Friday, March 27, 2015

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[NOTE FROM ARIF: Chris Serri wants to post again, this time about how excited he is for organized team activities to get started. He’s posted twice before, once about Johnny Manziel and once about Jared Allen leaving for the Bears. If you have a guest post idea, please feel free to email me at arifmhasan (at) gmail DOT com]

By Chris Serri

Today marks the beginning of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) for the Mininesota Vikings. The beginning of OTAs marks another early step towards the start of the NFL season, following the rookie and voluntary minicamps. They are important for NFL coaches, especially so for rookie coach Mike Zimmer, with this being another early opportunity to get some work done with his players. OTAs aren’t particularly too exciting, however, this year’s will be slightly more entertaining, mainly due to the position battle at quarterback. It will also be interesting to see our team’s rookies hit the field again after the conclusion of their mini-camp ending less than two weeks ago.

The quarterback competition this offseason begins with this year’s OTAs. These next couple of days will be an early chance for each quarterback to impress their new coaches. The competition is a wide-open race, and while there have been suggestions as to who the favorite is to win the job, each of the team’s three  quarterbacks will be given a fair shot, as it has been  reported that the  three of them will split first-team reps.

As of now, it looks as though rookie Teddy Bridgewater or veteran Matt Cassel will be the starter week 1. The majority of fans are dissatisfied with Christian Ponder, and many are shocked that he is getting a  chance to  compete. While there have been ongoing rumors since prior to the draft of Ponder being traded, he is here to stay, at least for now, and he is looking to prove to Norv Turner and Mike Zimmer that he is their man. It will have a major uphill battle for Ponder, as he is seemingly the least-expected to win the competition.

The beginning of  the quarterback competition will not be the only thing we’ll have our eyes on at the start of OTAs. With rookie mini-camp having recently ended, it will be exciting to see them on the field again. Teddy Bridgewater and Anthony Barr have drawn the most  buzz of the entire group, as they were both top draft prospects selected in the first round. They will be exciting to watch for sure, however, there are several other rookies to keep an eye on that could potentially make an impact both during and season and in the years that are to come.

Defensive end Scott Crichton is an important player to watch. He has a very strong motor, and while he may not be the most athletic defensive end to have been selected in the draft, he is certainly one of the smartest. His natural football instincts are clear when watching him on tape, and they also translate to his stat line. Crichton had a college-career high 74 tackle in 2011, and while his tackle numbers were slightly lower in each of his next two years, he still had 22.5 sacks total over the course of his three seasons, averaging 7.5 sacks per season, which is a solid number. The most impressive number when analyzing Crichton is his 51 total tackles for a loss. This is where his strong motor comes into play. Scott Crichton has all the tools to be a very good defensive lineman in the NFL, and having the chance to work with a great defensive mind in Mike Zimmer will certainly help his development.

Running back Jerick McKinnon is another rookie that Vikings fans should have their eyes on. McKinnon was drafted out of Georgia Southern, and while he was originally an option-quarterback in college, his switch to tailback proved to be a smart move. McKinnon rushed for 3899 yards and 42 touchdowns over the course of his Georgia Sournern career, with his most impressive season being 2012, when he rushed for 1817 yards and 20 touchdowns. McKinnon is a freak of an athlete. He had one of  the most impressive combines of any prospect in the 2014 draft, running a 4.41 40 yard while also bench pressing 32 reps. He also happened to be a top performer in the vertical jump, broad jump, 20 yard shuttle, and 3-cone drill.

Overall, his speed and versatility are superb. There are still several concerns with him, however. Many analysts believe he is a raw running back, having little experience as a traditional tailback. There are also concerns  with him in the pass game, as  he has little experience catching the football and his pass protection is not considered impressive. These perceived flaws can be fixed with proper coaching, as McKinnon has all the talent in the world world to become a very good running back in the NFL.

OTAs aren’t the most exciting part of the NFL offseason, but they are a good first step towards the NFL season. They give the coaches a chance to  get some work done with their players, and it is also fun for the fans, as they get an early glimpse at their team’s position battles, as well as a chance to see the rookies in action. There are several important players to keep an eye on for Vikings’ fans, so it is time to get busy!

