Tag Archives: Kyle Rudolph

Announcing Their Presence With Authority

In a scene from the classic flick, Bull Durham, a puppy dog-faced Nuke Laloosh protests to grizzly catcher, Crash Davis, that he wants to announce his presence with authority. See the clip here. This clip perfectly captures the essence of youthful exuberance mixed with misguided overconfidence. Though I am not sure overconfidence is ever properly guided.

Young players are always eager to show the world their skills. Here is hoping the Ponder and Rudolph show has a lot of seasons left.

In response to his young pitcher’s stubborn pronouncement, Crash informs the hitter of the fastball that is coming and the hitter promptly parks it over the right field fence.

This scene is also a great example of the struggle that most players go through on their way to the show. This is true for most sports. Many young players have a difficult time initially applying their skills at the highest level. For many, it is their experiences in defeat that motivate them to be better. For Vikings fans, we are  lucky enough to get to watch not one, but two, young players go through this very process.

Last Sunday’s dominating victory over the 49ers of San Francisco, one of the best teams in the NFC, was a coming out party for a young Vikings squad. The lead roles in that victory were played by second year players Christian Ponder and Kyle Rudolph. Ponder threw two TDs (both to Rudolph) and ran for another.

2011’s manuscript was almost completely devoid of any happy endings. The squad went 3-13 and there was very little that fans could get excited about going into 2012.

During training camp, there were whispers that Ponder had developed a strong bond with Rudolph; they were in the same draft class and were rookies together. And, on the field, the two looked very much in sync. More than ever, a QB’s ability to play pitch and catch with his receivers is critical to a team’s success. Just ask any of the talking heads on the four letter network.

Rudolph has quickly established himself as Ponder’s security blanket. When Harvin is covered, Ponder looks for his 6’6″ tight end. You always get the sense that, if everything goes to hell, Ponder could just sling near Rudolph and he will make a strong play for the ball.

Through 3 games, Rudolph has 18 targets and 13 receptions. Of his 13 snags, Rudolph has three TDs. Considering his imposing frame and monster mitts, he is a match-up nightmare. It is still VERY early, but if Ponder continues to look for Rudolph in clutch situations, Rudolph has the pedigree to join Graham and Gronk as a premiere tight end in the NFL.

It was Uncle Rod who sang that he only had eyes for you. Am I embarrassed that I just made a Rod Stewart reference in this piece? Not one bit…okay….maybe a little.

A great example of Rudolph’s emerging skills were on display on his second TD. On the play, AP was WIDE open in the end zone. Like, not even Tavarius Jackson could have incompleted that pass. But, Ponder only had eyes for Rudolph. He trusted his battery mate enough, throwing the ball behind the defender and Rudolph made a  great catch in the back of the end zone. It is that mixture of trust and athleticism that could separates Rudolph and Ponder from the other QB/TE combos in the league.

Now, just like Nuke Laloosh’s journey in Bull Durham, the growing pains are nowhere near over. There will be Sundays, and maybe even Thursdays or Saturdays, where Rudolph and Ponder will want to announce their presence with authority and the team will struggle. But, just like you got emotionally invested in the Bull Durham characters, Vikings fans have to be excited about the prospects of watching Ponder and Rudolph make the journey. I know I sure am. In fact, would someone pass the popcorn, this is going to be good.

A Fork In The Road: Your Vikings/Colts Preview

The undefeated Minnesota Vikings, that is right Packers roobs, undefeated, take on the Andrew Luck-led Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. Considering how handily the Colts were beaten in Chicago last week and the last second nature of the Vikings win over the Jags, this week presents a fork in the road for both teams.

And I get it, yes, it is only Week Two. I am not going to go all Mel Gibson on you and freak out, but, for a young team, which both of these squads are, momentum is huge. This is it. Just ask the 2011 Cincinnati Bengals. That squad started 6 and 2 on their way to the AFC playoffs.

Now, in case there was any confusion, neither of the sides in this match-up are expected to be playoff teams. But the level of their success this season will play a big role in the dreaded rebuilding process and it will hinge on that fickle mistress, momentum. The Vikings have it and need to keep it going. They have a certain swagger right now. Ponder looked the part and, even though it was the Jags, that swagger can be the difference in close match-ups.

