Friday, September 4, 2015

Monthly Archives: January 2013

While the Vikings made an unexpected run at the playoffs I embarked on a quest to provide grades to each of Rick Spielman’s offseason moves to help us understand what happened, how it worked out, and what we might have to look forward to this coming offseason.

The part about free agency can be found by clicking here.  Meanwhile, you can click here to see my grades for the first picks of the 2012 Draft.  Now, we move into the lower half of the 2012 Draft to see exactly how things played out.

4.39 Greg Childs, WR:  The Vikings wanted to pair up Childs with fellow Arkansas teammate Jarius Wright, hoping to jump start their passing game by infusing some youthful talent.  Unfortunately, that strategy got derailed when Childs suffered a freak injury during the preseason.  He tore both of his patellar tendons in one shot and his rookie season was over before it began.

Injuries caused Childs to fall to the fourth round which has some critics pointing out that you cannot expect much more when you take a guy with red flags about his health.  No NFL player has ever returned from this injury, but Childs remains devoted to his rehabilitation and sounds very confident that he will.

The Vikings got no production out of this selection in 2012 after an impressive training camp, but there may still be some hope for the future.

GRADE:  C

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The Vikings now have five players headed for Hawaii to play in the Pro Bowl.

We have already mentioned that Adrian Peterson, Jerome Felton, Blair Walsh and Jared Allen are already making their Pro Bowl plans and now we can add linebacker Chad Greenway to that list.

Greenway was originally voted as an alternate player for the annual honor, and will be replacing the injured Cowboy linebacker DeMarcus Ware.  This is the second time Greenway has attended the Pro Bowl, and it is his fifth straight season of leading the Vikings in tackles.

He has been credited with 148 total tackles this season in addition to three sacks, an interception, and two fumble recoveries.

We may need two hands to count the number of Viking Pro Bowlers this way as more could still be added to the roster.  Center John Sullivan and left tackle Matt Kalil are both reported to be alternates and Blair Walsh is campaigning to get Cullen Loeffler in as the NFC’s long snapper.

I can’t believe that we are this far away from the annual snooze fest that is the NFL’s Pro Bowl and that we already have four fun storylines to chat about.  The Vikings have four Pro Bowl players (at least) and each is in a unique situation.

ADRIAN PETERSON

Everyone’s favorite running back, Adrian Peterson, has been selected to his fifth Pro Bowl and gives us all a reason to watch.  Despite the risks associated with Peterson doing anything other than spending the offseason in a deep freeze like Han Solo, Peterson always plays at a high level in the annual skirmish.

This year, almost certainly to the dismay of any AFC defenders, Peterson vows to do now different.

“I’m going to play hard,” warned Peterson. “It is hard for me to play down because when you play down, you put yourself in jeopardy of getting hurt going through the motions. So I won’t be playing down.”

With how Peterson has played this season, coupled with the lackadaisical nature of this game, would anyone be surprised to see Peterson break 300 yards?  400?

500?

Peterson plans on having his abdomen, which had been bugging him near the end of this season, examined a little closer following the Pro Bowl.

JARED ALLEN

Some would argue that Jared Allen, who has been plagued by injury more than ever, was really only voted into the Pro Bowl based off of his name value and not his 2012 production.  That might be partially true, but he still played pretty darn good football this season.

Allen, who played with a torn labrum this season, plans to wait until after the Pro Bowl to have surgery on it, which will be the first surgery he has had during his football career.  Allen related making the Pro Bowl and not going to going to an ice cream shop and not getting to try any.

“I played the whole year,” he said. “I’m going to enjoy the Pro Bowl. I figure I’ll at least get some warm weather and a pseudo-free vacation.”

Unlike Peterson, however, Allen has said that going full speed at the Pro Bowl and risking an injury that could cost him millions is not worth it.  He said he will play down.  He also noted that he once played against Peterson in the Pro Bowl and knows the guy is incapable of performing at any lower level of play.

BLAIR WALSH

Rookie kicker Blair Walsh, also known as the best kicker in the NFL, also plans on making his first trip to the Pro Bowl after being elected to the honor.

What is more, Walsh is planning on paying all the costs for long snapper Cullen Loeffler to go with him and hopes to get him on the Pro Bowl roster.

“He obviously came through and he’s like, ‘Yeah, definitely. I’m appreciative for everything that you’ve done,'” Loeffler said of Walsh. “He’s just been a great guy.”

JEROME FELTON

In addition to making a trip to Hawaii, Jerome Felton’s offseason will consist of contract negotiations, and it sounds like he wants to remain a Viking.  After helping Adrian Peterson to a 2,000 yard season, it sounds like the Vikings want him back to.

“Obviously you never know how it’s going to turn out. I know it’s a business and all that,” Felton said of being a pending free agent. “I feel good about being here, so I hope that they get something done before that. That’s my goal.

With so many executives, scouts, coaches, agents and players in Hawaii at once, it might just present the perfect opportunity to get those talks rolling.

