Sunday, July 5, 2015

jerome simpson

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Yesterday was glorious, was it not? I mean seriously, how could you ask for a more perfect day from the football gods? Is it wrong that I almost enjoy watching Green Bay lose at the last second to last year’s worst team as much as watching our Vikings steam roll over the Tennessee Titans? Part of me thinks that it is just unhealthy to hold so much disdain for a division rival. The other part of me welcomes it with open arms and cherishes it.

Seriously, though – who would have thought that after week 5 the Vikings would only have one loss (a loss at the last second to the same team that just beat Green Bay) and the Packers would only have two wins? I LOVE FOOTBALL!

(I hate fantasy football… But now is not the time for that rant.)

So, now that the dust has settled after the Vikings blew up the Titans, let’s look at some of the stories that came out today.

Harrison Smith Will Be Fined. Will Not Be Suspended.

(Edit: Apparently now Smith will not even be fined. Great news.)

From Adam Schefter himself:

A-friggin-men. Because, make no mistake about it, a lot of the success this defense is having so far through the year can be attributed to the rookie safety. And I’m not so sure if it’s just his own play but more so the attitude he brings to this team. When I watch this defense it just seems obvious to me that Harrison Smith’s intensity has rubbed off on his peers. People are flying to the ball, making plays, hitting hard, making tackles and, for the most part, not making mistakes. Not to mention Smith has had some game-changing plays himself…

I didn’t think it was likely Harrison Smith would miss another game because of the incident with the ref yesterday, but I was worried about it. I think Smith could be crucial in helping to contain a guy like Robert Griffin III next week (assuming RGIII plays – I’m sure we’ll talk about that more during the week).

Harrison Smith Ejected For Shoving Ref

As far as the infraction itself that has landed Harrison Smith in so much hot water… I think it was overblown. Smith did not grab the ref and ‘shove’ him out of the way. The way I saw it (through my purple glasses, of course), the ref was driving Harrison back (for an excessive amount of time I might add) and Smith just kind of moved his arm and attempted to side step the ref. It’s not like he was aggressive in the slightest sense towards the judge. Not to mention, did anyone notice the way the ref’s arm was firmly lodged on Smith’s  throat? Just saying… Either way – it is what it is. And I think it should be noted that Smith has shown great maturity by immediately taking responsibility and apologizing for it and accepting the consequences he will now face (a fine).

Harrison Smith’s intensity is great for this team and his personal play… But he does need to get his emotions under control so we don’t keep running into these personal fouls.

Jerome Simpson’s Mystery Injury

Our friends over at The Viking Age did a great job of pointing out some of the theories regarding Jerome Simpson’s mystery injury that kept him out of most of yesterday’s game. It seems that everyone is saying something different about Simpson’s numb leg…

Simpson himself told the media that he begin feeling the numbness in his leg the night before and that it “…just felt like my foot was kind of asleep, I guess.” The Vikings staff, however, is telling the media that Simpson did something to his leg during pre-game warm-ups.

The Viking Age have a different, unique take.

During pre-game intros, Simpson was seen doing some high-flying acrobatics. (Check out that link for a mid-air picture.) Or, in other words, it looks like he was jumping around and getting some pretty significant air (as he’s known to do). Could this be the cause of the injury? Wouldn’t be the first time someone hurt their leg during some sort of excessive celebratory maneuver, Gramatica.

And if Simpson did injure his leg during pre-game warm-ups as Leslie Frazier and Rick Spielman are saying, why is he jumping around like that during introductions anyway?

Let’s hope Simpson’s leg gets its feeling back before next Sunday and he’s able to contribute against the Redskins.

In the meantime, here’s a fun little article highlighting the “Top 10 dumbest sports injuries” which, ironically enough, happens to include Gus Frerotte injuring his neck after head-butting a wall. How many times have we all wanted to do that during a Vikings game, huh?

A month ago, most NFL observers wouldn’t have guessed that the Minnesota Vikings would be heading into week five with only one loss.  Those that believed it to be possible certainly wouldn’t have predicted an impressive victory over the Niners would have been a part of that win total.

So, with the Vikings in sole possession of first place in their division (for at least one day), what can we make of this team as they prepare to take on a struggling Titans team at home?  Let’s take a look at what clues can be taken away from Sunday’s win in Detroit.

