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New Faces Welcomed To Vikings Offseason Program

Posted Apr 23, 2012

Vikings Launch Offseason Program

Eight Vikings Poised For Breakout Seasons

The launch of the Offseason Program means a return to Winter Park for many Vikings players. But it also marks the arrival – for the first time – at Winter Park for other Vikings players. There are several veteran players who are new to the Vikings, and they’ll begin the process of assimilating to their new team this week.

Vikings fans are familiar with Christian Ponder, Kyle Rudolph, Everson Griffen and Chad Greenway. They are not familiar with Zack Bowman, Chris Carr, John Carlson and Geoff Schwartz, though. Now is a great time to get to know them.

Here’s a look at a few fresh faces now playing for the Vikings (you’ll get to know all of them as the offseason program progresses)…

Cornering The Market
The Vikings ranked 26th in passing defense last year, and making matters worse was that they ranked last in passing touchdowns allowed and tied for last in interceptions. To help improve those numbers, the Vikings added a pair of veteran cornerbacks in free agency. Zack Bowman, signed on March 27, joins the Vikings after spending the first four seasons of his career with the Chicago Bears. The 6-1, 195-pound Nebraska graduate is 27 years old, has appeared in 46 games with 16 starts, and has seven career interceptions. The 2009 season marked Bowman’s best, as he recorded a team-leading six interceptions, 10 passes defensed and 67 total tackles; the six interceptions tied for fourth in the NFL in 2009.

One veteran cornerback wasn’t enough for GM Rick Spielman and Co., though. They fortified further the secondary by signing former Ravens cornerback Chris Carr. An eight-year veteran who will be 30 when the 2012 season begins, Carr played in just nine games last year because of a back injury, but before that he was an important part of the Ravens defense and he’s been one of the NFL’s top special teams performers during his career as well.

Ponder Protector
Looking to either add a starter along the offensive line or at least fortify depth, the Vikings signed veteran fifth-year pro Geoff Schwartz in late March. Vikings offensive line coach Jeff Davidson was the offensive coordinator in Carolina when Schwartz was drafted and developed into a solid contributor, so this is a move that likely came from Schwartz or that he at least endorses. A few reasons the Vikings need help along the offensive line: Christian Ponder played in 11 games last season and was sacked 30 times, and the Vikings yielded the fifth-most sacks in the NFL in 2011; the Vikings boast a talented one-two punch at running back with a recovering Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart, which makes run blocking an important aspect of the Vikings offensive attack as well; veteran starting offensive guards Anthony Herrera and Steve Hutchinson are gone, opening up two starting spots.

Carlson Comes Home
The addition of a complementary tight end to Kyle Rudolph isn’t the kind of flashy move that inspires fans on the second day of free agency, but the acquisition of tight end John Carlson does improve the Vikings offense and it’s the latest sign that the team is looking to add young, talented pieces to the offensive puzzle around Ponder. Carlson, at 6-5, 251-pounds, has prototypical size for his position in the NFL and he’ll provide the Vikings with another athletic, pass-catching option who can create mismatches with linebackers and safeties in the middle of the field. A Litchfield, Minnesota native, Carlson comes home to play for the Vikings and will team with Rudolph, a fellow Notre Dame alum, to give the Vikings a talented duo at tight end.

A few other notable additions…
LB Solomon Elimimian – Played college football at the University of Hawaii and was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Rookie in 2010 after recording 77 tackles, 5.0 sacks and 11 special teams tackles.
RB Jerome Felton – At 6-0, 248 pounds, perhaps he could play the versatile fullback/h-back role.
RB Lex Hilliard – A fourth-year player who comes from Miami and provides depth in the backfield.
LB Marvin Mitchell – Will likely provide depth at multiple linebacker spots and will certainly be in the mix as a core special teams player.