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Lunch Break, July 28: Middle LB Competition, Peterson Pass Protecting and More

Posted Jul 28, 2014

Middle linebacker competition will be fierce

Who is Minnesota’s man in the middle? That’s a question that has yet to be answered. But according to the Pioneer Press’ Brian Murphy, the answer will come after a “fierce” competition that will unfold in Mankato at 2014 Verizon Vikings Training Camp.

Murphy explains that veteran Chad Greenway’s role is being redefined and that both Jasper Brinkley and Audie Cole are battling for the “MIKE” linebacker position.

“We're rotating a lot of different guys in a lot of different areas,” Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards said. “We still haven't said that this guy is at this position or this guy's the MIKE or this guy's playing the SAM.”

An interesting side note to this story is that second-year player Michael Mauti was not mentioned in Murphy’s piece. Mauti has been running with the second team frequently and may not be far behind Brinkley on the depth chart. Time will tell the winner of this position battle.

Peterson the…pass protector?

The Star Tribune’s Mark Craig did a nice job piecing together some of Vikings Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner’s thoughts on Adrian Peterson’s role in the Vikings passing game. Yes, Peterson is the NFL’s best running back, but fans have wanted to see their star runner more involved in the passing game, and it sounds like Turner is of the same mindset.

Peterson has been criticized in the past for his deficiencies in pass protection. Turner, though, says Peterson is just fine as a pass protector, so long as he’s being asked to do the right things.

“He’s an outstanding pass protector, when you keep him in his element,” Turner said. “We don’t want him blocking defensive ends. We don’t want him blocking 280-pound outside linebackers. When he’s blocking the people he should be blocking, he’s very good in pass protection.”

Turner’s outlook on Peterson’s place in the offense as a pass protector speaks to the coordinator’s practical approach to offense, which is grounded in understanding a player’s strengths and using that understanding to put the player in favorable situations.

“That’s the coach’s job is to find out what he does best and let him do those things,” Turner explained. “We are going to try and not ask him to do things that he is not comfortable with, but there are enough things he does well as a receiver. I feel like he is going to make big plays in the passing game.”

Vikings among NFL’s best in under-25 talent

The Star Tribune’s Michael Rand cited as report from Football Outsiders that ranks the NFL’s 32 teams in terms of talented players under the age of 25. The Vikings rank No. 3 on the list, not surprising given the fact they have selected seven players in the first round over the past three seasons.

“It will be interesting to see how this mass of talent pans out and how the new coaching staff will influence it,” Rand writes. “But having the potential to have so many contributors at young ages and relatively low salaries could give the Vikings a chance to compete sooner than some of us might think.”

Cordarrelle Patterson, Kyle Rudolph and Blair Walsh are the three Vikings referenced by the under-25 study. What’s interesting to note, then, is the presence of a few other under-25 players with a ton of talent but who weren’t mentioned in this report: Teddy Bridgewater, Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and Jarius Wright. All four of those players stand a chance to become key contributors this year, and if they do the Vikings will have one of the most talented young corps of players in the League.

Rudolph's nice catch: five years, $36.5 million

In a classic Rick Spielman move, the Executive Vice President and General Manager locked up one of the aforementioned unter-25 talents, TE Kyle Rudolph. The fourth year player inked a reported 5-year extension which the Star Tribune’s Matt Vensel describes as ‘a sizable investment in Kyle Rudolph, banking that the 24-year-old soon will become one of the NFL’s best tight ends.

“I’m extremely excited to get this extension completed and continue my career with the Minnesota Vikings,” Rudolph said in a statement. “I’ve said all along I wanted to stay in Minnesota. I love the fans, the community and, most importantly, I’m excited about where this team is going. I’m looking forward to the 2014 season and helping this organization reach our ultimate goal.”

With Norv Turner at the helm of the Vikings offense, Rudolph is poised to have a big year and the Vikings have made it be known they have full confidence in the budding star from Notre Dame. Much has been made of Turner’s success with tight ends and now he should have a mainstay at the position for the foreseeable future.

Vikings: Hard-hitting back Matt Asiata makes his presence known

With the speedy Jerick McKinnon stealing headlines during the 2014 offseason, many forgot about RB Matt Asiata as the Vikings entered training camp. Many except for Norv Turner. The new offensive coordinator Norv Turner brought up Asiata's name Saturday as "one of the guys who (has) been as impressive to me as anyone offensively."

During an injury riddled season, Asiata saw the most playing time of his career last December. Asiata tied a team record with three rushing touchdowns against the Eagles and then followed it up with a 100-plus rushing yard performance against Detroit to finish the season, proving he has the ability to perform in this league.

As the Pioneer Press Seth Boster portrays here, Asiata is grateful for any opportunity he receives:

Asiata smiled Saturday when he learned about the praise coaches gave him earlier in the afternoon.

"I guess it's a blessing that they noticed me," said Asiata, who went undrafted in 2011. "I'll keep going out there and just keep grinding and try and do my job, listen to them. Whatever they tell me to do, I'll do it."

As we hit the dog days of camp, we will see many players step up and contribute but one to keep an eye out for is Matt Asiata.