At least two defenders weighed in Saturday afternoon on their opinions of the transition to Leslie Frazier's defense, and Frazier seemed very pleased with the way things are going. See what the defenders and the first-year defensive coordinator had to say about the transition and the differences, along with numerous practices notes from the afternoon session.
After two complete days of practice, the Vikings defense seems to be adjusting just fine to new coordinator Leslie Frazier.
With his reserved demeanor, Frazier is the polar opposite of last season's defensive coordinator, the fiery Mike Tomlin, who left the Vikings for the head job in Pittsburgh. But Frazier has maintained much of the Tampa-2 defense preached by Tomlin.
"When he came in, I think everyone was wondering what's the defense going to be like," said linebacker Ben Leber
. "And then we saw that it was basically the same thing, the same old Tampa-2 and pretty much the same blitzes. I think everybody kind of let out a big sigh of relief because the mental part of the game is so big.
"Knowing that you kind of have that foundation in place from last year, I think everybody was pretty excited. I think he's done nothing but a great job. He's put in a few more blitzes and a few more looks. We're really excited about it."
Safety Mike Doss
, a free-agent pickup who played under Frazier in Indianapolis, agreed.
"Coach Frazier is going to be Coach Frazier," he said. "He's simplifying everything so guys can just play fast. I think when it comes to defense, once you know what you got going, what you're doing, you can play and then your talent shows for itself."
Frazier, who won a Super Bowl as a player with the 1985 Bears and last year as the secondary coach of the Colts, appreciates the players' response to his approach. So far in camp, the defense has bested the offense in both 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills, which during the Saturday afternoon practice was conducted in shoulder pads and shorts.
"The guys have been real good about some of the changes we have made," he said. "They have been great to a man. Coaches and players have come up, over and over and said, ‘This is good, we like this. This is a good change.'
"So far it's all good. Now we haven't played any games or anything like that, but through our practices and our OTAs (organized team activities) and our first few practices here, they have all responded very well. They have bought into some of the changes that we are trying to make to help our defense be better."
One of those changes is a better pass rush, which Frazier called "critical" for the unit's success.
"We are working on some things to get our sack total up and put pressure on the quarterback and make him throw it a little sooner than he wants to. Karl (Dunbar, the defensive line coach) is doing a good job with some of the things that we are introducing … whether we are changing the way that we use our hands or our speed rush versus a power rush. It is just a variety of things that we're going to try to help us get better in those situations. We think we are on track. We really do."
Other observations from the Saturday afternoon practice:
Safety Darren Sharper, who had a violent collision with fullback Tony Richardson at the end of the morning practice, did not participate and was not seen on the sideline. Doss took Sharper's spot with the first team.
Fifteen minutes prior to the arrival of many players, the quarterbacks and running backs ran through some plays.
Rookie punter Alex Reyes kicked off several times before practice began. In the special teams portion of the session, Reyes lined up as the kicker but the JUGS machine did the work. Receivers Justin Surrency and Chandler Williams were the two primary returners with tight end Stephen Spach and offensive linemen Kyle Cook, Chase Johnson and Dan Mozes forming the wedge.
Defensive tackle Pat Williams changed his cleats during the opening stretches.
Tight end Visanthe Shancoe left practice for a time before returning. At the end of the day, he walked to the locker room with the outside of his left shoe taped.
During a formation-oriented drill, Childress kept quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, running backs Chester Taylor and Richardson, and wideouts Williams, Jason Carter and Sidney Rice at the line of scrimmage for a long "chat."
In 7-on-7 drills, vocal reserve linebacker Jason Glenn had a highlight-worthy break-up of a pass intended for Spach. Glenn later intercepted a Brooks Bollinger pass in 11-on-11 play.
A few moments later, Rice made an impressive grab of a Tyler Thigpen pass in traffic.
In 11-on-11 work, Ray Edwards and Kenechi Udeze were the first-team defensive ends. In the morning, Brian Robison and Darrion Scott had those spots with the first team. As he did in the morning practice, Udeze jumped offsides.
Rookie third-round pick Marcus McCauley took the majority of snaps as the nickel corner.
McCauley's main competitor for the nickel job, third-year man Dovonte Edwards, had an impressive practice with one interception and a pass break-up.
Rookie fifth-round pick Aundrae Allison made the catch of the afternoon, a one-handed stab of a Drew Henson pass. Veteran Cortez Hankton also made a nice catch: reaching out across the middle to bring in a Bollinger aerial.
Scary moment of the afternoon: Pat Williams nearly clotheslined Rice after a short completion.
Toward the end of practice, first-year defensive end Khreem Smith easily got to Bollinger on a third-and-seven situation.
In 15 plays of head-to-head matchups, Childress declared the defense the winner. The reward? The defensive players have a 1 a.m. curfew this evening compared to the offense's 11 p.m. clampdown. On Sunday, the team only has a late-afternoon practice.
Former Vikings great Scott Studwell, currently the team's director of college scouting, watched intently throughout the day.
Practice ended 15 minutes early.
There was more sun than clouds during the afternoon session, which made the Vikings hospitality tent a popular place for fans.
Tomorrow's lone practice is scheduled from 3 to 5 p.m.