Monday, April 20, 2015
Blog Page 164

The history of the Minnesota Vikings seems riddled with missed opportunities at the quarterback position.  The one that sticks out to me most was when they successfully cashed in on Daunte Culpepper by shipping him to Miami, but then ignoring the fact that Drew Brees could actually be acquired without losing any draft picks at all.  That one still stings, to me.

Due to an injury that season, however, Brees was anything but a “sure thing.”  The Chargers offered their starter an incentivized contract which was a clear signal that they were not convinced he could return and continue to play at a high level.  Brees ultimately signed with New Orleans, however, and he has amassed some the greatest passing totals the league has ever seen (and a Super Bowl ring).

These opportunities to sign a relatively young quarterback, who has shown some ability to win in the NFL, don’t come along very often.  Usually they come with some extreme doubt (Peyton Manning’s neck) or some sort of baggage (Mike Vick’s… ummm… issues), and the risk is often too much for a conservative front office to stomach.

In the case of Josh Freeman, and his recent release from the Tampa Bay Bucs, Rick Spielman and the Vikings need to decide if the free agent quarterback is just another wasted talent that will soon be irrelevant, or a talented signal-caller capable of leading a team to greatness.  Greg Schiano of the Bucs obviously thinks Freeman doesn’t have what it takes, but Schiano also isn’t currently in a position to be deemed sane, let alone a good judge of character.

Freeman’s standout season was 2010, when he started all 16 games and threw for 25 touchdowns and only six interceptions.  He showed up in a couple of big games and appeared to be well on his way to stardom, with broadcasters raving about him at any given chance.  2011 was a disappointment, however, but he improved during the 2012 season.  His improvement wasn’t enough to save his head coach’s job, though, and it is crystal clear that Schiano is ready to move on without him.

What teams like the Vikings need to determine is simple:  Is Freeman capable of playing like he did in 2010 or was that just a mirage?  Now that Freeman is able to be had at a relatively minimal investment, some team will endeavor to find out the answer to that question.

Acquiring a guy like Freeman would put the Vikings in an awkward position.  “Starter” Christian Ponder would surely feel slighted by the move and Matt Cassel would clearly see the writing on the wall, too.  Meanwhile, McLeod Bethel-Thompson is someone the Vikings have invested a lot of time into developing and they might not be too eager to send him packing.

What the front office has to realize, however, is that they are about five months away from having to invest heavily, once again, in the quarterback position.  Cassel’s contract option puts him basically on a one-year deal, while Ponder has a long ways to go before he can prove he’s dependable, let alone capable.  Today’s NFL, simply put, demands more out of the quarterback position than these two have to offer.

The presence of these three quarterbacks, and perhaps the desire to further evaluate them, might make Minnesota a good landing spot for Freeman.  It is very difficult to join an NFL team and immediately become their mid-season starter, and no team should expect that upon signing Freeman.  Instead, they should let him get acclimated, get to know him as a person and as a quarterback, and do their due diligence on him to see if he might be reliable for 2014 and beyond.  After starting the season 1-3, and facing a very tough schedule down the stretch, I would see little downside in the Vikings taking such an approach.

The worst that could happen is the Vikings add another name to their growing list of failed quarterback experiments, and after so many years of being desensitized to that I would be willing to just say:  Hey, at least this one didn’t cost us any picks.

Well, the Warwas clan has officially purchased their first house and are all moved in, albeit with much chaos and little organization.  Very importantly, however, we have our DirecTV tuned in and the internet working.  In other words:  I’m back.

I’ve missed a lot in the last couple of weeks, so here are a gathering of thoughts for you to chew on during this (yawn!) bye week.

QUARTERBACKS

Christian Ponder’s bruised rib seems sketchy.  Almost as sketchy as expecting Matt Cassel to be any sort of real answer.  Both players are failing the “eye test” and the Vikings delayed the inevitable, via a well-timed sack of Big Ben, which is blowing up the quarterback position and starting fresh in 2014.  I still firmly believe it is coming.

