Tuesday, October 6, 2015

chris cook

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While the Vikings first preseason game against the 49ers wasn’t horrible, it definitely left fans wanting to see something more. A sign of improvement. A glimpse of development. Well, I think Vikings fans got that and then some as the Vikings defeated the Bills 36-14 at Mall of America Field Friday night. There was definitely more positive than negative in this week’s exhibition game. I think there may be a feeling in the air now that this team could cause more problems in the tough NFC North than given credit for by most NFL analysts. (Something I’ve been saying here for a while now). With that being said, let’s get moving on the notes and analysis I have from the second preseason game of the year. We’ll start off with a summary of the injuries suffered in yesterday’s match up.


The Vikings managed to get through another exhibition game without any major injuries. Kyle Rudolph suffered a laceration behind his ear and was evaluated for a concussion but the tests came back negative. Chris Cook suffered a concussion on a play where he stripped the ball from a Bills receiver. Both players will be fine but I wouldn’t expect either of them to start in the next preseason game against the Chargers. If it was the regular season game, I wouldn’t be so sure. But as it is just an exhibition match up and both players are crucial to the Vikings roster, I would be surprised if Cook (Rudolph is more likely) saw playing time. Then again, it remains to be seen if Adrian Peterson will play next week so, really, who knows?

“No Huddle”

  • Let’s start off with Ponder because, let’s face it – if a certain rookie, seventh round linebacker hadn’t stole the show in the fourth quarter, the main thing we’d take away from this game is that Ponder looked excellent. He showed great accuracy, led receivers, stepped up in the pocket to make throws and was able to get away from pressure when needed. Moreover, he really just looked the part. Looked comfortable in his own skin. He had the time to go through his reads and was able to find the open man. Ponder finished the night 10-13 for 136 yards (with an almost equal passer rating) and a touchdown. Amen.
  • Jerome Simpson knows how to get high. I mean really, really high. I guess this is both a great thing and bad thing for the Vikings, though. On one hand, Simpson will go over just about anyone in an effort to get to the endzone. On the other hand, it means he’ll miss the first three games of the year. Something I saw that I thought was really awesome about the Simpson play below is how friggin’ fast Matt Kalil is. Watch the full highlight on NFL.com and notice how Kalil is seriously right behind Simpson as he flies down the field. Big guy has speed.

