Monday, March 2, 2015
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greg jennings

 Last week Darren Sproles was “all the rage” when Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported that multiple teams had expressed an interest in the ultra-explosive multi-purpose running back. Originally expected to be released by the Saints, Sproles was instead traded to the Philadelphia Eagles for a fifth round pick.

 Norv Turner and Sproles had success together in San Diego for four seasons, so naturally the Minnesota Vikings were among the teams linked to the speculation and trade rumors.

 The Vikings obviously weren’t interested enough to offer their fifth round pick for Sproles…  and so, with the departure of Toby Gerhart to Jacksonville via free agency, Adrian Peterson could be looking at a heavy work load as it stands. 

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Less than one month after giving Sidney Rice a Super Bowl ring, the Seattle Seahawks are expected to release their receiver (per NFL Insider Adam Schefter).

What are the chances that Minnesota looks at re-signing their former receiver for the 2014-15 season? Probably not very high.

Bringing Rice back would be an extremely risky move.  The Vikings are not in a position to make risky moves.

Rice signed a five-year contract worth $41 million with Seattle in July 2011. However, the 27-year-old has been hindered by injuries since joining the Hawks.

While the Vikings likely wanted to re-sign the receiver following the 2010 season, injuries were a concern even then.  Rice played only six games during his last year in Minnesota, and he underwent a microfracture hip surgery.  The recovery went well, though, and Seattle took a chance on the free agent.  After all, Rice was (is?) a guy with the skill set to succeed in the NFL.

 Patrick Reusse of 1500ESPN.com had this same idea in August 2013 when he compared Christian Ponder to other quarterbacks. Well, now it’s my turn to add two cents and lay some tracks down this Ponder path.

Rich  Gannon had a long 17 year career in the NFL as a quarterback largely due to his mobility and toughness. Ponder reminds me a little bit of Gannon in the fact that he can make plays on the run and doesn’t have the world’s greatest arm.

 Gannon didn’t play much during his first three seasons in Minnesota, but he became the Vikings’ starter in his following three seasons. Gannon was a serviceable quarterback for the Vikings, however his stats in his first 42 starts for the Vikings, Redskins and Chiefs combined were nothing more than average at best. In his first nine years in the NFL, Gannon was 21-21 as a starter completing just 56.6% of his pass attempts while throwing for 49 touchdowns and 44 interceptions with a quarterback rate of 73.8.

Like a fine wine that improves with age, Gannon transformed into a very good quarterback at the age of 32. In his last two seasons at Kansas City and his final six years in Oakland he performed at his best. During that time frame, Gannon had a 55-35 record completing 61% of his attempts and throwing 131 touchdowns with 60 interceptions. Gannon won the NFL’s MVP award in 2002 as he guided the Raiders to the Super Bowl and the top rated offense.

Can Christian Ponder develop into a great NFL quarterback too? If he can hang around the league long enough, I think he has enough skill set to be able to pull off a “Gannon like” MVP season at some point in his career. And as for now, it appears the Vikings want to hold onto Ponder for a little while longer. GM Rick Spielman said Friday that he is anxious to see how Ponder looks under new offensive coordinator Norv Turner this off-season. “Christian will be here; I don’t anticipate anything — him not being here,” Spielman said, via Master Tesfatsion of the Startribune. “Right now we’re looking at quarterbacks, so we would say we don’t have the position solidified. I know Christian does have the physical abilities to do it, but for whatever reason things haven’t come together for him.”

 I predicted a Vikings’ win against the Bears in week 13… and now I’m having those same sensations again this week.

 The Bengals are 9-5 and setting on top of the AFC North standings in part by winning all 6 of their home games in Cincinnati this season. At Paul Brown Stadium the Kittens have beaten Pittsburgh, Greenbay, New England, NY Jets, Cleveland, and Indianapolis. The Bengals have scored over 40 points in each of their last three home games. The Vikings on the other hand are only averaging 22 points per game in their last three road outings.

 On paper this looks like an easy win for the Bengals, right? Yes, and I bet the Eagles were thinking the same thing last week too.

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Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson has helped the Vikings offense in his rookie season both on offense and special teams.  The Vikings gave a steep bounty to New England in exchange for the 29th overall selection in the 2013 Draft, but the trade got done and they were able to make Patterson their third first round selection of the day, and he immediately injected excitement into the offensive and special teams playbooks.

Thus far, Patterson has paid dividends to the Vikings in the form of 40 catches, 430 receiving yards, and three receiving touchdowns in addition to 50 yards and a touchdown on seven rushing attempts.  His addition, combined with the signing of Greg Jennings, created more legitimacy to the Vikings group of receivers which created a no-excuses scenario for the Vikings to finalize their evaluation of Christian Ponder.

In addition to his work on offense, Patterson has pretty easily been this season’s best kick returner, and the results are really showing.  Patterson has returned 36 kicks for 1,199 yards (a Vikings rookie record) with two more touchdowns.  As of late, opponents have sacrificed field position by kicking away from Patterson all together, which has set the offense up with huge advantages throughout the games.

Much of the pre-Draft debate surrounding the Vikings included names like Keenan Allen, DeAndre Hopkins, Tavon Austin, and Patterson.  Allen has arguably been the best wide out, and possibly offensive player, this class had to offer and some of his recent quotes have raised eyebrows within the Minnesota fanbase.

Allen said his agent told him he had a “guarantee” the Vikings would select him in the first round, despite rumors that his poorly timed knee injury had doomed his draft stock.  The injury caused him to push back workout dates and eventually produced an underwhelming 40-yard dash time.  Allen indeed tumbled on Draft weekend and he ended up going to San Diego in the third round.  He was drafted 76th overall and was the eighth wide receiver taken in the class.

This season Allen has done wonders for the Chargers who clearly suffered in the absence of Vincent Jackson and needed a big, athletic wide out that could out-run and out-jump opposing defenders on a regular basis.  Allen has 63 catches for 931 yards and seven touchdowns.  He has done alright on special teams, as well, with 10 punt returns for a 8.4 yard average.

“It hurt me. Now it’s hurting them,” Allen said of the teams that passed on him. “It is what it is. I don’t dwell on it.”

The Vikings surely aren’t disappointed with the return they are getting on their Patterson investment, or any of their first round selections for that matter.  Still, Allen has been an all-out stud as a rookie, and one has to wonder how this all will look with a few more seasons in the past.  One thing that is for sure, the Chargers got a better value snagging Allen that late in the Draft, and they didn’t have to trade away additional picks to move up and get him.

How about you?  With hindsight being what it is, would you have done anything different if you were Rick Spielman and had a time machine programed for April of 2013?  Let me know in the comments section.

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