Saturday, August 29, 2015

jerome felton

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It wasn’t Adrian Peterson that dazzled a Pro Bowl crowd last night.  Instead, it was tight end Kyle Rudolph who was only there as an alternate selection.

Rudolph took home the Pro Bowl MVP award after catching five passes for 122 yards and a touchdown.

There is no denying that, despite the league’s best players being present for the contest, the level of competition at the Pro Bowl is never quite the same as in a meaningful NFL game.  Still, I couldn’t help watching Rudolph create mismatches by running seam routes and wonder why he isn’t used in that capacity more often within Bill Musgrave’s offense.  I know I beat that dead horse multiple times during the 2012 season, but I just couldn’t help but feel reminded one final time by Rudolph’s dominant performance on Sunday.

Rudolph wasn’t the only Vikings to see action in the exhibition game.  Adrian Peterson carried the ball five times for only 13 yards, but most notably botched an exchange with Drew Brees on the first play of the game, which was recovered by the AFC.

Peterson’s lead blocker Jerome Felton somehow managed to have a better game than Peterson which, of course, could really only happen in Hawaii.  Felton carried the ball four times for 18 yards, including a three yard touchdown.

Alternate Matt Kalil saw time at both right and left tackle, giving up a sack to Cameron Wake at one point, but otherwise playing a solid game.

Blair Walsh continued to show his ability to put points on the scoreboard with eight extra points made and by hitting field goals from 26 and 48 yards out.

On defense, Jared Allen managed one tackle and Chad Greenway had two.  Greenway also recovered a fumble.

Most importantly, the Vikings escaped the faux football game without any injuries which is an even bigger victory than the 62-35 whooping that the NFC put on the AFC.

[NOTE:  Click the links to see our free agency rankings for quarterbacks and the running backs.  We’ll continue our way through all of the positions this week.]

Top Tier

Adrian Peterson did the best running of his career behind fullback Jerome Felton who signed a one year deal with the Vikings prior to last season.  Naturally, his success will make him the top rated fullback on the free agent market ad Vikings fans will be disappointed to see the front office let him play anywhere else.

Expect the Vikings to try and get the lead blocker under contract before free agency begins.  A three year deal to the tune of $9 million sounds about right for their Pro Bowl fullback.

The second best option in free agency would have to be the young James Casey, who stepped up when Vontae Leach departed Houston.

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The Vikings now have five players headed for Hawaii to play in the Pro Bowl.

We have already mentioned that Adrian Peterson, Jerome Felton, Blair Walsh and Jared Allen are already making their Pro Bowl plans and now we can add linebacker Chad Greenway to that list.

Greenway was originally voted as an alternate player for the annual honor, and will be replacing the injured Cowboy linebacker DeMarcus Ware.  This is the second time Greenway has attended the Pro Bowl, and it is his fifth straight season of leading the Vikings in tackles.

He has been credited with 148 total tackles this season in addition to three sacks, an interception, and two fumble recoveries.

We may need two hands to count the number of Viking Pro Bowlers this way as more could still be added to the roster.  Center John Sullivan and left tackle Matt Kalil are both reported to be alternates and Blair Walsh is campaigning to get Cullen Loeffler in as the NFC’s long snapper.

I can’t believe that we are this far away from the annual snooze fest that is the NFL’s Pro Bowl and that we already have four fun storylines to chat about.  The Vikings have four Pro Bowl players (at least) and each is in a unique situation.

ADRIAN PETERSON

Everyone’s favorite running back, Adrian Peterson, has been selected to his fifth Pro Bowl and gives us all a reason to watch.  Despite the risks associated with Peterson doing anything other than spending the offseason in a deep freeze like Han Solo, Peterson always plays at a high level in the annual skirmish.

This year, almost certainly to the dismay of any AFC defenders, Peterson vows to do now different.

“I’m going to play hard,” warned Peterson. “It is hard for me to play down because when you play down, you put yourself in jeopardy of getting hurt going through the motions. So I won’t be playing down.”

With how Peterson has played this season, coupled with the lackadaisical nature of this game, would anyone be surprised to see Peterson break 300 yards?  400?

500?

Peterson plans on having his abdomen, which had been bugging him near the end of this season, examined a little closer following the Pro Bowl.

JARED ALLEN

Some would argue that Jared Allen, who has been plagued by injury more than ever, was really only voted into the Pro Bowl based off of his name value and not his 2012 production.  That might be partially true, but he still played pretty darn good football this season.

