Sunday, August 2, 2015

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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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The Vikings have announced their actives/inactives list for tonight:

NAME POSITION INJURY WED. THU. FRI. STATUS GAMEDAY
Floyd, Sharrif DT Shoulder DNP LP LP Probable Active
Greenway, Chad LB Hand/Rib DNP DNP LP Questionable Active
Loadholt, Phil T Ankle DNP LP LP Probable Active
Mauti, Michael LB Foot FP FP FP Probable Active
Patterson, Cordarrelle WR Chest - LP FP Probable Active
Rhodes, Xavier CB Groin LP FP FP Probable Active
Rudolph, Kyle TE Abdomen LP LP LP Probable Active
Smith, Rodney WR Hamstring LP FP FP Questionable Inactive
Watts, Brandon LB Knee LP LP LP Questionable Inactive
Johnson, Charles WR None - - - - Inactive
Prater, Shaun CB None - - - - Inactive
Yankey, David OG None - - - - Inactive
Ponder, Christian QB None - - - - Inactive
Chricton, Scott DE None - - - - Inactive

Chad Greenway is playing, as many people expected. There will only be four receivers active on gameday, but that shouldn’t have a huge impact, even with Patterson’s chest injury. The Vikings will have a lot of offensive linemen active (eight, compared to the usual seven).

The Saints inactives:

NAME POSITION INJURY WED. THU. FRI. STATUS GAMEDAY
Ball, Marcus S Hamstring DNP DNP DNP Out Inactive
Goodwin, Jonathan C Elbow DNP LP FP Probable Active
Hawthorne, David ILB Ankle DNP DNP DNP Out Inactive
Ingram, Mark RB Hand DNP DNP DNP Out Inactive
Knox, Kyle ILB Ankle - LP FP Probable Active
Lelito, Tim C/G Back - - DNP Questionable Active
Lofton, Curtis ILB Shoulder LP LP FP Probable Active
Lorig, Erik FB Ankle DNP DNP DNP Out Inactive
Morgan, Joseph WR Knee - - FP Probable Active
Toon, Nick WR None - - - - Inactive
Jenkins, John NT None - - - - Inactive
Jean-Baptiste, Stanley CB None - - - - Inactive

There aren’t any surprises from the Saints, but without starters Mark Ingram and David Hawthorne, the game is marginally easier for the Vikings.

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We may not see too many VT contributors today—sounds like Adam will be busy and I am always a little out of it. But the Live Chat this week is active, and this is just a reminder that our Live Chat Page is always ready to go.

Join us! We’ll watch Minnesota’s new look team take on New Orleans.  For all the drama surrounding the team, it should be a good time to just sit back and talk football.

Hope to see you in there.

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