Sunday Slant: Minicamp offers new assessments

The speed of the players can be judged in the non-padded OTA practices, but minicamp this week is an opportunity to get a good first look at the physical new additions on the roster. Here are five positions and players we will be watching.

Finally, the pads.

After a month of organized team activities that showed off the new speed of the Minnesota Vikings' younger legs, we will finally be able to see what the more physical position players can do with the arrival of the team's mandatory minicamp this week.

To date, the media has been treated to seeing the speed – both long-field form and in short areas – of new receiver Jerome Simpson. We've also seen what appears to be a new (haircut and jersey number, at least) and improved Chris Cook, reminding what competent cornerback play should like at the NFL level after a series of inexperienced cornerbacks were called into duty because of injury last season.

With the Minnesota makeover in full effect, this week's three-day minicamp should offer a glimpse of what the team will really look like. Here are a few of the positions and players that need answers, whether that comes this week or waits for a gradual reveal in training camp.

Matt KalilWhile fans have been clamoring for some analysis on the Vikings' first-round draft pick, it's been nearly impossible to decipher anything of real substance without the pads on and little contact permitted in the OTAs. Here's what we do know: Offensive line coach Jeff Davidson, who is pretty matter-of-fact in his assessments, is fairly sure that Kalil will be "really good." The indicators are there, too – Kalil has the size and quickness to handle speed rushers in the NFL, as witnessed by his willingness and burst getting to the second level to wall off a backside linebacker. What we don't yet know is whether he can handle the NFL's best pass rusher, Jared Allen, who has been missing from OTAs but is expected at minicamp, and how Kalil will perform when asked to run block with pads.

RIGHT GUARD – Second-year player Brandon Fusco has been getting the vast majority of the first-team snaps as the first option to replace Anthony Herrera. Fusco changed his diet and the results have been impressive. Gone is the upper-body flab, replaced by barrel-chested muscle. But free-agent acquisition Geoff Schwartz shouldn't be dismissed in the battle at right guard. He has more NFL experience than Fusco and knows Davidson and his schemes from their days together at Carolina.

Letroy GuionPat Williams is long gone. So, too, is the failed experiment for his replacement, Remi Ayodele. That leaves the Vikings with their next attempt to replace Williams – former fifth-round defensive tackle Letroy Guion. Despite not having the label of starter last year, Guion actually played far more than Ayodele and was more effective. Their styles, however, are different. Ayodele was more an anchoring defensive tackle while Guion is a quick, penetrating, disruptive force in the middle. There is little question the Vikings expect Guion to be their starter – they are paying him almost identically what they did Ayodele – but the big unknown is how his insertion will affect the defense's ability to stop the run.

Jasper BrinkleyIn some ways, the switch from E.J. Henderson to Brinkley raises some of the same questions as the Guion move. Smack dab in the middle of the defense, Brinkley might actually be an upgrade over Henderson, who struggled through injuries the last few years, but instincts and pass coverage will be the big questions. Brinkley played well in his six-game stint as Henderson's replacement at the end of the 2009 season, but he will have to prove he can hold up a full season as a starter after suffering a season-ending hip injury during the 2011 preseason and sitting out last week's OTA practices. Brinkley may get in a few pops of the pads in minicamp, but his coverage ability and diagnostic skills will be watched most closely.

SAFETY SPOTS – First-round pick Harrison Smith is moving into the starting lineup. It started last week in OTAs, a move that was a foregone conclusion at some point this offseason. But who will join him? His fellow Notre Dame alumnus, Robert Blanton, is still buried on the depth chart while Jamarca Sanford and Mistral Raymond are still part of the starting plot. Now that contact will be allowed, watching all of those players track the ball and knock it loose at minicamp will be one of the foreshadowing events.

Yes, it's early in the process, but minicamp is the top opportunity to get a full-team, full-contact view before training camp of those who are being asked to step up their contributions. Finally, it's about to get as real as it can during the offseason.

QUICK SLANTS

  • Cornerback Chris Carr is the latest Viking to live in former Vikings fullback Tony Richardson' s house. Brett Favre was there during his two years in purple and last year new offensive line coach Jeff Davidson was there. "It's a nice place. It's close to (Winter Park), so that's always important," Carr said.

  • Planning for the Vikings' new stadium can start now that committee members for the new stadium authority have been announced. The Vikings were anxious to get that underway. It won't be the first order of business, but the possibility of a retractable roof will enter the discussion. It's possible that walls and/or windows will be retractable instead of a roof and it's also possible that any retractable structure could be included in the $975 million price tag. If it doesn't fit under budget and the Wilfs still want it, they will have to pay for extra cost.
  • The Vikings would like to see the new stadium most closely modeled after Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
  • Why did Carr choose Minnesota? "I saw opportunity and I just felt like this was a team that played in the playoffs a couple of years ago, so it's not a team that's been, like the Raiders, who have been notoriously in last place every single year," said Carr, who also played for the Raiders before the Ravens. "This team was in the NFC Championship Game a couple of years ago, so you have players on this team that's won before, so you have talent on this team. With coach (Leslie) Frazier, meeting him, and with the guys that we have, I felt like Antoine Winfield and experienced veterans like that, I feel like I can go and help out. I feel like there's a thin line between good and bad. So if we get just a little bit better, I think this can be a playoff-caliber type of football team. And I felt comfortable here, so all those things came into my decision coming here."


