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Two Days In Mankato: Thoughts From Vikings Training Camp

August 10, 2011

Learning The Ropes

With no off-season, and only 11 days of training camp to install his offense, new coordinator Bill Musgrave has his work cut out for him. Coupled with the fact that the Vikings are working with a new signal caller, it’s a safe bet that the offense will take a few games to reach its full potential.

Based off his time in Atlanta and the couple days of camp I witnessed, there are a few themes that emerge from Musgrave’s offense: Running backs catching the ball out of the backfield and the use of the tight end. The next two videos show plays that will be common in the new offense.

First, Adrian Peterson streaks down the far sideline for a nice gain.

Second, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe hauls in a McNabb pass over the middle.

It’s clear that Musgrave will get Adrian Peterson more involved in the passing game. Peterson has said he would like to stay on the field more on third downs and the new offense should help him get his wish.

Finally, Christian Ponder would benefit from an entire off-season. As is the case with most rookies – especially quarterbacks – Ponder looks like everything is moving a little too quickly. I do not doubt his talent, but I think everyone wins from the acquisition of Donovan McNabb. The rookie out of Florida State gets a chance to learn from a veteran quarterback without feeling the immediate pressure to perform, and the Vikings get a capable, proven veteran who can keep the team competitive.

Another note on McNabb: He truly seems to enjoy himself on the football field. And hopefully that energy is contagious because the Vikings could use a little more joy after grinding through last year’s anything-that-can-go-wrong-will-go-wrong season.

Fool Me Once…

Leslie Frazier is determined not to make the same mistake as his predecessor. There were moments last season when the Vikings wide receiving corps looked more like the Keystone Kops than a professional group of pass catchers.

Come September 3 — when NFL rosters must be trimmed to 53-players — the Vikings will be forced to part with one or two talented wideouts.

I spoke with Vice President of Player Personnel Rick Spielman about his new receiving corps this year and he named a few players that have really stood out during training camp. More on that in a future post. (How’s that for a teaser to get you to come back and read the site later this week?)

Break Out Candidates

On the offensive side of the ball, look for second-year right tackle Phil Loadholt to anchor the line. At 6-foot-8. 343 pounds, Loadholt easily fits the part and he came to camp as svelte as a 343-pound man could possibly look. He was slowed by injuries last year but looks healthy and ready to go this season.

For the defense, look for tackle Letroy Guion to make an impact. If Kevin Williams is suspended for four games stemming from the Starcaps case, Guion could turn a few heads as the starting defensive tackle. The fourth-year player out of Florida State told me that he’s just “trying to get better so [he] can help [his] team.” Humble and talented, Guion should be a regular participant in the defensive tackle rotation this season.

The other defensive player who looked good in training camp was defensive end Brian Robison. The Vikings doubled down on Robison when they let incumbent Ray Edwards leave via free agency and signed Robison to a three-year deal. Robison made the most of the limited snaps he saw last season and should benefit from more playing time this year.

Finally, it’s difficult for a rookie receiver to make an impact in his first season, but the situation may be ripe for tight end Kyle Rudolph. Rudolph’s collegiate career was cut short by a serious hamstring injury, but he will be given an opportunity to showcase his talent in Musgrave’s offense. In a system that features the tight end, look for Rudolph and veteran Visanthe Shiancoe to both play larger roles this season.

Speaking of Rudolph, I’ll leave you with a quick clip of him catching a pass during offensive installation.

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