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  1. #1
    singersp's Avatar
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    James & Udeze: Competition drives defensive ends

    Posted on Wed, Aug. 09, 2006

    [size=18px]Competition drives defensive ends[/size]
    Friendly rivals James, Udeze seek big seasons


    BY SEAN JENSEN
    Pioneer Press


    MANKATO, Minn. — Erasmus James and Kenechi Udeze are constantly in competition, angling and endeavoring to one-up each other like two adolescent brothers.

    "We want to have a healthy competition," James said. "Every down, every play. Who gets to the ball first?

    "Say he's got five (sacks) going into the third game, and I got two," James said. "I want to catch up. I want to be right up there with him, if not past him."

    But their brotherly battles aren't limited to a football field. The venue could also be a lake, with fishing poles, in an arcade, with Pac-Man, or even in a bowling alley.

    They are bound by their similarities, from age (both are 23) to position (defensive ends) to blue-chip expectations (first-round picks), and their success could be the difference between their unit being good or great.

    "With both of them being first-rounders," defensive end Darrion Scott said, "there are going to be expectations for them to get double-digit sacks."

    In three combined NFL seasons, James and Udeze have collected 10 sacks, a figure partly skewed because Udeze suffered a season-ending knee injury in the third game last year. The two didn't begin fostering their friendship until earlier this year, during minicamps, and their rivalry has compelled them to push the limits of their bodies and games — joking, smiling and pulling pranks along the way.

    Udeze calls his linemate "Hollywood James" because Erasmus tends to be high-maintenance and never returns phone calls. James cracks on Udeze for his childhood weight problems ("He used to be 360 pounds," James said) and his inability to safely operate his 20-foot boat.

    In fact, the entire defensive line embraces that mentality, as the players make fun of one another in meetings and sabotage one another's meals. (Scott recently put mustard and hot sauce in a piece of fish James was about to eat.)

    "We try to clown each other all the time," Scott said. "Erasmus is thin-skinned. But he's gotten better."

    The defensive line also torments other players (last year, the linemen put Jermaine Wiggins' scooter on the roof of the dormitory) yet protects one another from other players.

    "Nobody can mess with us," Scott said. "Pat Williams is the head honcho, and nobody on the team wants to mess with him."

    LINE WITH POTENTIAL

    As they reviewed film of Tuesday morning's practice, the Vikings' coaches might have visualized a fantasy. In its training camp debut, the starting defensive line sacked backup quarterbacks on three consecutive plays, with Williams, naturally, earning the first one, followed by James and Udeze.

    "We can be one of the best defensive lines, with the big guys in the middle and me and Erasmus on the ends," Udeze said. "I think we have all the tools to be great."

    But Kevin Williams said the makeup of the starting four compels the players to be elite.

    "We have three first-round picks and a free agent," Williams said, referring to fellow tackle Pat Williams, who signed a three-year, $13 million contract in March 2005. "It's self-explanatory what should happen. They know in the back of their minds what they need to do, so we don't need to put out front all the time."

    The Williams wall in the middle is respected NFL-wide. Now, James and Udeze understand they are the question marks.

    "I love it because it just gives you a chance to shut them up and prove them wrong," Udeze said about critics. "Kevin is a Pro Bowl-caliber player every year. He demands a double team, and so does Pat. So it is up to us, and we have to do our jobs and live up to our expectations on the defensive line."

    Adds James of the challenge before them: "That's pressure."

    A FRIENDSHIP FORMS

    Udeze and James are reveling in fresh starts. After season-ending knee surgery in October, Udeze didn't feel like he was part of the team, so he kept mostly to himself. After a 10-day holdout last year in training camp, James sensed resentment from players and coaches for his late arrival.

    "Everyone has that look in their eyes like, 'Oh, this guy comes in late, and we're working,' "James said.

    The two started to build their friendship earlier this year, fishing together three times a week. The relationship branched out onto the practice field, where they pushed and looked after each other. Now, Udeze is even helping James lose some weight.

