Opponent Preview: The Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings' struggles on offense last season left many wondering if coach Brad Childress should be trying to run the show on the sideline while also handling the play-calling duties. Evidently Childress was among that group. As a result, he has been leaning toward having offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell more heavily involved in deciding what plays the offense should be running.

Bevell has been getting work in this area during non-scripted portions of training camp practices and also served as the primary play caller in the Vikings' preseason opener against the St. Louis Rams. The added responsibility was expected to continue Friday night in the Vikings' exhibition game against the New York Jets.

"I was comfortable with it," Bevell said of his role. "Being out here at training camp and getting all that work was good. Obviously, coach Childress was there with his opinions and what he is seeing out there. I just thought it went really smooth and I thought there was great communication."

Bevell worked from the booth and gave the calls to quarterback coach Kevin Rogers. Rogers then relayed them in to the quarterback's headset. Childress also was on the headset with both Bevell and Rogers. The positive for Childress going in this direction is he also has the freedom to manage other areas of the game much more efficiently and doesn't have to constantly be thinking about what play he wants to run or looking over his call sheet while the defense is on the field.

He has even been able to contribute a few defensive ideas to new coordinator Leslie Frazier.

Childress admitted the experience was "a little double-edged sword" at least in one area. "It allows me too much freedom to holler at officials when I don't think they quite got it right," he said. "So I'll have to watch myself in that area."

It remains to be seen if Childress will be comfortable turning the play calling over on a full-time basis to Bevell or how this process will be evaluated as training camp winds down. When Childress was offensive coordinator with the Philadelphia Eagles, Andy Reid called plays, so that system is familiar. Hired by Childress shortly after he was named the Vikings' coach in 2006, Bevell had never been a coordinator at the NFL level. He had spent the six seasons as an assistant with the Green Bay Packers and was the quarterbacks coach for his last three years with the team.

But the reason Childress said he picked Bevell to be on his coaching staff is because the latter knows everything the former wants to do when it comes to executing an offense. Therefore, this is certainly not a case where Bevell will all of a sudden make the Vikings' West Coast offense go vertical on a consistent basis or starting making calls that Childress doesn't expect.

Bevell, a former quarterback at the University of Wisconsin, seems much more confident with his role this summer than he did a year ago and might just be ready to assume the added responsibilities.

CAMP CALENDAR: The Vikings have completed the Mankato portion of their training camp and will spend the remainder of camp working at their practice facility in Eden Prairie, Minn.

NOTES, QUOTES

--RB Chester Taylor, entering his second season with the Vikings and coming off a year in which he established a franchise record with 303 rushing attempts, will be used sparingly in the preseason. That's not a surprise considering the Vikings know exactly what they have in Taylor. "It's the coaches' choice how much I get to play, so I just do what they tell me," said Taylor, who spent his first four seasons serving as Jamal Lewis' backup with Baltimore. "They rested me a lot more this year."

--WR Robert Ferguson, recently released by Green Bay, worked out for the Vikings on Sunday. Ferguson, let go by the Packers on Friday, watched practice and then caught a few passes as team personnel looked on. Ferguson's agent said his client also planned on visiting Houston.

--Backup QB Brooks Bollinger got some practice time working as the holder for K Ryan Longwell. P Chris Kluwe is the primary holder but Bollinger would be used in an emergency. Bollinger has never held in an NFL game, but he did get some practice in that role when he played for the New York Jets.

--Veteran S Darren Sharper was among the players happy with coach Brad Childress' decision to lighten the training camp workload this year. Among the adjustments Childress made after several players voiced concerns last year was to cut out two days of two-a-day practices, add a day off and limit the amount done in the afternoon. "It was a little lighter than last year," Sharper said. "I know Coach Childress made it a little less physical."

--The Vikings spent extensive practice time early in the week working on their red-zone offense. The team was 22nd in the NFL last season in red-zone efficiency, scoring 19 touchdowns in 42 possessions inside the 20-yard line. They failed to score a touchdown in either trip to the red zone in their first preseason game.

--Coach Brad Childress continued to try to lighten things up during practice. A few weeks back he served as a running back during a defensive pursuit drill and ended up rambling 20 yards down the sideline before the ball was knocked loose. Last week, Childress got involved as the Vikings were nearing the end of a drill that had Ryan Longwell kicking what would be a last-second field goal. To set up the play and position the ball correctly, quarterback Tarvaris Jackson took the snap and handed off to ... his head coach. Childress burst up the middle for a few yards before setting the ball down.

--The Vikings final training-camp practice for this year in Mankato was held on Wednesday. The team announced fan attendance was almost 50,000. Two years ago, however, that number was nearly 80,000.

--The Vikings contract to hold camp in Mankato has been extended through 2011. The previous deal was due to expire after 2009, but as part of an agreement that involved field renovations and other improvements to facilities the contract was lengthened.

--The team had excellent luck with the weather this year while in Mankato, making it through the first 17 days of practice without being forced into the campus field house. On the final day, however, an overnight storm made the fields too wet to practice on in the morning.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's the starter if he is healthy. He hasn't done any thing to not be the starter other than he got hurt. If he can make it back, he'll be our starter, and other guys understand that." -- Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier talking about DE Erasmus James, who was recently activated off the physically unable to perform list after being out since early last season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Linebacker and special-teams ace Jason Glenn decided to retire after being hampered by continued soreness in his surgically repaired left knee. Glenn tore his left ACL last November while playing on punt coverage against the Green Bay Packers. He returned to training camp this year going full speed but had to be held out of practice Aug. 6 and two days later left the field in pain. Coach Brad Childress said an MRI showed "no structural damage" but added that Glenn's knee "wouldn't let him function."

