Thursday, July 30, 2015

bill musgrave

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I didn’t understand it. How could the Vikings be getting absolutely demolished at home against a 2-4 Buccaneers team? This isn’t possible. This just cannot be happening.

And then it happened. It hit me hard – harder than Chris Kluwe pu… Nevermind…

But I just didn’t understand it until NFL Network shared this wonderful stat with us: The Buccaneers broke their 10 road game losing streak with a win over, our beloved purple, the Minnesota Vikings.

Why didn’t anyone mention the Buccaneers hadn’t won an away game in 640 minutes of football. This thing could have been much easier to endure.

Nevertheless, here we are. The Vikings are 5-3. We got decimated at home by a 2-4 team. The sky is falling. I’m on the ledge. Take your positivity elsewhere. Angry Brett has arrived.

This venting session brought to you courtesy of Angry Brett

Where to begin?

What is that you say? There wasn’t enough coverage of the Vikings here on VT alone? Well, we have just the thing for everyone out there who just can’t get enough purple – our favorite links of the week:

ESPN 1500 Week 7, 2012 Game Poster
The image above was created by the good folks at ESPN 1500.

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Monday’s are never quite as fun after a loss like the one the Vikings suffered yesterday. Your boss being a Packer fan and informing you that the football universe is now back in alignment after their hearty win over the Texans (and the Vikings loss) makes it all the more worse.

But it’s okay – today is a new day separate from the angst and irrationality of last night. I’m not quite ready to start sipping the purple kool-aid again but Adam has some notes from yesterday’s game that I promise are more level-headed than mine.

For whatever reason, he wasn’t able to post them himself. So, on his behalf, here are some of our favorite Vikings blogger’s opinions on last night’s travesty.

Mobile Quarterbacks

I don’t know what the answer is. Maybe Erin Henderson should have replaced Jasper Brinkley on nickel downs. Maybe Jared Allen needed to ease up on his pass rush and focus more on containment. Maybe Everson Griffen needed to take more snaps. Whatever the issue, this Vikings defense struggles with mobile quarterbacks, and that could prove to be an issue down the stretch. Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler are both on the schedule, twice each, between now and the end of the season.

I Hate Those Penalties

I have said it a few times that the week two performance against Indianapolis was one of the worst games the Vikings have played in recent memory. A huge part of that reasoning is the disdain I have for penalties and this most recent game against Washington had that same feel. Too many penalties, too undisciplined.

A Whole New Appreciation For Harvin

The Vikings performed better against Washington than they did against Indy earlier this season, and had some better individual performances, but once again Percy Harvin is the biggest silver lining following the “L.” I want to make a fresh point about Harvin, however. After watching Matt Stafford flip the football, Victor Cruz salsa dance, Jared Allen rope a cow when his team is losing, and RGIII act like he is auditioning for Glee, I love how professional and sensible Harvin is during his moments of dominance. After a big play, it seems to take him about a nanosecond before he is focused on making the next big play. Chris Kluwe called Harvin the hardest working player in football following Sunday’s loss, and I believe him, because he is all business for 60 straight minutes.

“Lack Of A Deep Threat” Is A Myth

I keep hearing that Jerome Simpson is the Vikings only deep threat. If that is truly the case, then the Vikings front office and coaching staff have pinned themselves into a corner that is inexcusable. If your only way to stretch the field is a street free agent beginning the year on suspension, then you have screwed up.

I don’t think that is the case, however, so it frustrates me to see Bill Musgrave act like the Sunday morning pre-game shows know what they are talking about in the way he calls plays. The Vikings begin the game by finding great success in the run game, Washington adjusts to stop the run, and then the Vikings fail to adjust their own plan and take advantage of them stacking the box. That is not a good blueprint to have on tape.

Luckily, however, the Vikings do have deep threats besides Simpson and soon they will have to realize it. I have seen Percy Harvin be successful downfield with Brett Favre throwing him the ball. I know John Carlson and Kyle Rudolph can be dangerous running streaks down the seam. Heck, even Devin Aromashodu has made plays deep every year since joining the Vikings. If Michael Jenkins can’t get there, then how about giving Stephen Burton a chance to show us what he can do? The options are there but Musgrave has to acknowledge them and Ponder has to take advantage of them.

