Monday, July 25, 2016

cordarrelle patterson

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Cordarrelle Patterson’s future with the Minnesota Vikings has been a hot topic for three seasons now, sometimes for the good he has and done on and off the field, and often due to his lack of production on the field.

The thing that keeps cropping up within the fan base, however, is Patterson’s seemingly aloof attitude and perceived lack of dedication to being a professional football player. This narrative came to a head on Sunday when Patterson allowed Green Bay kicker Mason Crosby to catch him from behind and save a potential touchdown by popping the ball loose from Patterson’s grip.

The turnover allowed Green Bay an unnecessary chance at a comeback, while Patterson’s sideline demeanor drew scorn from Vikings fans from all around. Patterson appeared to be laughing and joking with teammates on the sideline shortly after the huge mistake and that seemingly jovial attitude came to a peak when Xavier Rhodes intercepted an Aaron Rodgers pass in the endzone to keep the Packers at bay.

These images, Patterson smiling after a kicker bested him in a major way, brought all of the built up frustration with the former first rounder to a head.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Yesterday, I talked about how proud I am of what the gang here at Vikings Territory accomplished in 2015, but that was looking at our successes from more of a global view.

Today, I want to take a second to acknowledge what was actually produced, which also serves as a bit of an experiment in measuring what you, the reader, craved most throughout the 2015 calendar year.

These are the ten most read articles VT produced in 2015 if you are interested in taking a trip down Memory Lane:

10. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS PURSUING ADRIAN PETERSON, PER BUCSBLITZ

By Arif Hasan

I don’t want to shock you, but this isn’t the last Peterson-related article you are going to see on this list. He was obviously one of the most scorching offseason topics for the Vikings as a seemingly endless stream of twists, turns, reports, rumors, rumors, reports, turns, and twists kept us all wondering how things would play out.

This report, from Scout.com’s BucsBlitz, is another one of those twists that we can now wonder about in terms of whether or not it was factual.

Ironically enough, it is Peterson and Tampa’s Doug Martin that will race for the NFL’s rushing title this weekend, and one has to wonder how a trade might have played out in the end.

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Teddy's all smiles before tonight's game

Image courtesy of Vikings.com

If the scores in the Packers and Seahawks games hold, the Vikings will need a win against the New York Giants to clinch a playoff berth this week. Fortunately for Minnesota, the matchup on paper appears to favor the Vikings, who are getting healthy at just the right time of the season. Defensive starters Linval Joseph, Anthony Barr, and Harrison Smith are all active for tonight’s game and will take the field in less than two hours.

Barr is making his return from a nagging groin injury, one he re-aggravated against the Seattle Seahawks three weeks ago. Smith appeared in that game as well, but left early in the first quarter with a hamstring injury. Joseph injured his foot against the Atlanta Falcons and could have played last week, but needed one more week of rest to get to full strength. Smart, considering the Vikings are all-but-guaranteed a playoff spot with one win in their next two games.

Adrian Peterson suffered a minor ankle injury against the Chicago Bears last week, but was listed as probable on Friday and will start tonight. With the Packers losing, the Vikings will travel to Lambeau Field in Week 17 for an NFC North title game regardless of the outcome tonight. Hopefully, the inactives list remains starter-free for another week:

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Although the Minnesota Vikings field a top-five defense and a number of different playmakers on offense, just one player was selected to the 2016 Pro Bowl — running back Adrian Peterson. His selection, the first since 2013, was an obvious choice, as Peterson leads the league with 1,314 rushing yards and has often been the cog in Vikings victories this season.

This marks Peterson’s seventh Pro Bowl appearance and ties him with Ron Yary for fourth-most all-time in franchise history. While Peterson was the easiest choice among voting fans, players, and coaches, others could definitely be considered snubs, including center Joe Berger, nose tackle Linval Joseph, free safety Harrison Smith, and linebacker Anthony Barr. According to Pro Football Focus’s recent mock Pro Bowl roster, those four made the list, with Cordarrelle Patterson (leads the league with 31.1 yards/return) joining them as one of two kick returners.

Berger is the analytics website’s second-highest ranked center,  while Smith misses the Pro Bowl for the second straight year despite playing at an All-Pro level. Like Joseph and Barr, Smith has missed significant time with injuries, which may have hurt his case for the January 31 showcase. Barr is Pro Football Focus’s top-ranked outside linebacker, with 21 total pressures, a batted pass, and 35 defensive stops. While any of these players may be added at a later date — due to injuries or declined invites — they’re more-than-deserving at this point of the season.

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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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