Tag Archives: Percy Harvin

2013 NFL Draft: Vikings Try Not To Over Think It

Thursday night in New York City the Minnesota Vikings made the most noise in what was billed as a pretty vanilla first round.

The Vikings brass got an unexpected surprise with their first pick, stuck with the script on a second pick, and made a big move for a third pick.

Floyd terrorized the SEC for three years, he will look to do the same in his new home in the NFC Norse Division.

Floyd terrorized the SEC for three years, he will look to do the same in his new home in the NFC Norse Division.

Defensive tackle Shariff Floyd was the big surprise of the evening. Mr. Floyd was supposed to be a top 5 pick. Then, after he did not go in the top 5, the draftniks were certain some team would get a great value in the middle of the first round. It was such a Pipe Dream that the Vikings would land him with their 23rd pick that we did not even think to include him in the Pipe Dream Category of our NFL Draft Preview. Somehow, the breaks went our way and he dropped all the way to us with the 23rd pick. You almost wonder if, when something like this happens, where a top pick starts to drop, if other GMs start to over think it. That crowd mentality where it is like, well, if they are not taking him, maybe there is something we missed in our evaluation. Supposedly, the knock on him is that he has short arms. Seriously, kid lost $10+ million last night because he has T-Rex arms. Talk about a bummer for him.

What is truly odd is that wingspan is really not that important of a measurable for a defensive lineman, particularly an interior lineman. It is more important that you have a strong base…check…quickness…check…and have strong hands…check. If you watch the highlights, Floyd does a great job of maintaining his gap presence and eating up blockers. Coming into college, he was a defensive end and that quickness is still there even though he plays inside now. Plus, he has a little nasty to him that all great defensive linemen need to have. And, that nastiness is only going to increase after more than two-thirds of the league passed on him in last night’s draft. Even though it was a bit of a no-brainer, the Vikings did not over think it and truly nailed this pick.

The Vikings hope that Xavier Rhodes can step in and be Antoine's replacement on the edge.

The Vikings hope that Xavier Rhodes can step in and be Antoine’s replacement on the edge.

With their second pick in the first round, the Vikings stuck to their script and selected Xavier Rhodes, a defensive back from Florida State who was also supposed to have been drafted. This former wide receiver plays with a chip on his shoulder. He is very strong against the run and should be a perfect fit in the Vikings Cover 2 system. With his size and ball skills, he should be a very good Antoine replacement, if not something more.

Rhodes is still a bit slow in recognizing routes and jumping plays, though the Vikings Cover 2 should help him in that regard. Plus, he is very strong against the run, can blitz off the corner with the best of them, and should only improve his coverage skills. Following Antoine’s departure, the Vikings’ foolishly thin secondary, I think Orlando Thomas was on the depth chart somewhere, needed a boost. So, it was not a shock that the Vikings selected Rhodes. And clearly the Vikings believed that corner back was a bigger position of need than ILB. Particularly with SEC stud and BR-favorite Alec Ogletree still on the board at 25, the move to get a corner back might be a little controversial. But, shoring up the secondary was deemed the greater priority, so that makes this the right choice.

It is the Vikings third pick of the first round that caused so much stir at the draft on Thursday night. For the second consecutive year, the Vikings traded back into the first round to take a player they wanted. Last year it Vikings moving back to draft All-Dude safety, Harrison Smith. The price for that move was their second and fourth round picks. This year, the big move was trading with New England and the Hoodie to take play maker Cordarelle Patterson. The price was the Vikings’ second, third, fourth, and seventh round picks.

Now, that may seem like a lot. In fact, it probably is a lot. But, the Vikings had 11 picks in this year’s draft. Trading four picks, even second and third round picks, for a guy that graded out as one of the top receivers in this draft, is not a bad deal. At worst, Patterson is a better than average return man and a change-of-pace wide receiver who makes explosive plays at or near the line of scrimmage. Think a Diet Percy Harvin. At best, he takes the role former played by Percy and runs with it. His height and jumping ability, which are ideal, make him more of a true wide receiver than Percy was, but he also has that burstability (patent pending) in small spaces.

The Vikings are hoping Jennings can put his Yoda mask on and impart his route running skills on the rookie Patterson. Beat the jam and a score a touchdown we will.

