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  1. #1
    vikeasoarusrex's Avatar
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    John Clayton Vikes Observations, 08/07

    Clayton's observations:

    MANKATO, Minn. -- Here are five observations on the Minnesota Vikings, based on camp practices of Aug. 6:

    The most amazing story in camp is wide receiver Koren Robinson. A year ago at this time, Robinson was in an alcohol rehab center in South Carolina. Now, he's the Vikings' No. 1 receiver after making a comeback that earned him a trip to the Pro Bowl as a returner.

    "Everything is good in my life right now," Robinson said. "Actually, a year ago, I thought my career was over. I thought I burned all my bridges and I thought I was done."

    Robinson passed his first test by staying sober last season and doing everything his coaches asked. Gradually, as the season progressed, Robinson started to rise up the charts in the receiving rotation. It convinced the organization to bring him back and give him a two-year contract.

    Robinson has No. 1 receiving ability. A big receiver, Robinson is also elusive and powerful enough to be a Pro Bowl returner. New Vikings head coach Brad Childress called Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren to see if it would be worth investing in Robinson. Holmgren told Childress it would be great to see the Vikings attempt to salvage Robinson's career.

    Even though Robinson drove Holmgren crazy by showing up late or missing team meetings along with drinking during the day, Holmgren likes Robinson as a person and a player. Robinson should be able to catch 70-80 passes and is working hard to get back to that level.

    One of Childress' early strengths seems to be recognizing what he has in talent and adjusting his schemes to fit that talent. The Vikings traded away Randy Moss a year ago, and used the No. 7 pick they acquired in the first round for Moss to draft Troy Williamson. Williamson is fast and has deep speed. Still, he struggled as a rookie, catching only 24 passes and averaging only 15.5 yards a catch.

    Troy Williamson
    Wide Receiver
    Minnesota Vikings

    Rec Yds TD Avg Long
    24 372 2 15.5 56

    Childress watched Williamson and decided to use him on deep routes but feature him a little bit more on short, quick routes to take advantage of his run-after-catch ability.

    "He is very good in and out of breaks catching the football," Childress said.

    Whatever Childress saw in Williamson this spring convinced him to move him into the starting lineup, which is a little bit of a surprise. Williamson missed a lot of the offseason with a hip injury. The hip is fine and so is his speed. The Vikings have an interesting combination with Robinson and Williamson. Robinson has the power and strength to catch the ball over the middle. Williamson can stretch the field and turn short plays into big ones.

    There is plenty of depth at the position with Marcus Robinson, Travis Taylor and former Eagle Billy McMullen.

    Some interesting things are happening at linebacker. First-round choice Chad Greenway is already running with the first team. He's playing the weakside position in the Cover 2 scheme, which should allow him to get at least five interceptions and five sacks.

    The Vikings spent $4 million a year on Ben Leber, who will start on the outside. The surprise is in the middle. Napoleon Harris, who came over from Oakland in the Moss trade, is the starter. Harris is reunited with his former Raiders linebackers coach, Fred Pagac. That's helped him. Those are the only surprises. E.J. Henderson, who was drafted to be a middle linebacker, is backing up on the outside, while Dontarrious Thomas is backing up in the middle. Thomas was drafted to be an outside linebacker. The Vikings' linebacking corps is loaded with good athletes.

    The key to the season could be whether Chester Taylor can be the every-down running back. Backing up Jamal Lewis in Baltimore, Taylor has had only 373 career carries in five years and never more than 160 carries in a season. He's not an explosive back.

    Taylor prides himself on doing everything well. He's averaged 4.3 yards a carry during his career, but he thinks he will make a major mark as a pass catcher out of the backfield.

    "I can catch the ball as well as anybody," Taylor said. "I think me going against a linebacker is a good match. I don't think a linebacker can guard me."

    In many ways, Taylor's signing could be compared to LaMont Jordan, who received $5.5 million a year to go from being a Jets backup to a Raiders starter. Jordan didn't wow anyone in his first year with the Raiders. He caught 70 passes but averaged only 3.6 yards a carry, barely getting over 1,000 yards. Taylor wouldn't mind getting 70 catches and believes that's a modest projection. He wants to do better than Jordan on the rushing yard average.

    Childress is putting all of his faith and the entire season in the hands of Brad Johnson. Even though Mike McMahon is an athletic quarterback who can electrify things with his feet, he hasn't proved he can win many games in the league.

    Second-round choice Tarvaris Jackson has all the things you look for in a quarterback -- good size, strong arm, good mobility -- but he's raw. Jackson doesn't seem to panic when things go wacky on the field, but he looks more like a quarterback of the future.

