Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Vikings are short-handed thanks to Adrian Peterson’s legal issues and a sudden injury invasion.  However, through a quarter of the season now, they have performed almost exactly how Brett, Arif, and myself predicted prior to the start of the season.  This leaves us with plenty of optimism, thanks in large part to Teddy Bridgewater, and lots to discuss. Here is a look around the web at what is being said about our beloved Vikings with the Packers on deck:


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Our previous polls have awarded “Player of the Game” honors to:

WEEK ONE:  Cordarrelle Patterson

WEEK TWO:  Harrison Smith

WEEK THREE:  Harrison Smith

After a Week Four team win against the Atlanta Falcons, we have some new names to throw into the mix, which is an encouraging development considering the injuries and other issues facing this roster.  A lot to choose from here, so weigh your options carefully.  The nominees are:

TEDDY BRIDGEWATER:  Man, the kid looked sharp, didn’t he?  Aside from looking the part, Bridgewater led the Vikings to one of their best offensive performances in recent memory, which ended in a 41-28 victory over Atlanta.  He ended the day prematurely with an ankle injury that will also put his Thursday night status in jeopardy.  Before exiting, however, he threw 19 completions on 30 attempts for 317 yards and a quarterback rating of 98.9.  He didn’t throw for any touchdowns, but he had a beauty of a run that resulted in score.  Bridgewater ran a total of five times for 27 yards/

JERICK MCKINNON:  With Adrian Peterson on a couch somewhere, it was nice to see the offensive line and reserve running backs step up to the plate on a very productive afternoon.  Jerick “Jet” McKinnon showed his athleticism on Sunday with 135 yards on 18 carries (7.5 yard average).  He also had a single catch (on three targets) for 17 yards.

MATT ASIATA:  This is a guy that may not have the home run potential that McKinnon does, but he did his job on Sunday, and did it well.  Asiata carried the ball 20 times for 78 yards (3.9 yard average) and scored three times from inside the red zone.  Asiata also caught three of his four targets and contributed 22 receiving yards.

JARIUS WRIGHT:  If you are going to pick an offensive player for your vote, it is pretty tough to look past Jarius Wright.  With attention being paid to Cordarrelle Patterson and Greg Jennings, Wright was the go-to guy as evidenced by his team leading eight receptions for 132 yards.

JOHN SULLIVAN:  Maybe this option should read “the entire offensive line” after they dominated the Falcons front four all day long, but the group was led by their best player in center John Sullivan.  Sullivan and company provided Bridgewater with a clean pocket nearly the entire time, with no sacks being allowed, and played a major role in the rushing production enjoyed by Asiata and McKinnon.

XAVIER RHODES:  It is becoming increasingly clear that Rhodes is a liability against shifty route runners, like Julian Edelman, but is absolutely capable of containing the big, strong receivers that the NFL has to offer.  Rhodes was all over the field, deflecting a whopping four passes, and adding a nice run stop behind the line of scrimmage.  The Falcons gained plenty of yardage through the air, but it could have been much worse, as defensive backs of Vikings past can attest.

HARRISON SMITH:  The Vikings have two wins this season, and in each of them Harrison Smith has delivered a “dagger” interception late in the action.  After a 2013 season where the Vikings seemingly had no ability to close out a winnable game, this is so welcomed.  Smith also had six total tackles, five of which where of the solo variety.


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In order to make room on the practice squad for quarterback Chandler Harnish, the Vikings have cut receiver Donte Foster from the practice squad. Right now the Vikings practice squad looks as follows:

Player Position
Josh Kaddu Linebacker
Chris Greenwood Cornerback
Kain Colter Wide Receiver
Zac Kerin Center
Isame Faciane Defensive Tackle
Justin Trattou Defensive End
Zach Line Fullback
McLeod Bethel-Thompson Quarterback
Ryan Otten Tight End
Chandler Harnish Quarterback

The Vikings currently have seven receivers, including Colter, on hand. Just like when the Vikings cut Mike Remmers from the practice squad and chose not to re-sign him when space opened up, there is a good chance that once the quarterback injury situation gets resolved that Foster may not come back, even if the Vikings do cut one of the two QBs on the practice squad.

