From the Field: Tuesday Afternoon

Darius Reynaud (Tom Dahlin/Viking Update)

In a condensed afternoon special teams practice, the focus was on the return game, something the Vikings see a need to improve upon.

At first glance, Friday's preseason opener seemed to show a real need for improvement on defense, but that wasn't the only area the Vikings were looking to fix.

Special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro said Monday that he viewed the return game as inconsistent during Friday's game against the Seattle Seahawks, and it would appear he's right. Two rookies made impressive returns, but after that there were issues to be ironed out, which is to be expected in preseason football when young players are shuttled in and out of special teams.

"We had the one big return on kickoff return, which I felt good about," Ferraro said, referencing a Darius Reynaud 53-yard kickoff return against the Seattle Seahawks. "The front line did a tremendous job on that return - on a double-team and a trap block that set it up in the wedge and finished it up off in the back end – and Darius had a nice run up the middle of the field. The same thing on punt return, Jaymar Johnson had a nice return up the middle. Aundrae (Allison) did a nice job fielding the ball, but I don't feel like we really gave him a chance in his opportunities though. There were some positives but just a little lack of consistency, which is typical in the preseason. I expect us to see big improvements from game one to game two here in the preseason, both in the return game and the cover game."

Reynaud's return up the middle was a 53-yarder, but it had a chance to be a touchdown if he hadn't been tackled by the kicker – rookie kicker Brandon Couto, no loss.

"I messed up on that part. I just had me and the kicker to go and I didn't want to slow down because I know how fast guys are in this league, so I just tried run over their kicker," Reynaud said after the game. "When I got to the sideline, I got it from the guys. They were on me hard about that."

Johnson's big play was a 23-yard punt return.

Overall, the Vikings averaged 9.7 yards on three punt returns – Allison had just 6 yards on two returns – and 29.3 yards on seven kickoff returns. The Vikings' coverage units averaged giving up a respectable 10.7 yards on punt returns and a solid 19.3 yards on kickoff returns, despite the loss of special teams leader Heath Farwell in the first quarter. Farwell tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee while playing defense.

"We're going to miss Heath Farwell, there's no doubt about that," Ferraro said. "He was a tremendous player for us. He had one of the best years I've (ever) seen a special teams player have a year ago. … We've got better depth than we've had since I've been here and I expect those guys that are going to fill in for where Heath played to step up and play at a high level."

Ferraro said the injury to Farwell won't impact the special-teams reps that linebacker Vinny Ciurciu gets, but it's possible that Ciurciu will be moved into Farwell position on the coverage units.

Last year, Farwell had 32 special teams tackles while Ciurciu finished tied with Charles Gordon for second place with 15 tackles.

TUESDAY AFTERNOON NOTES

  • The Vikings special teams practice in the afternoon lasted only about 45 minutes and wasn't a testament to the grind of two-a-day practices. While the kickoff coverage and return teams worked on one field with the JUGS machine handling the kickoff duties, incumbent kicker Ryan Longwell was on another field holding a football and tossing it in the air just before fielding kickoffs from Steven Hauschka, and then catching the ball he tossed before it hit the ground. The repeated juggling act was actually somewhat impressive during an otherwise uneventful practice. The leftover backup offensive linemen were left to work on their quarterbacking skills, with John Sullivan apparently getting ready for the ever-tricky 11-step drop and Artis Hicks completely turning around and running back 5 yards before turning and tossing to another linemen. Yes, special-teams practices are pretty special alright.

  • On a more football-centric note from the afternoon session, Johnson, Allison and Reynaud continued to get the bulk of the work returning kicks on the field where practice was actually taking place.

  • Head coach Brad Childress said Adrian Peterson will get some preseason carries. Peterson didn't rush the ball at all in the preseason opener, as the Vikings threw on the first 11 plays, but Childress said he's got a number of carries in his head that Peterson will need in the preseason.

  • After reading media reports that characterized his training camp this year as soft, Childress offered to embed one of the reporters during practices – after signing an injury waiver, of course – "and then you can comment afterwards on whether you think it's soft or not," he said.

  • It was on this date in 1967 that the Vikings opened the Bud Grant era with a 34-0 preseason win over Philadelphia in a game played in Tulsa, Okla.

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