Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Blog Page 179

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Laundry.

It’s a cliche to say it, but the truth is that is what we root so hard for every Sunday, and all offseason long we scour the internet for any bit of information that might tell us who will be wearing it next season.

Ever since free agency was born unto the National Football League, the meaning of “family” has gone by the wayside and loyalty is certainly a thing of the past in almost every instance. There have been a lot of reminder of this over the last couple of weeks.

The Vikings traded one of their most successful first round selections, Percy Harvin, to the Seattle Seahawks for a number of reasons that seem to all be business related for both player and team.  Then, we learned that long time cornerback Antoine Winfield was abruptly kicked to the curb due to a high salary and an increasing age.

Now, the Vikings stole away yet another life long Green Bay Packer in wide out Greg Jennings, which is the football equivalent of William Wallace joining the British in battle.  This is yet another example of loyalties meaning far more to the spectators than it does to the players or organizations.

Now, I’m not blaming the players.  If Winfield’s situation taught us anything it’s that players owe it to themselves to take advantage of their premier skills in what sill be a truncated career before their organization deems them expendable.  I also don’t blame an organization for wanting to part ways with a player as it is their job to field the best possible team that gives them and their fans the best chance at a Super Bowl.

It has been so long since the Vikings have had a top flight receiver on the roster, a traditional number one receiver anyways, that Vikings fans didn’t seem to mind in the slightest that Greg Jennings is a lifelong Packer.

Still, he is putting in some effort to make sure he is a popular guy.

Jennings appeared on KFAN Radio this morning with Paul Allen and really opened up about a number of topics with equal portions of honesty and tact that made for a really impressive interview.

He immediately scored some points by attaching himself to the last Packer that gave Minnesota a legitimate shot at a Super Bowl, Brett Favre.

“Literally, as I got off the plane and (offensive coordinator Bill) Musgrave walked up to me, I’m on the phone with Brett,” Jennings said as transcribed by Viking Update. “I spoke with Brett two or three times throughout this process. He shot me straight. I knew if there was one person that would shoot straight and tell me exactly what I wanted to hear and things I possibly didn’t want to hear, it would be Brett. He did that for me.”

The organization has undergone a face lift since Favre was last on the roster, but many key components still exist, and most of you know I don’t care for the guy but it is still encouraging to hear that a veteran NFL player was willing to give his endorsement of the organization to another player and friend.  Those types of things can prove useful during times like free agency.

Unlike Percy Harvin, who actively seemed to avoid the topic of quarterback Christian Ponder, Jennings went out of his way to paint a bright future for his new quarterback with a positiveness that is sure to have the Vikings P.R. Department sharing a bottle of champagne tonight.

[Note:  Want to see a list of every player featured in our “Draft Target” segment?  Click here to visit the Offseason Tracker where there will be a list of all these players.  Check back often as there are plenty more to come!]

With the fee agency flurry leaving the Vikings roster somewhat shaken up there is one glaring need that sticks out above the rest at this moment.  Sure, cornerback and wide receiver need to be a point of emphasis.  Defensive tackle could still use some work.  There is one need, however, that seems quite a bit more desperate than the others.

Jasper Brinkley has signed with Arizona while Marvin Mitchell remains a free agent.  That means the position is virtually unfilled at this point and could potentially be a first round priority during the NFL Draft.

So far, Manti Te’o is the only other middle linebacker we have profiled in this series, but we will certainly be filling you in on plenty of other prospects at the position prior to Draft Weekend.  Today, I want to take a look at LSU middle linebacker Kevin Minter, who many Vikings fans have on their wish list for April.

Minter became a starter at LSU in 2011 after his predecessor, Kelvin Sheppard, was drafted in the third round.  His first season was pretty pedestrian, really, as he started 11 of 14 games to rack up 61 tackles.  Of those, 3.5 were for a loss, he had one sack, a forced fumble, and one fumble recovery for a touchdown.  In 2011, Minter was barely a guy one noticed on the star studded LSU defense that included Morris Claiborne and a handful of guys that could easily be drafted ahead of him this year.

In 2012, that all changed as Minter not only became noticeable within the LSU defense, he was named LSU’s Most Valuable Player and seemed like he was All-Everything following the season.  He was certainly more productive, having started all 13 games and notching 130 tackles, 15 for a loss, four sacks, a forced fumble, five defended passes, and an interception.  He still had considerable talent around him, but he seemed to be elevating their play this season, not the other way around.

