Saturday, February 13, 2016

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Well, we haven’t seen all 16 games of the 2014 regular season and the Vikings still have 120 minutes of football to play, but I think we have seen enough to start up the old Irresponsible Speculation Machine (I.S.M – trademarked!) and look towards the 2015 offseason and what we might expect.

I’ve already compiled an early list of the Vikings free agents potentially headed for the open market, while Arif attempted to project Minnesota’s cap situation, so now we get down to the task of identifying the top needs across the roster moving forward.  Obviously a team that has only won six of their first 14 games, none of which have come against teams with winning records, has plenty of room for improvement across the board.

Still, I’m going to attempt the dangerous task of narrowing it down to five, and in my most daring and harrowing feat to-date I will put them in order.  See you in the comments section, Vikings junkies!

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If you happen to be a professional-caliber offensive tackle, the Minnesota Vikings are currently hiring.

The team waived tackle J’Marcus Webb on Tuesday, presumably due to the role he played in Sunday’s blocked field goal from 26 yards out.  Webb was beaten badly by Detroit’s Jason Jones in the first quarter which contributed to a dreadful day from that particular special teams unit.

Webb was signed after the Vikings placed Phil Loadholt on injured reserve earlier this season.  He previously played in eight games for the Vikings, starting one, during the 2013 season.

For those worried about Blair Walsh after the three missed field goals on Sunday, don’t forget to look at the big picture.  Webb’s miscue resulted in a block, a Jeff Locke hold was identified as the issue on another miss by the broadcast crew, and the other miss was from 109 yards out (or something like that).  It is natural to be worried, but it is also premature to think Blair Walsh can’t return to his rookie year in terms of production and dependability.

The Vikings have not yet filled Webb’s spot on the roster.

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The Vikings jumped out to an early 14-0 lead and looked like they were well on their way to a promising upset win on the road.  Instead, the entire team seemed to stall out all at once, and the final three quarters allowed for 16 unanswered points from the Lions and few individual performances to hang our hat on.

The Lions overwhelmed a makeshift offensive line and rookie quarterback by mixing up the blitz packages.  Field goal misses ended three drives.  The defense couldn’t get a pass rush going.  And even the clock management was highly suspect.

Past Winners of this award:

WEEK ONE:  Cordarrelle Patterson

WEEK TWO: Harrison Smith

WEEK THREE:  Harrison Smith

WEEK FOUR: Teddy Bridgewater

WEEK FIVE:  Harrison Smith

WEEK SIX:  Linval Joseph

WEEK SEVEN: Everson Griffen

WEEK EIGHT:  Anthony Barr

WEEK NINE:  Everson Griffen

WEEK ELEVEN: Charles Johnson

WEEK TWELVE:  Xavier Rhodes

WEEK THIRTEEN:  Everson Griffen

WEEK FOURTEEN:  Teddy Bridgewater

I find it really difficult to nominate anyone for this award this week, so if you feel like I’ve overlooked someone, then by all means hit the “OTHER” button on the poll and write in your vote via the comments section.

MATT ASIATA:  Clearly not a game changing playmaker, the persistent use of Asiata can be quite frustrating, but he did his job fairly well throughout Sunday afternoon.  He rushed 11 times for a team leading 36 yards (3.3 yard average) and scored the first touchdown of the game.  More impressively, he hauled in all seven of his targeted passes and put up an extra 50 receiving yards (7.1 yard average).

CHARLES JOHNSON:  I’m starting to actually buy into the idea that this guy, especially with some offseason hands work, could be the real deal.  Johnson was once again the go-to guy for Bridgewater and caught five passes for 72 yards (team lead).

GREG JENNINGS:  Greg Jennings only caught three passes on Sunday, and only ended up with 43 yards, but one of those catches was a graceful touchdown and the other was a brilliant sideline performance that had to be reviewed in order for everyone involved to believe it actually happened.

GERALD HODGES:  Still playing in relief of Anthony Barr, Hodges is continuing his strong late-season showing.  HE led the Vikings in tackles on Sunday with nine and also led the team in defended passes with two.  He was caught out of position on a couple of occasions, but one could argue he was the most consistent defender this team had in Detroit.

XAVIER RHODES:  A guy like Calvin Johnson is eventually going to make plays, he just is.  Rhodes and the Vikings holding him to only four catches and 53 yards, however, could certainly constitute a moral victory of sorts.  In addition to keeping Johnson contained, Rhodes had three tackles, including a beautifully violent tackle for a loss.

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The inactives lists are out for both teams

Blanton, Robert S Ankle/Knee DNP DNP DNP Out Inactive
Johnson, Charlie G Ankle DNP DNP DNP Out Inactive
Floyd, Sharrif DT Knee DNP DNP DNP Out Inactive
Barr, Anthony LB Knee DNP DNP DNP Out Inactive
Line, Zach FB None N/A Inactive
Bykowski, Carter T None N/A Inactive
Yankey, David G None N/A Inactive
Felton, Jerome FB Neck DNP LP FP Probable Active
Smith, Harrison S Shoulder LP FP FP Probable Active
Griffen, Everson DE Low Back LP LP FP Probable Active
Price, Jabari CB Hamstring FP FP FP Probable Active
Patterson, Cordarrelle WR Hamstring LP Questionable Active

There are no big surprises here, but it should be mentioned once more that the Vikings are suffering injuries for a number of their starting players, with guard Charlie Johnson missing in a game he would be lined up against Ndamukong Suh, while on the defensive side of the ball, the Vikings are missing three starters in Robert Blanton, Anthony Barr and Sharrif Floyd. Floyd’s absence will be a worry against the Lions’ running game, but it might be the passing game that could cause more problems.

With the Vikings reportedly leaning on a right/left designation for their safeties, they won’t be able to rely on Xavier Rhodes to follow Calvin Johnson all game, instead getting two potential mismatches with Rhodes on Golden Tate and Josh Robinson on Calvin Johnson, if that’s how the Lions offense wants to dictate the game. The safeties will be particularly important given the fact that the primary issue in the last height/weight mismatch for Josh Robinson wasn’t just Robinson’s limitations but a lack of a good safety rolling over on top of Marshall or Jeffrey in order to provide insurance for Robinson.

Gerald Hodges performed well last week in Barr’s place, and the Vikings are looking forward to more of that. If Hodges can continue to fill in at a high level, the Vikings may have an internal solution to their linebacker problems in the next offseason.

Fairley, Nick DT Knee DNP DNP DNP Out Inactive
Moore, Kellen QB None N/A Inactive
Reynolds, Garret T None N/A Inactive
Austin, Rodney G None N/A Inactive
Webster, Larry DE None N/A Inactive
Broyles, Ryan WR None N/A Inactive
Reid, Caraun DT None N/A Inactive
Bush, Reggie RB Ankle DNP LP LP Questionable Active
Bynes, Josh LB Illness DNP DNP LP Probable Active
Johnson, Calvin WR Ankle LP FP FP Probable Active
Waddle, LaAdrian T Head LP LP FP Probable Active
Suh, Ndamukong DT Illin DNP LP Probable Active
Slay, Darius CB Shoulder LP FP Probable Active
Whitehead, Tahir LB Shoulder LP LP Questionable Active
Ihedigbo, James S Illness DNP Probable Active

There’s no surprise that Nick Fairley is out (he was declared out earlier this week), but it’s still a relief given the current state of the offensive line. Other than that, the Lions are running at near full health despite the extensive injury report, with Reggie Bush having been made active for the Lions. This year, the story has been the Detroit defense and so far there’s no reason to think they’ve slowed down.

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