Sunday, July 24, 2016

marcus sherels

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Vikings 2016 Offseason Plan Part 1

[In part one of this three-part series, Austin Belisle and Brett Anderson team up to put together an in-depth offseason plan for the Minnesota Vikings.]

Blair Walsh lined up to kick a 27-yard field goal, a routine chip shot that would’ve won the Minnesota Vikings their first playoff game in nearly seven years. But the ball didn’t sail through the uprights; it veered left, and just like that, the team’s promising 2015 season was over. Visions of Mike Zimmer hoisting the Lombardi Trophy faded from memory as an exasperated fan base watched in disbelief. “How could he miss that kick?”

Lost in the heartbreak was the fact that the Vikings didn’t just exceed expectations in 2015 — they shattered them. Minnesota entered the year as a darkhorse playoff contender, a young team that flashed promise in 2014 and would only get better with the return of Adrian Peterson. They did, winning 11 games and snatching the NFC North title from the Green Bay Packers for the first time since 2009. With a mix of young talent and veteran leadership, the Vikings emerged as one of the league’s surprise teams last year.

Their success started in the offseason, where general manager Rick Spielman assembled one of the NFL’s deepest, most talented rosters. Rookies like Eric Kendricks and Stefon Diggs became immediate contributors, while second-year free agent acquisitions like Captain Munnerlyn and Linval Joseph elevated their respective games to new levels. In order to take the next step in 2016, the franchise will need to continue its steadfast approach in free agency and the annual NFL Draft.

But in order to do that, it’s critical the team establishes a clear vision. Every organization’s ultimate goal is the same — to claim a Super Bowl victory. Some, like the Vikings, may be closer than others like the Cleveland Browns or Tennessee Titans. Regardless, each begins a new season with a 0-0 record. It’s the path they take that separates them.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Second only to the NFL Draft, the first week of the league’s free agency period is one of the most exciting parts of the NFL offseason each and every year. Sometimes it works out and other times it does not for a team and their expensive new player or players.

It is always fun for fans to hope that their team goes out and signs the top available free agents, but that is not always the best strategy for their favorite team. Some fans need to be more realistic when it comes to who they think their team could sign.

When the free agency period for this upcoming NFL year begins on March 9th, there will be a few players that could land with the Vikings. Who are some of the more realistic options in free agency that could fit with the team in Minnesota?

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Special Teams Player of the Year
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Vikings Territory asked, and the readers spoke; in this series of articles, the team will announce the winners of our fan-voted awards, from the Minnesota Vikings’ MVP of 2015 to the Rookie of the Year. Today, a look at the Special Teams Player of the Year, as voted by you, the fans.

Blair Walsh, K — Minnesota Vikings

One play doesn’t define a game, a season, or even a career. Despite missing the game-winning field goal against the Seattle Seahawks earlier this month, Blair Walsh put together one of the best campaigns of his short tenure in the NFL. Even before the year began, the front office expressed confidence in their kicker, signing Walsh to a four-year, $14 million contract at the start of training camp.

He failed to deliver early on, especially in the preseason. While battling a nasty case of the “yips,” Walsh went just 5-of-11 in exhibition games and struggled to connect on the new, 33-yard extra points. His first attempt of the year was a miss against the San Francisco 49ers. He missed a field goal against the Denver Broncos in a game that was ultimately decide by three points. And then, the misses stopped.

Over the next four games, Walsh was a perfect 13-for-13, averaging nearly 40 yards per field goal. In two of those games, he drilled game-winning kicks against the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams. The pressure to perform didn’t seem to weigh on Walsh, and that’s the same mentality he’s taking into 2016.

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(image courtesy of Vikings.com)
RB Matt Asiata, S Andrew Sendejo and CB Marcus Sherels all joined the Vikings as undrafted free agents. Which player has made the biggest impact for Minnesota during his career?

Adam P: Marcus Sherels
Although he did spend some time early in his Vikings career playing on the defensive side of the ball, returning punts has really been the area where Sherels has made the biggest impact for the Vikings. For the past three seasons (including 2015), he has ranked in the NFL’s top 10 in terms of average yards per punt and seems to always provide a spark for the Vikings when they need it the most. His punt return for a touchdown this season against the Chicago Bears in Week 8 was a big reason Minnesota was able to defeat the Bears in Chicago for the first time since 2007.

Matt Asiata and Andrew Sendejo have not been on the field as much during their careers for the  Vikings as Sherels has in his; therefore, they have not been able to make as much of an impact as their teammate Sherels.

Asiata did a good job filling in for Adrian Peterson last season when he scored 10 touchdowns in 15 games. Sendejo is doing a decent job in the safety spot next to Harrison Smith in the Minnesota defense this season. But neither has come close to the impact that Sherels has made on this franchise as a punt returner.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com
Pos.NameInjuryWednesdayThursdayFridayStatus
TMatt KalilToe DNPDNPLPQuestionable
DTTom JohnsonConcussionLPFPFPProbable
WRAdam ThielenShoulder FPFPFPProbable
RBMatt AsiataQuadricepsLPLPFPProbable
RBAdrian PetersonHamstringLPFPFPProbable
DTSharrif FloydKnee/AnkleLPFPFPProbable
LBAnthony BarrHand/KneeLPFPFPProbable
CBMarcus SherelsShoulder FPFPFPProbable
DEJustin TrattouFootFPFPFPProbable
QBTeddy BridgewaterLeft ShoulderFPFPFPProbable
LBEric KendricksRibsFPFPFPProbable
SRobert BlantonBackLPQuestionable

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