Vikings fans hope that the defense can contain wunderkid Luck in his home debut.

The Bears destroyed the Colts in Chicago. They are looking for their momentum. This week’s game is the Indy fans’ first opportunity to see number one overall pick, Andrew Luck. Considering the prime time debut of former fan obsession, Peyton Manning, this is a fan base in dire need of a new obsession. I mean, Jim Irsay’s Twitter feed is funny, but it is not that funny. Luck has the pedigree to fill Manning’s void. And even though they are still clearly in the honeymoon period, Luck has to deliver Ws to truly assume the mantle. I am sure he and the Colts think the Vikings present that opportunity.

For the Vikings offense, a couple of important keys to watch for in this game are whether the Colts can pressure Christian Ponder or slow down the Vikings running game. The Colts are without stud DE, Dwight Freeney, but, the underrated Robert Mathis is still wreaking havoc — registering two sacks last week. The Vikings need to slow him down, chip him with backs and tight ends, to give Ponder time. The Bears’ running game grinded out 114 yards against the Colts on 33 carries, most of them in garbage time. AP, Toby, and Cheech should be able to top the total number in far less carries. Though Ponder’s success is clearly related to whether the Vikes’ running game has it going.

On defense, the Vikings need to pressure Luck. They cannot let him get comfortable. The Bears had 3 sacks and 5 total hits on the QB. The Vikings need to replicate that pressure. Because the Colts running game is average at best, the Vikes should devote their resources to slowing down Luck. Mix-up the blitzes and coverage schemes. Do not let Luck get comfortable. That is when he gets dangerous.

Both teams are looking to take another step forward. Maybe not getting to the next level, but showing improvement and confirming that the pieces are starting to fall into place. At this point in each team’s respective maturation process, the Vikings experience (including the gritty win last week) will be the difference.

Vikings 31 Colts 21

2012 Border Rivals NFL Preview: Rube v. Roob

In the spirit of the Border Rivals rivalry, we decided to jointly preview the 2012 NFL season for both of the Border Rivals’ squads. To capture the essence of that rivalry, and to help out the Vikings fan (because seriously, what is there to preview), we are taking a novel approach to the typical NFL preview. Enjoy the banter and analysis.

Vikings Rube

Professor Williams’ class on cheap shots and headhunting derailed what may have been a purple dynasty these last few years.

Well Vikings fans, the 2012 season is nearly upon us. To call the last two years rough would be an understatement. Following the high that was 2009, Vikings fans have had the displeasure of watching a 6-10 squad that featured amateur photographer Brent Favre (his pen name) and a 3-13 squad that showcased Lifetime Fitness Ultimate Hoops 6th Man of the Year stud, Donovan McNabb (no seriously, I did not make that link up). Who would have thought the low would be so low following the unreal high of taking the Pack’s beloved Favre and marching to the NFC Championship game? If not for G. Williams and his implementation of a real life version of The Hunger Games on that fateful Sunday, we might be talking about whether Favre should come back for his 3rd year with the Vikes and make one more run at another Vikings Super Bowl. Now who is ready for some football? Me either. Can’t we all agree to give that lockout thing a try?

Packers Roob

I feel your pain Rube. Being Favred is not easy. I am just happy you were able to enjoy that experience as well. What has to make that “favre-ing” so much more painful is how much it set your franchise back. The 2009 Vikings were the best football team that season. And in less than two years, it’s one of the worst. To top that off, the Vikes won a meaningless game at Washington costing them the #2 pick and the ensuing RGIII bounty. And if that wasn’t enough, AP goes down in said game, jeopardizing his future to some extent and, more immediately, his success this season. At least you have the Twin… Timberwolv… Wild (oh wait, the lockout). Well, the Lynx are still good! But I digress. With the easy part of the schedule at the beginning of the season, Gerhart and Percy need to step up while AP gets his legs under him.

