Monday, January 22, 2018

Dalvin Cook

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Vikings O.C. Pat Shurmur wins PFWA NFL Assistant Coach of the Year award.

Pat Shurmur, Offensive Coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings, was named 2017 NFL Assistant Coach of the Year by the Professional Football Writers of America Thursday.

Shurmur took over as Vikings offensive coordinator in 2017 after serving on an interim basis in 2016. He was recognized for orchestrating a Vikings offense that produced plenty of big plays throughout the season. His efforts helped lead the team to a 13-3 record and a No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs.

The Vikings offense ranked 11th in the NFL in total yards during the regular season. According to PFWA the Vikings had 68 plays of 20-plus yards (7th in the league), and 12 scoring drives of 80-plus yards, eight more than in 2016. The offense ranked 10th in scoring, averaging 23.9 points per game.

Shurmur’s guidance helped the Vikings offense overcome significant obstacles during the season. The Vikings lost starting quarterback Sam Bradford for all but two quarters after Week 1. The team then lost starting running back Dalvin Cook to a season-ending ACL injury in Week 4. Still, Shurmur found a way to get consistent production out of his players.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

The Vikings ended a disappointing 2016 season by finishing 8-8 and missing the playoffs. Just one year later, the team is eyeing their first Super Bowl appearance since 1976.

Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman was named the 2017 NFL Executive of the Year by Pro Football Weekly. An 18-person panel selected the 55 year-old as the recipient of the honor.

“Slick Rick,” or “Trader Rick” as he’s commonly referred to, has built a reputation of accumulating draft picks, selecting impact players throughout all seven rounds and engineering multiple draft day trades. More recently, however, it’s Spielman’s ability to transform a roster that has him receiving recognition.

The 2017 offseason may have been some of Spielman’s best work as the Vikings general manager. Let’s take a closer look at how he used due diligence and refined offseason strategies to revamp the Vikings roster and put Minnesota back on the map.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

2017 Minnesota Vikings Pro Football Focus grades.

Before we get started I would like to make some things clear about PFF grades.

Pro Football Focus (PFF) has been grading NFL players since 2004. The football analytics site evaluates individual performances on a play-by-play basis. On every play of every game, a PFF analyst will grade each player on a scale of -2 to +2 according to what he did on the play.

From the Pro Football Focus website:

pff player grades

The grading method was designed to build a clearer picture of how players performed, rather than simply judging performances based on box-score stats. Stats can be misleading.

While most statistical analysis is quantitative in nature, PFF uses qualitative measures and opinion-based grading as the basis of their rankings, so like baseball umpires, their calls could be construed by critics as “biased.” However, the grading process is overseen by at least three individuals per contest, so while the numbers may not always be perfect, the process itself is rather reliable.

What’s also unique about PFF is that season-level grades also account for the duration of good and bad play, resulting in “compounded” grades (both positive and negative) if the player’s performance continues for long periods of time. Basically, the grades factor in “streaky” play. Kinda cool, right?

Anyways…I hope that helped. It’s better to know these things beforehand because some grades may surprise you.

So without further adieu, here are the 2017 season grades for each qualified Viking. The players are arranged by grade within their position group. Notable position rankings are listed in parentheses.

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Calm Amidst the Chaos
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

You hear the word ‘Saints,’ and suddenly it hits you. The image of a battered-and-bruised Brett Favre, writhing in pain as he scrapes himself off the turf. The sound of Pete Morelli announcing Brad Childress’s blunder, that Minnesota had broken the huddle with 12 men. The audible gasp of a collective fan base, watching Tracy Porter step effortlessly in front of Favre’s cross-body pass.

None of that matters.

It’s Week 1 of the 2017 regular season, and Sam Bradford is trying to silence his critics; those who questioned his ability to create explosive plays and lead the Vikings to the Super Bowl. On the opposite side of the field, Adrian Peterson is back at U.S. Stadium, fired up and ready to stick it to the team that kicked him to the curb for a younger, cheaper workhorse in Dalvin Cook.

None of that matters.

Not the film, the stats, or the end result. There is no revenge to be had, no score to be settled. On Sunday afternoon, when the New Orleans Saints return to U.S. Bank to face the Minnesota Vikings, they’ll do so as a familiar, if very much evolved and worthy foe in the 2017 NFC playoffs.

But don’t let the noise — the media narratives and painful memories — distract you. Sunday’s game is nothing new for these Minnesota Vikings.

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optimist
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

We’re an odd lot, Vikings fans. I won’t explain it to you because you already know; how the decades of disappointment and spectacular losses —  not simple, run-of-the-mill defeats, with which a Browns or Bengals fan may be familiar, but grandiose, cataclysmic rounds of failure that always seem to happen on a national stage — have made us skittish and gun-shy in even the most bountiful times. No matter how good it is, we’re always waiting for it to get bad.

Walsh, Anderson, Favre, that trip to the Meadowlands in January of 2001. Those four Super Bowls. Herschel. I am not ashamed of the way we are, because we have innumerable reasons to be. It’s a psychological defense mechanism, borne from years of heartbreak, so cheers to human adaptation.

But here we are at 10-2, with the Vikings currently holding the NFC’s top seed and everything coming up Milhouse, and still, the creeping doubt pervades. We don’t know how, but many of us are sure (as we always are) they will find a way to screw it all up.

Perhaps they will; the likelihood of a Super Bowl win is considerably smaller than that of a playoff flameout, and that’s not a curse, it’s statistics. But I have decided not to worry about that. No, I’ve opted not to concern myself with what the final outcome of the 2017 Vikings season will be, devastating or otherwise. Rather, I’ve chosen to enjoy the ride. And let me tell you, brethren, it feels wonderful.