Monday, July 25, 2016

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With only a short time until training camp kicks off in Mankato (yay!), excitement is in the air and it feels like football season is really just around the corner. I’m always internally conflicted around this time of year, because on one hand I can’t wait until the regular season is underway, but on the other hand that also means another Minnesota winter … I’m sure you all understand what I mean! Anyway, before camp kicks off, I thought it would be fun to see what a handful of your favorite players have been up to over the offseason.

Brian Robison

Spent quality time with the family: Robison spends a lot of time with his wife, daughter and son, and he often posts photos of the family adventures on his Instagram account. This offseason, he posted about his son’s birthday party, attending the circus, family vacations, and more. It’s great to see these players making it a priority to spend time with family!

Watched the NBA Playoffs: A native of Houston, Texas, Robison is a huge Rockets fan and supported James Harden and Co. during the 2015 NBA Playoffs. Unfortunately, the Rockets lost to Golden State prior to the Finals.

Went fishing (of course): For as comfortable as Robison is on the field, he’s just as much a natural with a fishing rod in his hands. It’s no secret that the DE spends a large part of his offseason fishing, and Vikings photographer Andy Kenutis captured some fun photos of Robison’s off-field gig.  Robison even got a feature written on him in Bass Angler Magazine:

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No matter how this season goes, no matter how it ends, I can promise you that Antoine Winfield will still be one of my top ten favorite Vikings of all time.

Now, his son may also be playing home games in Minnesota.

Antoine Winfield Jr. was extended an offer by the University of Minnesota on Friday, according to Ryan Burns.

The Texas cornerback is listed at 5′ 9″ and 183 pounds and is entering his senior year. According to 1500 ESPN, he has also fielded offers from Northwestern and Michigan State.

It would be great to see the next generation of the Winfield family once again playing lights out football in Minnesota.

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Image Courtesy of Andy Carlson's Wok

I was multi-tasking today and got Uncle Nick (@nickasun) on the phone to ask me Minnesota Fightin’ Vikings related questions while I cooked some homemade General Tso’s Chicken & Lo-mein. Yes. This really happened and it turned out damn good. The food that is!

Sweet & Spicy Questions Include…
• Which team or teams outside the NFC north poses the biggest threat?
• What do you think will be the Vikings record verses the NFC north this season
• Which quarterback will have a better statistical record this year? Teddy Bridgewater or Russell Wilson
• Will the home record be better or worse this year compared to last? (5-3) last year
• Which Viking will receive the most yards? Receiving touchdowns?
• Who will be the better back up RB? McKinnon, Asiata, Banyard?
• Most points Vikings will score in a regular season game?
• Who will last longer with the Vikings? Wilfs, Zimmer or Spielman?
• Which player seems to be most likely traded mid-season?

All that and other “Kikkoman soy sauce is the ONLY soy sauce” chatter on this edition of the Purple FTW! Podcast!

An Andy Carlson Joint.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

In this four-part series leading up to training camp, I’ll be profiling the Vikings you should target in your fantasy football leagues this year. Look for new additions every Thursday and Friday the next few weeks and stay tuned for a bonus selection at the end!

Adrian Peterson, RB — Minnesota Vikings

Adrian Peterson hasn’t had the best luck with quarterbacks. Since being selected 7th-overall in the 2007 NFL Draft, Peterson’s starting quarterbacks include (in chronological order): Tarvaris Jackson, Gus Frerotte, Brett Favre, Christian Ponder, and Matt Cassel. Save Favre’s magical 2009 season, Peterson has succeeded in the face of terrible quarterback play, rushing for 10,190 yards and 86 touchdowns in his eight-year career.

With such a lack of talent at the position, it’s no surprise that defenses stacked the box with eight, and even nine defenders at times. According to Pro Football Focus, Peterson faced an eight man box on 34.48% of his attempts in 2013, his most recent 16-game season. Despite the odds, Peterson finished the year with 1,266 yards on the ground while averaging 4.6 yards per carry (slightly lower than his 5.0 career average).

