Nine Biggest Winners and Losers of Minnesota Vikings OTAs
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This is Leslie Frazier's first run through Offseason Training Activities as a head coach in the NFL. Last season the Minnesota Vikings staff lost out on the opportunity to hold OTAs with the NFL lockout. This year, they get the full experience.
At some point the entire Minnesota roster has participated in OTAs (in some way, shape or form), with the exception of defensive end Jared Allen.
Teams aren't made or broken during OTAs, but they provide a great opportunity to see where players are at and how everyone's offseason has gone thus far.
OTAs are now 60 percent done, and here are nine players that have stood out (for better or for worse).
Safety Mistral Raymond: Winner
In 10 games, including five starts, Mistral Raymond recorded 22 tackles and an interception in 2011.
Mistral Raymond is expected by many to be one of Minnesota's starting safeties in 2012. So far during OTAs he has done little to alter that expectation.
The coaching staff opted to have him run with the first team defense for most of the activities on May 31, a trend which has continued during following sessions.
Raymond started five games in 2011 and was able to show the coaching staff his talents. While I am not as high on him as others are, he will certainly have a great opportunity to be a starting safety for Minnesota in Week 1 of the 2012 season.
In an interview with Tom Pelissero of ESPN1500, Raymond said his objectives this offseason were to get bigger and focus on his technique as a defensive back.
So far so good for Raymond. But he better beware of Harrison Smith, Minnesota's second first round pick in 2012. I expect him to eventually be a starter at a safety position.
Safety Jamarca Sanford: Winner
Jamarca Sanford recorded 75 tackles in 2011.
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For now Jamarca Sanford, like Mistral Raymond, is a starting safety for the Minnesota Vikings. Starters and reserves aren't necessarily always the easiest to distinguish during OTAs, but Raymond and Sanford spent most of the time with the first-string defense.
Sanford recorded 75 tackles in 2011 and is known as a strong run-stopping safety who is weak against the pass.
According to Mark Craig, Sanford should lose his starting safety gig to 2012 NFL Draft first round pick Harrison Smith by opening day (I expect Smith to start but could see Raymond or Sanford starting alongside of him).
As of now though, Sanford has the early edge as safety. And that should work to his advantage, for now. Eventually Smith will learn the playbook as well as the defense and will get comfortable with his surroundings. When that time comes, Raymond and Sanford better be on edge. One of them won't be a starter much longer for the Vikings.
Wide Receiver Jerome Simpson: Winner
This endzone flip by Jerome Simpson in 2011 drew the attention of the entire country.
When you talk about Minnesota Vikings OTAs thus far, you can't help but talk about Jerome Simpson. The catch he made over cornerback Chris Cook has been a great topic of discussion early on in OTAs (check it out here at the 53-second mark).
Cook is expected to be Minnesota's No. 1, lock-down cornerback for 2012. For him to make a play on Cook is a great sign for the Vikings. The problem is that Simpson is suspended for the first three games of the upcoming season for his possession of marijuana this offseason.
The good news for the Vikings is that Simpson is a natural playmaker, whom Sid Hartman thinks will be a slightly lesser version of Cris Carter. Simpson has also spent extra time off the field with Christian Ponder building a rapport with his quarterback. That's good news for the Vikings.
During OTAs, Simpson has demonstrated the ability to be a deep threat and has shown a good level of chemistry with Ponder.
If those two bits translate into the 2012 regular season, Simpson will greatly improve Minnesota's passing attack, the performance of Ponder and of fellow receiver Percy Harvin.
Quarterback Christian Ponder: Winner/Loser
Christian Ponder's on-field results have been mixed in OTAs, but his off-field performances have wowed teammates and coaches.
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Regardless of who you've talked to or whose column you've read, one thing is certain: Christian Ponder's performance at OTAs has stood out. But depending on who you talk to or whose column you've read, his performance has impressed and disappointed.
I think that both sides of the aisle have legitimate cases.
Focusing on his on-the-field performances, Ponder has had mixed reviews. Read this piece from ESPN NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert, and it sounds like Ponder could be one of the league's worst quarterbacks (although Seifert emphasizes that only so much can be judged based off of OTAs).
Then if you read a piece like this from NFL.com, and it sounds like the Vikings not only have a great leader in the locker room but that the franchise is set at the quarterback position moving forward.
