Special teams need to shine
The Vikings' special teams, namely kick coverage, have been horrible thus far in the preseason. Yet special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro doesn’t seem terribly concerned.
“There's some good learning that's going on right now that will show our improvement from a year ago when we hit the regular season,” he said. “I feel confident about us being a better special-teams unit overall and improving in all phases.”
Ferraro also minced no words in indicating that some of those guys aren’t going to make the team.
What he’s banking on is that with the core players being targeted for special teams duty, things will shore up quickly. In fact, indications are that up to eight starters could be regulars on punt and kickoff coverage this season.
The Vikings have also targeted certain players specifically for their ability to contribute on special teams.
Farwell led the team with 25 special-teams tackles last season. Ciurciu was signed from the Carolina Panthers during the offseason specifically for his special teams prowess. Ciurciu led the Panthers special teams unit last season with 19 tackles.
On the bubble?
Tonight’s game against the Cowboys will be their last chance to show what they have to offer before opening-season roster cuts are made down to 53 players. For the most part, evaluations have already been made and injuries or dramatic on-the-field performance are the only thing that will likely alter those tough choices.
Many of the rookie and first-year players still have practice squad eligibility, so their chances of returning if they clear waivers are intact. But there are some key veteran players who are very much on the bubble heading into tonight’s game, and they don’t have any such options remaining.
Running back Ciatrick Fason, a once-promising fourth-round pick by the Vikings in 2005, he’s really shown only flashes as a runner from scrimmage and has the tendency to always try to bounce things outside. Head coach Brad Childress would call that “a lack of course integrity.” While Fason might indeed be a productive running back if given the opportunity to carry the ball often enough, the addition of Adrian Peterson to a backfield that already included Chester Taylor requires less depth here. The all-purpose Mewelde Moore and Artose Pinner are also ahead of Fason on the depth chart. Throw in the fact that Fason is also not a key contributor on special teams and the writing would seem to be on the wall.
At defensive end, the Vikings enter the final preseason game with seven players clearly capable of making their roster. Something will have to give for second-year players Jayme Mitchell and/or Khreem Smith to make the team. Mitchell played in 13 games as a rookie last season and shows ability as a complete player at left end. Smith still has practice squad potential, having played in just one game last year. But as of right now, the numbers would seem to be against both Mitchell and Smith.
The safety position is another area that does not typically have room for the number of capable players currently on the roster. Veteran Tank Williams is very much on the bubble. Second-year man Greg Blue, who showed potential a year ago, really needs to impress if it’s not too late.
At cornerback, veteran Ronyell Whitaker, who played quite a bit a year ago and also contributed on special teams, would appear to have been nudged out by the addition of rookie Marcus McCauley and the return of Dovonte Edwards.
There are also not enough roster spots at wide receiver for all of the second-tier veterans competing for a spot. That puts Billy McMullen, Martin Nance, Jason Carter and Cortez Hankton all squarely on the fringe.
Winfield among those bilked in investment scam
Dunyasha M. Yetts pleaded guilty to two counts of mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to possess marijuana on Tuesday. He admitted to a scheme that bilked investors out of $1.8 million.
Winfield, who was among the victims, reportedly lost most of the $1.3 million he invested in dealings with Yetts, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Kelley.
This incident could explain some of the off-field issues Winfield was dealing with during this past off-season when he chose not to participate in voluntary OTAs with the team.
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