Tuesday, September 26, 2017

jerick mckinnon

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Next Man Up

Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Special teams has always been the odd-phase out.

Extra-point bathroom breaks are a weekly routine for many fans, and others even have had the audacity to challenge whether or not kickers and punters qualify as “football players”. It is understandable that special teams phases are typically viewed similarly to a third wheel, as offense and defense provide the vast majority of explosive, highlight-reel plays while the tug-of-war between the two “primary” game phases is perpetually tracked on scoreboards, statistical websites and, of course, social media.

This perception is rooted in a very simple, elementary-level dynamic: Six points will always be more than three, and, correspondingly, field goals will always finish second to touchdowns. Furthermore, attempting field goals, regardless of result, is the football-equivalent of settling for a consolation prize.

The scoreboard may not always directly reflect superior special teams play, but over the course of an entire season, teams that perform well in these phases of the game tend to finish much higher in the standings. The Minnesota Vikings are well aware of this truth and, as a result, have demonstrated that special teams excellence is not just an annual objective but a formal expectation every single season.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Week 1: Vikings/Saints Preview

The Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints will open their 2017 regular seasons with a bang on Monday Night Football. The primetime match up is a classic top-offense versus top-defense showdown, with a little Adrian Peterson sprinkled in.

It’s a familiar story; a well-known player that spent many years with his original team signs with a new one, and then returns to where he began his career. But this homecoming is different. Peterson was the face of the Vikings franchise for a decade. Not only that, he may be one of the top-five Vikings of all time. The reception Peterson receives from the home crowd will be noteworthy.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Wow, what a fun day! Lots of action. With roster cuts already in progress, here’s a last-minute Vikings 53-man roster projection, which includes Friday’s trade for cornerback Tramaine Brock:

Quarterback
  • Sam Bradford
  • Case Keenum
  • Teddy Bridgewater (PUP)

The Vikings rolled with two quarterbacks last year and I don’t see that changing this year. Taylor Heinicke is practice squad eligible and I don’t see teams lining up to snag him off waivers. Plus, there’s always Mitch Leidner.

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Vikings 49ers
image courtesy of Vikings.com

A thrilling, victorious finish to the Minnesota Vikings’ third preseason game was not enough to negate the disappointing showing from the starting units Sunday night against the San Francisco 49ers.

I have some good news, I have some bad news and I have some worse news.

The good news is that the Minnesota Vikings won in spectacular fashion.

The bad news is that the win doesn’t really mean much.

The worse news is that the starting units got obliterated by the San Francisco 49ers in the first half.

Minnesota escaped with 32-31 last-second win on Sunday night in front of a national television audience, no thanks to the starting units. Quarterbacks Case Keenum and Taylor Heinicke led a heroic comeback effort (with the help of a Jerick McKinnon kickoff return touchdown) to make up for a gruesome first half showing.

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Cook Gives Vikings Offensive Flexibility
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

There’s no need to harp on Adrian Peterson‘s lack of versatility. Minnesota Vikings fans know, after years of watching him barrel through opposing defenses, that Peterson’s most valuable attribute was just that — his ability as a pure, north-to-south runner.

As Father Time gains ground and offensive philosophies shift to more wide-open, dynamic attacks, patience wears thin for players of Peterson’s unique, if limited skill set. While still a major draw on Sunday afternoons, the proof is on the paper; the Vikings’ all-time leading rusher sits behind Mark Ingram — and potentially rookie Alvin Kamara — on the New Orleans Saints’ depth chart.

Back in Minnesota, it’s clear Peterson’s replacement, second-round pick Dalvin Cook, brings a welcome, refreshing dynamic to the Vikings’ backfield. Though not the workhorse of his predecessor, it was clear from the start of training camp that Cook’s ceiling — in all other facets of a running back’s repertoire — is much higher than Peterson’s was from 2012 on.

Last Thursday’s preseason opener gave the organization a glimpse of the offensive flexibility Cook brings to Pat Shurmur’s scheme. Against the Buffalo Bills, he enjoyed a lion’s share of touches — almost all manufactured to put the ball in his hands — and reminded the Vikings of the possibilities created by having a do-it-all player in the backfield.

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