OTA Observations: Tuesday

Jim Kleinsasser

The Vikings renewed their organized team activities Tuesday for the final week that is open to the media. Some of their work concentrated on the red zone.

Last year the Vikings ranked 24th in the league scoring and they were 21st in the league scoring touchdowns once inside the 20-yard line. Tuesday was a day the Vikings worked on finishing off drives with their red zone offense.

"It's always new when things happen faster in the red zone. I thought offensively we did a little better job today than the first time we installed it during the minicamp," head coach Brad Childress said.

One of the players who looked especially productive Tuesday was tight end Jim Kleinsasser, who caught a number of touchdown passes from Tarvaris Jackson. Childress said Kleinsasser has some special skills in tight quarters.

"He does. He is a big body, first of all. When you are talking about a short area, you are talking about basketball," Childress said. "You are talking about putting a body on a guy and getting big and you could see where Tarvaris was throwing those balls – you want those things down. You don't want balls tipped in the air, so we tell our guys the ball can end up anywhere in the red area. It may come down low. We're not worried about guys getting yards after the catch. We're worried about somebody getting a hand on it and scooping it. Usually linebackers aren't playing with their hands down here. He is a big body and he is massive. He can cradle the football and he's been generally good at it."

In eight NFL seasons, Kleinsasser has multiple receiving touchdowns only once – in 2003, when he had four of them. That was also his most productive all-around season catching the ball as well, as he had a career-high 46 receptions for 401 yards. Last year, under a new offensive system, Kleinsasser had seven catches for 47 yards, the least he had been used in the receiving game since his rookie season in 1999.

Another skill that could help the Vikings' red-zone production this season is the combination of Jackson's mobility and his high release point, which, in an ideal world, could mean fewer passes batted at the line of scrimmage.

"If you are talking about the 3-yard line to get it in the end zone, to get it up high (and then) get it down low (is beneficial)," Childress said. "Generally you are going to throw through a window. You're not going to throw where those hands that are looking. But yeah, we talk about trying to see the ball come out. Sometimes you just flat can't see it come out. You've got to anticipate and play with high hands and expect the ball that's on fire to you. It's coming out of arms and hands and shoulders at times. But yeah, it's not a down-low release. It's up here, so a lot of times we talk about high carriage down there so that they can see the ball leave the quarterback's hands, if they can find it."

Earlier in offseason work, the receivers used a drill to work on seeing the ball coming through human traffic.

In other OTA observations:

  • Punter Alex Reyes did most of the punting. He and Chris Kluwe have been alternating throughout the offseason workouts.

  • Cornerback Mike Hawkins had an interception, but the top defensive play of the day may have come from cornerback Chad Johnson, who leapt and used his body positioning to wrestle the ball away from receiver Todd Lowber, who made a good effort and nearly got the reception.

  • Cornerback Charles Gordon also made a nice play on a ball thrown to receiver Billy McMullen. It appeared McMullen would be able to make the grab, but Gordon arrived at the last second and swatted the ball away from McMullen.

  • McMullen didn't let it faze him, as later in the session he made a catch in the corner of the end zone that required some good concentration.

  • Tight end Braden Jones and Lowber were among other players who scored touchdowns.

  • Ryan Longwell continued a strong offseason in kicking mid-range field goals, connecting on six field goals between 28 and 42 yards.

  • With Antoine Winfield electing to not attend voluntary workouts, third-round pick Marcus McCauley began seeing more practice time with the first-team defenses. He and Dovonte Edwards are the mostly likely candidates in the nickel packages.

  • Defensive end Kenechi Udeze was sent home after reporting to Winter Park sick in the morning.

  • The Vikings will have Frank Gonzalez of Monterrey Tech in Monterrey, Mexico as a coaching intern helping primarily with the offensive line in training camp. "He has won three Mexican National Championships in a row, 12 overall. A very good coach; we're happy to have him here," Childress said.

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