Courtesy of our friends over at VikeFans.com, a fun look at a future that, well, isn’t yet ruled out.
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January 20-25 - Senior Bowl
January 26 - Pro Bowl
February 17 - First day of franchise / transition player designation
February 19-25 - Scouting Combine
March 11 - Free Agency begins
March 23 - Owner's Meeting
April 7 - Off-season workouts begin for teams with new HC
April 17 - 2014 Schedule Released
April 21 - Off-season workouts begin for teams with returning HC
May 2 - Deadline for RFAs to sign offers
May 8-10 - NFL Draft
Courtesy of our friends over at VikeFans.com, a fun look at a future that, well, isn’t yet ruled out.
I realize it is mid-July and the dog days of summer are still ahead of us. Yet, with training camp opening a week from today, we’re approaching the 2014 season rapidly.
There are a lot of new faces with the Vikings entering this season. Coupled with a nearly entirely new coaching staff, the Vikings have a slew of new draftees and free agents added to mix.
Adding to that is the transition from playing inside the former Metrodome to an outdoor field at TCF Bank Stadium. Although the Vikings spent two decades playing outdoors in the 60s and 70s, the thought of bearing the winter elements for the next two seasons provide reasons for concerns.
There aren’t many examples of teams who have traditionally played indoors only to move outdoors for the construction of a new stadium. This is likely because most teams don’t construct the new stadium in the exact same location of the previous stadium. The closest example I can think of is when the University of Minnesota moved from the Metrodome to TCF Bank Stadium. That comparison seems unfair, though, because the Gopher program was terrible at the time.
Because there is little historical precedence for comparison, it is difficult to gauge how well the Vikings will make the transition outdoors. We can however, look at their performance in outdoor stadiums over the last handful of years.
Generally speaking, the Vikings have struggled when playing in outdoor stadiums posting a 2-14-1 record during the 2011-2013 seasons when playing in open air. There is no doubt the Vikings are a better team at home than on the road, however, you have to wonder how they will fair after the leaving the comfort of dome.
The Vikings do have some advantages when looking to play outdoors, however.
Firstly, this is still very much Adrian Peterson’s run first football team. A team that is designed to excel in running the ball with power will find more success playing in the Minnesota climate than trying to play a finesse offense.
I realize this seems counter intuitive when we’ve watched teams like Green Bay, Chicago, Denver and New England thrive outdoors in similar climates. However, I think it’s safe to say that the running game is important to those teams as it is to the Vikings. There is a reason the Packers have drafted a handful of running backs recently (including 2013 Offensive Rookie of the Year Eddie Lacy) and power running back LeGarrette Blount had such an impact on New England’s run in the playoffs last year.
When the wind is blowing or the temperatures dive into single digits, there is nothing better than having a trusted running back to help move the chains.
Most Viking fans remember how poorly the first Vikings game at TCF Bank Stadium went. The Vikings were dominated by the Chicago Bears on turf so frozen it essentially ended Brett Favre’s career. Thankfully the Vikings and University of Minnesota agreed to add technology that would heat the field and keep the turf clean and forgiving.
This should come as a relief for a team who has a workhorse running back who will soon be turning 30 years old.
Something that might be over looked that could certainly be used to the advantage of the Vikings is the fact that teams will likely not be able to strategize against kick returner and do it all wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. When playing in the Metrodome, teams eventually stopped kicking it to Patterson, opting to boom it through the back of the end zone.
Viking fans should be hopeful that the elements make this strategy more difficult to employ. One would think it would be difficult for a team to kick the ball out of the back of the end zone with the wind and temperatures that will likely come hand in hand with TCF Bank Stadium. As we’ve seen, Patterson isn’t afraid to take the ball out from 9 yards deep.
Speaking of Patterson, and the other wide receivers on the roster, they seem to all excel at making plays after the reception and are great at amassing yards after the catch. Essentially this means if the weather is horrid, the offense won’t have to rely on deep passes for big gains.
There is something to be said about the mentality of a team playing outdoors, as well. Head Coach Mike Zimmer is on record saying his defense will be geared to stop the run.
“That’s because we’re going to play the run,” Zimmer told KFAN.com. “It’s just what I believe in.”
Looking at the moves the Vikings have made in free agency and the draft, an aggressive and physical front seven will help enforce this mentality.
My final note that I believe suits the Vikings well for playing out doors is the quarterback. I do believe Matt Cassel will start the season behind center. Although everyone is eager to see Teddy Bridgewater in action, Cassel presents a very nice option for the team to rely on. Cassel has the type of arm strength that will thrive in an outdoor environment where extra zip on passes might be necessary to combat the elements.
Cassel obviously played outdoors in both Kansas City and New England and had arguably one of his best seasons of his career while playing in the cold weather in New England. Notably, Cassel posted a 105.1 QB rating while playing at Buffalo in late December.
Because of all of this, I think the Vikings are poised to become the type of team that can have success while playing in cold environment where the weather can be bipolar. If they can prove to be true to their identity of a hard nosed team who runs the ball with power and uses the pass wisely, they can prove to be equally dangerous offensively no matter the environment. I think playing outdoors will only help our defense, and will allow us to embrace the type of intense mentality Zimmer is installing.
In the meantime, I’m looking for a Vikings jersey lined with a fleece hoodie. The team might have to embrace the cold weather, but I’m not going to.