1.  The Special Teams Were Special Indeed

Sure, Blair Walsh missed his first field goal and Chris Kluwe continued to struggle with a couple of punts.  Outside of that, however, the special teams of the Minnesota Vikings was fantastic.  Percy Harvin made a statement on the opening kickoff in the form of a 105 yard touchdown return and Marcus Sherels followed up by taking the first punt return of the second half 77 yards for a score.  Walsh hit two of his three attempts, including a 49 yarder, but was a beast kicking off as the Lions never even got to return the ball once.  The coverage team struggled a little more keeping Stefan Logan bottled up on Kluwe’s punts, but nothing disastrous took place.

2.  The Passing Game Still Needs Work

Everyone is waiting for Christian Ponder’s light bulb to go on, and despite the 3-1 start, there is no question that it hasn’t happened yet.  He just hasn’t shown the ability to put this team on his back and will it to victory yet.  Sunday he was 16 of 26 for a measly 111 yards and no touchdowns.  In fact, his offense was really only responsible for six points, as the special teams scored the other 14.  That type of special teams production can’t be counted on every week, so Ponder and the gang have to get their act together if they want to continue winning football games.

Jerome Simpson was relatively quiet against the Lions, but he did make an impact in his first game as a Viking.  He played the role of field-stretcher which resulted in four catches, 50 yards, and two important pass interference penalties.  He was the team’s leader in receiving, but that isn’t saying much this week.

3.  Peterson’s Comeback Couldn’t Be Going Much Better

Many of us, including me, have openly questioned the team’s wisdom in bringing Adrian Peterson back into a featured role so quickly after his devastating knee injury.  Four weeks into the 2012 season, however, Peterson appears more than capable of shouldering a hefty load and making this offense better.  Against the Lions he carried the ball 21 times for 102 yards and added four catches for 20 yards, and has shown no signs of being hampered by pain or discomfort.  If the Vikings are truly going to embrace the idea that they can remain on top of the NFC North, then Peterson will be a main ingredient moving forward.

4.  Young Defenders Provide A Spark

Jared Allen got a sack on Sunday and did his signature dance.  The real story here, however, is the impact made by the youngsters on defense that should make Vikings fans hopeful when it comes to dreaming about the future.

Rookie safety Harrison Smith was only credited with one tackle on Sunday, but his impact was greater than his stat line would suggest.  Smith was in on a number of pass break ups with the most notable coming on an end zone play in which he dislodged the ball from the hands of Megatron to prevent a sure touchdown.  Rookie cornerback Josh Robinson was penalized (wrongfully) for a suplex-like tackle that displayed his strength, but his other seven solo tackles (tied with Chad Greenway for the most) did not go unnoticed.  The kid can fly around and make plays.

Perhaps even more notable were the performances of two of the team’s youngest defensive linemen.  Letroy Guion and Everson Griffen each had two sacks, including Griffen’s sack on the final play of the game, denying Detroit a chance at another miracle hail mary.

Middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley also had a solid game, playing a big part in the team’s success against the Lions running game.  55 yards is all that Detroit was able to gain on the ground.

5.  A Tale Of Two Third Downs

On one hand, the Vikings defense was able to force Detroit’s hand on 63% of their third downs (and 67% of their fourth downs).  On the other hand, however, the Vikings offense failed to convert on third down 75% of the time (3 of 12).

Christian Ponder was inaccurate and inefficient on third downs, particularly when rolling to his right, and the Bill Musgrave called plays in a way that made me question the trust he has for Ponder to not make big mistakes.  The Vikings coaching staff, at some point, will have to take the cuffs off and let Ponder win or lose football games as a 25% conversion rate on third down is not going to win very many more games.

Football season is nearly here which means I am once again allowed to write about things that are, you know… interesting.  My old pal Darren Campbell from Kick Ass Blog asked me to do a little Q&A session with him and, of course, I was thrilled to do so.

We did six total jottings about various subjects.  There are three in this post and the other three can be found at his blog by clicking here.

4. Jerome Simpson – what will his stats be at the end of the season?

Adam: Should his stats be measured in yards or ounces?

Zing!

All kidding aside, it is hard to get overly excited about a guy that will play no more than 13 games during the regular season. Heck, if this season turns out anything like last year, the franchise could be in complete shambles by the time he is even allowed to play.