The Vikings are hoping Jennings can put his Yoda mask on and impart his route running skills on the rookie Patterson. Beat the jam and a score a touchdown we will.

The knock on Patterson is that he is not a great route-runner. This is where having a veteran like Greg Jennings is so critical. Jennings is one of the best in league at laying down tracks. And, he has already shown he is a solid teacher of that elite skill (see Cobb, Randall and Jones, James). If Patterson can learn from Jennings like Cobb and Jones did in Green Bay, watch out, this kid could be special.

Normally, this is the spot where we would preview the Day 2 action. However, because of the Vikings big move for Patterson, the Vikings do not currently possess a pick on Day 2. Though, as they have already shown, they are not afraid to make a move. Depending on what happens, I would not be surprised to see them package up their fourth, fifth, and a seventh round picks to get back into the 2nd or 3rd round. Particularly if they are as high on a guy like Te’o or the Honey Badger as the whispers around town suggest they are. Either way, if it is even half as fun as last night was, it should be a blast.

But Drafting A Wide Receiver Has Worked So Well In The Past…

Beginning with Nate Burleson in the 3rd round of 2003, the Vikings have drafted 11 wide receivers in the last ten years. Just take a minute to review this who’s who of pass catchers:

Sidney showed flashes of talent in a Vikings uniform. That or Lord Favre is just really good at football.

Sidney showed flashes of talent in a Vikings uniform. That or Lord Favre was just really good at football.

  1. Nate Burleson
  2. Keenan Howry
  3. Troy Williamson
  4. Sidney Rice
  5. Aundrae Allison
  6. Chandler Williams
  7. Jaymar Johnson
  8. Percy Harvin
  9. Stephen Burton
  10. Jarius Wright
  11. Greg Childs                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Now, there is a name or three on that list (Burleson, Rice, and Harvin) who has made some noise in the league. Harvin is the only stud. Though, Burleson and Rice are a’ight. But, for each name on the a’ight list, there are three names who have made considerably more noise in the fast food industry slinging Big Macs.

As the 2013 NFL Draft approaches, the misinformation coming out of Winter Park is that the Vikings are considering nabbing a wide receiver with the 23rd or 25th pick of the first round. In one of the deeper wide receiver drafts, with no clear cut stud, and not exactly a stellar history of scouting wide receivers, spending a first round pick on a wide receiver might not be a prudent move.

Instead, this Vikings fan hopes that management targets one of the following guys (our range goes from Pipe Dream to Resigned Fate):

Pipe Dream

Dee Milliner (CB) – Look, it is called Pipe Dream for a reason!! Milliner is the kind of corner back that will have Vikings fans saying, “Antoine who?” He is a gritty player who is not afraid to mix it up. His closing speed and smarts are perfect for a corner playing in a zone defense like the Vikings Cover 2. And, even though character has never been a motivating factor for this organization…oh…hey Chris Cook…Milliner is a humble kid who leads by example. Even if it meant trading up to do it, we do have something like 32 draft picks in the last four rounds, landing this premiere corner back would be a great start to the draft for the Vikings.

Star represents a perfect fit for the Vikings with pick number 23. Top 5 talent who just needs a system where he can thrive. Kevin meet Star, Star this is Kevin.

Star represents a perfect fit for the Vikings with pick number 23. Top 5 talent who just needs a system where he can thrive. Kevin meet Star, Star this is Kevin.

Star Lotulelei (DT) – Remember, Pipe Dream people!? Most draftniks do not have Star dropping any lower than the high teens. However, his health might be just enough of a concern for him to slide to the Vikings at 23. He is a versatile play-maker that demands a double team in the interior. Learning from a seasoned vet like Kevin Williams, a player who’s game he emulates, would be a great start to his career. His upside is that he is a Pro-Bowl level players who could anchor this defense for the next 10 years.

Perfect Storm

Alec Ogletree (ILB) – The Vikings need a linebacker and Alec Ogletree is a dude. No getting around it. He fills a pressing need, the middle linebacker position, and he has the athleticism and skill to anchor the defense for years to come. He cut his chops in the SEC and presents a very low risk, high reward pick. Perhaps most importantly, Ogletree has the quickness to get to his drops in the Vikings Cover 2 system. That is something the Vikings have not had out of their middle linebacker since the early days of Ejay Henderson.

