Tuesday, August 4, 2015

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Last year, the Vikings mourned their lost season during the closing weeks by pillaging the practice squads of other teams and adding players to their roster.

This year the end came even sooner and the funeral procession again is marked by a flurry of low level roster moves.

On Tuesday, the Vikings added safety Jarrad Page, safety Andrew Sendejo, wide receiver Stephen Burton, and long snapper Matt Katula to their 53 man roster.  Room was created on the roster by placing receiver Michael Jenkins, safety Tyrell Johnson, safety Husain Abdullah, and long snapper Cullen Loeffler on the injured reserve.

Katula’s signing, barring another injury, should ensure that Jared Allen is not again called upon to pull double duty as a long snapper this season.  Burton was cut by the Vikings last week but is being brought back to his limited role in this Vikings offense.

Perhaps the most intriguing of these moves is the signing of Page.  He has been a solid contributor in the past for both the Chiefs and Patriots.  Last year, he missed six weeks with injury and hasn’t been the same sense as evidenced by the Eagles recently cutting him.

Page was curiously cut by the Eagles after he was named as one of many NFL players at a night club where a man was shot and killed.  To date, there is nothing to suggest Page was in any way involved in the incident.

With the Vikings desperately needing some help in their secondary, both in the short and long term, it probably isn’t a bad idea to bring this guy in and see how he fits.

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It’s pretty difficult to stay positive when your team is 2-8. You become a pessimist about everything: every decision the Vikings make is the wrong one, the team won’t be a competitor again in the championship race for years, management needs to be wiped out and rebuilt from the ground up, the team will never get a stadium built in Minnesota, and so on… Let’s be honest, lately, any news involving our beloved Minnesota Vikings has been bleak – at best.

Well, tomorrow is Thanksgiving. And Thanksgiving is a holiday where we pause from the hectic in-and-out of daily life (or in this case the ‘doom-and-gloom’ of being a Vikings fan) and take a moment to be thankful for everything we have. That is why I propose for one day, one day, we stop and acknowledge the good in this team and try to bring a little happiness back into our dark, cynical Vikings existence.

1. The Best Running Back In The NFL

Alright, let’s get the obvious out of the way. The Minnesota Vikings have the best running back in the NFL in Adrian Peterson. There really is no debate about it. I could pull out stats, facts, etc… to further solidify this claim but, let’s be honest, there really isn’t a whole lot of contention over it. There used to be the whole AP vs. Chris Johnson thing, but considering CJ0K’s incredibly lackluster season this year, who else is there? It is a great feeling knowing that we have a guaranteed ground threat with Peterson in the backfield – regardless of how many people our opponent stacks in the box. Even this year, behind arguably one of the worst offensive lines in the league, he has held the spot for most rushing yards for multiple weeks. (Just imagine if #28 was lined up behind a great offensive line!) Peterson is a hard-working, team player who consistently leaves jaws dropped with his powerful, hard-nosed running style and I, for one, am thankful to have him be a member of our team.

2. A High Draft Pick

One of the great things that comes with having such a horrible season is the prospect of having an offseason in which great improvements to the team are made. And one of the primary ways these enhancements generally happen is through the draft. With a 2-8 record, the Vikings are almost a lock for a top 5 position in the 2012 NFL draft. I don’t know about all of you, but I’ve already made it a habit of reading about one mock draft a day. I am thankful that, this offseason, there will be ample opportunity for significant improvements to be made to our team.

3. Young Talent

Sure, our young, rookie quarterback, Christian Ponder has had a rough past two games. And, yeah, he’s made some questionable decisions to force the ball into spots that resulted in interceptions. He’s also been behind an offensive line though that literally gives him less than a second to make said decisions. I personally believe that Ponder is the Vikings’ quarterback of the future. He has shown glimpses of being great, is an exceptional (on and off-the-field) leader and an intelligent young man who seems to have his head on straight. The Vikings also have promising young talent in their rookie tight end, Kyle Rudolph. Rudolph has all of the physical traits of being a great tight end and has made some wonderful catches this season. The prospect of hearing “Ponder to Rudolph for a touchdown” for years to come is something I am thankful for.
4. The Vikings’ Secondary

The Vikings’ secondary has been one of the few highlights… Yeah…


4. Jared Allen

This year, Jared Allen has reemerged as one of the best (if not the best) defensive ends in football. He currently has 13.5 sacks this season and is only half a sack behind Demarcus Ware from leading the NFL. (Note: Allen has been leading the NFL in sacks most of the season up until this last week.) Simply stated, Allen is a beast. We all thought he lost his mojo last season as a result of losing his trademark mullet. As it turns out though, Allen is very much alive and I am very thankful he is on our team and in the nightmares of NFL quarterbacks.

See everyone!? Things aren’t as bad as they seem. Nevermind the fact that I had to brainstorm for ten minutes and only came away with four things to be thankful for!

All jokes aside, though – have a great Thanksgiving and try to enjoy the game this weekend. (The season is almost over for us.)

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In the backwards race to obtain the top pick of the 2012 NFL Draft, the Vikings could have made some headway with a loss provided that the St. Louis Rams shocked the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

Instead, they beat the Carolina Panthers after enough things happened to go their way, some of which they deserve credit for and some of which they don’t.  A missed field goal by Olindo Mare at the end of regulation ensured the Vikings’ victory.

The game started out with Marcus Sherels showing some skills with a 78 yards kick return.  A three and out, combined with a missed Ryan Longwell field goal, meant the Vikings were unable to capitalize on a great situation.

Once The Panthers had the ball, however, E.J. Henderson was able to blitz rookie sensation Cam Newton and knock the ball from his hands.  The fumble was recovered by Jared Allen and Bill Musgrave opened up the “Percy” chapter in his playbook, which resulted in a 10 yard touchdown run by Harvin.

