Vikings, NFC North Player Notes

Notes and projections of many of the Vikings' starters and new players to the roster, along with more notes on players from the rest of the NFC North.



  • QB Tarvaris Jackson, barring a meltdown of massive proportions, will be the Vikings' starter when they open the regular season on Sept. 9 against Atlanta. Jackson, a surprise second-round pick in 2006, saw limited playing time last season but did start the final two games of the season. The Vikings lost to Green Bay and St. Louis in those two games; Jackson, who also entered games in relief of Brad Johnson on two other occasions, completed 47 of 81 passes on the season with two touchdowns, four interceptions and a 62.5 rating. He spent the majority of his offseason at the Vikings' complex working with coaches.

  • QB Brooks Bollinger's low-key demeanor and knowledge of coach Brad Childress' offense solidifies him as the No. 2 quarterback.

  • Rookie QB Tyler Thigpen is likely to stick on the roster in a learning role.

  • RB Chester Taylor proved he has the ability to be a workhorse last season, establishing a franchise record for rushing attempts in a season with 303 but it was clear by late in the year he was wearing down.

  • TE Tony Richardson, who missed the final seven games last season because of a broken arm, will be the primary lead blocker for the Vikings.

  • RB Mewelde Moore could lose his roster spot thanks to the Vikings taking RB Adrian Peterson with the seventh overall pick in this year's draft. Moore led the Vikings in rushing in 2005.

  • TE Visanthe Shiancoe spent the first four seasons of his career as the backup to Jeremy Shockey with the Giants and has never had more than 12 receptions in a season. That did not stop the Vikings from giving the free agent a five-year, $18.2 million contract that included $7 million in guaranteed money. Coach Brad Childress is confident Shiancoe will be able to fit into the passing game, as well as the blocking scheme. Shiancoe replaces Jermaine Wiggins, who caught 46 passes in 2006 but never did seem to be a favorite of Childress' in the West Coast system.

  • TE Jim Kleinsasser is one of the best when it comes to blocking, but his 12 receptions in 16 games last season is a clear indication that not many footballs will be directed his way.

  • WR Bobby Wade was signed to a five-year, $15 million contract to primarily work as the slot receiver. He had 33 receptions for 461 yards and two touchdowns last season and those numbers should increase in the West Coast system.

  • WR Troy Williamson, the seventh-overall selection in the 2005 draft, is coming off an extremely disappointing season. His 11 dropped balls tied for third-most in the NFL and some already have questioned his future in Minnesota. Williamson, though, worked with representatives from Nike's vision department this offseason and the Vikings are confident that will help.

  • WR Sidney Rice, who like fellow Vikings WR Troy Williamson is a product of South Carolina, appears the most likely of the Vikings' rookie receivers to make an immediate contribution. The opportunity will certainly exist.

  • OL Ryan Cook, a second-round pick in 2006, remains the biggest unknown factor on the Vikings' offensive line. He was a center in college at New Mexico and has little game experience playing tackle. Cook is expected to challenge for the starting RT job this season.

  • OT Marcus Johnson, a second-round pick in 2005, could be poised to compete for the starting RT job. He will have to unseat Ryan Cook.

  • OL Adam O'Connor, who started every game at left tackle this spring for Hamburg of NFL Europa, has signed with the Vikings. O'Connor, a defensive end as a college player at William & Mary, can play guard and tackle. He spent time last season with the Carolina Panthers. To make room for O'Connor the Vikings released safety Andre Maddox.

  • DE Ray Edwards could open the season as the Vikings' starter at left end if DE Erasmus James proves slow to recover from a knee injury that ended his 2006 season.

  • DE Brian Robison, a fourth-round pick, could factor into the pass-rushing mix.

  • DE Kenechi Udeze will play right end this season, even if DE Erasmus James isn't ready by the opener.

  • SLB Ben Leber, who left San Diego to sign with the Vikings as a free agent in March 2006, will be back on the strong side after putting together a solid first season in Minnesota.

  • MLB E.J. Henderson's adjustment will be among the most interesting to watch given the duties of the middle linebacker in the Tampa-2 scheme the Vikings use. Henderson will be counted on to frequently drop into coverage and play a role that will present some challenges with which he will be unfamiliar early on. He also will need to make the calls and provide the necessary leadership from his spot.

