Monday, May 25, 2015
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jerome felton

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B.Grant

Well, Tomb, now that the Vikings are officially in the playoffs, and now that your prediction insisting they WOULDN’T make it (yes, you capitalized it for effect) is officially an embarrassment for you, it’s time for us to discuss what this four game December finish means for the Vikes and their fans.  I assume you have some grand, wordy explanation as to how your faith in the purple was so weakened for this finish, but within that description, perhaps you could tell us what most surprised you about these last four games.  (Obviously, you had to be surprised by something!)

Personally, I was especially pleased with the defensive improvement we saw, at least until injuries put our not-so-deep secondary on the field against the Packers.  And even then, it was nice to see our offense decide they weren’t going to let us lose.  The defense now seems aggressive, and the secondary is actually taking away some of what the passing offenses want to accomplish.  Timely interceptions against the Bears and Rams were big parts of those wins, and to keep Houston out of the end zone was something more than any defense should expect of themselves.

Obviously, AD running amok against opponents is the key to this team, and the lack of turnovers, timely third down passing, and good defense has made the Vikes worthy of a playoff berth, as well as some real respect within the playoff season.  So, my friend, how do you see things in this playoff week which you said would never happen?

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Well, the increasingly irrelevant Pro Bowl voting process has concluded and the Vikings will be sending four players to this year’s “contest” in Hawaii.

Running back Adrian Peterson, fullback Jerome Felton, defensive end Jared Allen, and kick Blair Walsh have all been selected.  Peterson was an obvious choice, it is nice to see Felton and Walsh get the recognition they deserve, and Allen isn’t necessarily undeserving this year but was certainly aided by his name value.

An absolute abomination is that recently benched center Jeff Saturday received the honor over Vikings center John Sullivan.  In fact, the Vikings offensive line being snubbed all together despite Adrian Peterson’s historic season is kind of, well, wrong.

It could also be argued that Antoine Winfield and Chad Greenway’s absence just further proves how underrated they are in today’s NFL that undervalues the importance of plain, simple, sound tackling.

Congrats to our four guys, and we’ll keep you updated on who might drop out and who might be filling in as alternates.  All of that, of course, assumes the Vikings aren’t playing in the Super Bowl which is not totally 100% impossible.

With Rick Spielman’s first season as the official General Manager of the Minnesota Vikings nearing it’s end (no, I don’t necessarily mean two weeks from now) I wanted to take a look back at the moves that were made to help boost the Vikings from a three win season to an eight (or nine, or ten) win record the next year.

I want to start with the oft-criticized free agent class that he brought in.  The Vikings have really only had five free agent signings to see action this year, not including their own re-signings, so let’s take a look at what each on brought to the table.

TE JOHN CARLSON:  The $25 million contract signed by John Carlson became the butt of many jokes even before he played in his first game.  His production on the field hasn’t helped matters.  A sprained MCL caused him to miss to two games after missing all of his final season with the Seahawks, and it has been speculated that injuries have plagued his production on the field even when he was present.  His 11 catches for 60 yards on the season will surely end in his worst stats, other than the season he didn’t play, since he joined the league.  He has also yet to find the end zone as a Viking.  His solid blocking skills have gone mostly unnoticed by fans, but there are plenty of decent blocking tight ends in this league getting paid far less than Carlson.

Last week’s three reception performance was Carlson’s best of the year and he needs to continue to improve over the next two weeks if he plans on continuing to earn such lucrative salary.  At age 28, there is still some untapped potential there for a guy that has never come close to matching the expectations that scouts had for him in 2008.

GRADE:  D

FB JEROME FELTON:  Felton got off to a bad start in Minnesota when he was nabbed for a second degree DWI in a McDonald’s drive-thru in June.  After that incident, one that he says he learned a huge lesson from, Felton has been instrumental in Adrian Peterson’s record-setting rushing numbers this season.

Peterson hasn’t had as good of chemistry with as talented of a lead blocker since his rookie season when he ran behind Tony Richardson, one of the greatest fullbacks of the modern era.  Felton hasn’t carried the ball at all himself this season, and only has two catches for 18 yards, but there is no doubt that his blocking has added something that was previously missing to this offense.  Makes one wonder how many yards Peterson hasn’t gotten over the years because of Brad Childress and his stubborn support of Fahu Tahi.

