Thursday, October 8, 2015

Monthly Archives: June 2012

When you look at this offseason’s free agent class for the Minnesota Vikings, you will be hard pressed to find a likely starter in the bunch besides fullback Jerome Felton.  Jerome Simpson is likely, too, but not during the first three weeks when he will be serving his suspension.

After those two guys, I think the most free agent signing most likely to win a starting job has to be cornerback Chris Carr (setting aside injury scenarios).

The 29 year old cornerback has had a solid seven year career up until last season’s hamstring injury ended a 96 game playing streak.

“If you’re out of the mix long enough, you might just be left out,” Carr said about his demotion in Baltimore last season. “It’s like you have to reprove yourself all over again. It feels pretty good now that I have that chance.”

Carr knew he had the skills to continue playing in the NFL, however.

“If you’re versatile, you’ll always find a job somewhere,” Carr said.

By “versatility” Carr means that he can play both inside and outside effectively, and he could be asked to do just that in Minnesota.  Chris Cook seems certain to man one of the starting spots on the outside, but a combination of Antoine Winfield and Carr seems likely for the other outside spot and nickel duties.

There has been some good debate in the comments section about what exactly Winfield’s role will be this year, and I personally believe that the answer will greatly depend on Carr’s ability to step up as a solid starter.

At the moment, all seems well on the Percy Harvin front if you are a fan of, say, any of the other 31 teams in the NFL.

Us Vikings fans, however, we know better than to get comfortable with anything.  To us, if something looks stagnant, it is probably a ticking time bomb.  Like how nice that big inflatable roof looks?  Like the enthusiasm coming from the guys in that huddle… all twelve of them?  Like your chances on this Gary Anderson field goal attempt?

So, yeah, when sites like PFT or ESPN declare the Percy Harvin storyline “dead” all we Vikings fans are really going to do is sit on the edge of our seats and wait for this thing to blow up.

Rick Spielman, however, wants us to know that Percy Harvin’s previously stated discontent is something he, his staff, and the coaches are prepared to handle.

“There’s different personalities that you have to deal with on a daily basis, but when you look at Percy, what he brings to us on the field, how much passion he has to play football, he gives us a great opportunity to win on Sundays when he’s on the field,” Spielman said recently. “We try to know and understand when we draft a player, sign a player as a free agent, or bring a player into our organization, how we’re going to have to handle this player. Is he going to be handled differently? What do we have to do differently to handle a player? Those are a lot of pre-discussions that we have before we bring players in. And you just have to have a game plan if a guy has an issue or something and then try to work off that.”

“I know coach Frazier really met and sat and talked a lot with Percy. I dealt more with the business side of it and dealt with his agent, Joel Segal,” Spielman said. “As far as I know, the last dialogue I had, we’re expecting Percy to be at training camp and ready to go.”

We still don’t know, and possibly never will know, what caused Harvin’s outbursts last week and the reported request for a trade, but as of today it looks like Spielman and Frazier were able to tag team the issue effectively.

Training camp starts next month, however, and Harvin’s name will almost be the first one called during a much anticipated roll call.

Rick Spielman had a chance to sign one of the many proven middle linebackers that hit the open market back in March.

He passed.

Instead, the team has decided to move forward with Jasper Brinkley, a fifth round selection in 2009, to take over the position that E.J. Henderson has held for so long.  Brinkley filled in for Henderson quite well during his rookie season, but last year he missed every game due to a hip injury that is apparently still lingering.

“I know what we saw when he came in as a rookie and when he came in and filled in for E.J. and the potential we saw there,” Spielman recently told 1500 ESPN.  “He’s a big banger, physical inside middle linebacker that probably doesn’t get enough credit for his athletic skill set as well.”

Spielman can’t help but admit that Brinkley’s health concerns could be a problem, however.

“But again, the durability is a question right now,” continued Spielman, “just because he hasn’t played in a year and hasn’t played much at all hardly through this offseason.”

The Vikings are keeping Brinkley in Minnesota between now and training camp and Spielman says the goal is to make sure he is 100% ready to go by the time training camp rolls around.  Rookie Audie Cole, practice squad player Tyrone MCKenzie and free agent pickup Marvin Mitchell make up the depth chart behind Brinkley and have been seeing increased reps during his absence.

“There’s no question Jasper’s slated in there, but there is some competition going on,” Spielman said of the starting position. “Jasper has to show that he can be on the field, and if not, like I said, we’ll monitor where our young guys are, where some of our backups are and can they do it, and if not, we’ll definitely have to explore the market outside.”