    Johnson has to go down as one of the better free agent signings in 2005. He was brought in to back up Daunte Culpepper, and that made Johnson perhaps the league's best backup quarterback. After Culpepper blew out his knee, Johnson came off the bench and won seven of nine starts. Johnson is bright and has been in just about every system imaginable.

    His biggest challenge is learning Childress' play-calling language, which is one of the wordiest in the league. But he'll conquer that. Johnson turns 38 in September. He's the oldest starting quarterback in the league. At $1.2 million, he's the lowest-paid among the veteran starters. The Vikings will sink or swim on his health.

    John Clayton is a senior writer for

  2. #2
    Mr. Purple's Avatar
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    Re: John Clayton Vikes Observations, 08/07

    I was kinda hopin this article was gonna be better.Its very bland and full of alot of info we ALL already know.I like what I hear about Williamson tho, hes gonna....AHHHHHHHHH BREAK OUT!

    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

  3. #3
    vikeasoarusrex's Avatar
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    Re: John Clayton Vikes Observations, 08/07

    I agree, there has been nothing but good things to say about t. will this training camp. i hope it shows in the regular season. i can't wait to see us play monday night.

  4. #4
    triedandtruevikesfan is offline Jersey Retired
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    Re: John Clayton Vikes Observations, 08/07

    Well thats the stuff every Viking fan already knows.

  5. #5
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    Re: John Clayton Vikes Observations, 08/07

    Vikings ditching flash for substance
    By John Clayton

    MANKATO, Minn. -- Of the seven first-time NFL head coaches, Brad Childress knew he hit the lottery.

    The Vikings have an owner, Zygi Wilf, who is willing to spend -- on players, team facilities and a new stadium. Despite the turmoil of 2005, the Vikings won nine games, three to seven games more than the teams inherited by Childress' fellow rookie head coaches. The odds of success for a first-time coach are 50-50, but Childress believes his decision was a winner.

    "I am on the record for saying this: I didn't think this team was void of talent," Childress said. "My thinking was this was one of the best of the seven jobs."

    Does that mean Childress should be the most successful of the Lucky Seven?

    "You're putting pressure on me," Childress said.

    Childress is accustomed to pressure. He coached for an Eagles squad that reached four consecutive NFC title games. He might have become a head coach sooner if not for Philadelphia's postseason success. NFL owners making coaching changes often hurry to fill out their staffs, and league rules prohibit assistant coaches from accepting new positions until their clubs are eliminated from the playoffs.

    Childress was Andy Reid's right-hand man on offense. That he didn't call the plays in Philadelphia isn't relevant. Mike Holmgren has called most of the plays on his teams through the years. Look how many of his assistants -- including Reid -- have made a successful transition to head coach. Holmgren instituted structure for his offensive coaches, making sure they perfected the protection packages before the offensive schemes. Childress, learning from Reid, is the first of the second generation of Holmgren prodigies to land a head coaching job.

    What Childress brings to the Vikings is his knowledge of how to build a winning structure. The previous Vikings administration lacked the financial support necessary to maintain one. Former Vikings owner Red McCombs operated the team on a shoestring. Former head coach Mike Tice built a good roster but his coaching budget was so tight he couldn't even make an offer to his outgoing offensive coordinator, Scott Linehan, after the 2004 season. Tice could only promote his offensive line coach Steve Loney to coordinator, leaving the team understaffed.

    The first thing you notice about Vikings camp this year is the degree of organization. Childress learned that from Reid. Each moment of the day seems to be measured and planned. The other noticeable thing about the Vikings is their lack of the sizzle of past years.

    Gone are the flash of Randy Moss, the deep throws of Daunte Culpepper, the speed of Michael Bennett. Childress uses the West Coast offense, but his version looks more like the Midwest Coast offense. This Vikings team will try to win with power instead of finesse.

    "We don't have all of the marquee names," quarterback Brad Johnson said. "We will have to be under the radar because of the marquee thing, but sometimes it's good. I think we are a very sound team."

    Replacing the flash and sizzle is hard-nosed football. Childress wants his Vikings to pound teams on offense and be physical on defense. When critics look at the Eagles they point to Reid's reluctance to run the ball. A pure advocate of the West Coast offense, Reid uses swing passes and screens to the halfback as if they are running plays.

    That won't be the Vikings.

    "You have to be physical in the division," Childress said. "Everything starts on the front. You can have the best ideas in the world as far as trying to run the ball or pass the ball but if you can't establish things on the offensive line, you are going to have problems. I like that group of guys [on the offensive line]."

