Monday, March 2, 2015
Blog Page 155

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Once again we are left feeling like any football related topic being posted in this space would be utterly meaningless and inappropriate.  Mother nature showed her ugliest side today in Oklahoma, with tornadoes sweeping across the land and leaving a wake of tragedy behind, and we want to use our little corner of the internet to stand beside those in need.

So, while we will surely hear stories in the near future of our Vikings with Oklahoma ties making grand gestures of generosity to help with the recovery, I now ask you to at least make a small contribution.  If you can, please consider donating to the Red Cross to help those that are injured, faced with rebuilding their homes, or lost loved ones today.

Click here to donate.

Chris Cook hasn’t exactly been Mr. Reliable in his first three NFL seasons.  Multiple injuries and multiple off-field troubles have kept him out of action all too often.  These problems are really the only reasons to consider this to possibly be Cook’s last season in Minnesota, because he has otherwise been a very solid contributor on Sundays, and even more is expected of him during his contract year in 2013.

Cook may not be able to control his medical status as the season wears on, but it sounds like he is trying to keep from letting another knucklehead incident off the field keep him from cashing in on a second contract, as he is distracting himself by continuing his studies at the University of Virginia.

“I just felt like it was something that would keep me grounded, just to keep me from doing too much partying — too much of stuff that I didn’t need to be doing,” Cook told 1500 ESPN. “It’s definitely helped me focus, kept me in one place, not traveling all over the place, having something to focus on definitely helped me out.”

Cook is probably wise to stay out of trouble this offseason if he wants his next contract to be with the Vikings, and that sounds like the case, as another incident would surely be enough reason to show him the door despite his talent.

“I’m looking forward to coming back if that’s in the cards, and I definitely would love to stay here,” he said of his future with the team. “It’s a contract year, but I’m not playing for a contract. I’m just playing for a good year and playing for this team.”

The VIkings created a large duo of cornerbacks when they drafted Xavier Rhodes to play across from Cook, and that is a good thing considering the receivers in the NFC North, but Cook joked that the rookie should let him do the heavy listing when the season rolls around.

“Just let me handle them,” is what Cook said he told Rhodes about Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall.

He went on to say that the duo will be asked to play more press coverage than we have seen from the Vikings secondary in the recent past.  He also says that the loss of Antoine Winfield will not cause the Vikings defensive backfield to struggle moving forward.

“I definitely know we’re going to play a lot more press coverage, because we have two big guys on the outside now,” Cook said. “Coach (Leslie) Frazier likes those type of guys on the outside. Everybody seems to like bigger guys on the outside now, and it’s because of the big receivers now.”

“We’ve got a lot of young, hungry guys. We put in a lot of extra time and we communicate very well and we spend a lot of time together bonding. … I don’t think we’ll be what people think we’ll be. I think we’ll be probably, most definitely a top secondary this year.”

That’s a pretty bold statement for a guy that has missed more games than he has played, especially with their fearless leader now in Seattle, but it isn’t too inconceivable that the Vikings secondary could be an improved unit this year.  The addition of Rhodes, and the possible improvement of young players like Harrison Smith and Josh Robinson, could indeed be a recipe for success in 2013.

At the very least, the confidence to press opposing receivers should create more opportunities for a very talented defensive line to torment quarterbacks all season long.

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After Adrian Peterson overcame his gruesome knee injury last offseason to lead the league in rushing, I suspect many people have actually forgotten he had surgery this offseason, and have no concerns about his ability to recover.

Still, after carrying the ball 20-plus times in his last five games after suffering a sports hernia, we shouldn’t neglect how important he an his health are to this team.  According to Leslie Frazier, however, Peterson is coming along nicely following his hernia surgery.

“It’s kind of happened not by his choice. As you know, he had the abdominal strain late in the season and that’s kind of slowed him this offseason as far as being able to kick it into overdrive and being able to do things the way he wants to do it,” Frazier told NFL Network this week. “So that’s kind of slowed him down a little bit, but he’s just about back to 100 percent, doing everything that he needs to be able to do to be in the best shape he can possibly be for this season.”

Frazier didn’t sound at all worried about Peterson’s ability to be fully ready when the regular season rolls around, but he did indicate the team wants to be more balanced regardless of Peterson’s medical status, and expects his team to be better in the passing game than they have been in the recent past.

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Free agency and the 2013 NFL Draft are in the rear view mirror, which means that were that much closer to some real Minnesota Vikings football. With OTAs just around the corner, many of the intriguing storylines that we’ve seen unfold this offseason in the Twin Cities will continue to take shape.

Meanwhile, there’s also plenty going on around the rest of the NFC North. That’s where “Eye on the Opposition” comes in. Every Friday, I will be breaking down the past week’s news from around the conference as well as giving some insight into what it means for the Vikings. It’s always good to be aware of what the enemy is up to.

So here we go. My first shot at breaking down what the opposition is up to in the NFC North. Enjoy.

 

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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