Percy Harvin (Ann Heisenfelt/AP)
The Vikings have raved about Bill Musgrave’s offense all training camp and preseason, but how much of it was really shown in the preseason? Plus, how many of Musgrave’s plays are scripted, updates on Donovan McNabb, two family emergencies and more.
Percy Harvin knows the San Diego Chargers defense was No. 1 last year, but the Vikings’ No. 1 receiver is excited to see how it all pans out in the regular-season opener between an AFC favorite in the Chargers and a team many pundits don’t expect much from in the Vikings.
“I'm really interested. We're coming together on offense a little bit,” Harvin said. “We're going to go out and see what we got against a pretty good defense. I think they were No. 1 or whatever in a lot of categories, so it will be a tough test for us.”
The Chargers ranked first on defense by yielding the fewest amount of yards per game. They re-signed their biggest playmaker, safety Eric Weddle and acquired linebacker Takeo Spikes in the offseason. While the Chargers are known more for their offensive playmakers, the Vikings are hoping their new-look offense – with Donovan McNabb at quarterback and Bill Musgrave coordinating the scheme – can steal the show.
“I think we're right where we need to be. We still have a lot of work to do, but we've been putting together drives in the preseason,” Harvin said. “We had a couple we didn't punch in the end zone, but we had drives of 80 yards, 60 yards, so we're feeling real confident.”
Offenses are typically bland in the preseason, so it remains a mystery how effective the Vikings can be with all the new components added to an engine that sputtered too often last season. While head coach Leslie Frazier has seen the playbook and watched the offense execute in practice and in limited preseason opportunities, there is still a “prove-it” element to the regular-season opener.
“I am optimistic. I think we really made progress from July 31 through the preseason,” Frazier said. “We've done a lot of good things. I really think we're going to do well on Sunday. I don't see anything that would tell me anything different right now.”
The Vikings could have hidden elements to their offense. While the basics were presented in the preseason, they continue to talk about ways to get No. 3 quarterback Joe Webb and his athleticism involved, and Harvin has previously been used for running plays when he motions into the backfield.
“I don't know if it'll be a whole lot different than what you've seen on tape. We've been trying to do things we want to do in the regular season,” Frazier said. “For us, there's no dress rehearsal other than the preseason games. It wasn't like we had OTAs or minicamps to work on things. … So it's just a matter of our being able to execute some of the things we've been doing a little bit better.”
McNABB’S INJURY JUST A BRUISE
For the second straight day, QB Donovan McNabb was listed on the Vikings injury report with a right (throwing) wrist injury. McNabb has been a full participant in the team's practices this week, and head coach Leslie Frazier said the injury was just a bruise.
“He’s fine. It’s precautionary. We have to list him because he did ding it a little bit.” Frazier said.
Frazier said McNabb injured his wrist in the Dallas preseason game.
FAMILY EMERGENCIES RESTRICT TWO
The Vikings injury report remained the same Thursday as it was Wednesday, with the exception of DT Letroy Guion and RT Phil Loadholt, who were both dealing with family emergencies, according to head coach Leslie Frazier.
Loadholt’s emergency was not related to the one earlier in the preseason, when he missed one practice but returned the next day. Frazier said he expected Loadholt at Friday’s practice and he would be available for the game. Pat Brown took the first-team reps in Loadholt’s absence.
Guion was on the field by the end of practice.
“We’re waiting to find out a little about Phil’s [situation] and things got settled for Letroy,” Frazier said after the Thursday afternoon practice.
With Kevin Williams suspended for the first two games of the season, rookie Christian Ballard took the reps early in practice at the defensive tackle position where Williams or Guion would play.
CB Asher Allen remained the only Viking who was limited in Thursday’s practice because of injury. In his case, he is dealing with a foot injury.
CB Chris Cook (hamstring) and TE Visanthe Shiancoe (hamstring) were full participants as the Vikings prepare for the regular-season opener in San Diego Sunday.
Musgrave said he doesn’t script his first plays in order, as some offensive coordinators do. Instead, he enters games with 25 to 50 plays that he believes can be successful against the defense that week.
“We have a certain number of plays we want to get run in the first half and then we also have some scripted plays that we want to get called in the second half, so we sit down as a staff and determine what best matches up against that respective defense,” he said.
Instead of running the plays in any certain order, he lists them by down and distance and field position and calls them based on the situation.
“It’s hard to run them right down the list because field position changes, down and distance and things like that, but we definitely have an itemized and prioritized list that we want to get to at the earliest convenience,” Musgrave said.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.