What’s missing in this discussion is the quarterback situation TODAY. Peterson hasn’t taken a regular season snap with Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota’s prodigal son and quarterback savior. After the first game of the 2014 season, Peterson was suspended and missed an opportunity to line up behind Bridgewater, who went on to cement himself as the team’s starting quarterback. The rookie finished the year with 14 touchdowns, a 64.4 percent completion percentage, and an above-average quarterback rating of 85.2.

The newfound success at the position opens up opportunities in the running game, as outlined by NFL.com’s Alex Gelhar in an article published following Norv Turner’s hiring:

“Turner runs a version of the Air Coryell offense, which tries to force the defense to defend the entire field through a combination of mid- to deep-range passing routes and a power running game. The offense sends players in motion to create space and allow them to avoid being jammed at the line of scrimmage so their deeper routes have time to develop. Ideal personnel include a fast receiver able to win deep jump balls, a pass-catching tight end capable of stretching the middle of the field, and a power back able to grind out yards between the tackles and catch the ball in space.”

Peterson fits the bill of a “power back able to grind out yards between the tackles”, but he’s never been known as a pass-catcher. In his eight seasons, Peterson’s career-highs receiving the ball are 43 catches (2009), 436 yards (2009), and 1 touchdown (multiple years). When Turner was hired to be the Vikings’ offensive coordinator, he made it clear he wanted to get Peterson involved in the passing game. “I would expect Adrian Peterson to catch 50/60 balls next year,” he told KFAN. Although the plan didn’t come to fruition, it should be a goal in place for a coach whose running back units have averaged 104 receptions per season and totaled 31 receiving touchdowns.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

In this four-part series leading up to training camp, I’ll be profiling the Vikings you should target in your fantasy football leagues this year. Look for new additions every Thursday and Friday the next few weeks and stay tuned for a bonus selection at the end!

 Charles Johnson, WR — Minnesota Vikings

You know the story of Charles Johnson — practice squad player-turned-Vikings’ No. 1 receiver. The 6’2″, 225-pound Johnson spent one year under Norv Turner in Cleveland, and after tearing his ACL, landed on the Browns’ practice squad. Turner knew Johnson’s talents and abilities, and the Vikings signed him last September with the offensive coordinator’s urging.

Johnson started the season slow, hauling in six catches for 60 yards and zero touchdowns in his first five games with the Vikings. But in Minnesota’s final seven games, Johnson led the team with 47 targets, 25 receptions and 415 receiving yards. In addition to his two touchdown receptions, the offense’s scoring increased from 16.4 points per game in Weeks 5 to 9 to 24 points per game in Week 10 to 16.

Heading into 2015, Johnson is Teddy Bridgewater’s go-to guy and “far and away” the team’s best receiver. When asked about Johnson’s impact this offseason, Turner heaped nothing but praise on the 26-year-old receiver, per Mark Craig of the Star Tribune:

“Part of that was we started playing Charles Johnson, which gave us a different guy on the outside to attack,” Turner said. “It created some differences in how people defended us. I think we became a much more efficient offensive football team and put ourselves in position to win games. We won some and there were some that a year from now, put in the same situation, we’ll be ready to handle it and be ready to win.”

Now, Johnson is the team’s starting X/Split receiver, a position formerly held by Cordarrelle Patterson. He’ll work opposite Mike Wallace and Jarius Wright in the slot, and if last year’s second-half trend continues, his numbers will climb thanks to a healthy relationship with Teddy Bridgewater. The hype isn’t limited to Minnesota, though — NFL.com ranked Johnson 20th on their “Making the Leap” countdown this offseason.

According to Marc Sessler, Johnson played in 94.9 percent of the team’s snaps over the final six games last year. As the X receiver, he’ll run second fiddle to Wallace, but Wallace’s deep speed will likely open opportunities up for Johnson, Rudolph, and Wright in the slot. In analyzing every Norv Turner offense since 2002, Sessler found that receivers in Johnson’s role averaged 40.5 catches for 633 yards — numbers I expect he’ll surpass in 2015.

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