Thursday, September 3, 2015

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Faciane

I-sem FA-shawn.

That’s how you pronounce his name, and if he has his way, you probably won’t need to ask to find out. It’s evidently the third in his line, because you’ll often see the signifier “III” appended to his name, though no one calls him that. Like many of the undrafted free agents, it’s not easy to find information on him, though defensive line coach Andre Patterson, who worked with him at Florida International, has no shortage of praise for him.

As a defensive line coach who has worked with the Vikings in 1998 and 1999, as well as the Patriots (1997), Cowboys (2000-2002), Browns (2003-2004) and Broncos (2005-2006) it means a lot that he called Faciane among the “top ten percent of defensive linemen” he’s ever worked with.

The 2013 FIU season did not draw plaudits, going 1-11 in a relatively weak conference. But grabbing attention doesn’t mean missing out on the opportunity to compete in the NFL, where Faciane fielded offers from several teams before choosing the Minnesota Vikings. He says he chose Minnesota in big part due to Coach Patterson, who is implementing something similar here as he did there.

“I knew his system same type of play style at FIU. I had a little step forward on everything, and I was real comfortable with Coach Patterson. I only had him for a year him and [we] became real close throughout the season. The relationship helped me come here.”

It’s a system that has seen him change his role several times over the course of the offseason. Starting off OTAs and minicamp as a nose tackle, Faciane has been tried at the under tackle three-technique role for a significant amount of time in camp. To that end, he’s been tasked with keeping a specific weight, one that seems less fit for the nose tackle role than at three-technique.

“I came in at 300 and through OTAs and minicamp and through that process I gained like 16 pounds. I had to drop that and come back at 300. You know, stay smaller and lighter so I can play that 3-tech better, quicker steps.”

“Quicker” is something that he’s been told a few times is a key word for him. Working at  Fourth and Inches Performance Group in Dallas before the draft, Faciane worked to hone his technique and add burst to his game. Draft analyst Tony Pauline identified it as a weakness of his, but he doesn’t think it’s a big deal.

“I feel like, you know, my first step in here has been quicker but you know people have their own opinion. I just keep working and do what Coach Patterson tells me to do.”

It’s been working. Pro Football Focus gave Faciane the highest grade for the preseason game against the Oakland Raiders among all the Minnesota Vikings. At +2.6, it’s 0.8 higher than the next player—a significant difference. What’s unique about that game for him, though, is not that he was able to log a batted pass and put some pressure on the quarterback (drawing a hold in the process), he did it from both the three-technique and nose tackle positions, switching with Kheeston Randall at times along the line.

 

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The Vikings have made a number of exciting additions this offseason.  The changes to the coaching staff might make the biggest overall impact, and the free agent signings might see more playing time, but I want to know which of the Vikings draft selections (and maybe even UDFA’s) might make the biggest impact as a rookie.

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Adam Thielen is, without a doubt, one of the most talked-about guys in Mankato this year. He impressed early on in training camp, and after Friday’s first preseason game, the buzz only increased.

“[Adam]’s a guy that has a lot of toughness, a lot of heart,” head coach Mike Zimmer said during Sunday’s press conference. “He wants to make the football team, and he’s giving his best effort to do it. Guys like him—you can win a lot of football games with guys like him.”

Thielen entered his second year ready to make an impression, and he certainly has. His explosiveness, agility and reception accuracy spoke for itself on the practice field, but the receiver stepped onto TCF Field and proved he is ready for the real stuff.

The Vikings mic’d Thielen for the game, so television viewers could listen in on bits and pieces of the game experience. He laughed, admitting he occasionally forgot that he was wired up. “It was a really different experience, but it was great.” *

Special teams coach Mike Priefer utilized Thielen for punt coverage and returns, and the WR hit the ground running—literally. After Oakland went three and out on its first possession, Thielen fielded Marquette King’s punt and ran for three yards before being tackled at the 30. He immediately jumped up, pumping his arms in a gesture of equal excitement and frustration.

Finishing up a road trip combined with hosting the in-laws meant I was a little delayed in my watching of the Vikings first preseason game of the Mike Zimmer era.  I’ll try to make up for the delay by hosting a real-time live chat for the next game.

Overall, what we saw from the Vikings in their preseason debut against Oakland was encouraging.  Tomorrow, I’ll turn around and focus on the “Five Things I Hate About You,” but I first want to ride the optimism and give you five positive takeaways.

5.  Adam Thielen Looks Legit

The Vikings have invested a lot into their wide out position over the last couple of years and it is showing.  Quality depth is still a concern, especially with Jerome Simpson facing a suspension this season, but Adam Thielen is looking like a reliable backup option with special teams value.  He caught a pass for 15 yards, made a hell of a coverage play, and averaged over 17 yards on three punt returns.  He looks fragile to me, and that very well could be my imagination,  but I otherwise can’t think of a single reason he shouldn’t be on this roster in Week One of the regular season.  He made plays all over the field this week.

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As of the moment, the Vikings haven’t confirmed anything, but the Vikings seemingly signed confirmed the signing of tight end Kory Sperry, alum of Colorado State. He went undrafted in 2009.

Kory was signed by the San Diego Chargers, but was a camp casualty. Midway through the 2009 season, the Miami Dolphins signed him.

In 2010, he was one again a camp casualty for the team, but this time the Broncos picked him up. He was waived shortly after season start.

The team that originally signed him, the Chargers, picked him up and kept him throughout the 2010 and 2011 seasons. When he was waived in 2012 after camp, he wasn’t picked up again until December, when the Cardinals signed him. He was on the roster until the end of the 2013 season.

He has been active for 40 games, starting eight. He has nine receptions for 152 yards. Vikings statement:

“Kory Sperry joins the Vikings as a free agent signing. A six-year NFL veteran, Sperry played the 2013 season with the Arizona Cardinals. In 40 career games, he has caught 9 passes for 152 receiving yards and one touchdown. Sperry played under Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner in San Diego from 2010-2012 and spent time on the team’s practice squad in 2009. Sperry entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Colorado State in 2009.”

He is not practice squad eligible.

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