|Vikings' Frazier has plenty to work with|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 22 May 2008 22:57|
His group was once again good against the run, but a soft pass rush and some injuries in the secondary made them the worst team in the league against the pass.
As the offseason progressed, Frazier's job got easier and easier by the month. The Wilf family tapped its billion-dollar bank account in March, shelling out $13 million in guaranteed money to Cincinnati safety Madieu Williams to replace Dwight Smith.
Then in April, the Vikings made a blockbuster trade for defensive end Jared Allen and made him the highest paid defensive player in the NFL with a whopping $31 million guaranteed.
Minnesota then capped the month by using its first pick in the draft to take safety Tyrell Johnson in the second round. They also added depth with safeties Benny Sapp and Michael Boulware and linebacker Derrick Pope.
The additions seem to have addressed every considerable weakness on the defense and have given Frazier plenty of new toys to play with heading into this season.
``Those guys are going to be great additions to what we're trying to get accomplished, not only the guys who are going to start but the depth as well. ... So it's been an exciting offseason,'' said Frazier, who was also promoted to associate head coach. ``Now we have to carry that over to the real thing. You can have it on paper, but you've got to be able to produce on the football field, and I think we'll be able to do that.''
On Thursday, the Vikings wrapped up a four-day ``voluntary'' week of practice that gave Frazier his first glimpse of how all the new faces will fit in with a proud veteran nucleus including safety Darren Sharper, tackles Kevin and Pat Williams and cornerback Antoine Winfield.
``They have a great nucleus of guys that were here and have been successful over the last couple of years,'' Williams said. ``It's up to guys like myself and Jared Allen to come in and just try to insert ourselves and try to find what our niche is in the defense, go out and execute, and play along with those nine other guys.''
The gregarious Allen, for one, likes how it looks.
``I look good in purple. That's what I keep hearing,'' Allen quipped. ``It really highlights my eyes and my facial features.''
On top of the color coordination, Allen's skills as a pass rusher will make life much easier on an overworked secondary that often had to cover receivers for five or even six seconds last season, a lifetime in today's NFL.
Now Frazier won't have to call as many blitzes from his linebackers, allowing Chad Greenway, E.J. Henderson and Ben Leber to drop back into coverage and plug some of the holes down the field that Brett Favre, Todd Collins and Donovan McNabb found so easily last season.
``I'm excited. I think all of our coaches are (excited) to work with the caliber guys that we have, solid football players and good people,'' Frazier said. ``It's exciting, very exciting.''
Williams figures to be an upgrade at safety from Smith and Johnson is a highly touted prospect that many scouts had rated as the best safety in the draft.
``They have a track record of being great players,'' Greenway said of Allen and Williams. ``They've put it on the table on Sundays and they've been rewarded handsomely. Out here, you can tell why they're so good. They get their work in. They're around here. They know what they're doing. They're vocal.''
For now, Frazier is using these ``organized team activities'' to introduce the new faces to the established core and get everyone comfortable with each other.
``All the teams I've been on that were very successful, that was the intangible that really got us over the top,'' Frazier said. ``Whether it was in Indianapolis when we won a Super Bowl or in Chicago when we won a Super Bowl, we had great chemistry in the locker room, not just talent. So the OTAs give you a chance to develop that, also to find out a little bit about your teammates.'' ---
Jon Krawczynski can be reached at jkrawczynski(at)ap.org.