D.J. Hayden (CB) – The consolation prize in the Dee Milliner sweepstakes. Hayden is a play-maker. He has the ball skills to be an elite corner back in the league. He does not have the run-stopping, drop-you-like-a-rock hitting capability, but he can mix it up when he needs to. Considering he is slotted to go in the late teens early 20s, getting him with the 23rd pick would be a nice get. Considering the quarterbacks in our division, adding another weapon in the secondary could make taking that next step a reality.

Cordarelle Patterson (WR) – Fine, I could not resist. Here is your wide receiver. Cordarrelle has everything you could want in a wide receiver. He is big, strong, fast, and his hands are the size of has trash can lids. The knock on Cordarrelle is that he might struggle to spell C-A-T if you spotted him the C and the A. The NFL is a cerebral game. If he were a quarterback, an intelligence deficiency would be a problem. Joe Webb, get out of here. This is my column space. And, even though wide receivers do not need to be as cerebral as quarterbacks, they need to understand coverages so that they know which hot routes to run. The hope is that the Vikings, most importantly veteran free agent signing Greg Jennings, could teach him that. At least, that is the hope…

Resigned Fate

Sylvester Williams (DT) – This is the guy most “experts” have the Vikings selecting. He is a solid player. Oddly enough, the knock on him is his vertical. Evidently, he is not much of a leaper. Though, for a defensive tackle, I am not sure why that is a concern. And, even though he will turn 25 this season, he can contribute immediately and be a steady presence in the middle. He is probably never going to the Pro Bowl, but he will also not make plays that will hurt the team. Plus, like with Star, learning from a veteran like Kevin Williams will only help him in the long run.

Oh Manti. Just a riddle wrapped in an enigma battered in a mystery. The most famous cat-fish of all time. Kid has talent. But will he be able to move on and use it...

Oh Manti. Just a riddle wrapped in an enigma battered in a mystery. The most famous cat-fish of all time. Kid has talent. But will he be able to move on and use it…

Manti Te’o (ILB) – Alright, so here we are. Resigned fate territory. Manti is a hunyuck. Either because he got cat-fished on the national stage by a dude poorly pretending to be chick or he lied about a dead girlfriend to give his Heisman candidacy a boost. Either way, hunyuck. And, he looked brutal in the Alabama game, missing assignments and failing to fill the gaps up the middle. Though, in his defense, it was not like he had anything else on his mind. Te’o has incredible, you-cannot-teach-that instincts. Sure, he might be a bit slow for a middle linebacker, but speed can be gained with good workouts and smart angles. Instincts cannot. He fills an immediate need for the team and is surrounded by former teammates (Rudolph, Smith, and Sullivan) and that atmosphere might just help everyone forget about his little romantic kerfuffle. If Manti drops, there is a pretty good chance that the Vikings scoop him up with the 25th pick.

Kevin Minter (ILB) – This is the, “I guess that Manti thing was more serious than we thought” pick. In case you forgot, the Vikings need a middle linebacker. Minter led LSU’s defense for the past three years. Not a real vocal guy, he still manages to hold others accountable. Draftniks have called him a pro’s pro. He also is a step slow, but again, has great instincts. Plus, he honed those instincts in the SEC, so the increase in speed at the next level should not phase him. Could contribute immediately and has the upside to be an elite linebacker for years to come. If I have to go resigned fate, this is the guy I want.

With two picks in the first round, the Vikings need to fill some pressing holes (ILB, CB, DT, and…gulp…WR). Even though the heavy lifting usually comes in the later rounds, as the Vikings brass showed last year, if you can hit on two first round picks (Kalil and Smith), it can turn around your team right quick. Here is hoping they stick with that same winning formula.

In Case Of Emergency, Break Glass, Hire A Packer

After the controversial trade of trouble-making wideout Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seachickens, things must have been getting tense at 9520 Viking Drive. Shortly after the Harvin trade, the Vikings brain trust watched available wide receivers Danny Amendola, Wes Welker, Brandon Gibson, and Anquan Boldin sign with or get traded to other teams. Prior to Friday, the Vikings number one wide receiver was Jerome Simpson. Yes, THAT Jerome Simpson. He of 26 receptions on 52 targets fame. Yikes.

