Friday, January 30, 2015
Blog Page 143

The Minnesota Vikings were supposed to draft Manti Te’o to start at middle linebacker.  I thought it would happen, many of you thought it would happen, and Patrick Reusse of 1500 ESPN called it a “100% certainty.”  Of course, as we all know, the Vikings passed on Te’o on three occasions before he was swiped up by the Chargers in the second round.

In fact, the Vikings ignored the position up until the seventh round when they selected Penn State’s Michael Mauti.  Now, Mauti has first round talents and leadership skills, but he also comes with an injury history that nearly caused him to go undrafted.

So, despite my opinion that the idea has never made much sense, Brian Urlacher’s name just keeps coming up in connection with the Vikings.  Yesterday, in what would seem to cynics (anybody know one?) like an obvious attempt to drum up interest in himself, a dubious “report” appeared that said the linebacker was leaning towards joining the Vikings.

The nonstop chatter about the position, and nonstop chatter about Erin Henderson’s lack of abilities, has not been sitting well with him and he took to the media on Wednesday to make his feelings known.

“I haven’t been more pissed in — I couldn’t tell you,” Henderson told 1500 ESPN after saying head  coach Leslie Frazier has told him he needs to play more angry.  “I don’t think I’ve ever been this pissed in my entire life, to just hear people talk about stuff that they have no idea what they’re talking about.”

“I guess it’s getting to a point now where it’s like, ‘Dang, I just want a little bit of respect,'” he continued.  “I’m not asking you to call me the greatest linebacker to ever play the game yet. Maybe one day we might get to that point, but show me a little bit of respect for what I’ve done and what I’ve accomplished in this league.”

The main knock against Henderson have centered around the occasional, but glaring, soft tackling efforts and missed assignments in the passing game.  He has seemed to play at his best on the weakside, but when faulty decision making and injuries plagued Jasper Brinkley in 2012, Henderson was actually not too bad as the middle linebacker.  He wasn’t great, but he wasn’t bad.

Henderson shouldn’t have to worry about Urlacher any time soon, however, as Frazier appeared on NFL AM and said the team wasn’t considering adding the veteran at this time, but he also didn’t hand anything to Henderson on a silver platter.  He said there would be a battle, a competition, for the starting middle linebacker spot.

“I’ve kind of had to deal with it my entire career,” Henderson said. “A lot of people have said I shouldn’t have been starting as the will ‘backer. Coach was saying the same thing going into the season last year — ‘Well … Erin’s going to start out camp as the will backer.’ It’s never really been just outright, ‘OK, this is Erin’s position. This is Erin’s spot.'”

I don’t know if the Vikings have been using what doubters are saying about Henderson as motivation or what, but it is kind of unsettling to hear him spout off about what fans and the media are saying about him.  It kind of takes me aback a little bit as we don’t often hear players address comments of this nature in such a direct manner.

“And to the fans who don’t believe that I can do it, you haven’t seen me do it,” he said. “How can you say that I can’t do something if you haven’t seen me do it? They say different things about my abilities or whether I should be a starting linebacker or everything else, but my numbers and the fact that I’m still here speak for themselves.”

The beauty of the Urlacher thing, even though I never thought for one second that Rick Spielman would sign him, is that he kind of provides “competition” at the position as long as he remains a free agent.  The Vikings have Henderson, Mauti, Audie Cole, Tyrone McKenzie and Marvin Mitchell lined up to duke it out during OTA’s and training camp, but the threat of Urlacher’s name-value continuing to pop up can only push these guys that much further.

Last year, when a tremendous amount of linebacker talent was available in free agency, the Vikings gambled on Brinkley and lost.  This year they are doing the same thing by passing on great talents in the Draft, and betting on their in-house talent to get the job done.  The gamble could end up making the front office look like geniuses, but failing to invest significantly in the middle linebacker position could also end up being this team’s downfall in 2013.

