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Frazier envisions Vikings' backups filling bigger roles

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By Eric Edholm

Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier addressed a wide range of topics at the coaches’ breakfast at the owners meeting this week in Florida, and he suggested that many of the team’s needs can be filled internally.

The draft still very well could net starters at cornerback, left tackle and perhaps receiver and safety. But there are players already on the roster, Frazier said, who can step up into expanded roles and help the Vikings this season.

First, there is Toby Gerhart, who filled in for RB Adrian Peterson and did some of the best running of his career. Frazier said that Peterson continues to progress, that he recently has started running in a straight line and still could be in the mix for Week One.

But if not, it’s Gerhart — and likely one outsider. Frazier said the team prefers to use Percy Harvin in more of a multiple role, not relying on him as a true second runner, and that the team likely will look to add another back for the rotation.

The team re-signed WR Devin Aromashodu, who had a career high in receptions (26) and yards (468) and might partially fill the need of an outside receiver who can tilt the field and ease up some of the eight-man boxes that Peterson and even Gerhart faced so often last season.

Worth noting, however: Frazier also strongly hinted that the team would be adding to its receiving corps, likely a player who has speed to burn outside at split end.

Frazier also noted that Joe Webb, who has been a jack-of-several-trades for the Vikings, isn’t likely to be included in that group, at least not on a full-time basis. Frazier’s plan and hope is to develop Webb as QB Christian Ponder’s backup, giving him as many true quarterback reps in the base offense as the Vikings can give him while also sprinkling in some specialty, “Wildcat”-type plays.

When asked who might be blocking for these players on the offensive line, Frazier struggled to name a likely starting five. That’s because there is a good chance that at least one of the starters — very possibly a left tackle to be drafted with the team’s first-round choice — isn’t on the roster currently.

But Frazier did mention Chris DeGeare as being in the mix for a starting OG spot, which is a bit of a surprise considering how stiff he was last season and that the team released the former fifth-rounder in the final cutdown before re-signing him to the practice squad. Frazier said that DeGeare suffered during the lockout without the benefit of an offseason program, lifting too much and losing his flexibility, but he felt DeGeare would have a great chance to regain some of that this year.

On the other side of the line, the team released NT Remi Ayodele — a notable bust who simply didn’t live up to expectations whatsoever. But instead of trying to find solutions elsewhere, they might just go with Letroy Guion on the nose, with Fred Evans backing him up. Although he’s not stout and hasn’t shown he can take on double-teams, Guion has penetrating ability that could provide an interesting wrinkle against burlier centers.

Another defensive lineman Frazier said he’d like to see more of is DE Everson Griffen, who was productive on a snap-to-snap basis but never saw extensive time on defense.

Behind them, you could see Jasper Brinkley as a two-down starter at middle linebacker. Brinkley is healthy now after a lost 2011 season, and he very well could be the replacement for E.J. Henderson, who probably won’t be brought back. Brinkley likely would come off the field on third downs, unable to drop into deep coverage in the team's Tampa-2 scheme, but recently re-signed Erin Henderson is a candidate to fill the nickel MLB role in his place.

There are not obvious starting candidates from the reserves in the secondary, and those needs very well could be addressed through the draft. But Frazier clearly believes he has enough depth to promote several players at the other positions on the team.

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