Saturday, February 6, 2016

brandon fusco

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[This Joshua Garnett Scouting Report, with a Vikings slant, has been provided to Vikings Territory by Draft Season. Be sure to check back for more and also be sure to visit Draft Season to quench your NFL Draft thirst. All previously published scouting reports can be found by clicking here.]

Joshua Garnett | Guard, Stanford

Measurements

Height – 6’5″
Weight – 325 lbs.
Age – 21

At First Glance

Outland Trophy Winner as the nation’s best interior lineman

Projected Round

2nd – 3rd Round

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Originally recruited to play tight end, Clemson University guard Eric Mac Lain isn’t your prototypical offensive lineman. A 2011 high school graduate from North Carolina, the 6’5″, 245-pound prospect was the 6th-ranked tight end in the country and a top-60 national recruit, per Rivals. He redshirted as a freshman at Clemson, but played 38 snaps at tight end and 10 snaps at tight end in 2012. By the time 2015 rolled around, Mac Lain had started just one game for the Tigers.

That lack of experience didn’t prevent Mac Lain from becoming a leader for the Tigers, though. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney praised the left guard for his leadership, on an off the field:

“Eric has been an unbelievable leader. He took Mitch Hyatt under his wing, a true freshman left tackle, getting Guillermo back, Ryan Norton battling through injuries, Joe Gore, Maverick stepping in, Crowder, all those guys, they’ve been incredible. It doesn’t matter who we’ve played, they have been incredibly consistent,” Swinney said, per the Clemson Insider.

After making the full-time switch to left guard, Mac Lain anchored a unit that helped the Tigers rush for more than 3,000 yards this season. In the National Championship Game, the offense racked up over 500 yards against one of the country’s best defenses. Mac Lain’s proven he can make a position switch at college football’s highest level, which should make him an intriguing prospect in the middle-to-late rounds of the 2016 NFL Draft.

Vikings Jeff Davidson Offensive Line
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

In his final press conference of the 2015 season, Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer thanked the University of Minnesota, revealed his players’ offseason surgeries, and announced the release of one of the team’s coaches.

According to Zimmer, the team has parted ways with offensive line coach Jeff Davidson. When asked why he chose not to retain Davidson’s contract, Zimmer told reporters, “I didn’t want to.”

Davidson spent five years with the Vikings. He was a holdover from Leslie Frazier’s coaching staff and led a unit that struggled over the past two seasons. In 2014, the line allowed 51 sacks. In 2015, the banged-up group allowed 45 more sacks. Second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was the victim of 44 of those — far too many in Norv Turner’s Air Coryell offense.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

I’d really be drinking the Purple Kool-Aid if I said the Vikings were a complete football team. Rick Spielman’s built a competitive and deep roster, but there are holes and deficiencies at a few key positions, including wide receiver, offensive line, and in the secondary. It’s easy to look at the Vikings and think, “Hey, they could make some noise in the playoffs,” but truthfully, they’re a year away.

And that’s okay. Every team’s goal each year is to win the Super Bowl, even if that’s not always a realistic aspiration. Sometimes, unforeseen obstacles like injuries and coaching changes can throw those plans off track. While the Vikings have shown they’re an improved bunch, there are still issues keeping them from moving into the league’s upper-echelon of contenders.

The coaching, across the board, is some of the best in the NFL. The defense, with elite speed at every level, should be aggressive for years to come. And Teddy Bridgewater, despite the criticism, has the chance to become the franchise’s first great quarterback in nearly a decade.

But that won’t happen unless the Vikings make some offseason improvements. To help me find out where Spielman and Zimmer should focus their attention, I asked the VT team to answer this week’s question:

Looking ahead, what position do the Vikings most need to improve this offseason?

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

At 8-3, the Minnesota Vikings are the surprise team in the NFC and a legitimate threat to claim the NFC North division title. With the league’s second-best scoring defense and Mike Zimmer’s steady hand leading the ship, Minnesota has — at the very least — a 90 percent probability to reach the postseason.

When the Vikings lost to the San Francisco 49ers to open the season, a playoff berth appeared unlikely. The defense couldn’t stop the run, Adrian Peterson ran like a 30-year-old running back, and the offensive line looked lost without John Sullivan and Phil Loadholt. Mike Zimmer’s team lacked an identity early on, but they’ve slowly established themselves as one of the NFL’s most physical, technically sound teams on both sides of the ball.

As I’ve written these “What Went Right” pieces, I’ve noticed a consistent pattern. When the Vikings win, it’s because of the defense and the legs of Adrian Peterson. Specifically, the defense plays with discipline, filling run gaps correctly, tackling in space, and preventing big plays down the field. On offense, Minnesota wins when they unleash Peterson, who has at least 19 carries in every Vikings victory this season. Any less, and they’ve gone on to lose.

While the defense created turnovers against Atlanta in Week 12, it was Peterson who powered Minnesota to victory. This Sunday, when the Vikings host the Seattle Seahawks, he’ll need to do the same against an aggressive, stout run defense that hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher all season.

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