Thursday, November 26, 2015

jeff locke

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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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A closer look at the winners and losers from the 2015 Hall of Fame Game.

Matt Engstrom Hall of Fame Game Vikings Steelers
Illustration by Matt Engstrom (

The first game of the 2015 NFL season is officially in the books. And after travelling to Canton, Ohio and beating the Steelers in front of a predominantly black and yellow crowd, the Vikings can stand proudly and puff their chests out as the only undefeated team in the NFL. (Side note: Zimmer is still perfect in Exhibition Games and the one true Preseason Champion.)

These preseason games are critical for coaches to evaluate the players currently on their roster. It gives them a chance to see how rookies handle NFL-level opponents. Preseason games allow teammates to establish additional chemistry on the field against competition they’re not used to seeing every day in practice.

It’s also a great opportunity for hack bloggers and media types to hastily determine who’s doing good for themselves and who isn’t.

So, with this being a Vikings blog (and me being a hack blogger) let’s take a look at the winners and losers from the Hall of Fame game against the Steelers.

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The Hall of Fame Game went down Sunday night in Canton, Ohio. Our Minnesota Fightin’ Vikings came out on top of the Pittsburgh Steelers 14-3 in a game that quenched the collective thirst of a the football world, even though it featured no Adrian Peterson or Ben Roethlisberger and something-called Landry Jones played the whole darn game. There’s a lot of positives and some false-negatives to pick through for our team in purple, and we do so in our first game recap show of the 2015 season.

Other “The Hall of Jerome Bettis” Talking Points Include
• Vikings defeat the Steelers 14-3
• Mick Tingelhoff love from Purple FTW! (240 straight starts!)
• Fran Tarkenton’s introduction speech was ELITE
• Adrian in full uniform, but didn’t play
• Cris Collinsworth is underrated, but…
• Teddy Bridgewater looked smooth as creamy peanut butter
• Jerick McKinnon is going to be more involved and electric
• Calm down on Trae Waynes, please.
• Remember, Xavier Rhodes was hot garbage until about Week 4 last year
• I’d rather have a cornerback who’s too aggressive & grabby than too passive
• 2nd Half was the Stefon Diggs Show
• Don’t count out Marcus Sherels yet
• MyCole Pruitt is going to be a special player
• Eric Kendricks has made Audie Cole & Gerald Hodges better via young competition
• Brian Peters love
• Special teams questions: Jeff Locke stanks
• Matt Kalil looked OK. Has some easy preseason spots to gain confidence
• Jabari Price is a G
• Adam Thielen could be legit
• I liked how TJ Clemmings looked
• Shamar Stephen & Tom Johnson are 1s going against 2s and 3s
• Joe Banyard – What could have been
• Taylor Heinicke looks smoother and more in command than Mike Kafka
Bookmark our Amazon Link to show some love!

All that and other “Brian Peters over Mike Mauti” chatter on this edition of the Purple FTW! Podcast!

An Andy Carlson Joint.

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Which Special Teams Player will Stand Out for the Vikings in 2015?

Darren: Adam Thielen 
Thielen might be the common answer here, but as long as he keeps his place on the roster in 2015, he should make the biggest impact on special teams. He seems to be in on more special teams tackles than any other Viking and also made an impact with a blocked punt and a touchdown against Carolina last season. Minnesota could even opt to help out its secondary by dumping Marcus Sherels, which would slide Thielen into the job of punt returner, where he has flashed some skills in preseason.

[Punter to be Named Later]
Jeff Locke has to step it up in year three or he’s gone. Yes, he’ll probably benefit greatly from kicking indoors in 2016, but the Vikings can’t wait that long. He needs to start being an asset instead of a liability in the field position game this season, or he’ll be replaced. There will be improvement at the punter position in 2015. Whether that’s because Locke’s improved (having a familiar long snapper might help if McDermott beats out Loeffler) or because he’s been replaced is yet to be determined.

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Ryan Boser did a great job outlining the draft tendencies of Rick Spielman this week, but it is my opinion that he overlooked one more: Spielman loves to pair college teammates together on his roster. That trend continued today, albeit not through a draft choice, when the Vikings signed long snapper Kevin McDermott.

McDermott, 25 years old, was the college teammate of current Vikings punter Jeff Locke at UCLA. The Vikings, of course, drafted Locke in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft and has been mostly disappointing thus far.

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