Sunday, May 29, 2016

Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Today’s post marks the start of a season-long series of articles, where I’ll highlight specific players to watch during the Vikings’ weekly games. Tune in every Friday for new additions throughout the season!

This week, the Minnesota Vikings take on the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the game won’t take place at Heinz Field. No, the teams will grace Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s annual game and celebration of the NFL’s most prestigious players.

While players like Adrian Peterson and Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown will skip the exhibition, a few key starters may see extended playing time, per Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer:

“We want to be crisp, we want to look sharp and I want to see the things we’ve been practicing being taken to the game field,” Zimmer said. “Whether it’s techniques or alignments, certain things against people you really haven’t prepared for. And, how they react to certain things they’re not prepared for. And, obviously, evaluation of a lot of different players.”

While the coaches will be evaluating every player, from rookie cornerback Trae Waynes to strong safety Robert Blanton, I’ll be keeping my eye on one of the team’s most critical positional groups — the offensive line. Left tackle Matt Kalil is entering a make-or-break season, and Phil Loadholt returns from a torn pectoral muscle suffered in 2014. In the interior, former right guard Brandon Fusco has flopped to the left side of the line, and the team’s best lineman, John Sullivan, anchors the unit at center.

If there’s one position surrounded by questions — other than left tackle — it’s right guard, where a number of players are competing to start. But when the Vikings take the field on Sunday evening, one veteran will have a chance to solidify his hold between Sullivan and Loadholt:

Mike Harris vs. Pittsburgh’s Defensive Line

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After spending a week in Mankato at training camp, I’ve seen a lot of Adrian Peterson. No personal interactions, but just observing him on the field, off the field, hanging out with teammates.

I’ve come to decide that he needs (deserves?) a second chance.

Remember earlier this year? I was ready to send Peterson packing. I had no interest in him playing for the Vikings again, and I wanted nothing more than to see him traded to just be done with all the drama.

When the very first report of the abuse incident came out, I had mixed feelings about the situation. I really felt there was a lot of truth to the idea that Peterson didn’t know a whole lot better, that he didn’t have cruel intentions. That it was a cultural/geographical difference in socially acceptable discipline. But still, he did hurt a child and didn’t use much self control.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com - Modified

Our Minnesota Fightin’ Vikings take the field Sunday vs the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Hall of Fame Game, kicking off what hopes to be 27 straight weeks of football for our favorite team in Purple (do the math). I chimed in with a quick episode recapping a few training camp stories and what I’m going to be looking for Sunday in Canton.

Other “Win one for the Mick” Talking Points Include
• Donald Trump & Mike Priefer both want to “Build a Wall”
• Props to Mick Tinglehoff
• We’re luck to have Paul Allen, Pete Bercich, and Greg Coleman
• The Mike Wallace Bowl?
• This ain’t your father’s Steelers team
• Training Camp quick hits
• Is Anthony Barr’s knee a concern? Should #VikingsTWitter freak out?
• Teddy Bridgewater gun slinging YOLO style Tuesday night
• Teddy has love for Stefon Diggs. Will they see the field together Sunday?
• If NFL coaches were earning $10 a game + a ham sandwich, Mike Zimmer would still be coaching
• Top 5 Guys I’ll Be Watching Sunday (Besides Waynes & Diggs)
-Danielle Hunter (aka Michael Johnson 2.0)
-Eric Kendricks – Can he win the Mike?
-MyCole Pruitt – My new boo (Sorry, Chase Ford)
-Jerick McKinnon – Lighting to Adrian’s Thunder?
-Gerald Hodges – Can HE win the Mike?
• Big shoutouts to our listeners and extra props to our internationals!

All that and other “Green Jacket, Gold Jacket” chatter on this edition of the Purple FTW! Podcast!

An Andy Carlson Joint.

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Image courtesy of Chris Price

As of today, the 2015 Vikings roster looks talented enough to compete with any other NFL team, but it may also come down to whether or not they are deep enough at key positions.

As the injury concerns continue to sneak up on us, as they tend to do this time of year, perhaps the most worrisome involves Anthony Barr and the knee that cut his rookie season short last year.

According to Scout.com, Barr is being held out of training camp practices due to inflammation in his knee.

Barr started camp doing conditioning work only as he was just working his way back from injury, so the most recent setback is particularly frustrating to everyone involved.

Carl: Wide Receiver
Specifically, Stefon Diggs pushing for slot and punt-return duties. The Vikings are deep at the receiver position, which means there is plenty of competition in a crowded group of pass catchers. Fifth-round pick Diggs has put together a solid camp and is poised to unseat fellow receiver Jarius Wright and punt returner Marcus Sherels for future playing time.

Mike Wallace hasn’t ran more than 100 routes out of the slot in a single season in his career, so with the release of Greg Jennings (who saw plenty of action from the slot last season), it’s likely Diggs, Wright and Adam Thielen who will continue a great battle for coveted slot position reps.

Diggs turned in one of his best performances under the lights on Saturday night at Blakeslee Stadium catching two touchdown passes. The Vikings have also given Diggs some work as a kick and punt returner in camp, after he posted impressive numbers as a return man at Maryland.

Mike Priefer has said Diggs is catching punts better now than he did in college and looks forward to giving him more opportunities as a returner.

Diggs is explosive and can get up field in a hurry once he touches the football. He is a lightning-in-the-bottle type of playmaker who could conceivably take a pre-season punt to the house and turn the pressure up on Vikings’ all-time leading punt returner, Marcus Sherels.

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