Sunday, February 7, 2016

jeff locke

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That’s right, the “Sleeper Sunday” segment is back! Every Sunday between now and the 2016 NFL Draft we plan to add to our Scouting Report list by strictly focusing on lesser-known prospects that the Vikings might target in 2016.

Sound a little but like we’re taking long shots? Probably so. Last year, however, our own Austin Belisle nailed a Day Three selection of linebacker Edmond Robinson. This year we’re hoping to at least double that success!

For Vikings fans that happened to catch the East-West Shrine Game on Saturday, I’m hoping this first “Sunday Sleeper” is now a somewhat familiar name, because the Vikings could certainly use an upgrade at punter and Drew Kaser fits the bill.

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The season ended abruptly for the Minnesota Fightin’ Vikings in (sadly) typical Minnesota Fightin’ Viking fashion as Blair Walsh shanked the game-winning field goal out of bounds on the 18th tee. However, a few days removed we can appreciate the 2015 season for what it was: a solid step forward for a young and hungry team under a coach we completely trust. That’s a lot more than most fanbases have to hang their hats on as our offseason begins. Di Murphy (@DiMurphyMN) of The Daily Norseman joins the show to put a bow on the Purple’s 2015 campaign.

We talk about why it wasn’t ALL on Blair Walsh, Adrian Peterson’s fumbling history rears its ugly head once again, what Teddy Bridgewater needs to do to become a bigger redzone threat, how the Vikings beat Seattle in every aspect of the game Sunday, and what our priorities are in free agency and the draft.

All that and other “Bye, Jeff Davidson” nonsense on this edition of the Purple FTW! Podcast.

An Andy Carlson Joint

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Last year's first round pick made a splash on Sunday

Vikings Select 23rd 2016 NFL Draft
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

The Minnesota Vikings suffered the cruelest of ends to their 2015 season, but there is hope. It begins with the NFL Draft this spring, when teams have the chance to improve their roster with the best talent that the NCAA has to offer. The Vikings have used their most recent first-round picks — top-12 selections in 2014 and 2015 — to build defensively, but may be in a position this offseason to focus on their most pressing offensive needs. After Sunday’s playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the Vikings will select 23rd-overall in the 2016 NFL Draft.

It was painfully obvious on Sunday that the Vikings have a number of roster holes to fill through free agency and the draft. A porous offensive line struggled to protect Teddy Bridgewater (as they have all year) and a lack of offensive weaponry prevented Minnesota from scoring an offensive touchdown. In frigid conditions, the kicking game also played a major factor in the loss. Punter Jeff Locke averaged just 34.4 yards on five attempts and failed to “spin the laces” out on Blair Walsh’s missed game-winning field goal.

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That was a less than ideal way for the Minnesota Fightin’ Vikings to end the 2015 campaign. But let’s not lose the forest through the trees, this season was a damn good year and this young football team is ahead of schedule with Mike Zimmer. We went 11-5, won a division title, and will be in the mix as legitimate Super Bowl contenders next season. Take a while to let this game marinate, but not all is lost. This team’s best football is ahead of it.

Talking Points Include
• Was It Cold Out?
• Bud Grant is My Idol
• Blair Walsh is Not the Reason We Lost
• This is Not Adrian Peterson’s Team
• Free Teddy Bridgewater
• There Are OTHER Pieces on this Offense
• Offensive Line Needs to be Overhauled
• The Defense Was the MVP Today
• Trae Waynes was Impressive
• Josh Robinson was Not
• The Seahawks Did Everything to Lose the Game, We Gave Them a Gift
• Twitter and Facebook Questions
• Why 2016 Will Be HUGEEEEE
• Podcast Offseason Programming Plan

All this and other “WAS IT COLD OUT? I HAD NO IDEA.” nonsense on this edition of the Purple FTW! Podcast!

An Andy Carlson Joint

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Before the season began, Blair Walsh was Public Enemy No. 1 in Minnesota. He struggled through the team’s five preseason games, connecting on less than 50 percent of his attempts (5/11) while battling a nasty case of the “yips.” Field goals that usually sailed straight veered to the right, and routine PATs found their way outside of the uprights.

And when the Vikings opened 2015 in San Francisco, Walsh continued to let fans, and the team, down. He missed his first attempt of the year, and in a crucial road game against the Denver Broncos three weeks later, pushed a kick that was the difference between a loss and potential overtime victory.

Just three months after signing one of the most lucrative contract extensions among NFL kickers, the pressure was on Walsh to deliver. Since his last miss, Walsh has been perfect, making 13 consecutive field goals to offset the offense’s red zone struggles and lack of scoring.

In just eight games, Walsh has gone from a liability to cornerstone of this football team, a player Mike Zimmer can rely on in crucial situations. As Jeff Locke told the Star Tribune’s Jason Gonzalez two weeks ago, “no one ever really questioned Blair,” and their faith in their kicker is paying off:

“Those are moments you dream about as a kid and what you work for every single week,” Walsh said. “To be put in those situations where the game’s come down to the wire and they depend on you.”

Walsh’s 36-yard field goal as time expired sealed a 23-20 victory for the Vikings yesterday and helped Minnesota move to 5-2 on the season. Thanks to his suddenly automatic leg, Mike Zimmer and the Vikings are well on their way to the playoffs, and his consistency will be crucial in late-game situations against some of the league’s better teams moving forward.

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