Saturday, January 31, 2015
Blog Page 113

 Fresno State’s QB Derek Carr takes on USC in the Las Vegas Bowl. USC has a solid defensive front, so it will be interesting to see if Derek can rise to the occasion and prove he is worthy of a top 10 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Nothing wrong with his arm strength or production, but I will be watching to see if he’s a big game performer in the clutch. His 4,866 yards passing this season with 48 touchdowns and 7 interceptions has me hoping the Vikings are in position to draft him.

Ranked just outside the top 50 on some draft boards is Washington State’s hard hitting SS Deone Bucannon. Spielman likes his defensive backs big, and Bucannon fits the mold at 6-1 215 lbs. Not only is he big enough to rattle some bones, but he is also a turnover machine with 5 interceptions on the year and 14 for his career. Bucannon is also the leading tackler for Washington State with 74 solo stops. With a solid bowl and combine performance, Bucannon could see his stock rise.

Washington State takes on Colorado State in the New Mexico Bowl in the early Satuday game. The Rams have the 2nd ranked center in the country in Weston Richburg. With Charlie Johnson and Joe Burger set to be free agents, the Vikings are sure to take a look at this talented center from Colorado State. Weston has good NFL size at 6-4 300 lbs and has started 49 consecutive games. Weston blocks for the nation’s eight-leading rusher Kapri Bibbs who gained 1,572 yards this year. If Weston can prove he is versatile enough to also play guard, he just might be a guy Spielman will be tempted to target between rounds 2 and 4.

 I predicted a Vikings’ win against the Bears in week 13… and now I’m having those same sensations again this week.

 The Bengals are 9-5 and setting on top of the AFC North standings in part by winning all 6 of their home games in Cincinnati this season. At Paul Brown Stadium the Kittens have beaten Pittsburgh, Greenbay, New England, NY Jets, Cleveland, and Indianapolis. The Bengals have scored over 40 points in each of their last three home games. The Vikings on the other hand are only averaging 22 points per game in their last three road outings.

 On paper this looks like an easy win for the Bengals, right? Yes, and I bet the Eagles were thinking the same thing last week too.

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The unknowns surrounding the 2014 season are currently many, with a struggling team potentially on the verge of a shakeup, but we now know who the Vikings will face throughout their schedule next season.

Of course, they will face their divisional foes twice each, which accounts for six games on the schedule.  Judd Zulgad of 1500 ESPN points out that next year’s opponents have now been solidified, however, and here are the results.

The Vikings will play their home games at TCF Bank Stadium while their new palace is being constructed.  Their home games will consist of:  Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, Carolina Panthers, New York Jets, and the Washington Redskins.

The Vikings are currently 0-7 on the road in 2013, and they are hoping to break that streak this week in Cincinnati, but they are going to have to be more successful next season if they hope to return to the playoffs.  Their away opponents are:  Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Bucs, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, and the St. Louis Rams.

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Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson has helped the Vikings offense in his rookie season both on offense and special teams.  The Vikings gave a steep bounty to New England in exchange for the 29th overall selection in the 2013 Draft, but the trade got done and they were able to make Patterson their third first round selection of the day, and he immediately injected excitement into the offensive and special teams playbooks.

Thus far, Patterson has paid dividends to the Vikings in the form of 40 catches, 430 receiving yards, and three receiving touchdowns in addition to 50 yards and a touchdown on seven rushing attempts.  His addition, combined with the signing of Greg Jennings, created more legitimacy to the Vikings group of receivers which created a no-excuses scenario for the Vikings to finalize their evaluation of Christian Ponder.

In addition to his work on offense, Patterson has pretty easily been this season’s best kick returner, and the results are really showing.  Patterson has returned 36 kicks for 1,199 yards (a Vikings rookie record) with two more touchdowns.  As of late, opponents have sacrificed field position by kicking away from Patterson all together, which has set the offense up with huge advantages throughout the games.

Much of the pre-Draft debate surrounding the Vikings included names like Keenan Allen, DeAndre Hopkins, Tavon Austin, and Patterson.  Allen has arguably been the best wide out, and possibly offensive player, this class had to offer and some of his recent quotes have raised eyebrows within the Minnesota fanbase.

Allen said his agent told him he had a “guarantee” the Vikings would select him in the first round, despite rumors that his poorly timed knee injury had doomed his draft stock.  The injury caused him to push back workout dates and eventually produced an underwhelming 40-yard dash time.  Allen indeed tumbled on Draft weekend and he ended up going to San Diego in the third round.  He was drafted 76th overall and was the eighth wide receiver taken in the class.

This season Allen has done wonders for the Chargers who clearly suffered in the absence of Vincent Jackson and needed a big, athletic wide out that could out-run and out-jump opposing defenders on a regular basis.  Allen has 63 catches for 931 yards and seven touchdowns.  He has done alright on special teams, as well, with 10 punt returns for a 8.4 yard average.

“It hurt me. Now it’s hurting them,” Allen said of the teams that passed on him. “It is what it is. I don’t dwell on it.”

The Vikings surely aren’t disappointed with the return they are getting on their Patterson investment, or any of their first round selections for that matter.  Still, Allen has been an all-out stud as a rookie, and one has to wonder how this all will look with a few more seasons in the past.  One thing that is for sure, the Chargers got a better value snagging Allen that late in the Draft, and they didn’t have to trade away additional picks to move up and get him.

How about you?  With hindsight being what it is, would you have done anything different if you were Rick Spielman and had a time machine programed for April of 2013?  Let me know in the comments section.

The Vikings were without their top two running backs, their most productive offensive lineman this season, and their starting cornerback duo.  As if the odds weren’t stacked enough against them, Minnesota had to play the potent offense of the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, so expectations were minimal as fans filed into the Metrodome.

The Vikings, however, had no-names show up big on their way to a 48-30 beatdown of the Eagles.  Here are ten things I noticed about the game:

1.  NFL Network reported prior to the game that Matt Cassel would remain with the Vikings into 2014.  The understanding is that both Cassel and the Vikings have the option to void the second year of his contract following the season, so I was surprised to see such a concrete report come across the TV.  Cassel then proceeded to have one of the best games of his career.  He finished 26 of 35 for 382 yards and two touchdowns.  He threw one interception and took three sacks, but for the most part he was sharp and poised on his way to a 116.6 quarterback rating.  He also ran for 19 yards and another score.  These are the types of games we just never saw out of Christian Ponder and it is no wonder that Cassel’s future with the franchise suddenly looks far brighter than Ponder’s.  Jennings had never before, in his entire career, caught 11 passes in one game.

2.  Greg Jennings continued to show that he can better reward the Vikings for their investment when Cassel is at the helm.  His best game as a Vikings so far came to the tune of 13 targets, 11 catches, 163 yards, and a touchdown.  Jennings continues to be precise with his route running and the main difference lately seems to be that he now has a quarterback willing and able to take advantage of his talents.

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