Vikings attacked all areas of passing offense

The Vikings took a global approach to improving their passing attack in 2012.

The Minnesota Vikings' 28th-ranked pass offense in 2011 has been linked to a number of factors, including a rookie quarterback that didn't have the offseason to ease into a new offense, an offensive line that was shaken up from the start of training camp when left tackle Bryant McKinnie was overweight and quickly released, and a lack of viable receiving weapons.

Likely, all of those were factors in the team's bottom-five pass ranking, and it seems that Minnesota's offseason moves were largely directed at improving that portion of the offense.

  • The weapons: The Vikings addressed their receiving corps aggressively, starting with the five-year, $25 million contract for free-agent tight end John Carlson, who is much more of a receiving threat than proficient blocker. Then they went after Jerome Simpson, offering him a one-year contract that could be worth close to $2 million even though he is facing a three-game suspension to start the season.

    But it didn't stop with free agency. In the fourth round of the draft, the Vikings added explosive Arkansas receivers Jarius Wright and Greg Childs.

  • The line: Without the time to set up, find the open receiver and throw, fast receiving threats aren't as useful and the Vikings worked to improve their offensive line as well. In fact, after giving up the fifth-most sacks (49) in the NFL last year, there was a line of thinking that they needed to have an extra blocker on the field at times.

    If the first-round drafting of rookie left tackle Matt Kalil can minimize that need, it would give the offense an opportunity to get another playmaking threat on the field instead of a protective tight end or fullback.

    "That would be great for us. We really had a good spring. Those guys have started to jell, the five guys we've started playing," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said during minicamp, referring to an offensive line that is expected to have new faces at three of the five starting positions. "… When you talk about the right side with Brandon Fusco and Phil (Loadholt), very physical and explosive. And the left side is really going to be fun to watch with Charlie (Johnson) at right guard and our rookie at left tackle."

    Johnson is moving from left tackle to left guard while Fusco, a second-year player from Slippery Rock, and free-agent acquisition Geoff Schwartz will compete for the starting spot at right guard. Both of last year's starting guards, Steve Hutchinson and Anthony Herrera, were released before the start of free agency.

    Fusco has taken his opportunity seriously. He was strictly a center at Division II Slippery Rock and started to make the transition to guard during regular-season practices last year. A change in his diet and lifting routine this year has helped improve his body.

    "He's really worked hard," Musgrave said. "In fact, early in the offseason he went up to Pennsylvania and worked out with some of his buddies on the Steelers, being that he's from Slippery Rock. He came back to engage in our program and I know (strength coach Tom Kanavy) could talk more about how much muscle mass he has gained, but we're very excited about his future."

  • The quarterback: With more receiving weapons and an expected improvement in the protection, much of the onus for improvements in the passing game will fall on Ponder.

    He started reviewing his rookie-year film shortly after this 2011 season and saw a lot of room for improvement. This offseason, he was trying to put into action some of the lessons learned from his study.

    "I think each day he goes out there he improves," Musgrave said. "I think each player on our offense is improving. He's going to be fine, talking about Christian. Our focus has to be, collectively and individually, of doing a better job, each and every one of us, whether it be the blockers, the runners, the catchers and the coaches."

    With the heavy lifting of the player-acquisition season behind them, the Vikings took a global approach to improving the passing game. They added receiving weapons. They remade their offensive line. And Ponder has had a full offseason to digest the offense and acclimate to his new teammates.

    Last year, the passing offense appeared to fall apart early with the release of McKinnie two days into training camp. This year, the repair process has already started and will continue when the pads go on at training camp in less than three weeks.


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



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    \r\n\r\n","mobileBody":"The Minnesota Vikings' 28th-ranked pass offense in 2011 has been linked to a number of factors, including a rookie quarterback that didn't have the offseason to ease into a new offense, an offensive line that was shaken up from the start of training camp when left tackle Bryant McKinnie was overweight and quickly released, and a lack of viable receiving weapons. Likely, all of those were factors in the team's bottom-five pass ranking, and it seems that Minnesota's offseason moves were largely directed at improving that portion of the offense.
  • The Vikings addressed their receiving corps aggressively, starting with the five-year, $25 million contract for free-agent tight end John Carlson, who is much more of a receiving threat than proficient blocker. Then they went after Jerome Simpson, offering him a one-year contract that could be worth close to $2 million even though he is facing a three-game suspension to start the season. But it didn't stop with free agency. In the fourth round of the draft, the Vikings added explosive Arkansas receivers Jarius Wright and Greg Childs.
  • Without the time to set up, find the open receiver and throw, fast receiving threats aren't as useful and the Vikings worked to improve their offensive line as well. In fact, after giving up the fifth-most sacks (49) in the NFL last year, there was a line of thinking that they needed to have an extra blocker on the field at times. If the first-round drafting of rookie left tackle Matt Kalil can minimize that need, it would give the offense an opportunity to get another playmaking threat on the field instead of a protective tight end or fullback. \"That would be great for us. We really had a good spring. Those guys have started to jell, the five guys we've started playing,\" offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said during minicamp, referring to an offensive line that is expected to have new faces at three of the five starting positions. \"… When you talk about the right side with Brandon Fusco and Phil (Loadholt), very physical and explosive. And the left side is really going to be fun to watch with Charlie (Johnson) at right guard and our rookie at left tackle.\" Johnson is moving from left tackle to left guard while Fusco, a second-year player from Slippery Rock, and free-agent acquisition Geoff Schwartz will compete for the starting spot at right guard. Both of last year's starting guards, Steve Hutchinson and Anthony Herrera, were released before the start of free agency. Fusco has taken his opportunity seriously. He was strictly a center at Division II Slippery Rock and started to make the transition to guard during regular-season practices last year. A change in his diet and lifting routine this year has helped improve his body. \"He's really worked hard,\" Musgrave said. \"In fact, early in the offseason he went up to Pennsylvania and worked out with some of his buddies on the Steelers, being that he's from Slippery Rock. He came back to engage in our program and I know (strength coach Tom Kanavy) could talk more about how much muscle mass he has gained, but we're very excited about his future.\"
  • With more receiving weapons and an expected improvement in the protection, much of the onus for improvements in the passing game will fall on Ponder. He started reviewing his rookie-year film shortly after this 2011 season and saw a lot of room for improvement. This offseason, he was trying to put into action some of the lessons learned from his study. \"I think each day he goes out there he improves,\" Musgrave said. \"I think each player on our offense is improving. He's going to be fine, talking about Christian. Our focus has to be, collectively and individually, of doing a better job, each and every one of us, whether it be the blockers, the runners, the catchers and the coaches.\" With the heavy lifting of the player-acquisition season behind them, the Vikings took a global approach to improving the passing game. They added receiving weapons. They remade their offensive line. And Ponder has had a full offseason to digest the offense and acclimate to his new teammates. Last year, the passing offense appeared to fall apart early with the release of McKinnie two days into training camp. This year, the repair process has already started and will continue when the pads go on at training camp in less than three weeks.
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