Thursday, November 26, 2015

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The Vikings have announced that Matt Cassel, who fractured several bones in his foot on Sunday, and Brandon Fusco, who suffered a pectoral injury, will be put on injured reserve. Neither of them have received the Designated to Return label.

In addition, Chase Ford and Austin Wentworth have been signed from the practice squad to the active roster.

To take their spots, quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson and tight end Ryan Otten have been signed to the practice squad.

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While not as difficult as last week, it still seems somewhat silly to try and select a highlight player from a game that featured so much bad.

Alas, we will try. For the second straight week, the Vikings suffered a difficult loss. Despite holding a Saints offense that is historically prolific at home to 20 points, the Vikings offense could not muster anything other than three field goals for 9 points. The biggest news from the game is that the Teddy Bridgewater era has officially begun. After Matt Cassel suffered multiple fractured bones in his foot during a scramble in the second quarter, Bridgewater was forced to take control of a struggling Vikings offense and attempt a comeback on the road in the Superdome. All things considered, he performed well and showed a lot of poise against a defense that smelled blood in the water and pressured the rookie hard in his first start.

I know who I’d pick for the Player of the Game, but we’ll leave the decision up to you. Vote below for who you feel deserves the “game ball.”

Harrison Smith: #22 showed once again that he is a special talent and could very well be the best player on the Vikings current starting roster. He had multiple pass break ups, some great tackles and generally just seemed to be all over the field. Unfortunately, there was one PBU that he most definitely should have taken the other way but couldn’t bring it in. Still, another great game from the Vikings young safety.

Teddy Bridgewater: The future is now. As far as I’m concerned the rest of this season is about watching one #5 take snaps under center. The situation was less than ideal, our offensive line looked like a sieve, our receivers couldn’t get any separation, our running game was atrocious, and yet, Bridgewater stood in the pocket (or ran from it) and looked like he belonged there. Not much more you could ask from a rookie QB in his first regular season action in the NFL. Teddy ended the game 12/20 for 150 yards, 0 touchdowns and 0 interceptions and ran for 27 yards on 6 attempts.

Anthony Barr: The rookie linebacker registered 2 tackles, 3 assists and 1 sack (his NFL career first) in this game. Not a stat line that’s going to knock anyone over but, in general, Anthony Barr looked good during today’s game. He’s been better than expected in his coverage and has shown flashes of greatness where his athleticism allows him to shine. Barr most definitely has some growing to do but has shown why he was worthy of a first round selection so far. (Of course, he could always pull a Kalil…)

Captain Munnerlyn: For sacking the quarterback of the cheatin’ Saints (even if it did result in a horrible call that very well could have cost the Vikings the game).

Cordarrelle Patterson: This is a reach. But, there’s still that feeling you get that he could go all the way anytime he touches the ball. So, Norv Turner, let Patterson touch the ball more! Patterson had 5 touches in this game: 4 receptions and 1 disastrous end around for a total of 54 yards. As far as I’m concerned, that’s about 10 touches too few. (Can we bring back the Randy Ratio? But, you know, for Patterson?)

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Per Adam Caplan at ESPN, the Vikings will sign former third-string quarterback McLeod John Baltazer Bethel-Thompson to the practice squad. The scouting report on him is well known—big arm, still raw.

Bethel-Thompson has quite a career in terms of where he’s gone and who he’s been with. After going undrafted at Sacramento State in 2011, he played in the Arena Football League for the San Jose SaberCats, then joined the San Francisco 49ers to be on their practice squad. Shortly after that, in the same year, he went on to play for the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the United Football League. He ended up starting the last two games for them, the only games they won (it was a five-game schedule). Interestingly, he was coached by Denny Green.

Later that year, he signed on to the Miami Dolphins practice squad.

He was on the Vikings’ roster from 2012 to 2013, beating out Sage Rosenfels for the job. He was cut midway through 2013 for Josh Freeman. After that, the San Francisco 49ers picked him up and kept him on for a month before waiving him to their practice squad. He last throughout the 2014 offseason before getting cut in the first round of cuts.

After that, the New England Patriots signed him to their practice squad for about ten days, where he was cut from it on September 9.

And now he joins the Vikings once more.

It’s unclear who will be cut to make room, though Matt Vensel speculates it means that Chase Ford could get promoted. The easiest situation is if a player goes on Injured Reserve-Designated to Return, so that no one will have to be truly “cut.” If it’s Kyle Rudolph, that would make a lot of sense—promote a tight end up, sign MBT to the practice squad as functional depth at quarterback while Cassel recovers and move on.

