Lurtsema's Reaction: More OTA Analysis

Former Vikings defensive lineman Bob Lurtsema has had an opportunity to watch a few OTA practices and gives his analysis on the linebacker crew and some general impressions of both lines, along with his early thoughts on Bernard Berrian and Maurice Hicks.

VU: With the linebacker group, were there any of the new guys that you really liked or anybody coming back that surprised you?

BL: I love our linebacking crew right now. I think Ben Leber is the total package. You can use him on blitzes and I believe he had five sacks (he did, tying for the team lead). You can do so many things with him. Leber is almost like a fifth defensive lineman. Rather than go five-man line, you can throw Leber up there – and I think they're going to send Leber a lot more next year and look like a five-man line. If you can get everyone playing one-on-one and get Kevin Williams playing in his zone, which he does – when he gets in his zone, there is nobody better. But now if you get a couple of guys playing in their zone, it's going to be great. I just think there is no weakness with their linebackers.

VU: With the backup linebackers there, have you had a chance to pick out anyone you really like?

BL: With the backups, you just say, ‘Why watch them?' They have such a nice group and they really didn't draft a linebacker with a high draft choice, so I didn't really watch them. I did look at E.J. Henderson's brother a little bit, Erin Henderson, and it looks like he's got good work ethic.

Even with the defensive backs right now, it's kind of hard to pick out where they're going to play Tyrell Johnson. With them sending Leber – and this is what the fans should look at closer come training camp – the defensive backs will kind of dictate how good their coverage is. So if you have a Tyrell Johnson that can step forward and be really strong on man-to-man coverage, that will dictate so many other things, whether you're in a nickel or dime package. So much of that you can't tell right now because it's non-contact.

VU: Anything with Bernard Berrian that stood out to you?

BL: I liked the routes that he runs. He'll pace the routes sometimes. Remember, it's early now and I've only been to a few of the practices, but I think he knows where he can accelerate, where he can get enough separation to give the quarterback a better area to throw in while at the same time giving him the proper angle for acceleration. Some of your old, crafty veterans can find that spot and know how to move it. I watched some of the routes they were running and I thought Gus Frerotte was really throwing the ball well with some of the timing routes to the receivers.

VU: Did you look at the centers as Matt Birk's backups?

BL: No, you really can't tell anything on the line. They didn't have shoulder pads on. Once they start getting on the pads, then I'll start watching the one-on-one drills. I did watch some of the defensive linemen and watched all their drills. I probably spend too much time over there. You can pretty much tell who has the softer feet. As far as getting off the ball and their explosion, you can tell who the deadbeats are already and there are about three of them already that there is no way they can make the team. They've got to really come forward with effort, and then you watch them and they're the last in line. I'll never understand that. They are marginal to start with and then if there are 12 of them, they'll wind up being 11th or 12th. If I was marginal, I'd be first or second when I was running.

That's why you watch that Tim Mattran (a rookie free-agent center), he's first in all of the drills and he wants to make an impression on the Vikings. He was playing some tackle and I do like his footwork. The coaches work really hard when they're trying to show them how to do the footwork now, but you can't see as much because they're just plotting. By plotting, I mean it's like slow motion – first step here, second step here, plot, plot, plot – trying to get a habit. How many times have you heard me say you want a habit so that when you get tired you go to your habit and you want your habit to be a good habit. That's why I watch their feet and I can't get as much out of that as when I watch one-on-one matchups. With defensive linemen, when they're doing their rope drills, sleds, dummies and all of their drills, I can pick it up a lot faster.

VU: With Chester Taylor not there and Adrian Peterson not getting a lot of work, what did you think of Maurice Hicks?

BL: Watching him, he's got some nice hands on him. I know they expect him to catch a few out of the backfield and he's got some soft hands. As far as his speed goes, he hits everything at full speed. He's pretty good that way.


Bob Lurtsema was a 12-year veteran defensive lineman in the NFL, playing with the Baltimore Colts, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks, and the longtime publisher of Viking Update. He joins VikingUpdate.com for a weekly Q & A session, and his monthly column appears in the magazine.


Viking Update Top Stories

\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":"With the linebacker group, were there any of the new guys that you really liked or anybody coming back that surprised you?

I love our linebacking crew right now. I think Ben Leber is the total package. You can use him on blitzes and I believe he had five sacks (he did, tying for the team lead). You can do so many things with him. Leber is almost like a fifth defensive lineman. Rather than go five-man line, you can throw Leber up there – and I think they're going to send Leber a lot more next year and look like a five-man line. If you can get everyone playing one-on-one and get Kevin Williams playing in his zone, which he does – when he gets in his zone, there is nobody better. But now if you get a couple of guys playing in their zone, it's going to be great. I just think there is no weakness with their linebackers.

With the backup linebackers there, have you had a chance to pick out anyone you really like?

With the backups, you just say, ‘Why watch them?' They have such a nice group and they really didn't draft a linebacker with a high draft choice, so I didn't really watch them. I did look at E.J. Henderson's brother a little bit, Erin Henderson, and it looks like he's got good work ethic.

Even with the defensive backs right now, it's kind of hard to pick out where they're going to play Tyrell Johnson. With them sending Leber – and this is what the fans should look at closer come training camp – the defensive backs will kind of dictate how good their coverage is. So if you have a Tyrell Johnson that can step forward and be really strong on man-to-man coverage, that will dictate so many other things, whether you're in a nickel or dime package. So much of that you can't tell right now because it's non-contact.

Anything with Bernard Berrian that stood out to you?

I liked the routes that he runs. He'll pace the routes sometimes. Remember, it's early now and I've only been to a few of the practices, but I think he knows where he can accelerate, where he can get enough separation to give the quarterback a better area to throw in while at the same time giving him the proper angle for acceleration. Some of your old, crafty veterans can find that spot and know how to move it. I watched some of the routes they were running and I thought Gus Frerotte was really throwing the ball well with some of the timing routes to the receivers.

Did you look at the centers as Matt Birk's backups?

No, you really can't tell anything on the line. They didn't have shoulder pads on. Once they start getting on the pads, then I'll start watching the one-on-one drills. I did watch some of the defensive linemen and watched all their drills. I probably spend too much time over there. You can pretty much tell who has the softer feet. As far as getting off the ball and their explosion, you can tell who the deadbeats are already and there are about three of them already that there is no way they can make the team. They've got to really come forward with effort, and then you watch them and they're the last in line. I'll never understand that. They are marginal to start with and then if there are 12 of them, they'll wind up being 11th or 12th. If I was marginal, I'd be first or second when I was running.

That's why you watch that Tim Mattran (a rookie free-agent center), he's first in all of the drills and he wants to make an impression on the Vikings. He was playing some tackle and I do like his footwork. The coaches work really hard when they're trying to show them how to do the footwork now, but you can't see as much because they're just plotting. By plotting, I mean it's like slow motion – first step here, second step here, plot, plot, plot – trying to get a habit. How many times have you heard me say you want a habit so that when you get tired you go to your habit and you want your habit to be a good habit. That's why I watch their feet and I can't get as much out of that as when I watch one-on-one matchups. With defensive linemen, when they're doing their rope drills, sleds, dummies and all of their drills, I can pick it up a lot faster.

With Chester Taylor not there and Adrian Peterson not getting a lot of work, what did you think of Maurice Hicks?

Watching him, he's got some nice hands on him. I know they expect him to catch a few out of the backfield and he's got some soft hands. As far as his speed goes, he hits everything at full speed. He's pretty good that way.




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