Monday, May 25, 2015
Blog Page 84

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Though I have a full player review and rant on the coaching staff available at Vikings Journal, the greatest takeaway for me was not whether or not the offensive line did well (they didn’t) or whether there were hidden gems in Teddy Bridgewater’s performance (there sort of was, but it’s irrelevant amidst the bad play) or even if Josh Robinson played poorly (that’s complicated). The Vikings knew what they were up against and didn’t adjust throughout the game.

Though I have massive issues with the offensive playcalling, I saw the defense as more critical to the loss, because it wasn’t the points per game that was the issue, it was the points per drive. And the defensive playcalling and adjustment was the issue.

The biggest issue on the defense wasn’t the individual performance of the players, which when summed was excellent overall, but the use of the players. After learning that Josh Robinson was the alpha and omega of the Bears’ gameplan, the Vikings did exactly nothing. They didn’t bracket over Robinson, they didn’t give him help, they didn’t transition his coverage assignments and they didn’t switch up their approach.

Though the Vikings love to blitz and send additional pass rushers, often necessitating man coverage, the Bears have struggled against zone defenses in general, pitting a defender’s instincts and ability to read the quarterback against Jay Cutler’s decisionmaking. More importantly, they diminished the impact that specific matchups would have and minimize the problems of a smaller defender.

The Vikings have watched enough Bears film to know this to be the case, but entered the game without another plan just in case the height issues would bite them in the first half. After seeing Robinson get toasted time and again, they didn’t give him help. And in critical moments of the game, they changed very little. Sometimes, the Cover-2 defense is the exact appropriate response, despite what Vikings fans are haunted by in previous years.

For those who take stock in Pro Football Focus grades, the Vikings defense only had two players below -1.0 and five above +1.0. The aggregate grade was 11.6. It was a net positive day for the sum of the individual players, but a defense is only as strong as its weakest link, and the Vikings stubbornly didn’t account for that link.

The best players, according to Pro Football Focus were Everson Griffen (+5.4), Sharrif Floyd (+4.3), Captain Munnerlyn (+2.7), Joe Berger (+2.1) and Harrison Smith (+2.0). The worst players were Josh Robinson (-3.3), Corey Wootton (-2.2), Matt Asiata (-2.1), Matt Kalil (-2.1) and Kyle Rudolph (-2.1).

I take exception to Berger’s high grade, because I felt he was playing outside of his assignment on a number of plays and played with confusion in open space. He allowed two quarterback hurries extremely quickly and though helped create lanes in the running game, allowed just as many to collapse.

Phil Loadholt’s low grade is also a bit harsh in my eyes. Though he was responsible for the late Willie Young sack (and it looked bad), I thought his day was largely positive. Their grade for John Sullivan is a little friendlier than I thought it would be because of some miscues on his end, but I’ll not contest it too much.

Advanced stats:

Unit ANYA YPC Run Success Rate Points Per Drive Drive Success Rate
Vikings Offense 4.06 6.00 31.3% 1.40 57.9%
Vikings Defense 6.98 4.45 61.3% 2.33 81.8%

Abysmal.

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The injury report and inactives list has been released for the Vikings game at the Chicago Bears. First, the Vikings report:

NAME POSITION INJURY WED. THU. FRI. STATUS GAMEDAY
Crichton, Scott DE Hip - DNP FP Questionable Inactive
Harris, Mike T Ankle - - DNP Questionable Inactive
Prater, Shaun CB None - - - N/A Inactive
Line, Zach FB None - - - N/A Inactive
Watts, Brandon LB None - - - N/A Inactive
Yankey, David G None - - - N/A Inactive
Gray, MarQueis TE None - - - N/A Inactive
Rudolph, Kyle TE Abdomen/Groin LP FP FP Probable Active
Ford, Chase TE Foot FP FP FP Probable Active
McKinnon, Jerick RB Low back - LP FP Probable Active

Kyle Rudolph is officially back, like everyone expected, and Jerick McKinnon is active (also as expected). The only players who were questionable were Harris and Crichton and neither of them are playing because they don’t offer much over the players they play underneath anyway. MarQueis Gray is the casualty as the Vikings primary corps of 3 TEs is healthy once again.

It seems like the Vikings are still interested in passing game options, however, as all the receivers are active, including the recently emergent Charles Johnson (which is a relative term, of course). Starting in place of Vlad Ducasse is once again Joe Berger. Ducasse is healthy, but Berger is better. There’s not much from an injury perspective that’s interesting for the Vikings.

NAME POSITION INJURY WED. THU. FRI. STATUS GAMEDAY
Britton, Eben G/T Illness DNP DNP DNP Out Inactive
Mills, Jordan T Ribs DNP DNP DNP Doubtful Inactive
Morgan, Josh WR Shoulder DNP DNP DNP Questionable Inactive
Sharpton, Darryl LB Hamstring LP LP DNP Out Inactive
Mitchell, Terrance CB Illness - DNP FP Probable Inactive
Scott, Trevor DE Knee - DNP DNP Out Inactive
Annen, Blake TE None - - - N/A Inactive
Bennett, Martellus TE Ribs DNP LP FP Probable Active
Jennings, Tim CB Knee DNP FP FP Probable Active
Marshall, Brandon WR Ankle DNP LP LP Probable Active
Washington, Cornelius DE Illness DNP FP FP Probable Active

We expected both Bennett and Marshall to be active, and that means newly promoted Blake Annen isn’t going to see the field. Unfortunately for the Vikings, the Bears will have their third receiver active for the first time in Marquess Wilson. I was a fan of his coming out of the draft and wouldn’t be surprised if he got some gains against the Vikings.