On Friday night, the Minnesota Vikings announced that they agreed to terms with former Packer wide receiver, Greg Jennings. Across Minnesota, a collective sigh of relief could be heard.

Jennings is the perfect fit for the Vikings offense. Sure, he is a little old for a wide receiver, he has knocked out 29  birthdays to date, but he still possesses the qualities, great route running and steady hands, that the Vikings receiver corps has been missing since Cris Carter hung up his cleats and started whining talking professionally for ESPN.
Jennings is great route runner with steady hands in the mold of Cris Carter.

Jennings is great route runner with steady hands in the mold of Cris Carter.

And I know what you are thinking, wait a minute, Cris Carter?!? Are you forgetting about Troy Williamso…errrrr…Randy Moss. No. Moss was a great wide receiver, but he just flew down the field and took the ball away from opposing defensive backs with his other-worldly athleticism. Jennings is precise. He uses his route running and physicality to get open 5 to 20 yards down the field. This is perfect.

If Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder showed anything last year, it was a hand cannon for an arm. Just kidding, I wanted to make sure you were still paying attention. What Ponder showed was a propensity for making the right play when the down and distance was between 8 and 10 yards. His passer rating in those instances was nearly 100. Jennings thrives on those kinds of plays.
In 2011, when he was not dealing with a hamstring injury, Jennings caught only 8 passes more than 20 yards down field. That means 59 of his 67 receptions were for less than 20 yards. And, of that 59, 41 were for 10 yards or less. Right in Ponder’s wheelhouse.
The next time Vikings fans see Cheech, he will be lining up across from Chris Cook --- in a Seachicken jersey.

The next time Vikings fans see Cheech, he will be lining up across from Chris Cook — in a Seachicken jersey.

Jennings’s deal is for 5 years and $47.5 million, with $18 million guaranteed. That is $7.5 million less than the Seachickens just guaranteed former Viking Percy Harvin. On its face, the trade of Harvin for a mess of draft picks (2013 1st and 7th – 2014 3rd) and the signing of Jennings for $1.5 million less seems like a great outcome. Was it tense there — sure. Considering the next best free agent wideout was Laurent Robinson (yikes), the stress was merited. But, in case of emergency, the Vikings went with a tried and true approach.

Signing away Packer greats has worked before — think Sharper, Longwell, and, of course, Brett Favre. Getting Jennings make the Vikings a lot better than they were 48 hours ago. However, the current outcome assumes one big thing: that the Vikings could not have found a way to keep both Harvin and Jennings.
The ticket-buying public has no idea what happens behind the scenes with Percy. Because he was traded, we can assume there were some significant issues. Percy being Percy. On the field, he is one of the most talented players in the league. A receiving corps of him, Jennings, and the emerging Kyle Rudolph would have been very hard to stop — no matter how well the quarterback played.
Unfortunately, we will never know what would have happened had the Vikings paid both guys. The cap room was there, but — at least in Harvin’s case — the attitude was not. Moving forward, with the emergency in the rear view, the Vikings need to nail this year’s draft like they did last year. Another wide receiver (please be Keenan Allen) and a some additional help in the secondary would be welcome additions to a team that is at a crossroads. Either take the next step and become a contender or take two steps back to the bottom of the division.

Come On In, The Water Is Not Freezing

The 4-1 Vikings are preparing for an important road test against a frisky Washington Redskins squad. No, seriously, the 4-1 Vikings. NFC North Division leader Vikings. This is an important game, to be sure.

The birdcage liners around the Twin Cities have been scouring game film from the past few games to find elements of the Vikings offense, defense, and special teams that need to improve. But, here is the thing, the Vikings are 4-1. Leaders of the NFC North Division. We, as fans, should be thrilled to be here. And I mean like Honey BooBoo staring down a Baconater with side of cheese curds thrilled.

Coming in to this season, expectations for this particular Vikings squad were low, to say the least. Most mic jockeys had the team finishing around 3-13. Only Minnesota Viking employee and resident rube, PA, had this squad with a winning record through the first eight games. But here we sit. 4-1. That includes quality wins against the royalty of the NFC, the 49ers, and a playoff team from last year, the Detroit Lions. In fact, if not for a dramatic loss against the NFC North Killer Colts, the Vikings would be undefeated going into this week’s tilt against the Skins.