Glenn could end up working for the Vikings in a player development role.

--RB Wendell Mathis was waived injured after missing the majority of camp because of a back injury.
--DE Erasmus James was activated from the physically-unable-to-perform list but did not play against the Jets. James tore his left anterior cruciate ligament in the second regular-season game last year.
--Rookie CB Chad Johnson missed the final three days of practices in Mankato so he could be with his mother, who was in a Louisiana hospital.
--RT Ryan Cook got some work at center during a recent practice and in the Vikings' second preseason game. Cook played the latter position at New Mexico and likely will be the No. 1 backup at the spot should something happen to veteran Matt Birk.
--LB George Hall, who played college football at Purdue and spent time with the Vikings this spring before being released, was signed after LB Jason Glenn retired and LB Rufus Alexander was lost for the season because of a knee injury.
--LB Cameron Siskowic also signed with the Vikings. An undrafted free agent, Siskowic signed with Cincinnati but was waived on Aug. 2.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Artis Hicks vs. Anthony Herrera for the starting right guard position -- Hicks is getting the majority of the reps at the position but the coaching staff has definitely been getting looks at Herrera in practice. Herrera, who played some with the first team in last Friday's preseason game against the New York Jets, also got a chance to start in the first preseason game when guard Steve Hutchinson had to leave the team for a day because of family issues. It remains a long shot Herrera will beat out Hicks but it's clear he's pushing his teammate.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: QB Tarvaris Jackson continues to get most of the work with the first-team offense. Brooks Bollinger did get reps with the top unit in the second preseason game against the Jets, but between the two, Jackson and Bollinger attempted only eight passes. Bollinger and Jackson both played two series; it wouldn't be surprising if Jackson is in for the entire first half against Seattle on Saturday. ... Darrion Scott and Kenechi Udeze appear to be in a neck-and-neck battle for the starting job at right end. The two are taking turns playing with the first unit. ... All indications are that third-round CB Marcus McCauley is going to be used in nickel situations ahead of Dovonte Edwards and Charles Gordon. ... P Chris Kluwe has been inconsistent at times, but rookie free-agent Alex Reyes hasn't exactly grabbed hold of the job. Reyes' advantage is that unlike Kluwe he also can kickoff. Reyes, however, hasn't been very impressive in that role. ... Bobby Wade, Troy Williamson and Sidney Rice seem to have jobs locked up at receiver. Next in line would appear to be fifth-round pick Aundrae Allison, who also can return kicks. The best battle behind Allison could be between seventh-round pick Chandler Williams and veteran Billy McMullen. Also making a bid for a spot is Martin Nance, who has displayed good hands.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Fourth-round DE Brian Robison had a big game in the Vikings' 37-20 preseason victory over the New York Jets. The rookie got a sack and forced a fumble on a third-quarter play and then later in that series he recovered an errant shot-gun snap at the New York 3-yard line and scored a touchdown. Robison, who will get reps at right end this season, also tied for second on the team with four tackles in the game.

ROOKIE REPORT: First-round RB Adrian Peterson rushed for a game-high 70 yards on eight carries and also scored a touchdown in the Vikings' preseason victory over the New York Jets. Peterson had a 43-yard run in the second quarter that was a result of a beautiful spin move he put on the Jets defender. ... WR Sidney Rice (second round) tied for the team lead with two receptions -- for 14 yards -- against the Jets. From the look of things in practice, Rice could be an end zone threat in the red-zone offense. ... CB Marcus McCauley (third round) started against the Jets as the Vikings opened in the nickel package. A virus that cost him a day of practice the week before appears to have slowed McCauley of late. .... DE Brian Robison (fourth round) has been impressive in both preseason games and is making a case to get regular reps in the defensive line rotation. ... WR-RS Aundrae Allison (fifth round) played against the Jets last Friday after missing the first preseason game because of a hamstring injury. He also was used on kick returns versus New York, taking three back for 60 yards. ... LB Rufus Alexander (sixth round) suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the first preseason game and is out for the season. ... QB Tyler Thigpen (seventh round) threw only one pass and scrambled once in playing the fourth quarter against the Jets. He had completed 3 of 6 passes for 29 yards and ran twice for 18 yards the week before. ... WR Chandler Williams (seventh round) remains a work in progress and could end as a practice squad candidate.

INJURY REPORT: Sixth-round LB Rufus Alexander suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the Vikings' first preseason game against St. Louis and has been placed on injured reserve. ... OL Adam O'Connor suffered a partially dislocated kneecap in practice and will miss two to three weeks. O'Connor planned to get a second opinion on his injured left knee. He suffered a partial dislocation of his kneecap during practice and is expected to miss two to three weeks. ... LB John Kerr has been out because of a back injury. ...... CB Mike Hawkins suffered bruised ribs against the New York Jets and tight end Richard Owens had an ankle and knee sprain. Both were expected to be all right.


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