With rookie Michael Bennett out with an ankle injury, second-year running backs Doug Chapman and Travis Prentice are finally getting their chance.
At least publicly, head coach Dennis Green is confident in both of them.
"I guarantee you that Travis Prentice and Doug Chapman feel that they can go in and do the job," Green said. "There is no doubt about it. That's what a back is all about. He (Chapman) was very patient last year — he's patient this year. This is his chance now to go out and play, and Travis and him will carry the load."
Chapman (5-foot-10, 213 pounds, running a 4.55 40) shows good initial quickness and downhill speed to the hole. He has good functional strength and explosion for his size and exhibits fine speed, quickness, feet, agility, balance, change of direction and burst. He's a patient runner with nice vision and instincts. He generally reads and anticipates his blocking well.
He shows some tackle-breaking ability and adequate speed to the corner, but he isn't a genuine breakaway threat. In the passing game, he shows soft hands and a willingness to block but also lacks experience in that aspect of the pro game.
Prentice (5-11 1/2, 221, 4.50) isn't quite as nifty but offers a very good size-speed ratio and has the tools to be a very productive, workhorse-type back. He has also worked very hard on his pass-catching skills and is a capable blocker.
Chapman is the starter, but Prentice is also expected to see more playing time, as well, perhaps in short-yardage situations or pounding away on a defense when the offense gets a lead.
"Absolutely," Green said. "I think that as time goes on we will play him (Prentice) a lot more. We really like him a lot. He is a bigger back. When we have to close out a game we think that he could be in a position to do that as well as short yardage."
Collins brings OL experience
The Vikings signed offensive lineman Calvin Collins last week to bring some more experience and depth to their much-maligned offensive line.
Collins played the past four seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, including Super Bowl XXXIII against the Denver Broncos. He started 53 of 61 career games with Atlanta and played center, left guard and right guard, but he was released during training camp this year. He started all 16 games in 2000 and saw time at center and right guard.
"He's a big, powerful guy," offensive line coach Mike Tice said. "And he moves pretty well."
Collins gives the Vikings another option at left guard with Corbin Lacina recovering from a high ankle sprain. Everett Lindsay could continue to start there, but Lindsay could also be an option at left tackle if the coaches decided to go that way.
Collins (6-2, 310, 5.2) has some pop and brings the ability to start at virtually all three interior line spots. He's quick off the ball and can get some movement into his blocks. He is a tough, hard-working guy who has a reputation going back to college of being willing to play hurt. He also did well academically and graduated with a degree in business analysis.
Collins was drafted by Atlanta in the sixth round (180th pick overall) in 1997 out of Texas A&M. He was a surprise cut by the Falcons this summer when they decided to go with rookie Kynan Forney, a seventh-round pick.
The company line out of Atlanta was that new offensive line coach Pete Mangurian favors lighter, quicker linemen, and Collins, their starting right guard going into training camp, was considered neither.
However, economics were the real issue. The move trimmed about $1 million from the Falcons' salary cap, but he is still counting about $450,000 against this year's cap and $900,000 next year, according to published reports.
So the Vikings have acquired a player who certainly isn't over the hill (27 years old) and was good enough to earn good money at one point in this salary cap era.
Collins worked out with the Washington Redskins after being released and also drew some interest from other teams but had remained unsigned five games into the regular season.
The Vikings cut cornerback Keith Thibodeaux to make room on the roster for Collins. Thibodeaux had five tackles and two special teams tackles this season. He had played every game this season but struggled when pressed into extended duty in the secondary.
Defensive back Wasswa Serwanga, who had missed two games because of an abdominal muscle pull, is believed to be fully recovered now, and that enabled the team to release Thibodeaux.
RBs, Collins Could Get Playing Time
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