The Viking dealt with injuries along the offensive line in 2014, losing RG Brandon Fusco early and eventually losing both LG Charlie Johnson and RT Phil Loadholt, as well. Despite tapping into as much of their depth as they did, the Vikings didn't call upon rookie David Yankey to help, causing many to wonder why the former two-time All-American from Stanford wasn't getting a shot.
Eventually, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer offered part of the explanation, saying at one point that Yankey was progressing well but needed to work on his strength.
The Star Tribune's Matt Vensel reports that Yankey took that direction from his head coach and now has his eye on competing for more playing time. In the offseason, Yankey trained in Georgia with Ryan Goldin, who has other NFL clients. Wrote Vensel:
"For two months, Goldin put Yankey and the group through grueling workouts nearly every day. Yankey's top priorities were strengthening his lower half and improving his core strength to improve his knee bend when rocketing out of his stance and his balance once engaged.
When Yankey reported to Winter Park in April for the start of voluntary workouts, he said he felt like a different player than the one that left the building back in January.
'I feel like I've personally made strides,' Yankey said. 'But you're going to have to ask [the Vikings] what they think about it.'"
Up to speed, Scott Crichton wants to 'make some noise'
Another draft choice from 2014 who didn't play much in the regular season but who is eyeing more playing time in 2015 is DE Scott Crichton. 1500ESPN.com's Andrew Krammer broached this topic after attending Thursday's OTA, the last of the offseason for the Vikings.
"Cemented as a spectator during his rookie campaign, Crichton says the game has slowed down for him as he wrapped up his first full Organized Team Activity slate on Thursday. He sees an opening. The Vikings have roughly a few hundred snaps up for grabs as coaches look for a primary rotational end to spell starters Brian Robison and Everson Griffen."
Krammer referenced Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer's assertion earlier in the week that Crichton is thinking less and reacting more, and he also noted that Crichton is at a more preferable playing weight and is also stronger and faster.
"I thought I was playing catch up the whole last season," Crichton told Krammer. "The thing about the playbook is, if you know it, you can play way faster. If you know what's going on with the defense, you can play way faster.
"I have big expectations for myself. That's how you have to play. Play with confidence and try to make some noise."
Fullback Zach Line confident he'll start, and play
After three seasons with the Vikings, including a Pro Bowl campaign in 2012, Jerome Felton bolted this offseason to Buffalo via free agency. Felton's departure left a vacancy at FB, but the St. Paul Pioneer Press' Chris Tomasson writes that Zach Line sounds determined to fill the void and is using Felton as his standard of performance.
View images from the last of ten OTA's.
"I feel like I've bided my time and I've worked really hard," Line told Tomasson. "It will be a waste for me not to take everything I've learned over these past few years from the best fullback in the NFL (Felton). That's what I want to be. Everybody wants to be that. But talk is talk. You've got to step in the white lines on Sunday, so that's what we practice for."
In the piece, Tomasson goes on to explain that how the Vikings plan to incorporate the FB into Norv Turner's offense remains a mystery. Felton's snaps declined last season, according to the piece, but it's also notable that the personnel strategy may have shifted with Adrian Peterson not in the mix. Might the Vikings use the FB more frequently now that Peterson is back in the fold? Or, will the Vikings use the FB more infrequently going forward? It's a question that remains to be answered, and head coach Mike Zimmer is (wisely) not inclined to make a proclamation about it.
"Each week is different; each game is different," Zimmer said. "It's hard to say that we're going to use the fullback 40 plays a game. ... We're going to use him, but as soon as you bring the fullback in, then defenses start loading up. What we're trying to do is use all the people we have, the extra receivers, extra tight ends, the fullback -- different things."
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