Saturday, October 1, 2016

brian robison

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Top 30 - 20 to 11 - Jerick McKinnon
Photos used courtesy of Andy Kunitis

The Minnesota Vikings have one of the NFL’s most talented rosters, making it difficult to narrow down the team’s top players. But we at Vikings Territory decided to tackle the task anyway, wrangling up some of the best Vikings writers around to help us name the the Top 30. If you missed the first entry of this series, check it out HERE.

Follow the jump for selections 20-11!

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Projecting the Vikings' Final 53-Man Roster
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

The 2016 season inched forward a bit when the Vikings opened their OTA offseason workouts. With that came plenty of early optimism about the Vikings’ talented roster. Teddy is ready to throw for 10,000 yards. Adrian Peterson is in the best shape of his life. 2015 top pick Trae Waynes is thriving and Aaron Boone looks great in purple.

If you listen closely, you can hear the faintest of claims that the Vikings are a true Super Bowl contender.

It is too early to say most of these things, but when you start to stack Minnesota’s roster, you can see why the hype exists. I struggled with my first attempt to pencil in a final 53-man roster, mostly because there will be talented players who will inevitably be cut. The front office won’t have an easy task on their hands, but I’d take a loaded roster over a barren one any day of the week.

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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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