Vikings Rube

Enough about Brent Favre, he is hustling social studies teachers in Mississippi , let’s get to the previewing already!! The 2012 Vikings feature a stable of young, talented rookies that were drafted as part of the haul the Vikings received in the RG III trade…wait…what…we WON that game…son of a…moving on. This year’s squad features some interesting rookies: Mount Kalil and  Harrison Smith being the obvious new kids on the block. But, it is actually the sophomore seasons of a couple key Vikings players that will likely impact the team’s success on a greater scale. On the offensive side of the ball, Christian Ponder and Kyle Rudolph are going to be counted on to produce in a big way.

Ponder showed flashes last season of being a legitimate NFL QB, but, he combined those flashes with some less than brilliant play as well. He seems to get happy feet a little too easily. And yes, that might have something to do with the fact that the Vikings gave up 49 sacks last year. I would probably have happy feet too if Julius Peppers was chasing me like a Packers fan after a Miller Light forty and a Polish sausage. Mount Kalil should change that. And, with more time, hopefully the flashes of legitimacy become the norm. It is important to emphasize, part of Ponders’ success is directly related to the growth and development of fellow sophomore, Kyle Rudolph.

Rudolph dominated while at Notre Dame. Vikings fans have only seen glimpses of that dominance while with the Purple.

Rudolph is a freak athlete who graded out with 1st round talent, but, was derailed by injuries. Stop me if you heard this one before, but, he continued to battle health problems once he got to the league. Though, when he played, he too showed real flashes and he seemed to have that knack for making the big play. Because of the garbage bin lids he has for hands, he can flat out go and get nearly anything thrown close to him. His problem is staying on the field. If he can stay healthy, he is exactly the kind of safety valve a young QB like Ponder needs to succeed in this league.

Packers Roob

If Rudolph is this wunderkind you speak of, then why did the Vikes drop so much coin on an even more-often injured John Carlson? Is it because he’s a local kid? In any event, if that’s a key to success, you have a low bar for success. And maybe that’s appropriate because any rube not named PA or Wobschmidt can see that the Vikes are staring at a 6-win season, at best. There are just too many holes at all levels of offense and defense, with my personal favorite being that Swiss-cheese like secondary – because, you know, the NFC North isn’t loaded with stud QB’s and WR’s. Even with the addition of Kalil at LT, the OL is a huge question mark. This has to be a make-or-break season for Loadholt. And the Vikes need another WR option outside of Percy. The defense is carried by Allen. But am I the only one thinking Greenway is a better version of Mr. T-Rex, A.J. Hawk – as in makes some tackles, but little actual impact on the game?

Vikings Rube

Carlson got signed because Musgrave is running the two tight end system. Not sure I am fan, but we have seen it work in New England. Rudolph is a wunderkind. The type who could succeed in a system that showcases his skills. He just needs to put it together. The OL is not nearly as huge a question mark as you make it seem. Sullivan established himself at a top line center last year. Charles Johnson will be playing his more natural position, guard, this year. And, Brandon Fusco has come, literally, out of nowhere (Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania) to earn the other starting guard position. Loadholt is definitely in a make or break season, but he too should improve with the addition of MountKalil and another year under his belt.

Now, for the Purple’s defense. If you thought the offense had question marks, then strap in, this may take a while. The 2012 Vikings offense should be able to move the ball and score some points. Sadly enough, that is the bar that Vikings fans have set for the squad. On defense, coverage, of any kind, would be a huge improvement from last year’s squad. The release, that is right, the release of Chris Cook is a definite benefit. He actually looked the part of a first round talent last year. Though, that solid play would have been difficult to deliver from a HennepinCounty jail. Jared Allen is the man Claymaker wishes he could be. No one knows what veterans Kevin Williams and Antoine Winfield have left in the tank, but it better be more than fumes, or this year’s defensive unit is not going to be much better than last year. Harrison Smith displayed a penchant for big plays, sort of a Honey Badger Light. Those big plays were lacking all of last year for the Vikes and they will need them if they are going to stop anyone. But, the NFL is a lot faster than cupcakes Notre Dame played. If Smith can make the adjustment, his playmaking ability will be another critical piece to this unit’s success. If not, expect the 28th ranked pass defense from 2011 to remain right about where it was, the bottom of the league.

