Offense Starts Rough, Finishes Better

The offense had a number of miscues to start Monday morning's practice, but when it came time for full-team, full-contact work, the rough edges seemed to go away. See what center Matt Birk had to say and get the blow-by-blow of the good and bad, along with more than two dozen other notes for the start of the work week.

If moisture and time cause rust, then it didn't take long for the Vikings offense to go rusty after a cool, damp evening in River Falls, Wis., Saturday evening in a joint workout against the Kansas City Chiefs.

While the offense showed signs of improvement Saturday night, it got off to a rough start Monday morning when it returned to action in Mankato.

After numerous incompletions and false starts that sent linemen, running backs and wide receivers on jogs down the field as punishment, head coach Brad Childress eventually had to start a drill over.

Was it the offense struggling with the hard counts from the quarterbacks or maybe a sluggish start getting back into the practice routine after a day off?

"It could have been all those things, but none of those are an acceptable excuse. It was sloppy," said center Matt Birk, who, along with Steve Hutchinson and Bryant McKinnie weren't among the offenders. "We just weren't sharp. I guess sometimes that can happen. After an off-day, that doesn't make it acceptable. You've got to make sure that every day you come out here, you're into it mentally and physically."

At one point, three players – wide receivers Martin Nance, Cortez Hankton and Jason Carter – were all sent on a jog. On another occasion, guard Anthony Herrera and running back Chester Taylor were issued their running orders.

"It's frustrating because we've been working the hard count all camp and we've done a good job with it. It's just kind of inexplicable," Birk said. "It kind of felt like we were taking a step backwards. Everyone that jumped offsides knows that you can't do that. … It's hopefully a lesson learned after today."

But it wasn't just the false starts that were making for a sloppy start to the work week. There were mental and physical mistakes, as well.

Quarterbacks Brooks Bollinger and Tarvaris Jackson had a rough go of it early on as well, but it wasn't always their fault. Bollinger threw a check-down pass to RB Adrian Peterson, who didn't turn around and see the pass coming. On the next play, Bollinger's pass was deflected at the line of scrimmage, and then he overthrew WR Troy Williamson before connecting with WR Justin Surrency.

When Jackson came back in, back to back false starts was cause enough for Childress to start the whole drill over again. Still, the first play after the reset, DT Kevin Williams got Herrera to move before the offense finally got in sync.

Jackson followed with three straight completions, the first to Taylor, who resume practice after suffering a forearm contusion last week, and two straight to Carter. But that didn't completely erase the mistakes. After CB Jerron Wishom knocked down a passing intended for Williamson, Artis Hicks moved early and WR Martin Nance dropped a pass that went right through his hands.

Like Jackson, Bollinger also started better on his second go-round with the offense, completing two straight to Surrency, and the improvement continued into full-team work later in practice. But that didn't do much to reassure Birk.

"In a game you only have so many chances. You can't start a drill over or whatever. From the jump you've got to be ready to go," he said.

One the full-team, full-contract portion arrived, the offense began clicking. Starting from the 40-yard line, the offense looked sharp in a game simulation drill. Jackson gained 10 yards on a bootleg to his left and Taylor took it from there, gaining 30 yards rushing – all over the left side of the line – capping the scoring drive with an 11-yard touchdown run against the second-team defense.

"When we go out there, we expect it to be like that every time," Birk said. "Whatever the goal of the drill is – if you've got to get a first down, score on the goal line, whatever – that's what we expect. I feel like our confidence is high. Sure, we win some, we lose some against our defense, but it's a little early to be saying we need to win a drill to boost our confidence."

The second-team offense faired just as well against what was mostly the first-team defense. Bollinger started with completion of 5 and 10 yards to Nance and Chandler Williams. Two plays later, Bollinger hooked up with Nance for a 20-yard touchdown.

Those two drives seemed to get the offense out of its funk and toward looking at least respectable for the rest of practice.

NOTES

  • Monday morning's practice was conducted in full pads, and the team will be back out for one-hour special teams practice starting at 2:15 p.m.

