Friday, November 27, 2015

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With training camp well underway, the position battles are starting to heat up. The highly popular battles like linebacker and quarterback are getting a lot of attention and commentary; however, there are battles that could impact the 2014 team that might be seen as under the radar at the moment.

With tight end Chase Ford entering camp on crutches and the PUP list, the depth chart behind Kyle Rudolph and his new 5 year contact gets a little foggy. Versatile 3rd year man Rhett Ellison is a shoe in to make the team and be a strong contributor with his ability to play either tight end or full back.

The battle for the 3rd tight end spot is currently up for grabs. During my time in Mankato over the weekend, a player vying for that 3rd spot immediately jumped out to me.

Undrafted rookie AC Leonard from Tennessee State seems to be making the most of his opportunity to climb the depth chart while getting plenty of time with the 2nd team offense. Oddly enough, I did not see former undrafted addition Allen Reisner get many reps at all over the weekend. I found this curious if nothing else because of how highly the Vikings thought of Reisner after picking him up from the University of Iowa. Reisner received a lot of attention for ‘catching everything’ as a relatively unknown rookie and after spending time on the Vikings practice squad and with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Reisner was resigned by the Vikings. I think this says something about what Leonard has been able to do with the team in a very short time.

Leonard is an intriguing prospect for a variety of reasons, but he is clearly talented. After starting his college career at the University of Florida, Leonard was atop the Gators’ tight end depth chart that included current Washington tight end Jordan Reed.

Leonard’s time in Gainesville was short lived, however, and he left the program prior to the 2012 season. While at Tennessee State, Leonard displayed his athleticism and receiving ability while hauling in 85 receptions for 1,214 yards and 11 touchdowns over his two years with the Tigers.

There is no doubting Leonard’s receiving ability. Leonard has displayed a nice release off the line and seems to be fluid and athletic in route running. He also possesses the type of speed and acceleration needed to get behind a defense and stretch the field from the tight end position.

After yesterday’s practice, I asked Leonard what type of player he was and what he felt he brought to the Vikings.

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Welcome to Episode #2 of VT Talkers. Fantasy Football drafts are right around the corner for most of  us. (Some of you may have already had some early drafts.) So, I thought it would be great to get two guys in here who are absolute experts when it comes to Fantasy Football and pick their brains with both general fantasy questions and ones specifically pertaining to the Vikings.

Our first guest is Ryan Boser (@Ryan_Boser) who some of you may already know. I met Ryan when we participated in a Twitter Mock Draft together a couple of years back. Since then, Ryan and I have continued to talk and we actually play together in one league. Ryan is a huge Vikings fan and was a big Teddy Bridgewater supporter far before the Vikings drafted him. He is a writer for and an awesome graphic designer / branding expert.

Next we have Sigmund Bloom (@SigmundBloom). I was stoked when Sigmund agreed to participate in this as I am a big fan of the work he does over at If you think the fantasy coverage on sites like ESPN, NFL, CBS, etc. is good, you honestly have no idea. These guys talk about things those networks don’t even consider discussing. From general concepts all the way down to analysis of guys even your most learned fantasy football enthusiast have never heard of, they literally have it all. Sigmund also hosts his own podcast (as well as being on others) called “On The Couch,” which I very highly recommend.

Alright, let’s have a quick refresh on the rules and then jump right into it:

  1. Responses should be less than 140 words. If the responder goes slightly over this boundary, they aren’t disqualified or anything. This isn’t a contest. Really, the restriction is to simplify things a little big and get a straight-forward answer.
  2. There are “Unacceptable Answers.” I will decide what these are on a case-by-case basis. Typically, I will try and think of answers that I deem unworthy. (Primarily because they don’t really answer the question.)

Question #1 – I refuse to take _______

We all have players we would avoid at all costs. I’m not talking about guys that you typically don’t take because you think their ADP (Average Draft Position) is too high and don’t like the value. I’m talking about guys who you refuse to draft. Guys that will never, ever find themselves on your team. Provide a response for quarterback, running back and wide receiver.

Unacceptable Answers:
– “I’ll take anyone if the value is right.”
– “There is no one I despise that much.”

According to Jay Glazer, tight end Kyle Rudolph and the Minnesota Vikings have agreed to a 5-year extension.

Many expected the Vikings to extend Kyle Rudolph but questioned whether it would happen before the season or after. Once more details of the deal are available, we can analyze this move further. As of right now, it looks as though the Vikings have secured one of their best offensive playmakers for years to come. We will keep you updated with additional information as soon as we have it. Congratulations, Kyle!

Update: Well, that was quick. Jay Glazer is now reporting that the deal is 36.5 million / 5 years.

2nd Update: The Vikings have officially announced the contract extension of Kyle Rudolph. The deal is for 5 years and up to 40 million. The base salary is $37.46 million with $19.4 million guaranteed and a $6.5 million signing bonus.

Rudolph’s new deal puts him right with guys like Jason Witten, Vernon Davis and Antonio Gates financially. According to Ian Rapoport with the NFL Network, this makes Rudolph the 5th-highest paid tight end in the NFL.

“I’m extremely excited to get this extension completed and continue my career with the Minnesota Vikings,” said Rudolph. “I’ve said all along that I wanted to stay in Minnesota. I love the fans, the community and, most importantly, I’m excited about where this team is going. I’m looking forward to the 2014 season and helping this organization reach our ultimate goal.”

I returned to Mankato this morning for the team’s first practice in full pads. The intensity of the afternoon session was certinally taken up a notch and you can start to see some players starting to stand out.

