for position on the depth chart and then if Favre doesnít come back thereís always a chance the Vikings will make a move to bring in another QB to compete with Jackson and Rosenfels, whether that move come during the draft, free agency or via trade. So itís too early to tell right now who the starter will be in September.


Do you think the Vikings might look at the possibility of trading up in the draft to select a CB or QB? Iím thinking of Joe Haden, the CB from the University of Florida.
-- Adam, Mahnomen, MN

I do think the Vikings will look at the possibility of trading up in the draft to acquire a player they have targeted. As far as Joe Haden is concerned, t