Benny Sapp never felt he received the proper coaching during his four seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. Now that Sapp is a member of the Vikings, he said that has changed.
“I’ve never been coached the right way,” the cornerback said. “I thought I had it all down pat but it’s different. It’s a different team. These guys are coaching corners. They’re not just coaching the defense, they are coaching their positions and taking time out and giving you that individual (attention). I never had that since high school.”
The coaching being done by defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, defensive backs coach Joe Woods and his assistant Derek Mason appears to be paying off. Sapp, signed to a one-year contract that will earn him in the neighborhood of $800,000, was one of the biggest surprises in training camp.
He picked off numerous passes and appears to have the ability to read the play a split second before it develops. But not everything has gone smoothly.
Sapp also has the tendency to bite on double moves and has been burned in spectacular fashion on a few plays. Sapp knows this an area he needs to improve on and has been working on it.
“That’s what I’m having a little problem with,” he said. “It’s camp, it’s still early. It’s something you work on. It’s practice. That’s what I’m working on right now. I’ve been playing corner for a long time and I’ve been trying to get to this point. I think I’m getting there. I’m just working on it every day to get better to help the team.”
Upon his arrival with the Vikings, Sapp said his goal is to win a starting job. At this point, that’s probably not realistic unless there is an injury. Cedric Griffin and Antoine Winfield have the starting spots locked down. But the nickel job is an open competition between Charles Gordon, Marcus McCauley and Sapp.
Gordon is the front-runner, but a knee injury that sidelined McCauley last week gave Sapp some extra chances to get a leg up.
“This defense suits me a lot,” Sapp said. “Coach lets you be aggressive.”
RB Chester Taylor rushed for a career-high 1,216 yards in 2006, his first season with the Vikings. Now, entering the third year of a four-year free-agent deal he signed, Taylor is clearly the No. 2 running back behind Adrian Peterson. But running backs coach Eric Bieniemy said there is more than enough room for both. “Chester’s role is still the same. His role has not changed,” Bieniemy said. “Chester is one of the better backs in this league. We’ve got to find ways to get him out on the field and utilize him. Obviously, we have a very good player in Adrian Peterson, but also we have a very good one in Chester Taylor. The thing about it is there are not enough balls to go around. You can only have one. But there’s room for Chester on the field.”
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell worked from the sidelines for the first time during the Vikings’ preseason opener. Quarterbacks coach Kevin Rogers, meanwhile, was in the press box. The Vikings are going to evaluate the switch in the exhibition season but very well will stick with it during the regular season.
How much different has Brad Childress run his third training camp compared to his first? In 2006, Childress scheduled full-pads practices on 12 consecutive days. This year, the Vikings were in full pads for only four practices and that included a joint-session with the Kansas City Chiefs. “It’s a beautiful thing,” veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield said. “Probably the easiest camp that I’ve been through.”
The Vikings’ most spirited training camp practice was on Aug. 4. With the team in full pads during the morning session, coach Brad Childress surprised his players by calling for a “sudden change” drill. He deviated from the practice script and called for a live team situation to see how the players would respond. On the first play, defensive end Jared Allen overwhelmed backup left tackle Drew Radovich and tackled running back Chester Taylor for a 5-yard loss.
S Tyrell Johnson, the Vikings’ second-round choice in April, started along with Darren Sharper in the preseason opener. Newcomer Madieu Williams did not play after experiencing neck spasm. That enabled Johnson to get work with the first- and second-team defense.
LB Erin Henderson, an undrafted rookie free agent and the brother of Vikings starting middle linebacker E.J. Henderson, had five tackles, including one for a loss, in his first game against Seattle.
S Michael Boulware, signed as a free agent from Houston during the offseason, has been playing with the third team behind second-team safeties Tyrell Johnson and Eric Frampton.