I’ve summarized some of the major talking points that I think will continue to evolve through out camp.

Mike Zimmer Press Conference:

  • During the head coach Mike Zimmer’s press conference, he mentioned today’s afternoon practice would be telling and would be the start of another part of the progress in terms of building the 2014 team.
  • Zimmer went on to say he was excited to see the defensive backs in 1 on 1 drills where they would have to use press coverage against the wide receivers.  We saw this early in the practice with corner back Xavier Rhodes going up against wide receiver Greg Jennings. Rhodes maintained good coverage through the play, but lost his footing on the wet turf and Jennings came through with a reception on a hitch route.
  • Zimmer called offensive coordinator Norv Turner an innovative mind and smart play caller who is wise about when he takes his shot at big plays.
  • Zimmer was asked about rookie Scott Crichton and Zimmer commented that Crichton was a ‘try hard guy’ and today’s afternoon pratice would be telling about his readiness for the NFL. Later in the afternoon, I noted Crichton coming across the defensive line to blow up a running play. That has to help catch the coaches eye.
  • Zimmer said Tuesday would be the day he would sit down with his coaches and discuss who would start getting more reps than others. Zimmer added:

    These guys are competing against everyone in the league for a spot. We’re looking at the waiver wire.

  • Zimmer also discussed Robert Blanton, saying he likes how Blanton is able to close on the ball while in coverage, and was interested in seeing how Blanton can evolve in terms of run support.


Offensive notables:

  • Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson participated in the morning walk through, but did not suit up for the afternoon practice. I did see Patterson running routes with a trainer on the far field while the team was doing individual drills. Zimmer mentioned Patterson was a possibility for tomorrow evenings practice.
  • Wide receiver Adam Thielen received more praise from Zimmer during his press conference and continued to make plays while on the field. As I mentioned last night, the Vikings are giving Thielen an opportunity to prove himself, and Thielen continues to make the most of the opportunity.
  • Thielen spent more time with the 2nd team offense as did rookie tight end AC Leonard. If you follow me on twitter, you’ve probably noticed Leonard has caught my eye as someone with potential for making the final 53 man roster. I was able to speak with Leonard after practice and will elaborate on that story later.
  • Jarius Wright is getting a lot of looks, including in non passing plays. I wonder if this is because of Patterson being out, but Wright himself can be a versatile play maker in his 3rd year.
  • Rhett Ellison seems to get a lot of praise from coaches, including while on special teams. Ellison also spent time with the 1st team offense when in two tight end formations. You have to like his ability to play either tight end and full back and as someone who can motion around and help with blocking in either running or passing downs.
  • Teddy Bridgewater looked great at times, but still had a few rookie hiccups. That said, there always seems to be more good than bad. Bridgewater connected on nice passes to Thielen and rookie Kain Colter.
  • The offense ran a lot of screen plays to all 3 running backs, Adrian Peterson, Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon. It clear Turner is emphasizing getting these running backs used to catching from the backfield.


Defensive notables:

  • I saw more 3 safety sets with Harrison Smith, Robert Blanton and Mistral Raymond all in at the same time with the 1st team defense. Smith continues to spend a lot of time near the line of scrimmage.
  • Second year line backer Gerald Hodges spent time with the 1st team nickel package with Sean Prater serving as the nickel corner back while Captain Munnerlyn continues his time on the PUP list.
  • Brian Robison spoke with reporters and commented on how new nose tackle Linval Joseph reminds him of former Viking Pat Williams. Obviously high praise, but Robison noted that Joseph has the type of explosiveness that commands attention and double teams from an opposing offense. Robison mentioned this allows defensive ends to play under Joseph and get to the quarterback.
  • Josh Robinson made two very nice plays. Robinson picked off a pass early during 1 on 1s and knocked another loose on a nice back shoulder throw by Matt Cassel to Thielen. Defensive backs coach Jerry Gray has been coaching Robinson ‘not to see too much.’ I think he wants Robinson to focus on his responsibility and not worry about doing too much.
  • I saw defensive end Everson Griffen drop back and cover a shallow drag route by Greg Jennings. That is impressive athleticism and Zimmer loves that type of versatility.
  • Robison has been impressive during drills and got to Cassel during 11 on 11. Would have easily been a sack.
  • 9th overall pick Anthony Barr spent time with each defensive unit and even played some in nickle. I haven’t seen a lot of Barr just yet, but he’s made some flashes, but also gets lost at times.

All in all, I think today’s practice carried the type intensity Zimmer is looking to carry through out camp and I expect we’ll be hearing plenty after tomorrow’s practice. I will be heading back to Mankato next Saturday for the teams under the lights scrimmage and I’ll have plenty of talking points after.

So, this morning I was doing the dishes and listening to the Purple For The Win podcast (baller life, yo) and I was surprised to hear host Andy Carlson pretty much throw in the towel regarding tight end Chase Ford’s chances of making the final Vikings roster.

Carlson has been championing Ford all offseason long, but he sounds like he’s pretty much conceded that Ford is a goner, and neither of his guests Ted Glover and Di Murphy seemed to disagree.  Ford has a broken foot that will cause him to lose out on time to prove himself to the new coaching staff, and it was also noted by Mike Zimmer that Ford’s tweet about his injury was not something that would be tolerated.

Last season, injuries forced Chase Ford into action as an unheralded rookie, but he made an impression with some notable performances.  That included a five catch performance against Detroit in the season finale.  He ended the season with 11 catches for 133 yards and seven first downs.

So, back to Ford’s current situation: Is he really someone we should dismiss so easily?

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