Vikings fans should step back and enjoy the ride. We are playing with house money right now.

Cross the middle at your peril with the Golden Fundamental roaming.

Now, don’t get me wrong, could there be improvements? Sure. The Vikings have yet to face a premiere signal caller (sorry Fat Stafford and Andrew Horseshoe Up My Rear). The Vikings secondary still seems to lack the ball-hawking skills of a great defense. Though, the addition of the Golden Fundamental, save for last week’s Earl Weaver blow-up, has certainly steadied what was a very inconsistent unit. They still have a long way to go in terms of keeping up the Jones, aka da Bears, who have housed four defensive TDs in the last two weeks.

And I suppose, I cannot call you Busey for saying that the Vikings offense has been maddeningly inconsistent. They had four scoring drives of more than 60 yards against the Titans and 49ers but only two, one, and zero against Fat Stafford, Blaine “No I Am Not The Lead Singer Of Death Cab” Gabbert” and Senor Horseshoe Up My Rear, respectively. Without sustainable, and better yet, repeatable offensive game-planning, this team may suffer some defeats.

But again, 4-1 people. 4-1! I would have been thrilled with 2-3. Furthermore, considering the gut-breaking and heart-wrenching losses Vikings fans have endured over the years, stuff it Lord Favre, a 4-1 start when the doom and gloomers were predicting far worse is  winning all day. And yes, I am talking Chaz Sheen at the peak of his Busey, winning.

So come on in! There is plenty of room and the water is pretty damn warm. Skol Vikings.

Vikings 20 Redskins 17

The Evolution of Randall Cobb

Known primarily for his return skills, Cobb has morphed into a Percy Harvin-lite.

In his fourth season, the Vikings’ Percy Harvin has developed into a special all-around talent that ended up with 100 touches over the last half of last season – 20+ more than the next closest receiver. Harvin’s combination of size and speed allows him to be used out wide, in the slot, and even out of the backfield – Harvin had 52 rushing attempts last season. This dynamic threat has resulted in him being a focal point alongside AP, which is saying something.

After two games this season, the Packers’ Randall Cobb has quickly morphed himself into a Percy Harvin-lite. Like Harvin, Cobb has a unique skill set that allows him to lineup all over the field and exploit mismatches with his speed, burst, and cutting ability.

With the last pick of the second round two drafts ago, TT nabbed another gem with Cobb. Cobb made a name for himself immediately, scoring twice in the first game of the NFL season when he had a receiving touchdown and return touchdown. Both were notable, but for different reasons. The receiving touchdown was infamous in that he scored after running the wrong route. The return touchdown was famous – it earned AP play of the year – for the acrobatic manner in which he stayed off the ground. Such a sterling start fizzled for most of the remainder of the year.

The different dimensions Cobb could have brought to the offense were not realized in his first year. Only the tip of the iceberg was shown in the first NYG game when Cobb took a reverse, pulled up, and heaved a tight spiral along the sidelines. The pass fell incomplete. But, the message was clear – Cobb added a different dimension to an already explosive offense.

Fast forward to 2012. Cobb’s unique skill set has been on full display through two games. When the rest of the receiving corps struggled to get any openings against the staunch (and clutching) 49ers defense, Cobb was the one player that presented a mismatch and exploited it. Lining up next to Rodgers often, Cobb was very effective catching the ball in the flat where his burst and cutting ability shined. In the second game, Cobb lined up more in the backfield and received a few carries. The pitch wide to get him into space was especially effective.

But, the reason he is Percy Harvin-lite, is he doesn’t have Harvin’s size. And this was clear when he took a carry up the middle, and took a shot to his shoulder. Cobb’s day was effectively over, as he didn’t touch the ball (on offense) again.

At 5’10” and 190 lbs., Cobb simply isn’t built to take the tough hits that come with running the ball between the tackles. Harvin does this, and does this well. He is simply unlimited in what he can do out of the backfield, whereas Cobb must be used more as a scat back when lined up back there. MM needs to understand this limitation when he designs and calls plays for Cobb going forward. Exposing Cobb to these types of violent hits would be careless.

