Monday, May 30, 2016

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

With minicamp complete and a little over a month until the Vikings head to Mankato for training camp, all the focus appears to be on Adrian Peterson. How many yards will he rush for? How will Norv Turner use him out of the backfield? Will he be the same after missing a year?

They’re valid questions, but the success of the Vikings does not rest solely on Adrian Peterson’s massive shoulders. Although Peterson single-handedly carried the offense in 2012 — thanks, Christian Ponder — he’s surrounded by more talent than he’s seen in his 9 years with the Vikings, and that starts with the man he’ll be lining up behind  — Teddy Bridgewater.

After a promising rookie season, Bridgewater is expected to “make the leap”, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him land atop NFL.com’s infamous rankings this offseason. Last year, he started 12 games for the Vikings, threw 14 touchdowns, and finished with a 6-6 record under center.

His stats don’t “wow” on paper (2,919 yards, 85.2 quarterback rating), but the poise, decision-making, and maturity he displayed behind a rickety offensive line are hard to dismiss. Heck, he did it all without Peterson, who looks to add yet another element to Norv Turner’s attack in 2015.

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It has to be the nose ring

Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Remember when Cordarrelle Patterson topped NFL.com’s “Making the Leap” list last year? The website envisioned a 70-catch, 1,100-yard season from Patterson, and described him as a combination of Devin HesterDemaryius ThomasJulio Jones, Spiderman and the Road Runner. With his untapped ability and rare combination of size and speed, fans, analysts, and other players expected Patterson to truly “make the leap” in 2014.

If anything he, jumped backwards.

Patterson finished the year with 33 catches for for 384 yards and one touchdown — far below lofty projections — and even lost his starting job to Charles Johnson, a practice squad player who previously spent time in Green Bay and Cleveland. It was a disappointing season for Patterson, but offensive coordinator Norv Turner recently told reporters that the third-year receiver is “in the mix” for an important role with the offense heading into 2015.

The reason Patterson’s only fighting for playing time and not enjoying a starring role? That would be the aforementioned Johnson, who burst onto the scene after a solid end to the 2014 season. He led the team with 47 targets, 25 receptions and 415 receiving yards over the last seven weeks, with Turner calling him “far and away” their best receiver.

Johnson has won over his offensive coordinator and even general manager Rick Spielman, and now, the national media is taking notice — he’s No. 20 on this year’s “Making the Leap” rankings and a prime candidate to truly break out as the Vikings’ X-receiver. The hype is officially real, and all signs from minicamp point to an exciting year from Johnson, but it’s too early to proclaim him the next Josh Gordon (on the field, of course). Let’s hope his appearance on the list isn’t a curse like it was for Patterson.

What other NFC North receivers are poised for breakout seasons in 2015? Find out after the jump:

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Capping off Father’s Day, I’d like to thank Vikings Territory for giving me the opportunity to promote my new project The Dad Mode Podcast, a show dedicated to Common Sense Parenting in Politically Correct World.

Many of you VT’ers know me was the mediocre Purple FTW! Podcast Guy, but I’m also a first time dad and have no idea what I’m doing. Fortunately, no one else does either, so we’re all in this together. Let’s chat.

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Image courtesy of Austin Belisle

When you lose a parent — in my case, my father three years ago — you lose more than you can imagine. You lose your father choking up on your wedding day or welcoming his first grandchild to the world. More than that, you lose the little things, like an afternoon spent watching the Vikings or an evening learning how to barbecue the perfect ribs. Those memories, and events yet-to-happen, burn bright in my mind — I’ll never forget them, but I’ll also never let them define me.

The day he died, my mother shared these words with me, and they’ve allowed me to move past the anger, the pain, and the sadness that came when I was just 20 years-old:

“You can’t let this define you, Austin. Try to remember the good times, and find strength in the bad ones.”

It’s difficult to look back and think of those happy moments — our last few years together were unbearably difficult. But in the time since his passing, I HAVE found strength in a number of people; my amazing mother, my twin sister, my incredible uncle, and other close friends.

I wish my father was a part of that list, but if there’s one connection, one memory I can cling to, it’s our unbreakable bond over the Minnesota Vikings. Our happiest memories together came sitting in front of the TV every Sunday, cheering on our favorite team in purple and gold. I won’t let his death define the rest of my life, but I’ll always hold the my father’s beloved team near and dear to my heart.

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