    (Image courtesy of SB Nation.)
  • I thought Toby Gerhart showed some great speed in Friday’s game. We’re used to seeing Gerhart plow through people to get the first down. There were a couple times though that I thought he showed great agility and burst to get through the first wave of defenders. It’s comforting knowing that even without our starred franchise player Adrian Peterson, we could still have one of the better ground attacks in the league.
  • Though Ponder was sacked twice on the opening drive, neither of them came as a result of rookie Matt Kalil being beat. Kalil, who had an above average first NFL game last week, showed us again why he was worth a fourth overall pick.
  • On the second offensive drive, the Vikings managed to come away with a field goal thanks to rookie kicker Blair Walsh after the drive stalled in front of the Bills’ goal line. I think it’s worth noting though that, if it was a regular season game, we probably would have been forced to punt instead. The Vikings went for it on fourth and short near midfield and got a first down allowing them to continue the drive… It’s unlikely they take that risk in the regular season.
  • I really don’t care for flea flickers (unless they work, of course). They just take too long to develop and I rarely see them end well. The Vikings attempted to run a flea flicker during their second offensive drive and the play ended up incomplete as Ponder was forced out of the pocket and had to throw it out of bounds down field. The pressure came from the left side after Matt Kalil basically stopped blocking Bills defensive end Chris Kelsay. Not sure what happened on that play… But again, flea flickers… They just don’t do it for me.
  • The real test for rookie kicker Blair Walsh will come when the Vikings are down by 2 at Lambeau Field with five seconds left on the clock. With that being said, he had another great game, Friday. Not only was he booming kick offs again (the guy managed to put one through the uprights on a kick off) but he was nailing difficult field goals. Walsh accounted for half of the Vikings 38 points against the Bills and was 5/6 on field goals. The kick he missed was from about 47 yards out and was wide right. With that being said, he also nailed another 47 yard field goal right down the middle later in the game.
  • Harrison Smith seemed to have a pretty good game. He only had a couple stand out plays – one of which being a beautiful blitz where he batted a throw down at the line. More importantly though, he didn’t have any biffs that I noticed. I guess it’s a good thing when you aren’t constantly hearing a safeties name because typically it means they are being beat, missing tackles, etc… I think it’s safe to say that Smith has secured a starting spot on the roster this year. Now we’ll just have to see who starts beside him. Personally, my vote is for Mistral Raymond after Friday’s game. Raymond was on fire and definitely made a statement after struggling last week (and publicly being called out for it by the front office) against the 49ers.
  • Chris Carr and Eric Frampton. Yikes, these guys looked bad.
  • Josh Robinson didn’t look spectacular but he also wasn’t glaringly bad. Which, I guess, is about as much as you could ask for from a rookie in his first game coming off of a hamstring injury. He did get beat on a bomb down the left side of the field but his blazing speed allowed him to catch back up with defender and put some pressure on him causing an incompletion. He also had a dropped interception but at the very least managed to interrupt the ball in the air.
  • Joe Webb has another impressive game as a running back. As a quarterback? Not so much… With that being said, I’m starting to feel like maybe I’m not giving Joe Webb a fair shot? While I do think he is inaccurate, unable to read a defense and prefers to run first when there is any sign of pressure, he is working with the second stringers. And from everything I’ve seen in preseason, there is a huge disparity between the starters and the back ups. Yet, the fact remains that I just don’t think Webb can be a starting quarterback for this team. If he could look as comfortable throwing as he does sprinting down the field, he would look like Peyton Manning. But the fact is Joe Webb was never a quarterback and I’m still convinced that he is not one. Not an an NFL level anyway.
  • When the Vikings drafted Jarius Wright I was pumped. As some of you know, I spent a good amount of time “scouting” the receivers in this past draft class and Wright was one of my later-round favorites for the Vikings. While some just consider him a “poor man’s Percy Harvin,” I thought he could be much more than that. Not only does he have the speed, agility and evasiveness of a great slot receiver, but, in my opinion, he has the breakaway speed that could make him a deep threat (despite his short stature)and a threat in the return game. Unfortunately for Wright, though, he hasn’t really stood out much this preseason so far. And I’m not sure if it’s because maybe he’s not as good as I thought he was or he just hasn’t really had the opportunity yet. Wright hasn’t been targeted much as a receiver so far. In fact, he didn’t have a single catch against the Bills. You know who did have a reception, though? Fourteen other players! That has to be kind of scary if you’re Jarius Wright. He really needs to show in the next two games why he deserves to be on this team and what he’s capable of. Wright also hasn’t gotten a real opportunity on any returns yet either as most of the punts he’s been back to receive ended in a fair catch.
  • Matt Asiata, who the Vikings are looking at as a potential fullback, looked really great to me. In fact, I think he could potentially be someone the team looks out to add depth at running back. The guy showed great speed and vision. Asiata had a couple of big gains on the ground where he looked much quicker and more agile than your typical full back.
  • Other than a long, perfectly passed bomb to Emmanuel Arceneaux, Sage Rosenfels didn’t really do much to show why he should be the second QB on this roster. Then again, I’m not sure he really cares much as he is a [very] veteran player who was likely just brought back to provide an experienced perspective at the position. What do I know, though? Maybe he’s dying to have an opportunity to get back on the field if Ponder goes down during the year. If that’s the case though, he’s got some more work to do.
  • Audie Cole. Audie, freakin’ Cole. He’s all anyone is talking about after having two interceptions for touchdowns within 16 seconds or so in the fourth quarter. It definitely added a spark to an otherwise pedestrian second half. I don’t know that I would go as far as anointing him as the steal of the draft, though. Let’s not forget that he was going up against Tyler Thigpen and Brad Smith – the fourth “quarterback” on the Bills roster. (And I use the term quarterback loosely, here.)  Both quarterbacks basically made the same horrible read two times in a row and Audie Cole just managed to capitalize on it. With that being said, it doesn’t mean that I don’t think what Cole managed to do was easy or undeserving of recognition. If anything, I think it should definitely earn him some more playing time to see what else he can do. But a guaranteed spot on the roster? I’m not so sure…

Some of us think that Rick Spielman has put together a roster that potentially has the ability to surprise NFL observers as soon as this coming season.  Heck, if you look into the darkest corners and the deepest abyss, you might even find a Vikings fan that thinks the Vikings could soon be in contention for a Super Bowl.

From what I have seen out of the Vikings coaching staff this offseason, however, I think that they are having trouble believing in themselves and instead want to pull every trick out of the hat possible in an effort to simply do well enough to not get fired.

