Tomlin Gets High Marks

Defensive coordinator proved the popular adage in football circles: "Age is just a number." The young defensive coordinator has gained immediate respect from players and coaches alike.

New defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin might have put on the most impressive display at the Vikings minicamp. Tomlin's voice could be heard booming throughout the team's indoor practice facility as he provided encouragement to players trying to learn the Cover-2 system that he brought from Tampa Bay.

Rare was the occasion when Tomlin could be found standing still. Sweat soaked the back of his shirt, as well as his forehead, as he hustled among position groups. He frequently played the role of quarterback in drills.

Most impressively, Tomlin, who is only 34 years old, seemed to have the respect of players, many of whom aren't much younger than he is, as well as a coaching staff filled with assistants who are older.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers secondary coach for the past five seasons, Tomlin clearly was comfortable running the show.

"Mike is just a phenomenal coach," defensive back Dustin Fox said. "You could tell from day one, the way that he motivates. He's such a good leader, he's a young guy, he's got a great motor. You hear him out here, he's just constantly going. The guy doesn't stop. That is great for us because when we get tired, we have someone to look to to keep us going."

Tomlin, a college teammate of Vikings safety Darren Sharper during the 1993 and ‘94 seasons at William & Mary, did not hesitate when asked what he wants from a defense that, like the offense, is a work in progress.

"Quite simply, we want to do what it takes to win," he said. "What they can expect to see, 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."

Clearly, Tomlin wanted to establish a frenzied pace at the first minicamp, which explains his constant movement and no nonsense, yet positive approach.

"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," he said.
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Veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield seemed to be among those buying into Tomlin's philosophy. "He definitely knows what he's talking about," Winfield said. "He's teaching us a lot, and I'm very excited to be working with him."

NOTES

  • DE Kenechi Udeze took part in all drills during the April 7-9 mini-camp, despite having a microfracture procedure to repair damaged cartilage in his left knee only six months earlier. Udeze had been expected to sit out until training camp but instead was with the first team at left end. "Good genes, I guess," Udeze said. "I've had no problems, no swelling. It's a little better than I thought it would be by now."

  • P Chris Kluwe, who underwent surgery Jan. 31 to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, did not punt in the team's recent three-day mini-camp but is making progress. "He's doing well," new special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro said. "He's right on track with his rehab. It's really an eight- or nine-month process, but he's right on track and we're looking forward and anxious to get him back."

  • Longtime free safety Darren Sharper said that in the Vikings' new defensive scheme he actually will be lining up as the strong safety.

  • Dustin Fox, the Vikings' third-round pick in 2005, said he has been moved from safety to cornerback. He worked at both spots during the mini-camp.

  • University of Minnesota running back Laurence Maroney and Memphis' DeAngelo Williams were two of the collegiate players the Vikings brought in for a visit last week. The Vikings signed free agent running back Chester Taylor from Baltimore last month and he's expected to be the team's starter. Mewelde Moore and Ciatrick Fason will provide competition for the job. Onterrio Smith, who is eligible to return from a year-long suspension in May, also could be in the mix, although many expect the Vikings to part ways with him.

  • The Vikings, who will look to the draft for help at linebacker, visited with Stanford's Jon Alston, Miami's Roger McIntosh and Alabama's DeMeco Ryans last week. Fran Foley, the team's vice president of player personnel, said the Vikings aren't in any active trade discussions to move up.


    TEAM NEEDS

    1. Linebackers: The draft is deep with linebackers and the Vikings are certain to take advantage. Several mock drafts have the Vikings taking Florida State's Ernie Sims with the 17th overall pick. The Vikings got some help in free agency, signing Ben Leber away from San Diego. Leber, who is recovering from a foot injury, and E.J. Henderson are likely starters. During the first mini-camp, Dontarrious Thomas and Napoleon Harris both spent time as the middle linebacker with the first-team defense.

    2. Cornerback: The Vikings have two starters in Fred Smoot and Antoine Winfield, but the loss of free agent Brian Williams leaves the nickel role wide open. Free agent Ralph Brown, used in the nickel and dime packages last season, has been told he won't be back. Dovonte Edwards will compete for the job, but depth must be added.

    3. Wide receiver: The Vikings have depth at this position with Koren Robinson, Marcus Robinson, Travis Taylor and Troy Williamson, but the question is: Will any of these players emerge as a legitimate No. 1?


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