Friday, February 27, 2015
Blog Page 152

Jerry Jones is known for being a business guru and one of the most tenacious, and invasive, owners the NFL has ever seen.  For some reason, though, the Dallas Cowboys have become somewhat of a joke (loving this sentence so far) and the latest episode involves yet another leak of their draft board.  The folks at Blogging The Boys managed to decrypt the background of some photos and reveal a full seven-round draft board in the Cowboys war room.

The results show, among other things, that the selection of center Travis Frederick was indeed a reach by their own assessment which solidifies reports that the pick was a contentious one between various members of the team’s brass.  The Cowboys have Frederick with a second round grade, according to the report, and the Cowboys selected him at #31 after trading backwards with the Niners.  Five players that they graded as first round prospects were available to them at #18 and they could have had their pick of the bunch had they not traded down.

The other items you might find most interesting about this revelation are where the Vikings selections stacked up on the Dallas board.  Sharrif Floyd was not only their highest ranked defensive tackle, but he was ranked as the fifth best player in this class.  Wide out Cordarrelle Patterson was also the highest ranked at his position and came in at 13th overall for the ‘Boys.  Cornerback Xavier Rhodes was their second highest cornerback and they had him at 11th overall.

That means that the Vikings, who never owned a pick higher than 23rd this year, managed to get three prospects on their roster that were in the top 13 on the Dallas draft board.  Meanwhile, the Cowboys went into the event with the 18th selection, and managed to get zero players that they had graded out as first rounders.

To top it off, the Cowboys had third round grades on both linebacker Gerald Hodges and defensive tackle Everett Dawkins, whom the Vikings nabbed in the fourth and seventh rounds, respectively.

The Vikings and Cowboys have a long and bitter history, with the Vikings a lot more bitter than the Cowboys, so these are the little pleasures we have to enjoy from time to time.  According to Jerry Jones’ draft board itself, we got ourselves three franchise players in the Draft, and unlike the Cowboys of the 90’s we didn’t have to deal away our star running back to do it.

At 6′ 4″ and 220 pounds, Joe Webb is an inch taller and 15 pounds heavier than first round rookie Cordarrelle Patterson.  In fact, outside of long shots Rodney Smith and Chris Summers, Webb is the biggest wideout on the roster.  Both Webb and Patterson are considered raw, each potentially having the “project” label applied to them at Winter Park, and both could be competing for the same reps heading into 2013.

After failing miserably to get the Vikings a playoff victory last season, the Vikings have moved Webb to wideout, but the depth chart is suddenly very crowded.  Greg Jennings, when healthy, is sure to occupy a starters position considering his talent, experience, and the investment made to put him in purple.  Jerome Simpson and Jarius Wright both have more experience than the young pair and seem to be locks to eat up roster spots heading into this season.  Stephen Burton is someone the Vikings haven’t given up on yet and Greg Childs could throw a wrinkle into things if he is deemed healthy enough to contribute in the preseason.

As of today, the Vikings have 12 wideouts on the roster, and it is safe to say that total will be cut in half by the time the regular season rolls around.  Jennings, Simpson, Wright, and Patterson will surely eat up four of those spots leaving Webb to compete for one or two of the possible spots that would remain.

Last season, when Webb was made to be the backup quarterback only, reports surfaced from beat writers that he was having trouble catching the ball and running routes in practice.  According to multiple reports from this week’s sessions that were open to the media, however, Webb displayed excellent hands and was consistently snatching the ball with the proper away-from-the-body technique.  According to Kevin Seifert, he even was helping rookies learn where they were supposed to line up, suggesting he has a solid grasp of the playbook at this point.

“He has very good hands. He knows the offense very well. He’s actually helping some of the young guys in where to line up at,” Leslie Frazier said of Webb. “Knowing how hard he works and knowing how much he wants to succeed as a receiver, he’ll have a very good chance of getting that done.”

