Wrapping up four days in Minnesota
MANKATO, Minn. -- Monday is the last full day I'll be spending here at Minnesota's camp, a development I'm sure will be a relief to some of you who are have been feeling a bit Purple-dosed during this extended weekend. As I've mentioned, I'll be hitting all four NFC North camps and everyone will get their turn.
With that, here are some observations and thoughts about the Vikings after seven practices:
- Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson (knee) stepped up his rehabilitation a bit Monday afternoon, throwing and jogging on the field during practice. The next step will be jumping into stretching and individual drills. Coach Brad Childress continues to be vague on the severity of the injury and Jackson's timetable for return. Jackson didn't speak to the media Monday. My suspicion level always rises to the level of secrecy, and confirmed details have been scarce in this case. But if I had to guess, I would say Jackson is several days away from returning at full speed.
- In his absence, Sage Rosenfels has improved with every practice. Monday was by far his best day, highlighted by two long completions to Bernard Berrian and Jaymar Johnson. Rosenfels is also looking much more confident and sure of himself as he feels his way through the offense. If nothing else, he has used this opportunity to pull himself dead even with Jackson in their competition. The more time Jackson misses, the better for Rosenfels. And for all of you rooting for John David Booty: I've seen nothing to suggest he is contender for the starting job. He's smoother than last year but still significantly behind Rosenfels in terms of accuracy and knowledge.
- Rookie cornerback Asher Allen, a third-round pick from Georgia, has flashed a number of times during practice and drew strong praise Monday from Childress. Allen is aggressive, fluid and not afraid to stick his nose into a pile. At this point, he appears to have a legitimate chance to win the job at nickel back. Even if he doesn't, it looks like he has a future in that role. On the flip side, I've not noticed free agent Karl Paymah once in defensive drills. Paymah ostensibly was signed to play in the nickel defense.
- The team appears to have better depth at linebacker after getting Heath Farwell back from a knee injury and adding fifth-round pick Jasper Brinkley. Farwell made an athletic interception Sunday while chasing tight end Visanthe Shiancoe downfield. Brinkley plays with anger and is going to be a good hitter, perhaps right away on special teams. The Vikings had to go out and sign Napoleon Harris last year when E.J. Henderson was injured, but this year they should be able to absorb an injury internally.
- First-round pick Percy Harvin doesn't look comfortable as a punt returner but seems relatively natural as a kickoff returner. Special teams coordinator Brian Murphy agreed with that analysis. Harvin also has a habit of catching the ball with his hands over his shoulder or near his face mask. Murphy termed it an "oddity" and said it will have to be adjusted.
- The Vikings are throwing a lot at Harvin right away. In addition to kickoff and punt return duties, they're lining him up in the slot, on the outside and in the backfield. He's also involved in plenty of pre-snap motion and was used in Wildcat formations during minicamp. Coaches believe Harvin can handle the big load. "He has good football IQ," Childress said. "He likes football and has done a few different things. A lot of things we aren't doing for the first time with him."
- Tailback Adrian Peterson has never been considered a top-flight pass receiver, but I saw him drop more passes over the past four days than in quite some time. Peterson seemed to be looking upfield too early on some of them, but others simply slipped off his hands. I've seen nothing to suggest that Chester Taylor won't be the third-down back this season.
- I'll post a more in-depth look Tuesday at new right tackle Phil Loadholt and how his presence will impact the entire offense. For now, I'll just say he is one big dude who has without question upgraded the position. He still has a lot to learn, but his 6-foot-8 frame allows him to cover for some of his inexperience.