Thursday, July 30, 2015

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[NOTE FROM ARIF: Keep them coming! This guest post pairs well with (unintentionally or not) the previous post on “hope” and how it relates to Vikings fans, this time written by active Tweeter @LAHfreya23, otherwise known as Ligeia Heagy in meatspace.

To my knowledge, this is her first guest post as well! Again, email me at arifmhasan (at) gmail DOT com if you want to write a guest post]

By Ligeia Heagy

Every Vikings fan hopes for a Super Bowl win…before they die. It’s the age old joke between fans, and the twisted verbal knife from other teams.  The thought of a Vikings Super Bowl win is almost too much to hope for, considering history.  Some fans might argue that hope is a four letter word.  To date, a Super Bowl win for the Vikings has been entirely elusive. Is it possible?  Our quest begins with a trip down memory lane.

Vikings fans are inured to disappointment.  There was the 1970s run at the Super Bowl, only to be disappointed four times in one decade. The consolation prize was a series of NFC North and NFC Championships.  Fair enough.  No one is really complaining about those, until the 1998 and 2000 NFC Championship losses are broached. Enough said. Oh, but then there was the 2009 NFC Championship loss to add to an already boiling pot of misery.  Clearly, the Universe did not believe that 2009 had inflicted sufficient pain among the Viking brethren.  Almost on cue, the roof of the Metrodome collapsed in 2010.  Prophetic? Why think otherwise?

On the road towards a Vikings Super Bowl, there have been a number of questionable pit stops along the way.  Notably:

  1. The Herschel Walker trade (If you must ask, visit Wikipedia. It simply cannot be relived here.)
  2. The Love Boat scandal (Included because, well, the Vikings needed this like a hole in the head.)
  3. The acquisition of Brett Favre (Questionable from the point of view that he managed to win a Super Bowl for the Pack, but not for the Vikings.  In his own words, he choked.  Yes, yes he did.)
  4. The 2013 quarterback carousel (This fueled the image of the Vikings as a perennial laughing stock organization. Deepest of sighs.)

By the end of December 2013, the Vikings had secured their future as the laughing stock of the league. At times, being a Vikings fan is akin to stabbing oneself in the eye with thousands of needles daily.  Counter argument?  As they say on Twitter, meh.  But enough grousing.  Is there a Super Bowl for Viking fans on the horizon? 2014 appears to be a pivotal year for Viking fortunes.

Black Monday arrived with few surprises and additional agony for fans, who would surely be disappointed by the selection of a new coach.  Knife wounds to the gut are expected.  Fans carry first aid kits in anticipation thereof (at least one would hope they do).  But the unthinkable occurred.  In mid-January, Vikings brass interviewed Mike Zimmer.  Zimmerwatch commenced upon a tweeted picture of Zimmer at the Cincinnati airport on his way to Minneapolis.  Fans and media allowed themselves two full days of giddiness.  They bathed in it.  Because this kind of joy is so fleeting for Vikings fans.  In the end, Vikings brass hired Zimmer, ushering in a potentially whole new world for Vikings everywhere.

The hiring of Zimmer potentially flips a switch.  The position of Head Coach of the Minnesota Vikings is a first for Zimmer and fulfills a lifelong dream.  Zimmer is a no nonsense personality with a self professed chip on his shoulder.  Needless to say, the Vikings also have a chip on their shoulder and about 50 years of pent up Super Bowl adrenalin.  This is a marriage in Valhalla for Vikings fans.  The bottom line is that Zimmer wants to be the effing coach that brings the effing Super Bowl win to the effing Minnesota Vikings.  And, he is effing believable in his process.  Which brings us back to the possibility of a Vikings Super Bowl win.

Show of hands, who wants to be the one to tell Zimmer he can’t do it?

The room is empty ladies and gentleman.  Go ahead and effing HOPE!

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[NOTE FROM ARIF – It seems as if guest posts are becoming a popular way to get your opinions out there. This one comes from Greg Eichten, and I believe this is his first blog post of any kind.

Remember, if you’re interested in writing a guest post for Vikings Territory, you can email me at arifmhasan (at) gmail DOT com. We’re always looking for fresh angles!]