First, as Brett passed along in the post below this one, the team is allowing Adrian Peterson to rush himself back into action.  Sure, they are parading Peterson out in front of the press allowing him to talk about his “vision” and make himself out to be some sort of Superman capable of making this comeback in short order.

If Peterson were actually Superman, his knee never would have been shredded in the first place.

Allowing him to push himself during the rehab process is one thing.  Allowing him to run with the reckless abandon we all know and love during a meaningless preseason game, or even early in the regular season, is quite another.  Make no mistake about it, this is shaping up to be the biggest gamble this team has taken since they swung a certain trade with a certain Texas franchise to obtain a certain high profile running back.

And it could backfire.

Another sign that the coaching staff is in self preservation mode is the handling of Everson Griffen.  Griffen was shaping up to be an above-average defensive end that could push Brian Robison for playing time, and also made an impact as the NFL’s biggest special teams gunner.  So, they switched him to linebacker for a spell in an effort to give him more snaps.

Now, I have no problem with experimenting and trying to play to the strengths of your roster, but this particular experiment went too far.  They have already canned the idea of Griffen playing at linebacker, but not after he shed a significant amount of weight to try and win a job there.  Making that type of change to your body in an effort to win a position you clearly weren’t meant to play is just ridiculous.

I am even more perplexed that they would move Griffen away from the end spot while at the same time make a big deal out of putting Jared Allen on a pitch count.  Griffen, by all appearances, was at least the third best pass rusher on this roster last season and should be an obvious choice to spell Allen if that truly is the plan.  Now, I am concerned that Griffen’s weight loss will at least temporarily hinder his ability to be productive at that spot, let alone as a part of the defensive tackle rotation.

The handling of these two very different situations follow a troubling pattern that cause me to flash back to my objections to the handling of Joe Webb, Donovan McNabb, and Chris Cook.

Troubling patterns are the worst kind, and the fact that I am starting to notice them is giving me an uneasy feeling.

A continuation of the news roundup from training camp.  Day three came and went, and here are the top 10 items that you should know:

1.  Michael Jenkins Is Feeling Good

30 year old receiver Michael Jenkins might have an uphill battle when it comes to making this roster, but if he is cut it won’t be because of his torn meniscus from last November.  Jenkins pronounced himself fully recovered from his surgery, which had seemed to hamper him earlier this offseason, on Monday.

2.  Chris Stroud In, Nick Taylor Out

Training camp has claimed its first victim.  A torn labrum landed cornerback Nick Taylor on the injured waivers on Monday, and the Vikings replaced his spot with rookie cornerback Chris Stroud out of Webber International.  Stroud had participated in the Vikings rookie minicamp back in May.  You might remember that Taylor was the “point guard” that Rick Spielman took a lot of grief for signing somewhat early into free agency.

3.  Jared Vs. Matt

The much anticipated matchup between Jared Allen and Matt Kalil got its first action on Monday.  Allen was able to put the moves on Kalil only once during their first head-to-head session, and Kalil largely held his own over the course of the day.  All accounts are that Kalil looked the part of a top five left tackle, and in being compared to Charlie Johnson’s first day on the job is an obvious and immediate upgrade at the position.

4.  Robinson’s Hammy Still Hurtin’

Third round pick Josh Robinson has the skill set to contribute to the Vikings defense, perhaps as a starter.  However, his hamstring injury is causing the Vikings to take a cautious approach and he has been missing practice time and that could continue for a while.  The Vikings and many others view Robinson as a valuable player to have, but he is missing important repetitions that could stunt his growth from a learn-the-game standpoint.

5.  Vikings Are Copy Cats Part I

The Vikings want to copy their divisional rival Chicago Bears when it comes to at least one phase of the game.  Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer admitted on Monday that when the Vikings signed Zack Bowman, a key member of Chicago’s annually fantastic special teams, he jumped on the chance to “grill” Bowman about Chicago.  He intends to not only use the information as a resource when playing against the Bears, but to also perhaps try and emulate the league’s best unit in recent years.  What did Bowman tell Priefer?  That it helps to have a really good returner (i.e. Devin Hester) on your team.  Zack Bowman’s new nickname here at VT is officially Captain Obvious.

6.  Vikings Are Copy Cats Part II

Last year, the tight end duo of the New England Patriots was insane.  Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Henandez combined for 169 catches, over 2,200 yards, and 24 touchdowns.  Talk about trend setting.  A number NFL teams would love to duplicate those stats and the Vikings are one of them, which had to play into their decision to invest so heavily in John Carlson this offseason despite the presence of Kyle Rudolph.  The Vikings gave their own duo a set of game tapes from Patriots games and asked them to study the way the Patriots use their tight end, which has Rudolph all excited about things to come.

