Pass defense showing improvement

The charge for new defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier is to improve a weak pass defense from a year ago. The early signs are positive, with more unpredictability from the pass rush and better speed and athleticism in the secondary.

The early returns would seem to indicate improvement in the team’s pass rush based on early workouts in training camp.  Maybe the changes on the offensive line – Artis Hicks to left tackle and Anthony Herrera in at right guard – have something to do with it.  But it looks like there are more surprises and varieties coming from Leslie Frazier’s defense.

While the Vikings defense was incredibly stout against the run last season, there was plenty of room for improvement against the pass.

Of course, the first way to fix that is to bring more pressure up front.  Head coach Brad Childress has called out several players on the defensive line from whom he expects improvement.  All have looked good and/or shown flashes so far – Kenechi Udeze, Ray Edwards, Khreem Smith, Brian Robison, Jayme Mitchell and Darrion Scott.

Childress also points out that with Kevin and Pat Williams inside, it only takes one false step by an offensive lineman for them to take advantage.

The other ingredient is in the secondary, where there also more overall team speed, with the DBs making a more-than-usual number of interceptions in practices.

“I think we are doing a great job of rushing the passer,” Childress said.  “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.”

The secondary has also drawn praise from Childress.  “Yeah, really all those guys in the back end,” he said.  “You see somebody flashes. 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.  (Marcus) McCauley is usually going to make a play a day that is going to raise your eyebrows a little bit.  There are times where I have asked those quarterbacks whether they owe money to him or something like that and are they all square now because they threw them the football.  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.

Griffin bulks up a bit

Already a pretty physical player, Childress says that second-year cornerback Cedric Griffin has bulked up slightly for this season.

“I think the thing that he did in the offseason is he did a great job of adding some good weight and I don't see some ill effects from that weight in terms of his cover ability out there,” Childress said.  “There's a couple times I was kidding around with him that he looked like a pencil neck.  He looked like a 187- to 189-pound corner last year.  Now he weighed in to start at 204 and he is probably going to play at about 200, and it is all muscle mass.  He has plated himself up a little bit physically.”

The coaches really like the hard-hitting style Griffin brings.  “He is a violent football player out there,” Childress added.  “He will wallop you.”

Extra Points

      Childress says that defensive end Erasmus James is making progress in his rehabilitation.  Defensive line coach Karl Dunbar works with him on the side after practices at times, along with the team’s training staff.

      Rookie punter Alex Reyes continues to get some work kicking off.  At times he demonstrates his leg strength by putting the ball into the end zone, but he lacks consistency thus far, occasionally shanking a kick, hitting a line drive or more of a knuckleball.

      Rookie receiver Aundrae Allison continues to flash big-play ability and has been more consistent than rookies often are.  Allison is also very much in the mix when the team works on punt and kickoff returns.  Allison would seem to have the right tools to excel on kickoff returns, in particular.

      Despite an extensive proven track record, tight end Visanthe Shiacoe has drawn comparisons to Chester Taylor from Childress when asked about the “sleeper” free agent signee from the Giants.  “I had mentioned to somebody the other day you could make the same assertion about Chester Taylor, and that is not all bad,” Childress said.  “You just have to look at the skills and abilities and make sure that he has the tools you are looking for and then obviously the reps are going to increase for him.”

       Former Vikings wide receiver Nate Burleson is competing with D.J. Hackett for a starting role opposite Deion Branch with the Seattle Seahawks.  Burleson is also returning punts.  One would think you’d expect more from such an expensive free agent acquisition.


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