Tuesday, September 1, 2015

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Greg Jennings partnered with WCCO anchor Amelia Santaniello to put together a counterterrorism informational video.

As a result, he won a Minneapolis Police Department Community Service Award. A personal favorite of mine on the roster, this only adds to his appeal. Jennings evidently is easy to work with on camera, as the Vikings’ official press release notes. Their story below:

J’Marcus Webb announced through his Twitter today that he’d been signed by the Vikings.

This isn’t a huge surprise. Though there were rumors the Vikings were considering Eric Winston, he was in New York this morning attempting to hammer out an agreement with Roger Goodell as the NFLPA president regarding the process for player discipline. Workouts typically happen on Tuesdays, so that would have been tough.

Webb was on the team last year as a backup tackle and did well in spot duty. Though his career in Chicago was bad, he was an above-average backup. He allowed one sack, one hit and two hurries in 55 pass-blocking snaps, which is not great, but good in the universe of backup offensive linemen and was a punishing run blocker. The Vikings let him go before free agency last year, but still see enough in him to bring him back over other options.

He should be familiar with the blocking scheme, as that hasn’t changed even with a new offensive coordinator.

With Phil Loadholt injured and out for the rest of the season, the Vikings sorely needed help on the offensive line, especially as they suffered an injury to Brandon Fusco earlier in the year and are unhappy with Vlad Ducasse (who can also play tackle). For now, the presumed starter at right tackle is Mike Harris, who worked with Norv Turner in San Diego.

Presumably, Loadholt will be put on IR to make room. The Vikings have yet to make an announcement.

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It is taught that the best endings to the best stories are supposed to be both inevitable and unpredictable.  The story of the 2014 Minnesota Vikings wasn’t a particularly good one and their playoff hopes, while inevitable, came to a very predictable ending on Sunday.

The loss to the Packers signals an end to any meaningful hope of a postseason appearance, but that makes this segment even a little more interesting than it previously was.  Now, with plenty of Vikings football left to watch, evaluating individual players is the first step in looking down beyond the coming offseason in hopes of a more satisfying sequel.

Past “Player of the Week” winners here at VT were voted on as such:

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

WEEK ELEVEN: Charles Johnson

The nominations for this week are:

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Per Ian Rapaport, Phil Loadholt has torn his pectoral muscle and will need surgery. His season is through.

Loadholt left the game against the Packers with a sore shoulder and did not return. The Vikings said he was questionable to return and after the game said that Loadholt would need an MRI.

Though Loadholt hadn’t been performing up to the standard he had set for himself over the past two years, he had been adequate this season. He was, as always, a better run blocker than pass protector, but still was respectable enough in the pass protection game. His numbers (5 sacks allowed, 6 hits allowed and 22 pressures) are extremely poor, but his film was a little better than that—with the numbers suffering a bit because Teddy would hold on to the ball early on in the season.

Presumably, the tackle that filled in for Loadholt in the Packers game, Mike Harris, will fill in for him. With Matt Kalil already underperforming, Mike Harris—who only has significant snaps as a rookie in San Diego—can only add to the severe liability of the offensive line. Harris’ rookie year was even worse in protection than Kalil is now, allowing ten sacks five hits and 44 hurries in just over half a season of snaps—355. His game against the Packers wasn’t encouraging, but it’s fair to assume that a week of practice with the line can only help.

Harris as a guard and tackle this year has earned a -0.9 grade from Pro Football Focus in pass blocking in 35 pass blocking snaps, with 1 hit and 2 hurries allowed, which isn’t great. More alarmingly, he’s played with little awareness, though he hadn’t been terrible in the run game.

In all likelihood, Harris is better than he was, but it’s hard to imagine he’d be significantly better than Kalil (or we would have theoretically have seen him replace Kalil). With that in mind, the Vikings now officially have the worst pair of offensive tackles in football with a mediocre guard on the left and a backup’s backup on the right. There’s a good chance they went from having one of the best OLs in the NFL last year to the single worst.

