Tuesday, June 27, 2017

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The Vikings are expected to get their top cornerback, Antoine Winfield, back onto the field following the bye week after he has missed three games with a neck injury.  Winfield recently said he will “without a doubt” be ready to play the Packers after the bye.

Getting Winfield back will be a plus, but it is far from a true fix at the cornerback position.

The Vikings have put forth the draft picks and the money in recent history in an effort to solidify the position.  Winfield and Cedric Griffin were both awarded long term contract extensions, but both have been unable to avoid the injury bug for very long.

Draft picks have been spent on Asher Allen, Chris Cook, and Brandon Burton as well.

Cook has been a promising young cornerback that has enough respect within the organization to be tasked with single coverage against the likes of Calvin Johnson.  A recent firearm related allegation, combined with a more recent and extra troubling domestic abuse allegation, has left Cook’s status with the team as a big unknown.

“We’ve got a lot of things to talk about,” Leslie Frazier said recently when asked if Cook could be released during the bye week. 

That is not exactly a flowery outlook for Cook’s chances of remaining employed by the Vikings.  His next court appearance is scheduled November 22nd, and the Vikings can only suspend him without pay for three more weeks before they have to decide whether to activate him or send him packing.

The 24 year old cornerback was expected to make a $450,000 base salary in 2011, while also getting a $1 million roster bonus this year.

Griffin has not played the same after coming back from his second ACL injury in as many years.  Asher Allen, while he drew some praise from Frazier on Monday, has been the cause of many “cringe” moments for Vikings fans this season.  Brandon Burton and Marcus Sherels are relative unknowns in terms of how they could contribute on defense right now.

Fraizer recently stated that the coaching staff will take advantage of the bye week to “peel back the onion” and consider any possible lineup changes, including the possibility of rookie safety Mistral Raymond working his way into the rotation.

Frazier also didn’t completely reject the idea of replacing Cedric Griffin in the starting lineup with Asher Allen, which would be a surprising shakeup.

Through the first half of the season, the Vikings pass defense ranks 29th in the league, giving up an average of 273.6 yards per game.  Cedric Griffin leads the cornerbacks with 42 tackles, Marcus Sherels has the only sack of the group, Griffin and Antoine Winfield have each forced a fumble, and Winfield and Asher Allen are the only corners with an interception so far. 

It is tough to say if a shakeup is going to help the Vikings to win games, but with the season nearly 100% lost, it might be a good evaluation opportunity to put these young guys (i.e. Sherels, Allen, and Burton) on the field and challenge them to hold their own or be replaced next offseason while also sending a message to under-performing veterans that they are replaceable.

It is also possible that the team will look to the streets for help.  Veteran Leigh Bodden, who has had 12 interceptions over the last three seasons, was waived by the Patriots recently and is now a free agent.  He is a guy built for the cover-2 scheme and could at least help the Vikings in the short term, and could be a possible long term prospect as well.  The front office would be insane not to at least consider him, at least after getting the details on why the Patriots parted ways with him.

Unfortunately, the Vikings investments into the secondary over the last three years has only provided marginal improvements to the unit, and “peeling back the onion” is just another way of saying the Vikings might be “going back to the drawing board” to come up with a more consistent group of pass defenders.

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As I work on getting today’s Live Chat set up, I wanted you all to have something to chew on, and what better than today’s inanactives?

Cornerback Antoine Winfield, kick returner Lorenzo Booker, and guard Anthony Herrera will all be inactive for the Vikings due to their various injuries. The other inactives are linebacker Xavier Adibi, tackle DeMarcus Love, and defensive end D’Aundre Reed.

The Panthers inactives are quarterback Jimmy Clausen, safety Jordan Pugh, running back Mike Goodson, lineman Lee Ziemba, defensive tackle Frank Kearse, running back Richie Brockel, and cornerback Darius Butler.

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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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Last week’s loss to the rival Packers wasn’t a complete disappointment for fans of the Minnesota Vikings.  First round pick Christian Ponder got his first start, with Donovan McNabb placed squarely on the bench, and did enough to pique the interest of Vikings fans despite the lack of a victory.

The Vikings traded a late pick to the Washington Redskins for Donovan McNabb, who restructured his contract to a one year deal, in an attempt to place a veteran presence at the helm to minimize the impact of a new coaching staff and the lengthy lockout.

That plan didn’t work out and the Vikings season is a complete bust, which means the brass has decided to cast their gaze towards the future and evaluate the young talent on their team. 

McNabb, however, does not sound like he is happy with the decision.

On Sunday morning, Andrea Kramer’s recent interview with McNabb will air on NFL Network, but PFT has an interesting snippet for us to digest in the meantime.

Kramer asked McNabb if he should still be the starter in Minnesota.

“Absolutely,” McNabb says.  “Absolutely.”

McNabb goes on to make a statement that seems to suggest he thinks the blame should, at least partially, be placed elsewhere on the roster.

“Well, I mean, everyone focuses on my position,” McNabb told Kremer.  “We should be sitting here, I’ll be honest, at about what, 4-3, 5-2, or whatever?  We had games that we should have won, but we just didn’t. Now is it the quarterback position?”

Donovan, let me answer that question for you:  Yes.

Sure, there are other parts of the roster and coaching staff that deserve a portion of the blame, but there is no denying that McNabb has looked like a completely out of shape, slow, washed up quarterback most of the time in 2011.  The fact that he is denying his fair share of the responsibility for the poor season, combined with Ponder’s seemingly mature and steadied leadership style, is just further justification that he should be staying put as the number two quarterback on this roster for the remainder of this dreadful season.

The Vikings are giving Ponder a fair shake right now and the chance to control his own destiny.  His mission, which he has clearly accepted, is to win enough games as a rookie to ensure the Vikings are drafting late enough to not even have to consider drafting his replacement, Andrew Luck.

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