    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.



  • Viking Update Top Stories

    \r\n\r\n","mobileBody":"Finally, the pads. After a month of organized team activities that showed off the new speed of the Minnesota Vikings' younger legs, we will finally be able to see what the more physical position players can do with the arrival of the team's mandatory minicamp this week. To date, the media has been treated to seeing the speed – both long-field form and in short areas – of new receiver Jerome Simpson. We've also seen what appears to be a new (haircut and jersey number, at least) and improved Chris Cook, reminding what competent cornerback play should like at the NFL level after a series of inexperienced cornerbacks were called into duty because of injury last season. With the Minnesota makeover in full effect, this week's three-day minicamp should offer a glimpse of what the team will really look like. Here are a few of the positions and players that need answers, whether that comes this week or waits for a gradual reveal in training camp. While fans have been clamoring for some analysis on the Vikings' first-round draft pick, it's been nearly impossible to decipher anything of real substance without the pads on and little contact permitted in the OTAs. Here's what we do know: Offensive line coach Jeff Davidson, who is pretty matter-of-fact in his assessments, is fairly sure that Kalil will be \"really good.\" The indicators are there, too – Kalil has the size and quickness to handle speed rushers in the NFL, as witnessed by his willingness and burst getting to the second level to wall off a backside linebacker. What we don't yet know is whether he can handle the NFL's best pass rusher, Jared Allen, who has been missing from OTAs but is expected at minicamp, and how Kalil will perform when asked to run block with pads. Second-year player Brandon Fusco has been getting the vast majority of the first-team snaps as the first option to replace Anthony Herrera. Fusco changed his diet and the results have been impressive. Gone is the upper-body flab, replaced by barrel-chested muscle. But free-agent acquisition Geoff Schwartz shouldn't be dismissed in the battle at right guard. He has more NFL experience than Fusco and knows Davidson and his schemes from their days together at Carolina. Pat Williams is long gone. So, too, is the failed experiment for his replacement, Remi Ayodele. That leaves the Vikings with their next attempt to replace Williams – former fifth-round defensive tackle Letroy Guion. Despite not having the label of starter last year, Guion actually played far more than Ayodele and was more effective. Their styles, however, are different. Ayodele was more an anchoring defensive tackle while Guion is a quick, penetrating, disruptive force in the middle. There is little question the Vikings expect Guion to be their starter – they are paying him almost identically what they did Ayodele – but the big unknown is how his insertion will affect the defense's ability to stop the run. In some ways, the switch from E.J. Henderson to Brinkley raises some of the same questions as the Guion move. Smack dab in the middle of the defense, Brinkley might actually be an upgrade over Henderson, who struggled through injuries the last few years, but instincts and pass coverage will be the big questions. Brinkley played well in his six-game stint as Henderson's replacement at the end of the 2009 season, but he will have to prove he can hold up a full season as a starter after suffering a season-ending hip injury during the 2011 preseason and sitting out last week's OTA practices. Brinkley may get in a few pops of the pads in minicamp, but his coverage ability and diagnostic skills will be watched most closely. First-round pick Harrison Smith is moving into the starting lineup. It started last week in OTAs, a move that was a foregone conclusion at some point this offseason. But who will join him? His fellow Notre Dame alumnus, Robert Blanton, is still buried on the depth chart while Jamarca Sanford and Mistral Raymond are still part of the starting plot. Now that contact will be allowed, watching all of those players track the ball and knock it loose at minicamp will be one of the foreshadowing events. Yes, it's early in the process, but minicamp is the top opportunity to get a full-team, full-contact view before training camp of those who are being asked to step up their contributions. Finally, it's about to get as real as it can during the offseason.
  • Cornerback Chris Carr is the latest Viking to live in former Vikings fullback Tony Richardson' s house. Brett Favre was there during his two years in purple and last year new offensive line coach Jeff Davidson was there. \"It's a nice place. It's close to (Winter Park), so that's always important,\" Carr said.
  • Planning for the Vikings' new stadium can start now that committee members for the new stadium authority have been announced. The Vikings were anxious to get that underway. It won't be the first order of business, but the possibility of a retractable roof will enter the discussion. It's possible that walls and/or windows will be retractable instead of a roof and it's also possible that any retractable structure could be included in the $975 million price tag. If it doesn't fit under budget and the Wilfs still want it, they will have to pay for extra cost.
  • The Vikings would like to see the new stadium most closely modeled after Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
  • Why did Carr choose Minnesota? \"I saw opportunity and I just felt like this was a team that played in the playoffs a couple of years ago, so it's not a team that's been, like the Raiders, who have been notoriously in last place every single year,\" said Carr, who also played for the Raiders before the Ravens. \"This team was in the NFC Championship Game a couple of years ago, so you have players on this team that's won before, so you have talent on this team. With coach (Leslie) Frazier, meeting him, and with the guys that we have, I felt like Antoine Winfield and experienced veterans like that, I feel like I can go and help out. I feel like there's a thin line between good and bad. So if we get just a little bit better, I think this can be a playoff-caliber type of football team. And I felt comfortable here, so all those things came into my decision coming here.\"
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