    After talking to Michael Strahan of the New York Giants, Udeze decided he was playing too heavy. A year ago, his report weight for training camp was 294 pounds, about 20 more than what he played at while at Southern California. Now, Udeze is 270 pounds.

    "Really, I didn't even feel comfortable last season,' Udeze said. "I don't think any defensive end should be at that weight, because it's a position predicated on speed."

    When he weighed in at training camp, James was 274 pounds, and he has dropped four pounds since then. His goal before the season starts is to get down to at least 265, and he has followed Udeze's rule not to eat pasta late at night or to partake in the 9:15 team snack.

    For them to be successful, though, they need to shed something else: blockers.

    They won't proclaim a specific goal, such as double-digit sacks.

    "I honestly feel like it's going to be a breakout season for the both of us, because we're going to start working together and be more productive players," Udeze said.

    But know this: Each of them wants to outdo the other.

    Sean Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

    Competition drives defensive ends

    "If at first you don't succeed, parachuting is not for you"

  2. #2
    damien927's Avatar
    damien927 is offline Asst. Coach
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    Re: James & Udeze: Competition drives defensive ends

    I am getting excited to see what they can do this year

    Thanks Lotza!

  3. #3
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    Re: James & Udeze: Competition drives defensive ends

    How great would it be to have a top five line on defence?! Maybe its a little early, but this line needs a name.
    You republican whore!

  4. #4
    whackthepack is offline Jersey Retired
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    Re: James & Udeze: Competition drives defensive ends

    We have 3 1st round picks and a FA that was dominating last year on our D-line so we should expect big things from them, and if they don't reach that top 5 D-line status then I would consider it a failure.

    But I can not wait to see what they do against the Packer O-line and how Favre will be running for his life.
    What we've got here is failure to communicate.

  5. #5
    Mr. Purple's Avatar
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    Re: James & Udeze: Competition drives defensive ends

    I love these guys, thier gonna do great things for this team.Thier is so much talent here, im waiting for them all to breakout! If they play to thier potential, we'll have a top 3 defensive line.

    Theres NOTHING greater then a Florida Gator!
    "I promise everyone this. When Childress is let go in two years I can honestly say this.
    "I am not surprised"."-PurplePackerEater

  6. #6
    oddmanout22287 is offline Pro-Bowler
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    Re: James & Udeze: Competition drives defensive ends

    Bwaahahaha, I don't know what's funnier, imagining Wiggins on a scooter, or his scooter up on the roof :lol: :lol:
    PM me if you'd like a sig.

  7. #7
    cajunvike's Avatar
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    Re: James & Udeze: Competition drives defensive ends

    They just need to settle their differences by meeting at the quarterback every week!!! :evil4:
    BANNED OR DEAD...I'LL TAKE EITHER ONE

  8. #8
    Slade is offline Star Spokesman
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    Re: James & Udeze: Competition drives defensive ends

    Yeah, these 2 guys are nice book-ends to a solid middle. Lets hope that they or at least one of them gets double-digit sacks this year

  9. #9
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    Re: James & Udeze: Competition drives defensive ends

    three words... nvm im not even going to say it...

    (the three words are also a name of a member of this site)


    http://vikesking.blogspot.com/

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  10. #10
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    Re: James & Udeze: Competition drives defensive ends

    There will be one reason why our D-line and LB's play better this year then they have in the past few years and his name is Mike Tomlin. The guy is a flat out stud football mind and coach. I remember reading a Tony Dungy interview where Dungy was talking about him and he just absolutely praised the guy and his abilities and said he would definitely be a head coach in the NFL very soon.

    I expect a breakout year for Erasmus James and EJ Henderson under Tomlin. Udeze I am still worried about. He is coming off a very serious injury and I just don't expect much from him. I think this Ray Edwards kid could come in and suprise a lot of people as a pass rush specialist, and maybe a little more if Udeze yet again gets hurt.

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