Tuesday, March 31, 2015

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Long injury report (along with inactives list) for the Vikings.

Barr, Anthony LB Knee DNP DNP DNP Injured Reserve N/A
Watts, Brandon LB Hamstring DNP DNP DNP Out Inactive
Yankey, David G None - - - N/A Inactive
Dixon, Ahmad S None - - - N/A Inactive
Josey, Henry RB None - - - N/A Inactive
Prater, Shaun CB None - - - N/A Inactive
Bykowski, Carter T None - - - N/A Inactive
Greenway, Chad LB Knee DNP DNP DNP Questionable Inactive
Wright, Jarius WR Low Back DNP DNP LP Questionable Active
Rudolph, Kyle TE Ankle DNP DNP LP Questionable Active
Johnson, Charlie G Ankle LP LP FP Probable Active
Jennings, Greg WR Hamstring LP LP FP Probable Active
Exum, Antone S Knee LP LP FP Probable Active
Harris, Mike T Foot LP DNP LP Probable Active
Ford, Chase TE Foot LP LP FP Probable Active
Blanton, Robert S Ankle LP LP FP Probable Active
Sendejo, Andrew S T FP FP FP Probable Active
Floyd, Sharrif DT Knee FP FP FP Probable Active
Asiata, Matt RB Foot FP FP FP Probable Active

The Vikings are their starting linebacker corps and this will be quite the test against Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett, who have a combined 2629 yards and 12 touchdowns—over 30 percent of the combined touchdowns and 53 percent of the combined offensive yards the Bears have put together. The rest of the inactives are either marginal players (Shaun Prater), newly added (Carter Bykowski, Henry Josey, Ahmad Dixon) or David Yankey.

With a starting linebacker corps of Gerald Hodges, Audie Cole and Jasper Brinkley (perhaps) expect the Vikings to be in nickel as often as make sense. Also, don’t be surprised if the Bears attempt to roll with two or one receiver on the field for as often as they can in order to force the Vikings to play all their linebackers instead of bringing Josh Robinson on and a linebacker off. Also notable, new promotion Josh Kaddu is active.

The linebacker problem is an enormous one, and if the Vikings lose, I wouldn’t be surprised if they swung the match in Chicago’s favor.

On the other hand, the Vikings seemingly do not have to rely on Vlad Ducasse with Charlie Johnson active and presumably starting.

Aside from that, we have Zach Line‘s first game as an active player, and a return of Yankey to the inactive list. Line will likely not see any snaps, and Yankey hasn’t done enough in workouts, evidently, to impress the Zimmer staff enough to see the field. It doesn’t help Yankey’s case that Charlie Johnson is active. Scott Crichton is active once more, but he doesn’t figure to see many snaps.

Expect Matt Asiata to carry the running game with occasional spells by Joe Banyard. Sharrif Floyd being active will help in a big way (and he was fully healthy this week) in the run game, but may not be enough to overcome the loss of linebackers.

The safeties will be Harrison Smith and Andrew Sendejo while the starting linebackers will be Gerald Hodges (SLB), Jasper Brinkley (MLB) and Audie Cole (WLB). Hodges will keep his spot replacing Anthony Barr while Cole is replacing Greenway.

Clausen, Jimmy QB Concussion Out Out Out Out Inactive
Conte, Chris S Back DNP DNP DNP Out Inactive
Gould, Robbie K Right Quadricep DNP DNP DNP Out Inactive
Louis-Jean, Al CB Hamstring - - DNP Questionable Inactive
Lane, Austen DE None - - - N/A Inactive
Leno, Charles T None - - - N/A Inactive
Dunn. Brandon DT None - - - N/A Inactive
Allen, Jared DE Ribs DNP DNP LP Questionable Active
Ratliff, Jeremiah DT Knee DNP DNP DNP Questionable Active
Bass, David DE Knee LP LP FP Probable Active
Long, Kyle G Hip LP LP FP Probable Active
Wilson, Marquess WR Knee LP LP FP Probable Active
Ferguson, Ego DT Ankle FP FP FP Probable Active

With Brandon Marshall on injured reserve, expect to see more runs, even with Marquess Wilson on the field (as detailed above). Checkdowns and routes designed for interior players (slot receivers, tight ends and running backs) will be a priority, with Chicago working to take advantage of the linebacker problems.

