Behind Enemy Lines: Colts questions

The topics that dominated the Vikings' local sports scene are still the questions that need to be answered for opponents facing Minnesota: How good is Percy Harvin, how is the QB situation and how good can this team really be? Eric Hartz of asks, Tim Yotter of answers.

Eric Hartz: Percy Harvin was a prospect many Colts fans coveted in this year's draft. How is he looking so far in training camp for the Vikings?

Tim Yotter: Very solid. Harvin had a rough offseason because he missed the rookie minicamp when he fell ill at the Atlanta airport on his way up to Minnesota from Florida. He was hospitalized overnight in Atlanta with severe dehydration and a virus. Ironically, he also had to leave the NFL rookie symposium with illness. To add to the delay in development, he wasn't signed until two days into training camp. Since then, Harvin has been learning a lot of different positions for the Vikings, from receiver to Wildcat operator to occasional backfield mate with Adrian Peterson. His versatility is allowing this Vikings offense to show some creativity. Ultimately, he will likely be used to return kickoffs and mostly as a wide receiver. He has some deep speed, no doubt, but his quickness and cutting ability are what make him really dangerous. I'd expect him to be a target in this offense often, but it might not happen on Friday because the bad-luck bug bit him again on Wednesday. He went up to catch a pass and contact was made with a safety when he was in the in the air. Harvin landed awkwardly and appeared to suffer a shoulder injury. He left the field for the team's medical tent and later returned to the sidelines but didn't participate for the rest of their final practice of the week. The severity of the injury isn't yet public.

EH: How is the quarterback situation shaping up? Obviously, the Brett Favre thing fell through. Are the Vikings confident with Sage Rosenfels and Tarvaris Jackson going into the season?

TY: Not yet. So far, neither of those quarterbacks has been able to really take the job and make it his. Rosenfels struggled the first couple days of camp and Jackson sprained the MCL in his left knee on the second day of camp and missed a few days of work. Meanwhile, Rosenfels started looking more comfortable and pretty much evened up the competition. So far, it's anybody's guess who will emerge the starter. Whoever starts against Indianapolis will not start the following week as they try to figure out which QB gives them the better chance. The QB who gives them the best chance is still in Mississippi … at least for now.

EH: The Vikings had the league's top run defense last season but were pretty average against the pass. What have they done to get better in the secondary and are you seeing any progress?

TY: The players' goal this year is to be the No. 1 overall defense, not just No. 1 against the run. A few things should make them better against the pass. First is the health of Jared Allen. He should get a tough-guy award for playing through the injuries he had last year, including a sprained knee and a partially separated shoulder. He didn't miss a game and still finished the season with 14½ sacks, an impressive number considering the amount of games he played in pain. The second factor is their improved depth at cornerback. Cedric Griffin turned into a reliable starter during the second half of the season opposite first-time Pro Bowler Antoine Winfield, but this year their nickel back competition is one of the more intriguing battles of training camp. Right now, it looks like Benny Sapp will get first crack at it, but third-round pick Asher Allen looks like a real player, especially in that role. He's very physical and doesn't get beat a lot. My guess is that he will ultimately end up the main nickel back, but that might not happen by the start of the season.

EH: What are the expectations of this team going into the season? An NFC North title certainly seems like a possibility, but should the Vikings be considered a Super Bowl contender, in your opinion? And what is head coach Brad Childress' job security like?

TY: Yes, the Vikings should be the favorite to the win the division and be among the teams discussed when it comes to the top five or so clubs in the NFC. They have a lot of talent throughout the roster. However, their quarterback situation has to sort itself out if they want to become a dominate team. At this point, neither Jackson nor Rosenfels has really separated himself and claimed the job. That actually plays into Childress' job security. Childress came to the Vikings with the reputation of being an offensive coach who knows how to develop quarterbacks (because of Donovan McNabb's success). However, Childress selected Tarvaris Jackson to groom and nearly four years later we're still waiting and wondering. There has also been a litany of other quarterbacks coming through that haven't been much of a band-aid, from Brad Johnson to Brooks Bollinger to Kelly Holcomb to Gus Frerotte. That has left some to wonder if it's the quarterback, the coach or the offense that is hindering the offensive personnel that seems to be getting better by the year.

EH: Finally, since it's preseason, we'll likely be seeing a lot of unknowns for much of the game Friday. Who are some of the younger players that Colts fans might not know about that you've been impressed with and could make an impact in the game?

TY: Second-round pick Phil Loadholt will start at right tackle. He's a mammoth man, so it will interesting to see how he handles quicker linemen. Third-round pick Asher Allen should see a lot of time at nickel back and cornerback, and he has been pretty impressive with his physicality and coverage skills. He doesn't back down, and so far it hasn't cost him in camp. Fifth-round linebacker Jasper Brinkley loves to bring the hammer on offensive players, so beware of a big hit or two coming from him. They call him "Baby Elephant" because of his size and he seems to have more range than they initially expected. A couple of second-year players will be starting – John Sullivan at center and Tyrell Johnson at safety – so Vikings fans will be monitoring their progress with the first team. As for the undrafted players, Ian Johnson is probably a practice squad candidate, but because of his on-air proposal to his girlfriend after scoring the winning points in the Fiesta Bowl he should be a familiar face. Jon Cooper at center and Colt Anderson at safety are two more undrafted guys who may have a shot at the roster or practice squad.

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