In the second quarter the Panthers, like so many of the Vikings opponents, took advantage of the defense’s inability to cover tight ends.  Newton threw a one yard touchdown to Jeremy Shockey and a 39 yard touchdown to Greg Olsen.

After Percy Harvin caught a third down pass inside the Panthers’ five yard line he had the ball stripped from his hands and the Panthers started driving, threatening to go up by two scores before halftime.  That is when the league’s most dominant defensive player thus far, Jared Allen, went to work.  Jared Allen beat pro bowl caliber left tackle Jordan Gross and was able to knock the ball out of Newton’s hand which was recovered by Chad Greenway.

Just before the half, Christian Ponder tossed a 19 yard screen to Adrian Peterson for the game tying touchdown.

In the third quarter each team managed a touchdown.  Steve Smith, who abused Asher Allen all day long, nabbed a 22 yard touchdown.  Adrian Peterson responded with a nine yard power run that will instantly become a mainstay in his highlight reel.  Ryan Longwell’s fourth quarter field goal was the final score of the game and the Vikings were able to get the first win ever in Carolina.

There was plenty of disgusting football for fans of both teams to digest on Sunday, and the Vikings clearly need help in the secondary and along the offensive line, but it is hard not to come away from this one talking about some positives.

Christian Ponder made no big mistakes.  He was 18 of 28 for 236 yards and a touchdown, and absolutely incredible on third downs.  Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin continued to be contributors, while new additions like Kyle Rudolph and Michael Jenkins keep showing up at key times. 

On defense, Jared Allen has been a beast which continued on Sunday.  Erin Henderson was another defender that stood out.  They lacked consistency as a whole unit, particularly when the offense gave them short breaks, but came up big at key moments on a number of occasions.

Leslie Frazier did not have his best performance of the season, but some great performances combined with a little luck, means Frazier should get to go into the bye week focused on how to beat Green Bay instead of answering questions about his questionable management of the challenge flag.

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Okay, the thing I like least about blogging is this whole playing “catch up” after an extended absence.  Nevertheless, if I don’t do it now, then I’ll feel weird about just jumping in with current news out of the blue.

So, I’d like to address some of the hot button issues that I missed while I was gone.  Here goes.

Donovan McNabb

I don’t think we ever had much doubt that McNabb was a one-and-done stopgap.  The lockout situation pressured the Vikings into believing they needed an experienced veteran throwing passes if they wanted to win in 2011.  As it turns out, they were destined to lose games either way.  Tossing aside the laziness rumors, just like Leslie Frazier tossed them aside, it was clear that it was time to let McNabb’s tenure as a Vikings starter end a little earlier than planned.  At this point, wins and losses are relatively inconsequential (other than draft order), so it makes sense to start evaluating talent that could be on the roster moving forward.

Christian Ponder

Everybody, I have to be honest, we need to temper our expectations a bit.  Ponder got his first start against the Packers and commanded an offense that was able to put up 27 points… a rarity for this year’s Vikings.  It was good to see some young blood slinging passes down the field, spreading the ball around, and occasionally producing the big play.  Still, he was only able to complete 40% of his passes and threw two crucial picks.  The kid will have ups and downs, and just as it is important that we don’t crucify him after a down week, we need to be careful not to crown him after a good one.  The Vikings quarterback situation is far from solid at this point.  Whether it is developing Ponder, searching in free agency, or looking towards the 2012 Draft (or all of the above) the quarterback position still needs work.

Chris Cook

There is draft strategy that basically says “a guy that fails off the field, is unlikely to succeed on it.”  Like any draft strategy, there are exceptions, but the Vikings have ignored that idea in recent years and it has done more damage than good.  Cook was looking like a decent starting cornerback this year, after an injury plagued rookie campaign, but allegations that he bloodied his girlfriend during a jealous rampage are indeed very serious.  He not only hurt is team by not being available on Sunday to cover Greg Jennings, he is obviously a young man that needs to get his act together off the field before he can succeed on it.  The decision to suspend Cook was a no-brainer for the Vikings, but the suspension is temporary, and the team now needs to decide if Cook is damaged beyond repair or if he is a young man that they can help become a better human and get a quality football player in return.  No matter how they handle this situation there will be criticisms following shortly behind.

Brian Robison

Was he drunk!?!  C’mon man, that’s despicable.  What can you say about this other than that it was poor sportsmanship, he deserved every penny of his $20,000 fine, and I was glad to see he was able to smooth things over with T.J. Lang.  Robison, who has been one of my favorite players this year, gave Vikings fans no room to trash talk with a Packers fan this year with one kick to no-fly zone.  Hopefully Robison puts that schoolyard B.S. behind him and we never see anything like that again on an NFL field.

Berrian Being Cut

Just like with McNabb being benched, it was time to put the underachieving stopgaps to the side and see how some of these youngsters can handle themselves in the NFL.  I am curious to see if Stephen Burton sees any playing time and how he does.  Michael Jenkins seems like a solid #2 receiver and Harvin is built for the slot, so it is clear that finding a true #1 receiver must be an offseason priority.  At this point, Berrian’s absence will be hardly noticeable as he’s been invisible for over two years.

Some Positive Stuff

Before the season started, if I had told you that Jared Allen would lead the NFL after seven games with 11.5 sacks, and Adrian Peterson would lead the league in rushing with 712 rushing yards, would you have guessed that they would have the second worst record in the NFC?  Me neither.  Still, that’s where they are.  However, there are still elite talents on this team (Allen and Peterson are not the only ones) and they are both going to be here for years to come.  There is no doubt that these are guys to rebuild a team around and should give everyone hope for the future.

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