Saturday Minicamp: Coordinators Day

Saturday's practice sessions continued to highlight the differences in styles in the offensive and defensive coordinators for the Vikings, and all three coordinators got an opportunity to speak with the media following the morning session. Plus, get news and notes from Saturday's sessions.

If Friday's first session of minicamp practices was a day for players to get to know each other and everyone getting a chance to become accustomed to new procedures, Saturday at Vikings camp was a chance for the coordinators to speak for the first time extensively since their hiring.

Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, while taking a quieter approach on the field, opened his press conference with the line of the day.

Bevell, who coached Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre last year, was among those expecting to hear a decision about Favre's future Saturday morning. Reporters gathered for a press conference in Mississippi and a Vikings source says NFL Network was playing all around the Vikings complex in anticipation of Favre's decision on whether or not to retire. Instead, Favre said he didn't know why media "wasted a trip" down to Mississippi because he didn't have anything to say about his pending retirement decision.

Five hours later, Bevell stepped to the podium at the Vikings' indoor practice facility, mimicking Favre, led off with: "I don't really know why you're all here today. I don't really have anything to say."

Bevell might not be completely calling the shots on offense, but he certainly took a humorous veiled shot at Favre's inability to announce his retirement decision.

When it came time to talk about his current team, however, Bevell said players and coaches are still getting used to each other's personalities and talents.

"We're still feeling out all the guys, the offensive line, tight ends, running backs, receivers as well as the quarterbacks. What we're trying to do now is fit the West Coast offense to what our players do the best, and that's what's great about that system. We'll find something that we're able to do, that we're able to hang our hat on and get the best out of all the players," Bevell said.

For now, that meant Chester Taylor as the featured running back, a rotation of Jermaine Wiggins and Jim Kleinsasser at tight end, and a rotation of Koren Robinson, Troy Williamson and Travis Taylor at receiver.

While the coaches liked to say that there is competition at every position, the real battles on offense will be at right guard, right tackle and wide receiver. The left side of the offensive line, with Matt Birk at center, Steve Hutchinson at left guard and Bryant McKinnie at left tackle has a chance to be dominant.

"I think those guys are three great players. Whether it's the best combination in the league, they haven't played together yet, so we'll reserve our comments on that until we've seen them all play together," Bevell said.

Players at minicamp wear shorts and helmets but no pads, so with limited contact it's difficult to gauge the effectiveness of the linemen.

While the defensive line appears set with the same front four that started last season, the linebacker shuffle is definitely in full force. The starters, and their respective positions, are far from set. The rotation was obvious, with players moving from strongside to middle to weakside linebacker. It's a test the coaches are sending the players' way.

"There are some very bright guys in the (linebacker) group. They learn quickly, which is good because time is of the essence, but just generally, they're paying attention to detail if fatigue sets in," defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin said. "Our ability to operate under duress is going to dictate how successful we are. We're creating a little adversity by the tempo of stuff because we want to get to know them, and I think they're doing a nice job of fighting through that."

Tomlin is preaching through words and actions that tempo is important this year. He is having defenders pick up loose balls, even if it is an incomplete pass, and run with it. And he is consistent in exuding energy and getting his players to focus on every play.

"We're going to create a frenzy. We've defined that by big guys running and little guys willing to hit. That's what we're focused on right now," Tomlin said. "Of course, with what we are doing (in shorts) the little guys don't have an opportunity to hit, but it will come in due time. But the big guys are hustling, so we're getting an element of it going right now. We just want to create a frenzy. We think that regardless of scheme, historically the great defenses throughout the history of the league have played in a frenzy, so that's what we want to do."

Things were a little different on special teams, where punter Chris Kluwe can't kick yet while he recovers from knee surgery and Mewelde Moore can't return punts while he recovers from wrist surgery.

Instead, the focus there was on protections and covering punts by the end zone.

"We're not putting a lot in this weekend from a special teams standpoint. We're really working on protection as we come out of the box here in this first minicamp," special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro said. "For me, the first and most important thing is to protect our punter and our kicker. Those are the two phases that we're working on, working on the punt game and working on the field goal protection."

NOTES

  • The execution seemed to improve on the second day of practices. After a first day marred by too many dropped passes, the receivers and defenders on Saturday were completing the reception or interception.

  • The Vikings are hoping to get all three stadium bills – for the Gophers, Twins and Vikings – passed through the state legislature. Right now, the Gophers are halfway home after the House of Representative approved their bill while the Twins and Vikings have made only incremental successes to date. The major push will come after the politicians' Easter break.

  • Running back Chester Taylor is being used as a versatile running back that can be split out at wide receiver.

  • Adam Goldberg is seeing time at guard and left tackle.

  • Members of the Vikings ownership group have been spending time in select offensive or defensive meetings before most of them left town on Saturday. Zygi Wilf has attended all four minicamp practices to date.

  • While Mike Tomlin is in full charge of the defense, head coach Brad Childress is heavily involved with the offense.

  • Cornerback Antoine Winfield had an interception on the first play of 11-on-11 competition in the morning session. A short time later, Ukee Dozier also had an interception.

  • After Marcus Johnson received the majority of the work with the first-team offense on Friday, Mike Rosenthal got some work at right tackle on Saturday.




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