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Monday Morning Mailbag

Posted Aug 15, 2011

Do you have a comment or question? Send it to the vikings.com Mailbag! Every Monday during the offseason we’ll post several comments and/or questions as part of the vikings.com Monday Morning Mailbag feature. Although we can’t post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.

To submit a comment or question to the mailbag, send an email to Mike Wobschall at wobschallm@vikings.nfl.net. Remember to include your name and town on the email.

 

Who do you think will be the Vikings kick returner this year? Will Percy Harvin keep the job, or because of the new QB rules do you think it might be Joe Webb? Or perhaps someone completely different? Personally, while I love Harvin's explosive speed on kick returns, the risk of him getting injured seems too great of a consequence. What are your thoughts?
-- Joe H.
Sioux Falls, SD

On one hand I hesitate promoting anyone but Harvin for the kick return job because he does such a great job in that role. In fact, his ability as a kick returner was a big reason why he was named to the Pro Bowl in 2009. On the other hand, though, it might be a blessing in disguise to find someone else who can handle the kick return role because it will save a few touches per game for Harvin and those touches can then go to him on offense.

To me the Vikings best alternative option is Lorenzo Booker. In 2010 with the Vikings, Booker returned 18 kicks and generated an average return of 23.8 yards, with three returns of 40 yards. Harvin last year had 40 returns and generated a 23.3-yard average per return with the same number (three) of 40 yard returns. So while Harvin was a superior returner in 2009 (27.5-yard average with five 40 yard returns), last year Harvin and Booker were about even. On Saturday night in Tennessee, Booker had one return and he took it back 26 yards.

To me, if the team decides to find an alternative option to Harvin in the kick return game, Booker is the best bet.

Leslie Frazier said in his postgame presser that Christian Ponder will flip-flop with Joe Webb this week and work with the second-team offense. Does this mean Ponder is officially the #2 QB on the depth chart?
-- Carl K.

No, this has been the Vikings plan all along. Ponder and Webb are in a good, old-fashioned position battle for position on the depth chart. Webb entered training camp as the #2, based primarily on the fact that he was with the team last year and also because Ponder came to camp with not an ounce of NFL experience, not even minicamps or Organized Team Activities (OTAs). In an ordinary year where a lockout doesn’t destroy offseason practices, OTAs and minicamps, a rookie QB such as Ponder would get a jump-start on the offense and perhaps have a chance to enter camp as the backup. But with the offseason the way it was this year, it made more sense for the Vikings to install Webb as the backup going into camp.

Regarding the offensive line, I’m reading that LT Charlie Johnson has struggled against DEs Jared Allen and Everson Griffen (in practice). If this persists, what action will the Viking coaches take? Move RT Phil Loadholt to LT and have Ryan Cook take over at right tackle? Or will the Vikings staff elect to trade for a LT? One thing is for certain, this team can’t go into the regular season with Johnson struggling. Also, other than Percy Harvin and Michael Jenkins, what WR has caught your eye? In my opinion, Devin Aromashodu should be given every chance to supplant Bernard Berrian. Actually, I think Berrian is finished with the Vikings.
-- Paul H.

It’s too early to declare that Johnson is struggling at LT because he’s still new to this team and this offense. At some point, Johnson is no longer a new face and therefore he needs to be a solid performer, but at this point he’s still getting acclimated. Remember, Johnson is not some slouch the Vikings grabbed from off the street. He came from the Indianapolis Colts, where he played in two Super Bowls, starting in one of them. He’s played in 74 career games with 54 starts, all with the Colts and many of them at LT. He’s earned the respect of coaches and players throughout the League and he deserves more of a chance to get acclimated here in Minnesota and lock down a starting spot. If he is never able to perform consistently well, then I will be with everyone else calling for the team to replace him. But that time has not come yet because Johnson is still relatively new to the offense and we all know it takes some time for an offensive line to develop chemistry.

As for the WRs, I actually completely disagree with the idea that Berrian is done with the Vikings. As I wrote at the beginning of training camp, I think Berrian is poised for a productive season in Minnesota. Berrian, Harvin and Jenkins will give the Vikings a legitimate trio of primary receivers. After those three guys, I think the competition for roster spots is thick. Aromashodu looked good in the 2nd half on Saturday and appears to have excellent speed, Greg Camarillo is the definition of steady, Jaymar Johnson has had a solid camp and he flashed a bit on Saturday night in Tennessee, specifically with his 40-yard punt return, and Juaquin Iglesias is an under-the-radar guy to watch. There’s still a ways to go in training camp and the preseason, so this is a position to watch over the next couple of weeks.

Hey Mike, I noticed that TE Kyle Rudolph played primarily with the number two's in Saturday's game. I know it's the first preseason game, but I thought he was a starter. What is his role in this offense and is he going to be a regular starter on Sundays during the regular season?
-- Tim C.

The reason you noticed Rudolph primarily with the second-team offense on Saturday is because the first-team offense only played the first two series. The second-team offense played the rest of the first half, so that’s why you noticed Rudolph playing with the second-team. As for Rudolph’s role in this offense going forward, he’s going to be an important part of the offense. New offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave will utilize the two-TE formation quite often and Rudolph will be in the mix, especially in the passing game. As for actually starting the game, that all depends on what formation the Vikings use on the first play. If the Vikings come out in a four-WR set on the first play, then Rudolph probably won’t technically be a starter. But if the Vikings first play from scrimmage in the game features a two-TE set, then there’s a good chance Rudolph will be a starter.

Seth Olsen played a lot against Tennessee on Saturday. What do you think his prospects are for making the team?
-- Dean
vikings.com Blog commenter

I noted during a couple of training camp practices last week that Olsen was stepping in at first-team LG when Steve Hutchinson was resting, so that tells me he’s looked at by the coaching staff as one of the top reserves. I don’t want to make too much out of a couple practices, but it’s certainly noteworthy that Olsen has filled in for Hutchinson. To me, it appears Olsen has a great shot of making the team as a reserve lineman, especially if he can show coaches that he can play either LG or RG.

We are going to Seattle this week. Lots of chips on shoulders in this game. I am thinking this is an important game for the Seahawks; they carry a larger chip than the Vikings. What are your thoughts on this upcoming match up?
-- Mike B.

Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, QB Tarvaris Jackson and WR Sidney Rice are all former Vikings who’ve gone to Seattle, which is what Mike is referring to in his question. If this were a regular season game, then I would agree that this game would mean more because of the familiarity of those three individuals with the Vikings. But it’s a preseason game, so I think that takes a lot of the meaning away. The main goal of preseason games is to iron out the wrinkles, stay away from injuries and figure out the answer to some position battles. Winning the game and developing rivalries is secondary to the aforementioned goals, therefore I don’t see this game as a matchup where anyone has a chip on their shoulder or extra motivation to win.