Minter measured into the NFL’s Scouting Combine at 6′ 0″ and 246 pounds.  He didn’t exactly tear it up with his 4.81 second forty yard dash or his 25 bench press reps, but he looked to be the same guy you saw on tape, for better and for worse.

He looks to be a very intelligent football player who sniffs out screens, shows great diagnostic abilities, and solid gap discipline.  Combine that with a knack for getting around, or through, blockers and you have a Mike backer that just always seems to be in the right place at the right time on running plays.

Minter is a very good run defender and would instantly make things tough on opposing running backs looking to stay between the tackles.  He is an excellent tackler, perhaps the best in this Draft class, and is going to add a lot of consistency in the middle to the team that drafts him.  The ability to crush a ball carrier, however, might be his best attribute when it comes to defending the pass.

I don’t mean to say that Minter is a completely inept pass defender (he isn’t), but my game plan as a coach certainly wouldn’t revolve around matching him up against a guy like Vernon Davis or Rob Gronkowski.  In fact, my game plan would try to make sure that happened as little as possible.

He’s a big man that plays big, but he is also of moderate speed and it shows in coverage.  He is a plodder that can look awkward trying to shadow a running back or provide zone coverage of a slot receiver   He is, in a lot of ways, a lot like what we saw out of Jasper Brinkley during the 2012 season as far as coverage goes.  He is going to struggle sticking with just about any various type of route runner, but will occasionally be able to deliver a jarring hit after the catch.

Minter is already a grade “A” run stopper, and could continue to develop his pass defending via some good coaching, and is a capable blitzer.  He possesses the physical skills to be a middle linebacker in the 4-3 scheme and makes enough big plays to make him very intriguing.

I do think that he is best suited for the 4-3 and that scouts will recognize this.  This might limit the number of teams that place him higher up on their draft boards.  The NFL Advisory committee reportedly gave him a third round grade when he was deciding whether or not to stay at LSU for another year.  Many draftniks have him grading out as a late first round talent, however.

I worry greatly that the Vikings will burn one of their first round picks on a two down linebacker, and I worry that Minter will be a two down linebacker throughout his NFL career.  Thus, I can’t say that I would be real supportive of them taking him at 23 or 25.  However, he has a skill set that is attractive enough, and if they can trade back a bit, or if he is somehow still on the board in the second round when they are on the clock, then I think he could represent a solid addition to the middle of the Vikings defense.

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A lot of good looking blockbusters are poised to release this summer, but I just tripped across this trailer (thanks to some great Twitter followers) and I thought I’d pass it along for all of you to enjoy.

 

Hell, I’m already looking forward to the sequel!

Leading up to the visit, and eventual signing, of wide receiver Greg Jennings there were reports that the Packers were making an effort to keep him and there were varying reports regarding just where Jennings’ market measured up.

We already have discussed that Jennings signed a five year deal with the Vikings worth an average of about $9 million per year.

Now, Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel brings us details about just how things ended with the Packers, and also points out that the Vikings and Packers weren’t the only team interested in Jennings.

According to McGinn, Jennings turned down an extension offer from the Packers that averaged $11 million per year, because he was seeking something more in the neighborhood of $15 million.  A concussion during training camp was followed by an abdominal injury that required surgery, and his perceived value obviously took a hit after those injuries prevented him from having a normal Jennings-type season on the field.

After all, Jennings had flat out missed half of the last 22 Packers games, and questions about his long term viability were being raised for the first time in his career.

Despite the injuries and a stacked depth chart, however, the Packers showed significant interest in retaining the 29 year old wide out.  According to McGinn’s sources, Jennings had an offer from the Packers that averaged about $8 million per year.  This was significantly less than what they offered him last year, and way less than the $15 million average he was originally seeking, so Jennings sat tight during the opening days of free agency to see if anyone stepped up.

With the deep-pocketed Miami Dolphins shelling out a bunch of money to Mike Wallace, and Seattle trading for Percy Harvin, the possible landing destinations for Jennings started to narrow.  The New England Patriots did make an offer to Jennings, which averaged about $6 million per year, but those talks didn’t go very far, writes McGinn.

The Vikings, as Jennings puts it, “stepped up to the plate” with their contract offer following a wooing period in the Twin Cities.

It appears pretty obvious that the Vikings paid more than anyone else was willing to, but clearly less than the market thought Jennings was worth last year.  The hope is that Jennings is able to return to his 2010 form and avoid future injuries so that the contract looks less like a desperation move, and more like a bargain.

 

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