Packers Roob

You just compared your starting safety to a drug rehab, former-COLLEGE player. Um, good luck with that. What’s next, Ponder is the next Russell Wilson – wait, that actually might be an upgrade. The best point you made is the question marks surrounding Williams and Winfield. Williams has certainly lost a step and Winfield finally broke down last season. If neither plays to their previous performance, the defense will be simply Jared Allen. Sadly though, this Swiss-cheese defense accurately describes my squad’s defense. There is reason for optimism in the new faces and competition. But, when Jarrett Bush wins the starting RCB spot, God help us. Only Ahmad Carroll has been a bigger sieve covering than Bush. Nick Perry has a great bull rush, but shown little else. And we still don’t know how well he will play in space and covering. One OLB to keep an eye out for is undrafted free agent, Dezman Moses. Yes, I know. I’m resorting to undrafted free agents. But, the way that kid played with heart and desire all pre-season, he deserves some chances to see if he can carry it over to the regular season or is just this year’s Vic So’oto.

Vikings fans cringe when they see No. 52 strap the helmet on.

Jerel Worthy is not worthy of the early praise. He hasn’t shown much more than an early burst that opposing QB’s will surely exploit with hard counts. He needs to develop more hand action in the trenches and not simply rely on his speed/burst. And the safeties in the nickel and dime will be Morgan Burnett – who needs to take that next step – and M.D. Jennings or Jerron McMillian. The importance of losing Nick Collins cannot be overstated. On the bright side, at least Tramon and the Claymaker look like their old playmaking selves and will raise hell all season. And yes, I forwarded your earlier comment about Julius Peppers to Claymaker, indicating that Vikings fans do not fear him. Thanks for the bulletin-board material.

Vikings Rube

No, but seriously, did someone hack your computer? Are you feeling okay? Have you been spending too much time west of the Mississippi? That kind of negativity is not befitting a Packers roob. Smug superiority and being a Packer fan go hand in hand. Like Jared Allen and sacks or B.J. Rajii and…well…food. That being said, you are correct, the Packers defense is not that good. In fact, it might actually be worse than the Vikings (which is saying something). At the very least, both teams have a lot of unknowns. Despite your knock on Worthy, the talent is there. And, in Dom Caper’s system, he possesses the athleticism to be a force on the inside. Losing Collins certainly hurt, though, the bigger unknown might be Woodson’s official transition to safety. Even though he was basically playing there last season, now that it is official, I wonder if it will impact how he plays coverage. Will he still gamble? He is used to covering a specific receiver and now he will be responsible for an area. Will those gambles that miss result in even bigger plays for opposing offenses? How that transition unfolds is going to be play a big role in the effectiveness of the defense.

Packers Roob

You’re right, I’m not sure what the hell just got into me. All that negativity talk about your squad somehow seeped into my analysis for the 2012 Super Bowl Champs. I’m not as concerned about Woodson’s transition to safety. He’ll be there in the base set, but the Packers play base in less than 1/3 of the time. In the nickel and dime, Woodson will be back in his normal slot position, going pick-six all year long. The saving grace, in my opinion, for the defense is that it doesn’t need to be top-10 in order for the Packers to win the Super Bowl. As I’ve detailed previously, the defense just needs to be average. Remember, last year’s Super Bowl defenses were statistically terrible during the season – though the NYG defense stepped up in the playoffs. And with our offense, an average defense will get the job done.

Using that seemless transition, hey, let’s talk about that offense. It’s the best offense ever. A-Rodg is the best QB ever. We will score when we want and how we want, and A-Rodg may only get hurt this season from throwing down so many Championship Belts.

Vikings Rube

From one extreme, the Packers secondary could not stop a good high school squad, to the other, Rodgers is the best QB ever. The latter statement is utterly preposterous. The best QB ever does not get trounced at home in the first round of the playoffs. Nor does he suffer game losing fumbles to tewible linebackers who may or may not have sold me a double cheeseburger yesterday. Rodgers might not even be the best QB in the league yet. He is certainly in the conversation, but, if Super Bowls is the measure by which everything is judged (as Packer fans love to remind Vikings fans), then Tom Brady is the best QB in the league.

