Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Monthly Archives: August 2012

On Tuesday, news broke that Vikings wide out Michael Jenkins agreed to take a significant cut in his pay under a renegotiated two year deal.

This year, Jenkins salary goes from $2.5 million to $1 million.  In 2013, his salary goes from $2.5 million to $825,000.  A roster bonus worth up to $2.425 million makes it unlikely that Jenkins is in the team’s plan beyond this season, but the restructured numbers make it likely that he sticks with the team through roster cuts following preseason.

Last summer the Vikings got both Greg Camarillo and Bernard Berrian to agree to salary reductions and both made the week one roster.  Neither, however, remains on the team nearly a year later.  Actually, neither is currently employed at all.

Asking Jenkins to take a pay reduction could have been a risky move for the Vikings.  Had he refused, using the Greg Childs injury and Jerome Simpson suspension as leverage, the team could have very easily found themselves cutting the veteran without a viable backup plan in place.

Despite the pay cut, Jenkins still has the highest base salary of all receivers on the Vikings roster, which proves that Percy Harvin will need a pay raise soon enough and also that the Vikings are content taking the discount approach when it comes to the position.  There were a number of talented, albeit expensive, options available in free agency this year that the Vikings simply passed on.

Right now, the quarterback and the wide receiver positions take up a very small amount of the team’s salary cap.  That figure is even smaller now with the Jenkins reduction.  One can’t help but wonder if the production from the passing offense will match the investment, or lack thereof, the front office has made from a dollar standpoint.

Now, the only remaining question for this season is if they will find a way to spend their newly found cap space.  And, if so, whether or not they will spend it on something that helps their aerial attack.

Some of us think that Rick Spielman has put together a roster that potentially has the ability to surprise NFL observers as soon as this coming season.  Heck, if you look into the darkest corners and the deepest abyss, you might even find a Vikings fan that thinks the Vikings could soon be in contention for a Super Bowl.

From what I have seen out of the Vikings coaching staff this offseason, however, I think that they are having trouble believing in themselves and instead want to pull every trick out of the hat possible in an effort to simply do well enough to not get fired.

First, as Brett passed along in the post below this one, the team is allowing Adrian Peterson to rush himself back into action.  Sure, they are parading Peterson out in front of the press allowing him to talk about his “vision” and make himself out to be some sort of Superman capable of making this comeback in short order.

If Peterson were actually Superman, his knee never would have been shredded in the first place.

Allowing him to push himself during the rehab process is one thing.  Allowing him to run with the reckless abandon we all know and love during a meaningless preseason game, or even early in the regular season, is quite another.  Make no mistake about it, this is shaping up to be the biggest gamble this team has taken since they swung a certain trade with a certain Texas franchise to obtain a certain high profile running back.

And it could backfire.

Another sign that the coaching staff is in self preservation mode is the handling of Everson Griffen.  Griffen was shaping up to be an above-average defensive end that could push Brian Robison for playing time, and also made an impact as the NFL’s biggest special teams gunner.  So, they switched him to linebacker for a spell in an effort to give him more snaps.

Now, I have no problem with experimenting and trying to play to the strengths of your roster, but this particular experiment went too far.  They have already canned the idea of Griffen playing at linebacker, but not after he shed a significant amount of weight to try and win a job there.  Making that type of change to your body in an effort to win a position you clearly weren’t meant to play is just ridiculous.

I am even more perplexed that they would move Griffen away from the end spot while at the same time make a big deal out of putting Jared Allen on a pitch count.  Griffen, by all appearances, was at least the third best pass rusher on this roster last season and should be an obvious choice to spell Allen if that truly is the plan.  Now, I am concerned that Griffen’s weight loss will at least temporarily hinder his ability to be productive at that spot, let alone as a part of the defensive tackle rotation.

The handling of these two very different situations follow a troubling pattern that cause me to flash back to my objections to the handling of Joe Webb, Donovan McNabb, and Chris Cook.

Troubling patterns are the worst kind, and the fact that I am starting to notice them is giving me an uneasy feeling.

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As you have probably heard by now, Adrian Peterson was activated from the PUP list and participated in practice on Sunday. What’s that? You heard it, but didn’t believe it because there is no way someone could come back that quickly from such a devastating injury? You need to see it to believe it?

Well, there you go. That, ladies and gentleman, is Adrian Peterson, the guy who pretty much had his knee destroyed last December, participating in Vikings practice.

Now there is even talk about Peterson being able to get some snaps in when the Vikings host the Chargers at Mall of America Field for the third preseason game.

In a press conference, Leslie Frazier attempted to temper the excitement of fans saying, “I want to caution you, I know there are a lot of fans that are very optimistic and excited about seeing him back but for us it’s just a part of the process.” Nevertheless, there seems to be something real in the air that suggests Minnesota’s pride and joy, AP, could be back for game one against Jacksonville.

And I have to be honest with you – I’m torn about it.

