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Updated: July 18th, 2012 9:39pm
Scouting the Vikings: 'More predictability' with Toby Gerhart on field

Scouting the Vikings: 'More predictability' with Toby Gerhart on field

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by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com

Each day until players report to training camp on July 26, Tom Pelissero will break down the Minnesota Vikings' roster by position, based on observations of games and practices, tape studies and interviews with NFL coaches and scouts.

Day 1

Running backs.

On the roster (8)

Matt Asiata, Derrick Coleman, Ryan D'Imperio, Jerome Felton, Toby Gerhart, Lex Hilliard, Adrian Peterson, Jordan Todman.

Departures

Lorenzo Booker (non-tendered, signed with Chicago), Caleb King (released).

The skinny

The countdown will be on the moment Peterson (6-foot-1, 217 pounds) reports to training camp, a little less than seven months removed from left knee reconstruction. But the smart money says it'll be at least a couple of weeks -- perhaps after the first exhibition game on Aug. 10 at San Francisco -- before he's activated from the camp/physically unable to perform list. That still would give him plenty of time to ramp up and play some role in the Sept. 9 opener. Gerhart (6-0, 231) figures to shoulder a heavier load until Peterson's back to his Pro Bowl form, which could take all season. Bill Musgrave's play-calling should evolve as a result, since Gerhart's at his best taking on contact instead of evading it and defenses don't account for him the same way they do Peterson. Todman (5-9, 193) can turn the corner and will have the inside track on the No. 3 job if the Vikings want a change-of-pace back. Felton (6-0, 246) has a diverse skillset and took starter's reps at fullback throughout the offseason.

Best battles

Special-teams ability often sorts out the bottom of the roster, and this group is no different. It's not out of the question D'Imperio (6-2, 241) could make the roster as a second fullback, considering he was on all the No. 1 return and coverage units in the offseason. Likewise, Hilliard (5-11, 240) has played in every game over three NFL seasons with Miami because of his special-teams ability. That's where those players have to earn their keep.

Sleeper alert

Asiata (5-11, 220) catches the ball well enough to stay on coaches' radar and may get some chances to carry it in his second camp with the Vikings, too. Coleman (6-1, 240), the undrafted rookie out of UCLA, didn't show much burst in the offseason and is a long shot.

One NFL scout's take on ... Toby Gerhart

"He's coming downhill at you. He's not necessarily a make-you-miss guy. Plays strong, tough and rugged and can be a downhill, between-the-tackles type of player. With Peterson, you have to defend the field both vertically and horizontally, and that's the challenge when you're playing Adrian Peterson. With Gerhart in the game, there's a little more predictability. If you're defending a Toby Gerhart, you'd rather get him running sideline to sideline than downhill, straightline, because I think that's what he does best. If they don't have Peterson, I think what they miss a little bit is the horizontal, lateral running game, the stretch plays to the perimeter, the speed presence out on the edges. But they'll still also have some inside strength and some inside power to run between the tackles."
-- AFC personnel executive

Outlook

Peterson remains one of the NFL's most dynamic players when he's healthy. The challenge for the Vikings will be managing and detailing his reps so he remains on track to meet his goal: playing in Week 1.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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