Felton signed a one year deal worth $700,000 with a $50,000 signing bonus.  I would say the Vikings should be willing to offer him about twice that annual salary to return for the next year or five.

GRADE:  A

OL GEOFF SCHWARTZ:  After signing a one year deal that maxes out at $1.5 million, Geoff Schwartz has been eased into a rotation at right guard with Brandon Fusco.  By most accounts, including mine, Schwartz has outplayed Fusco but has yet to overtake the position on a full time basis for some unknown reason.  At a backup lineman’s salary, Schwartz has helped his team more than most backups in this league, and turned out to be a low-risk, medium-reward type of signing, despite nagging injury concerns.

GRADE:  C

LB MARVIN MITCHELL:  Another one year deal worth $700,000 here.  Mitchell was signed shortly after Remi Ayodele was released by the Vikings, despite Mitchell’s presence on the 2009 “BountyGate” Saints team as well.  He acted as a “Plan B” to Jasper Brinkley and provided great competition in the preseason, but Brinkley kept his job and has performed rather well in his first year as a full time starter.

A calf injury interrupted part of Mitchell’s season, as he has appeared in only nine games, but he has made a considerable impact on a special teams coverage unit that is greatly improved over last season.

GRADE:  B

WR JEROME SIMPSON:  The Vikings flirted with signing Packers free agent James Jones but shied away from the receiver because they were worried about his inconsistent hands, and instead opted to sign the suspended Simpson from Cincinnati.

Jones has done nothing but catch touchdowns for the Packers this year, his drop problems apparently solved, while Simpson has been incredibly inconsistent… when he manages to make it onto the field.  A three game suspension and injuries have kept Simpson out of four games this season, and bad drops and inconsistent routes have essentially kept him out of the other 10.

19 catches, 203 yards, and no touchdowns are stats that easily illustrate how wrong things have gone for the Vikings deep threat hopeful in 2012.

Spielman left legitimate receiver threats on the market for other teams to scoop up and instead opted to go short term and cheap with Simpson.  The risk was low, but the return has been even lower.

GRADE:  D

CONCLUSION:  Rick Spielman tortured Vikings fans by staying idle during the opening days of free agency in 2012, and has indicated we can expect more of that in the future, as he intends on playing a game of chance with these low risk and low cost signings available after all the funny money has been spent.

Carlson was his lone departure from that formula, and the jury may still be out on that one, but it isn’t looking good.  Luckily, the contract wasn’t quite as bad as initially reported and the Vikings could cut ties with minimal cap damage should they choose to move on.

Overall, Spielman’s approach to free agency led to adding one fantastic fullback, and a handful of otherwise disposable talents.

Not bad, not horrible, but not great.  That about sums up Spielman’s first free agency period as Vikings General Manager.

This week here at VT we are bringing back our weekly “Coin Toss” column where Adam and I go head to head on a variety of different topics. This week, we’ll be debating the fate of Vikings new fullback Jerome Felton.

We’ve been talking about it a lot here at Vikings Territory, but in case you missed any of that coverage, let me bring you up to speed: Jerome Felton was arrested a few days ago for driving while intoxicated… at a McDonald’s drive-through. Since then, Felton has publicly apologized for his actions and the trouble he got himself into. The team has really taken no stance on Felton’s future with the team giving the typical “we’re waiting to gather more information” line. The NFL on the other hand is currently reviewing the case to determine if Felton should be suspended as this, apparently, isn’t his first run-in with authorities for getting behind the wheel after drinking.

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Jerome Felton’s early morning run to McDonald’s could turn out to be the determining factor in his future in Minnesota.

Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press reports that Felton’s arrest is being reviewed by the NFL and, since he reportedly has a prior DWI offense, could end up facing a suspension from the league.

While Felton is still practicing with the first team throughout OTA’s, any sort of suspension could seriously hinder his chances of making it past the final cuts.

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