NFC North: Ryan Longwel
|Tim Heitman/US PRESSWIRE|
|The Minnesota Vikings are counting on Adrian Peterson and Tarvaris Jackson this season.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Let's, er, wrap-up our Camp Wrap series today by looking at the Minnesota Vikings. (We covered the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers late last week. And there isn't much to add to this report on the Detroit Lions, which came after a visit on the final day of their training camp).
What we learned about the Vikings this summer:
1. Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson has made some improvements but needs to be more careful about preserving his health. Most recently, he sprained his right knee after choosing to lower his shoulder on two Baltimore defenders rather than sliding. "Maybe we learn to play another day and take two less yards on running up the field," coach Brad Childress said. Amen.
2. Preseason injuries are a downer. The Vikings have lost special teams ace Heath Farwell (knee) and defensive end Jayme Mitchell (knee) for the season. They will go without new safety Madieu Williams (neck) for at least the first three games and are hoping Jackson is not sidelined long. Receiver Bernard Berrian has been bothered by a case of turf toe and nose tackle Pat Williams is battling elbow and knee ailments. Even with a deep roster, the Vikings can't withstand many more significant injuries.
3. The Vikings have a high degree of confidence in placekicker Ryan Longwell -- so much so that he was a healthy scratch for the first two preseason games. The decision was part of a plan to ensure that Longwell, 34, maintains a strong leg for the duration of the season. In the meantime, rookie Steven Hauschka has kicked well enough in Longwell's place to earn a few tryouts later this summer. We'll bring you more on Hauschka later this week. (Try to contain your excitement).
What we still need to find out:
1. Resolution at left tackle. There still has been no official word on the status of left tackle Bryant McKinnie, whom the NFL is likely to discipline in some way for an offseason arrest in Miami. Will it be a fine? One game? Two? Four? No one knows yet. The same can also be said for his potential replacement. Artis Hicks remains the likeliest candidate, but he spent no time at left tackle during camp. Instead, the Vikings worked three young players behind McKinnie: Chase Johnson, Drew Radovich and Tim Mattran. The latter two are sidelined with shoulder and ankle injuries, respectively.
2. If Jared Allen can fix the pass defense alone. Madieu Williams' injury leaves Allen as the only healthy newcomer the Vikings brought in to improve a pass defense that finished last in the NFL in 2007. Allen has applied some pressure in the preseason but it will be a while before we know whether the Vikings' perennially poor pass defense has gotten any better.
3. If the Vikings are ready to overcome the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears for NFC North supremacy. The Vikings haven't won the division since 2000, and on paper they have as deep a roster as any of the division's four teams. But the injuries and Jackson's uncertain status requires a wait-and-see attitude.
ROMULUS, Mich. -- We're on the ground here in Michigan and will head over to the Detroit Lions' morning practice here in a little bit.
Thanks to those of you have sent Lions-related questions and comments to the mailbag. Feel free to continue. We'll get to them this week.
Let's take a quick look around the division before setting out for the Lions' facility:
- "There are only two impact players on the Lions and both are wide receivers," writes Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press, referring to Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson. Nevertheless, it's not still not clear whether the Lions plan to re-sign Williams, who is entering the final year of his contract.
- The Lions had free agent center LeCharles Bentley in for a visit but didn't sign him.
- First-round draft pick Gosder Cherilus, the likely starter at right tackle, has been getting some practice work at left tackle in the event he has to do spot duty there.
- Don't get too excited, but Devin Hester threw the ball out of a variety of formations during Chicago Bears practice Tuesday.
- Minnesota Vikings placekicker Ryan Longwell didn't participate in the preseason opener and is just starting to kick in earnest during practice, part of a plan to maintain his leg strength during the season.
- Responding to suggestions that his training camp hasn't been as tough as previous seasons, Vikings coach Brad Childress invited reporters to participate in a 9-on-7 drill. "And then you could comment afterwards on if you think it's soft or not." (Darn. Just sold my cleats on eBay).
- A Milwaukee television station is hoping to carry at least seven New York Jets games this season so that Wisconsinites can watch former Packers quarterback Brett Favre.