Blog Page 183

A month ago, Vikings fans would have salivated over the idea of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o falling into their laps at the #23 spot of the upcoming NFL Draft.

Now, however, Te’o has found himself in the middle of one of the most bizarre stories to hit the sports world since… well, possibly ever.  The story of Te’o being a part of one of the biggest hoaxes of all time has led most to wonder about his character, and also doubt his ability to be a leader in the NFL which was one of his best attributes in college.

One thing that has become explicitly clear over the last few weeks are that the special connection that Te’o had with football lovers around the nation was every bit as fictional as his online girlfriend.

Weirdness and intangibles aside, Te’o still possesses first round caliber abilities and one can’t help but wonder what the Vikings might do if he is available when they are on the clock.  After all, the Vikings could clearly use some help at the linebacker position and G.M. Rick Spielman has an affinity for players coming out of Notre Dame.

Te’o has four years of experience, with progressive production coming from each season, as the heart of Notre Dame’s front season.  He is a very strong and sound tackler that does a good job of getting around or through blocks to make a play.  He plays the run with great instincts and discipline, which seems to rub off on the rest of the defense.

Te’o also possesses a range and fluidity in pass coverage that the Vikings defense could desperately use.  Over his career he has displayed an ability to play smart zone coverage (17 passes defended) and has a knack for heads-up plays (7 interceptions).

There are questions about Te’o’s speed and athleticism, and his forty time will be highly anticipated at the Scouting Combine, but I felt like he already answered a lot of those questions by dropping into coverage a lot more during his senior year with great success.  11 of his defended passes (and all seven picks) came in his senior year.

With all of that said, there is no doubt that Te’o isn’t the fastest linebacker in the world, and isn’t going to wow any scouts with his blitz abilities.  For the Vikings defense under Alan Williams, who seldom asks his linebackers to blitz, Te’o could be a great addition to a defense that places a lot of emphasis on stopping the run.

The whole hoax thing could make the Vikings a good fit for Te’o.  He would be surrounded by former teammates and other Notre Dame greats, which Rick Spielman has loaded up on recently.  Safety Harrison Smith would be playing right behind Te’o.  He could line up on special teams with Robert Blanton.  Kyle Rudolph and John Carlson are on the offensive side of the ball along with center John Sullivan.  There also may not be a head coach better equipped to deal with Te’o’s unique situation than Leslie Frazier is.

I have little doubt that Te’o could step into the regular season as a starter on this defense, besting either Jasper Brinkley or Erin Henderson.  I’m not convinced that he would be the guy we want to be selected at #23, but I am also not convinced that he isn’t, as it would depend greatly on what other options exist when they are on the clock.

Here are some of his highlights from college:

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Here is an interesting topic for us during this Super Bowl Week that doesn’t involve Ray Lewis, murder, deer antler spray, brother-on-brother action, Joe Flacco’s political incorrectness, or a diva tight end’s complaints about how he is being used.

Instead, I want to know who you are cheering for in the upcoming contest and which former Vikings you would most like to see get a Super Bowl ring.

Randy Moss hasn’t exactly been a juggernaut reminiscent on the 1998 version of himself, but if you are like the then you still have a soft spot in your heart for the seldom used 49er receiver that once made Minnesota the most exciting football team to watch.

Playing for the Ravens, though, are two guys that were once considered to be mainstays along the offensive line in Minnesota.  Matt Birk and Bryant McKinnie are both playing for Baltimore on Sunday.  They left two very different legacies behind in Minnesota, and McKinnie may actually be cheered against by some Vikings fans, but it is hard to imagine a more deserving-of-a-ring player than Matt Birk.

So, what do you have to say?

I was wondering when the NFL media machine would kick out the first interesting, outside-the-box rumor about our beloved Vikings.

Apparently the answer was “today.”

According to reports originating from Fox 11 in Green Bay, the Vikings have interest in 38 year old wide receiver Donald Driver.  Driver has a professional relationship with Fox 11 which has led some to speculate that the station is simply doing him a solid by creating reports of interest.

That cynicism makes sense, because any real interest from the Vikings really doesn’t.

The Vikings have made no secret about their desire to become a roster full of young talent and Driver’s age is the first red flag, especially since Michael Jenkins appears to be on the chopping block in large part because he is 30 years old.

Also, Driver hasn’t exactly been lighting it up for Green Bay like he used to, despite the fact that their wide receiver depth was riddled with injury all season long.  He played in 13 games and caught only eight passes, the lowest total since his rookie season.

Those eight grabs went for 77 yards, which averages out to a career low average of 9.6 yards.  Two of them, however, were caught for touchdowns, so that is one bright spot in his 2012 stat line.

Driver has had a damn fine career as a Green Bay lifer, and even an avid Vikings fan has to admit he is a class act, but the truth is that he hasn’t had a 1,000 yard season since 2009 and it seems highly unlikely that his regression will be reversing anytime soon.

Heck, I’m not even convinced that the 29 year old Greg Jennings would be the smartest use of resources for the Vikings, but it would certainly make more sense to me than a run at Driver.

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It wasn’t Adrian Peterson that dazzled a Pro Bowl crowd last night.  Instead, it was tight end Kyle Rudolph who was only there as an alternate selection.

Rudolph took home the Pro Bowl MVP award after catching five passes for 122 yards and a touchdown.

There is no denying that, despite the league’s best players being present for the contest, the level of competition at the Pro Bowl is never quite the same as in a meaningful NFL game.  Still, I couldn’t help watching Rudolph create mismatches by running seam routes and wonder why he isn’t used in that capacity more often within Bill Musgrave’s offense.  I know I beat that dead horse multiple times during the 2012 season, but I just couldn’t help but feel reminded one final time by Rudolph’s dominant performance on Sunday.

Rudolph wasn’t the only Vikings to see action in the exhibition game.  Adrian Peterson carried the ball five times for only 13 yards, but most notably botched an exchange with Drew Brees on the first play of the game, which was recovered by the AFC.

Peterson’s lead blocker Jerome Felton somehow managed to have a better game than Peterson which, of course, could really only happen in Hawaii.  Felton carried the ball four times for 18 yards, including a three yard touchdown.

Alternate Matt Kalil saw time at both right and left tackle, giving up a sack to Cameron Wake at one point, but otherwise playing a solid game.

Blair Walsh continued to show his ability to put points on the scoreboard with eight extra points made and by hitting field goals from 26 and 48 yards out.

On defense, Jared Allen managed one tackle and Chad Greenway had two.  Greenway also recovered a fumble.

Most importantly, the Vikings escaped the faux football game without any injuries which is an even bigger victory than the 62-35 whooping that the NFC put on the AFC.

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