Webb recently talked about how often he has had to change positions throughout his football career, including in high school and college, but he isn’t looking for any sort of sympathy.

“I just like football. I have a passion for the game. I’ve been playing it since I was a little kid. It’s a blessing to be out here on the field. Some guys graduate from college and don’t get a chance to come out here on an NFL field,” Webb said. “I’m just happy for the moment and just trying to take advantage of it.”

Patterson has already laid claim to one of the areas where Webb could potentially help the Vikings, as he has been named the go-to kick returner, and the nature of the NFL business means Patterson is likely to enjoy more chances to succeed at wideout than Webb because of where they were drafted.  Webb and Patterson, and Jarius Wright too for that matter, are essentially competing for the same reps within the offense.

Each possesses similar skills in the open field to Percy Harvin, and could be used the same way Harvin was on manufactured touches like bubble screens, but having three guys to fill this role would seem a little excessive despite the loss of Harvin to Seattle.  Webb is going to have to establish himself in some other fashion, perhaps as a redzone threat where he capitalizes on his height, in order to earn one of the few remaining spots on the depth chart.

Back in January, I suggested that Webb had value to the Vikings as a practice team quarterback capable of emulating any of the many mobile quarterbacks on their 2013 schedule, but using him in this fashion could also prevent him from focusing on being a polished receiver.  I still think Webb is an excellent option to run the practice team, and get the Vikings defense used to chasing down the likes of RGIII and Russell Wilson, but I am now less convinced that this will be enough reason to keep him on the roster.

The Vikings coaching staff, mainly receivers coach George Stewart, must really devote the time needed to find out just what they have in Webb.  It seems fair to say that we know he isn’t an NFL quarterback, so this preseason they need to give him all possible reasons to succeed as a wideout, or else it might be time to cut ties with one of the most popular players on the roster.

The Vikings added linebacker Stanford Keglar to their roster on Wednesday and, despite the team’s lack of a settled depth chart at the position, seems like an unlikely candidate for the final 53-man roster.  According to Tom Pelissero of 1500 ESPN, Keglar’s contract is a one year deal worth $630,000 and has no guarantees, which is perhaps the best indicator that the front office sees him as a long shot.

Keglar, listed at 6′ 2″ and 250 pounds, was a fourth round pick of the Tennessee Titans in 2008 after being a standout at Purdue.  He played two seasons with the Titans, then signed with Houston in 2010 who cut him in September of 2011.  Keglar has not appeared in an NFL game since then, with a brief stint playing for Las Vegas in the UFL, and just simply appears like an odd choice for the Vikings to bring in.

He has experience as an outside linebacker in the 4-3 defense, but has no experience as a starter, and has “training camp fodder” written all over him.

If he makes it to training camp before the team decides to move on.

When discussing the possible reasons for Percy Harvin’s departure from Minnesota this offseason there is a grab bag full of options to choose from.  One speculative reason that kept coming up, and was fueled in part by Harvin’s unwillingness to deny it, was that he had no faith in Minnesota quarterback Christian Ponder to take the Vikings to the next level.

This week, however, Harvin was asked directly about Ponder on Jim Rome’s radio show and he made sure to say all of the right things.

“That was false,” Harvin said of the speculation. “Me and Christian had a great time together. I respect him a whole heck of a lot.”

“I never had a problem with (Ponder),” he continued.  “I’ve never stated I had a problem with him. I’ve never seen a problem he has had with me. He has never said he’s had a problem with me.  (Ponder and Harvin were) on the same page, it’s just a lot of articles that tried to pick up on things that weren’t there.”

Harvin may have never publicly slammed Ponder, but he had many opportunities to endorse his quarterback since the end of the 2012 season, and never did.  There was also the March 11th article from Yahoo! Sports reporter Jason Cole that said Harvin had “bemoaned” that his quarterback was “not good enough.”  In the nearly three months since that article was posted, Harvin did not deny that those feelings existed, either.

