Thursday, July 30, 2015

leslie frazier

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The man who dominated September and October hardly even saw action in November.

When Percy Harvin sprained his ankle on November 4th, just prior to the bye week, he was able to reenter that game and many presumed that was a sign that he would return to the field in a relatively short time span.

That has not proven to be true, and it appears that the Vikings will be without the multi-talented yardage machine on Sunday, in a must-win game at Green Bay.

Leslie Frazier said Harvin has not had any major setbacks, but simply has not improved as quickly as they had hoped, and the Vikings have officially listed him as “doubtful” for Sunday’s matchup.

This means Jarius Wright will again see extensive action in what will be his third week of activity.  The Vikings coaches say they have designed plays specifically for Wright, so it is fair to say this will be a true test for the rookie.

Yesterday, mainly out of boredom, I solicited questions from the readers and promised to answer as many as possible.  So, for whatever the answers might be worth, here we go:

Who’s the MVP of the season so far?

Adam Says:  Starting me off with an easy one, sweet!  Percy Harvin has been incredible this season.  62 catches for 677 yards three touchdowns.  22 rushing attempts for 96 yards and a touchdown.  Averaging 35.9 yards on 16 kick returns and a touchdown.  The guy has been elite in every sense of the word.  Watching guys like Larry Fitzgerald struggle with poor quarterback play, it makes Harvin’s production even more impressive considering the current state of the offense.

“Things would have to go very poorly for the Vikings in the first half of the season in order for us to feel fully eliminated from the playoffs heading into week 10. Of the last seven games of the season, five of those will be played against divisional opponents. Beating our NFC North foes is the best way to climb into playoff contention, so hope is likely to cling for quite some time this season.”

A very wise blogger wrote that paragraph back in April when the 2012 schedule was announced.  A very foolish blogger, however, forgot to heed his own warning and tossed the idea of a “rebuilding team” aside and fully embraced the idea that this Vikings team was (cliché alert!) “for real.”

It was far too easy to get swept away by the Vikings success after putting the week two loss to Indy in the rear view mirror and placing that unexpected beat down of the Niners on the forefront of our minds.

Say what you will about strength of schedule analysis and how inaccurate such thinking is, but there is no doubt that the Vikings were able to take advantage of a weak schedule early on, struggled against tougher opponents of late, and have yet to face their toughest opponents.

It duped some of us, including me.

The early success of the Vikings has created confusing feelings and opinions amongst the fanbase, as the team suddenly went from “project” to “contender” and are well on their way to being labeled “pretenders.”

The Vikings themselves are partially to blame, as their job is to sell their product, and they had no problems pointing out their successes on the field in order to generate some excitement.

The truth, as we have found out here lately, is that this team never actually became anything other than a project.  In the end, their win total is only going to be a gauge to measure how far this project has to go before they can legitimately be considered a contender.

Am I throwing in the towel?  Absolutley not.

I will still cheer and shout, curse and yell, as my team suits up on future Sundays.  However, I have had to give myself the reality check that many Vikings need and remind myself that this is a young team, with plenty of positives to point out, that is still in the process of growing into what will one day be a consistently dominant force.

Luckily for us Vikings fans, our expectations are now so low that they don’t really need to be managed, and Leslie Frazier’s team can really only overachieve from here on out in the eyes of their most critical observers.

First off, I want to give a genuine and heartfelt welcome to Gil, our newest writer.  I admire Gil’s ability to write for so many different outlets and produce such interesting content, and I think he will bring another fresh perspective to VT as we wade through this very intriguing 2012 season.  Glad to have you aboard, sir!

Second, happy birthday Brett!

