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A Nice Day For WR Stephen Burton At OTA No. 7; Notebook

Posted Jun 10, 2013

Stephen Burton

Photo Gallery: OTA No. 7 >>

The Vikings wide receiver position has changed quite a bit since the end of 2012 and it’s safe to say that in 2013 training camp that subset of the Vikings roster will be involved in an intense competition for just a few open jobs.

With the additions of players such Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson and the hype around Jarius Wright after a solid rookie season and Greg Childs as he looks to recover from injury, a man who gets lost in the shuffle is Stephen Burton. Entering his 3rd NFL season after the Vikings selected him with a 7th-round choice in 2011, Burton has long been an afterthought in the Vikings wide receiver competition, often times assumed to be either a practice squad player or bottom of the depth chart body.

But this offseason Burton is on a mission to prove he can be a contributor for the Vikings during the regular season. On Monday Burton made a pair of highlight-reel catches, coming across the middle to make a leaping grab in front of the safety early in practice and then running underneath a monster heave from Christian Ponder down the right sideline for a long reception late in practice. During individual drills, WRs coach George Stewart mentioned three times that Burton had “No tells!” while running routes, indicating to me that the two had picked up on flaws in his route running that the player has since eliminated.

While games are not won or lost in Organized Team Activities (OTAs), jobs are most certainly in the balance at this time of year. Burton has been a player who has shown slight improvement during his time in Purple, which is why he’s still on the roster. But so far during OTAs, Burton is making plays that represent more than slight improvement. He’s often times the first to go through a drill, and he’s also often times the one hauling in an impressive reception.

The point here is not to hand out a roster spot to Burton, rather, it’s notable that a player most considered an afterthought for much of his career is now looking like a player who will give coaches and scouts yet another hard decision when it comes time to shape the roster.

A few notes from Monday’s practice…

Rudolph Continues To Impress
A lot of young Vikings have shown up at these OTAs, but no player has flashed more than Rudolph. More than any other Vikings pass catcher, Rudolph seems to be on the same page with the QBs, particularly Ponder. Whether running a deep seam route or running a hot route to improvise while defenders bring the heat, Rudolph is there to stretch the defense or salvage a play.

He won Pro Bowl MVP honors following his best season as a pro in 2012, and he’s clearly continuing that impressive play during OTAs.

“I try not to get too far ahead of myself, but the Kyle Rudolph that I see now is so much more confident and surer of himself than the Kyle I saw a year ago at this time,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said. “It’s like night and day to me, personally. I’m anxious to see how he does when we get to training camp from a blocking standpoint, but that Pro Bowl, it’s flipped the switch. He knows he has a chance to be a premier tight end in this league after what he did over there being MVP and it’s evident by the way he’s practicing, the way he runs his routes, the control he has in the meetings.”

Letroy Guion

Don’t Count Out Letroy Guion
The Vikings drafted a DT in the 1st round (Sharrif Floyd), some think Fred Evans is worthy of more playing time and a stouter-looking Christian Ballard has been one of the most improved players from a season ago. As a result and in an effort to find a quality starting DT to line up next to Kevin Williams, many are willing to discount the man who started 15 games in that spot just a year ago – Letroy Guion.

As we’ve mentioned several times recently, one must take commentary and evaluations from OTAs with a grain of salt because there are restrictions set forth by the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that limit much of what is accomplished in a typical training camp or regular season practice, and the Vikings abide by those restrictions during OTAs. With that said, Guion has been in the mix with the 1st team at DT and figures to be a prominent member of the DT rotation in 2013.

And that’s the key – the rotation. In 2012, Guion played 538 snaps, Ballard 412 and Evans 367 (according to Pro Football Focus). Expect the Vikings to employ a rotation philosophy at DT again in 2013, and this time another quality player will be added to the mix in Floyd, a game-changer at the University of Florida who comes to the Vikings as the #23 overall pick from last April’s draft.

Given his 1st-round status, many assume Floyd will come in and change games right away at the NFL level. But that may not happen. Not because he can’t eventually do that, but because it takes some time to adjust to life in the NFL trenches and because the Vikings have quality depth at the position returning from last season, including Guion.

Plays Of The Day
Aside from Burton making a couple of highlight-worthy receptions, other top plays were registered by…

-- TE Rhett Ellison with a 1-handed grab while running down the right seam and past both a LB and S.
-- S Mistral Raymond grabbing an INT and CB Chris Cook also grabbing an INT just moments later.
-- RB Adrian Peterson reversing field rapidly to outsmart, outrun and run circles around a persistent, pursuing and flowing defense.