In the end, Vikings fans are moving on from Harvin and are excited about the team’s three first round picks, and they have little choice than to go into 2013 hoping Ponder can up his game in a meaningful way.  Other than some added drama to Minnesota’s November 17th trip to seattle, Harvin’s thoughts on the matter are now irrelevant.

 

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Another week of “Eye on the Opposition” is upon us, and again I’ll be giving you the lowdown on everything that the Minnesota Vikings’ NFC North foes have been up to as OTAs roll along.

Here’s a look at what’s been going on in the NFC North as well as some insight as to how it’ll affect the Vikings once the regular season arrives.

Enjoy some news from behind enemy lines.

Chicago Bears

Evan Rodriguez, a second-year fullback/tight end, was arrested today for DUI, speeding and improper lane usage. This is his second arrest of the offseason – he was arrested back in March for violence and disorderly conduct. While this doesn’t exactly mean that it’ll cost him his roster spot, Rodriguez will be on a short leash once he returns to camp with the Bears. If Rodriguez can’t prove to the Bears that this crime wave is behind him, he’ll be on the open market before the regular season begins.

As far as reports indicate, Matt Forte is at full strength during OTAs and showing that he’s ready to be an integral part of the Bears’ passing game. Especially with new head coach Marc Trestman coming in and bringing out the best in Jay Cutler, Forte figures to be a huge part of the Chicago air assault. If he’s healthy, the Vikings secondary and the rest of the NFC North better be ready to spy him out of the backfield all game long.

Kicker Robbie Gould is expected back soon after rupturing a tendon in his calf late last season. The Bears signed Austin Signor to fill the void, but a strong return by Gould should put the veteran back at the top of the depth chart. It sounds like the Vikings won’t be able to expect missed field goals from Chicago the way they did with the Packers and Mason Crosby.

Detroit Lions

By all reports, second-year wide receiver Ryan Broyles is looking good so far after returning from an ACL tear that ended his rookie season. After bouncing back from another ACL tear last season, Broyles showed insane amounts of potential as a contributor in the Lions’ passing game. If he can get healthy and stay healthy, Broyles is headed for a breakout year for Detroit.

Another wide receiver that has worked his way onto the Lions radar is Patrick Edwards. He spent his rookie season on the practice squad before tearing his quad and ruining any chance he had of seeing the active roster. So far this offseason, Edwards has gotten several recommendations from teammates and appears to be in line for a serious contributing role in 2013. The Vikings better beware with how good this Detroit receiving corps is turning out.

Word around training camp also has undrafted rookie running back Theo Reddick turning heads. The former Notre Dame standout has displayed tremendous versatility, proving his worth as a runner, receiver and return man. Just another offensive weapon for the Lions to wreak havoc with this upcoming season.

Green Bay Packers

Second-year cornerback Casey Heyward is coming along nicely and appears to be in position to earn a starting job with the Packers this season. Last year, Heyward graded out as arguably the top cornerback in the NFL – albeit with a smaller sample to work with than the majority of the top cover men in the league. Assuming that he continues to build on the tools that he displayed last year, the Vikings will have a tough time passing in Heyward’s direction in 2013, even with an upgraded wide receiver unit.

The Packers’ 2012 first-round pick, Jerel Worthy, is still working his way back from a knee injury that he suffered in the regular season finale against the Vikings last year. Although Worthy has been positive about his return, there’s a slight chance that he could end up missing his entire sophomore season. Looks like the Packers will have to find production along the defensive line elsewhere.

Speaking of which, there’s been some buzz surrounding 2013 first-rounder Datone Jones, who could step in to fill the void with Worthy out indefinitely. The former UCLA standout is a physical, athleticism defensive end who should see immediate action for the Packers. If his play can rival his confidence, Green Bay will be getting plenty from this rookie in 2013. The Vikings’ offensive line better beware, because Jones isn’t here to play games.

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