Sunday, August 2, 2015

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With the addition of Ben Tate and the news that Adrian Peterson won’t play for the year, we might as well take a look at the player that has Vikings fans excited if a little anxious. The Vikings have added Ben Tate in part because of injuries to the current running back corps, but also may be evaluating him for a timeshare role with the Vikings in the near future. With that in in mind, is Jerick the kind of back that can thrive in a feature role, or is he more a running-back-by-committee type? If he’s more than a change of pace, then he can be a real asset.

Before the draft, Georgia Southern running back Jerick McKinnon wasn’t on a lot of people’s radar, with scant scouting reports available on what would amount to a position convert—a difficult report to write even in the most favorable of circumstances. Functionally, the bulk of what we were told amounted to “a physically talented but raw prospect at the running back position”—true but a little incomplete from necessity.

Here at Vikings Territory, we tried our best to get a good report on McKinnon, and Carl Knowles did a good job breaking him down in the immediate aftermath of the draft. After that, Darren Page did a hell of a job creating an effective scouting report on McKinnon. Matt Waldman wrote about McKinnon in his Rookie Scouting Portfolio with the following blurb (and then some):

McKinnon has more upside than his ranking suggests because he’s a fantastic athlete who has played multiple positions, including quarterback, defensive back, and running back. However, the limited tape of McKinnon as a runner—and non-existent game tape at Georgia Southern of him as an I-formation back clouds the decision-making process.

I see evidence that McKinnon can become a good NFL running back, but he’ll need to show that he can use his physical gifts with a deeper start from the line of scrimmage. It should give him an advantage, but it all depends on how he reads blocks.

Waldman followed up with a larger piece on McKinnon during the offseason, where he includes his full RSP assessment. All of those provide good context for who McKinnon was and they remain largely true, but we know more now and can really dig into him. As a warning, this will be heavy with GIFs and may load slowly on a lot of computers.

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Adrian Peterson’s suspension has yet to be appealed, but there is very little optimism that he’ll return to the Vikings this season, if ever.  Today, Jerick McKinnon (back) and Matt Asiata (concussion) were both unable to practice.

All of that combined apparently caused the Vikings to evaluate outside options, one of which was former Texans and Browns running back Ben Tate.  Tate was waived by the Browns yesterday after reports of his discontent with his role in Cleveland’s offense were widely distributed.

Tate was selected in the second round of the 2010 Draft by Houston with a pick the Vikings held (but traded away to move up and select Toby Gerhart).  There, injuries and the emergence of Arian Foster limited his production, but he always seemed like a plenty capable spot starter.  His first season in Cleveland obviously didn’t turn out as he had hoped, but at age 26 it seems there may be some value in this move.

He is currently playing under a two year deal worth a total of $6.2 million, but none of his 2015 salary is guaranteed and the Vikings could cut him with minimal (or no) impact to the salary cap depending on the timing.  Tate’s best rushing season came as a rookie when he gained 942 yards (5.4 average) and four touchdowns, but perhaps even more interesting is that last season he caught 34 passes with Houston.

We now have a new running back to consider when predicting the future direction of this Vikings roster, but the short-term possibility that he could be active on Sunday is perhaps even more intriguing.

The Vikings released tight end MarQueis Gray in a corresponding move.

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There were a handful of positive individual performances on Sunday, but it wasn’t enough to beat the Bears and, as a team, the Vikings played very poorly.  The team came out of their bye week very flat, with deficiencies on both sides of the ball, and the rest of the 2014 schedule will tear them apart of they don’t get better.

The past winners of the “Player of the Week” votes are:

WEEK ONE:  Cordarrelle Patterson

WEEK TWO: Harrison Smith

WEEK THREE:  Harrison Smith

WEEK FOUR: Teddy Bridgewater

WEEK FIVE:  Harrison Smith

WEEK SIX:  Linval Joseph

WEEK SEVEN: Everson Griffen

WEEK EIGHT:  Anthony Barr

WEEK NINE:  Everson Griffen

 

The nominations are a bit underwhelming this week, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.  If you think I missed someone worthy of the nod then please feel free to hit the “other” button and leave your write-in vote in the comments section.

The nominations are…

Adrian Peterson, who if you recall has been suspended by the NFL indefinitely (contingent upon counseling) and lost his appeal to get off the Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission List, is the subject of another story.

Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post reports that the Minnesota Vikings do not plan to trade or release Adrian Peterson. That doesn’t mean much, as Hubbuch also indicates that Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman will reevaluate his standing with the team at the end of the season. Given that they cannot trade him until then anyway, it’s a bit of useless information.

Regardless, don’t read too much into this. The headline above refers to a well-known incident, where the Vikings repeatedly stated that they had “no intent” of trading Percy Harvin before they did so.

Trading Adrian Peterson would only incur a dead space cost of $2.4 million for the 2015 season and free up $13 million in cap room. The same is true of releasing him.

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The Vikings released a statement indicating that they have signed running back Dominique Williams to the practice squad. The statement reads as follows:

On Tuesday the Vikings announced that the club had signed RB Dominique Williams, a rookie out of Wagner, to the practice squad. Williams was with the Vikings this past offseason but was released in August.

The Vikings had room because the Saints signed cornerback Pierre Warren off of the Vikings’ practice squad. Dom Williams was with the Vikings in the offseason and preseason, but didn’t survive the first round of cuts. He was later signed to the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad. The practice squad for the Vikings looks like this:

Player Position
Josh Kaddu Linebacker
Chris Greenwood Cornerback
Kain Colter Wide Receiver
Zac Kerin Center
Isame Faciane Defensive Tackle
Justin Trattou Defensive End
Donte Foster Wide Receiver
Pat Devlin Quarterback
Ryan Otten Tight End
Dominique Williams Running Back

With Adrian Peterson out for the year (as of right now), this could be insurance. For the most part, the Adrian Peterson news likely didn’t do much to motivate this signing.

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