Friday, September 4, 2015

Matt Kalil

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Who is this Matt Kalil, and where has he been? I’ve watched the Vikings’ three preseason games, and the No. 75 stepping onto the field isn’t the same player I watched in 2014. We all know the story — Kalil allowed a league-high 12 sacks last season while playing every offensive snap through chronic knee pain. More often than not, Kalil looked slow, unsure of himself, and passive in pass protection, giving some of the league’s best edge rushers free shots on first-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

It wasn’t all his fault, though. Kalil’s knees became such an issue last season that he required arthroscopic surgery from Dr. James Andrews — the same doctor who repaired Adrian Peterson’s ACL — and has been taking precautionary steps to improve his health since January. Midway through training camp, Kalil reflected on his injuries and the mental toll they took on him this offseason, per Andrew Krammer:

“You get to a point where everything hurts so much, you’re like, ‘OK, one more year and then there’s no way,'” Kalil said. “There’s a lot of things, too, besides football. Obviously I love football and I’m healthy, obviously I’m going to do everything I can like I am now.”

“But if you’re not [healthy], it wears on you. If you had to go to practice and feel excruciating pain every day, it wouldn’t be really fun to work with. You feel like you have to survive at practice instead of get better and work on your skills. You know what I mean? That’s what it was like last year. It’s all good now, I’m healthy.”

Given his newfound health and confidence, Kalil can finally focus on perfecting his technique. That extra practice time, from working individually on his kickstep to battling Everson Griffen in one-on-ones, means Kalil is beginning to look more and more like his 2012 self. That Matt Kalil, the fourth-overall selection in the  NFL Draft, earned a trip to the Pro Bowl and lived up to the college hype, routinely shutting down elite rushers like Aldon Smith, Robert Mathis, and Clay Matthews.

However, his road to recovery hasn’t been without bumps and bruises. As Adam wrote earlier this month, Kalil started camp as the team’s revolving door, losing one-on-one battles with Anthony Barr, Everson Griffen, and even rookie Danielle Hunter. The same issues that cropped up in 2014 — lazy footwork, high pad level, a late first punch — resurfaced throughout practices, and the worries of an ever-fearful Vikings fan base grew with every poor camp report.

But then, the Vikings traveled to Canton for the Hall of Fame Game and Kalil played…great? He did, are you sure? Yes, Kalil was solid, and surprisingly, that’s been the case in every one of the Vikings’ three exhibition games. Even Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus, which ranked Kalil the third-worst tackle in 2014, has been surprised by Kalil’s performances:

Where did this turnaround come from, and how has Kalil been so efficient? Granted, it’s only the preseason, and we’re dealing with a small sample size, but the film never lies — Kalil looks healthy, motivated, and engaged thus far in 2015.

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Mike Zimmer and the Minnesota Vikings continue their dominance over every preseason foe put in front of them… The Purple prevailed over the Oakland Raiders 20-16 Saturday night at The Bank in a game that featured bad weather, a stoppage of play, and Blair Walsh taking 10 points off the dinner table.

Other “At Least Blair Walsh Got Paid” Talkers Include
• Mike Zimmer’s 7-0 preseason record means nada
• Adrian Thinks he’s LeBron James
• I’m happy people didn’t boo Ponder
• Streaking during a rain delay is weaksauce & shouldn’t count
• Blair Walsh needs to get it together
• TJ Clemmings did not have a good time…
• Matt Kalil got a confidence builder, keeping Khalil Mack in check
• Joe Berger is valuable
• Teddy Has Vision Like Steve Jobs
• Good to get Charles Johnson going
• Where is Mike Wallace?
• McKinnon hasn’t looked great & Asiata hasn’t been… Terrible?
• Chase Ford lives!
• What the heck’s going on at middle linebacker?
• Marcus Sherels is all-around valuable & Stefon Diggs is learning
• Brian Peters is quickly becoming my new favorite
• The Weekly Referendum on Trae Waynes
• JUSTIN TRATTOU NEEDS TO MAKE THE 53 OR I WILL GO ON A HUNGER STRIKE
• Cordarrelle didn’t know where to line up on the spike play…
• The Christian Ponder-Trent Richardson Read Option aka Musgrave’s Revenge
• Support the show by telling a friend & bookmarking us on Amazon!

All that and other “I wanna hang with Everson” chatter on this edition of the Purple FTW! Podcast!

An Andy Carlson Joint.

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Christian Ponder returns to Minnesota Saturday as the Oakland Raiders roll into The Bank to take on our Minnesota Fightin’ Vikings in some preseason action. There are other (less funny) storylines coming into this third of five preseason games for the Purple Peeps, Arif Hasan (@ArifHasanNFL) joins us for his weekly spot to cover some of the main talkers.

Other “Khalil vs Kalil” Talkers Include
• More Than Words campaign winding down, still time to donate!
• Arif’s new theme song…
• Christian Ponder back in Minnesota. The NFL schedule makers are LOLing.
• Bykowski out, is Yankey next up at backup left tackle?
• What’s Scott Crichton going to bring to the table?
• Danielle Hunter has been solid, despite few “gifable” plays.
• Zimmer throws cold water on the Exum train.
• Robert Blanton is William Hung?
• Post Mecca Abdullah is my favorite indie band.
• Anthony Barr back. What should we expect?
• Waynes out of the nickel. Focusing on LCB.
• Cordarrelle to Carolina? Who says no?
• Derek Carr or Teddy Bridgewater?….. (Stop laughing)
• Amari Cooper + Michael Crabtree could be a great combo.
• Khalil-vs-Kalil *Cue Foreboding Music*
• What to look for Saturday.
• Bottom of the roster: Who’s alive & who’s dead man walking?
• Justin Trattou should play safety.
• Can all the pectoral injuries be blamed on strength training? (Spoiler: No)
• Vikings head strength & conditioning coach Evan Marcus is a scary dude.
• Surprise to make the 53? Surprise cut? (I pick B-Rob)
• Audie Cole vs Eric Kendricks. If a tie, who wins?

All that and other “Please unblock me on Twitter, Sam Ponder” chatter on this edition of the Purple FTW! Podcast!

An Andy Carlson Joint.

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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

Veteran writer Brian Hall (@MNBrianHall) recently joined the Vikings Terriory team, so now is the perfect time to get him on the podcast. Brian stops in to talk about his backstory and the #HireBrian movement as well as the recent happenings with the Minnesota Fightin’ Vikings.

How will the Loadholt injury affect things on the offensive line, how Christian Ponder will be greeted upon his return to Minnesota Saturday, will Adrian buck the trend of 30-year running backs hitting the wall, why Vikings fans should pump the brakes on Trae Waynes, and “How’s Teddy Look?”.

All that and other “I’m as crazy as Everson” fun on this edition of the Purple FTW! Podcast!

An Andy Carlson Joint.

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