NFC North: Glenn Holt
INDIANAPOLIS -- We hit Minnesota's quarterback competition pretty thoroughly Friday night. But ESPN.com has learned that Sage Rosenfels and Tarvaris Jackson weren't the only players on the field Friday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.
So in honor of the other 78, let's consider five (non-quarterback) observations from the Vikings' 13-3 victory over Indianapolis:
- Minnesota's first-team defense played only one series, a six-play drive that ultimately netted the Colts zero yards. The Vikings sacked quarterback Peyton Manning three times, and afterwards Colts coach Jim Caldwell had seen enough. He called it a night and yanked Manning from the game. "It's hard for them to catch it with the ball in his hands," coach Brad Childress said. Consider it an efficient night for a defense that hasn't gotten much attention this summer.
- The Vikings' special teams played with the urgency to be expected from a group that needs to make serious improvement from last season. The Colts' average starting point in 10 possessions was their 21-yard line. They averaged 15.3 yards on four kickoff returns and 6.0 yards on two punt returns. And Vikings newcomer Glenn Holt made a spectacular tackle in the third quarter to stop Colts punt returner T.J. Rushing. The end result was a fumble for Rushing and a 52-yard net for punter Chris Kluwe. "I thought those guys were whipped up pretty good," Childress said.
- The Vikings were downplaying an apparent hamstring injury for receiver Bernard Berrian, but you wonder if it will shorten or possibly end his preseason. While there is some value to having Berrian work with the Vikings' quarterbacks in game situations, it's more important to have his legs fresh when the season begins. There's nothing worse than a receiver with a bad wheel. I'd be surprised if Berrian plays much more during the preseason.
- If the Vikings keep a third running back they'll have a tough choice between first-year player Albert Young (58 yards on 14 carries) and rookie Ian Johnson (50 yards on nine carries). Both are compact backs but run hard and move straight up the field.
- First-year receiver Jaymar Johnson returned punts and kickoffs in the absence of rookie Percy Harvin (shoulder). The good news: Johnson is smooth and appears to have excellent hands and confidence. But if Johnson has a burst to get past the first wave of coverage, he didn't show it Friday night.
Yes! Cincinnati has exacted revenge on Minnesota, which only two days ago signed Bengals receiver/kick returner Glenn Holt.
Friday, the Bengals signed Vikings fullback Naufahu Tahi to an offer sheet worth $1.4 million, according to Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The move also rectifies a long-standing grudge of the Vikings signing Tahi off the Bengals' practice squad in 2006.
In all seriousness, the Vikings haven't tried very hard to keep Tahi -- who is a restricted free agent -- and instead are pursuing free agent Leonard Weaver. The Bengals' offer is worth $390,000 more than the $1.01 million tender the Vikings placed on Tahi when free agency began.
The Vikings have seven days to decide whether to match the Bengals' offer, which they hope will coincide with Weaver's decision.
There was no shortage of optimism at Detroit's practice facility following a strong offseason program and a 4-0 preseason. Some players and coaches believed the franchise had turned the corner. Then, 0-16 happened.
Lions linebacker Ernie Sims, for one, has learned his lesson. Speaking to Detroit-area reporters, Sims wouldn't agree that there should be cautious optimism about the 2009 team:
"Naw, I'm not cautious because that's what it is. I'm being real. It might look good on paper right now and it might look good because they're running good in offseason training, but it really matters when it's Sunday and the lights are on and it's game time."
(Quote courtesy Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com.)
Sims said he has spent the past 2 1/2 months mostly in isolation to put last season behind him:
"I went home and went into the country and didn't come out and didn't talk to nobody. And now I'm back. I went into the country, into the woods. I disappeared. I went fishing and caught me a 10-pound bass. I did all kinds of stuff. I just got away, relaxed and let my body heal up."
Sims is a pretty quiet guy and mostly keeps to himself. But from this vantage point, it seems he has the right kind of personality to navigate the Lions' rebuilding project.
