Monday, May 25, 2015
Blog Page 208

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Some hack bloggers (anybody know one?) thought it was highly likely the Vikings would target a middle linebacker early in the Draft.  Other media types, including one guy who should return a paycheck to his employer for this clunker, thought it was a “100% certainty” that the Vikings would draft Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o in the first round.

They didn’t target a middle linebacker early on.  They didn’t wind up with Te’o… or Alec Ogletree… or Arthur Brown… or Kevin Minter.

In fact, they didn’t draft one until the seventh round, when they selected Michael Mauti from Penn State.  Mauti has the talent to be selected much earlier, but an injury history that rivals that of Humpty Dumpty.

Rick Spielman may have, for the second year in a row, used a little misdirection to lead to all of that speculation about the position.  Instead, he may have been planning to use Erin Henderson at that spot all along, and the proof of this might be the fact that Henderson has already packed on an extra eight or nine pounds in preparation for his possible move to the inside.  Another bit of proof might be that the Vikings quickly signed him to a two year deal worth $4 million, which seemed a little out of place considering how long they let him dangle on the free agent market last offseason before signing him to a one year prove-it deal.

Now that players are starting to flood Winter Park to take part in the offseason programs, things are perhaps starting to come into focus a little more, and we do know that the Vikings are planning on having Henderson play in the middle as of now.  This, of course, is a very similar path that his brother E,J. took to becoming a very solid middle linebacker for the Vikings.

Henderson has struggled with pass coverage at times, but he is quite a bit more athletic than last year’s starter Jasper Brinkley was, and could cover more ground.  Then, if someone like rookie Gerald Hodges can step into the weakside spot, the Vikings may have themselves a much faster group of linebackers than what we saw in 2012.  Considering the amount of mobile quarterbacks on the schedule this coming season, that might just be a key to their potential success, and is certainly something interesting to follow at the very least.

The Vikings announced the signing of 16 free agents on Tuesday after days of trying to track down confirmed reports of who was in, who was not, and who might be getting a crack at the roster.  Here are your 16 guys with a brief note on each:

James Vandenberg, QB, Iowa:  Made a name for himself in 2011, as the best quarterback in the Big Ten, but a miserable season in 2012 killed his draft stock.  The big question is whether or not the struggles were his fault or a result of the talent around him.

Erik Highsmith, WR, North Carolina:  A tough and physical receiver, but struggled to get separation in college, and doesn’t have the athleticism to do it as a pro.  Across the middle, in the end zone, and on special teams is where he can make himself stand out.  Not a big play type of guy.

Nicholas Edwards, WR, Eastern Washington:  A big receiver that seemed to be on the rise prior to a knee injury that hampered his senior season.  Like Highsmith, he is more of a possession and end zone receiver, and won’t win a roster spot based off of explosive upside.

Brandan Bishop, S, N.C. State:  Limited athleticism here means a limited ceiling, but Bishop arguably displays more consistency in every facet of his game than Robert Blanton, who the Vikings drafted last year, did coming out of Notre Dame.  If you are looking for a guy with a real shot to stick, this might be him.

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The Minnesota Vikings released defensive back Nick Taylor on Tuesday, according to reports.

Taylor made headlines, and provided an opportunity for sophomoric headlines (look up), when the Vikings signed the Florida International point guard to play cornerback as an undrafted free agent.  Given the recent acquisitions of cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and Jacob Lacey it is not overly surprising that the Vikings wanted to part ways with their inexperienced long shot.

Taylor caught the front office’s eye when he ran sub-4.4 forty yard dashes at FIU’s pro day, and presumably made an impression on tape from his brief stint in arena football, but he never played a down for the Vikings.  He spent 2012 on injured reserve after suffering a shoulder injury.

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It is widely assumed, and for really good reason, that Vikings punter Chris Kluwe will be released following the fifth round investment the Vikings made in UCLA rookie punter Jeff Locke.

Kluwe was not the first punter shown the door, however, as it was T.J. Conley that was cut before ever even practicing once with the team.  Despite his very brief stay in Minnesota, Conley went out of his way to say some nice things on his way out.

The Vikings waited about eight days after drafting Blair Walsh last year before releasing veteran kicker Ryan Longwell. The move coincided with Walsh showing up to the rookie minicamp healthy, able, and willing.

Rookie minicamp begins at the end of this week and, at that point, the Kluwe watch will be in full force.

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We are still working our way through the newest crop of Vikings hopefuls that were drafted this weekend, taking an in-depth look at each, but this week Vikings.com offered an insiders view of the Vikings war room.

The video can be viewed by clicking here, which you should do.

The video starts of with the phone call to Xavier Rhodes, who the Vikings selected 25th overall on Thursday night, but gets even more fun when the cameras return to film to process that led up to the trade with New England for the 29th spot.  You can feel the excitement in the room, even from owners Zygi and Mark Wilf, and when the coaches take turns speaking with Cordarrelle Patterson you feel like they consider this Draft to be their first victory of 2013.

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