Saturday, May 23, 2015
Blog Page 142

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[NOTE: Darren Page is continuing his absolutely phenomenal series breaking down the Vikings’ draft prospects. This one is his second, on Teddy Bridgewater. If you missed it, be sure to catch the first one on Anthony Barr. He is the lead scout at DetroitLionsDraft.com and contributor at the Bleacher Report (and avid Vikings fan). Be sure to follow him on twitter for the hottest sports takes this side of the Mississippi (by which I mean north of, I guess)].

By Darren Page

General Manager Rick Spielman pushed in all his chips by trading back into the first round at the 32nd pick and selecting Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

Bridgewater showed the makeup of a quarterback bound for the top ten in his junior season. Then came his pro day. He was abysmal by pro day standards, spraying numerous balls well out of the reach of his receivers.

Reports surfaced of scouts and executives having concerns with Bridgewater’s hand size, frame, durability, and mental toughness. It was all a perfect storm for a perfect fall, right into Minnesota’s lap.

Teddy Bridgewater was my #1 rated quarterback before the draft and in a tier of his own above Blake Bortles. His pro day didn’t change that. A pro day is an event doctored to show off a quarterback’s skillset, but leaves out most of the mental processes of quarterback play. That’s important to remember. How much of quarterback play is mental? A lot.

Everything Teddy Bridgewater has shown on the playing field points to a quarterback who will have a long career as a starting quarterback in this league and who will be a catalyst for runs into the playoffs.

Let’s break Bridgewater down to ascertain the traits he possesses and what they mean as a quarterback under Norv and Scott Turner and with the Vikings’ offensive personnel.

 

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The NFL’s reigning rushing leader LeSean McCoy is making headlines for two reasons this week.  First, he is claiming to be the best running back in the NFL, even better than Adrian Peterson.  Second, it is kind of a slow news week and these things happen this time of year.

Peterson has since stated that he doesn’t think McCoy believes what he said.

“(Laughing) It was funny because when Stephen A. (Smith) asked him the question, he kind of hesitated,” Peterson said this week. “And he didn’t believe it when he said it. I tell the youngsters, ‘Say it with your chest, like you mean it.'”

If I take my purple sunglasses off I can actually see where the case can be made for McCoy.  It is fairly easy to argue that he is the more complete running back in terms of pass catching and blocking.  Still… it’s Adrian Peterson and there has arguably never been a more feared ball carrier in the history of the sport.

So, what do you all think?  Does McCoy have a point or does his assertion seem a little shady?

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In recognition of the fact that the state Minnesota has invested $348 million and the city of Minneapolis a further $150 million in public funds for a new stadium, the NFL Super Bowl committee has approved Minnesota’s proposal to host a Super Bowl in the city of Minneapolis in 2018, which will be Super Bowl LII (52).

This will be the first time Minneapolis has hosted the Super Bowl since 1992, when the Bills lost the second of their four consecutive Super Bowls to the Washington Redskins—one of the greatest football teams of all time, even to stats nerds (who are right). Unfortunately, the early 1990’s Bills were probably the best overall team over multiple years in that time, but could never prove it; perhaps Minnesota Super Bowl luck rubbed off on them.

As of early April, Minnesota’s bid highlighted Minneapolis’ 180 hotels with 19,000 rooms, 48 venue options and practice sites.

No single event can justify the cost of the stadium in public monies, but the Super Bowl may go some way towards providing a positive economic effect. Even if it doesn’t, it’s something huge for the city anyway.

 

By most accounts, the 2014 offseason has been fulfilling for the Minnesota Vikings franchise and fans, and the NFL Draft was some Rick Spielman brilliance if general approval ratings are considered a fair unit of measurement.

Still, the offseason isn’t over, and most of us can scan this roster and find places we would like to see strengthened even further by Week One.  Additionally, with a new coaching regime and new schemes in place, it is especially difficult to pinpoint exactly where talent voids exist.  Even the most confident of analysts are lying if they tell you they know how this team will perform in 2014, and we can’t expect to get a great gauge for just how good (or bad) they are until week eight or possibly later.