First, let’s start with the preseason thing. Should Peterson even get close to seeing playing time during a pointless exhibition game? On one hand, if AP really is going to be starting for the Vikings early in the season, it might be good for him to get hit a couple of times and build up his confidence. It’s been seven and a half months since Peterson has had any real contact. Who knows how him and his injury will respond. On the other hand (and this is a Shaquille O’Neal sized hand), if Adrian Peterson somehow re-injured his knee during a preseason game, there would be a riot amongst Vikings fans.

Beyond preseason, there is a legitimate question of whether or not Peterson should even play in the first few games. We have a very capable backup in Toby Gerhart who has shown he can do perfectly fine carrying the teams’ rushing load on his [steamrolling] shoulders. Our schedule is favorable the first couple of games and having the best running back in the NFL may not be as imperative for those primary match-ups.

One reader on our site even went further; asking the question of whether or not AP should be the starting running back at all this season. Instead, Gerhart could be the workhouse running back on most downs while Peterson occasionally surprises defenders on third downs with his “explosiveness.” Now, obviously, this is not going to happen… But it is a fair question.

There are lots of questions regarding how Adrian Peterson makes his inevitable return to the field. There are even more opinions. So this is where I ask you all, what is the best way to ease AP back into action? Should he play in the preseason? How much of a role should he have? Is the coaching staff responsible if Peterson does come back early in the year only to injure is knee again?

Vote in the poll below regarding preseason playing time and discuss in the comments. Interested to see what some of you guys think.

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Well, the first preseason game of the Vikings 2012 season is in the books. Ultimately, the Vikes ended up losing in San Francisco with a final score of 6-17. While there were some good things to take away from the game, there were also quite a few hiccups (primarily after the first teamers were done for the night). I jotted some notes down during the game and wanted to get them up here for everyone. These are just observations – my personal opinions and analysis. But first, let’s start off with injuries as, ultimately, not suffering injuries during preseason is one of the most important goals.

Injuries

The Vikings managed to get through a game against one of the best defenses in the NFL while suffering only one injury – and a minor one at that. (Pretty good if you ask me.) Defensive tackle Letroy Guion suffered a minor PCL injury to his right knee. He is expected to only miss a week or two and should be able to return in time for the regular season. Very happy to see the Vikings not have to suffer any serious injuries, especially after the loss of Greg Childs for the season.

“No Huddle”