“It’s a big year for him as well, I know, because he’s going into the last year of his contract,” noted Spielman.  “So, he wants — he needs to get on the field.”

I find the timing of Spielman expressing his concerns kind of puzzling.  When free agency opened up he watched guys like Curtis Lofton, Stephen Tulloch, David Hawthorne, and Dan Connor sign with other teams despite their proven talent and fairly ideal age.

If Brinkley doesn’t pan out because of injuries, and the depth behind him proves to be inadequate, then the decision to make middle linebacker a non-priority could be one that comes back and bites Spielman in the ass.

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Antoine Winfield is the team’s oldest cornerback.  He’s the team’s oldest defender, actually.  Check that… yes, he is the oldest player the Vikings have on the roster, and he knows it.

“I think I’m the oldest player on the team now,” Winfield said in this interview.  “Of course, young guys come and ask me after a play, ‘Which technique did I look good (on)?’ During film study, they sit by me and ask questions, and I answer them.”

Despite his age and the possibility of being relegated to more of a nickel back role, Winfield says he is ready to go.

“I’m 100 percent, Winfield said.  “I think I was cleared the end of March. The last couple of months I’m running around, getting into shape and getting ready for training camp.”

Winfield also said that while he thinks he could play free safety, his body will hold up better at cornerback and it sounds like he plans to finish his career the same way he began it.


It is widely regarded as the best thing to have at any given position this time of year, but the Vikings have none at the kicker position and do not plan on bringing any in.

The Vikings drafted Georgia kicker Blair Walsh in the sixth round of April’s NFL Draft, subsequently waived veteran Ryan Longwell, and it appears that the team’s Special Teams Coordinator could be tying his fate to that of his new rookie kicker.

Mike Preifer had a number of conversations with Walsh at the Scouting Combine, he put Walsh through a pre-Draft workout, and watched a lot of film.  According to Judd Zulgad, Preifer thinks he knows why Walsh missed those 14 field goals as a senior and wants to coach this kid into a premier NFL kicker.

“He was rushing every kick,” Priefer said of Walsh’s senior season. “Every kick he missed, he hit them well, but he was much too fast with his get off time. I don’t know if that was what he was coached to do, maybe that’s what he wanted to do. Usually you watch the ball get snapped to start (the) approach. I have him watching the holder’s hands. When the holder lifts up his left hand, that’s when he’s going. That’s what I’ve been coaching for years.”

“You’re not giving the holder time to even give you a good hold and that’s another part of the deal,” continued Priefer. “You want to make sure that the holder can get it down, on the spot with the laces, with the tilt that he wants. He couldn’t get that last year when he goes too fast and even here we’ve had to slow him down a little bit. I don’t mind him being slow right now in that we can get him back up to where we need him by the season.”

According to Zulgad, Walsh made 14 of 15 field goal attempts during the Wednesday and Thursday minicamp sessions.

“Every situation they’ve put me in has been good,” Walsh said of the practices. “We did some last-minute situations last week and we executed them well.”

Walsh also seems plenty open to suggestions from Preifer and understands the pressure that is going to be placed on him at the NFL level, both on the field and from a business standpoint.

“Football is a pressure-packed sport,” he said. “Especially being a kicker. There are certain instances where you’re the only guy on the field that’s performing at that certain time. Whether it be a kick or a (point-after attempt). But it’s a pressure situation and if you’re not ready to handle it you probably shouldn’t be playing. You’ve got to enjoy it and realize that it’s still a game and while it’s very important you’ve still got to have fun with it.”

“Ryan (Longwell) left big shoes to fill, that’s for sure,” Walsh said. “I’m just trying to come in here and focus in on what I’ve got to do for game one and go on from there. Those two guys have been great helping me. They’ve been professional about it like I expected they would. They couldn’t have handled it any better.”

So, does Preifer think that handing the job to a rookie without any competition is the right way to go about this?

“I think competition is a great thing to be honest with you,” Priefer said. “I don’t mind competition, but I think with what we’re trying to accomplish with Blair and the chemistry between Cullen, Chris and Blair, to me, is extremely important. If we had another kicker in camp, I think you’re going to share that a little bit. I don’t think he’d be worried about the competition. I wouldn’t be worried about competition because he’s been very successful kickoff-wise. He’s got a big-time leg. I wanted to make sure that field-goal wise we have the chemistry between those guys rolling even before we got to camp. I think we’re doing a good job in that respect.”

So, in this case, the team is aiming for chemistry over competition.  That is not the conventional way to go about things at this point in the offseason, but it is hard to argue that it makes sense…

After all, the job was pretty much Walsh’s to lose from the moment his name was announced in April, and that hasn’t changed.

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