What we learned in the first week of camp - KMSP-TV


What we learned in the first week of camp

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Okay, while I am not ready to march to the Meadowlands yet, the first week of camp has been about as good as it could be. The vibe in camp has mirrored the head coach. There is no drama and while there were question marks coming in, some of those have seemed to work themselves out.

So what exactly did we learn in the first week?

Christian Ponder is the key to the season. Like his season a year ago, Ponder has been up and down in camp. In Saturday night's practice under the lights, he had his best practice so far. He found Jerome Simpson on a deep ball and his accuracy was much improved. Friday night against Houston should be a good test.

Erin Henderson is the starting middle linebacker. There is no lip service by the coaching staff. Give him credit, he grabbed the spot, let everyone know it was his and there won't be anyone taking it away from him as long as he is healthy. His defensive teammates love his presence and leadership in the huddle and he has left the question of who will man the middle in the dust.

When Desmond Bishop was signed late in the offseason, he was looked at by media as the guy who would eventually take over at middle linebacker. Bishop, who missed all of last season after tearing his hamstring pulled his groin during Friday's practice and was held out of Saturday night's practice. Head coach Leslie Frazier didn't know if Bishop's injury would keep him out of the Houston game, but was not at all surprised that he was working through another muscle issue citing players who are coming back from a muscle injury are more likely to suffer another.

Everson Griffen has been the defensive story of camp. He has been explosive and disruptive and looks to be sitting on a huge year. With the rotation of Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams up front, the depth is becoming a positive.

Greg Jennings is everything the team hoped he would be when he signed in the offseason. First and foremost, he catches everything thrown his way. He played some in the slot in Green Bay and has been used there in camp. The biggest question with Jennings is if he can stay healthy after missing 12 combined games over the past two seasons.

Jared Allen and Kevin Williams might be in their final season with the team, but neither have made their contracts an issue. The backbone of the defenive line, Allen and Williams have worked their way through camp healthy.

Rookie punter Jeff Locke is the real deal. The kid can flat out kick the ball a mile and a year after drafting Blair Walsh, the franchise seems all in to win the Special Teams battles on a weekly basis. (By the way, Walsh nailed a 60 yarder on Saturday night).

The other rookies have tried to find their footing. Xavier Rhodes is working through a slight hamstring injury and defensive lineman Shariff Floyd is trying to find his hands and feet in the NFL. The biggest surprise might be wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. Patterson was drafted for his speed and playmaking ability. His route running was considered a work in progress, but Patterson seems a bit ahead of schedule in that department and could play a bigger part in the plans of Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave.

Finally and most importantly, this camp has been free of drama and that is just the way that Frazier and his coaches want it. It has been interesting to note that one day, the defense seems a little bit ahead of the offense, the next day it plays out just the opposite. It allows for some good back and forth between both sides of the ball.

I didn't even mention the MVP or the best offensive line in the league.

The first real test comes Friday night when the Houston Texans come to Mall of America Field at 7:00PM.

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