Friday, May 22, 2015
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brian robison

Josh Freeman stole most of the headlines regarding the Vikings this week, but Wednesday brought a flurry of activity from Winter Park, and here are your resulting roster updates:

McLeod Bethel-Thompson:  Many Minnesota fans hoped to see “MBT” sneak onto the practice squad after he was the casualty cut following the Freeman signing.  Not only would retaining him have allowed the Vikings to continue developing him, but it could have provided them greater flexibility and leverage in potential trade scenarios involving either Christian Ponder or Matt Cassel.  Instead, the San Francisco Forty-Niners claimed him off waivers.  MBT started his career with the Niners, but has yet to see any regular season playing time with any of the teams he has signed with since 2011.

Brian Robison:  One of my favorite Vikings is defensive end Brian Robison, mainly because of his unheralded consistency on the left side, so I was elated to hear that the Vikings signed him to a four year contract extension.  The deal is reportedly worth $28.3 million, with $13.1 million in guarantees and a $5 million signing bonus.  Robison has been one of the best 4-3 left ends in the NFL, particularly in the pass rushing department, so it is no surprise that the contract incentives are tied directly to sack numbers.  Robison, the class act that he is, joked with reporters that the quality of bass fishing in Minnesota was a major factor in his decision to re-up.  Defensive ends Jared Allen and Everson Griffen are also in contract years.

Justin Trattou:  The Vikings also made a waiver claim on Wednesday and they were awarded defensive end Justin Trattou who was recently released by the New York Giants.  Trattou was undrafted out of Florida in 2011 and has bounced around the Giants practice squad and active roster over the last couple of years.  He has very limited playing time and is mostly an unknown at this point.  Still, the Vikings front office thought highly enough of his potential that they jettisoned defensive end George Johnson to make room for him.

The Vikings return all 4 defensive ends from the 2012 squad. The top of the depth chart is loaded with talent but Rick Spielman still signed guys that could steal that final roster spot away from D’Aundre Reed. Reed was a 7th round pick by the Vikings in 2011 but has yet to earn a single tackle in 2 regular seasons with the team. As a matter-of-fact he has collected only 1 solo tackles in the preseason games. The writing might be on the wall for D’Aundre because the Vikings signed free agent Lawrence Jackson from Detroit in the off season. Jackson was a 1st round pick by the Seattle Seahawks in the 2008 NFL draft. Jackson started 51 games at USC… Phillip Rivers is the only other NCAA player to accomplish that statistic. The 6 year pro is listed at 6’4’ 271 pounds and has played in 69 NFL games. Jackson has 19.5 sacks and 141 total tackles in his career. Yea, I would say that’s and upgrade.

The Vikings also signed undrafted rookie free agent Marquis Jackson from Portland State. Last season Marquis had 36 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. Prior to Portland State, he racked up 14 sacks and 36 TFL in 2 seasons with Texas Southern. Marquis has terrific movement skills and explodes at the point of attack. At one time he was highly rated player that just didn’t play with consistent urgency in 2012. USC had interest in Marquis, but academic problems stop him from becoming a Trojan.

At the bottom of the defensive end depth chart is undrafted free agents Collins Ukwu and George Johnson. The good news is the Vikings will not need to play Jared Allen, Brian Robison or Everson Griffen much in preseason so those 2 might see some playing time. The bad news is Ukwu and Johnson are long shots with the Vikings.

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[Note from Brett: We’re happy to have Mr. Lemke back for another bold prediction for the 2013 season. In prediction #10, Branden submitted that Harrison Smith will be a pro bowl safety this year. In #9, he predicted that the Vikings will hold six receivers on the final roster including Joe Webb and Greg Childs. This time, see how Branden thinks Everson Griffen will fair in 2013.]

Perhaps one of the most underrated players on our defense, and maybe even the entire NFL, is defensive end Everson Griffen. His production as a career backup to Brian Robison has been stellar. 2012 was his best year, racking up 26 tackles, 8 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and who could forget his interception returned for a touchdown against the St Louis Rams? Despite his backup status, I expect to see Everson Griffen push Brian Robison for even more playing time in the rotation, and ultimately, I think Griffen is our guy long term at the left defensive end spot.

Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Brian Robison, and Everson Griffen are all entering the last year of their contracts. I love all these players, but realistically, the Vikings can’t afford to keep all of them. Griffen is by far the youngest of the group, and if he can put up numbers like he did last year, I think there’s no question the Vikings will pick him over Robison when all is said and done. I think we’ll see Griffen’s playing time increase heavily over the course of the 2013 season, and I am predicting he’ll finish with 35 tackles, 8-10 sacks, and a few forced fumbles. I don’t know what the Vikings thoughts are on keeping Kevin Williams or Jared Allen, given the cost of keeping both of those players may be out of the Vikings financial reach by the end of the season. In a perfect world, all four would be re-signed, but sadly we may be losing some fan favorites in 2014.

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Brian Robison didn’t have a bad year in 2012 by any means, but he is looking forward to getting healthy and contributing even more during his contract year.  His shoulder injury did not require surgery, but he says it did bother him particularly during the playoff game in Green Bay, and he is a permanent reminder of the injury in the form of a quarter-sized bump on his shoulder.

“I’ve still got a little deformity there with the bone popping up. It’s still there and it’s going to be there,” Robison told Viking Update.  “They say it’s pretty permanent. It’s been good. I’ve been getting strong in the weight room and been feeling good on the field so far, so it’s been going well.”

“Pretty well” might be a bit of an understatement for Robison after Wednesday’s practice session where he intercepted quarterback Christian Ponder not once, but twice.  On one occasion, rookie corner Xavier Rhodes tipped the pass back towards the line and Robison was able to make the heads up play.  On the other, he was simply able to get into the air and snatch Ponder’s pass before walking into the endzone.  While that isn’t exactly the news we want to be hearing about our quarterback, it is always good to hear that our defensive line is making some splash plays at the line.

Robison ended up with an arm harness last season and a brace for his elbow, which was a separate injury which he admits also impacted his game.

“A lot. It really did. There was some times out there where that, paired along with the elbow brace that I was wearing, I felt like a lot of times I was playing with no arms out there and it was kind of a weird deal,” he said .  “You can really see in the playoff game when I came back and then six days later we had to play another game, it was one of those deals where it just wasn’t ready to go, but the competitor in me didn’t want to sit out.”

Robison has never reached double digit sacks, with 8.5 last season being his career high, but he is a burst type of player that seldom seems to be a goat and has made his share of big plays from the left end position.  Like Jared Allen, Robison faces a contract year in 2013, and he will be expected to take a step or two towards improving even more.

 

The Vikings made three first round selections Thursday night, but they added a fourth in the form of defensive end Lawrence Jackson who was selected by the Seahawks in the first round of the 2008 Draft.  The Seahawks selected tight end John Carlson in the second round of that Draft and he is also on the current roster of the Vikings.

The deal for Jackson is reportedly of the one-year variety and he joins an already crowded depth chart that also saw rookie Sharrif Floyd added to it on Thursday night.  The hope is that this move is an attempt to have a top-notch rotation along the line, and not a sign that either Jared Allen or Brian Robison have more serious shoulder injuries than the team has let on.

He has generated 98 tackles, 19.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, and two recoveries in his five seasons with the Seahawks and Lions.  As another USC product joining the Vikings, Rick Spielman has continued to display an affinity for players coming out of that program.

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