Wednesday, February 10, 2016

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After watching the Vikings offense struggle against a poor Chicago Bears defense, there was the obvious frustration with the consistent check down passes thrown by rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

There could be several causes for this stale offense; is the offense losing at the line of scrimmage? Do the receivers struggle to gain separation in the secondary? Do defenses not respect the Viking’s ability to run the football, essentially selling out to stopping the pass?

Although all of these issues likely contribute to a quarterback struggling at times, I wanted to see if Bridgewater was leaving plays on the field. I went back and took a look at 10 plays from last week’s game in Chicago in hopes of diagnosing the lack of offensive production.

Well, the Packers are coming to town and it is hard to think of a time that they’ve ever been playing better football than they are right now.  The Vikings are getting some closure on the Adrian Peterson ordeal, but continue to find ways to struggle on the field.  The Vikings are not a pushover, however, and it is Packers week… so, get caught up on everything via the below links, get your game face on, and hope for the best on Sunday.


We knew that Adrian Peterson and the NFL Player’s Association were going to appeal commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision to suspend Adrian Peterson indefinitely, and that happened this morning. That’s usually not interesting enough to merit its own post, but ESPN obtained a fully copy of his letter to the NFL, reproduced below, along with my accompanying analysis (I am not a lawyer, but I’ve played one in… a play):

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With the addition of Ben Tate and the news that Adrian Peterson won’t play for the year, we might as well take a look at the player that has Vikings fans excited if a little anxious. The Vikings have added Ben Tate in part because of injuries to the current running back corps, but also may be evaluating him for a timeshare role with the Vikings in the near future. With that in in mind, is Jerick the kind of back that can thrive in a feature role, or is he more a running-back-by-committee type? If he’s more than a change of pace, then he can be a real asset.

Before the draft, Georgia Southern running back Jerick McKinnon wasn’t on a lot of people’s radar, with scant scouting reports available on what would amount to a position convert—a difficult report to write even in the most favorable of circumstances. Functionally, the bulk of what we were told amounted to “a physically talented but raw prospect at the running back position”—true but a little incomplete from necessity.

Here at Vikings Territory, we tried our best to get a good report on McKinnon, and Carl Knowles did a good job breaking him down in the immediate aftermath of the draft. After that, Darren Page did a hell of a job creating an effective scouting report on McKinnon. Matt Waldman wrote about McKinnon in his Rookie Scouting Portfolio with the following blurb (and then some):

McKinnon has more upside than his ranking suggests because he’s a fantastic athlete who has played multiple positions, including quarterback, defensive back, and running back. However, the limited tape of McKinnon as a runner—and non-existent game tape at Georgia Southern of him as an I-formation back clouds the decision-making process.

I see evidence that McKinnon can become a good NFL running back, but he’ll need to show that he can use his physical gifts with a deeper start from the line of scrimmage. It should give him an advantage, but it all depends on how he reads blocks.

Waldman followed up with a larger piece on McKinnon during the offseason, where he includes his full RSP assessment. All of those provide good context for who McKinnon was and they remain largely true, but we know more now and can really dig into him. As a warning, this will be heavy with GIFs and may load slowly on a lot of computers.

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Adrian Peterson’s suspension has yet to be appealed, but there is very little optimism that he’ll return to the Vikings this season, if ever.  Today, Jerick McKinnon (back) and Matt Asiata (concussion) were both unable to practice.

All of that combined apparently caused the Vikings to evaluate outside options, one of which was former Texans and Browns running back Ben Tate.  Tate was waived by the Browns yesterday after reports of his discontent with his role in Cleveland’s offense were widely distributed.

Tate was selected in the second round of the 2010 Draft by Houston with a pick the Vikings held (but traded away to move up and select Toby Gerhart).  There, injuries and the emergence of Arian Foster limited his production, but he always seemed like a plenty capable spot starter.  His first season in Cleveland obviously didn’t turn out as he had hoped, but at age 26 it seems there may be some value in this move.

He is currently playing under a two year deal worth a total of $6.2 million, but none of his 2015 salary is guaranteed and the Vikings could cut him with minimal (or no) impact to the salary cap depending on the timing.  Tate’s best rushing season came as a rookie when he gained 942 yards (5.4 average) and four touchdowns, but perhaps even more interesting is that last season he caught 34 passes with Houston.

We now have a new running back to consider when predicting the future direction of this Vikings roster, but the short-term possibility that he could be active on Sunday is perhaps even more intriguing.

The Vikings released tight end MarQueis Gray in a corresponding move.

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