Saturday, February 13, 2016

andrew sendejo

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Will the Cincinnati-Minnesota pipeline continue for Mike Zimmer?

George Iloka a top free agent safety for the Vikings
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Building an NFL defense is a lot like putting together an intricate puzzle. Some pieces fit perfectly within the frame, like Anthony Barr and Harrison Smith in Minnesota. Others, unfortunately, are square pegs in a round hole. They have a place somewhere, but not with the Minnesota Vikings.

For Mike Zimmer, the picture is nearly complete — a top-five unit in 2015 has a chance to become even more dominant next season. But one of those pieces has long been a blemish in what should be Mike Zimmer’s masterpiece — strong safety.

From Andrew Sendejo to Robert Blanton, and even Terence Newman, no one player has been a perfect fit beside Smith in the secondary. Despite the revolving door at the position, general manager Rick Spielman does have options. The draft is chock full of potential contributors, and players like Anthony Harris will continue to develop, but the safest path to the perfect puzzle may begin in March.

That’s when free agency opens. And that’s when safeties like Eric Berry, Reggie Nelson, and Eric Weddle will hit the open market. They’re fine pieces to add to the puzzle, but they’re not the right piece for Zimmer’s defense. Enter George Iloka, current Cincinnati Bengals strong safety and soon-to-be free agent target.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

The Minnesota Vikings are getting healthy just in time for the final stretch of the season. With three games remaining to secure their playoff positioning, they’ll need all the help they can get, especially in the secondary.

According to the team’s official website, Justin Trattou has been signed to the active roster and safety Shaun Prater, who was signed last week, has been waived. His release should register as a good sign for the collective health of Minnesota’s safeties, including starters Harrison Smith and Andrew Sendejo. Both players were inactive against the Arizona Cardinals last Thursday and were sorely missed; Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer threw two touchdowns of 40-plus yards against the Vikings.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

NamePositionInjuryWed.Thurs.Fri.Status
Anthony BarrLBGroin/HandDNPDNPLPOut
Scott CrichtonDEConcussion/NeckDNPDNPDNPOut
Charles JohnsonWRAnkleDNPLPOut
Harrison SmithSKnee/HamstringLPLPDNPOut
Everson GriffenDEShoulderDNPDNPLPQuestionable
Linval JosephDTFootDNPLPLPQuestionable
Robert BlantonSKneeFPFPFPProbable
Andrew SendejoSKneeLPFPFPProbable
Brandon WattsLBRibLPFPFPProbable

Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Given the quick turnaround from Week 13 to Week 14, it’s no surprise that Anthony Barr (Groin), Linval Joseph (Foot), Antone Exum (Ribs/Shoulder), and Harrison Smith (Hamstring) have all been ruled out for Thursday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals. A.J. Mansour of KFAN broke the news early Tuesday morning and cast a dark shadow over the hopes of an optimistic Minnesota Vikings fan base.

Coming off a 38-7 drubbing at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks, the Vikings will need to regain their early season form to retain the NFC’s fifth Wild Card spot. They’re currently a game ahead of the Seahawks and two games ahead of a crowded group of teams “in the hunt.” On paper, Thursday’s game heavily favors the Cardinals, who enter Week 14 with the league’s top-ranked offense and fourth-ranked defense.

Image courtesy of Vikings.com

In a meeting of the league’s top two rushing attacks, the Minnesota Vikings will be without a key contributor on the defensive line. Linval Joseph, who injured his foot against the Atlanta Falcons last week, is inactive. The cog in the middle of Mike Zimmer’s defense will be replaced by Sharrif Floyd, who is making his first career start at nose tackle. Fellow defensive tackle Tom Johnson will start in Floyd’s vacated position and lead the effort to stop Seahawks running back Thomas Rawls.

Strong safety Andrew Sendejo is inactive after receiving an MRI on his injured knee earlier this week. Fortunately for the Vikings, Harrison Smith returns to the active lineup and will boost a secondary that’s been decimated by injuries in recent weeks. His presence should help Antone Exum Jr., who is making just his second career start at strong safety.

The other inactive players include:

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