Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Matt Kalil

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The Vikings host the Buffalo Bills tonight at Mall of America Field in their second preseason game of the year. Last week when the Vikings traveled to San Francisco, I saw some positive signs of improvement but I also saw some all too familiar shortcomings. While watching the game tonight (7:00 PM CDT), I’ll be paying close attention to the items below and, in general, looking for more signs that this is an improved unit who can surprise some doubters this year.

1. Harrison Smith

The Vikings invested pretty heavily in the Notre Dame safety this past draft. And while reports from training camp say Harrison Smith has looked great so far, we’ve yet to really see what he can do in-game. Tonight though, we should get that opportunity as Harrison Smith is set to make his first start for the Vikings.

What I’ll be looking for: Intensity. Some of the buzz surrounding Smith is that he brings a certain edge to the Vikings secondary that hasn’t been around for a while. It was even reported a while back that the rookie got into a minor scuffle with Percy Harvin during practice after repeatedly trying to strip the ball out of his hands. After the shoving match, Smith said, “I don’t think it was me standing my ground. It’s just football… Football is an aggressive sport played by aggressive people.” I want to see that aggressiveness  in game. I want to see Smith attack defenses. Be quick to the ball on rushing downs and be quick and responsive in coverage. The Vikings really needs their secondary to make improvements this year and I’ll be looking for any glimpse of them tonight.

2. Run Defense

Simply stated, the Vikings defense got torched on the ground last week against the 49ers. The team had a hard time filling gaps and just looked a little sluggish getting to the ball overall. The caveat was that the Vikings defense was missing major contributors who probably wouldn’t have allowed it to get so out-of-hand (or out-of-hand at all). Tonight, there will be no excuses as all healthy players are expected to play. That means Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Brian Robison will all be in with the first teamers. Antoine Winfield, known for his run-stopping and tackling, will also be starting tonight.

What I’ll be looking for: The Vikings not getting ran over. The defensive line needs to show that what happened last week is not a representation of what this defense is going to do in the regular season. The Bills don’t have the best running backs in the NFL, but Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller are both very capable. And if the defense performs like it did last week, we could expect to see a similar result.

Beyond stopping the run, I expect Jared Allen to really get after Ryan Fitzpatrick as last year’s leading sacker will be going up against rookie left tackle Cordy Glenn.

 3. The Offensive Line

Much has been made over the offseason about how improved the Vikings offensive line is this year. With the addition of first round pick Matt Kalil and the shuffling around of other pieces, the unit is expected to be much better than last season. Last week against the 49ers, the first team offensive line performed pretty well overall against one of the toughest defenses in the league. Tonight, they will be tested even further going against what could be one of the best defensive lines this season. A defensive line that features Mark Anderson, Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus and, Buffalo’s big offseason signing, defensive end Mario Williams. Phil Loadholt, the lineman in charge of covering Williams, will definitely be tested tonight as goes up against one of the best ends in football right now (behind our Jared Allen, obviously).

What I’ll be looking for: I’m looking for Kalil to continue to impress and show everyone why he was worth such a high pick in the draft. I’m also looking for Ponder to not even come close to being touched. He should have adequate time to complete his drop, go through his reads and get the ball out before defenders are in his face. If that can happen tonight against the Bills first team defensive line, I think it would be safe to say that our new and improved offensive line is legit.


Make sure to check back tomorrow for my in-depth analysis and notes from the game.

As Brett mentioned in the post below this one, Matt Kalil will report on time to training camp after signing his rookie deal on Thursday morning, effectively ending any chance for unneeded drama during the preseason.

The deal was able to get done because the Vikings caved on language in the rookie deal that allows Kalil to collect payment from two different teams should he be cut by the Vikings and subsequently signed by someone else.

While the Vikings caved in the end, there is absolutely no reason for them not to attempt to get the best deal for the organization as long as there are negative impacts on the team as a result.  Negative impacts, such as a holdout, would have started to shown up tomorrow so there was no reason to flinch in this game of chicken until today.

Kalil’s contract, according to PFT, is for four years and worth $19,770,598.

The deal is completely guaranteed and included a signing bonus of $12,818,620.

The place where he was selected combined with the contract he was given suggests that the team plans on Kalil being their starting left tackle for a decade or more, so I am betting this is the last we hear about this offset language in relation to Kalil… unless he busts.

Which he won’t.

Matt Kalil Signing Rookie Contract

Despite Adam’s reassurance that the Vikings just “…always seem to be behind the rest of the league when it comes to signing their own… draft classes,” it was hard to not get a little concerned when it looked like Kalil may not have a contract at the start of training camp.

Well, worry no longer. As of this morning, Kalil has officially signed his rookie contract and will be reporting to training camp on time.

The delay, which was believed to be due to the offset language in rookie contracts, is no longer an issue and all of the Vikings draft picks have been signed.

Now let’s get this season started.

I don’t know how many times I have typed this sentence, but here it goes one more time:  The Vikings always seem to be behind the rest of the league when it comes to signing their own free agents and their own draft classes.

I’ve also said before that we have no reason to worry about any holdouts now that the rookie wage scale is in place.

On one hand, it might appear as there is no reason to worry because the Vikings reportedly agreed to terms today with third round cornerback (and fastest man at the Combine) Josh Robinson.  The deal, as usual, is for four years.

On the other hand, however, there is a growing sense that the Vikings are taking a firm stance on the issue of “offset language” in these rookie contracts so Matt Kalil’s contract remains to be finalized with training camp beginning tomorrow.

The offset clause being referenced has to do with how the contract is handled should the player be cut prior to the contract expiring and then have the player sign with another team.  The Vikings want the contract to be worded in such a way that any money they still owe the player is offset by the new contract awarded.    The players, of course, would rather see themselves in a situation where they are being paid by two teams for a year or two in the event that they are cut by the team that drafted them.

Rick Spielman has indicated that he is confident that Kalil’s deal will be done without any major hiccups. 

Here is hoping he is correct.

I’ve said it a number of times before, and I’ll gladly say it again:  I am looking forward to this season more than any in recent history.

I can’t wait to watch the Vikings (hopefully) begin to take strides towards a rebuild and (hopefully) grow and develop into what will (hopefully) become a true Super Bowl contender in the somewhat near future.

All of that begins in Mankato on Thursday, and here are the five things I will be keeping the closest eye on when the offense takes their training camp reps.

5.  Adrian Peterson’s Health

I’ll be honest, I still haven’t figured out any upside to rushing Peterson back into action for a season that is likely to end with the Vikings looking at the playoffs from the outside.  Still, the Vikings invested an astronomical amount of money into their superstar running back, and seeing the same old Adrian at some point this season would please many fans.

So, in training camp, it is natural that a number of stories will be written about Peterson’s participation or lack thereof.  Don’t get your hopes up too high, however, as Toby Gerhart is likely to carry the load while his young backups gain some experience with the twos and threes.

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