Michael Ola will start at right tackle for the Bears in absence of starter Jordan Mills (who is terrible anyway), with Brian de la Puente (a center) playing at left guard. Ola has played both guard and tackle positions this year and only has been marginally acceptable at the left guard position, the position he was originally slated to play without the Mills injury. De la Puente has been an excellent center this year for the Bears without Roberto Garza, but I’m not sure how he’ll do in the mentally less demanding but physically more stressful position at left guard. Ola has put together a +8.0 rating in two games at left guard and -7.3 rating in six other games everywhere else. At tackle specifically, he’s pulled together a -4.2 rating in three games.

The Bears are still vulnerable to rushing from the right side of their offense (where Brian Robison resides) and so the Vikings should find ways to seek advantages there, whether that means switching to under fronts on occasion to stress the right guard-right tackle connection or overloading rushers to that side. Either way, the disruption there and potential communication issues give the Vikings their best chance to create uncertainty and overcome any potential matchup problems in the secondary.

Other than that (fairly significant) offensive line report, the injuries don’t mean much except insofar as Wilson may see the field, and that wouldn’t be a great thing (though again, he’s neither Brandon Marshall nor Alshon Jeffrey).

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Both ProFootballTalk and Jay Glazer both reported that the expedited non-injury grievance hearing for Adrian Peterson will be scheduled on November 17th, the Monday after the Vikings’ game against the Chicago Bears. That the NFL waited the longest possible amount of time the CBA allows to grant the hearing is a little disingenuous, but it allows the NFL to collect all of the information they feel they don’t have but need in order to make a ruling on his suspension as soon as they need to lift the exemption on Peterson.

As PFT reported, the hearing will likely not take long and the arbitrator will not have to use all five of his allotted days to come to the conclusion that the NFL breached the written agreement it had made with Peterson to restore his roster status as soon as his legal issues ran their course. Even if the arbiter took all of his allotted time, Peterson would be theoretically active in time for the home game against the Packers in two weeks, though it would more likely mean that the NFL would be forced to roll out its punishment of Peterson then.

The NFL Players Association has filed an expedited, non-injury grievance against the NFL on behalf of Adrian Peterson to remove him from the exempt/Commissioner’s Permission list, per multiple reports. According to Adam Schefter, they released the following statement:

We asked the NFL to honor the terms of that agreement last week and as of now, they have failed to respond or comply. It is our obligation to protect all players’ rights, and we will pursue any and all breaches of any contract between a player and his team or the NFL

It is the NFLPA’s contention that there was an agreement to take Adrian Peterson off the exempt list as soon as all of Peterson’s legal issues were resolved, contrary to Andrew Brandt’s report that the agreement was never made (for what it’s worth, Pro Football Talk argues the opposite). That the NFLPA contends that there was an explicit signed agreement is damning for the NFL, who reneged on an agreement made with a player.

Something that may be delaying the NFL’s decision may be reports of internal divisions within the Vikings—Ian Rapaport argues that the executives on the team are divided about whether or not he should play. On the other hand, Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk argues those reports are specious. It seems more likely that Rapaport’s report on this situation is true, if only because it is difficult to believe reports after the fact that internal divisions do not exist.

Per Florio, “a hearing could be held and the case could be resolved before Minnesota’s next game on Sunday, at Chicago.” Should the NFLPA win their grievance, Peterson will be cleared to play immediately, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be suspended when the NFL finally does make a decision. One interesting benefit to the league: they can functionally test the waters on a potential Adrian return if they lose their grievance while shielding themselves from criticism from sponsors, by pointing out that they tried to keep Peterson out.

The NFL will argue that they are still gathering materials to review. The NFLPA has a right to four expedited grievances a year, and the CBA spells out that both parties are supposed to work in “good faith” to resolve the grievance as quickly as possible.

The Vikings had earlier released the following statement on the Peterson situation:

In regards to Adrian Peterson’s status with the Minnesota Vikings, at this time his potential reinstatement is under NFL guidelines. As an organization, we respect and understand the league’s process. In the interim, our focus is on the team and preparing for this weekend’s game against the Bears.

As for whether or not Peterson is in game shape, there are conflicting reports of that as well. Jason La Canfora at CBS says that the Vikings “harbor serious concerns” about Adrian Peterson’s physical and mental state. “Peterson … has not been working out nearly to the degree he would have if he were playing.”

This seems harder to believe, and Florio’s sources take the opposite tack, arguing that Peterson is definitely in game shape. Given his history of playing with a light load at training camp and skipping the preseason, it seems like we have more circumstantial evidence that Peterson would be ready to play.

UPDATE: The NFL has responded, per Adam Schefter.

We have received the NFLPA’s grievance on behalf of Adrian Peterson. We have honored our commitment to Mr. Peterson and the NFLPA not to process or impose any discipline until the criminal charges pending in Texas were resolved. When Mr. Peterson decided not to contest criminal charges, we promptly advised both him and the NFLPA that we were prepared to consider what, if any, discipline should now be imposed under the Personal Conduct Policy. We asked Mr. Peterson and his representatives, including the NFLPA, for relevant information. We have not received any of the requested information, but remain prepared to schedule a hearing and make a determination as quickly as possible based on as much information as available.

That the NFL hasn’t received any requested information is a little surprising, even knowing that the records are sealed. They may have to proceed without it, which could be worse for Peterson than better.

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