Right now, however, it appears Henderson will get the first crack at making sure that doesn’t happen.

And that thousands of fans don’t end up telling him “we told you so.”

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We all knew it was coming.

After his lackluster performance in the Vikings’ Wild Card loss to the Cheeseheads, Joe Webb knew that his only chance of making the 53-man roster in 2013 was at a different position.

Well, now it’s official. The Vikings have moved Webb to wide receiver.

“We had been talking about it for a while, and we made the decision that this was the way to go after we had our draft,” Frazier told the Star Tribune.

With Webb now at wide receiver, he’s facing an uphill battle to stick with the Vikings this upcoming season. He’ll duke it out with Jerome Simpson, Jarius Wright and the rest of the receiver depth chart for snaps behind Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson. Considering the few glimpses we’ve gotten of him as a pass-catcher, it’s not promising to say the least.

Still, you can never discount an athlete of Webb’s caliber. He’s been working to improve his pass-catching skills all offseason long and could surprise during training camp and the preseason.

For now, we wait and speculate on something we knew was inevitable.

Yesterday, we mentioned that the Vikings signed three of their later-round rookies already, and on Wednesday the Vikings got the rest of their rookies not drafted in the first to do the same.

The Vikings have now announced that fifth round punter Jeff Locke, sixth round lineman Jeff Baca, and seventh round lineman Travis Bond are all officially members of the team.  This now leaves only the team’s three first round selections to sign.

For those still convinced the Vikings couldn’t have possibly replaced Chris Kluwe, with Locke, for any reason other than Kluwe’s off-field efforts, Locke’s new contract will pay him only about $2.34 million over four years.  Kluwe was set to make $1.4 million in 2013 alone.

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It’s been three years since the Minnesota Vikings traded up to make running back Toby Gerhart a second-round pick.

Since then, he’s done nothing to prove that he’s capable of being a reliable option behind Adrian Peterson. On top of averaging a pathetic 3.4 yards per carry last season, he failed to display the power and vision that made him a top prospect coming out of college. And we all remember that disastrous fumble-fest against the San Francisco 49ers…

Unless Gerhart magically flips a switch in 2013, the Vikings will part ways with the former Heisman Trophy runner-up. What avenue they decide to take, though, is TBD.

The first, and most appealing, of the Vikings’ options is trading Gerhart, who could be an intriguing addition for a team looking to implement some power into their ground game. While the former second-round pick won’t fetch much after three underwhelming seasons, getting something for Gerhart instead of letting him walk via free agency seems logical.

The other option is severing ties with Gerhart now and avoiding disaster. Let’s talk hypotheticals…

Let’s say – knock on wood – Peterson goes down in 2013 and is forced to miss significant time due to the injury. In that instance, the Vikings would have to rely on Gerhart to carry the load with no other proven running backs on the roster. While he has been serviceable in the short-term, he’s too inconsistent and inefficient to start more than two or three games. Avoiding that situation might be a good option for Minnesota.

If the Vikings did go with Door No. 2, a free agency acquisition would become a must. The only other ball carriers currently on the roster are Matt Asiata and a handful of undrafted rookies. Not exactly comforting in terms of depth. There are several capable options – Ahmad Bradshaw, Michael Turner, Javon Ringer – wading in the free agency pool who could fill the void.

It’s something to consider moving forward, especially with Gerhart likely headed elsewhere in 2013.

I thought for sure Rick Spielman and company would wait until three minutes before training camp begins to sign their rookies.  That always feels like the way of it, anyways.

This year might be different, though, as the Vikings have already gotten started on the process.

Fourth round linebacker Gerald Hodges, seventh round linebacker Michael Mauti, and seventh round defensive tackle Everett Dawkins signed their rookie contracts on Tuesday.  Each of these rookie deals are for four years and include signing bonuses.

The Vikings still have all three of their first round selections to worry about, but the rookie wage scale all but guarantees there to be little drama surrounding these guys and their contracts.

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