It will be a tougher game than it initially looked. It may finally be up to the offense, not the defense, to deliver.

Chris Tomasson, reporter for the Pioneer Press, loves to bring up Pro Football Focus grades for better or worse when talking to and about players and he did so once again when talking to struggling Vikings offensive tackle Matt Kalil (ranked as their third-worst offensive tackle). Kalil, like head coach Mike Zimmer had earlier in the season, didn’t take too kindly to Pro Football Focus’ grades (or their use in reporting, blogging or generic fan impressions).

“You can’t listen to some people who don’t know what they’re talking about, who want to go on Pro Football Focus, the website who they hire random fans and give them a training camp on how to grade people,’’ Kalil said Thursday. “And people want to live on that site when it’s not really a credible site.

“I’m not going against them because they hammer me. But I mean, it’s not a credible site. … They don’t know the blocking schemes, they don’t know who’s fault (a bad play might be).’’

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Last season, Josh Robinson was called on to replace Vikings veteran Antoine Winfield in slot coverage—and the results were less than impressive. This year, however, the story could not be more different. With a new coaching system under Mike Zimmer and the addition of new defensive players to the roster, Robinson is able to play primarily outside and is really finding his groove.

Offseason transactions brought in Captain Munnerlyn to play the slot, and Robinson looks much more natural playing on the outside. Additionally, he fits better in Zimmer’s defensive scheme that utilizes more man coverage and boundary corners.

“I believe [Coach] Zimmer is doing a great job with a lot of things, which are all helping us become better players,” Robinson said. “Teaching players techniques that work and stressing the importance of accountability and consistency are the biggest contributors to our success.”

“Zimmer came to Minnesota with a reputation for being able to get the most out of defensive backs, and Robinson is probably the team’s most improved player,” said Star Tribune‘s Matt Vensel. “He is a young player with speed and cover skills, and his play this year is a reminder of the dangers of writing off a player after he struggles early in his career.”

Robinson’s 2014 numbers are certainly impressive. At the end of October, the CB was allowing one completion for every 12.4 coverage snaps, compared to 6.9 last season. Robinson also continues to demonstrate improved play-making skills, already notching seven pass breakups and two interceptions.

The more significant of the two picks—if it is fair to say that—occurred on Sept. 7 against the Rams. St. Louis set up at its 19-yard line with 1:13 remaining in the first half, and the play proved pivotal in the game. Robinson executed his coverage of Rams tight end Jared Cook, and the CB was able to intercept the pass and keep his feet in bounds on the way down. The Vikings capitalized on the turnover with a touchdown to go up 13-0 at the half, and they continued on to win the game. Robinson referred to Game 3 as the “most consistent and confidently” played contest of his career, and it’s clear these qualities were not a single-game fluke. The 23-year-old attributes several things to his sudden upswing in performance.

Being the NFL’s best running back does not place Adrian Peterson above the law. It certainly will not gain him any leniency when it comes to the investigative and disciplinarian arms of the NFL.  The court of public opinion won’t hesitate to hang him.  He is not immune to the scorn of his own family and his own children.

That last one, and arguably the most important one, are consequences that might not be fully realized until Peterson’s children are old enough to grasp the idea of forgiveness for themselves.

All the facts are not known. Peterson hasn’t even even addressed the issue, yet.  The legal process is only just beginning, as is the personal conduct review by the NFL and the Vikings.  Still, it seems evident that Adrian Peterson’s legacy has forever changed and irreversible damage has been done.

I’m plenty willing to admit a cultural difference exists between Texas (where Peterson grew up) and Minnesota (where I grew up), and that parenting is an unique challenge that doesn’t come with an instruction manual, but I don’t really care.  As a father of beautiful two and four year old children, you can bet your ass that there would be lawyers (and, perhaps, other things) if anyone ever returned my children to me in the condition described in the police report from this case.

I think what he did was unequivocally wrong and that he has no good excuse for not knowing that, given the events that took place last year when another man beat another one of Peterson’s son to death, and the All Day Foundation’s commitment to Cornerstone and “Breaking the cycle of domestic violence.”

I have pondered in the past about Peterson’s attitude towards off-field trouble and been in favor of punishing him, via benchings and fines, if it meant preventing issues larger than speeding tickets and bar brawls from arising.  Obviously, the punishments that were doled out didn’t do the trick.  I’ve been harsh on him, and other prominent Vikings players, during past instances of off-field turmoil.