Continuing around the NFC North a bit later than normal on this Friday morning:
- Lynn Henning of the Detroit News attended Thursday's pro day for Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford. Lions general manager Martin Mayhew also was in attendance but declined comment.
- Chicago receiver Earl Bennett said he had trouble learning the Bears' plays as a rookie, according to Bob LeGere of the Daily Herald.
- The Bears completed their three-day minicamp Thursday and will return April 6 to begin the strength and conditioning portion of their offseason.
- According to this story from Megan Manfull of the Houston Chronicle, Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris will join a group of NFL players traveling this month to Nigeria.
- Cornerback Karl Paymah and receiver/kick returner Glenn Holt believe they have a chance to win the Super Bowl with Minnesota, an unbelieving Mark Craig reports for the Star Tribune.
- In case you missed it Thursday night, Green Bay safety Nick Collins has skipped the start of the Packers' offseason program because of a lack of progress towards a new contract. Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal has the story.
Will Glenn Holt represent Minnesota's 2009 attempt to lock down its kickoff return job? That's probably the most optimistic way of viewing Holt's contract agreement, which the Vikings officially announced Thursday by designating Holt as a wide receiver/kickoff returner.
The Vikings haven't settled on a returner during the first three years of coach Brad Childress' tenure, instead instituting a rotation based on which player figured most prominently in the game plan that particular week. That player handled kickoff returns and the alternatives were generally inactive for the game. Over that span, the Vikings used seven different players as their primary kick returners.
(A similar routine has taken place at punt returner, where the Vikings finished last season using a rotation of starting receivers Bobby Wade and Bernard Berrian. Holt, however, doesn't return punts. Oh well. Rome wasn't built in a day. Or even in four years.)
Holt averaged 24.3 yards per return in three years with Cincinnati, including a 100-yard return in 2007. After the release of Maurice Hicks last month, Holt could get the first chance to be the Vikings' primary kickoff return in 2009. Being in uniform is likely to be his biggest obstacle.
Arguably the most important event of the draft season -- at least between the scouting combine and the draft itself -- will take place Thursday on the University of Georgia campus.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford will headline a Georgia Pro Day that is expected to be attended by every NFL team. Stafford, the top-rated quarterback in the draft and a leading candidate to be the No. 1 overall pick, will throw publicly for the first time since the end of the college season.
Stafford skipped the throwing portion of last month's combine, increasing the importance of Thursday's event. As you might expect, a number of Detroit officials are expected to be in attendance. But the Lions also plan a private workout with Stafford at a later date. He visited their practice facility last week.
We'll keep you updated on the Pro Day as best we can. But in the meantime, here is a link to the Atlanta Journal Constitution's Georgia blog, which reporter Chip Towers will be updating live from the event. Stafford is expected to throw at about 12:15 p.m. ET.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- Quarterback Drew Stanton, the Lions' second-round pick in 2007, is in danger of getting lost in the shuffle in Detroit. Daunte Culpepper is the top candidate to open training camp as the starter, and the Lions have said they plan to sign a veteran backup. But Stanton has been told he has a clean slate with the new coaching staff, according to Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com.
- The Lions hosted a visit Wednesday for Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji and Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew. David Birkett of the Oakland Press has the details.
- David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune shifts focus from the Bears' right tackle spot to the left side, where former first-round pick Chris Williams has been inserted as the starter.
- Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times takes an early look at the work of new Bears defensive line coach Rod Marinelli.
- Dave Redding is a "Hall of Fame strength coach," Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said. Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel profiles the man running the Packers' offseason workouts.
- Former Minnesota safety Darren Sharper, who signed Wednesday with New Orleans, had a parting shot for the Vikings' coaching staff. Here's what Sharper told the New Orleans Times-Picayune, via Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune: "You love to play for coaches who don't just get caught up in saying, 'This is my system and this is how it's done.' That's how it was in Minnesota."
- The Vikings have agreed to terms with former Cincinnati receiver Glenn Holt, according to ESPN's John Clayton. Holt would have been a restricted free agent this offseason, but the Bengals did not make him a contract tender. He had three receptions in 15 games last season.