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It took about a whole two, maybe three, hours before the disappointment from getting our butts handed to us via the Green Bay Packers vanished and the excitement for the offseason completely consumed me. Free agents? The draft?! Possible trades? Veterans leaving? New talent?

I love it.

Don’t get me wrong, I was as bummed about the loss as the next hardcore Vikings fan (well, maybe not as much as this guy…) but the postseason letdown didn’t feel as bad this time. Maybe it was because deep down I knew once it was announced Christian Ponder wouldn’t be starting that we would lose the game and then the next three to four hours was just a realization of that fact. Maybe it’s because nothing could have happened in the playoffs that would take away from what an amazing season 2012 was. (And, folks, it was an amazing football season.) Who knows, really.

What I do know is that I was, and am, at peace with what the Vikings did this year and what I think they’ll do in the near future.

There’s a lot to be excited about with this team. There’s a ton to look forward to this offseason and some great stories to look out for.

Here are five of the biggest stories headed into the offseason. Stories that we will be covering in [exhausting] detail here at Vikings Territory, I’m sure. Of course, there will always be a few (maybe more) developments that catch us all by surprise. You can be sure we’ll have those, too.

(Note: These do not include general things like “the draft” or “free agency.” It’s a given those will be huge. I tried to think of specific storylines that will provide intrigue, mystery and excitement.)

5. The New Stadium

I almost didn’t include the stadium on the list because it seems that, now that we’ve got our stadium, it’s more of a “I don’t care how it happens, just get it here” type thing. But, after Adam mentioned it to me when I queried the inner-workings of his very knowledgeable Vikings mind, I started to see why it could become something we talk about frequently during the offseason.

It shouldn’t be long until we start seeing a real design for this thing.  And that will be pretty dang cool. We’ll finally get to see what this thing will look like. What features it will have. Does it have a retractable roof? Seat warmers? Does it have a mammoth monitor floating eerily above the ant-sized players a hundred or so feet below? Who knows.

It will be something tangible at that point. Something we can look at and say, “Okay. So that’s going to be where I take my children to watch my Minnesota Vikings a few years from now.” (Maybe more if you’re me).

It’s been an idea up until this point. A finalized design that we can see is a big step to it becoming a real, real reality. (A real one.)

4. Backup Quarterback Backup Plan

Christian Ponder’s late season surge (and potentially even his absence from the playoff game at Lambeau) solidified his role as the Vikings starter at quarterback next season. Head coach Leslie Frazier has even already made it public. That’s all good and fine, but it doesn’t change the fact that the Vikings still need to figure some things out at the quarterback position during the offseason.

I’m not going to torch Joe Webb too much because I honestly feel like he’s better than what he showed Saturday in Green Bay. The guy was thrown into an incredibly difficult situation under an offensive coordinator who remained steadfast in his stubborn ways and refused to adjust his game plan to increase the likelihood of success for Webb. Nevertheless, I don’t think Joe Webb is somebody who can really threaten Ponder for the starting position and light a fire under his butt, so to speak.

I think Ponder is going to be a good quarterback with a little more development. I take a lot of heat for that position but I’ve held it since he was drafted and I still hold it today. But I’ll be the first one to tell you that it is not a sure thing. He is not a sure thing. And the Vikings need to have a Plan B just in case it doesn’t pan out with #7.

Personally, I’d like Spielman and Co. to do some superb scouting and find a quarterback in the middle rounds who has a lot of upside. It’s also possible the team could just to go the free agent route. (Also, let’s not kid ourselves, it’s entirely possible the Vikings could not address it at all…)

Nevertheless, I think how the roster shapes up behind Ponder is something to keep an eye on.

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Today, Leslie Frazier did exactly what every head coach begins a season hoping he doesn’t have to do, he gave his end of the season press conference without being able to boast an NFL Championship.

That doesn’t mean, however, that this three-win team from a year ago doesn’t have plenty of positives to hang their hat on as they leave Winter Park and Frazier made sure to point out each of those.

As anyone could predict, Frazier said all of the right things that one would expect him to say at the presser, which you can watch by clicking here.  Because of these expectations, I hardly feel that things he said are really newsworthy because we all knew exactly what would be said.

Christian Ponder is the starter next year.  Frazier would like to see everybody back to training camp no matter how old they are getting, how much they are getting paid, or how little they produced this season.  Joe Webb will compete for a backup spot again.  Percy Harvin has no attitude problems and has no reason to not come back next season.

All positive… but all predictable.

I’m not suggesting he is not genuine when touching on the positives, I simply mean to point out that not much stock should be put into his words when it comes to the touchier subjects.

I will say this, however, I cannot remember a Vikings head coach in my lifetime that presents himself as well as Leslie Frazier.  The guy is pure class, and I am excited about him getting his contract extension, which both he and Zygi Wilf indicated would be worked out at some point this offseason.

Leslie Frazier improved greatly in his second season as Head Coach and he represents the Minnesota Vikings organization about as well as, if not better than, any coach in the NFL represents their respective teams.

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