Packers Roob

Maybe not the kid that Brent Favre was, Rodgers is definitely a leader and the Packers will only go as far as he can take them.

Don’t pretend I know what you’re doing right now. Just looking to get a reaction. I am not taking the bait….*Blood pressure rising, face getting flush*….Brady used to be the best QB in the league. But that position has been usurped. There is no debating. A-Rodg is the best player in the league. Heck, even the reliable and indisputable NFL Players rankings had him 1st (because when John Kuhn makes that list, it has to be reliable). Cheering for Randy Moss all of those years must have convinced you that it’s not a team sport. But it is. And the Packers, not A-Rodg, lost that game because of a comedy of errors – a list too long and too painful to go over at this juncture. Ok, blood pressure dropping. On to the offense. To state the obvious, the Packers success hinges on A-Rodg & Co. With the best QB and WR corps in the league, the Pack will not be stopped on offense – often. Some keys for improvement on offense, if that’s even possible, are JMike reverting back to his 2010 self (pre-injury), a running game that is at least respectable, and improved play from Newhouse. JMike is too talented to put up such average numbers. Outside of the first Bears game last season, JMike was more decoy than the stud he should be. With two years removed from his knee injury, I expect this to be a break-out year. And man-crush aside, his YOTTO TD celebration is getting old – fast – when he drops more balls than Troy Williamson. Old Cedric had some giddy-up to him in pre-season, but I’m not counting on him to be the savior many are hoping. He’s a career volume runner. That is not going to magically change. The Pack just need him for short yardage down-and-distance and to potentially ice out games pounding the rock. One thing to watch for is if Benson continues to put the ball on the turf. And for Newhouse, he needs to perform. With no backup on the roster, his development is crucial. Will the offense continue to dominate like Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl, most likely not. But I don’t anticipate much of a drop-off. I expect A-Rodg to be a leading candidate for another MVP and if the defense bounces back, we should get one for the thumb!

Vikings Rube

Not be stopped on offense. That is too rich. I bet you thought that same thing rolling into that first round playoff game against Da G-Men last season. That worked out well. Have you heard of hubris? And no, it is not something you eat with a pita chip. Also, Finley too talented to put up average numbers?  And you come after me for jumping…okay…driving, the Rudolph bandwagon? Let’s set the bar a little lower for ole Jermichael, shall we? Say, hope he plays in more than 12 games? That feels about right.

SEASON PREDICTIONS

Classy like that??? Says the guy with a foam piece of cheese on his head.

Packers Roob

JMike will only need 12 games to surpass Rudolph’s production me boy! And how many times are you going to go to the well with the Giants jokes? Did you notice I refrained from bringing up Gary Anderson’s name, the infamous NOOOO, NOOOO game, or your own disaster against the G-Men in the playoffs. I stay classy like that. On to our picks.

I’ve got the Pack going 13-3, losing at Houston, at NYG, and at Chicago. As for the Vikes, I’m predicting 5-11, beating the Jags, Titans, Cardinals, Bucs, and St. Louis.

Vikes Roob

Negative. The Vikes will surprise some people this year, going 7-9 or 8-8, beating the Jags, Colts, Titans, Cardinals, Bucs, Kitties, Rams, and maybe Houston (because it will be Week 16 and it will not matter for the top seeded Texans).

I have the Packers at 12-4 or 11-5. I think they get beat by New Orleans, @Houston, @Detroit, and @Chicago. Throw in a loss to the 49ers or Giants to make it 11-5.