No matter what, though, put receiver at the top of your offseason priority list for the Vikings in 2013.

Loadholt Extension

I have always thought that mid-season contract extension should be used as a way to reward excellent play and motivate others on the roster. Last week, news broke that the Vikings had begun negotiating with starting right tackle Phil Loadholt whose contract expires after this season. I didn’t get a chance to give my opinion on the matter, so I’ll take the opportunity now.

Does Phil Loadholt deserve a reward for his play this season? Is he easily enough replaced or upgraded via the Draft or free agency? Will cheaper options be available?

I like Loadholt okay. He is serviceable. I just don’t see him, as he gets older, somehow becoming more athletic and quicker on his feet, however. I’m just not convinced he is worth a larger, long-term investment at this point. If I had a vote (which I won’t and never will) I would say to leave it be until January and then see where things stand.

Injury Free And Rebound Opportunity

The Vikings fell to second place in the NFC North with their loss on Sunday, but they came out of it largely unscathed and have a chance to get their confidence back against a pair of lesser teams. Leslie Frazier indicated that the team suffered no major injuries on Sunday, so that is great news moving forward. The Vikings had back to the Metrodome to host the atrocious-looking Cardinals and then get to play the lackluster Bucs. It is possible, if not somewhat likely, that this Vikings team will soon be 6-2.

I was downright infuriated at the thought of Adrian Peterson, who knows not how to play football half-assed, being thrown into a meaningless game of preseason football.  The burden of being cautious with Peterson and his knee became less troublesome when Toby Gerhart and Lex Hilliard confirmed what I already thought I knew… they are pretty darn competent running backs in their own right.

So, while some may not be too thrilled, I am happy to pass along the news that Adrian Peterson is not expected to make a preseason appearance.  While Peterson was removed from the PUP list this last week, an NFL source has told 1500 ESPN that the team plans to keep him on the sideline at least until the regular season begins.

I think this is a smart move by the Vikings coaching and training staff, and they should heavily consider keeping him off the field into the regular season if there is even the slightest worry about a reoccurring injury.

Peterson isn’t the only player being controlled by the coaching staff in an effort to improve durability.  Christian Ponder took some heat for his head first slide during the last preseason game, but offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave confirmed that he has coached Ponder to do exactly that.

“It’s a personal preference, and what’s really important when a quarterback runs is getting down in time … as those defenders converge,” Musgrave recently said. “You can maximize or squeeze out the last possible yard, but at the same time, maintain your health so you can line up for the next play.”

“Coach Musgrave made this cut-up about sliding head first versus sliding feet first and we’ve never seen someone get hurt sliding head first,” Ponder said.  “So, it’s on purpose. When you slide feet first, you’re exposing your body to get hit and like we saw at Washington (with) me last year, I got pretty jacked up that game.”

Beyond the vicious hit Ponder took last season, Musgrave pointed to hits taken by quarterbacks Steve Pelluer and Trent Green as examples of feet first slides resulting in devastating consequences.  Conversly, Musgrave points out the players such as John Elway and Drew Brees have had great success getting to the ground quicker by diving head first as defenders converge.

It is unconventional, yes… but I have to say, the Vikings need some outside-the-box thinking, and I like this particular tactic.

I was feeling a bit negative about the Vikings coaching staff last week, but these two items have me feeling a little better.  It is amazing what a win can do… even in the preseason.

I’ve said it a number of times before, and I’ll gladly say it again:  I am looking forward to this season more than any in recent history.

I can’t wait to watch the Vikings (hopefully) begin to take strides towards a rebuild and (hopefully) grow and develop into what will (hopefully) become a true Super Bowl contender in the somewhat near future.

All of that begins in Mankato on Thursday, and here are the five things I will be keeping the closest eye on when the offense takes their training camp reps.

5.  Adrian Peterson’s Health

I’ll be honest, I still haven’t figured out any upside to rushing Peterson back into action for a season that is likely to end with the Vikings looking at the playoffs from the outside.  Still, the Vikings invested an astronomical amount of money into their superstar running back, and seeing the same old Adrian at some point this season would please many fans.

So, in training camp, it is natural that a number of stories will be written about Peterson’s participation or lack thereof.  Don’t get your hopes up too high, however, as Toby Gerhart is likely to carry the load while his young backups gain some experience with the twos and threes.

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