Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Blog Page 201

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Hey Everyone!

So, I have noticed an increase in questions in the comments section and through all the business I fear I haven’t gotten to all of them.

I thought I’d create this post as a place for you all to feel free to drop questions into this weekend and I’ll take time this weekend to answer as many of them as possible.

Have at it!

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On Thursday, the Minnesota Vikings announced their preseason schedule, minus the exact dates and times.

In week one (August 8-10th) the Vikings will open the preseason by hosting the Houston Texans.

In week two (August 15-17) the Vikings will travel to Buffalo and then will travel all the way to the west coast to face the NFC Champion Forty-Niners on August 25th, which we do know will be broadcast nationally on NBC at 7:00 p.m. Central Time.  Normally a coast-to-coast trip like this would be viewed as a disservice from the schedule makers, but in this case it may serve as welcomed preparation for the regular season trip to London to face the Steelers.

The Vikings will then close out the preseason, getting one last look at their roster prior to final cuts, by hosting the Tennessee Titans.

Other than the travel, and perhaps an extended look at former Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson in Buffalo, there aren’t really any obvious storylines that jump out at you with this preseason schedule.

[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!]

If you haven’t guessed by this point in the offseason, yes, I have a sneaking suspicion that the Vikings might proactively look towards the NFL Draft to replace veteran Chris Kluwe before the final year of his contract is played out.  In my profile of Louisiana Tech punter Ryan Allen I talked about Kluwe’s high salary, special teams coordinator Mike Priefer’s comments about Kluwe’s exhaustive off field endeavours  and also just the possibility of finding an upgrade at the position.

Since writing that article I have become even more convinced (keep in mind now, this strictly irresponsible speculation Adam talking, not news reporting Adam) that Kluwe’s cap hit could be reason enough for his early exit.  The team currently has about $4.4 million in cap space, which is not likely to even be enough to sign their entire Draft class, let alone sign a guy like Antoine Winfield to a new contract on top of that.  That means something has to happen, and while Kevin Williams or Jared Allen could still be candidates to change their contract status, finding an upgrade to Kluwe in the Draft and exchanging his $1.4 million salary for a rookie deal might just make too much sense.

The key to all of this, however, is finding a rookie that can be a clear upgrade to Kluwe like the Vikings found at kicker last year with Blair Walsh.  I’ve already talked about how I think Ray Allen is that guy but may require a very high level of investment from a draft pick standpoint.  This is actually a fairly talented and fairly deep punter class, but outside of Allen only one other guy really stands out as an excellent prospect.

LSU’s Brad Wing (6′ 3″ and 184 pounds) is unlikely to relieve Priefer of all drama on his squad, as he comes with a bit of a history.  Wing is Australian born (do I even need to continue?) and, thus, has a brazen attitude and a tendency to find himself a “good time.”  Its okay, I can say stuff like that, my best friend is an Aussie.

He first became noticed on a national level when he… a punter, mind you… nullified his own 52 yard touchdown run on a fake due to taunting the opponents prior to crossing the goalline.  In his defense, as the video evidence shows, it was kind of a weak call.  His troubles didn’t stop there as he was suspended for the Chick-Fil-A Bowl due to breaking team rules, and at least one unconfirmed report said it was substance related, and there have been rumors of other off-field incidents plaguing the young talent.

Wing became the first punter to declare early for the NFL Draft, he was a redshirt sophomore in 2012, since Chris Gardocki did it way back in 1991 and he certainly has the leg to justify such a move.

Wing started 24 games at LSU after playing just one year of high school ball as an exchange student.  He was second in the SEC with a 2011 punt average of 44.4 yards and last ranked 12th in the nation with a 44.8 yard average.  He occasionally unleashes ridiculously powerful punts like his 73 yarder against Alabama in 2011, eight more career punts of 60 yards or greater.

Perhaps even more important, however, is the talent he displays for directional punting.  He has explained that his ability to do this with such proficiency comes from another game in another hemisphere:  Australian Rules Football.

“You can score from any angle and distance so there’s a lot of kicks I’ve gotten used to over the years where the American kickers they just kind of stand there and kick it as far and high as they can,” Wing said in 2011. “That’s not my mindset. I’m just trying to kick it away from the return man. Coming over to America, I didn’t really understand why punters kicked to the return man.”

As of that article, dated January 6th, 2011, Wing had amazingly punted the football 50 times and LSU had only allowed six (yes, six) punt return yards in total.  That is pretty amazing, really.

