Offensive Additions See Mixed Results

Through the draft, and to a lesser extent free agency, the Vikings have added a few new pieces to an offense operating without Randy Moss. How did those additions look at last weekend's minicamp? We examine that, along with analysis from head coach Mike Tice.

Defense isn't the only area the Vikings have added players. While the team doesn't expect five or six new starters on offense, like they do on defense, the offense will have a different look.

The most obvious starting point is the absence of wide receiver Randy Moss, who is busy impressing teammates in Oakland. But in Minnesota, head coach Mike Tice wasn't in the mood to talk about Moss over minicamp weekend, saying he only wanted to talk about the players that were on the fields at the team's Winter Park practice facility.

The offensive newcomers start with the addition of first-round wide receiver Troy Williamson, who flashed speed and athleticism but also coupled that with nervousness and apparent lapses in concentration.

His speed is what stood out at minicamp.

"It's minicamp. All fast guys look good in shorts. I've never seen a fast guy not look good in shorts. He's fast. He looks good in shorts," Tice said. "We'll see how he progresses when a lot of offense is thrown at him and he's got a lot of things spinning through his head. Can he continue to play as fast as he's playing right now when it's minimal in? He's not seeing a lot of different coverages right now. The same point with our offense and the way it looks like we're going to be able to run the ball, he's going to get some single coverage. So that's going to be exciting to see. But it's hard to tell right now. It really is."

Offensive lineman Marcus Johnson joined Williamson among the drafted rookies added to the offense, and with the no-pads caveat thrown in, Johnson looked impressive during the initial practices of his pro career.

He played both left guard and right tackle during minicamp sessions. Initially, he looked better at left guard, but Tice is testing him at different positions to get film and evaluate where the old offensive line coach thinks his talents can best be utilized.

"I'm projecting him as a left guard and see where he seems in his initial movements more comfortable. He certainly has the footwork to play either position," Tice said. "He's a ways away technique-wise. He doesn't use his hands, as most college guys don't when they come to us. He leads with his head so there's a lot to be improved on. But he's certainly a big smart guy with a lot of passion."

The other drafted rookie addition to the offense is running back Ciatrick Fason, who neither stood out nor showed anything disappointing.

However, it is not just rookies who were added to the offense. Brad Johnson was signed to back up Daunte Culpepper and offer a veteran presence for Culpepper to lean on. First, though, Johnson has to regain his feel for the Vikings offense.

"We had some communication glitches with Brad, but Brad's new to the system and that's going to happen," Tice said.

But Johnson will be counted on for his mentorship … and maybe more.

"His role for us is, we think, quite significant. We have a physical quarterback and, I hate to say it, could go down at any time because of the physical nature of his play," Tice said. "A guy that knows our system – although a couple times today it didn't look like he knew our system, but he knows our system -- and he's a great guy to have on our team. I think he's accepted his role. I don't know that he's totally at peace with it. I think there's a part of him that believes he can still be a starter. But he's certainly going to be a lot of help to us and especially to me a guy that I can go to and rely on and get his thoughts during the course of the game."

Wide receiver Travis Taylor may have been the surprise of camp, especially early on. Taylor showed consistency in catching the ball, on a level with Nate Burleson. Coaches were impressed with their early evaluation on Taylor, who was playing the role of the No. 2 receiver with Marcus Robinson sidelined while recovering from a minor knee surgery.

Although they are not technically new to the team, their lack of service last year due to early-season injuries has tight end Jim Kleinsasser and tackle Mike Rosenthal getting back into the groove slowly as they continue to recover from their surgeries.

Both were held out of some drills, but Kleinsasser's scheduled return to action is ahead of Rosenthal's.

"Jimmy's fine. He could have gone this camp. We're going to wait until May camp, put him out there. I don't think Mike will be ready yet. Jimmy will be ready for the May 16 camp unless he has a setback. I don't anticipate he will," Tice said.

"So now it's a matter of him gaining confidence in the leg so that he can do everything that his mind asks his body to do. Certainly he can. He's shown he can. And we think he's ready. We held him out precautionary – you know, no sense, we've got a lot of developmental camp coming up."

Kleinsasser spent some of camp with a brace on his knee, but as he gains confidence in his knee the Vikings are expected to gain confidence in their ability to run the ball more, not just when the defense presents a better opportunity, Tice said.

Now it's up to all those newcomers to take advantage of their individual opportunities on an offense that no longer has Randy Moss as its centerpiece.

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