By Greg Eichten

The NFL’s biggest asset isn’t the Dallas Cowboys, Aaron Rodgers, or even the TV broadcast rights. No, their biggest asset is hope. Hope for the dedicated fan bases all over the world that THIS is the season, THIS is the player, THIS is finally the quarterback that’s going to change the franchise forever. That’s why Christian Ponder in no way can be on the roster when it’s time to report to training camp.

Following the disappointing but predictable 2013 Vikings season, I wasn’t convinced that Leslie Frazier needed to go. Sure he wasn’t Vince Lombardi, but was he really the reason why the Vikings couldn’t win? However, once we brought in the shiny new coach in Mike Zimmer and made a few solid hires such as Mr. Norval Turner, I found myself wondering what that strange feeling was that was working its way into my brain. It seemed vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it. I remember it around the time when Favre, Cunningham, and even Culpepper were here. Then it came to me – HOPE! I’m actually feeling hope for the 2014 season. Right then I realized why coaches are fired every other year and why the draft is so popular…it all comes down to hope and the possibility of positive change. Maybe this IS the great coach we’ve been waiting for. A new regime is starting for crying out loud, we have permission to write off the last few years as a sunk cost in our fandom… but going forward, BOY THINGS SURE ARE GOING TO BE DIFFERENT THIS YEAR!

Back in February, in a 50-minute interview with reporters, Spielman said Christian Ponder will be back next season.

Excuse me, what did he say?!? There’s a reason why you don’t invite your boozy ex-girlfriend to your wedding: nothing positive can result of it, only pain and suffering as those old wounds are ripped open and exposed. What good could possibly come of turning him into Clipboard Christian and have him awkwardly hanging around pretending to cheer on the starting quarterback? No hard feelings against Ponder, as he has been the consummate professional, saying and doing all the right things. Do the right thing for him and let him try and extend his career elsewhere while getting something of value in return. He’s better than Jacksonville bust Blaine Gabbert, and he garnered a 6th round pick from the 49ers.

And let’s not forget our current starting quarterback, Matt Cassel, who would benefit greatly knowing that CP isn’t staring daggers into his helmet and untying his shoes while he naps on the team plane. If Cassel struggles, as he most likely will at some point, I can guarantee that there will be a small but loud clamoring to see one more look at Christian, with the usual chorus of qualifiers: “Why not see what he’s got? Maybe the off-season and benching really got through to him? We invested a 12th overall pick on the guy, might as well use him!” No, nope, and negative again. If Ponder takes even one snap this year, the hope that has been building within the fan base will seep out as we recall the failures of past teams and will be replaced with the all too familiar feeling of dread and disgust. Let’s move forward with the new regime and start off without the face of disappointment holding the clipboard.

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It’s time for another mock draft, if only because I feel like it. Because mock drafts provide more fodder as a “what if” than a genuine prediction, I’m not really taking them seriously unless I’m actually composing a round-by-round wishlist, which I’ll do on occasion anyway.

At the same time, mock drafts are no fun without rules. Naturally, I can’t just project that the Vikings draft Bridgewater in Round 1, Clowney in Round 2, Mack and Watkins in Round 3 and so on—I’ll hold myself to availability models that I find around the internet—generally speaking that means Drafttek and Bleacher Report because there are not many other seven-round mock drafts that provide a good clue of who will be available.

For kicks, I’ve added another rule: in this mock, the Vikings are only allowed to draft players that fit the mold of a Nick Saban Alabama player. That means big, smart, pro-ready players that aren’t necessarily fast and can’t backpedal. They might also be susceptible to knee and back injuries, but have good character.

This doesn’t mean they can only draft players from Alabama (though I won’t prevent myself from doing that either), just players who fit that mold at certain positions. Just like last time, this isn’t really the strategy I think the Vikings should pursue, just one way to think of a mock draft.

One last note: all highlight videos should be considered NSFW unless you mute. Except, of course, the Draft Breakdown videos.


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I had debated even posting this, but because the offseason is already slow there was no reason not to.

In speaking with Chris Tomasson, one of the better Vikings reporters on the beat these days, Kyle Rudolph called himself the best tight end in the NFL.

Kyle Rudolph was asked Wednesday to name the NFL’s best tight end. He didn’t hesitate with his response.

“Me,” he said.

. . .

“There’s a ton of talented tight ends in our game,” Rudolph said after an event promoting Second Harvest Heartland launch and its Great American Milk Drive in St. Paul. “You have guys that play at a high level, like Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Jason Witten and Vernon Davis. But I would put myself up there with them.”

