Thursday, November 26, 2015

by -

UPDATE: Adam Caplan of the NFL Network reports that the Vikings are expecting an 8-week recovery time

This is fantastic news, and will not only allow the Vikings to better assess the running back situation as soon as possible, but likely means the injury isn’t serious in the context of affecting his movement and long-term ability to play. Original story below, including the speculation that proved to be ultimately incorrect about McKinnon’s recovery time.

The Minnesota Vikings have announced through their Twitter accounts that running back Jerick McKinnon will be placed on season-ending injured reserve. He was listed as out for the last two games with a lower back injury sustained during weightlifting. They have decided to promote defensive end Justin Trattou to take his place, and signed former Baylor Bears (and former Chicago Bear, for a brief time) safety Ahmad Dixon to the practice squad (as a “defensive back,” but likely safety). The Vikings had Ahmad Dixon on their practice squad earlier.

Twitter user @Kurmudge, who has a medical background, has made an educated guess on the nature of Jerick McKinnon’s injury, arguing that there’s a good chance it was a slipped disc or disc tear in the back while weightlifting.

For a graphic (it’s a non-graphic graphic) and brief description of the injury, click here. It sounds bad, but this describes the worst case scenario:

Like most other injuries, the body will attempt to heal the annular tear by filling in the gap with scar tissue. depending on the amount of degeneration within the disc, anecdotally, healing times can be 18 months or even more. New blood vessels will grow from the periphery of the disc down toward the nucleus through the annular tear (it is these blood vessels in part that supplied the building blocks needed for the scar tissue to form). Unfortunately, pain-carrying new nerve fiber acompany the blood vessels down into the center of the disc! This is not a good thing, because now has a higher capacity to generate pain because it has more pain-carrying nerve fiber within it. This phenomenon, as well as a similar phenomenon which may occur vertebral endplate, is most likely the reason why patients with annular tears often suffer bouts of pain throughout their lives.

Still, there’s a lot of different things that can happen here, and it may be the case that there is no disc injury at all. Even if there was one, surgery and other options can reduce the recovery time, especially if we’re not dealing with the worst case scenario.

Regardless, it’s a really depressing addition to a season full of depressing injury news. McKinnon had shown tremendous promise this season, and the Vikings will have to really determine what they’re going to do with the running back situation—a sticky situation now made stickier by the uncertainty of McKinnon’s condition. Move running back up the needs board, even if the Vikings entertain the idea of keeping Peterson on the roster.

For now, the Vikings will split carries between Matt Asiata, Joe Banyard and Ben Tate. Who will receive the majority share of the carries remains to be seen—though Tate and Banyard show much more physical upside than Asiata, who at the moment displays better vision. Banyard was pulled from last week’s game after missing a pass-rushing assignment and Ben Tate had a very mixed performance in his stead.

by -

Rookie running back Jerick McKinnon has been listed as out for the Sunday game against the New York Jets with the same back issue that kept him out of last Sunday’s game—one caused by a strain during a workout. With three other running backs on the roster, this shouldn’t be a big issue for the Vikings in terms of fielding players, but he is still likely the most talented back the Vikings have.

In his stead, the Vikings will continue to rotate Matt Asiata, Joe Banyard and Ben Tate, and I doubt they will have a consistently featured running back in the short term. Joe Banyard had his snaps cut against the Carolina Panthers because of a missed pass protection assignment, while Ben Tate has ball security issues he needs to fix sooner rather than later.

Rookie linebacker Anthony Barr (as well as rookie cornerback Jabari Price with an ankle injury) has been listed as doubtful (knee), meaning he is also unlikely to play against the Jets—obviously a big concern with the Jets focusing almost exclusively on a running attack against Miami, and potentially doing so again against the Vikings. The Jets ran the ball 49 times and passed 13 times last Monday night, with four of those passes coming in the final drive in hurry-up from behind.

Anthony Barr will likely be replaced by Gerald Hodges, who has had issues defending against the run in the past, especially against the Carolina Panthers. Given the general weakness of the linebacker corps, with the two other starters (Chad Greenway and Jasper Brinkley) struggling, this could be a liability for the Vikings. Anthony Barr hasn’t practiced all week.

On the other hand, the third started that the Vikings may have potentially lost looks likely to play, with Sharrif Floyd listed as probable (knee). Floyd has been stellar since Week 7, and may be more critical to defending the run than Anthony Barr was—he certainly was better at it. Jets center Nick Mangold has been having a revival season of sorts, so a strong presence in the interior will be necessary.

Tight ends Chase Ford (hamstring/foot), Rhett Ellison (ankle) and Kyle Rudolph (abdomen/groin) are listed as probable.

The Jets will have starting defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson out—a blessing in disguise, because outside of J.J. Watt, Wilkerson is the best 3-4 defensive end in the NFL, and possibly the best two-gap player in the league. This won’t protect the Vikings against an almost equally gifted Sheldon Richardson at defensive end or a strong set of other defensive players set up on the line of scrimmage, but it’s a start. The Jets will also be missing tight end Jace Amaro. No one else is listed as out or doubtful.

by -

Wide receiver Charles Johnson is set to start for the Vikings against New York on Sunday.

