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Lunch Break, September 5: Jennings Staying Under The Radar, Kalil Putting In Long Hours

Veteran wideout Greg Jennings has flown somewhat under the radar this offseason with much of the attention going to Adrian Peterson, Norv Turner, Matt Cassel, Teddy Bridgewater, Cordarrelle Patterson, etc., but he many serve as one of the most important in the new Vikings offensive scheme.

Matt Vensel of the Star Tribune writes that Jennings will play a vital role for the purples offseason:

"I don't have to be the guy," the veteran Vikings wideout, introspective as always, quietly but passionately told a reporter the other day. "It's funny because the more experience you have, the most knowledge you gain — if you're willing to learn."

But that doesn't mean that Jennings, soon to be 31 and somewhat overlooked entering the second season of a five-year, $47.5 million contract, plans on sitting in a rocking chair on the sideline and watching Patterson, tight end Kyle Rudolph and others catch all the passes in coordinator Norv Turner's proven offensive scheme. Jennings is eager to show that he still is capable of shining, too.

Last season, Jennings caught 68 passes for 804 yards and four touchdowns in 15 games. The receiving yards were his fewest in a season in which he played more than eight games since his rookie year with the Packers in 2006.

"I don't dwell on it," he said. "I've never been a stat guy. At this position, I know that sounds a little too good to be true. Once you get caught up in the stats, I feel like it affects your game because you start worrying about your own individual success and you put that as a priority over the team." 

Jennings, who led the squad in catches and receiving yards in 2013, will be an important piece to Norv Turner's puzzle even if he's not posting Pro Bowl type numbers.

Head Coach Mike Zimmer mentioned after Thursday's practice Matt Kalil had two of the best practices he's seen from the young tackle from USC. The timing couldn't be better considering the opponent on Sunday, budding superstar Robert Quinn.

ESPN's Ben Goessling documents the hard work Kalil has been recently putting in:

View images from the Thursday, September 4 practice at Winter Park.

*The routine started at the beginning of training camp: Matt Kalil would step onto the field a half-hour before the start of practice, hoping to find through drills what came so easily to him as a rookie. Ten minutes before practice, offensive line coach Jeff Davidson would join him, and the two would reconvene for another 10 minutes after practice, with Davidson mimicking a pass rusher and Kalil testing out different approaches to stopping him. *

*The steps came so easily as a rookie, when Kalil went to the Vikings with the fourth overall pick, stalemated a string of established pass rushers late in the season and played in the Pro Bowl three weeks after appearing in his first playoff game. But by his own admission, Kalil struggled in his second season, playing through a knee injury during the last two months of the season that changed his approach to pass blocking as he tried to compensate for the pain. *

*"I think the biggest problem I had was kicking sideways, rather than kicking back, because I didn't trust my knee to get me back there," Kalil said. "I'm doing it now, and my knee's fine. It's just a mental block. It takes a while. It's not going to be overnight when your knee was messed up all last year." *

Kalil says he's ready to go now, that his experimentation with different techniques in the preseason -- which resulted in some unsightly exhibition games -- helped him make up for the time he lost after knee surgery and learn to trust himself again. As Kalil heads into his third year, the Vikings need to know they can count on him.

Kalil and the offensive line will be put to the test right away in Week 1 against a defensive line that boasts four first round picks. How the Vikings handle the protection will be interesting to keep an eye on.

Quick Hitters

  • Cordarrelle Patterson tells Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher to kick him the ball.
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