WEEK ONE PICK    

Packers Roob

Packers score late to pull away for the victory. Alex Smith reverts back to the Alex Smith we know and love. As much as A-Rodg doesn’t want to call him a game manager, Alex Smith is this era’s Trent Dilfer, but not as savvy. I don’t buy into the revamped WR core for the Niners. What part of a 35-year-old, out of retirement and dropped by three teams in the last year he played, Randy Moss am I supposed to worry about? And Manningham is the next David Tyree. VD concerns me over the middle, especially when Mr. T-Rex is on the field. But, our defense is good enough to slow this squad and the offense will score enough against the vaunted Niners defense. Pack 27 Niners 17

Vikings Rube

Vikings come out strong at home and beat an equally young Jaguars team. The defense is the key as MJD and Jennings are shut down by Greenway & Co., so Gabbert is forced to the air where he is unable to capitalize on the inexperienced Vikings secondary. Ponder, Harvin, and Rudolph tear up one of the worst secondaries in the league and All Day shows a few bursts in his return. Toby brings his hard hat and lunch pail, eventually grinding out a 27 to 13 Vikings win.

Looks to be a good start to the year for the Border Rivals’ squads. Enjoy week 1 and thank god football is back!

Remembering Perspective: Your Vikings Training Camp Update

Vikings 4th round pick, Greg Childs, suffered a potentially career ending knee(s?) injury on Saturday night. The play itself seemed relatively harmless. An off target back shoulder throw from back-up Sage Rosenfels that caused Childs to twist around to try and make a play. See it here.

As you can see, Childs was not blown up by one of the Vikings promising young safeties. Nor was he caught in an awkward spot trying to cut block all-Milky Way defensive end, Jared Allen. Instead, it was just a freaky play that resulted in Childs rupturing not one, but both, patella tendons. What is truly horrifying about this injury is that the patella tendons are what stabilize a knee for walking and running. Unlike your run-of-the-mill CL tears (that would be A, M, or P), where the player can still limp around, a ruptured patella tendon usually causes the recipient to lose stability in that limb. Rupturing both patella tendons has to be downright agony and frankly my knees hurt just thinking about it. Let’s scoot along.

The Vikings waived Childs and, provided he clears waivers, the Vikings will be able to place him on injured reserve. His recovery prognosis, if at all, its probably 18 months at a minimum. This was certainly a loss for the Vikings as the team was hopeful that Childs would realize some of the talent that had made him a speculative 1st round pick while at Arkansas. But, it is that hope, while maybe rational in small doses, that has overwhelmed the Childs injury.

Many Vikings fans took to the airwaves and comments section of local birdcage liners to express their angst regarding Childs’ injury. In fact, if you only read the fan base’s reaction, you might think Childs was already a three time Pro-Bowler.

Was he a good little player? Maybe. Did he have a shot to contribute to this squad and make an impact? Sure. Could he have been a perennial Pro-Bowler who would make Vikings fans forget about their favorite caterer bashing deep-threat? I suppose.  But, this is true for a lot of 4th round picks. The guys in the 4th round are usually there because they have first or second round talent but also have more baggage than Pamela Anderson.

Vikings fans need to remember this fact. Percy Harvin did not blow out his knees (you have my permission to find me and do terrible things to me if that last sentence ends up jinxing him), it was Greg Childs. Feel bad for the guy? Sure. Think that his absence is a loss? Absolutely. Act like the season is lost and we might as well start scouting next year’s first overall pick? Let’s just back the pessimism truck up a bit.

Even though losing Childs hurt, there are bigger issues that Vikings can legitimately worry about. For instance, there are accounts out there that Ponder has not looked sharp in camp. Fresh off a season in which he completed 54% of his passes, accounts like that are worrisome. And before you flood our inbox with hate mail, understand that I am a Ponder-supporter. I think he is a heady, athletic QB that could do really well in today’s NFL.  But, that said, I still believe Ponder needs to show us something this year. We went out and got him the franchise left tackle he was missing last year (welcome to the Twin Cities Mount Kalil). We shored up the line with solid veterans (Schwartz — though, he has his own injury issues). Plus, Ponder has additional weapons in Kyle Rudolph (flat-out Hoover) and (eventually) John Carlson to compliment Cheech and All Day.

I am far more worried about whether Ponder “takes the next step” (or better yet takes an Olympic-sized leap) than I am about the impact the unfortunate injury to Greg Childs will have on our offense. Might not eliminate the ulcer, Ponder’s evolution is still unknown and may be for sometime, but a little perspective helps focus the worry on the issues that matter most.