Teddy Bridgewater has been pressured on a higher percentage of snaps than all but five quarterbacks this season, per PFF. He’s been hit or sacked on over nine percent of dropbacks, sixth-most of all quarterbacks. We’ll likely see that number rise by season’s end, even if the Vikings switch to a run-first offense with shorter pass drops.

Vikings may have to revert to seven-man protection, with Rhett Ellison earning quite a few snaps as a protector. It will be interesting to see how the Vikings, who rely on edge protection and deep drops in their passing game adapt to this significant blow.

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As always, inactives list have been released for every team, as well as injury reports. First the Vikings:

Asiata, Matt RB Concussion DNP FP Out Inactive
Line, Zach FB None N/A Inactive
Mauti, Mike LB None N/A Inactive
Watts, Brandon LB None N/A Inactive
Wentworth, Austin G None N/A Inactive
Yankey, David G None N/A Inactive
Barr, Anthony LB Knee LP LP FP Probable Active
Crichton, Scott DE Hip FP FP FP Probable Active
Floyd, Sharrif DT Knee LP DNP DNP Questionable Active
Griffen, Everson DE Neck LP FP FP Probable Active
Harris, Mike T Ankle DNP LP LP Probable Active
Jennings, Greg WR Rib DNP DNP FP Questionable Active
Kalil, Matt T Knee DNP Questionable Active
McKinnon, Jerick RB Low back DNP LP LP Probable Active
Munnerlyn, Captain CB Knee LP Probable Active
Rhodes, Xavier CB Anjke LP FP FP Probable Active
Rudolph, Kyle TE Abdomen/Groin LP FP FP Probable Active
Wright, Jarius WR Hamstring DNP Questionable Active

The Ben Tate signing will play a role right away, like many expected. Despite having been slowed down by injuries while at Cleveland, Tate will take on Asiata’s role while Asiata waits to get cleared for a concussion. I expect to see very few carries for Tate, and all of those carries to come with zone running plays. Tate is familiar with zone running, and the Vikings tend to play both zone running plays and man blocking plays in the run game. Though that would be a tell, it will still be better for Tate to do something he’s familiar with than run plays he’s never really worked with.

With Sharrif Floyd out, Shamar Stephen will start in his stead. I expect Tom Johnson to take most of the carries, as he’s the better defensive tackle of the two. As Brian Hall pointed out on Twitter, Stephen may be in on running downs, with Johnson in on passing downs. Given that Eddie Lacy has been performing well as of late, it makes sense to make those situational substitutions.

It’s disappointing that David Yankey cannot find himself active on a day when another guard, Austin Wentworth (who also plays tackle) is inactive. That said, Vlad Ducasse is active and has played both tackle and guard positions in the NFL.

Scott Crichton is active for the second time this season (the only other time was the first game of the season, against the Rams).

Then, the Packers

Bostick, Barrett TE Hip DNP DNP DNP Out Inactive
Bush, Jarrett CB Groin DNP DNP LP Questionable Inactive
Perry, Nick LB Shoulder DNP DNP DNP Questionable Inactive
Janis, Jeff WR None None Inactive
Gerhart, Garth C None None Inactive
Bradford, Carl LB None None Inactive
Tolzien, Scott QB None None Inactive
Lang, T.J. G Ankle DNP LP DNP Questionable Active
Sitton, Josh G Toe DNP LP DNP Probable Active
Elliot, Jayrone LB Hamstring LP LP LP Questionable Active
Matthews, Clay LB Groin LP LP LP Probable Active
Jones, Datone DE Ankle LP Questionable Active

The only significant inactive to me for the Packers is Nick Perry. The Packers are having linebacker issues, and outside linebacker Clay Matthews has played inside while the deep rotation on the outside has covered for his absence there on occasion.

That said, it’s interesting that both guards were DNP-LP-DNP, meaning they missed the first practice, were limited the second and were held out of the third practice again. They’re still active so it may not have a bearing on the game, but it could provide the Vikings a small equalizer up front with Floyd inactive.

Overall, after a healthy Week 11, the Vikings have been bit with the injury bug and are starting a little more behind than usual this week.

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