Friday, May 29, 2015
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jarius wright

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It took about a whole two, maybe three, hours before the disappointment from getting our butts handed to us via the Green Bay Packers vanished and the excitement for the offseason completely consumed me. Free agents? The draft?! Possible trades? Veterans leaving? New talent?

I love it.

Don’t get me wrong, I was as bummed about the loss as the next hardcore Vikings fan (well, maybe not as much as this guy…) but the postseason letdown didn’t feel as bad this time. Maybe it was because deep down I knew once it was announced Christian Ponder wouldn’t be starting that we would lose the game and then the next three to four hours was just a realization of that fact. Maybe it’s because nothing could have happened in the playoffs that would take away from what an amazing season 2012 was. (And, folks, it was an amazing football season.) Who knows, really.

What I do know is that I was, and am, at peace with what the Vikings did this year and what I think they’ll do in the near future.

There’s a lot to be excited about with this team. There’s a ton to look forward to this offseason and some great stories to look out for.

Here are five of the biggest stories headed into the offseason. Stories that we will be covering in [exhausting] detail here at Vikings Territory, I’m sure. Of course, there will always be a few (maybe more) developments that catch us all by surprise. You can be sure we’ll have those, too.

(Note: These do not include general things like “the draft” or “free agency.” It’s a given those will be huge. I tried to think of specific storylines that will provide intrigue, mystery and excitement.)

5. The New Stadium

I almost didn’t include the stadium on the list because it seems that, now that we’ve got our stadium, it’s more of a “I don’t care how it happens, just get it here” type thing. But, after Adam mentioned it to me when I queried the inner-workings of his very knowledgeable Vikings mind, I started to see why it could become something we talk about frequently during the offseason.

It shouldn’t be long until we start seeing a real design for this thing.  And that will be pretty dang cool. We’ll finally get to see what this thing will look like. What features it will have. Does it have a retractable roof? Seat warmers? Does it have a mammoth monitor floating eerily above the ant-sized players a hundred or so feet below? Who knows.

It will be something tangible at that point. Something we can look at and say, “Okay. So that’s going to be where I take my children to watch my Minnesota Vikings a few years from now.” (Maybe more if you’re me).

It’s been an idea up until this point. A finalized design that we can see is a big step to it becoming a real, real reality. (A real one.)

4. Backup Quarterback Backup Plan

Christian Ponder’s late season surge (and potentially even his absence from the playoff game at Lambeau) solidified his role as the Vikings starter at quarterback next season. Head coach Leslie Frazier has even already made it public. That’s all good and fine, but it doesn’t change the fact that the Vikings still need to figure some things out at the quarterback position during the offseason.

I’m not going to torch Joe Webb too much because I honestly feel like he’s better than what he showed Saturday in Green Bay. The guy was thrown into an incredibly difficult situation under an offensive coordinator who remained steadfast in his stubborn ways and refused to adjust his game plan to increase the likelihood of success for Webb. Nevertheless, I don’t think Joe Webb is somebody who can really threaten Ponder for the starting position and light a fire under his butt, so to speak.

I think Ponder is going to be a good quarterback with a little more development. I take a lot of heat for that position but I’ve held it since he was drafted and I still hold it today. But I’ll be the first one to tell you that it is not a sure thing. He is not a sure thing. And the Vikings need to have a Plan B just in case it doesn’t pan out with #7.

Personally, I’d like Spielman and Co. to do some superb scouting and find a quarterback in the middle rounds who has a lot of upside. It’s also possible the team could just to go the free agent route. (Also, let’s not kid ourselves, it’s entirely possible the Vikings could not address it at all…)

Nevertheless, I think how the roster shapes up behind Ponder is something to keep an eye on.

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The man who dominated September and October hardly even saw action in November.

When Percy Harvin sprained his ankle on November 4th, just prior to the bye week, he was able to reenter that game and many presumed that was a sign that he would return to the field in a relatively short time span.

That has not proven to be true, and it appears that the Vikings will be without the multi-talented yardage machine on Sunday, in a must-win game at Green Bay.

Leslie Frazier said Harvin has not had any major setbacks, but simply has not improved as quickly as they had hoped, and the Vikings have officially listed him as “doubtful” for Sunday’s matchup.

This means Jarius Wright will again see extensive action in what will be his third week of activity.  The Vikings coaches say they have designed plays specifically for Wright, so it is fair to say this will be a true test for the rookie.