According to the Pioneer Press’ Chris Tomasson, offensive coordinator Norv Turner confirmed that Johnson will retain the starting split end position after getting the opportunity last week.

Cordarrelle Patterson generally holds the starting position, but his production has been much lower than anticipated this season. The sophomore WR seems to still struggle with route running, and Johnson has been given more reps recently. Last week, the official roster swap took place. After Patterson missed practices due to a personal matter, head coach Mike Zimmer reduced Patterson’s playing time.

Minnesota utilized Johnson on all 50 snaps in the win against Carolina, while Patterson played on just three overall—and not until the second half. Sunday was the first time in Patterson’s NFL career that he did not catch a single pass. While Vikings fans are surprised—and disappointed—with Patterson’s less-than-mediocre performance, Johnson is certainly earning his keep.

“C.J. is playing at a high level,” Turner said. “C.J. is the starter at X, that’s the position Cordarrelle plays. We’re going to do what we can to get him some opportunities to play there, but C.J. is playing at a real high level right now.”

Over the Vikings’ last three games, the 25-year-old has played 141 snaps and made 11 receptions for 180 yards.

Originally drafted by the Packers in 2013, Johnson suffered a knee injury early on and is just now getting his chance to prove himself in the NFL. He caught his first pass with the Vikings in Week 5, and Johnson is proving that he could play a significant role on this team.

And as for Patterson? No. 84 has been vocal about his disappointment with last week’s situation, and he told reporters that he will approach the coaching staff if he doesn’t play a larger role against the Jets. Patterson said the following:

“I’ll have to see how this week goes first and see how my reps and how my playing goes this week. Then next week if I my reps [aren’t] what I need them to be and I’m not feeling good about it, I have to sit down and talk with them.”

Regardless of what happens with Patterson, one thing is clear: Charles Johnson was handed a chance, and he isn’t looking back.


by -

Not too long ago, I noted some eerie parallels between Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Brees in terms of their first years as starters—in particular how Drew Brees was perceived, what his weaknesses and strengths were. The idea of that piece was to do an extended case study, but how it turned out was pretty interesting. The whole piece is pretty long, but the part that stuck out to me was the set of scouting reports that Jim Trotter produced for the Sporting News, including these gems:

Brees has been asked to manage games rather than win them. Injuries along the offensive line and at wide receiver have limited his effectiveness, but Brees has had problems with his accuracy, regularly failing to hit receivers in stride. He has been at his best throwing between the numbers and sidelines, but he still must show he can work the middle of the field, particularly on the deep post. Coach Marty Schottenheimer believes Flutie’s scrambling ability makes him a greater threat coming off the bench. No. 3 quarterback Seth Burford has a strong arm but heavy feet. He played on a lower level in college and still must show he can perform in the NFL.

One of QB Drew Brees’ best qualities is that he has a short memory. He can throw an interception on one series and not let it affect him on the next. He threw two interceptions in the first three quarters against the Chiefs but responded by throwing two fourth-quarter touchdowns in a 35-34 win. Privately, Brees has been longing for more responsibility. The Chargers wanted to bring him along slowly, but they need to balance the run and the pass to consistently beat elite teams. Brees is showing he can handle the load and has a feel for making plays in the fourth quarter.

The Chargers were doing almost nothing on offense, a nasty trend in recent weeks as they have tumbled back to the pack after a 6-1 start. Brees has thrown only three touchdown passes in the last seven games, and had problems today dealing with the wind and a Buffalo defense that sacked him three times and whacked him often. His receivers didn’t help, with at least six drops.

Regardless, that sparked an interesting idea in one of my Twitter followers, @semacks—who took a look at the raw statistics from Brees’ first year to do a side-by-side comparison:

After a discussion about era adjustments, I did a quick-and-dirty look at the two quarterbacks profiled most readily in the piece—Peyton Manning and Drew Brees—and moved on from there. The natural extension of that was to look at all the Hall of Fame quarterbacks in their first year to take a look at where they were at.

When it comes to firing on all cylinders, this week’s win over the Carolina Panthers may have been the best of Mike Zimmer’s young head coaching career in Minnesota.  With efficient play on both offense and defense, and a huge boost from Mike Priefer’s special teams, the Vikings sent Cam Newton packing to the tune of a 31-13 final score.

Before we attempt to crown a player from this week, here is a look at previous winners as voted on by the readers here at VT.

WEEK ONE:  Cordarrelle Patterson

WEEK TWO: Harrison Smith

WEEK THREE:  Harrison Smith

WEEK FOUR: Teddy Bridgewater

WEEK FIVE:  Harrison Smith

WEEK SIX:  Linval Joseph

WEEK SEVEN: Everson Griffen

WEEK EIGHT:  Anthony Barr

WEEK NINE:  Everson Griffen

WEEK ELEVEN: Charles Johnson

WEEK TWELVE:  Xavier Rhodes

Get Social