He certainly has an ability to stretch the field and adds in some jaw dropping athleticism, but consistency has always been his issue. The drops need to stop. I’m going to be optimistic here, however, and say that he tops 800 yards on the season and throws in two or three touchdowns.

Darren: Oh, Adam, way to pick the low hanging fruit. I’m penciling Simpson in for 49 catches, 680 yards and five touchdowns. Not fantastic numbers, but enough to earn him a long-term contract in 2013 (whether that will be with the Vikings is another question). Like Adam said, consistency is an issue with Simpson. And is he physically strong enough to beat jams off the line and get open to make those big plays down the field for the Vikings? This team really needs a wide receiver (other than Percy Harvin, who is a completely different kind of player) they can pencil in for five-to-seven catches for 80-100 receiving yards every game. I see Simpson as the kind of player who will have some big games, but in other games will disappear.

5. What rookie has been the most impressive during training camp and the preseason?

Adam: It is hard to argue with Audie Cole at this point. A Vikings defender that takes advantage of bad throws? Then has the presence of mind to return it for a score?  Twice? In back-to-back plays?  Again, a Vikings defender?

That is just unheard of in recent years and I have to say those two plays alone have made him stand out more than any other rookie, including Kalil and Smith, and I hope he gets a chance to move up the depth chart to see if he can hang with the elite talent or not.

Darren: I like Cole, but kicker Blair Walsh has been the Vikings rookie who has looked the best to me. I did not like this pick at all in April. It’s hard for me to diss it now. He’s made, what, eight of nine field goals and he’s consistently booting kickoffs five-to-10 yards into the end zone – a nice change after watching Ryan Longwell’s kickoffs barely make it to the opposing team’s 20-yard line for six years. Walsh has been better than advertised. I do wonder, though, how he will react if he has a stretch where he misses three or four makeable field goals over a short period. Will he get the yips? That’s my concern with Walsh right now.

6. What unheralded Viking player has stood out the most so far?

Adam: I have only ever known two Dolphins fans in my life, but they both happen to be my best friends.  So, as a result, I have seen a Fins game or two over the years. That is why I was somewhat excited to hear that the Vikings had signed Lex Hilliard.

Hilliard had always struck me as an underrated back with some deceiving moves and nifty hands that was underutilized in Miami because of their addiction to the Wild Cat. To me, he appears to be the exact sort of Mr. Dependable that the Vikings need in their backfield as an insurance policy and a nice change up from time to time. His versatility is something Spielman surely considered when signing him, and I consider him a lock to make the roster at this point, which makes me feel pretty comfortable with the run game even with Peterson still on the mend.

Darren: I’m surprised to read that Adam thinks Hilliard’s stood out because I think he’s looked like garbage. There’s no burst there. No wiggle. No anything. I understand he’s a solid special teams player, but even giving him that, at this point I wouldn’t want to see him make the team. Matt Asiata looks much better to me as an option as the Vikings third running back.

But rather than continuing to rag on Adam’s selection, I should write about my own. Defensive end Nick Reed is a guy who has surprised me in the two preseason games. He’s tipped a couple of passes and against the Bills he consistently generated pressure from the outside. He’s bounced around the league a bit, and at 6’2 and 250, he’s pretty small even for a pass rushing DE. I don’t expect him to make the team; all I know is I’m noticing him every time he’s on the field. He might be a guy worth stashing on the practice squad. You can never have too many DEs who can get after the quarterback.

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While the Vikings first preseason game against the 49ers wasn’t horrible, it definitely left fans wanting to see something more. A sign of improvement. A glimpse of development. Well, I think Vikings fans got that and then some as the Vikings defeated the Bills 36-14 at Mall of America Field Friday night. There was definitely more positive than negative in this week’s exhibition game. I think there may be a feeling in the air now that this team could cause more problems in the tough NFC North than given credit for by most NFL analysts. (Something I’ve been saying here for a while now). With that being said, let’s get moving on the notes and analysis I have from the second preseason game of the year. We’ll start off with a summary of the injuries suffered in yesterday’s match up.