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Despite growing up on the East Coast, former NFL linebacker EJ Henderson has come to know Minnesota as home—both as a member of the Vikings and as an active member of the community.

Henderson played high school ball in Aberdeen, Maryland before accepting an athletic scholarship to play for the University of Maryland Terrapins. During his time there, Henderson notched three NCAA records: career unassisted tackles per game (8.8), season unassisted tackles (135 in 2002) and career total tackles per game (12.5).

As a junior, Henderson found himself named the 2001 ACC Player of the year, and in his final season with the Terrapins he was recognized as the nation’s No. 1 defensive player and the No. 1 linebacker.

Most Vikings fans will also know that Henderson’s younger brother Erin followed in EJ’s footsteps. Erin played both quarterback and linebacker at Aberdeen High School, and he redshirted at the University of Maryland.

Being six years apart, the Henderson brothers didn’t play on the same team together until they reached the NFL. “I pretty much played the older brother dynamic,” said EJ, “until probably [Erin’s] freshman or sophomore year in college.”[1] At that point, the dynamic shifted to more of a friendship, as the brothers had so much in common and pursued the same goals. EJ continued to hold a “big brother” role in his leadership toward the pros, and Erin traveled the same path.

EJ’s journey to the NFL proved seamless. Starting his junior season at Maryland, Henderson grasped the reality that reaching the big leagues was a very real scenario for him. At that point, his recognition stretched nationwide. Henderson said he realized the potential “right around when the draft talks started to come out”—when he saw his name included in the lists.

The linebacker entered the 2003 NFL draft and was picked in Round 2 (No. 40 overall) by Minnesota. Henderson debuted for the Vikings that season, in which he played all 16 games and recorded 32 tackles as a rookie.

Although the first couple seasons didn’t make the record books, Henderson solidified himself as a part of the roster and worked his way up.

Number 56 quickly became a fan favorite in Minnesota, consistently coming up with big tackles and showing good speed on the field.

KFAN radio personality and Vikings play-by-play man Paul Allen weighed in on Henderson’s impact with the Vikes:

“EJ is one of my all-time favorites,” said Allen. “I appreciate him so much due to the fact his career started very slowly and he turned the corner and became a stud. Along the way he became more comfortable in his skin and a more open person with guys like me.”[2]

Henderson played his entire nine-year career as a Viking, and he considers himself blessed to have done so.

His favorite memory?  Scoring against the Lions.

On October 8, 2006, Detroit quarterback Jon Kitna passed on a 4th and 10 in the final quarter. Henderson intercepted the pass, then rumbled the ball 45 yards to the end zone. Minnesota went on to win the game, 26-17.

The TD was the only score of Henderson’s career, and he says the moment stands out as a definite highlight among many great memories with the Vikings. “That was probably one of my proudest moments in the Dome.”

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The NFLPA announced today that the arcane and mystical formula that spits out the compensatory pick numbers has awarded no picks to the Minnesota Vikings, as was to be expected. The Green Bay Packers were awarded a third-round pick and a fifth-round pick, while the Detroit Lions received two fourth-round picks.

These compensatory picks are given at the end of the rounds they are tagged as part of, which means the four third-round picks that were awarded (Pittsburgh, Green Bay, Baltimore and San Francisco) take place at the end of the third round and before the fourth round.

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With the Minnesota Vikings signing “backup” defensive end Everson Griffen to a lucrative contract worth $8.5 million per year (though guaranteed only for the first two years, making him easy to cut should it be necessary), the shape of the roster is becoming clearer. Known mostly as an athletic wunderkind who dropped in the draft to off-field issues (and had some run-ins with the law since), Griffen’s signing was widely described as an investment in potential.

That’s not quite a fair analysis. Since joining the Vikings in 2010, Griffen hasn’t simply been a ball of unmolded potential and an unknown athletic quality; he’s had over a thousand quality snaps with the Vikings playing the position they’ll ask him to play—snaps they and the rest of the NFL would use to gauge his value. In fact, the Denver Broncos were willing to offer Griffen a deal worth $500k more a year.

With all that attention what does Griffen bring to the table?

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