The Minnesota Vikings, as Adam Schefter reports, are going to sign former Colts and Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish to their practice squad. Harnish is notable for being 2012’s Mr. Irrelevant, meaning he was the last pick in the 2012 draft. Harnish has one interesting connection to Minnesota, which is that he was Jerry Kill’s former quarterback when Kill was at Northern Illinois.

This might signal that the Vikings are pessimistic in regards to Teddy’s availability on Thursday against the Green Bay Packers, not necessarily because of any concern about any long-term injury, but simply because it is difficult to prep in that short time frame, and ever harder with an injury at quarterback with questions.

There are a few scouting reports on Chandler Harnish out there. First, from Draft Insider:

Bio: Four-year starter awarded all-conference honors the past three seasons and named MAC Offensive Player of the Year in 2011. Senior passing totals included 62.9%/2942 yards/26 TDs /5 interceptions with 185 attempts/1382 yards/11 TDs on the ground. Junior passing totals included 64.7%/2530/21/5 with 836 yards rushing and seven more scores. All-Academic performer.

Positive: Athletic college quarterback with a tremendous amount of potential. Possesses terrific arm strength, gets rid of the ball with a flick of his wrist and loses nothing passing in motion. Displays a sense of timing, gets the ball to receivers as they leave their breaks and shows good field vision. Sells ball fakes, makes good decisions in the pocket and is always in control of the situation. Remains poised against the rush, gets outside the box to give himself a better view of the field and buys time for receivers. Challenges the vertical game and throws nice deep passes, putting air underneath the ball and letting receivers run to the throw. Goes through receiver progressions. Not afraid to carry the ball and picks up big yardage with his legs. Has enough escape ability to avoid defenders and elude the rush.
Negative: Must improve his corner and fade patterns. Tries to force the ball to covered receivers on occasion. Must improve his overall pass placement and throwing mechanics.
Analysis: Harnish leads by example and is always in command of the situation on the field. Rarely losing his cool, he beats opponents with his arm or legs and is slowly transitioning from a terrific athlete into a good quarterback. He has the potential to develop into an NFL starter yet needs proper coaching and experience in a pro-style passing offense. His innate skills and football intangibles make him worth the investment of time.
Matt Waldman’s Rookie Scouting Portfolio is not necessarily similar on Harnish. He isn’t as high on Harnish’s arm strength, but is about as high on his mobility. He saw Harnish as more of a West Coast-friendly quarterback. On his potential, Waldman says:

Chandler Harnish, Northern Illinois: Harnish has the size (6’1”, 219), athleticism, and flashes of pin-point accuracy that an NFL team will give him late-round consideration. One reason his accuracy isn’t consistently top-shelf is his footwork during his release. However, unlike Kirk Cousins, whose footwork problems arise with pressure and cannot throw the ball 20-30 yards with velocity and accuracy without good foot mechanics, Harnish has a stronger arm than Cousins and can manage throws with decent velocity up to 40 yards before his accuracy wanes.

Harnish also appears more comfortable in the pocket than Cousins. The NIU QB’s problems stem from lacking a consistently sound method of dropping, setting and stepping through his release. Harnish jerks his body upward as he delivers the ball rather than stepping forward and he doesn’t achieve the kind of hip torque that generates the power he needs to maximize his velocity. Give Harnish a season with NFL coaching and he should improve his accuracy and velocity to a point that he should challenge for a backup role with a team and possibly get groomed for a starter role within 3-4 seasons.

With a number of quarterbacks in the 2012 draft that ended up either working out or being drafted highly, Harnish was ranked as the eighth QB by Waldman for having a mix of veteran poise and postsnap ability with raw mechanics:

Harnish has the size, athleticism, and base passing fundamentals of an ideal project who could assume a back up role in a couple of years and possibly develop into a starter. I think he has that kind of upside.

He is a mobile passer who makes accurate throws on the move to his right and his left. He’s better from his right, but the the throws to the left are good enough to allow a coordinator to roll him to either side of the field.

Harnish has an over the top release that is compact and quick. He also displays some ability to throw the ball from a three-quarter motion, which helps him generate velocity on the move.

