Friday, May 6, 2016

brian robison

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Poll of the Week

Vikings Veterans Have Something to Prove
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

The Minnesota Vikings are a relatively young team, buoyed by first and second-year players at multiple positions on both sides of the ball. From Teddy Bridgewater to Eric Kendricks, the roster is stacked with up-and-coming contributors who should remain in purple and gold for years to come. Minnesota’s success hinges on their long-term future with the team, but they’re not the only cogs in the winning machine.

Veterans like Adrian Peterson, Terence Newman, and Phil Loadholt are just as, if not more important to the Vikings’ short-term outlook than the team’s young stars. Chad Greenway, set to play his last season with the Vikings in 2016, recently commented on Mike Zimmer’s unbiased, win-first approach coaching.

“He’s just in your face, and you always know where you stand – good or bad,” Greenway said, per Lindsey Young. “Whether you’re 32 years old or 22 years old, he’s going to have you playing your best football every week. He’s going to continue to get you better no matter where you’re at in your career.”

To Zimmer, age is nothing but a number. Newman led the team with three interceptions last season, Peterson won his third rushing title, and Joe Berger was arguably Minnesota’s best offensive lineman. Father Time hasn’t caught up to many of the Vikings’ veterans yet, and they’ll look to stay ahead of the curve in 2016.

Which veteran — any player over 30 years old — is most important to Minnesota’s winning chances this season?

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Vikings LB Emmanuel Lamur
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer covets versatility, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Sure, the Vikings have swiss army knives like Rhett Ellison and Jerick McKinnon, but it’s on defense where that malleability really shines.

There’s Anthony Barr, former UCLA defensive end, who entered the league two years ago and quickly became one of the NFL’s best outside linebackers. There’s Danielle Hunter, a raw prospect out of LSU who transformed himself into a forceful edge rusher last season. Oh, and don’t forget about Harrison Smith, a hybrid strong/free safety who truly does it all for Zimmer’s defense.

Players at every level can switch positions, move inside or out,  and even stand up or put a hand in the ground; the possibilities are endless in a Zimmer system. Think back to Sharrif Floyd sliding to nose tackle last season, or Brian Robison moving inside on third-and-long situations. Zimmer’s players are expected to adapt to the changing landscape of the NFL, where teams are throwing the football more than ever and consistently lining up with three to five receivers.

With such a desire for scheme flexibility, the signing of former Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Emmanuel Lamur in free agency makes perfect sense. Though Lamur’s started just 15 games since entering the league as an undrafted free agent in 2012, he has the varied experience and athleticism that Zimmer loves. When training camp begins in July, he’ll have a chance to start opposite Barr as the Vikings’ weak side linebacker, potentially adding another dimension to Minnesota’s already excellent unit.

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Minnesota Vikings have hired Brent Salazar
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

The rash of pectoral injuries may finally be over in Winter Park. As announced on the Minnesota Vikings’ official website, the team has named Brent Salazar its Strength and Conditioning coach. Salazar spent the previous nine years (2007-2015) with the Kansas City Chiefs, where he was a strength and conditioning assistant.

The announcement comes a little less than a month after the Vikings’ decision to part ways with Evan Marcus, who held the same position from 2014 to 2015. Under Marcus, the Vikings moved to a free weight program in the 2014 offseason that eliminated the use of certain machines. His shift in philosophy coincided with setbacks to a number of players. Josh Robinson, Brian Robison, Jerick McKinnon, Brandon Fusco, and Phil Loadholt all fell victim to weight room-related injuries.

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Danielle Hunter's NFL Combine
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Danielle Hunter is a freak, but not in the “having a physical oddity and appearing in a circus sideshow” way. In the NFL, where a select few human beings can run faster, hit harder, and react more quickly than the rest of the world’s population, Hunter may be the rarest of them all.

Before he was selected by the Minnesota Vikings with the 88th-pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, Hunter was a starting defensive end for the LSU Tigers. A physical specimen then, he was known more for his comically large arms than his eye-popping statistics. Despite starting 23 straight games for the Tigers between 2013 and 2014, he finished his three-year career in Louisiana with just 142 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks.

For a player with such gifts, the production didn’t match the physical presence. At 6’5″ and 252 pounds, Hunter generated a mere 1.5 sacks his junior year, despite playing 80 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. Entering February’s NFL Combine, scouts, analysts, and coaches knew Hunter would pass the eye test, but questions lingered on his shallow statistical output. As one former LSU coach said about Hunter before the event:

“If he walked into your living room, your eyes would pop out of your head. He looks that good on the hoof. He’s going to blow up the combine, and then ace all of the interviews and NFL teams are going to fall in love with him. He still needs someone to unlock all that talent, though.”

His performance at the Combine, paired with an impressive Pro Day and interview process, was enough to warrant the gamble from Vikings general manager Rick Spielman. The rookie defensive end appeared in 14 games last season, finishing the year with 33 tackles, six sacks, and one forced fumble. Although he played in a rotational role behind Everson Griffen and Brian Robison, Hunter made the transition from “project” to player look easy, realizing his potential in a way so few can do so early in the careers.

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[This Emmanuel Ogbah 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.]

Emmanuel Ogbah | Defensive End, Oklahoma St.

Measurements

Height – 6’4″
Weight – 269 lbs.
Age – 22

At First Glance

The AP’s Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, 28 career sacks

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