Cobb’s evolution from a fifth-string WR in year 1 to a heavily-used, multi-purpose threat in year 2 has been the biggest offensive story of the first two games. I anticipate MM will scheme different ways to utilize Cobb and his skill set going forward. I expect a few passes – hopefully they connect this year – and plenty more plays out of the backfield. But, it’s a delicate balance in exploiting Cobb’s skill set while also not exposing him to potential injury.

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.

Your Move Zygi

Well, if you believe the most recent “breaking” reports, the politicians of the Great State of Minnesota have decided to move forward with the construction of the latest and greatest multi-functional sports facility this side of Nicollet Avenue.  The expected cost of this facility has ranged between $900 million and $1 billion.  No small price tag considering the current state of the state’s financial statement.  But, that discussion is neither here nor…anywhere…oddly enough.

No, the following paragraphs are going to focus on what will happen next.  You see, of that roughly $1 billion price tag, the good people of the State of Minnesota are coughing up approximately $550 million.  Though, if you believe the Vikings website, that is a deal.  Evidently, residents in other NFL cities are picking 2/3 of the total tab.  WHAT A DEAL!!!  HOW LUCKY ARE WE!!!!

Zygi is all smiles after news of the stadium broke. Let's hope the people of Minnesota are also smiling after it is built.

Now that the congratulating is over (oh man, we are such good negotiators, we just agreed to build a billionaire a stadium) and the shovels are ready to be put into the ground, we did put ourselves in a position to do one thing: demand a quality product.

Gone should be the days of skimping on Free Agent signings or refraining from cutting loose on a bad signing and moving on to the next one.  Think the Vikings WR/DB situation for the past few years.  The people ponied up, the Vikings need to make a commitment to winning.  Now.

To that end, this year’s squad is in desperate need at three critical positions: WR, DB, and OL.  It appears as though Mount Kalil is going to be available at No. 3 in this year’s NFL Draft.  That covers a gaping OL hole.  But, the framework of this stadium deal should mean more than just trying to improve through the draft.

Ideally, it means locking down Dwayne Bowe, Vincent Jackson, or one of the other marquee WRs.  Cheech Harvin is a dynamic WR, but, he needs a sidekick and either Bowe or VJax would be great.

To ensure those flankers get a workout in practice, the state’s splurge on the stadium also means locking down some Chris Cook insurance in the form of one of the following DBs: Cortland Finnigan, Terrell Thomas, or another decent options at DB.  And yes, that could even mean locking down dream-killer Tracy Porter.

Allen was looking for a sidekick all year last year. Super Mario could be just what the doctor ordered.

In an ideal world, Zygi and Co. make a push for Mario Williams.  He would be a great compliment to Ten Gallon Allen.  With the two of them coming off the edge, they would make even the most pedestrian DBs look like HOFers.    You could skip signing Finnegan or the other marquee DBs.  While playing in the Metrodome, getting the NFL’s version of Super Mario in purple was a pipe dream, but, now that we are moving next door to Mall America Field at Best Buy Stadium, signing Williams should definitely be in the cards.

In fact, while I am it, why stop there?  Rumors are swirling about how the Colts are going to release sure-fire HOFer, Peyton Manning.  If he is even back to 80%, the Vikes better be serious players in trying to land him.  That does not mean a courtesy dinner at Manny’s and a $500.00 gift to the MOA.  I want them to pull out all the stops.  Have AP wheel down to Manning’s pad in Nawleans and talk him into strapping it on for the purple.  Manning would be the perfect mentor to a young Christian Ponder.  The Vikes would be instant contenders, especially with the other free agent additions discussed above.

Now, before you all get on your email machines and tell me how impossible it would be to sign all of the  previously discussed free agents, save your time.  I get it.  There are financial considerations at play and not ALL of those candidates can be Vikings.  BUT,  these next few weeks are going to tell a lot about whether the people of Minnesota got duped or if the Vikes are serious about a quality product on the quality field that we are building them.  It is that commitment to seriously being involved in the conversation that we, as the bank, need to see.  Without that commitment, we are just like the other sports-hungry cities that got duped into paying for a new stadium.  Your move Wilf.