Return Of The Power Sweep?

As the Vikings go over the halfway mark on their developmental camp practices for the spring, they appear intent on living up to head coach Mike Tice's wishes to run the ball more effectively. One formation in particular stood out. Plus, get the rest of the notes from Monday morning's practice.

Jermaine Wiggins may have established himself as a real pass-catching threat last year. In fact, the tight end led the team with 71 catches, bringing with them 705 yards and four touchdowns.

He did all that catching despite missing two games with a broken hand. But even after rewarding Wiggins with a five-year, $7.3 million deal, the Vikings are showing no hesitation inserting Wiggins in the lineup in the running game too.

With Jim Kleinsasser working his way back onto the field on a full-time basis following knee surgery last fall, the Vikings have one of the best – if not the best – blocking tight ends in the NFL. Combine that with the confidence the Vikings are showing in Wiggins' ability to block and the team has a very versatile, very talented pair of tight ends.

"There are a couple very good blocking tight ends in the NFL. On tape, I don't see one that is as strong as Jimmy is at the point of attack," said head coach Mike Tice, a former NFL tight end known for his blocking as well.

On one particular play Monday, the Vikings had both Kleinsasser and Wiggins on the field. Wiggins went in motion, got in his three-point stance next to Kleinsasser, and what ensued was a mass of bodies leading the way for running back Michael Bennett.

When quarterback Daunte Culpepper flipped the ball back to Bennett, center Cory Withrow joined the gaggle of goo leading the way. Out in front of Bennett were right tackle Mike Rosenthal, Withrow, Wiggins and Kleinsasser.

That play told a story in itself – the Vikings have the Clydesdales up front to lead the way for a competent running back, and the coaches are interested in running the ball more.

"The reason we will become more run-oriented than last year is because last year we got away from the run on second down. … We were one of the lesser-called run teams on second down in the NFL. At one point we were the second-worst, if you want to call it bad or good. We were not very good at calling the run on second down regardless of the situation, and we will change that.

"We need to be balanced on first down, 50-50. On second down, you don't necessarily need to be 50-50, but you can't be 70-30 like we were. That takes away the play-action. It takes away a lot of things that you have an opportunity to do. I think really the second-down run game is where you're going to see more runs."

If it is Rosenthal, Kleinsasser, Wiggins and Matt Birk leading the way, it should be an interesting power sweep to watch develop. It was Monday, even if there were no pads on the players.

NOTES

  • Birk was back at Winter Park Monday and walking briskly with only a slight limp after hip surgery last week. He won't participate in any of this week or next week's developmental camp, but the optimists are hoping he can contribute in one practice a day when training camp opens.

  • Practice was held earlier Monday because many of the staff and players needed the afternoon off to participate in KARE-11 sports director Randy Shaver's charity golf outing.

  • Odds are Kyle Schmitt won't be leading the way on any power sweeps once the regular season starts. Schmitt ended up in the lineup with Daunte Culpepper under center and the exchange of the snap was fumbled. Cory Withrow immediately replaced Schmitt, an undrafted rookie.

  • Wide receiver Troy Williamson didn't have any big dropped passes in the full-team portion of workouts Monday morning. The first-round draft choice made a nice catch in traffic in the middle of the field and later got behind the defense for a 30-yard sideline catch. He also showed excellent concentration on a pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage that he turned into a reception.

  • Cornerback Fred Smoot got an opportunity to trash talk with the Vikings' former King of Talk, wide receiver Kelly Campbell, when Smoot hopped in front of Campbell to knock down a pass. Smoot later took a turn as a wide receiver, but after he got deep the pass was overthrown.

    vWiggins showed several times Monday that he can still catch the ball as well as he did in 2004. He had one route across the middle of the field where quarterback Brad Johnson threw a bullet and it appeared Wiggins got the ball to stick between his forearm and body without needing to cover it up with his free hand. He never broke stride. He later jumped high to haul in a Culpepper touchdown pass in the back of the end zone.

  • Despite Wiggins' smooth catch, wide receiver Keenan Howry got the catch of the day with a fully extended dive for a 20-yard reception on a slant route.

  • Mewelde Moore had another touchdown following a Culpepper scramble. Moore turned his flat route into the middle of field when Culpepper began scrambling and caught the pass in the end zone.

  • Ryan Hoag also had two touchdown catches from Brad Johnson.

  • Linebacker Raonall had an interception for a touchdown when he jumped in front of Ben Nelson, who appeared to slip as the Johnson pass was in the air.

  • Linebacker Napoleon Harris added another interception, this one coming at the at the expense of Culpepper in the end zone. Harris ran it out of the end zone for a 20-yard return. He also got a two-hand touch sack earlier in practice on a blitz that wasn't picked up by the offense.

  • Undrafted rookie Eric Coleman is seeing some second-team action at base end and also moving inside to tackle on certain downs.


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