Thursday, June 30, 2016

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Go back and watch any Vikings game from 2014. What did you see? A promising rookie quarterback who struggled early and blossomed late in the year? A defensive end who thrived as a pass rusher and run stopper? A safety who asserted himself as one of the league’s best?

You probably saw all three, but nothing was more apparent than the struggles of the offensive line. Right tackle Phil Loadholt tore his pectoral muscle early in the year, landing on Injured Reserve and missing almost the entire season. Left guard Charlie Johnson, who was released this offseason, struggled in both the run game and in pass protection. However, success is almost impossible when lined up next to a player like 2014 Matt Kalil:

Hopefully, Vikings fans won’t have to watch more of this in the coming season. In a recent interview with the Star Tribune’s Sid Hartman, Mike Zimmer explored the idea of shifting the team’s offensive line in 2015 and replacing Johnson with one of three in-house options:

“We are looking at a few guys right now,” he said. “Obviously [veteran] Joe Berger has a chance to fit in with the mix. We have actually been looking at Brandon Fusco moving over to left guard and T.J. Clemmings playing right guard. Also the kid [tackle] Carter Bykowski] that we took off of San Francisco’s practice squad has looked good as well.”

In the same interview, Zimmer shared that Matt Kalil “feels great” and will play with “a chip on his shoulder” in 2015. After the team picked up his fifth-year option, Kalil will need to bounce back from a horrendous 2014 campaign. With two healthy knees, he may have a chance to do just that. On the other side of the line, fourth-round pick Clemmings may see time at right guard; he practiced primarily on the right side, at both guard and tackle, during rookie minicamp.

After the jump, a look at the latest developments around the NFC North:

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

The 2015 NFL Draft is over. The Vikings’ first rookie minicamp, which took place last weekend, is over. Up next — training camp at the end of July. Rookies took the field earlier this month to prove themselves in front of Mike Zimmer and his coaching staff, but that was just a tease. The real test, the real development, is just beginning.

One player, seventh-round pick Edmond Robinson, stands to gain the most this offseason. I highlighted him as a potential sleeper prospect in March, but Robinson has a chance to be more than just a practice squad player; if he can take advantage of his physical gifts and the excellent coaching in Minnesota, Robinson can become a contributor on special teams and beyond.

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In the theme of Mad Men, Sam Ekstrom (@SamEkstrom) of 105 The Ticket and Cold Omaha joined the show to make it two dark, handsome, mysterious, and creative dudes talking about Minnesota Fightin’ Vikings football. No smoking though because: 2015. And no drinking brown liquor because: 9am on a Monday. (Okay maybe a little brown liquor)

Also in the theme of the final season of Mad Men, I broke up the chat into two parts. Please enjoy! Preferably while sipping an ice cold Coca-Cola.

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Hindsight is 20/20. That’s why we jumped in our DeLorean and went back to save the Vikings from themselves in 2011. There was a run on quarterbacks early in the first round and de facto GM Rick Spielman panicked and overdrafted Christian Ponder at #12. He did hit on Kyle Rudolph in the 2nd and Brandon Fusco in the 6th, but I think we can do a touch better with hindsight and our time machine.

Come along with Purple FTW! as we redo the Vikings 2011 Draft!

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Arif: 9-7
The Vikings were 7-9 last year, and I think they played like a 6-10 team—the bad luck happened about as often as the good luck. I think Teddy improves significantly, and it looks like Adrian Peterson is playing, so that should bring the offense up to at least league average even with the OL problems. On defense there are still a lot of moving parts, with a rookie corner, some questions at LB and safety and no clear answer at LDE. That said, it can be a top-10 defense even with those questions. Normally that would be a good case for 10-6, but I think that it is not only really difficult to improve a team more than three wins in a season but also that the Vikings have one of the most difficult schedules in the country.

Carl: 10-6
The Week One matchup against the 49ers on the road will be a huge tone setter for the Vikings. I think the 49ers are beatable, and the Vikings will also pick up a win in week two against the Lions. The Vikings have some tough games early, and the week three, four and six contests could very well dig the Vikings in a hole with games against the Chargers, at Broncos and Chiefs. The Vikings should win one of those three games. After weathering a 3-2 start, the Vikings will win the next four against at Lions, at Bears, Rams and at Raiders. The Vikings then start a three-game skid with the Packers, at Falcons, and Seahawks. The Vikings will be 7-5 heading into the final four games, winning three vs at Cardinals, Bears, Giants and finishing the season with a loss to the Packers.

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