Still, it would be very out of character for Rick Spielman to stop making moves at this point, and there is (say it with me) always room for improvement… or at least additional competition.

Here is a quick glance at a few guys that are currently looking for work that I think could make interesting additions to this roster in an attempt to elevate the position battles in training camp.  If these four guys don’t excite you, trust me, I understand.  There is a whole other wave of free agency that will flood the market just prior to the regular season, but for now we can really only speculate on the guys we know are available.  Here you go:

1.  La’Rod Stephens-Howling, RB, Age 27

Behind Adrian Peterson, the Vikings running back depth chart seems wide open, and those roster spots will be much debated when training camp and preseason rolls around.  With a new regime in place, it remains to be seen if Jerome Felton can even be considered a sure things this year.  The Vikings currently have five running backs and two fullbacks listed on the roster and I think there is room for another addition or two, especially given the likelihood of a preseason injury impacting at least one of these guys.

La’Rod Stephens-Howling is a guy the Vikings reportedly showed some interest in prior to the draft.  I’m not sure if that included an evaluation of his health or not, as he injured his ACL in the regular season opener last year, but his skillset is exactly what you want to have out of a second or third string running back.  He’s a versatile guy, capable of pass protection and catching passes, while also being able to contribute on special teams if need be.

If he can participate in training camp drills, I see no reason not to give this guy a chance to compete for a spot on the final 53.

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That is not a typo, the Vikings have signed a linebacker named Mike Zimmer, who was previous on the Jaguars roster as well as a player for Illinois State from 2009-2012. They have also signed linebacker Dom Decicco, an undrafted free agent in 2011 out of Pittsburgh that signed with the Chicago Bears, then Tampa Bay Buccaneers (BEFORE Lovie Smith arrived). Decicco played strong safety in college but was converted to linebacker by the Bears (who did the same to Urlacher out of New Mexico, sort of—he played a hybrid “Lobo” role, a mix between SS and MLB).

They also waived former Iowa guard Conor Boffeli and former Missouri Western quarterback Travis Patridge.

Zimmer played in three preseason games for the Jaguars, but didn’t do much in those preseason games, logging 38 snaps. While at Illinois State, Zimmer played across all three linebacker positions but primarily played middle linebacker. Zimmer is somewhat unimpressive athletically, posting a respectable 4.72 40-yard dash at his Pro Day, but at a worrisome 235 pounds. His 22 reps on the bench press are adequate for the position as well, and the rest of his agility and explosion scores check out.

It remains to be seen if he will be listed as anything other than a weakside linebacker, but figures to have signed on for his special teams contributions.

Given that head coach Mike Zimmer has indicated a preference for those who flash athletic ability and teachability as priorities for signings, then it’s probably true that Zimmer the player is faster in pads than on the test track, and plays with a level of precision or instinct that’s appealing.

Of note, both head coach Mike Zimmer and current Vikings linebacker Mike Zimmer were linebackers at Illinois State.

Dom Decicco primarily played as a strong safety for Pittsburgh, but was converted to the middle linebacker position with the Bears—tasked to cover the deep middle in pass coverage in their Tampa-2 system. He was projected as a weakside linebacker before the draft, and it’s hardly a surprise that that meant Tampa-2 MLB to Lovie Smith.

He doesn’t have the fluidity to play safety in the NFL, but is a good enough cover player (mostly in zone) to be an option at outside linebacker (again, traditionally as a WLB) with good instincts for the run and an aggressiveness that probably appealed to Mike Zimmer (the coach). He gets off blocks surprisingly well for his size and tackles well, reading the flow of the run well. He needs to be more instinctive (or at least trust himself more) in coverage, but plays the game mindfully and has a reputation for on-field smarts and film-study. He has been a good special teams player for the Bears. He also did well but not spectacularly in the preseason for the Buccaneers.

We should be careful not to draw too much meaning from this, but it COULD mean that the Vikings are happy with their camp depth at guard and quarterback (this would be fantastic news for Teddy and Yankey fans) but a bit worried about their linebacker depth (not a huge shock)—with players like Larry Dean and Gerald Hodges put on notice.

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