Okay, after a very disappointing home loss to Tampa, the Vikings will soon pack their bags and head to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Seattle Seahawks. Whether we are talking about the loss that is in the past, or the game that is in the future, there is a ton of great content out there right now and I wanted to round up the best of the best for you:

  • The Vikings have brought in a punter for a workout which is interesting because the Vikings have one of the most popular/unpopular punters ever.
  • An update on how the whole stadium thing is progressing.  SPOILER:  At this point, it kind of looks like a breakfast danish.
  • Throughout his career Adrian Peterson has set a lot of bars very high, but this one is a new accomplishment.
  • I know this is predictable quarterback-speak, but Christian Ponder has the right attitude right now.
  • There are at least two very good reasons to expect that the Vikings will qualify for the postseason.
  • 17 missed tackles.  That is one stat that will jump out to you in this article about Thursday’s loss to Tampa Bay.
  • A “source” told PFT that opposing defenses have figured out Christian Ponder.
  • Super famous Viking Territory writer Gil Alcaraz IV takes a look at just how explosive Percy Harvin has been in 2012.
  • The topic of this article is so outlandish I can’t even bring myself to type the general subject description to tell you what it is about.
  • Some took Thursday night’s performance as verification that Christian Ponder is not, I repeat: is NOT, the franchise quarterback the Vikings have been looking for.
  • While the Vikings lost Chris Cook last week, Mistral Raymond appears to be making his way back to 100%.
  • Sidney Rice is healthy and looking for a big game against his former team.
  • Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson may prove to be a tough combination for a struggling Vikings defense.
  • This is just simply cool.  Check it out.
  • Leslie Frazier refuses to single out his quarterback and says the entire offense needs to step up.
  • According to my math, Bryant McKinnie has to pay up for about 3,750 lap dances.
  • Route running was a point of emphasis during this week’s practices.

Before the 2012 season got underway, Percy Harvin expressed great displeasure with his role within the Vikings offense and requested a trade at one point.  Instead of trading him, Leslie Frazier talked with Harvin about his concerns and apparently Harvin was happy with what he heard.  If wasn’t completely happy at that point, he has to be now because he is in the middle of an MVP-type season.

After a pitiful loss to the Indianapolis Colts, veteran defensive linemen Kevin Williams and Jared Allen appealed to the coaching staff to let them simplify the defense and simply allow the front four to do their thing.  The result has been games like we saw this last weekend, where the defense amassed seven sacks despite the fact that they blitzed on exactly zero snaps.

This coaching staff is seemingly willing to listen to their productive players, but they also seem willing to listen to their fan base.  When the Vikings had red zone struggles in the red zone against Washington, the coaching staff didn’t get defensive and chippy about the matter like we might expect from the rex Ryans and Pete Carrolls of the world.

Instead, the Vikings coaching staff admitted that they weren’t proud of their decisions and vowed to fix the problem.  And, really, they succeeded.  The Vikings made two trips to the red zone on Sunday, and they scored touchdowns on each of them.

The coaching staff had to know they were going to hear about their lack of passing production on Sunday.  At one point, Christian Ponder was sarcastically cheered by the home crowd when he opted to throw away a football when he was under pressure, as earlier he had chucked picks under similar pressure.  If that wasn’t enough, the home crowd was so disinterested in the yawn-inducing game that they collectively jeered the referees for a call against the Cardinals because they weren’t paying close enough attention to realize the call had actually gone in the Vikings favor.

Everybody involved with Christian Ponder’s dismal day (35.5 passer rating) seemed to acknowledge that improvement was needed if their winning ways are to continue.

“A lot of it had to do with what they were doing defensively,” Frazier said of his offense’s struggles against the Cardinals. “Some of the things they were able to take away from what we wanted to get accomplished in the passing game.”

Frazier went on to vow that Ponder will continue to improve as an NFL passer.

So far this season, when the Vikings coaching staff says something is going to improve, it has come to fruition pretty quickly.  We may have our reasons to doubt Ponder’s abilities in the immediate future, but his first chance to prove us wrong will come very quickly.

In three short days, the Vikings will take on Tampa Bay… who have the second-worst pass defense in the NFL.

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