Wednesday, August 31, 2016

adrian peterson

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images courtesy of vikings.com

Offensive line coach Tony Sparano and tight ends coach Pat Shurmur were hired by Minnesota Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer to improve the 29th ranked offense. Both men have offensive coordinator and head coaching experience that Zimmer hopes will breathe new life, or at least add a few fresh ideas to Norv Turner’s Air Coryell scheme.

Zimmer said last month at an NFL owners meeting that Turner is very open to new ideas and has modified his traditional system over the years.

“Norv has changed a lot,” Zimmer said. “I used to go play against him a long time ago. Over the course of the years, a lot of the no-huddle, the [shot]gun stuff, the zone read, those are all new things. Norv is not hard-headed. I’m probably more hard-headed defensively than he is offensively.”

Turner’s system will likely continue to evolve as they incorporate a few wrinkles from Shurmur’s West Coast background and Sparano’s physical pound it style. While a total revamp of the offense is not on the forecast, here are five things to anticipate in 2016.

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Finally the NFL Draft is here! Well, almost.

At least now the league’s annual event is less than one month away from taking place. Soon enough, each team will do their best at selecting the right players to add to their roster and then the Cleveland Browns will end the careers of a new set of rookies.

Unlike the New England Patriots, the Minnesota Vikings have not made an enemy of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and are going to be allowed to keep their first round selection in this year’s draft. With their very first draft pick in 2016, will the Vikings keep it boring or will they use the selection to become the talk of the league after the draft’s opening night?

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cordarrelle

Cordarrelle Patterson is the best kick returner in the NFL. We expected more after trading up to 29 to draft the uber raw product out of Tennessee in 2013, but here we are. The new NFL rule change moving touchbacks from the 20 to the 25 will have a big impact on where Flash’s bread is buttered. We talk about that as well as Mike Zimmer’s comments at the NFL Owners Meetings, 5th-year option decisions for the trio of 2013 first round picks (Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes & Cordarrelle), what loading up on offensive line really means for the Minnesota Fightin’ Vikings, and a look towards the rapidly approaching NFL Draft.

All that and other “Josh Doctson, No Matter What” nonsense on this edition of the Purple FTW! Podcast.

An Andy Carlson Joint

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Boone is the newest member on Mike Zimmer's Vikings ship

Vikings guard Alex Boone
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Alex Boone is a throwback offensive lineman. He’ll head-butt his quarterback without a helmet. He’ll threaten to punch a certain Green Bay Packers linebacker in the mouth. But most of all, he’ll bring that in-your-face attitude to the field, where he’s earned a reputation as one of the most physical guards in the NFL.

It’s part of the reason Mike Zimmer wanted Boone — who signed a four-year, $26.8 million contract this offseason — in a Minnesota Vikings uniform next year. “One of the things was his toughness, the physicality,” he said, per Chris Tomasson. ”I like his demeanor and I’m hoping it’s something that rubs off on the rest of our offensive line.”

But more than an attitude, what does Boone add to the unit, and how can he translate his game to improve what was one of Minnesota’s weakest links in 2015? It starts by looking at Boone’s film from last season, his final year with the San Francisco 49ers. A career right guard, he made the full-time transition to the opposite side and started 13 games at the position, finishing the season with a 65.0 overall grade from Pro Football Focus (PFF).

Though he finished with a 44.9 run blocking grade, Boone excelled in pass protection, earning a 82.1 grade for his work over 13 games. According to PFF, he allowed just three sacks and 17 total pressures all of last year — music to Teddy Bridgewater’s ears.

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Rick Spielman building a homegrown contender
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

The Denver Broncos tore through the 2014 free agency class like a man who’d just won the Mega Millions jackpot. Anxious for a championship and fearful of Peyton Manning‘s sudden demise, general manager John Elway lured as many big names to Denver as possible, evoking a “win now” mentality in the Broncos locker room.

Certainly not the first team or the last to “hire” mercenaries, the Broncos spent exorbitant amounts of money in 2014 to make their roster the deepest, most talented in the league. That offseason, Emmanuel Sanders, Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware, and T.J. Ward arrived in Denver, bringing the skills and pedigree the Broncos lacked to take that final step to the Super Bowl.

Elway’s spending frenzy finally paid off, as Peyton Manning and the über-talented Broncos won Super Bowl 50 together this year, earning the greatest “return on investment” that the NFL has to offer. But 2015 is over, and the 2016 season looms in the near future. That championship team is missing key pieces, as the rest of the league has done to the Broncos what they did to them in 2014. Gone are names like Peyton Manning and Owen Daniels. In their place? Career-disappointment Mark Sanchez and yet-to-be-named NFL draft picks.

“Winning” free agency is a double-edged sword, one that worked well for the Broncos, but suddenly spells uncertainty in Denver. Every team attacks the open market differently, which brings us to the Minnesota Vikings, who continue to take a prudent, if sometimes cautious approach in the process.

No, there are no Super Bowl banners in Minnesota, and other outside signings — Greg Jennings, Mike Wallace — failed to make an impact in recent years, but Rick Spielman is quietly building the Vikings into a homegrown contender. Free agents are staying in town, under-the-radar names are finally choosing Minnesota as a new home, and other recent acquisitions — Linval Joseph, Captain Munnerlyn — are contributing in tangible ways every Sunday.

These Vikings may not have names that “jump” off the screen or stand out in the newspaper,  but they’re winning games as a cohesive, well-coached, and tight-knit roster. Consistent coaching, a thoughtful spending strategy, and youth means Minnesota may soon end up on the same national stage as the Broncos — the Super Bowl.

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