Injuries

The Vikings managed to get through another exhibition game without any major injuries. Kyle Rudolph suffered a laceration behind his ear and was evaluated for a concussion but the tests came back negative. Chris Cook suffered a concussion on a play where he stripped the ball from a Bills receiver. Both players will be fine but I wouldn’t expect either of them to start in the next preseason game against the Chargers. If it was the regular season game, I wouldn’t be so sure. But as it is just an exhibition match up and both players are crucial to the Vikings roster, I would be surprised if Cook (Rudolph is more likely) saw playing time. Then again, it remains to be seen if Adrian Peterson will play next week so, really, who knows?

“No Huddle”

  • Let’s start off with Ponder because, let’s face it – if a certain rookie, seventh round linebacker hadn’t stole the show in the fourth quarter, the main thing we’d take away from this game is that Ponder looked excellent. He showed great accuracy, led receivers, stepped up in the pocket to make throws and was able to get away from pressure when needed. Moreover, he really just looked the part. Looked comfortable in his own skin. He had the time to go through his reads and was able to find the open man. Ponder finished the night 10-13 for 136 yards (with an almost equal passer rating) and a touchdown. Amen.
  • Jerome Simpson knows how to get high. I mean really, really high. I guess this is both a great thing and bad thing for the Vikings, though. On one hand, Simpson will go over just about anyone in an effort to get to the endzone. On the other hand, it means he’ll miss the first three games of the year. Something I saw that I thought was really awesome about the Simpson play below is how friggin’ fast Matt Kalil is. Watch the full highlight on NFL.com and notice how Kalil is seriously right behind Simpson as he flies down the field. Big guy has speed.

