Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Monthly Archives: May 2013

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Another week of “Eye on the Opposition” is upon us, and again I’ll be giving you the lowdown on everything that the Minnesota Vikings’ NFC North foes have been up to as OTAs roll along.

Here’s a look at what’s been going on in the NFC North as well as some insight as to how it’ll affect the Vikings once the regular season arrives.

Enjoy some news from behind enemy lines.

Chicago Bears

Evan Rodriguez, a second-year fullback/tight end, was arrested today for DUI, speeding and improper lane usage. This is his second arrest of the offseason – he was arrested back in March for violence and disorderly conduct. While this doesn’t exactly mean that it’ll cost him his roster spot, Rodriguez will be on a short leash once he returns to camp with the Bears. If Rodriguez can’t prove to the Bears that this crime wave is behind him, he’ll be on the open market before the regular season begins.

As far as reports indicate, Matt Forte is at full strength during OTAs and showing that he’s ready to be an integral part of the Bears’ passing game. Especially with new head coach Marc Trestman coming in and bringing out the best in Jay Cutler, Forte figures to be a huge part of the Chicago air assault. If he’s healthy, the Vikings secondary and the rest of the NFC North better be ready to spy him out of the backfield all game long.

Kicker Robbie Gould is expected back soon after rupturing a tendon in his calf late last season. The Bears signed Austin Signor to fill the void, but a strong return by Gould should put the veteran back at the top of the depth chart. It sounds like the Vikings won’t be able to expect missed field goals from Chicago the way they did with the Packers and Mason Crosby.

Detroit Lions

By all reports, second-year wide receiver Ryan Broyles is looking good so far after returning from an ACL tear that ended his rookie season. After bouncing back from another ACL tear last season, Broyles showed insane amounts of potential as a contributor in the Lions’ passing game. If he can get healthy and stay healthy, Broyles is headed for a breakout year for Detroit.

Another wide receiver that has worked his way onto the Lions radar is Patrick Edwards. He spent his rookie season on the practice squad before tearing his quad and ruining any chance he had of seeing the active roster. So far this offseason, Edwards has gotten several recommendations from teammates and appears to be in line for a serious contributing role in 2013. The Vikings better beware with how good this Detroit receiving corps is turning out.

Word around training camp also has undrafted rookie running back Theo Reddick turning heads. The former Notre Dame standout has displayed tremendous versatility, proving his worth as a runner, receiver and return man. Just another offensive weapon for the Lions to wreak havoc with this upcoming season.

Green Bay Packers

Second-year cornerback Casey Heyward is coming along nicely and appears to be in position to earn a starting job with the Packers this season. Last year, Heyward graded out as arguably the top cornerback in the NFL – albeit with a smaller sample to work with than the majority of the top cover men in the league. Assuming that he continues to build on the tools that he displayed last year, the Vikings will have a tough time passing in Heyward’s direction in 2013, even with an upgraded wide receiver unit.

The Packers’ 2012 first-round pick, Jerel Worthy, is still working his way back from a knee injury that he suffered in the regular season finale against the Vikings last year. Although Worthy has been positive about his return, there’s a slight chance that he could end up missing his entire sophomore season. Looks like the Packers will have to find production along the defensive line elsewhere.

Speaking of which, there’s been some buzz surrounding 2013 first-rounder Datone Jones, who could step in to fill the void with Worthy out indefinitely. The former UCLA standout is a physical, athleticism defensive end who should see immediate action for the Packers. If his play can rival his confidence, Green Bay will be getting plenty from this rookie in 2013. The Vikings’ offensive line better beware, because Jones isn’t here to play games.

Jared Allen’s contract situation isn’t keeping him awake at night, and neither are any lingering injuries, and he says he is now getting the best sleep he’s had in years.  This is important because Allen is the only Viking that has yet to make an appearance at the OTA practices that took place this week.

“I’m excited to be playing ball and especially I’m excited to be healthy this year. That’s the biggest thing,” he told SiriusXM via “My contract has been so far out of mind because I’m finally able to train this year. My shoulder is back. I didn’t know how rehab was going to be, this being the first surgery I’ve ever had. I’m just excited that my strength is coming back; I’m sleeping again at night. Two years of not sleeping very well, it wears on you.”

Allen spent the week celebrating his anniversary and Leslie Frazier says, according to the Pioneer Press, that Allen will join his teammates after this weekend.

Earlier this offseason, Allen said he would be “out the door” if the Vikings approached him about a pay cut, and so it appears he is perfectly content entering the final year of his contract without any guarantees that extend into 2014 or beyond.

“I’m not hostile. I love the Minnesota Vikings. They got me out of a situation in Kansas City where I was very unhappy and put a lot of faith in me,” Allen said. “The whole point is I don’t worry about my contract, and I don’t. I’ve always been a person that says my play will take care of everything else. ”

“As long as I perform on the football field, you have options in front of you,” he continued. “As far as where I’ll end up, I don’t know. I’m playing this year for this year. I loved being a Viking. I love being a Viking. I want to win a Super Bowl as a Viking.”

Injuries have been cited as a contributor to Allen’s “down year” in 2012, but he still registered 12 sacks and played well enough to not yet be a candidate to be put out to the pasture that Rick Spielman has been sending plenty of veterans to lately.  Considering the young defensive end talent on this team, Allen’s potential contract demands, and the huge dip in value placed on veteran pass rushers this offseason, it is reasonable to wonder if this season will be his last as a Viking.

For now, however, a healthy Jared Allen has plenty of financial motivation to couple with his desire to win a Super Bowl and that is a pretty good formula for short-term success.