  • While Taylor returned to full contact, Peterson conducted individual drills but didn't participate in full-team work.

  • Several Vikings were held out of practice, including DE Erasmus James and WR Billy McMullen (both on the physically unable to perform list), WR Aundrae Allison, CB Ronyell Whitaker, WR Sidney Rice, RB Wendell Mathis, LB Ben Leber, LB Jason Glenn, OL Dan Mozes and DE Khreem Smith (left ankle).

  • Safety Darren Sharper was held out of several full-team drills, but he declined to comment on the situation. RB Mewelde Moore was absent.

  • Guard Anthony Herrera was back working with the first-team offense in place of Artis Hicks, who rotated in on occasion. "I just do what the coaches ask," said Herrera when asked about the potential promotion.

  • Without Sidney Rice and Billy McMullen practicing, Carter and Chandler Williams received some work with the first-team offense in three-wide receiver sets.

  • Kicker Ryan Longwell connected on field goals of 24, 29, 35 and 37 yards. Later, during full-team drills, he was good from 38 yards twice, and also from 43 and 44 yards.

  • Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell continued to call in plays from the headset during full-team work.

  • Defensive tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams look sharp working together, continuing their Pro Bowl work from last year. On one play during 7-on-7 drills, Pat Williams bounced quickly to the outside to stop a running play at the line of scrimmage. During full-team work with the offense starting at its own 1-yard line, Kevin Williams burst through the second-team offensive line and into the backfield to take down RB Artose Pinner for a safety.

  • During 7-on-7 work, Peterson was stuffed for no gain on back-to-back plays. On the first one, LBs Dontarrious Thomas and Heath Farwell combined to make the hit. On the second one, Thomas and Jayme Mitchell were in on the action.

  • Troy Williamson continued an up-and-down camp, dropping one relatively easy pass and then making a number of other nice catches, including a solid toe-drag reception along the sideline and one in which he slipped slightly on a wet field and recovered to make the grab. He also had a long reception down the right sideline in individual drills on a pass thrown by Drew Henson. After his drop, the crowd groaned and one fan could be heard saying, "Oh, there we go."

  • CB Marcus McCauley continues to shine. During individual drills, he intercepted a Tyler Thigpen pass intended for Carter.

  • Thigpen appears to be the second-string quarterback, ahead of Henson.

  • Nance made a nice reception during individual drills when McCauley got a hand on the ball, but the wide receiver was able to still bring the ball into his body for the catch.

  • RB Ciatrick Fason took a short pass to the middle of the field and turned it into a 26-yard gain during full-team work with the third-team offense.

  • WR Todd Lowber gained 15 yards on a reverse with the second-team offense. Two plays later, he and safety Greg Blue got tangled up but let cooler heads prevail.

  • DE Ray Edwards had a touch sack of Bollinger.

  • The third-team defense looked solid on one series when LB John Kerr put a big hit on Pinner after a 6-yard run and, one play later, Brian Robison knocked down a Bollinger pass at the line of scrimmage.

  • Chandler Williams got pulled from 7-on-7 work when he ran a wrong route, but he said afterwards that he was still feeling slight effects from a concussion suffered against Kansas City.

  • Fason made a nice one-handed catch on a pass from Bollinger that was thrown behind the running back.

  • TE Braden Jones had a couple of catches in a row during 7-on-7 work.

  • During a drill in which the offense started on its own 1-yard line, FB Tony Richardson gained 9 yards on first down, but Taylor was stuffed for no gain on consecutive plays, with DL Spencer Johnson and Darrion Scott meeting for the second big stop.

  • Toward the end of practice during a full-team, two-minute drill, QB Tarvaris Jackson ended up running over Kevin Williams, who was trying to avoid contact, after a bootleg run that netted 6 yards.

  • McCauley also showed his physical style when he burst across the line of scrimmage and brought down Pinner for a 3-yard loss.

  • WR Bobby Wade, Chandler Williams, Carter and Charles Gordon were returning punts.


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