Saturday, July 23, 2016

jarius wright

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One of the great mysteries of the Minnesota Vikings 2015 season was how wide receiver Charles Johnson so suddenly faded out of relevancy and why. Almost too predictably, a Charles Johnson injury is now the given reason for the lack of playing time and production.

According to ESPN‘s Ben Goessling, Johnson suffered a broken rib in Septembers game against San Diego while trying to come back for a ball that was ultimately picked off.  Johnson told Goessling that it wasn’t until the November 1st game against Chicago that he felt like he could manage the pain well enough to play effectively.

“You can’t sneeze, you can’t move, laughing hurts,” Johnson said. “But it’s all good now.”

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See my entire second 2016 NFL Mock Draft by CLICKING HERE.

Wow, was my first attempt at a mock draft wrong, or what? I speculated that the Minnesota Vikings would select Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith with the 23rd-overall pick. And just a few days later, reports surfaced that the prospect’s surgically repaired knee wasn’t as healthy as originally thought. While the pick wasn’t a “reach” at the time, it quickly became an impossible scenario, and one I hope to avoid this time around.

That’s why I’m going with the obvious, if safe choice in the second version of my mock draft; a wide receiver. The Vikings made multiple moves in free agency that would allow them to target such a player in the first round. With holes filled along the offensive line — and one created by releasing Mike Wallace — Rick Spielman can now focus his efforts on adding the best receiver in the class:

Josh Doctson, WR – TCU

Mike Wallace's future with the Vikings
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

The promise of production never materialized for Mike Wallace. Last spring, the Minnesota Vikings brought the speedster to Winter Park with the hope that he’d give Norv Turner’s offense a legitimate deep threat. But Wallace didn’t just struggle down the field; he hardly produced. Despite being targeted 72 times in 2015, Wallace caught just 39 passes for 473 yards and two touchdowns. His yards per catch totals fell to 12.1, the lowest mark of his career, and he averaged just 29.6 yards per game.

Wallace’s struggles go deeper than the receiver’s on-field abilities, though. Poor offensive line play, Teddy Bridgewater‘s nonexistent deep ball, and the emergence of Stefon Diggs limited his opportunities, especially as the deep threat he was meant to be. Now, general manager Rick Spielman faces a difficult decision on Wallace’s contract, one that’ll inform the team’s draft strategy in April.

Reports earlier this week indicate Spielman’s desire to work with Wallace on a pay cut. If Wallace stays in Minnesota at his current price, the Vikings will owe him $11.5 million at the start of the 2016 league year. And if a deal can’t be reached, Spielman can cut Wallace with no dead money; a favorable deal that makes drafting a wide receiver more realistic next month. Clearly, Spielman wants Wallace in purple and gold next season. But what about the VT team? What do they want?

If you’re in Rick Spielman’s shoes, do you bring Wallace back in 2016 or cut him in the offseason?

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keeping mike wallace
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Any way you look at it, Mike Wallace’s first season with the Vikings was a disappointment. He was acquired last offseason to be a deep threat for Teddy Bridgewater and, presumably, resemble a number one receiver. Neither really came to fruition; Wallace posted career lows in receiving yards, yards per catch, and touchdowns, and his longest reception was 34 yards. While he did find a workmanlike niche in the offense, there wasn’t a single game in which Wallace made a major splash. In all, it wasn’t the game-changing presence the Vikings had hoped for.

Wallace is signed through 2017, and owed $11.5 million each of the next two years. That would make him the fourth-highest paid receiver in the league for 2017—not exactly a slot that matches his production. For that reason, many Vikings fans are in favor of cutting bait and using the money elsewhere. However, there are plenty of reasons it makes sense to bring the speedy receiver back for 2016. Here are a few:

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Bridgewater hitting his stride in year two

Image courtesy of Vikings.com

What makes a “good” quarterback? Is the idea of being “good” measured by the number of touchdowns a quarterback throws? Is it measured by his passing yards? His completion percentage? Ask any fan, analyst, or sports journalist who the league’s best quarterbacks are, and you’ll get similar answers. Year after year, it’s Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, Carson Palmer, and so on and so forth. The list remains relatively the same each year, with a select few alternating at the top of the rankings season-to-season. But how do we determine what qualifies them to be considered the NFL’s best?

For some, it’s film study and hours spent breaking down game tape. For others, it’s the statistics and the deeper analytics. And for a select few, it’s the blind faith in one’s quarterback, the unwavering opinion that he is, of course, a “good” quarterback. We can all agree that the tried-and-true quarterbacks deserve to operate in a class of their own. Some have won multiple Super Bowls, some throw for 4,000-plus yards each year, and some win double-digit games each season. It’s easy to see when a quarterback just “gets it;” he intimately understands an offensive scheme, from where to throw the football pre-snap to how to adjust protections at the line of scrimmage.

Fans of teams with young signal callers, like the Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders, and our very own Minnesota Vikings, would tell you that their respective quarterbacks are the “best of the class.” At times, Blake Bortles, Derek Carr, and Teddy Bridgewater display some of the same characteristics that make players like Brady and Brees so consistently effective. But for the most part, they make the mistakes you’d expect from young, inexperienced players, like missing the simple throws, forcing passes into coverage, or taking unnecessary sacks. The growing pains aren’t unexpected, but definitely frustrating in today’s world of instant gratification. As football fans, we expect immediate success from quarterbacks, when honestly, that’s rarely the case.

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