Wednesday, January 28, 2015
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gerald hodges

Photo Credit: Joe Lemke (used with permission)

Since being drafted No. 17 in the 2006 NFL Draft, Chad Greenway has been a Minnesota Viking.

In a Nov. 2012 interview, Greenway expressed that he hoped to play the entirety of his career in purple and gold:

“I certainly want to retire a Viking […] I’d love to just play it out here and be able to have an entire tenure in Minnesota.”

Two years later, Greenway’s leadership, comradery and positive attitude in the locker room continue to be an asset to the team; his contribution on the field upheld its reputation, as well. Greenway missed four games due to injuries this season; in the 12 that he started, however, the linebacker tallied 93 tackles. According to league stats, he leads the NFL since 2007, with 984 tackles.

Greenway’s loyalty to Minnesota and athleticism have not changed; but there is no denying that other things have—namely, younger, talented players making an impact on the roster. As the Vikings packed up their gear and prepared to head into the offseason, Greenway demonstrated no sense of urgency to clear out his locker.

For No. 52, there is some uncertainty if he will return to this locker room next season.

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The Vikings jumped out to an early 14-0 lead and looked like they were well on their way to a promising upset win on the road.  Instead, the entire team seemed to stall out all at once, and the final three quarters allowed for 16 unanswered points from the Lions and few individual performances to hang our hat on.

The Lions overwhelmed a makeshift offensive line and rookie quarterback by mixing up the blitz packages.  Field goal misses ended three drives.  The defense couldn’t get a pass rush going.  And even the clock management was highly suspect.

Past Winners of this award:

WEEK ONE:  Cordarrelle Patterson

WEEK TWO: Harrison Smith

WEEK THREE:  Harrison Smith

WEEK FOUR: Teddy Bridgewater

WEEK FIVE:  Harrison Smith

WEEK SIX:  Linval Joseph

WEEK SEVEN: Everson Griffen

WEEK EIGHT:  Anthony Barr

WEEK NINE:  Everson Griffen

WEEK ELEVEN: Charles Johnson

WEEK TWELVE:  Xavier Rhodes

WEEK THIRTEEN:  Everson Griffen

WEEK FOURTEEN:  Teddy Bridgewater

I find it really difficult to nominate anyone for this award this week, so if you feel like I’ve overlooked someone, then by all means hit the “OTHER” button on the poll and write in your vote via the comments section.

MATT ASIATA:  Clearly not a game changing playmaker, the persistent use of Asiata can be quite frustrating, but he did his job fairly well throughout Sunday afternoon.  He rushed 11 times for a team leading 36 yards (3.3 yard average) and scored the first touchdown of the game.  More impressively, he hauled in all seven of his targeted passes and put up an extra 50 receiving yards (7.1 yard average).

CHARLES JOHNSON:  I’m starting to actually buy into the idea that this guy, especially with some offseason hands work, could be the real deal.  Johnson was once again the go-to guy for Bridgewater and caught five passes for 72 yards (team lead).

GREG JENNINGS:  Greg Jennings only caught three passes on Sunday, and only ended up with 43 yards, but one of those catches was a graceful touchdown and the other was a brilliant sideline performance that had to be reviewed in order for everyone involved to believe it actually happened.

GERALD HODGES:  Still playing in relief of Anthony Barr, Hodges is continuing his strong late-season showing.  HE led the Vikings in tackles on Sunday with nine and also led the team in defended passes with two.  He was caught out of position on a couple of occasions, but one could argue he was the most consistent defender this team had in Detroit.

XAVIER RHODES:  A guy like Calvin Johnson is eventually going to make plays, he just is.  Rhodes and the Vikings holding him to only four catches and 53 yards, however, could certainly constitute a moral victory of sorts.  In addition to keeping Johnson contained, Rhodes had three tackles, including a beautifully violent tackle for a loss.

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(photo by Chris Price)
(photo by Chris Price)

Last season, Gerald Hodges met criticism for a lack of focus. This season is a whole new story.

There has never been any doubt as to Hodges’ athletic ability. When Minnesota drafted him in the fourth round in 2013, Hodges was coming off his junior season at Penn State. That year he started all 11 games, earning first-team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches and ESPN.com and second-team accolades by the media. He also was named a Pro Football Weekly honorable-mention. Hodges led the team with 106 tackles (60 solo) and ranked in the top 15 in the Big Ten in hits (eighth) and sacks (14th tie with 4.5).

At 6’2”, 243 lbs, Hodges is a machine of a linebacker. He is a safety convert, which brings its own set of advantages. However, Hodges didn’t stand out as fans hoped he would as a rookie. In an Aug. 3 interview, he explained to ESPN’s Ben Goessling part of the problem:

“Last year, I don’t think I came in as focused [as I should have been],” Hodges said. “I was coming from the combine. I wasn’t studying my plays in as much detail as I’m doing this year. I think last year I was focusing on too much instead of focusing on my job.”

Coming into the 2014 season, Hodges has made some adjustments—including working to be in better physical shape this offseason. “I just [want] to be as healthy and in shape as I can be,” Hodges said. “I feel as if I’m ready to run around on the field more effectively, able to get to the ball.”

Hodges expressed a confidence in playing the nickel defense, and says his team mentality has improved. “Each day I come in and work hard […] work on improving the team and improving myself as well.”