  • It was great to see Matt Kalil in a Vikings uniform tonight. Overall, in my opinion, he performed well. Ponder seemed to have pretty good protection for the most part and the line gave him a nice pocket to throw from most snaps. However, he was torched on one particular play by Aldon Smith which resulted in Ponder running for his life. Aldon Smith is quite the competition for Kalil to have to go up against in his first real game and only blowing it on one play is a pretty good accomplishment if you ask me.
  • The Vikings first drive on offense looked good. Ponder was poised and did a good job of moving the Vikings down the field. He finished the night 4/9 but 3 of those incompletions were balls that hit and bounced off the hands of the targeted receiver. Simpson dropped an easy, easy catch on the first drive. Stephen Burton and Michael Jenkins also dropped easy catches. My only gripe with Ponder tonight is he seemed to float the ball a little bit and held on just a little too long for my liking. Overall though, Ponder’s performance tonight was promising.
  • The defenses first drive on the field wasn’t too bad, but there are definitely some things to work on. Towards the beginning of the drive, the Vikings had a nice play on third down to stop the 49ers just short of a first. The Niners decided to go for it though and ended up rushing for the first on 4th and short. In a regular season game, it would have been very unlikely that the Niners would have gone for it considering they were still on their side of the field (just shy of the fifty). The 49ers offense then went on to run the ball down our throats and cap off the drive with a touchdown where Chris Carr got burned by 49ers receiver Brett Swain. With that being said, it should be noted that Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Antoine Winfield did not play tonight. I imagine our run defense would have been a little more stout had they been playing.
  • Rookie kicker Blair Walsh looked great tonight. I think there was a collective sigh of relief amongst Vikings fans as Walsh nailed his first field goal with a beautiful kick right down the middle. Walsh was 2/2 for the night and accounted for the only points scored by the Vikings. His longest field goal was from 39 yards out and he did a great job on kickoffs. One kickoff was out of the end zone while another was just a foot from being out. (The kick returner decided to bring the ball out of the end zone anyway, resulting in the Vikings stopping him at the 15 yard line.)
  • The defense gave up a huge touchdown run by Niners backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The quick quarterback from Nevada took off on a designed QB run after the entire Vikings defense bit hard on play action. I don’t know… It really didnt’ bother me too much. It was a very college-like play and Kaepernick, who ran the pistol at Nevada, is very good at that type of thing. After the entire team (literally) went right with the running back, there was a valley for Kaepernick to run through. And that guy is fast. Nobody was catching him…
  • The inability to respond well to play action seemed to be a trend tonight, though. The Vikings defense consistently got worked on play action runs. Definitely something they need to work on.
  • Zachary Bowman dropped an easy pick in the second quarter. Surprise, surprise.
  • Tight end Rhett Ellison had a nice grab in tight coverage. Ellison finished the night with two receptions for 17 yards.
  • Lex Hilliard got the nod at running back #3 tonight. Hilliard had a lackluster performance only gaining 12 yards on four carries.
  • I was excited to see how rookie safety Harrison Smith would do tonight hoping to see some glimmer of greatness that would make me feel a little better about  our safety situation. Overall, though, Smith had a pretty quiet first game. He did not start with the first teamers and didn’t get playing time until the second quarter. He did have a nice play where he came up to make a tackle in the backfield on a reverse handoff. Smith didn’t get burned or anything, was just looking to see a little more.
  • Marcus Sherels and Stephen Burton were the primary kick returners tonight. Neither had amazing or horrible returns. Pretty normal performance on special teams.
  • Joe Webb… I think it’s pretty easy to see after tonight why Joe Webb is not a starting-caliber quarterback. Granted, it is just a preseason game. Still though, Webb looked horrible. While the second team offensive line didn’t help much, consistently letting defenders enter easily into the pocket, I just don’t think Webb has the throwing accuracy or vision to be a starter. He did a great job of avoiding sacks and scrambling around – extending plays much longer than most quarterbacks could. But when he throws the ball, it is just not good. It seems Webb instantly gives in to blitzes and immediately starts scrambling after the snap. I noticed a few plays were the Niners would bring multiple linebackers leaving players wide open. Instead of noticing the blitz and locating one of these easy open targets, Webb panics, turns and bolts for his life. Honestly, after tonight, I would not be surprised to see Sage Rosenfels or McLeon Bethel-Thompson start as QB #2 next week. Seriously.
  • Solomon Elimimian had a super easy interception after defensive end Nick Reed used a sweet spin move to get after the Niners third string quarterback Scott Tolzien (who otherwise had a great night). If Elimimian would have dropped that pick… I wouldn’t have been that surprised because we always drop those picks. Yeah…
  • Arkansas rookie wide receiver Jarius Wright had a dropped pass on third down that would have put the  Vikings in field goal range. Instead, the Vikings were forced to punt. I was looking for Wright to produce more tonight as he was one of my favorite picks of the draft. Wright finished the night with zero receptions.
  • The above mentioned punt (by Kluwe) sure was a nice one though. Coverage managed to get down field and stop the ball at the one yard line. Love to see that.
  • Quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who I thought had a pretty good night overall, threw the only interception with a late, underthrown ball to Jarius Wright on a hook route.
  • It’s also worth noting that Percy Harvin did not play tonight. This allowed other wide receivers to get some playing time with the first team. Stephen Burton had a huge 52 yard gain on the first play of the game via a pass from Christian Ponder. It’s really hard to complain about such a long completion so early in the game from a quarterback who we are looking to stretch the field… But, the pass was a tad bit underthrown and had Ponder led Burton just a little more, the play could have easily gone for a touchdown. Again, was very happy to see a 50+ yard completion from our offense – just nitpicking here.
  • The 49ers kneeled at the end of the game a few feet away from our goal line. The announcers applauded 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh for showing such sportsmanship. Personally, it kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t know, I guess I would have rather had them score. Kneeling so close to the goal line just felt too much like mercy. It’s not a huge deal by any means and I’m probably the only one that was irked by it. Nevertheless, I was irked by it.

When you are a blogger, especially a hack blogger, lists can be your best friend.  I like lists.  I like to use them.  They keep me organized and look nice.  Columnists often get more creative in how they relay information and opinions, but I stick with lists.

So… not to shock you:  I have a list for you.

Here is my list of the top five things I will be watching for in tonight’s matchup against the 49ers:

1.  Harrison Smith To Bring The Big Hits

Reports surfaced this week that first round rookie safety Harrison Smith got into it with Percy Harvin over some contact that was made during practice.  Smith made some comments following the incident that suggest he may be a little frustrated with practice rules that are keeping him from showing the coaches what he can really do.  I look forward to seeing him in action tonight.

2.  Moss Reemerges With Niners

I should probably be most concerned with the Vikings and only the Vikings, but I have always enjoyed watching Randy Moss play football regardless of which uniform he is wearing.  Tonight he makes his return to the NFL after taking 2011 (and some would argue 2010) off, and I am excited to see how he does.  Oh yeah, and it’ll be fun to see the Vikings corners try to blanket the aging Freak.

3.  Blair Walsh Kicks Things Off

I think kicker is one of the most underrated positions in football, but some recent contracts being dished out around the league indicate that teams realize the value of having a dependable leg on the roster.  Rookie Blair Walsh will be under the microscope all season long and the scrutiny, or praise, will begin tonight.  Much has been made of his field goal attempts during training camp (where he seems to be faring pretty well), but after years of watching Ryan Longwell I am equally interested to see if he can boot a kickoff or two out of the back of the end zone.

4.  The Young Skill Players

Vikings receiver coach George Stewart recently stated that he thought Manny Arceneaux has improved more over the last year than he has ever seen out of any player.  Manny is one of many young offensive skill players I am curious to watch.  The young receivers have a chance to make a name for themselves and the third running back spot could be an interesting battle if Jordan Todman or Derrick Coleman can outshine Lex Hilliard.

5.  Ponder Is Where It Is At

You guys are going to eventually get tired of me ending my lists this way, but the theme is repetitive because it is a fact:  2012 is all about Christian Ponder.

End of story.

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