Tuesday, July 7, 2015

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After Kyle Rudolph’s in-game groin injury and Brandon Fusco’s pectoral injury, there were concerns inside and outside the organization that the Vikings would not be able to use them this season for some time. Albert Breer reports that Rudolph will undergo a sports hernia surgery that will take him out for six weeks, and Matt Vensel confirmed it.

Mike Zimmer’s presser didn’t get into much detail, but Brandon Fusco will get a second opinion about his pectoral injury—some of those can last for some time. Wanting a second opinion usually isn’t a good sign (i.e. the team’s prognosis is a longer recovery), but don’t read into it too much. Depending on the grade of the strain, Fusco could be out for anywhere between a couple of days (Grade 1) to a couple of months (Grade 3). Don’t be surprised if it’s a Grade 2 tear, because a Grade 3 would be detected in short order and a Grade 1 would likely not force a second opinion. Grade 2 tears take anywhere between 2-6 weeks to recover.

Matt Cassel will see a foot specialist. If it’s an acute metatarsal fracture, like most broken foot injuries to athletes, it would take six to eight weeks to really heal, and longer to get on a field.

Chad Greenway has a broken rib. Asked if he could play with that and a broken hand, Mike Zimmer said, “not the way he did yesterday.” Zimmer took responsibility for putting Greenway out there with little practice.

Jason Cole reports at the Bleacher Report that a source close to Adrian Peterson and a source within the team told him that “they believe he will return this season and that eventually he will get his legal woes fixed in the state of Texas and that he’ll be able to play again this year.”

Cole buffered that with a warning that some people, especially in the league office, who are wondering about whether he’s subject to the personal conduct policy and suspended for the rest of the season. Cole says if that happens, there’s a chance the Vikings will move on from Peterson altogether.

Naturally, this doesn’t square with earlier reports from Chris Mortenson that the Vikings have already planned for his long-term absence.

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Full game recap at Vikings Journal. Some snippets:

Blanton himself had a very poor day. Though logging ten tackles in the game book, he was exposed in coverage against Jimmy Graham, Josh Hill, Brandin Cooks and Benjamin Watson, and was somewhat culpable on other throws. More than that, his tackles were abysmal—better described as a passenger along a ride instead of a tackler. Dragged for additional yards by Pierre Thomas, Jimmy Graham and Robert Meachem (as well as others), Blanton couldn’t bring ballcarriers down.

The offensive line in particular needs a harsh look. There is no question that the worst-performing player on either team was Matt Kalil, who gave up sacks, hits and hurries at an alarming rate for both quarterbacks, and needed to be schemed help, help that sometimes meant sliding away from the blitz that was being shown and isolating Loadholt against two rushers.

Kalil ended up getting help from tight ends and running backs, and sometimes that wasn’t enough. He didn’t get much movement in the running game, either. He has an unfortunate inability to gain positioning on run blocks, and he often angled defenders into the lanes ballcarriers were assigned to go to. It’s negative blocking value.

Speaking of Harrison Smith, he was clearly the best player on the defense. Though he only logged four tackles (two combined), he had three pass deflections in the air and forced a three-and-out with his critical tackle on third down on the edge. He put pressure on the quarterback on one of his few blitzes. The biggest criticism of Smith comes on the Josh Hill touchdown, where he and Blanton needed to combine for coverage to prevent the play from happening, and neither were in place.

Enjoy,

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After Matt Cassel left the game limping, it was discovered that he had fractures in bones in his foot, forcing him to remain out of the game as Teddy Bridgewater took backup duties. The team did not release a timetable for his recovery, though it looks like Teddy will be the starter for the immediate future.

Matt Cassel wasn’t the only player who left the game. Brandon Fusco left the game because of a pectoral injury (these are usually muscle tears), Josh Robinson with a hamstring injury (which bothered him at camp) and a rib injury for Chad Greenway, who was limited in practice this week because of his ribs as well as a broken thumb. Kyle Rudolph suffered a groin injury and will have an MRI. “Something popped”, per Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press.

Their replacements were, respectively, Vlad Ducasse, Jabari Price, Gerald Hodges and Marqueis Gray. While Ducasse was questionable at best, Hodges was very good. Price seemed to be up-and-down, though I can be convinced otherwise. Teddy Bridgewater looked very good, but did not get much help from the offensive line. Gray did not seem to have much of an impact.

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There will be a full game recap later at Vikings Territory, but for now we half quick reactions to the first half. With Teddy Bridgewater in the game, there’s a new atmosphere for fans and possibly the team itself.

Offense

With Teddy Bridgewater in, there’s not much to say about Matt Cassel‘s play. He did very poorly, in part because of consistent pressure. He got knocked down or sacked on almost half of his plays, and pressure on other plays. Even in the scant plays he had without pressure, he did poorly. Interesting if bad choice to flip the ball up early on in one clean pocket, and had a bad throw to Rudolph on a later play.

