A quick look at how the Vikings‘ 2011 draft picks are faring so far in camp:
The entire offense is struggling and Ponder is no exception. Right now he’s listed 3rd on the depth chart behind Joe Webb. With Donovan McNabb in the picture there’s really no pressure on Ponder to develop quickly, so all we’re looking for from him is steady progress. He doesn’t have to be ready to go until opening day 2012.
Things are not going well at all for Kyle Rudolph. Here’s a report from the Pioneer-Press on the tight end’s rough Monday practice: “Linebacker Heath Farwell took Rudolph out of one play by steamrolling coming off the line. Rudolph was a frequent target of quarterbacks Donovan McNabb and Christian Ponder and had a sure touchdown pass from Joe Webb bounce off his hands.” Tom Pelissero was even more brutal in his assessment of that Monday session: “Rudolph took one pass off his chin in 7-on-7. He took another off his chest in goal line, although he said that ball was tipped. He also false started on a play in 4-minute, then failed to finish a block on the next play that allowed Adrian Peterson to get stopped for a 5-yard loss.” So right now he’s struggling at catching, blocking and getting off the line. This probably explains why Jeff Dugan and Jim Kleinsasser are slated to get the first team reps in Saturday’s preseason opener (Visanthe Shiancoe will sit out with a pulled hammy). Rudolph has a lot of work to do if he wants to live up to the expectations.
Ballard could be an important player this year especially if Kevin Williams is finally forced to serve his four game Starcaps suspension. Fittingly then, Ballard has mostly been getting reps at the three technique position, with the third team. He hasn’t done anything to really stand out yet but he hasn’t been getting any glaringly bad reviews either, so that’s good news.
Mark Craig of the Star-Trib says Burton has gotten “lost in the shuffle” among the Vikings’ cornerbacks. That shuffle cleared up a little when Marcell Gipson was cut, but Burton still has an uphill climb to make the team. The Vikings will be working out more cornerbacks this week including Tony Carter, so it’s pretty clear they’re not that thrilled with what they’ve seen from Burton and company so far.
It’s all-hands-on-deck for the Vikings’ offensive line as they try to find somebody, anybody who can protect Donovan McNabb. Right now Love is third on the left tackle depth chart behind Charlie Johnson and Patrick Brown. Keep in mind that, when drafted, Love was thought of as a right guard and possibly a right tackle. Now he’s third on the left tackle depth chart. I don’t know if he’s any good but he is feisty. Pelissero says he “threw several haymakers” during a fight in the middle of blocking drills on Wednesday. Unfortunately haymakers are not legal in the NFL so that particular technique won’t help him.
Raymond got first unit reps at safety on Wednesday while Tyrell Johnson eased back in after a hamstring pull and Husain Abdullah enjoyed the hospitality of President Obama at the White House. Raymond’s momentary promotion was obviously the result more of necessity than anything but still it never hurts a rookie to get some time with the first team and I’m sure the experience will prove valuable down the road.
He’s the only guy on the offensive line not getting reps at left tackle. I kid. In truth, he remains a project who may at one point in the future – like next year or the year after – compete for a spot at center or right guard.
The former Buckeye has flashed some athleticism – Wobby with typical mindless enthusiasm: “Rookie LB Ross Homan flys [sic] into backfield for tackle during 9-on-7″ – and looks like a comer. Erin Henderson doesn’t have anything to worry about right now, but that’s right now. By the end of the season? Who knows?
There seems to be something of a battle brewing between Reed and Everson Griffen for the back-up left end spot behind Brian Robison. How impressive has Reed been so far this camp? The Pioneer-Press singled him out for special mention two days in a row! On Monday: “Seventh-round defensive end D’Aundre Reed took a big step in his quest to make the 53-man roster. Reed recorded two sacks on the day with a combination of quickness off the edge and strength at 6 feet 3 and 261 pounds. Reed is considered a project after getting two sacks in his last season at Arizona, but coaches noticed him Monday.” And on Tuesday: “Rookie defensive end from Arizona dominated during one-on-one trench work and impressed veterans with his speed and poise.” The Vikings may have found themselves a gem here. Or maybe we’re all getting ahead of ourselves.
Charlie Johnson was having the worst camp of any Viking, until Stephen Burton took the practice field on Wednesday. Already Burton was struggling with drops but on Wednesday he made the kind of sore-thumb play that can turn an entire coaching staff and fan base against a young player. Burton’s boner happened during a Hail Mary drill. Joe Webb heaved the ball into the end zone for what looked like a TD catch by Allen Reisner, but for some reason Burton swooped in and knocked the ball away from his fellow receiver. WR coach George Stewart reportedly was incredulous on the sidelines after Burton’s gaffe, and when asked about the play after practice Leslie Frazier would only shake his head. I have a funny feeling Mr. Burton is not long for this roster. But Charlie Johnson thanks him anyway for momentarily taking the heat off his sorry butt.