BILL MUSGRAVE

Remember when the Vikings reportedly pursued Josh McDaniels as their offensive coordinator before settling for Musgrave?  I find myself wondering if Christian Ponder’s career path would be different under new direction.  I also find myself wondering if Musgrave’s scheme is too complicated for the now-truncated preparation period NFL teams have in the offseason and preseason under the new CBA.  His offense seems to have started slow two years in a row now.

THE DEFENSE

Things are such a mess right now on defense that I can’t even begin to pinpoint what exactly is going wrong.  Is the idea that they could gamble more backfiring despite Xavier Rhodes being as good as advertised?  Did the defensive line really age that much in one year?  Are the linebackers just not talented?  Is the scheme outdated?  You tell me, because I’m at a loss, and apparently Alan Williams is, too.

 Ben Roethlisberger marched the Steelers down to the 6-yard line in the final drive looking to tie the game with a touchdown. With 19 seconds left in the game and the Vikings clinging to a 34-27 lead, Everson Griffen strip-sacked Big Ben and Kevin Williams recovered the ball to seal the first win of the season for Minnesota.

 The 83,518 fans that packed Wimbley Stadium in London saw a hard-fought exciting football game that was full of big plays.

Greg Jennings made two touchdown grabs, Adrian Peterson had two touchdown runs, Matt Cassel was 16 of 25 for 248 yards and no turnovers, and the defensive line lead by Jared Allen’s 2.5 sacks put pressure on Roethlisberger all game.

It’s hard to get excited after just one win in four tries, but the Vikings took five important steps forward:

 A) The defense got the monkey off their back by making a play late in the game to preserve a win.

B) The offense didn’t turn the ball over or make costly mistakes.

C) The offensive line looked more like the O-line from last season.

D) The wide receivers finally found the end zone.

E) The defense was able to consistently put pressure on the QB.

 

 If the Vikings can continue to do those things well… they will be a very difficult team to beat.

 

 A fractured rib will sideline Christian Ponder on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers in London. Matt Cassel will get his first start for the 0-3 Minnesota Vikings as he takes on his former head coach Todd Haley who is now an assistant with the Steelers.

 Cassel is still considered the “backup” to Ponder… but a good performance could land him an extended opportunity to lead the Vikings after next week’s bye week.

 Cassel has started three times against the Steelers in his career. He has thrown for 571 yards, two touchdowns, three picks, completed under 50% of his attempts and has a 60.5 passer rating during those games.

 Those stats look very Ponderish to me, so I guess I will just keep my optimism to myself and hope for the best. Let’s just say I have my fingers crossed that a Vikings’ wide reciever will finally catch a touchdown pass.

 Go Vikings!

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, friend and former teammate of Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel, may have accidentally broke some inside news.

According to Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com, Brady was talking about his former backup quarterbacks, Cassel and current Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer, in general when he said the following:

“I’m friends with both those guys,” Brady said. “Matt Cassel, who may be starting this weekend. Brian, I text back and forth.”

It was discovered Wednesday that Vikings starter Christian Ponder has injured ribs from  last week’s loss and was limited in practice. Cassel got more repetitions in practice while Ponder rested.

“If I can’t fulfill my duties, then Matt’s going to step in and play,” Ponder said, via Tom Pelissero of USA Today.

Head coach Leslie Frazier wouldn’t comment much on the subject, via Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

“We want to see how Christian does today,” Frazier said. The coach said he hasn’t necessarily started game-planning for backup Matt Cassel, but wouldn’t really have to alter the game plan if Cassel is the starter.

Meanwhile, Cassel says Ponder looked just fine.

“He looked like Christian,” Cassel said. “He looked great, and he was throwing the ball fine.”

Yeah.

There is some fishy business here. Remember last year’s Wild Card game? Ponder’s injury was revealed early in the week leading up to the game, but the team was coy about the injury and was vague leading up to the game. The team had both comments of optimism and vagueness on different occasions in their comments to the press. They did not reveal that Ponder would not play until minutes before the game. But looking back, there was no way he was going to play in that game, based on the severity of the bruise on his throwing arm.

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