Ponder has made strong plays at OTAs, like the pass to Simpson that everyone has raved about, and the boneheaded pass that undrafted rookie free agent Bobby Felder picked off.
I like Seifert's take though; it's too early to judge what type of quarterback Ponder will be in 2012 (or for that matter, what type of player anyone will be in 2012 at this point).
Take the good with the bad with Ponder and at least take solace in that he's succeeding as a leader off the field, an attribute that is key for a player to have the support of his teammates.
Wide Receiver Greg Childs: Loser
At 6'3" and 217 pounds with the ability to run near a 4.4 40-yard dash, Greg Childs has the size, speed and hands to be an impact receiver in the NFL.
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While wide receivers like Stephen Burton and Jerome Simpson have impressed during OTAs, Greg Childs has been stuck on the sidelines. He's strictly been an observer thus far during Minnesota's OTAs.
Childs, a fourth round selection from Arkansas, is expected to compete for Minnesota's third or fourth receiver spot come training camp. But while Simpson and Burton have been able to show the coaching staff and teammates what they can do, Childs has been sidelined with a calf injury.
Now it's not Childs' fault that he's a "loser" on this list, as injuries are typically out of the control of a player. But as a rookie it is important that he gets as many reps as possible so that he's as comfortable as possible come Week 1, especially if he wants to be an impact rookie as he suggested in this Pro Football Weekly piece.
Again, it's only OTAs. Childs will have plenty of time to prove himself in training camp. But as of now, he's "behind."
Fullback Jerome Felton: Loser
Jerome Felton was arrested this past weekend for DUI.
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Regardless of what happens on the field, it's never a good thing to have conflicts off the field. It's even worse to have off-field conflicts with a new team. But that's exactly what Jerome Felton did recently.
Last weekend Felton was arrested for DUI and hasn't been amazingly impressive with his on- field work either.
From the sounds of things, Felton has cleared the air with his teammates. It doesn't sound like the same can be said for his standing with head coach Leslie Frazier.
The Vikings players have been notorious for their off-field activities in the previous decade. Randy Moss, Onterrio Smith and the "Whizzinator," the "Love Boat" on Lake Minnetonka, Koren Robinson speeding in Mankato, Bryant McKinnie getting kicked out of the Pro Bowl—the list could go on for a bit.
Felton's actions aren't the best way to crack the starting lineup, something he's trying to do at the fullback position.
His play can obviously overcome his actions in the long run, but as of now his actions are too recent for that moment to come.
Running Back Toby Gerhart: Winner
With Adrian Peterson's status for 2012 up in the air, it's possible that Toby Gerhart needs to be the guy at running back in 2012. So far he at least looks the part.
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Toby Gerhart needs to have a big year in 2012, especially if Adrian Peterson is out for any extended period of time.
So far, it sounds like he's on pace to do just that. He reportedly looks to be in amazing shape, according to Dan Wiederer of the Star Tribune. Gerhart explains here that as a running back the ideal size all about finding a balance between having bulk and being lean enough to maintain quickness.
Vikings fans are hoping that he's found that and he could be in for a breakout campaign in 2012.
Wide Receiver Percy Harvin and Running Back Adrian Peterson: Winners
Adrian Peterson maintains his position that he'll be ready for the start of the 2012 season after a torn ACL suffered in Week 16 of 2011.
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Minnesota's top two offensive weapons have spent their offseasons recovering from injuries suffered in 2011. Percy Harvin has spent his offseason recovering from shoulder surgery while Adrian Peterson has been recovering from a torn ACL suffered in Week 16 of the 2011 season.
Peterson's recovery has been overly publicized, but he maintains he'll be ready to play (in some form) when Week 1 of the 2012 campaign arrives. He and Harvin were seen running hills during the early portion of OTAs.
It not only showed outsiders that they were pushing themselves to get back to 100 percent health, but it impressed teammates too.
"We saw them running hills while we were practicing and it’s great to see," Christian Ponder told NFL.com. "Obviously, we know that they have been putting in the work when they haven’t been here but for them to be here and to see that, it means a lot of us guys. I think it’s important.“
Harvin has participated in OTA activities other than hill runs, and should be fine for training camp. With Peterson, only time will tell.
But they have proven that no one should question their work ethic.