Saturday, September 5, 2015

john sullivan

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Like the severe weather currently affecting Minnesota and TCF Bank Stadium, injuries have finally struck the Vikings. Last week’s preseason game marked the beginning of a string of injuries for the team, with none more devastating than Phil Loadholt’s torn achilles tendon.

Although certain players like Anthony Barr returned to practice and will make their preseason debut tonight, others weren’t so lucky, and will not take the field against the Oakland Raiders at 7 pm:

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Photo courtesy of Vikings.com

Losing Phil Loadholt was only the first blow of the week for the Minnesota Vikings.

Loadholt is out the rest of the season after suffering an Achilles injury in last week’s game. Wednesday’s the team was without center John Sullivan, defensive tackle Shamar Stephen, offensive tackle Carter Bykowski, rookie tight end MyCole Pruitt, safety Antone Exum and cornerback Josh Robinson.

Running back Adrian Peterson returned to practice as he continues to deal with a right thigh bruise, according to reports.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Last week, I wrote that the Norv Turner and the Minnesota Vikings need to let Teddy Bridgewater operate from the pocket, or, create moving pockets through roll-outs and play action. If the Vikings are going to be successful this season and beyond, they’ll need to ride those skinny knees of a healthy Teddy Bridgewater.

While play-calling helps minimize the effect of a defense’s schemes and blitzes, protecting the quarterback begins at the line of scrimmage with the offensive line and running backs — two of the most important positional groups heading into 2015.

Their importance has skyrocketed in recent days, most notably after the loss of Phil Loadholt during Saturday night’s preseason game against the Buccaneers. Loadholt suffered a torn achilles and will miss the entire season, which puts him at risk of being cut before 2016. As Adam wrote on Sunday, the Vikings have a few options to replace “Big Phil,” though the job at right tackle appears to be rookie T.J. Clemmings’s to lose.

So much relies on the Vikings’ group up front, and so much of that pressure falls on a select few players, from embattled left tackle Matt Kalil to newly-minted right guard Mike Harris. Can this reshuffled and retooled line live up to the test, or will Teddy Bridgewater end up battered and bruised like he was last season?

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Last season, Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was more “fish in a barrel” than pocket passer — according to Football Outsiders, Minnesota’s offensive line gave up 51 sacks over the course of the year, making them the 6th-worst unit in all of football.

With an Adjusted Sack Rate (sacks — plus intentional grounding penalties — per pass attempt adjusted for down, distance, and opponent) of 9.1 percent, there is only room for improvement in 2015. Pro Football Focus also downgraded the Vikings’ offensive unit, ranking them 25th in pass protection after a down year for almost every player along the line.

On Tuesday, Rick Spielman rewarded the line’s most consistent player, center John Sullivan, with a contract extension and pay raise. As first reported by ESPN’s Field Yates, Sullivan will remain with the Vikings through 2017:

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This week’s Vikings Fan Spotlight is the final segment of a 3-week project. I had such an amazing response on Twitter from Vikings fans all over the world, and I decided to break this feature into three separate parts. 

Simon Bruus – Denmark – @Bruusen

SimonQ: How did you first become a Vikings fan?
A: My grandfather’s great grandfather is from Minneapolis, and my grandfather […] calls himself “The biggest Vikings fan in Europe.” He religiously follows the Vikings every Sunday when they’re on, and he also religiously watch[es] the University of Minnesota’s football team, the Golden Gophers. Sometimes when I was younger, [I would] stay at my grandparents’ just to watch the Vikings with him, therefore the transition to becoming a Vikings fan was very easy.

Q: Are there a lot of other Vikings fans in Denmark?
A: In Norway [where I am studying abroad], there are almost none as I know of, but in Denmark there is a huge Vikings community. Denmark in general is a very “NFL-happy” nation and as far as I know one of the biggest followers of the sport outside the U.S.

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