    He should. The Vikings added the league's best guard, Steve Hutchinson, to a line that boasts left tackle Bryant McKinnie and former Pro Bowl center Matt Birk. Childress traded for right guard Artis Hicks (Eagles) because he knows the blocking scheme. Marcus Johnson is a powerful (6-foot-6, 321 pounds) right tackle.

    The Vikings could have the best offensive line in the league. Hutchinson understands top offensive lines. Teamed with Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones, Hutchinson helped lead the Seahawks to the Super Bowl last season.

    "The way everything was going, the way we jelled, I don't think there was a better line," Hutchinson said of the Seahawks. "[But] I think we would be the best here. You've got McKinnie on the left. McKinnie's damn good. I think Walter Jones is the best left tackle. McKinnie has great feet for his size. He's just a mauler. Nobody is going to get around him, and once he gets his hands on a guy, they go flying. He's going to be a dominant player and he's going to be a dominant player for a long time."

    Even though his NFL stamp is with the Eagles, Childress understands power. He called enough running plays at Wisconsin for Ron Dayne to gain more than 7,000 rushing yards and win a Heisman Trophy. His Vikings tenure will start with Chester Taylor as his featured back.

    Taylor is a solid runner and a good receiver out of the backfield, although he doesn't have the breakaway speed of Robert Smith or Bennett. A former sixth-round pick, Taylor fits the image of Childress' first team -- solid.

    "He's a good, tough kid from Detroit," Childress said of Taylor, who played college ball at Toledo. "All of those kids play with a chip on their shoulder if they didn't play in the Big Ten. He's compact but has the speed to circle the defense. But he can also stick his foot down in the ground and be a factor running inside the tackle."

    Childress is stressing toughness and tempo in practice, much like former head coach Tice. The difference is Childress' entire staff will be preaching the same beliefs.

    The first head coach hired this offseason, Childress had his choice of assistant coaches. Wasting no time, he grabbed Wilf's private plane and flew to Tampa in pursuit of former Bucs secondary coach Mike Tomlin. The fiery Tomlin was targeted by a few other head coaches, so Childress made sure to hire him first. His job is to install the Tampa Bay Cover 2 defense.

    For talent, the Vikings' defense is loaded. It consists of six first-rounders, three second-rounders and a third-rounder. Kevin Williams and Pat Williams are dominating defensive tackles; ends Erasmus James and Kenechi Udeze can rush the quarterback.

    "Good teams basically start with a pretty good defensive nucleus," Childress said. "We have three No. 1 picks along the defensive line and Pat Williams can stuff the run. At ends, we have James and Udeze, and you won't find pass rushers like that every day of the week. Everybody is worried about our linebackers, and I like our linebackers.'

    So far, Wilf likes what he sees, too. Year one was tough for the Vikings' new owner. Efforts to get a new stadium failed in the state legislature. The boat incident in which several Vikings players were accused of lewd behavior embarrassed the franchise and hurt the stadium bid. Wilf ended up changing coaches, revamping the front office and reorganizing the entire business operation.

    Wilf didn't buy the Vikings for the profit. Childress is giving Wilf a solid, no-nonsense team. Both hope they hit the lottery.

    John Clayton is a senior writer for

  6. #6
    Benet's Avatar
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    Re: John Clayton Vikes Observations, 08/07

    Eh, after his ridiculous analysis of the Packers I didn't expect anything spectacular.

    What we have to remember is that not everyone in the US are Vikings fans, so while we already know all this stuff, it'll be news to the rest of the States.

  7. #7
    Braddock's Avatar
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    Re: John Clayton Vikes Observations, 08/07

    "The Vikings could have the best offensive line in the league."

    "The Vikings' linebacking corps is loaded with good athletes."

    Great things to hear, especially from Clayton, who I have a lot of respect for.
    Trying to bring rationale to an irrational site

  8. #8
    cajunvike's Avatar
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    Re: John Clayton Vikes Observations, 08/07

    "Childress wants his Vikings to pound teams on offense and be physical on defense."


    And didn't I say that Clayton would mention "you know what"!

  9. #9
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    Re: John Clayton Vikes Observations, 08/07

    Of course it is bland and everything we already know ... he does not just write articles for Vikings fans :lol: I mean if he did the same thing with every team (which he does) it would have quite a bit we do not know about 31 other teams ... and this is more or less for fans looking to know more about each team.
    All of that said ... it is very nice to see all of the positive comments from a very well respected media personality.

  10. #10
    BadlandsVikings's Avatar
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    Re: John Clayton Vikes Observations, 08/07

    Thank you Mr. Four Eyes.

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