  • LB Vinny Ciurciu was signed as a free agent from Carolina but primarily will be used as a special-teams ace.

  • LB Rufus Alexander, a sixth-round pick from Oklahoma, will start out playing special teams but should eventually (not this year) make a push for a starting spot on the outside.

  • CB Antoine Winfield had some issues with coach Brad Childress during the offseason and stayed away from many of the optional activities, but that has been resolved and reportedly all is well.

  • CB Cedric Griffin, entering his second season, replaced Fred Smoot as a starter last season and will remain in that role for the foreseeable future.

  • S Greg Blue is a heavy hitter at safety and should eventually work his way into this mix.

  • K Ryan Longwell made 21 of 25 field-goal attempts last season -- all of his misses came from beyond 40 yards -- but the Vikings weren't overly pleased with his distance on kickoffs. Longwell is confident that has been corrected by work he has done this offseason.

  • P Chris Kluwe finished 25th in the NFL with a 42.3 yard average and appeared to struggle with the Vikings' desire to have him punt directionally.

  • P Alex Reyes, a top college free agent out of Texas Tech, will provide plenty of competition and could win punting the job.

    DETROIT LIONS

  • DT Cory Redding was signed to a multi-year deal, reportedly making him the league's highest-paid defensive tackle. Redding, who had 8.0 sacks last season and was a dominant force once he slide over from end, was slapped with the team's franchise tag in February, keeping him off the free-agent market. The deal was reported by ESPN.com to be for seven years and $49 million with $13 million in guaranteed money.

  • QB J.T. O'Sullivan, the NFL Europa co-MVP, signed with the Lions. But at this point O'Sullivan is expected to be a camp arm. Jon Kitna is entrenched as the starter. Backup Dan Orlovsky is inexperienced, but the Lions likely would not have traded Josh McCown this off-season if they didn't think Orlovsky could do the job. Then there's Drew Stanton. The Lions drafted him in the second round this year and aren't going to keep O'Sullivan over him.

  • QB Jon Kitna is entrenched as the starter. He threw for more than 4,000 yards last season, but he had trouble with turnovers and struggled in the fourth quarter. The Lions hope he will be better with a better supporting cast. Kitna has no experienced backups.

  • RB Kevin Jones' status will be one of the big stories of training camp. He is recovering from a serious foot injury. All reports are good, and Jones expects to be ready for the opener. But no one will know for sure until Jones starts running and cutting -- and comes back the next morning.

  • TE Dan Campbell showed he was more than just a blocker last season by making some big catches. He plays the traditional, point-of-attack tight end position.

  • WR Calvin Johnson will carry big expectations all season. Some think Johnson can do for the Lions what Reggie Bush did for the Saints last season. Johnson looked spectacular in minicamps and voluntary workouts.

  • OG Damien Woody could start at left guard if he comes into camp with his weight down, if he is moving well and if he looks like he could regain his Pro Bowl form. Otherwise, Woody is likely to be cut by the Lions.

  • DE Ikaika Alama-Francis is a raw talent who could play end and move inside in nickel situations.

  • LB Ernie Sims was a tackling machine as a rookie. He needs to keep that up while coming up with more turnovers.

  • LB Paris Lenon had praise heaped on him by defensive coordinator Joe Barry. Lenon needs to live up to it -- and hold off LB Teddy Lehman, who is behind because he missed so much time with a foot injury.

  • CB Fernando Bryant is a solid tackler, which is important in the Tampa Two, but he needs to stay healthy and make more big plays.

  • WR Eddie Drummond's status is uncertain. He hasn't starred since going to the Pro Bowl after the 2004 season. He has been plagued by injuries in his career, and there is concern is isn't running as hard as he can because he's trying to stay healthy. He needs to show some desperation.

    GREEN BAY PACKERS

  • LB Carl-Johan Bjork will join the Packers for training camp as one of 11 players allocated to teams for the NFL International Development Practice Squad Program. The 6-foot, 247-pound Bjork is from Sweden. He also was part of the program last year, with Dallas. Bjork will remain with the Packers throughout the season on the practice squad, though he won't count toward the team's eight-player limit. He will be able to play in preseason games and practice with the team until the end of the season.


  • Viking Update Top Stories