Allen, who played with a torn labrum this season, plans to wait until after the Pro Bowl to have surgery on it, which will be the first surgery he has had during his football career.  Allen related making the Pro Bowl and not going to going to an ice cream shop and not getting to try any.

“I played the whole year,” he said. “I’m going to enjoy the Pro Bowl. I figure I’ll at least get some warm weather and a pseudo-free vacation.”

Unlike Peterson, however, Allen has said that going full speed at the Pro Bowl and risking an injury that could cost him millions is not worth it.  He said he will play down.  He also noted that he once played against Peterson in the Pro Bowl and knows the guy is incapable of performing at any lower level of play.

BLAIR WALSH

Rookie kicker Blair Walsh, also known as the best kicker in the NFL, also plans on making his first trip to the Pro Bowl after being elected to the honor.

What is more, Walsh is planning on paying all the costs for long snapper Cullen Loeffler to go with him and hopes to get him on the Pro Bowl roster.

“He obviously came through and he’s like, ‘Yeah, definitely. I’m appreciative for everything that you’ve done,'” Loeffler said of Walsh. “He’s just been a great guy.”

JEROME FELTON

In addition to making a trip to Hawaii, Jerome Felton’s offseason will consist of contract negotiations, and it sounds like he wants to remain a Viking.  After helping Adrian Peterson to a 2,000 yard season, it sounds like the Vikings want him back to.

“Obviously you never know how it’s going to turn out. I know it’s a business and all that,” Felton said of being a pending free agent. “I feel good about being here, so I hope that they get something done before that. That’s my goal.

With so many executives, scouts, coaches, agents and players in Hawaii at once, it might just present the perfect opportunity to get those talks rolling.

The first step in the Vikings offseason will have to be to look at themselves, as a front office and as a coaching staff, to see if any major changes are needed.  Considering the surprising success of this season, coupled with an apparent lack of interest in our coaches from teams with vacancies, I would venture a guess at this point that nothing major is coming.

So, assuming our schemes stay relatively close to what we saw in 2012, I have decided to list and rank the Vikings pending free agents.  As I usually do, I have taken a “world view” approach to ranking these players which means talent is only one of the factors taken into consideration.  Age, projected cost, injury history, and other factors have also played into these rankings.

So, without further ado, here are how I rank the Vikings 2013 free agents from best to worst:

Jamarca Sanford, S:  Yes, I have listed a part time player in the top spot.  No, I am not crazy… I don’t think.  The Vikings secondary made huge strides this season and I just feel like they cannot afford to take a step backwards, and there are no guarantees they will be able to take a step forwards as options are limited and they have bigger fish to fry.  If they do get their hands on a starter that is superior to Sanford or Mistral Raymond then great, Sanford is a fine special teamer that shouldn’t cost a ton to retain.  He plays the run very well, flying around the field, and has a knack for causing fumbles.  He is a liability in coverage, and can’t seem to catch a football to save his life, but there is no reason the Vikings shouldn’t keep him around to ensure, at the very least, that some depth is maintained at the safety position.

Jerome Felton, FB:  Wild card weekend was proof, in each game played, that the fullback position is not dead at all.  Felton proved this all season long, however, as he paved the way for Adrian Peterson’s incredible season.  Rick Spielman reportedly told Felton that the team wanted him back, but money could be a sticking point, especially since the Vikings have a decent backup option in Rhett Ellison.  Ellison’s presence, other free agent options, and Felton’s DWI charges from last offseason are the only reasons he doesn’t sit atop this list.

Phil Loadholt, RT:  On most lists you will probably find Loadholt listed as the top free agent that the Vikings have pending.  This was certainly his best pro season in a number of ways.  In fact, it has been reported that the front office approached Loadholt about an extension in the middle of this last season.  I worry about a player, however, that seems to play much harder during his contract year.  Also, the fact that no mid-season extension was agreed upon suggests to me that Loadholt is hoping to get more money than the Vikings are willing to shell out.  Lastly, there are a number of very good tackles set to become free agents this offseason, so if the Vikings are going to back up the money truck then perhaps they should be looking to do so for a player that demonstrates more consistency.  In the end, however, Loadholt is worth a decent (but reasonable) contract and the Vikings will give serious thought to getting a deal hammered out in the coming months.

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