As we continue to go through the motions of Christian Ponders second offseason as the Vikings anointed starter at quarterback, we should all be clamoring for progress reports on the young signal caller that is facing a do-or-die type of season.  Leslie Frazier calls the middle linebacker position the “quarterback of the defense” and that is the position, however, that seems to be generating the most interest.

Kevin Seifert of ESPN detailed a play during today’s OTA sessions in which Ponder lofted a pass over the head of Henderson, who has been most criticized for his coverage skills, which landed in the hands of tight end Kyle Rudolph who was running a seam route (didn’t realize Bill Musgrave knew tight ends could run those) and came away with a big game.

As Seifert noted, it is only fair for readers to realize that this is one of the hardest plays to cover (hint, hint, Bill Musgrave) for a mike linebacker, especially in a practice session in which there is no pass rush.

Henderson once again bristled at the notion that he will struggle to transition to his new position and, in fact, partially dismissed the idea that he will be taking on a role different from what he has played in the past.

“It’s still football and still the same game,” said Henderson. “The majority of the game is played from nickel, so I’ve seen it from that perspective.”

“You guys have forced me to look at it as a position shift,” he said of the media attention being paid to him this offseason. “It’s definitely not exactly what you’ve done before. I can understand why it would be a big deal and why it would be looked at like a different position. But I’ve been asked to learn this position since I’ve been here and it really isn’t that different for me.”

When Jasper Brinkley’s struggles persisted throughout 2012, Henderson did play more of the mike role in nickel situations, as he indicated.  Still, this is his first year where the “quarterback of the defense” role is his to lose, as he has never really been a full-time, every-down player.  While Frazier is at least playing it off as there is a competition at the position, with Audie Cole and Michael Mauti both being mentioned, fellow linebacker Chad Greenway gave Henderson a vote of confidence on Wednesday.

“He’ll have to catch up on the pass-coverage part because it wasn’t as common of a thing for him to do before. But he’ll be fine,” Greenway said of Henderson. “I’m telling you: He’ll be great.”

If Henderson can be “great” as Greenway indicates, then the Vikings defense should be in pretty good shape this season, but if he struggles find success in the middle and the Vikings have to implement some sort of “plan B” scenario, then Rick Spielman’s unwillingness to invest heavily in the linebacker position over the last two offseasons could end up being this roster’s achilles heal.

Of course, that “quarterback of the offense” position is still pretty darn important, too.

One of the biggest keys to the success of a football team is their ability to stay healthy, as well as prove deep enough at any given position to help cover for the unhealthy, and so it is important to keep tabs on the injuries plaguing the Vikings roster even as early as OTAs in May.

For the second day in a row, Jared Allen remains the only player absent from OTAs, but there is no indication that his absence has anything to do with injury.  As we mentioned yesterday, Tom Pelissero of 1500 ESPN says Allen had family obligations this week, and it isn’t particularly abnormal for him to miss OTAs.

Wide out Greg Jennings faces big expectations in 2013 as he tries to improve on his last two injury riddled years in Green Bay.  That is why it is disappointing to hear that Jennings was a scratch only two days into OTAs with an ankle injury suffered yesterday.

“His ankle’s a little bit sore,” Frazier said to 1500 ESPN. “But he’ll be fine. Nothing serious. He’s on the side working with (head athletic trainer) Eric Sugarman.”

Meanwhile, fellow wide outs Greg Childs and Chris Summers were also unable to participate.  Childs is really no surprise, considering he tore both patellar tendons during the 2012 preseason.  An inspirational return from Childs would certainly be a welcomed surprise, but getting any sort of contribution from him in 2013 would indeed be a, well… surprise.  Summers has the potential to compete for a roster spot at the bottom of the depth chart, but he will have to recover from his ankle injury in short order to avoid another season spent on the practice squad.

NFL MVP running back Adrian Peterson had surgery for a sports hernia on February 7th, but that isn’t expected to slow him down much, as it did little to slow him down as he played with the injury for weeks prior to the end of last season.  Peterson says he is “pretty much 100 percent” and was able to fully participate in all the drills and 11-on-11 skirmishes.  Minnesota’s offense lives and dies with Peterson so the importance of his health status simply cannot be stressed enough.  It is a good sign to hear that he is doing so well at the end of May.

Center John Sullivan had microfracture knee surgery this offseason and is not currently participating in OTAs.  After a season that arguably landed him among the top the centers in the league it will be a major disappointment if he has to miss any time, or doesn’t start the season at 100%, but that is not expected to be the case.

Linebacker Michael Mauti, drafted in the final round of this year’s Draft, was expectedly unable to participate.  Mauti’s list of past injuries is so long it can only be written on a scroll, but he could also represent one of the true steals of this class if he can recover from his latest knee reconstruction and stick to the Vikings roster, and he has the talent to challenge for a starting role in the future.  The first order of business, however, will be to get the Penn State product back to full health.

That might seem like a lengthy list of injuries, but outside of Childs and Mauti there is no indication that we need to consider any of them overly serious, and this is the time of year when displays of toughness will often take a backseat to precautionary measures.  We’ll be sure to keep you updated should any other developments surface.

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A surprisingly successful 2012 season for the Minnesota Vikings was continuously explained, by both players and coaches, to have been in the works since offseason activities began and the very good attendance they experienced.

This year, the Vikings are getting off to a similar start, as every player was present for the kickoff of OTAs with only one exception.

Jared Allen reportedly was a no-show.  Allen has rarely participated in OTAs in the past and, according to Tom Pelissero of 1500 ESPN, had a family obligation.  He, of course, is also still in the rehab process for his offseason shoulder injury and is entering the final year of his current contract.

There was no real news resulting from Day One, but the media also didn’t have any access on Tuesday.  That should change tomorrow and we’ll be sure to keep you updated on any developments coming out of OTAs.

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