He flashes pin-point accuracy when he steps into a throw. However, at this stage of his development Harnish lacks consistent pin-point accuracy. It’s just a notch below that caliber and I think with some refinement in his foot work in terms of drops, hitches and delivery, he can achieve that level of accuracy more consistently.

I also think he could get more distance and velocity from his throws if he torques his hips more than he does during his release. He doesn’t consistently step into throws and when he does he’s jerking his body upward during the release rather than stepping forward and through so he can put his hips into the throw. He can throw the ball in the range of 50 yards but his velocity and accuracy wane when he targets distances over 40 yards.

When it comes to executing set plays he’s very good with looking off the defender if it’s a part of a quick execution of a play designed to go one way but set up with a look elsewhere. He’s also very good with the shoulder fake and uses his entire body to deliver a convincing pumpfake that can help him buy time. However, I didn’t see him really go through progression reads in this offense during this game.

Harnish can get a little too aggressive when pressured. He’ll try to make throws while hit that are too risky when he has other options to care for the ball. Harnish is coming back from an ACL tear as a junior, but he looks fit, athletic, and mobile.

He had Harnish ahead of Jacorry Harris, Kirk Cousins, Nick Foles, Case Keenum and Austin Davis. Though that is likely something he would call a “miss” it’s still noteworthy. A few Colts analysts have agreed more with Draft Insider’s analysis than Waldman’s, and have called him a strong-armed passer who specifically struggled in a West Coast-style system. The discrepancy could be between raw arm strength and potential, which is different than the functional present arm strength, more clearly affected by technique.

Per those analysts, Harnish didn’t have a good preseason but looked good in camp. As far as the preseason goes, Pro Football Focus agrees. Harnish ranked 98th of 102 quarterbacks in the 2013 preseason and 96th of 98 in this last preseason.

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With a Vikings team that looks unfamiliar from last season and even last week, the Vikings are putting together a competitive game against a team that’s coming off one of the most dominant wins in NFL history. It’s not just the quality of play that’s unfamiliar, however. The personnel has changed as well, and it looks like a good one, as the Vikings lead 24-14.



The first thing to look at is Teddy Bridgewater, who of course looks good—though hasn’t been asked to do too much. His passes haev been quick and his reads easy,m though that shouldn’t take away from some impressive plays, including an anticipation throw to Greg Jennings for a good gain and checking out of one play to give Jarius Wright a huge gain on a screen (even though it was immediately after another screen). Also important for him has been a lack of mistakes. In a game he isn’t expected to carry the team, it so far looks like he’s rejuvenated it.

Matt Asiata is doing exactly what he’s been asked to do, which is enough. His good gains are still subject to questions about the ways he’s found huge lanes (mesh plays that could have frozen LBs were his two TDs), though getting what his line gets him is a very good thing in this case, where the interior line is getting good push against a questionable defensive line. Asiata’s eventual demotion, if it ever comes, has probably been staved off for one more week. Of course, his runs in the second half of the second quarter were impressive plays by him, regardless of the quality blocking ahead of him. He showed off good lateral agility and decent burst to average 4.7 yards per carry

Or it would be, were it not for Jerick McKinnon‘s impressive 55-yard run. The Vikings couldn’t turn that into a score, but the attempt miss is not his fault, obviously. He’s displayed good patience throughout the season and preseason, and it showed on that run and his subsequent run for six yards, where he bounced outside after seeing holes close up. He looks like the RB the Vikings drafted him to be, as a threat to take it to the end zone on almost any play. His ability to play in short-yardage situations, like his touchdown, is helping. It doesn’t look like he’s run against stacked boxes yet, but it’s a good sign. He has also done well in his limited pass protection opportunities.

Speaking of the offensive line, there has been very good play from everyone, Matt Kalil and Charlie Johnson included. Kalil isn’t just matching up well by not allowing sacks or pressures, he’s been doing it with good technique—mirroring the defensive line men well and refusing to overplay against fakes. Both he and Johnson have done adequately run blocking.

On the other hand, where Kalil and Johnson have done very well in one area and just enough in another, John Sullivan has done excellently in all phases of the game he’s asked to compete in. An superior run blocker and excellent pass protector, Sullivan has open up big lanes for Asiata and did a very good job on McKinnon’s big run as well. He’s been fantastic so far.