The Vikings have officially entered survival mode (which they prefer to call “controlling their own destiny”) and will travel from one daunting task directly to another as they endevour to take down the Packers in their own house.

Let’s take a look around the web at some of the best articles regarding last week’s loss to Chicago, and the upcoming matchup in Green Bay:

  • It could be that the clock is ticking on the Leslie Frazier era in Minnesota already.
  • The Giants may have laid out a blue print for the Vikings to use against Green Bay this week.
  • Jarius Wright has been able to take advantage of his two games on the active roster in ways that the other receivers have not.
  • Christian Ponder was 0 for 10 (including an interception) on passes that went 10 yards or further down the field on Sunday.  More interesting notes right here.
  • Plain and simple:  Jerome Simpson isn’t getting it done.
  • A gallery of photos from Sunday’s loss to the Bears.
  • Perhaps dropped passes are simply the latest excuse for Christian Ponder supporters to point to.
  • Adrian Peterson’s hold on the NFL’s rushing title is now 172 yards strong.  His hold on the football, however…
  • As if the Packers needed more talent, they really struck gold with cornerback Casey Heyward, who should be avoided if at all possible.
  • The Vikings replaced Jordan Todman with undrafted running back Joe Banyard on the practice squad.
  • Toby Gerhart hasn’t been given much opportunity on the field, but that is keeping him from making a difference off of it.
  • Don’t be surprised if Greg Jennings’ return means the Packers use an empty backfield, with four receivers and a tight end, to neutralize the Vikings pass rush on Sunday.
  • The Vikings have an extensive injury report to keep an eye on this week.
  • Jerome Felton’s success has resulted in a fullback lining up in Bill Musgrave’s offense 20% more often than last season.
  • A former Vikings linebacker is running for office in Illinois, hoping to replace the recently resigned Jesse Jackson Jr.
  • Leslie Frazier describes all of Sunday’s drops as “really unacceptable.”  So there’s that.
  • In the last five games Adrian Peterson is averaging 7.4 yards per carry.  So, tell me again why he didn’t get the ball on third and short… or fourth and short.

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When the Vikings got walloped by the Chicago Bears on Sunday, I found myself really missing two players:  Percy Harvin and Chris Cook.

Harvin has been the difference maker in a number of games for the Vikings this season and was in the MVP discussion prior to the ankle injury that knocked him out three weeks ago.  The sure-handed juggernaut was greatly missed in a game that featured far too many drops and not enough explosions from the Vikings receivers.

Harvin’s direct replacement, Jarius Wright, had a decent day while hauling in a team high seven passes for 49 yards.  However, the nice birthday performance for the rookie was overshadowed by an inexcusable drop in the back of the end zone.

In week four Calvin Johnson was held to five catches and 54 yards, thanks in large part to efforts of Chris Cook.  The following week Kenny Britt had two catches for 23 yards.  No Washington receiver topped 50 yards in the next game.  Larry Fitzgerald was then held to 29 yards.  Vincent Jackson had only two catches for 40 yards on Thursday Night Football.

Cook got hurt in that game.  Since then the Vikings have faced Sidney Rice, Calvin Johnson, and Brandon Marshall.  They have combined for 28 receptions, 353 yards, and two touchdowns.

The Vikings secondary wasn’t perfect when Cook was on the field, and it isn’t absolutely disastrous without him, but it is tough to argue that they are a better unit with Cook on the field willing and able to go toe-to-toe with the NFL’s best receivers.

The injuries to Cook and Harvin have exposed what we all know the Minnesota Vikings are: A young team with consistency and depth issues that will take some time to correct.

Until then, the phrase “Next Man Up!” is a scary one for Vikings fans.

A number of excellent individual performances came about during Sunday’s upset over the Lions.  Who will you award the VT game ball to?

Christian Ponder:  24 of 32 for 221 yards and two touchdowns, plus 7 runs for 15 yards.

Adrian Peterson:  27 rushes for 171 yards and a touchdown, plus 3 catches for 5 yards.

Kyle Rudolph:  7 catches for 64 yards and a touchdown.

Jarius Wright:  3 catches for 65 yards and a touchdown, plus 1 rush for 3 yards.

Blair Walsh:  Broke Vikings franchise record for touchbacks in a season, and made 4 of 4 field goal attempts.

Antoine Winfield:  9 tackles and a recovered fumble.

Chad Greenway:  5 tackles and an interception.

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