The Designated to Return designation means that a player can return to the team but not count against the roster while he’s on the reserve list. He will be out for six weeks, whereupon he can return to practice. After eight weeks, he can be cleared to play. The issue for players is that they remain on the reserve list with a smaller salary, so they’d rather be declared “out” for six games. It’s also less flexible in terms of their recovery time.

To me, what’s most likely is that it’s Brandon Fusco who is actually potentially subject to this designation, given the fact that he will be seeking a second opinion for his injury.

If no one is moved to a reserve list, then expect a player to be cut, either from the practice squad or the roster in order to make room for a promotion (again, likely Chase Ford). If it’s a practice squad player, Josh Kaddu makes sense as he was the most recent signing. If it’s the roster, I would not be surprised to see receiver Charles Johnson go. While the Vikings can cut Charles Johnson, per the 2011 CBA, as a member of another team’s practice squad, he is entitled to three weeks’ pay as if he was on an active roster and also counts against the 53-man roster whether he’s on it or not. So they can’t cut him to make room. Thanks to Twitter user @aggromagnet and Daniel House at Vikings Corner for pointing that out!

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After Kyle Rudolph’s in-game groin injury and Brandon Fusco’s pectoral injury, there were concerns inside and outside the organization that the Vikings would not be able to use them this season for some time. Albert Breer reports that Rudolph will undergo a sports hernia surgery that will take him out for six weeks, and Matt Vensel confirmed it.

Mike Zimmer’s presser didn’t get into much detail, but Brandon Fusco will get a second opinion about his pectoral injury—some of those can last for some time. Wanting a second opinion usually isn’t a good sign (i.e. the team’s prognosis is a longer recovery), but don’t read into it too much. Depending on the grade of the strain, Fusco could be out for anywhere between a couple of days (Grade 1) to a couple of months (Grade 3). Don’t be surprised if it’s a Grade 2 tear, because a Grade 3 would be detected in short order and a Grade 1 would likely not force a second opinion. Grade 2 tears take anywhere between 2-6 weeks to recover.

Matt Cassel will see a foot specialist. If it’s an acute metatarsal fracture, like most broken foot injuries to athletes, it would take six to eight weeks to really heal, and longer to get on a field.

Chad Greenway has a broken rib. Asked if he could play with that and a broken hand, Mike Zimmer said, “not the way he did yesterday.” Zimmer took responsibility for putting Greenway out there with little practice.

Jason Cole reports at the Bleacher Report that a source close to Adrian Peterson and a source within the team told him that “they believe he will return this season and that eventually he will get his legal woes fixed in the state of Texas and that he’ll be able to play again this year.”

Cole buffered that with a warning that some people, especially in the league office, who are wondering about whether he’s subject to the personal conduct policy and suspended for the rest of the season. Cole says if that happens, there’s a chance the Vikings will move on from Peterson altogether.

Naturally, this doesn’t square with earlier reports from Chris Mortenson that the Vikings have already planned for his long-term absence.

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Full game recap at Vikings Journal. Some snippets:

Blanton himself had a very poor day. Though logging ten tackles in the game book, he was exposed in coverage against Jimmy Graham, Josh Hill, Brandin Cooks and Benjamin Watson, and was somewhat culpable on other throws. More than that, his tackles were abysmal—better described as a passenger along a ride instead of a tackler. Dragged for additional yards by Pierre Thomas, Jimmy Graham and Robert Meachem (as well as others), Blanton couldn’t bring ballcarriers down.

The offensive line in particular needs a harsh look. There is no question that the worst-performing player on either team was Matt Kalil, who gave up sacks, hits and hurries at an alarming rate for both quarterbacks, and needed to be schemed help, help that sometimes meant sliding away from the blitz that was being shown and isolating Loadholt against two rushers.

Kalil ended up getting help from tight ends and running backs, and sometimes that wasn’t enough. He didn’t get much movement in the running game, either. He has an unfortunate inability to gain positioning on run blocks, and he often angled defenders into the lanes ballcarriers were assigned to go to. It’s negative blocking value.

Speaking of Harrison Smith, he was clearly the best player on the defense. Though he only logged four tackles (two combined), he had three pass deflections in the air and forced a three-and-out with his critical tackle on third down on the edge. He put pressure on the quarterback on one of his few blitzes. The biggest criticism of Smith comes on the Josh Hill touchdown, where he and Blanton needed to combine for coverage to prevent the play from happening, and neither were in place.


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