I say all of this because what I am about to write might be construed, in the minds of some, as me aligning myself with the crowd sympathetic to Peterson and abusers of children.

I assure you, that is not my intent.

I think the government, the NFL, the team, and the money-spending public should all fairly and justly punish Peterson.  I’m not going to pretend to know what exactly that punishment is, but I’m in favor of just about anything within reason.

However, there are going to be people in each of those groups, and within the Peterson family, that might be inclined to actually help Peterson become a better man and a better father.  If the outrage being expressed by the masses really boils down to the well-being of a young child, then the handling of the punishment and the distribution of support should carry the same priority.

I’m not saying that prison time, or an NFL suspension, or a release from the Vikings are not good options.  I’m saying I don’t know. Only people close to Peterson, those that know him well, can possibly have an idea of what it will take to improve Adrian Peterson as a person.

Many Vikings greats, like Cris Carter and Jared Allen, had to make major changes in their lives before they could be fully respected as football players.  Peterson was already fully respected as a football player, and has lost that respect by most accounts, and has a long ways to go before he earns it back.  It isn’t impossible, though, and for the sake of his children I hope he works his ass off to make it happen.

This stream of thoughts isn’t particularly insightful, and it certainly isn’t well organized, but I’m just as furious and disappointed and conflicted as the rest of you.  I don’t know if Peterson will ever play for the Vikings again, but I do hope that he is able to make peace within his family, even if the healing has to happen over years or decades.

In the end, this is a sad situation, and I really hope it has the best of all possible outcomes.

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The Minnesota Vikings arguably are facing their first “true” test of the season, what with the St. Louis Rams being discounted by national and local media alike (for national media, somewhat post-hoc) for fairly legitimate reasons.

But the New England Patriots aren’t just a different beast from a talent perspective, they’re entirely different category of schematic obstacle. Not for nothing, the Patriots are known as one of the most creative teams in the NFL on both sides of the ball. From pioneering hybrid fronts to bringing the H-back to the fore, there are significant influences the Patriots have leveraged to the rest of the league, and there are more to come.

Against the Miami Dolphins, the Patriots fell short, especially after an inefficient second half, where they scored zero points. Much has been made of the Patriots’ record after a loss (13-1, according to Zimmer in the last 14 losses and 32-4 since 2003 according to Brian Hall). I don’t think that’s particularly relevant. In that time frame, they’ve gone 138-38, or 78.4%. A 32-4 record is 88.9%, which is what you’d expect is similar to the record a team would have if you eliminated their 38 best opponents.

Instead, the New England Patriots are just very good and there’s not a lot of evidence that we should pay much more attention to the fact that they’ve done better off of losses. The converse of this, of course, is that the Patriots would be worse after a win (75.7%) which is difficult to conceive of as important.

Historically, Mike Zimmer and Norv Turner have done well against New England. Since 2001, Zimmer defenses have met New England offenses three times. In that time, they’ve allowed an average of 18.7 points and had a defensive DVOA of -24.0% (negative defensive DVOAs are good). That DVOA would be the second-best defense of 2013. Further, a recency-adjusted DVOA would be 39.2%, the best in the NFL and 15.8 points allowed. It’s not a large sample size, but it’s encouraging. Though the Mike Zimmer Bengals likely had more proven defensive talent, there’s reason for optimism.

Norv Turner has scored 20 points a game and a recency-adjusted points of 21.1 per game. The offensive DVOA is 3.0%, and recency-adjusted offensive DVOA is 6.5%. Because there are 11 data points, it is slightly more robust. Once outliers are eliminated, the points per game and DVOA rise to 21.9 and 10.8% respectively. Again, there are really not that many data points to draw a real conclusion, though many of Norv Turner’s teams were not as talented—his 2002-2003 Dolphins met the Patriots four times and had fewer weapons and likely a worse quarterback. His 2004-2005 Oakland Raiders were even worse. This may be balanced out by his 2007-2012 Chargers, but including his stints in San Francisco and Cleveland tilts his available talent against him.

Regardless, shallow historical analysis would imply that the Vikings are well equipped to coach against the Patriots, with a 1.3 to 6.9 point advantage in prior meetings. Still, the game isn’t won with history, it’s won with current matchups and coaching, and the Vikings are in a tough spot in that regard.


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