Friday, July 29, 2016

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(used w/permission)

I’m a fan of underdog stories.

I’m a fan of hometown heroes.

I’m a fan of hard workers.

I’m a fan of good athletes.

Third-year wide receiver Adam Thielen fits all of the above in my book. I was intrigued by Thielen when the Vikings signed him as an undrafted rookie in 2013, but I really didn’t know that much about him. That year he didn’t make the final cut, but Minnesota signed him to the practice squad. From there, he’s slowly but surely worked his way onto the radar.

I attended training camp in August 2014, and I liked what I saw from Thielen. After interviewing him after a practice, I wrote a feature on the receiver for VT. The following is an excerpt from last year’s post:

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.

That spotlight came after special teams coach Mike Priefer utilized Thielen on three punt returns in the Vikings’ first 2014 preseason game.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Heading into the offseason, one of my biggest concerns surrounding the Vikings was the depth at linebacker. Anthony Barr missed the final four games of the year after undergoing surgery to repair a slightly torn meniscus, and veteran linebacker Chad Greenway wrapped up his worst statistical season since entering the league in 2007.  And at middle linebacker, Jasper Brinkley finished the year with 54 tackles, but left a gaping hole in the defense after signing a free agent deal with the Dallas Cowboys.

As Brent pointed out last week, though, this roster is loaded with young talent at the position, from freak athletes like Anthony Barr to late-round picks like Audie Cole. General manager Rick Spielman isn’t just drafting college’s best linebackers (see Eric Kendricks), he’s letting the coaching staff develop a few lesser-known players.

Seventh-round pick Edmond Robinson has the size and raw tools to contribute for the Vikings in the future, but will have time to grow as he sits behind Brandon Watts, Josh Kaddu, and Brian Peters. In Sunday’s game, both Watts and Peters played well against Pittsburgh’s backups, with Peters flashing his open field skills on a fumble recovery in the third quarter.

If anything, the biggest gap remains in the middle of Mike Zimmer’s unit. The players mentioned above are going to shine during the preseason, as it’s their best chance to step foot on the field and show the coaches what — special teams depth, a practice squad spot — they can bring to the team. But three in particular appear to be fighting for a chance to man the middle of the defense: Audie Cole, Eric Kendricks, and Gerald Hodges.

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A closer look at the winners and losers from the 2015 Hall of Fame Game.

Matt Engstrom Hall of Fame Game Vikings Steelers
Illustration by Matt Engstrom (mattengstrom.com)

The first game of the 2015 NFL season is officially in the books. And after travelling to Canton, Ohio and beating the Steelers in front of a predominantly black and yellow crowd, the Vikings can stand proudly and puff their chests out as the only undefeated team in the NFL. (Side note: Zimmer is still perfect in Exhibition Games and the one true Preseason Champion.)

These preseason games are critical for coaches to evaluate the players currently on their roster. It gives them a chance to see how rookies handle NFL-level opponents. Preseason games allow teammates to establish additional chemistry on the field against competition they’re not used to seeing every day in practice.

It’s also a great opportunity for hack bloggers and media types to hastily determine who’s doing good for themselves and who isn’t.

So, with this being a Vikings blog (and me being a hack blogger) let’s take a look at the winners and losers from the Hall of Fame game against the Steelers.

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Image courtesy of Chris Price

It is with great pleasure that I announce another addition to the Vikings Territory team.

If you’ve been reading about the Minnesota Vikings over the last four years, then it is highly unlikely that you have not read the work of beat writer Brian Hall.

Brian, most known for his work at FOX Sports North and his opinions on the Twins, will bring many much-welcomed attributes to the pages of VT in 2015. I trust you will all enjoy his contributions here just as much as I’ve enjoyed reading his work elsewhere over the years.

Please join me in welcoming Brian to VT and be sure to check back for his first articles in the very near future. You can also follow Brian on the Twitter machine.

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