Teddy Bridgewater has looked decent, but there hasn’t been much opportunity to be explosive, in part due to the number of clean plays and in part due to the conservative playcalling. He had a late decision on the first throw, but a completion to Jennings was more than the Vikings had seen so far. Good work on the QB draw, bad work on the scramble. Has been handling pressure better than Cassel has. It does not seem as if he’s calling the protections, but we’ll see.

Kyle Rudolph dropped another pass, even if it was a bad ball, but has been blocking adequately in the run.

The running back battle between Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata may statistically favor Asiata, but there’s not much to say that one is definitively better at this point, really. Asiata has not been a poor decision-maker so far, though one or two instances his speed showed up to slow down the potential gain. He had a huge gain on a dumpoff. It was well-blocked and schemed open, but solid.

McKinnon hasn’t shown up in terms of reaching his hype quite yet. Some of it is opportunity—free defenders getting to him on his only run and a high pass on one of his two targets. The other target was off as well after Teddy adjusted his throwing lane in response to pressure from the left. His pass protection so far has been good.

Phil Loadholt has been blocking well on the run, though not a lot have gone in his direction. Has been largely fine, though pressure given up because of the protection calls—being forced to block two defenders and so on.

Brandon Fusco needs to show some more awareness and he’s not quite getting it done. I’ve counted at least one pass pressure and a miscue in the running game as well as too-late help on a pass-rush.

John Sullivan has been blocking well, but if some of the extra pressure is due to some miscommunication errors, that’s on him. He seems to have drawn a difficult assignment as he’s often asked to block Brodrick Bunkley one-on-one instead of with help.

I have not seen much of Charlie Johnson, but Matt Kalil has been nothing short of abysmal. When left alone, he’s given up pressure on nearly every play, and himself looked to have sacked Teddy Bridgewater. He has been responsible for a few knockdowns and a lot of the scrambles. He has been the worst player on the field for either team so far.

Defense

Linval Joseph hasn’t shown up much today, and was pushed around a little bit on the first drive. The pressure packages from the Vikings means he’s getting rotated out a little more than we would expect. Since the third drive, he has anchored well. Sharrif Floyd has had some issues reading the play and getting pushed out. He hasn’t been particularly great so far.

On the other hand, Tom Johnson has been getting the rare interior pressure the Vikings have produced so far and had a hand in the Anthony Barr sack late in the half. He showed up with a tackle in the run game as well, though the Saints got the required yardage to convert at this point.

Everson Griffen hasn’t really shown up much. He may have put one or two pressures on the quarterback, but so far it doesn’t look like it. He also allowed a running lane to open up more than once. For a defense that asks its defensive ends to contain first, rush second, that’s pretty bad. At least he blocked the extra point. Brian Robison has been a little better definitively, forcing Brees to move around in the pocket, but nothing has been all that great.

Outside linebacker/defensive end Anthony Barr did show up with his first sack of the season, but he’s had some issues. He’s been exposed in coverage once and missed a run assignment another time. With that, he also hasn’t been able to get off blocks all that well in the running game.

Chad Greenway has missed at least two tackles so far in the running game and has been a nonfactor otherwise. Hodges has had fewer snaps (when Barr was a defensive end) and hasn’t done much.

Harrison Smith continues to play like a Pro Bowl-caliber safety, with two pass breakups (one should have been an interception) and a key third down stop. He’s been all over the field and it’s almost all been good, excepting getting frozen by a pump fake by Brees to get a Josh Hill touchdown.

Robert Blanton, on the other hand, has been abysmal. There was a string of three successive failures, giving up a reception to Brandin Cooks, Jimmy Graham (and getting destroyed on the run after catch), and getting dragged on a Pierre Thomas run. After that, he was judged (by me) to have given up the touchdown to Josh Hill, though Harrison is at fault, too.

Josh Robinson has done well as a corner, both preventing targets from heading his way and tackling to prevent gains. Xavier Rhodes hasn’t been tested much, and Captain Munnerlyn has been mixed, allowing a reception or two but doing well in the run game to get off blocks and get to the ballcarrier.

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According to Chris Mortenson at ESPN, the Vikings don’t have plans for Adrian Peterson in their future. On ESPN’s Sunday morning NFL show, Mortenson said “Several league sources say Adrian Peterson has not come to grips with the fact that his 2014 has all but officially ended.  His future is in doubt after being indicted for these child abuse charges related to inflicting injuries on his four-year old son.”

His piece at ESPN follows that up by specifically citing team sources for his information. According to Mortenson, sources say Peterson is “in denial” when it comes to his future with the Vikings and that he “doesn’t get it.” Also on the show, “Mortenson said the Vikings themselves do not foresee Peterson in their future.” Mortenson also indicated that any punishment from the NFL will be severe, particularly because Roger Goodell specifically used the phrase “child abuse” in his catch-all press conference on Friday.

On a different note, Ian Rapaport has a report indicating that Adrian Peterson is asking for his trial to be expedited:

It sounds like we already know what that decision will be.

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