Tuesday, June 30, 2015

brandon fusco

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

In an ESPN article posted Monday, NFL senior writer John Clayton said the Vikings are in the running for a 2015 playoff team.

In the article, Clayton cites a few factors in his analysis. Teddy Bridgewater certainly shoulders much of the responsibility moving forwardClayton did offer praise for Bridgewater’s rookie seasonbut it’s more than just the quarterback at this point…

It’s adding Adrian Peterson back into the equation and seeing how much better Peterson makes Bridgewater. Clayton reminded us of the following:

Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton were success stories early in their careers because of their talent — and because they had the benefit of running attacks that typically produced 130 yards or more. (Yes, you can pile up added rushing yardage late in wins, but all three of these teams built around the run.) Look what Peterson did for Christian Ponder. In 2012, Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards coming off knee surgery. Ponder averaged 23.7 points per game and the Vikings made the playoffs. After four years, Minnesota determined Ponder wasn’t good enough and moved on to Bridgewater.

I like Clayton’s take on this. Granted, the team needs both AP and TB to play well; there’s no doubt about that. But individually, neither player is as strong as the way they can feed off each other. Bridgewater had a solid debut season (averaging 22.1 points per game) without Peterson on the field, and having the star RB back in the lineup will take a bit of the pressure off Bridgewater’s shoulders.

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Andy: Right Guard and Safety [Not Named Harrison]
With Fusco shifting to the left side, it’s been a gong show of potential right guard suitors with second-year Papa Yank rotating in with the two rookies Tyrus Thompson and TJ Clemmings. Clemmings seemed to be the favorite before OTAs, but now it’s anyone’s game. What is nice is the depth of young competition at what was a problem position group last season due to injury and ineptitude.

At the safety opposite Harrison, I’m just looking for anyone who passes the BTB (Better-Than-Blanton) Scale (patent pending). Boxscore scouts overrate Blanton because of his high tackle numbers, but we Vikings fans know. It’s easy to pad your tackle stats when your man is wide open and catches it in front of you. I’m not sure if Sendejo is anything more than a good special teamer at this point. Taylor Mays is a Zimmer guy, but he has always been a liability in coverage. But my two love interests are second-year man (and special teams penalty hobbyist) Antone Exum and undrafted free agent Anthony Harris. Like the guard spot, we have some young depth. May the best man win. Or at least pass the BTB Scale.

Brett: Strong Safety
Though there are multiple intriguing position battles as the Vikings prepare to head to training camp, I think the most interesting is at strong safety. I’m higher than most on Robert Blanton but would be lying if I told you I believe he’s the long-term answer opposite Harrison Smith. The Vikings drafted Antone Exum last year and picked up UDFA Anthony Harris this year. Both guys should push Blanton for a starting spot, especially if Blanton continues to be plagued by injuries. The unexpected release of Taylor Mays the morning of the first day of mini-camp means it’s up to one of the two younger challengers to unseat Blanton and break up the Fighting Irish tandem currently at safety.

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Can you spot T.J. Clemmings at right guard?

Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Today’s big Vikings news, courtesy of CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora, isn’t really news at all; Adrian Peterson has contemplated retirement. The disgruntled running back, who continues to dig in on the “trade me” stance, has reportedly considered such a move since landing on the Commissioner’s exempt list last year.

Surprising? No. Confusing? Yes — why retire at the height of your career, surrounded by the most talent in years, and set to make almost $13 million? Hollow threats, in my opinion. General manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer drew the line in the sand months ago, and they’ll remain behind it until Peterson returns. The only question remaining is; when?

Let’s forget about Adrian Peterson for a second, though, as many fans have already done just that. His positioning, his refusal to participate in OTAs, and his parrot Ben Dogra are distractions from what makes football so exciting: football! And earlier today, purple diehards around the country got their first taste when the Vikings took the field on a rainy, wet day in Eden Prairie.

This afternoon’s activities marked the start of Phase 3 of the team’s offseason workout program. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater spent the first OTA syncing up with his pass catchers and rookies tried their best to adjust to the speed of an NFL practice. One in particular, fourth-round pick T.J. Clemmings, enjoyed reps with the first-team offense. We won’t know how specific players performed until tomorrow, when media members are given access to the second OTA, but it’s an encouraging sign to see Clemmings rotating this early.

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In the inaugural edition of the Purple FTW! Mailbag, I answer some of your questions tossed in through Twitter, Facebook, and the Purple FTW! Voicemail.

Talkers include:
• Did the Vikings do a good job filling needs in the offseason?
• Trades that could still be made in 2015
• Would I do ____ for a Vikings Super Bowl?
• The affects of Fusco moving to left guard
• Why I got into podcasting
• Why I refuse to watch “The Avengers”

A fun little bite sized morsel to get your through the midweek hunger pains on this edition of the Purple FTW! Podcast!

An Andy Carlson Joint.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Go back and watch any Vikings game from 2014. What did you see? A promising rookie quarterback who struggled early and blossomed late in the year? A defensive end who thrived as a pass rusher and run stopper? A safety who asserted himself as one of the league’s best?

You probably saw all three, but nothing was more apparent than the struggles of the offensive line. Right tackle Phil Loadholt tore his pectoral muscle early in the year, landing on Injured Reserve and missing almost the entire season. Left guard Charlie Johnson, who was released this offseason, struggled in both the run game and in pass protection. However, success is almost impossible when lined up next to a player like 2014 Matt Kalil:

Hopefully, Vikings fans won’t have to watch more of this in the coming season. In a recent interview with the Star Tribune’s Sid Hartman, Mike Zimmer explored the idea of shifting the team’s offensive line in 2015 and replacing Johnson with one of three in-house options:

“We are looking at a few guys right now,” he said. “Obviously [veteran] Joe Berger has a chance to fit in with the mix. We have actually been looking at Brandon Fusco moving over to left guard and T.J. Clemmings playing right guard. Also the kid [tackle] Carter Bykowski] that we took off of San Francisco’s practice squad has looked good as well.”

In the same interview, Zimmer shared that Matt Kalil “feels great” and will play with “a chip on his shoulder” in 2015. After the team picked up his fifth-year option, Kalil will need to bounce back from a horrendous 2014 campaign. With two healthy knees, he may have a chance to do just that. On the other side of the line, fourth-round pick Clemmings may see time at right guard; he practiced primarily on the right side, at both guard and tackle, during rookie minicamp.

After the jump, a look at the latest developments around the NFC North:

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