Thursday, February 11, 2016

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Looking to contain Colin Kaepernick

Image courtesy of Vikings.com

The losses of right tackle Phil Loadholt and center John Sullivan are major storylines heading into the Vikings’ season opener Monday night. Questions that weren’t as pressing before the preseason — “How many times will the 49ers sack Teddy Bridgewater?” — are now at the forefront of game previews and predictions as the start of the regular season draws closer.

Like others who follow and cover the team, my concerns are legitimate given the 49ers’ depth along the defensive line and defensive coordinator Eric Mangini’s penchant for blitzing opposing quarterbacks. Teddy Bridgewater could very well be in trouble Monday night, but Norv Turner will find ways to keep his quarterback upright, whether that means employing a quick-hitting pass attack with three-step drops or running the hurry-up to keep the defense off balance.

If there’s a quarterback who’s going to struggle Monday night, it’s going to be Colin Kaepernick. The 49ers’ signal caller continues to frustrate an impatient San Francisco fan base, as noted by San Francisco Chronicle columnist Kevin Lynch:

“The most glaring observation,” he wrote, “(was) Kaepernick’s inability to step up when he’s pressured. Often his first reaction to pressure was either to step sideways or backwards, not up in the pocket.”

Kaepernick’s lack of pocket presence led to 52 sacks last year, and one Vikings defensive end looks to add to those totals on Monday night: Everson Griffen.

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image courtesy of vikings.com

The Vikings have certainly been busy with announcements this morning, and it seems they saved the good news for last. After reporting that center John Sullivan was placed on IR, the team announced Thursday morning that wide receiver Jarius Wright signed a contract extension.

According to Ian Rapoport, Wright’s deal is a four-year extension worth $14.8 million, $7 million of that being guaranteed money.

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Starting center underwent lumbar microdiscectomy Wednesday

Image courtesy of Vikings.com

If the Vikings weren’t concerned about starting center John Sullivan earlier this week, they should be now. According to the team’s official website, Sullivan underwent a lumbar microdiscectomy on Wednesday and was placed on the Injured Reserve/Designated for Return list. The injury and subsequent move to the IR means Sullivan can begin practicing after six weeks and playing after eight weeks.

Sullivan, who hadn’t practiced since August 18 because of back spasms, will miss at least half of the 2015 season, making him the second major loss to the Vikings’ starting offensive line. He joins Phil Loadholt on the sideline, leaving Teddy Bridgewater and the offense with a completely revamped group of players up front.

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photo courtesy of Vikings.com

Adam: Kyle Rudolph
Last year at about this time, there was an expectation that Kyle Rudolph could fit into Norv Turner’s offense in a similar way to what we saw out of Antonio Gates for so many years in San Diego. Health issues combined with poor quarterback play to derail those hopes last season, but Rudolph now appears to be a healthy pass-catching option capable of carrying some preseason chemistry with Teddy Bridgewater over into Week One. My expectations are sky high for Rudolph this season, as I see him as the best safety blanket and red zone target, and would not be surprised to see Rudolph running routes designed to test that weakened linebacker group the Niners are now fielding. Predicting a first touchdown is a fickle thing (heck, it could end up being a defender for all we know) dependent on a ton of unknowns, but I’ll go ahead and plant my Rudolph flag from the get-go. Why not?

Brent: Adrian Peterson
I see no better way for the Vikings to kick off the season and put 2014 behind them than letting Peterson pound his way through the 49er defense for six. Aside for letting bygones be bygones, it would be wise of the Vikings to establish a strong running game early and often to keep some pressure off Teddy Bridgewater and open the field for downfield passing later in the game/season.

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I spent the last week or so in the great state of Alaska, and while I wish I were still catching salmon I can’t overstate how excited I am for this upcoming week of NFL football. More specifically, I am stoked to see how Mike Zimmer’s Vikings perform against the beleaguered San Francisco 49ers under the bright lights on Monday night.

I need to catch up on my Vikings reading and, following the holiday weekend, you may need some catching up yourself.

If that is the case, then fear not, we have all the links!

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