Monday, October 5, 2015

linval joseph

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In this weekly series of articles, I’ll be breaking down what went RIGHT or what went WRONG each game for the Minnesota Vikings. This week, the Vikings punished the San Diego Chargers behind a strong running attack and consistent quarterback pressure from the defensive line.

These Minnesota Vikings have the look of a certain team approximately 1,660 miles to the West — the Seattle Seahawks. Before you comment or tweet in outrage, hear me out, because the similarities are too obvious to ignore.

Like their counterparts in the Pacific Northwest, the Vikings are built to succeed through two fundamental concepts; a strong running game and a fast, aggressive defense. General manager Rick Spielman’s draft strategies and recent free agent signings have helped him achieve the look and feel of the Seahawks on both sides of the ball, from the secondary to depth at running back.

That starts with Harrison Smith, who through three games is already considered the league’s best safety, per Pro Football Focus. He’s this team’s Earl Thomas, a “quarterback of the defense” who can cover sideline to sideline and attack the line of scrimmage in run support. At linebacker, Anthony Barr, Gerald Hodges, and Eric Kendricks exemplify many of the same traits that make Seattle’s mid-level defenders so dangerous — speed, versatility to blitz or cover, and instincts.

Beyond those position groups, the Vikings’ greatest defensive strength starts at the line of scrimmage. Everson Griffen is the anchor of the group, a force against the run and an elite edge rusher. He plays a similar role to the Seahawks’ Michael Bennett, who lines up across the defensive line and is by far Seattle’s most consistent rusher, having tallied seven sacks in 2014. Joining Griffen are Brian Robison, Scott Crichton, Justin Trattou, and two of the league’s best interior linemen — Sharrif Floyd and Linval Joseph.

With a mix of double A-Gap blitzes, suffocating coverage from the secondary, and aggressive play from the front seven, Mike Zimmer’s defense passes the eye test. Like the Seahawks, they fly to the football and are an opportunistic bunch who have forced six turnovers through three games in 2015.

On the offensive side of the football, the Vikings are taking the Marshawn Lynch approach to moving the football, and fortunately, have the running back to do so. Adrian Peterson, the original “Beast Mode,” leads the league with 291 yards on the ground and in the past two games, rushed the ball 49 times. Last season, the Seahawks ran the football 53.63 percent of the time, and this year, the Vikings are on pace to surpass that. They’re rushing on 54.88 percent of their offensive snaps, taking the football out of Teddy Bridgewater’s hands and forcing defenses to commit to the run.

Hopefully, as they did for the Seahawks during their Super Bowl runs, the defense’s loaded boxes open up opportunities in the passing game. Russell Wilson, for example, finished the 2014 season with 3,475 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, and seven interceptions in an offense tailored to the running game. When we take Teddy Bridgewater’s statistics through three games and extrapolate them to project a 16-game season, we get the following: 2,693 yards, 5 touchdowns, 10 interceptions. Underwhelming, yes, but Bridgewater is operating behind Adrian Peterson in Norv Turner’s offense, and he hasn’t been forced to win games with his arm.

As long as the formula — suffocating defense and a run-heavy offense — are leading to victories, the Vikings should stick to the plan. A similar one took the Seahawks to multiple Super Bowls, and the Vikings have a chance to get there very soon. If last week’s win over the Chargers was any indication, they’ve fully embraced this winning identity.

After the jump, Ill dive deeper into their performance and the building blocks being put into place for a successful playoff run.

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Tom Johnson reportedly wanted to be paid like a starter, which presumably meant he wanted to be a starter, so some thought he would be leaving the Minnesota Vikings where Sharrif Floyd and Linval Joseph sit atop the rotation at defensive tackle.

I am happy to pass along, however, some news that should be viewed as a good thing for the depth and quality along the defensive line:

Tom Pelissero says that the Vikings have signed Johnson to a three year deal worth $7 million, with about $3 million in guarantees. Without all of the details, that seems like an easily managed contract that keeps the Vikings armed with continuity and dependability at the defensive tackle position.

Johnson had 22 tackles, six sacks, and a forced fumble in a limited role during the 2014 season.

Be sure to check out all the latest free agency news and rumors with Arif’s Live Blog right here.

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[Note: This segment is a part of a position-by-position look at what the Minnesota Vikings might be inclined to do during the 2015 free agency period. This is the 10th article, focusing on the defensive tackles and nose tackles. In case you missed it, feel free to check out the quarterbacksrunning backstight endsfullbackswide outsspecialistssafeties, cornerbacks, and defensive ends.]

Yesterday, we discussed the Vikings’ biggest needs at defensive end, which include adding depth behind Brian Robison and addressing Corey Wootton’s expiring contract. Many fans enjoy watching the edge rushers, as they tend to be one of the more disruptive defensive groups. Without a solid nose or defensive tackle, though, players like Everson Griffen wouldn’t be nearly as successful as they were in 2014.

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I already essentially wrote this article last May, but since the NFL is getting closer to awarding 32 compensatory draft picks to the eligible franchises, I thought I’d take the opportunity to remind you not to get your hopes up.

The NFL has a highly complex and secretive formula it uses to award 32 extra draft picks to franchises just before the Draft takes place. The picks are awarded to teams that lost more players to free agency than they gained. They can be anywhere from third to seventh round picks which is decided on a number of factors like the age, salary, and performances of the free agents each team let leave in free agency and those that they signed.

In May, I predicted that the Vikings would be awarded one seventh round draft pick. Their potential haul was cancelled out due, in large part, to the signings of Linval Joseph, Captain Munnerlyn, and Corey Wootton.

Photo courtesy of Jason Barum
Photo courtesy of Jason Barum

Vegas to Minneapolis to Mankato all in the matter of a few hours (Okay, maybe like six or seven). Running on an hour of sleep right now but there is no place I’d rather be.  I have to be honest with you… Standing on that field just a few feet away from all these incredible athletes was pretty surreal. Hard to be objective and analytical when you’re stuck just trying to take it all in.

Nevertheless, I did jot a few notes down (below). I’ll be back out on the field for the afternoon practice in just a few hours and will report back then. In the meantime, if you haven’t already, follow me on Twitter where I’ll be providing updates. Also, Arif’s Twitter List of training camp coverage is a great resource to be current with what’s going on. Plus, all those guys are pros. I’m just a rube who’s starstruck during his first training camp experience.

A couple of notes from the morning walk through:

  • Josh Robinson did not participate in the morning’s activities. Robinson was taken out of practice a couple of days ago as a precaution when dealing with a hamstring related injury. Defensive Coordinator George Edwards was unwilling to provide an update on the status of Robinson’s injury and deferred to Zimmer on the issue.

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