Friday, July 3, 2015

On December 26, 2012, Chase Ford was signed by the Vikings to join the practice squad. The 6-foot-6 255 pound tight end from the University of Miami was originally a 2012 undrafted free agent by the Philadelphia Eagles.

With only 16 total receptions in his junior and senior seasons at Miami, Chase was a bit of an unknown prospect until he got noticed after a solid week at the East West Shrine Game. Miami’s tight ends are known for their outstanding athleticism and Chase is no exception. He is a natural pass catcher with fluid body control and good speed for a big body. Chase has huge hands, a tall frame and terrific hand and eye coordination allowing him to snag passes even in tight coverage.

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In the offseason, it’s easy for me simply to post updates and editorialize a little bit while leaving the debates to the comment section. I’d like to think I can do more than that, and I wanted to address something that’s come up a few times when I complain about a particular player being signed to the Vikings (and in the future, a player that may be drafted).

This isn’t meant to call anyone out or attack them; I just wrote a headline that best captures my feelings: many of us excuse a front office whenever they make a questionable signing by arguing that it’s “only for depth,” that they will “get cut in camp,” or that it’s “low-risk.”

While in the case of players like Derek Cox and Vladimir Ducasse, there’s reason to believe there’s potential for high-reward, I think that the Vikings (or any team) can do better when they make low-risk signings.

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Evidently not satisfied with the state of their offensive line, the Minnesota Vikings are planning to sign former Jets offensive lineman Vlad Ducasse, who chose Minnesota over Cincinnati, per Kristian Dyer of the Metro New York Newspaper (and occasional contributor to Yahoo Sports  and ESPN).

Ducasse has been a disappointment for the New York Jets, and was largely seen as a project with enormous potential. He has the prototypical size (listed at 6’5″ with 34.5″ arms) and weight (323 pounds) of a top-tier offensive lineman. When at UMass, he was extemely quick and light on his feet, which is why he was initially projected to play tackle when the Jets drafted him in the second round. From what it sounds like, the Jets haven’t decided to pursue him in free agency, though it may be telling that some of the best developmental staff in the NFL did pursue him.

**UPDATE: Per Darren Wolfson , there’s no verbal agreement in place yet, and we’ll likely hear news in the coming days about Ducasse’s decision. Given that the Bengals signed Marshall Newhouse as a swing player, it does not seem like the Bengals are at the top of the list. Wolfson also reported there’s another “mystery team” in the running.

**UPDATE: Confirmed, per Adam Caplan!

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A number of dearly departed Vikings have signed (or will sign) with other teams, and like any good fan, we need to know whether or not we can continue cheering for them in a small capacity as they enter the 2014 season and beyond. Some players will likely be polarizing (like Percy Harvin last year), but some are relatively easy calls. As in most years, most players will be easier to cheer for than against.

I get paid the big bucks to make these tough calls for you, and I’m sure you’ll disagree.

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Per Ian Rapaport, the Carolina Panthers have signed Joe Webb, who has played as a quarterback, receiver, kick returner and general multiweapon for the Vikings, with varying degrees of success, though most of them as failures.

He is reportedly joining the receiver-starved Panthers as a quarterback. The Panthers have recently signed Jerricho Cotchery and Tiquan Underwood to supplement their receiver corps otherwise featuring Tavarres King and Marvin McNutt.

This means Webb will compete with Derek Anderson and Matt Blanchard for a backup spot behind Cam Newton. While it is perhaps accurate to say that Newton and Webb share more similar skill sets than Newton and Anderson/Blanchard, don’t expect them to necessarily use Webb in the same way that they use Newton should Cam, for whatever reason, be unable to play.

Cam Newton, at 6’6″ and 250 pounds, outweighs a fair number of linebackers in the league and supplements his quarterback play with “power” running back runs, with a fair degree of agility. Webb “supplemented” his quarterback “play” with scatback-style scrambles with a lot of movement to the sidelines, which makes sense as he’s three inches shorter but 30 pounds lighter.

Both share a big arm and have some struggles with rhythm passing, but there’s a reason that Newton is a premier young quarterback and Webb is struggling to find his position. Vikings fans will be happy to see him go, but it’s difficult to say he’s been anything but a good sport and team player.

Perhaps a better set of quarterbacks coaches can turn Webb into a real quarterback, as his athletic ability is in the top one percent of even the elite players of the NFL. Then again:

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