With big hits, defense sticks it to offense

The Vikings run defense brought out the hard hits in short-yardage situations Tuesday, with Erin Henderson and Letroy Guion leading the way. See what their teammates and coaches had to say.

Monday was the first day of Vikings training camp that players wore pads, but a few players will feel the effects of the hard hitting that ramped up during Tuesday's short-yardage and goal-line drills.

Even the MVP of the NFL admitted the defense won the day.

"As a group, the defense kind of handed it to us today, to be honest," said running back Adrian Peterson, who was the only player besides the quarterbacks that defenders weren't allowed to pop hard or tackle. "But I see some good things that we're doing offensively, the quarterbacks and receivers, the offensive line. But it's the second day in pads."

The first full-team session Tuesday was a blitz drill that didn't feature full contact, but when the action turned to short-yardage situations the hits came early with some of them vicious.

On the first goal-line run, DT Letroy Guion stymied RB Toby Gerhart before he reached the line of scrimmage and sent him staggering several yards backwards. Fullback Matt Asiata was also left bent over after that play.

"That was a good play by him. It's kind of in between when you're the head coach," Leslie Frazier said. "You want to see guys do well on both sides, but that was a good play by Letroy. He did a good job of staying low and getting through."

However, Frazier cautioned that two of the players that had the biggest hits on Tuesday, Guion and LB Erin Henderson, need to work on more consistency.

"Putting back-to-back plays together on a consistent basis, that's what he has to do," Frazier said of Guion. "He'll make splash plays like you saw today and he has to make sure he can come back and make another good play the next day and not have a bad play following a good play."

Running backs were either stopped for no gain or sent backwards on each of their first three attempts at the goal line, although Peterson wasn't involved in any of the short-yardage or goal-line runs.

In the next session of goal-line drills in which the first-team defense was in, Henderson stopped two run plays in a row for minus-1 yard.

"The guys got after it a little bit in that live goal-line and short-yardage period. That was good for us and hopefully it will help us as we get ready for the season," Frazier said. "The intensity that the guys practiced with, that's what you want at training camp."

Eventually the offense did score a couple touchdowns on goal-line situations, but it wasn't until the final opportunity of practice that the first-team offense scored in that situation, and even then it required a pass from Christian Ponder to John Carlson in which the tight end made a great adjustment on the ball at the back corner of the end zone.

The run defense, however, was the gem of Tuesday's practice, and Henderson was one of the standouts.

"He did play some middle for us in the pass in third-down situations, not so much in the early downs, so he's had some familiarity with it, but probably being around his brother and talking with him (helps)," Frazier said of Erin Henderson's transition to middle linebacker in the base defense this year, referencing former middle linebacker E.J. Henderson's experience at middle linebacker. "… There are some things that come natural for him. He's a pretty good athlete, a pretty heady guy."

Like Guion, Frazier pointed to consistency being the major obstacle for Henderson to overcome.

"You just have to stay on him from a coaching standpoint and remind him of how important it is just to make the plays that he's supposed to make and not feel like he can cheat and go make another play," Frazier said. "That's been his negative, if there has been a negative, and he'll attest to that. At Mike linebacker you have to be so much more disciplined than you do as an outside backer. We just have to continue to harp on him about being where he's supposed to be."

Peterson wasn't the victim of any big hits as the coaching staff protected him, but he was quick to point out that sometimes – like Monday, in Peterson's estimation – the offense wins.

"They probably had some built-up frustration from yesterday because we kind of handed it to them so they came up and we started off good in the first half," he said. "But then once we got into the full-contact, those guys kind of picked up more than us."

NOTES

  • Chase Ford had the wind knocked out of him when he took a big hit from LB Tyrone McKenzie as a pass arrived.

  • S Jamarca Sanford appeared to suffer a stinger early in practice but was available for all of the full-team work.

  • FB Jerome Felton is expected back at practice on Wednesday after tending to a personal matter.

  • Frazier said he expects to have LB Nate Williams back at practice "pretty soon" after Williams had ankle surgery in June. Williams and WR Greg Childs started training camp on the physically unable to perform list, but there is no immediate timetable for Childs' recovery.

  • Former Vikings WR Percy Harvin announced Tuesday that he will have surgery on his injured hip. It's uncertain at this time if that will be season-ending surgery or if he has a chance to play later in the season.


    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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