More surprising has been Vlad Ducasse, who looked unimpressive in his first game with the Vikings, has been good today. In particular, he’s done a good job holding his own when Sullivan peels off blocks, and also has crushed players downfield on a couple of runs. As a pass blocker, he hasn’t given up much pressure, though has had some help.

Phil Loadholt hasn’t drawn much attention, but has let some blocks slip by away from the play. He doesn’t look like the disaster he was against the New Orleans Saints, but he doesn’t look as clean as he did in 2012 or 2013, which isn’t a huge surprise but a small reason to be upset.

Cordarrelle Patterson hasn’t been able to advance the ball, but he has been alright in his other duties. Though he has generally held up well in the run game (especially on the McKinnon run), he has whiffed a block or two. He may need to get the ball more, but the Vikings offense is doing well enough without forcing it. Naturally, he’s been a good returner.

On the other hand, Jarius Wright has been excellent. Not only has he been getting the raw production numbers that look impressive, his release off the line and timing with Teddy has been superb. Catching away from his frame and running naturally has only helped him. It may be the case that Teddy has revived his career, as this chemistry is excellent so far.

Greg Jennings hasn’t seen many targets, but has looked fine so far. He should be getting more targets, but has performed well when you can see him and gets marginally open, which is good. It may depend on the read progression, though.

Tight ends Chase Ford and Rhett Ellison have done an alright job replacing Kyle Rudolph, but it seems like the Vikings will simply be missing that sort of mismatch element in this game, as neither of them are as capable catching passes in the red zone. Regardless, Ellison has been blocking well, though Ford has looked somewhat questionable in his limited play—though at least one of his plays looked very good.



The defense has been increasingly inconsistent, with good plays followed by bad from almost every player. Still, there have been some noteworthy performances.

Defensive end Brian Robison has looked very good, and he’s put a lot of pressure on Matt Ryan through Lamar Holmes and had a sack that was called back. In general, Robison may be the quietest good performer for the defense as the Falcons haven’t really run in his direction and he’s done a good job affecting the pass.

On the other hand, Everson Griffen has been more up and down. He flashed well early in the game in both the run and passing game despite playing against Jake Matthews, but lost efficacy as the game has gone on.

On the interior, there have been more problems. Despite a good play by Sharrif Floyd there have been issues with more consistent penetration and finishing plays, three times getting close to or even getting his hands on the ballcarrier without bringing him down, including some critical plays where the Vikings were nearly given a freebie (the botched snap, for example). Linval Joseph also had good moments but they’ve been washed out by some liabilities in play, and he’s not been as penetrative as before.

Though we’ve seen Shamar Stephen and Tom Johnson play, they haven’t been in long enough to earn a fair review.

Gerald Hodges has been tasked with filling in Chad Greenway’s shoes, and though he’s had at least one misstep, he hasn’t been terrible, with the run defense suffering more as a result of Barr and the interior line more than anything else. In fact, Hodges had enough in terms of splash play to be worth watching out for.

On the other hand, though Anthony Barr has looked good rushing the passer, he looks uncomfortable in off-ball LB duties, not closing well against running backs or filling his run gaps in.

Harrison Smith, however, has looked like the safety he’s been billed as. He’s played with a lot of awareness and physicality and has been responsible for many of the good plays the Vikings have had, helping shut down Julio Jones when called upon. He’s hit well and cleaned up runs. His partner, Robert Blanton, hasn’t been as on-point, but neither has he seemed the liability he was last week.

Josh Robinson continues to moonlight as the most talented cornerback, a confusing statement still four weeks into the season, and has played extremely well against a gifted receiving corps. Though he has given up a few plays in coverage, his positioning and reaction has been generally very good. Xavier Rhodes is having one of his better games, though he’s already given up his requisite penalty.

Captain Munnerlyn was most likely responsible for the long Roddy White reception early in the game, and since then has been better in terms of corraling the slot receivers, though of the three has been the most questionable.

If it seems like the entire secondary got unduly good reviews despite giving up 14 points in a half, it should be noted that Matt Ryan had around six yards an attempt entering the second half, with good receptions over the middle given up by the linebackers more than the cornerbacks.

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