I returned to Mankato this morning for the team’s first practice in full pads. The intensity of the afternoon session was certinally taken up a notch and you can start to see some players starting to stand out.

I’ve summarized some of the major talking points that I think will continue to evolve through out camp.

Mike Zimmer Press Conference:

  • During the head coach Mike Zimmer’s press conference, he mentioned today’s afternoon practice would be telling and would be the start of another part of the progress in terms of building the 2014 team.
  • Zimmer went on to say he was excited to see the defensive backs in 1 on 1 drills where they would have to use press coverage against the wide receivers.  We saw this early in the practice with corner back Xavier Rhodes going up against wide receiver Greg Jennings. Rhodes maintained good coverage through the play, but lost his footing on the wet turf and Jennings came through with a reception on a hitch route.
  • Zimmer called offensive coordinator Norv Turner an innovative mind and smart play caller who is wise about when he takes his shot at big plays.
  • Zimmer was asked about rookie Scott Crichton and Zimmer commented that Crichton was a ‘try hard guy’ and today’s afternoon pratice would be telling about his readiness for the NFL. Later in the afternoon, I noted Crichton coming across the defensive line to blow up a running play. That has to help catch the coaches eye.
  • Zimmer said Tuesday would be the day he would sit down with his coaches and discuss who would start getting more reps than others. Zimmer added:

    These guys are competing against everyone in the league for a spot. We’re looking at the waiver wire.

  • Zimmer also discussed Robert Blanton, saying he likes how Blanton is able to close on the ball while in coverage, and was interested in seeing how Blanton can evolve in terms of run support.

 

Offensive notables:

  • Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson participated in the morning walk through, but did not suit up for the afternoon practice. I did see Patterson running routes with a trainer on the far field while the team was doing individual drills. Zimmer mentioned Patterson was a possibility for tomorrow evenings practice.
  • Wide receiver Adam Thielen received more praise from Zimmer during his press conference and continued to make plays while on the field. As I mentioned last night, the Vikings are giving Thielen an opportunity to prove himself, and Thielen continues to make the most of the opportunity.
  • Thielen spent more time with the 2nd team offense as did rookie tight end AC Leonard. If you follow me on twitter, you’ve probably noticed Leonard has caught my eye as someone with potential for making the final 53 man roster. I was able to speak with Leonard after practice and will elaborate on that story later.
  • Jarius Wright is getting a lot of looks, including in non passing plays. I wonder if this is because of Patterson being out, but Wright himself can be a versatile play maker in his 3rd year.
  • Rhett Ellison seems to get a lot of praise from coaches, including while on special teams. Ellison also spent time with the 1st team offense when in two tight end formations. You have to like his ability to play either tight end and full back and as someone who can motion around and help with blocking in either running or passing downs.
  • Teddy Bridgewater looked great at times, but still had a few rookie hiccups. That said, there always seems to be more good than bad. Bridgewater connected on nice passes to Thielen and rookie Kain Colter.
  • The offense ran a lot of screen plays to all 3 running backs, Adrian Peterson, Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon. It clear Turner is emphasizing getting these running backs used to catching from the backfield.

 

Defensive notables:

  • I saw more 3 safety sets with Harrison Smith, Robert Blanton and Mistral Raymond all in at the same time with the 1st team defense. Smith continues to spend a lot of time near the line of scrimmage.
  • Second year line backer Gerald Hodges spent time with the 1st team nickel package with Sean Prater serving as the nickel corner back while Captain Munnerlyn continues his time on the PUP list.
  • Brian Robison spoke with reporters and commented on how new nose tackle Linval Joseph reminds him of former Viking Pat Williams. Obviously high praise, but Robison noted that Joseph has the type of explosiveness that commands attention and double teams from an opposing offense. Robison mentioned this allows defensive ends to play under Joseph and get to the quarterback.
  • Josh Robinson made two very nice plays. Robinson picked off a pass early during 1 on 1s and knocked another loose on a nice back shoulder throw by Matt Cassel to Thielen. Defensive backs coach Jerry Gray has been coaching Robinson ‘not to see too much.’ I think he wants Robinson to focus on his responsibility and not worry about doing too much.
  • I saw defensive end Everson Griffen drop back and cover a shallow drag route by Greg Jennings. That is impressive athleticism and Zimmer loves that type of versatility.
  • Robison has been impressive during drills and got to Cassel during 11 on 11. Would have easily been a sack.
  • 9th overall pick Anthony Barr spent time with each defensive unit and even played some in nickle. I haven’t seen a lot of Barr just yet, but he’s made some flashes, but also gets lost at times.

All in all, I think today’s practice carried the type intensity Zimmer is looking to carry through out camp and I expect we’ll be hearing plenty after tomorrow’s practice. I will be heading back to Mankato next Saturday for the teams under the lights scrimmage and I’ll have plenty of talking points after.

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The good news for the Vikings heading into a possibly rainy game at Soldier Field is that Kevin Williams is active and expected to see some playing time.

The Vikings inactives include both rookie linebackers, Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges, which is kind of disappointing considering they were considered part of the offseason solution to the linebacker position which struggled consistently against Detroit last week.

Also inactive are QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson, S Mistral Raymond, DT Chase Baker, DE George Johnson, and G Jeff Baca.

Don’t forget to chat it up during the game with all our awesome VT followers on our chat room page which can be accessed by CLICKING HERE.

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