    (Image courtesy of SB Nation.)
  • I thought Toby Gerhart showed some great speed in Friday’s game. We’re used to seeing Gerhart plow through people to get the first down. There were a couple times though that I thought he showed great agility and burst to get through the first wave of defenders. It’s comforting knowing that even without our starred franchise player Adrian Peterson, we could still have one of the better ground attacks in the league.
  • Though Ponder was sacked twice on the opening drive, neither of them came as a result of rookie Matt Kalil being beat. Kalil, who had an above average first NFL game last week, showed us again why he was worth a fourth overall pick.
  • On the second offensive drive, the Vikings managed to come away with a field goal thanks to rookie kicker Blair Walsh after the drive stalled in front of the Bills’ goal line. I think it’s worth noting though that, if it was a regular season game, we probably would have been forced to punt instead. The Vikings went for it on fourth and short near midfield and got a first down allowing them to continue the drive… It’s unlikely they take that risk in the regular season.
  • I really don’t care for flea flickers (unless they work, of course). They just take too long to develop and I rarely see them end well. The Vikings attempted to run a flea flicker during their second offensive drive and the play ended up incomplete as Ponder was forced out of the pocket and had to throw it out of bounds down field. The pressure came from the left side after Matt Kalil basically stopped blocking Bills defensive end Chris Kelsay. Not sure what happened on that play… But again, flea flickers… They just don’t do it for me.
  • The real test for rookie kicker Blair Walsh will come when the Vikings are down by 2 at Lambeau Field with five seconds left on the clock. With that being said, he had another great game, Friday. Not only was he booming kick offs again (the guy managed to put one through the uprights on a kick off) but he was nailing difficult field goals. Walsh accounted for half of the Vikings 38 points against the Bills and was 5/6 on field goals. The kick he missed was from about 47 yards out and was wide right. With that being said, he also nailed another 47 yard field goal right down the middle later in the game.
  • Harrison Smith seemed to have a pretty good game. He only had a couple stand out plays – one of which being a beautiful blitz where he batted a throw down at the line. More importantly though, he didn’t have any biffs that I noticed. I guess it’s a good thing when you aren’t constantly hearing a safeties name because typically it means they are being beat, missing tackles, etc… I think it’s safe to say that Smith has secured a starting spot on the roster this year. Now we’ll just have to see who starts beside him. Personally, my vote is for Mistral Raymond after Friday’s game. Raymond was on fire and definitely made a statement after struggling last week (and publicly being called out for it by the front office) against the 49ers.
  • Chris Carr and Eric Frampton. Yikes, these guys looked bad.
  • Josh Robinson didn’t look spectacular but he also wasn’t glaringly bad. Which, I guess, is about as much as you could ask for from a rookie in his first game coming off of a hamstring injury. He did get beat on a bomb down the left side of the field but his blazing speed allowed him to catch back up with defender and put some pressure on him causing an incompletion. He also had a dropped interception but at the very least managed to interrupt the ball in the air.
  • Joe Webb has another impressive game as a running back. As a quarterback? Not so much… With that being said, I’m starting to feel like maybe I’m not giving Joe Webb a fair shot? While I do think he is inaccurate, unable to read a defense and prefers to run first when there is any sign of pressure, he is working with the second stringers. And from everything I’ve seen in preseason, there is a huge disparity between the starters and the back ups. Yet, the fact remains that I just don’t think Webb can be a starting quarterback for this team. If he could look as comfortable throwing as he does sprinting down the field, he would look like Peyton Manning. But the fact is Joe Webb was never a quarterback and I’m still convinced that he is not one. Not an an NFL level anyway.
  • When the Vikings drafted Jarius Wright I was pumped. As some of you know, I spent a good amount of time “scouting” the receivers in this past draft class and Wright was one of my later-round favorites for the Vikings. While some just consider him a “poor man’s Percy Harvin,” I thought he could be much more than that. Not only does he have the speed, agility and evasiveness of a great slot receiver, but, in my opinion, he has the breakaway speed that could make him a deep threat (despite his short stature)and a threat in the return game. Unfortunately for Wright, though, he hasn’t really stood out much this preseason so far. And I’m not sure if it’s because maybe he’s not as good as I thought he was or he just hasn’t really had the opportunity yet. Wright hasn’t been targeted much as a receiver so far. In fact, he didn’t have a single catch against the Bills. You know who did have a reception, though? Fourteen other players! That has to be kind of scary if you’re Jarius Wright. He really needs to show in the next two games why he deserves to be on this team and what he’s capable of. Wright also hasn’t gotten a real opportunity on any returns yet either as most of the punts he’s been back to receive ended in a fair catch.
  • Matt Asiata, who the Vikings are looking at as a potential fullback, looked really great to me. In fact, I think he could potentially be someone the team looks out to add depth at running back. The guy showed great speed and vision. Asiata had a couple of big gains on the ground where he looked much quicker and more agile than your typical full back.
  • Other than a long, perfectly passed bomb to Emmanuel Arceneaux, Sage Rosenfels didn’t really do much to show why he should be the second QB on this roster. Then again, I’m not sure he really cares much as he is a [very] veteran player who was likely just brought back to provide an experienced perspective at the position. What do I know, though? Maybe he’s dying to have an opportunity to get back on the field if Ponder goes down during the year. If that’s the case though, he’s got some more work to do.
  • Audie Cole. Audie, freakin’ Cole. He’s all anyone is talking about after having two interceptions for touchdowns within 16 seconds or so in the fourth quarter. It definitely added a spark to an otherwise pedestrian second half. I don’t know that I would go as far as anointing him as the steal of the draft, though. Let’s not forget that he was going up against Tyler Thigpen and Brad Smith – the fourth “quarterback” on the Bills roster. (And I use the term quarterback loosely, here.)  Both quarterbacks basically made the same horrible read two times in a row and Audie Cole just managed to capitalize on it. With that being said, it doesn’t mean that I don’t think what Cole managed to do was easy or undeserving of recognition. If anything, I think it should definitely earn him some more playing time to see what else he can do. But a guaranteed spot on the roster? I’m not so sure…

Jerome Simpson could possibly open training camp as a starter today, across from Percy Harvin, after impressing just about everyone that was paying attention during offseason workouts and drills.

The issue there, however, is that we all know that Simpson will not start the regular season as a starter due to his three game suspension.

“I’ll be fresh coming back after those three weeks,” Simpson told the Pioneer Press.

Not only will Simpson miss the first three weeks, he will also gradually be losing reps as training camp grinds on, according to Leslie Frazier.  The plan has to include getting some other guys some reps with the first team so that the Vikings can plan for someone else taking on a starting role during those first three weeks.

Simpson sounds eager to make his Minnesota debut in week four, however, and prove that he hasn’t hit his ceiling as an NFL receiver.

“A lot of people are saying we have a weak (receiving) corps,” Simpson said. “We can prove them wrong.  I just want to bring something here that hasn’t been here before, and I think ya’ll know what that is. A Super Bowl (title). That’s my No. 1 goal.”

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