Now, maybe having Tyrann Mathieu on the coverage squad had a lot to do with that, because LSU’s overall punting game was quite as dominant in 2012, but Wing still was a cut above most punter prospects in most respects.

The question for NFL teams is whether or not they will be able to depend on Wing to stay out of trouble and be available on a weekly basis.  The last thing an NFL team wants to do is use two roster spots on punters because the first one couldn’t stay smart.  Without knowing how teams truly view Wing’s character it is impossible to predict where he will be selected.  He is talented enough to be a third round pick, but is troubled enough to go undrafted.

If he starts to fall on Draft weekend, and the Vikings are intrigued enough, then he might just be a solution to a problem that is only one year away from being a significant one.  For some NFL team’s fans, he will surely be one of the most intriguing players to watch in training camp.

 

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Adrian Peterson is used to making NFL defenders fall down on the football field, but his most recent stroll caused a TMZ reporter to take a stumble on a sidewalk.

Peterson was being his normal congenial self while on a stroll in Washington D.C. when a TMZ  paparazzi decided to ask Peterson a really, really stupid question.  After a very intuitive and safe answer came from Peterson the cameraman was the victim of a vicious orange sidewalk cone jumping out and tripping him.

“Down goes Frazier!” Peterson can be heard saying towards the end.  Enjoy!

[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 or without the possibility of resigning cornerback Antoine Winfield, the Vikings could use some more young, promising talent in their defensive backfield.  Both safety and cornerback are positions of need and the team will likely look to the Draft to add some help.

One of the most interesting prospects in this class is former LSU defensive back Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu, who was reportedly a part of the Vikings “Top 30″ event they host annually in an attempt to get to know certain prospects better.  His inclusion in the event makes a ton of sense considering he has about as many question marks as any prospect in this Draft class.

Mathieu’s college career went from a peak to a valley very quickly when he was booted from the LSU team in April of 2012 for violating team rules, and then was subsequently arrested along with former teammates for drug related activity.  Mathieu then decided to check himself into substance rehabilitation, but the prospect that was once viewed as a sure-fire first round prospect had already done too much damage to his reputation to fully recover his draft stock within only one year.

In 2011, Mathieu was widely considered the best defender in college football, and was a rare defensive back Heisman Trophy candidate.  He led his team with 76 tackles and tacked on 1.5 sacks, 7.5 tackles for a loss, six forced fumbles, nine defended passes, and two interceptions.  Despite being only 5′ 9″ and 186 pounds, Mathieu was certainly a defender with knack for the big play and someone to be feared.

Equally as impressive was his versatility, something which is as popular as ever in the NFL, as LSU moved him all around the secondary and he was a dangerous player on special teams.  He averaged 16 yards per punt return and scored twice in 2011, and was equally as effective in keeping opposing return men from scoring as a part of LSU’s coverage squad.

After not playing football in 2012, teams are trying to get a feel for Mathieu’s commitment to being a professional, and most of those questions are going to center around his off the field woes.  At the Scouting Combine, he was at least able to make it clear that he is still the same athlete that we saw on tape from his time at LSU.

Like his nickname would indicate, Mathieu plays football with a certain amount of tenaciousness and his presence on the field far exceeds his physical size.  He can play man or zone coverage, he can tackle very well, has incredible instincts, and seems to constantly make plays on the ball.

Mathieu is expected to start getting attention from the teams that haven’t taken him of their board in the second round, but concerns about his character and his size could keep him waiting even longer to hear his name called.  If the Vikings are the team to take that chance at some point on Draft Weekend, he could immediately compete to fill Antoine Winfield’s role as a nickel corner or the starting safety spot across from Harrison Smith.  He also would be a strong candidate to dethrone Marcus Sherels as the top punt returner on the roster.

Winfield’s absence, however, also means Mathieu would be joining a secondary with very little veteran oversight.  Both he and Chris Cook would feel like weekly liabilities in terms of being able to suit up every Sunday.

I can see the attraction here, and some analysts in Minnesota feel he is well worth the risk, but I also just can’t see the team spending anything more than a third round pick on someone so seemingly undependable.

I chose the following highlight video for two reasons.  First, most of the other options were filled with foul language in the music choices which didn’t seem appropriate for these pages.  Second, ont he plays were he ends up with the football I want to to watch his eye/helmet… notice how great he is at anticipating where the football is going to end up.  Footballs are fairly unpredictable by nature, but he just seems to know.

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