7.  A Cautionary Tale

Today is July 31st which means it is the 11th anniversary of the saddest day in Vikings history:  the death of Korey Stringer.  Peterson’s seafood issue on Monday surely scared a number of people that have been with the organization to remember Stringer’s death which was caused by heat stroke.  It is hot right now in Mankato, and we have all read the stories year after year since Stringer’s passing, but you know that today’s date carries special meaning to those guys practicing today.

8.  Cook Standing Out

There are a number of good tidbits in this post from the Daily Norseman, who have a man on the ground at training camp, but one stuck out to me in particular.  Chris Cook, according to the report, is looking like a very good corner now that his off-field issues are (hopefully) behind him.  Cook looked decent before his mid-season arrest last year, and finding a true talent to play with Antoine Winfield and company could be a huge boost to this defense.

9.  Receivers Getting Some Attention

I’m not sure if this is a good sign for our defense, but I am encouraged by the sheer number of good reports coming out of camp about the Vikings receivers.  Jerome Simpson seems to be as advertised, Percy Harvin has been tearing it up, and every time I turn around another receiver is getting praise.  On Monday a Jarius Wright touchdown turned some heads (see below for more), Devin Aromashodu made the play of a day with a leaping catch, and even tight end John Carlson is getting praise from the local media.  Greg Childs was the only one to stand out in a negative way on Monday, as he dropped a wide open pass after burning a defensive back.

10.  Shocker:  Allen Is Vocal

A funny story originated from one of the final plays of Monday’s practice.  The third string offense, led by Sage Rosenfels, had a first down at the one yard line with eight seconds remaining on the clock.  Rosenfels lobbed a pass to rookie receiver Jarius Wright who caught the lob in the back corner of the end zone and stretched to get his feet down.  It was apparently a close call, but the referee on hand signaled it was a touchdown, and then all hell broke loose.  The offense celebrated while the defense argued, spearheaded by Jared Allen who wasn’t even in on the play.  “This is not college! This is not college! This isn’t high school,” Allen hollered as he got in the refs face, in good fun. “You gotta have two feet in!”  Mike Wobschall has a number of other great moments to check out right here.

Chris Cook’s felony charges from last year prevented him from playing any games, or participating at all with team activities, following his initial arrest.  Now, he is eager to get back to the field of play.

“I’m more excited than I ever have been to come back to Mankato,” Cook said.

Cook apparently recognized how serious the charges were and how poor behavior off the field could impact his career.

“I definitely had doubts that I would even be playing football again,” Cook said on Thursday. “I’m just blessed to be in this position and very thankful for the position that I’m in and to be able to play football again.”

Cook also talked about how hard it was for him to not be on the field with his teammates, after recognizing in previous interviews that he made things difficult on his teammates by landing himself behind bars.

The Vikings showed incredible patience and generosity in sending Cook home with pay following the incident with his girlfriend, and the best possible outcome of the way they handled that situation is for Cook to truly be a changed man moving forward.

Another off-field issue that continues his pattern of finding himself in trouble, however, will almost certainly end his career as a Minnesota Viking.

When you look at this offseason’s free agent class for the Minnesota Vikings, you will be hard pressed to find a likely starter in the bunch besides fullback Jerome Felton.  Jerome Simpson is likely, too, but not during the first three weeks when he will be serving his suspension.

After those two guys, I think the most free agent signing most likely to win a starting job has to be cornerback Chris Carr (setting aside injury scenarios).

The 29 year old cornerback has had a solid seven year career up until last season’s hamstring injury ended a 96 game playing streak.

“If you’re out of the mix long enough, you might just be left out,” Carr said about his demotion in Baltimore last season. “It’s like you have to reprove yourself all over again. It feels pretty good now that I have that chance.”

Carr knew he had the skills to continue playing in the NFL, however.

“If you’re versatile, you’ll always find a job somewhere,” Carr said.

By “versatility” Carr means that he can play both inside and outside effectively, and he could be asked to do just that in Minnesota.  Chris Cook seems certain to man one of the starting spots on the outside, but a combination of Antoine Winfield and Carr seems likely for the other outside spot and nickel duties.

There has been some good debate in the comments section about what exactly Winfield’s role will be this year, and I personally believe that the answer will greatly depend on Carr’s ability to step up as a solid starter.

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