There’s not really much to say about this. He isn’t, but I don’t really care to contest the point too much. For me, the most interesting thing about this statement was how willing he was to be harsh about himself when I talked to him at training camp last year. He was very critical of his blocking, which had improved significantly at that point, and was very unhappy about his production between the twenties.

It is difficult to compare Rudolph to other top-tier tight ends from a receiving standpoint, given that Brees, Brady, Romo and Kaepernick were all significant parts of their productive capability, but it’s not too much of a stretch to say that he’s not in that tier by any means.

To me, Rudolph’s limited 2013 film (I only looked at the Pittsburgh and Cleveland games for him with any particular scrutiny) doesn’t look as impressive as he would want from a technical perspective. He’s a very deliberate route-runner and he hides his true speed by trying to sharpen up other route-running skills, which means he can’t quite maintain deceptiveness and speed as he goes through the route tree. He slows up at the break and can’t explode out of his route like Davis and Graham can.

His hands are very good, but a little overrated by Vikings fans. He has made some spectacular circus catches and has done more than his fair share of bailing out bad throws, but he’s also dropped easy passes and doesn’t catch the ball with his fingertips as often as he should.

As a blocker, he’s better than both Davis and Graham but that’s not saying much. He is probably better than Witten as well, but he has a long way to go before he can match Gronkowski’s blocking ability. While he has improved a lot as a blocker, he’s still trying to win consistently at the point of attack and usually hits second (less hammer, more nail). He understand leverage, though, and despite his 6’6″ frame has been able to use his strength and footwork to move some players around. That said, he didn’t quite have a feel for the running game and would sometimes miss assignments or block in unfavorable directions without correcting.

As both a route-runner and blocker, he’s late off the snap, sometimes incredibly late. It puts him at a massive disadvantage and should probably be the first thing to correct.

Of course, he’s a natural red zone threat, and not just because of his height or ability to climb the ladder. He locates the ball easily, has great positioning, good timing and attacks the ball at the catch point. His strength allows him to fight for contested balls in traffic and like any good tight end, knows how to use his length like a basketball player.

But if he wants to be the best, there’s more to it than that. I strongly suspect Norv will better use him than Musgrave and attack the seam with more consistency, perhaps even using the shake routes that have made Vernon Davis’ career. This should hide some of his weaknesses and highlight some of his hidden strengths.

Fans generally have an odd reaction when players call themselves elite. People derided Eli Manning and Joe Flacco for calling themselves elite (and they did so with the best timing on the planet), but praise players like Robert Griffin III and Derek Carr for saying similar things.

When Erin Henderson argued that he was the best fit for the middle linebacker position and was “pissed” about the disrespect at the beginning of the preseason, fans castigated him for what is a fairly normal and even desirable quality in a player. Here, Rudolph wants to be the best tight end league and will play to prove it. Fine by me, but he’s not there.

This isn’t to say Rudolph is a bad tight end. He’s very good, but he also happened to compare himself to the best tight ends in the NFL and invited the comparisons. Rudolph’s growth as tight end, both as a blocker and receiver has been extraordinary, and one of the most underrated things about him: he’s managed to improve nearly every facet of his game without stopping, which is rarer than you might think.

It’s not a bland compliment or a platitude about hard work; Rudolph is unique in his ability to consistently improve in every area of his game and I don’t think there is another player on the roster that shows this universal ability to absorb new techniques. Fans, analysts and personnel executives consistently talk about “upside” as if it were a purely physical thing. It isn’t. Rudolph’s nearly unlimited potential comes from his ability to learn new concepts and techniques and integrate them into his muscle memory faster than almost anyone I’ve seen. If he continues, he could very well end up in the class he put himself in.

But not yet.

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While it may seem boring to start with the preseason favorite, I’ll be working on a scouting report for every quarterback worth scouting in the NFL draft and it makes sense to use one that has seemingly been falling mock after mock.

It’s difficult to write about Bridgewater without repeating everything that has already been said about the until-recently top prospect. Regardless, it’s important to lay it all out on the table. For the most part, I think it’s useful to break down each skill by skill set, and I hope to do this for every quarterback to make the comparisons easy. Hopefully, this can provide some context for every quarterback when I continue to discuss them.

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