Explosive Plays Coming From Defenders

While the Vikings hope they have added some playmakers on the offensive side of the football, the defense is still making the biggest plays with interceptions and pressures. See what the coaches and players had to say about it from their perspective, plus get more morning and afternoon practice-session notes.

Tuesday afternoon's practice focused exclusively on special teams, but discussion of the defense's dominant performance earlier in the day, and for that matter throughout camp, generated buzz evident during the hour-long session.

A few hours earlier in "live" 11-on-11 play, the Purple defenders picked off three passes, easily contained highly touted No. 1 pick Adrian Peterson and put plenty of pressure on second-year quarterback Tarvaris Jackson.

"At this point in camp, you generally see (that the) defense is ahead of (the) offense, and I would say that is the case right now," noted Vikings head coach Brad Childress. "I think we are doing a great job of rushing the passer. Obviously (they are) getting their hands on a bunch of balls, and that's daunting for a quarterback. They are getting a nice push in the middle and very good coverage on the outside, so their pressures are unusual, and Leslie (Frazier) is doing a great job with mixing those things. We had some different looks today."

Childress had special praise for cornerbacks Charles Gordon and Marcus McCauley. Each returned interceptions for "scores." McCauley, the rookie who has made at least one big play each day of camp, picked off Jackson, while Gordon, a second-year pro, intercepted a Tyler Thigpen pass.

"Chuck Gordon has flashed here a few days in a row in picking off balls, and you all remember what type of camp he had before he got hurt last year," Childress said. "McCauley is usually going to make a play a day that is going to raise your eyebrows a little bit. … He has very good instincts, and he is cleaning up many of his techniques. The instinct part is hard to coach. That's there, that's innate. He is doing a nice job."

McCauley, a third-round pick, said it's a team effort.

"Basically, we're taking everything from the classroom to the field," he said. "We are holding everyone accountable for their actions. Basically, we're just having fun. You can see it out there. Guys are having fun regardless if it's this guy competing with another guy. You make a play and people are excited about it."

The defense has been making plays since camp began on Friday, clamping down especially on a first-team offense that has produced few explosive gains.

"It is a fast defense, for starters," Childress said. "You see guys racing to the football and then you've got some stoutness on the inside. I think those guys are rushing the passer as well as I have seen on the outside. Are they better (than 2006)? I don't know. I just know that they are flying around, and I like what I see from that side."

But veteran safety Darren Sharper says there's still a lot of work to do.

"We can't be satisfied with dominating periods and dominating practices," he said. "We got to take a look at ourselves and try to get better each and every day. Even though we are playing well right now, we can always try to keep getting better."

Other Tuesday afternoon notes:

  • Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has called the plays during the "live" portion of practices, but Childress, whose play-calling last season was criticized by fans and pundits alike, cautioned a decision still hasn't been made about play-calling for the coming season.

    "During our camps, typically, the offensive coordinator and the defensive coordinator are going to call any situation that is not scripted, that's not written down here on our practice menu."

    Childress said he probably wouldn't talk about the play-calling situation again until he decides who will call the plays.

  • Childress said he expects offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie to participate in his first practice tomorrow. Childress also indicated that defensive end Erasmus James may soon be able to practice.

  • For kickoffs, receivers Bobby Wade and Troy Williamson worked with the first team. Receivers Aundrae Allison and Chandler Williams were the second-team deep men.

  • Rookie punter Alex Reyes kicked off eight times. Aided by a nice breeze, his fourth, sixth and eight kicks landed a few yards deep in the end zone and had nice hang-time. However his other kicks were shaky. Two of his boots were actually line drives. Reyes said he has "no clue" how he can kick spirals off a tee.

  • There was no live punting during the session. Wade, Williams, Allison and Mewelde Moore all took turns fielding punts from the JUGS machine.

  • Wade said there is "no doubt" that the top punt return job is between him and Moore. "We both have plenty of experience and both can do it and both want to do it," he said. "It will be a good battle. But it will be a good toss-up to switch it up every now and again."

  • Free-agent wideout Todd Lowber, who sat out the morning practice with a muscle strain, worked out off to the side. He ran some sprints and practiced his cuts.

  • Fred Zamberletti, the team's trainer from 1961-98 who currently serves as a senior consultant and team historian, has been a daily presence at camp.

  • There were about 40 spectators in the bleachers for the afternoon's special teams session.

  • On Wednesday, it's back to two-a-days at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.


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