The popularity of fantasy football steers most conversations about running backs toward carries, yards, touchdowns and catches with a minor emphasis on protecting the football.
Coaching staffs, however, place a high emphasis on protecting the passer, especially in a league where quarterback continuity is paramount, pass rushers are a determined breed of behemoths from the middle or explosive from the edge and blitzes can be exotic.
The Vikings have been working on blitz pickup and pass protection by running backs at 2015 Verizon Vikings Training Camp since Friday.
Mark Craig of the *Star Tribune *noted that Jerick McKinnon stayed after Sunday's practice to work on his technique in the oft-undervalued component of playing running back in the NFL.
Craig spoke with Vikings running backs coach Kirby Wilson, who said: "It's the most difficult job they're going to have every week. Generally speaking, the guy you're blocking outweighs you by 30 to 50 pounds. He's stronger. He's bigger. And rushing the quarterback is what he does for a living."
*In this one particular area, Peterson doesn't even rank No. 1 on his own team. If watching the 1-on-1 drills isn't proof enough, there's this from (Wilson): *
"Matt Asiata has been consistently our best pass protector," (Wilson) said. "He's pretty darn good at it. Actually, he's outstanding."
*Asiata isn't a natural pass protector, either. Then again, who is at that position? *
"I think it's pretty hard to learn coming into the NFL because in college they don't really teach you how to do it," said Asiata, Peterson's backup. "Being a rookie free agent [in 2011], pass blocking was the key to staying on the team for me. It's a passing league and somebody has to protect the passer."
Tough Love for Corners
Dave Campbell with *The Associated Press *wrote that Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer's attention to detail on Vikings cornerbacks amounts to an example that people are "always harder on the ones they love."
Zimmer coaches them as critically as any players on the Vikings, and if there were a contest held to determine his favorite position on the field the others would probably be fighting for second place.
"He is a hard coach, but that's something that I enjoy," said rookie Trae Waynes, the team's first-round draft pick.
Here's the important part about those high cornerback standards: The results Zimmer has coaxed from that group over the years have produced for him plenty of credibility on the subject.
With Dallas and Cincinnati as an assistant and now with Minnesota as the man in charge, Zimmer has presided over a lot of skill development at that critical spot.
"For what we do defensively, it's an extremely important position. So it allows you to do so many other things if you've got the kind of guys you're looking for and they'll do what you want," Zimmer said. "A lot of it is just getting back and studying and trying to figure out the best way to teach and trying to get these guys the best position to be in. So I don't know. I like it. I just like it."
Campbell wrote "there's a lot to like on this roster" at the cornerback position.
Outlook on today's Vikings and Steelers practices:
ESPN.com's embedded reporters wrote a preview of Monday's practices for all 32 NFL clubs. Here's a look at the Vikings and Steelers, who are set to open the preseason Sunday at the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio:
The Vikings will practice on Monday with the start of their preseason schedule now less than a week away; the team will open the 2015 season against the Steelers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET. Coach Mike Zimmer plans to keep mixing and matching players in practice to avoid getting too high on backups who might excel against second- and third-team competition in preseason games. — Ben Goessling
The Steelers' revamped secondary will get much-needed 11-on-11 and red zone work against the loaded Pittsburgh offense. The Steelers need to continue building confidence in the secondary, particularly after the trade acquisition of Brandon Boykin, who was eased into action Sunday. Expect his workload to increase Monday. — Jeremy Fowler