Wednesday, October 26, 2016

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Will the Cincinnati-Minnesota pipeline continue for Mike Zimmer?

George Iloka a top free agent safety for the Vikings
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Building an NFL defense is a lot like putting together an intricate puzzle. Some pieces fit perfectly within the frame, like Anthony Barr and Harrison Smith in Minnesota. Others, unfortunately, are square pegs in a round hole. They have a place somewhere, but not with the Minnesota Vikings.

For Mike Zimmer, the picture is nearly complete — a top-five unit in 2015 has a chance to become even more dominant next season. But one of those pieces has long been a blemish in what should be Mike Zimmer’s masterpiece — strong safety.

From Andrew Sendejo to Robert Blanton, and even Terence Newman, no one player has been a perfect fit beside Smith in the secondary. Despite the revolving door at the position, general manager Rick Spielman does have options. The draft is chock full of potential contributors, and players like Anthony Harris will continue to develop, but the safest path to the perfect puzzle may begin in March.

That’s when free agency opens. And that’s when safeties like Eric Berry, Reggie Nelson, and Eric Weddle will hit the open market. They’re fine pieces to add to the puzzle, but they’re not the right piece for Zimmer’s defense. Enter George Iloka, current Cincinnati Bengals strong safety and soon-to-be free agent target.

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Xavier Rhodes shutdown corner
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When the 2014 season came to a close, Xavier Rhodes looked poised for stardom. After an up-and-down rookie campaign—par for the course for NFL defensive backs, even first round picks—Rhodes took a dramatic leap in year two, improving his coverage skills significantly and becoming known as a pass break-up machine. Pro Football Focus rated him as the NFL’s 14th-best corner that year—not Revis status, but a nice ascension for a second-year player. Fueling the narrative of a player on the rise, Rhodes had a downright dominant four-game stretch late in the season in which he allowed only seven catches and a 22.2 passer rating for opposing quarterbacks.

Rhodes blossomed under the tutelage of head coach Mike Zimmer in 2014, Zimmer’s first year at the helm for the Vikings. Zimmer is, of course, known for his defensive pedigree, and it seemed like he was quickly molding Rhodes into a complete, number one corner. The thought after Rhodes’ sophomore season was that, based on his enormous progress in year two, 2015 would be the year he developed into a legitimate shutdown corner, able to shadow the opposing team’s top receiver on a weekly basis.

That hasn’t exactly happened.

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As listeners of Purple FTW! know, Andy is pretty lazy. Therefore I’ve passed the buck along and we have a new producer in the fold by the name of Daniel Paluch (@DanielPaluch). During the show we talk about what the hell a podcast producer does (I still have no idea), suss out how he did prepping for his first show, fill you guys in about the first time I met Daniel in Mankato (#BackSweat) and even talk a little Minnesota Fightin’ Vikings.

All that and other “Get My Coffee” nonsense on this edition of the Purple FTW! Podcast.

An Andy Carlson Joint

Daniel is a Vikings writer at Pro Football Spot. Hit up his stuff!

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Tyler Boyd was a consistent three-year starter for the Pittsburgh Panthers while working with three different quarterbacks since his true freshman season in 2013. Boyd set a new ACC freshman record with 85 catches for 1,174 yards, breaking Larry Fitzgerald’s record. Since then he has accounted for a career total of 3,361 yards receiving, 520 yards rushing and over 1,360 return yards on kickoffs and punt returns. Boyd is not the biggest or fastest in this class of pass catcher but he does a lot of the little things extremely well.

Tyler Boyd | Wide Receiver, Pittsburgh


Height: 6’2
Weight: 200 lbs
Age: 21

At First Glance

First Team All-ACC and numerous ACC Receiver of the Week and Specialist of the Week honors. Football Writers All-American.

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In what could just be one of many rumors to come out of Winter Park before the start of the 2016 NFL Draft, the Vikings are apparently interested in drafting former Alabama running back Derrick Henry. The info comes from Eric Galko of and he says Minnesota potentially feels that Henry could be their guy if he ends up still being available when the Vikings are on the clock with the 23rd overall pick.

The 6’3″, 242 pound Henry rushed for a total of 2,219 yards and scored 28 touchdowns for Alabama in 2015. These totals eventually lead to Henry being awarded with this season’s Heisman Trophy.

He has been projected by draft scouts to be selected as a late first or early second round pick. However, Henry was not included in the latest first round mock drafts compiled by USA Today, Draft Season, Draft Tek, or Bleacher Report.

While the selection of Henry by Minnesota would not be a horrible choice, it would come with a bit of surprise. Given that the Vikings are also the same team that the 2015 NFL rushing champion calls home.

If Henry were to be drafted by Minnesota, Adrian Peterson’s days as the Vikings’s running back could be coming to an end sooner than later. However, it could create a unique opportunity for Henry to come in as a rookie and learn from Peterson if both running backs end up becoming teammates next season.

With Peterson and Jerick McKinnon currently under contract for next season, Minnesota is not in dire need to draft a running back with one of their early round selections. It may be a better option for the Vikings to wait another year and use one of their draft picks in 2017 to find a replacement for Peterson.

Will Minnesota and general manager Rick Spielman make the splashy move and snag Henry if he is still on the board when it is their turn to draft? Now remember, this is the same guy who traded back into the first round in 2013 to select Cordarrelle Patterson so anything is possible.

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