Ex-Vikings center Matt Birk has been named the NFL’s new Director of Player Development, per Ian Rapaport. Matt Birk played for the Minnesota Vikings from 1998 to 2008 as a sixth-round pick from Harvard. He went to high school in Minnesota, at Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul.
He made six Pro Bowls while with Minnesota (missing out in 2002 and 2005, but making every other one between 2000 and 2007) and two All-Pro teams. He won the Walter Payton Man of the Year award in 2011 with the Ravens and won the Minnesota Vikings Man of the Year award six times (and the Ed Block Courage award in 2007).
Birk founded the HIKE Foundation, which works with at-risk children to provide them with educational opportunities and has worked with 100,000 children in the Baltimore area alone to teach them to read. There’s little question about his character, though he has made political waves with ardently conservative politics. He is a pro-life activist, and penned an Op-Ed in the Star Tribune in favor of the Minnesota Marriage Amendment. For these reasons, he refused to visit President Obama with the rest of the Ravens team after winning the Super Bowl.
All that aside, Matt Birk is probably a perfect person for this role. He cares a lot about many of the problems affecting NFL players and has promised to donate his brain to Boston University in order to advance the understanding of CTE and its relationship to football.
From the NFL Communications blog:
In his new role, Birk will assist in developing the game at all levels of the sport, from players to coaches to front office personnel. He will also assist in the administration of NFL game day operations.
Birk will guide the continued evolution of the Scouting Combine and Regional Combines as well as the annual all-star games for aspiring NFL players, such as the Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine Game.
“I’m very excited to begin this next chapter of my football career,” says Birk, who becomes the eighth former player to take a job at the NFL office, joining Merton Hanks, Dwight Hollier, Patrick Kerney, James Thrash, David Tyree, Troy Vincent and Charles Way. “It’s a real honor for me to be entrusted with developing the game in so many different ways.”
A native of St. Paul, Minnesota, Birk will play a leading role in the continuing evolution and emergence of the Career Development Symposium, oversee the Bill Walsh Minority Coaching Fellowship program and NFL-NCAA Future Football Coaches Academy initiative.
“Matt’s experience as a terrific NFL player, a model citizen in his community and a reputation as a forward-thinking leader make him ideally suited for this role,” said NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations TROY VINCENT. “There is no doubt he will continue to make a positive impact on our game and be a trusted advocate for those who play and coach at every level.”
Birk, who will also serve as a liaison for the Football Operations department on the international development of the game and assist in further strengthening the NFL High School Player Development program, will be based at NFL headquarters in New York.
Troy Vincent was previously the person in that role, but has been promoted since then.
Some aren’t giving the Vikings a chance in 2014. Some think they immediately make the jump back into contention. Regardless of how you think they will do, the fact of the matter is that their first order of business has to be winning football games in the NFC North. Here is our weekly look (after taking a week off) around the net at our greatest foes.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
There is no doubt that the Packers want to retain their ultra-productive wide receiver Jordy Nelson. Nelson is 29 years old, entering a contract year, set to make only $2.55 million in 2014, and is clearly a favorite target for Aaron Rodgers on a weekly basis. The running theory seems to be that Green Bay would like to extend Nelson this season, instead of waiting until next offseason, as they also have to get deals done with others such as Randall Cobb. Nelson is likely the first domino that needs to fall before Ted Thompson can start working on the rest of his list of pending free agents for 2015. Vikings fans (and defensive backs), of course, wouldn’t mind seeing Nelson’s extension hit a snag or ten between now and next March.
1. Because Sid is a big fan.
Sid Hartman, the ever popular and widely read sport columnist that started covering the Vikings at the Star Tribune way back before face masks were invented (ok, that might be a stretch but it’s been a long time), thinks Christian Ponder could start game one.
According to Mike Freeman at Bleacher Report (formerly of CBS Sports), he’s getting wind of a possible release of the report on the allegations Chris Kluwe raised against special teams coordinator Mike Priefer:
I’m hearing Chris Kluwe report could be released very soon and report is favorable to Kluwe. @ChrisWarcraft
— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) June 30, 2014
This is honestly better sooner rather than later. Were it released a week before training camp, it would put a pall over the camp and give a little less time for the coaches to react to any changes they’ll be forced to make.
In all likelihood, the Vikings coaching staff has contingency plans in place for whatever the outcome, but giving them lead time before camp would be optimal from a football perspective.
For a perspective on the potential legal ramifications of this incident, take a look here.
Per Ed Werder at ESPN, Kevin Williams has agreed to a deal with the Seattle Seahawks worth just over $2 million.
Former Vikings DT Kevin Williams has agreed to one-year contact with SB champion Seahawks for in excess of $2M, according to sources
— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) June 12, 2014
Williams was in talks with the Seahawks, Giants, Patriots and Vikings.
Anyone who is surprised by this news has not been following the Vikings or the NFL for some time, as the Seahawks have made it a habit of rostering former Vikings, though they haven’t made a huge impact as of yet.
Still it should be interesting following the former defensive end-turned under tackle-turned temporary nose tackle. At Seattle, he will likely play a rotational three-technique role that should provide them with excellent depth at a position where they don’t have much (unlike Winfield, who entered a Seattle team that had a stacked secondary with incredible depth).