Wednesday, September 28, 2016

NFL

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    Photo courtesy of Chris Price.

    Training camp is an intense grind day in and day out, for all who are involved. What the practice highlights don’t show you is the mass of people who are a part of the machine that produces an NFL product every Sunday.

    The modern day NFL, however, is a 24/7 job for so many others who are a part of the Vikings organization, including Viking Territory’s good friend Lindsey Young. You wouldn’t have to spend much time hanging around these parts to bump in Young’s work.

    For more than two years, Young brought a unique perspective to your day-to-day Vikings coverage and explored the personal stories tied to the team. Her work became so well known and respected, it caught the attention of the Vikings themselves, and she departed Vikings Territory to become the first female writer in Vikings history.

    After a little less than a year with the organization, I thought it would be fun to highlight Young’s transition to the NFL. After sharing so many stories with us, it might be nice to hear hers.

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    Photo courtesy of vikings.com

    After returning to Mankato to cover training camp for my fourth consecutive year, I have started to notice a few consistencies. No more notable, maybe, than the amount of fans who will drive in from all over to watch their Vikings practice under the hot sun of southern Minnesota.

    More than 10,000 fans attended the annual evening practice Saturday night, making it clear that faith in the organization is at an all time high.

    This comes as no surprise to many, I am sure. There has always been that pocket of the fan base that believes their team can be a Super Bowl contender, no matter what the four letter network is projecting. What seems to be different this year however, is the amount of faith fans have in head coach Mike Zimmer and the front office led by general manager Rick Spielman.

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    Xavier Rhodes shutdown corner
    Photo courtesy of Vikings.com

    When the 2014 season came to a close, Xavier Rhodes looked poised for stardom. After an up-and-down rookie campaign—par for the course for NFL defensive backs, even first round picks—Rhodes took a dramatic leap in year two, improving his coverage skills significantly and becoming known as a pass break-up machine. Pro Football Focus rated him as the NFL’s 14th-best corner that year—not Revis status, but a nice ascension for a second-year player. Fueling the narrative of a player on the rise, Rhodes had a downright dominant four-game stretch late in the season in which he allowed only seven catches and a 22.2 passer rating for opposing quarterbacks.

    Rhodes blossomed under the tutelage of head coach Mike Zimmer in 2014, Zimmer’s first year at the helm for the Vikings. Zimmer is, of course, known for his defensive pedigree, and it seemed like he was quickly molding Rhodes into a complete, number one corner. The thought after Rhodes’ sophomore season was that, based on his enormous progress in year two, 2015 would be the year he developed into a legitimate shutdown corner, able to shadow the opposing team’s top receiver on a weekly basis.

    That hasn’t exactly happened.

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    (image courtesy of Vikings.com)

    The Vikings are coming off a big win over Atlanta and have plenty of momentum rolling into Week 13 to face Seattle. That being said, the Seahawks are also coming in strong, having won four of their last five games. Both teams have had their share of up and down games in 2015, and the experts this week are divided on which squad will take the “W.”

    Let’s take a look at how Minnesota’s offense will match up against its opponents.


    Offensive Line

    After a less-than-impressive performance Week 11 against Green Bay, the offensive line played better last week. Only one of Minnesota’s nine penalties was attributed to the line (T.J. Clemmings), and the unit’s blocking was improved as well. Teddy Bridgewater escaped the game without being sacked, and Adrian Peterson had a big running game.

    Despite losing original starters Phil Loadholt and John Sullivan, the patchwork offensive line has now been playing together for a long time, and consistency is key. Seattle’s No. 4 defense will be no easy match up, and the Vikings will be facing defensive end Cliff Avril, who leads the Seahawks with 7.5 sacks this season, and fellow defensive end Michael Bennett (6.5 sacks). Overall, the team has 27 sacks on the year. Clemmings had a difficult time against Denver earlier this season, and Seattle could pose a similar challenge to the rookie.

    Bottom line (as always): the offensive line will need to be on its toes Sunday and will set the tone of the game early on.

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    (image courtesy of Vikings.com)
    Vikings Injury Report
    NamePositionInjuryWed.Thur.Fri. Status
    Griffen, EversonDEHip/ShoulderDNPDNPLimitedQuestionable
    Smith, HarrisonSKneeDNPDNPLimitedQuestionable
    Waynes, TraeCBAnkle________LimitedDNPQuestionable
    Barr, AnthonyLBHandFullFullFullProbable
    Blanton, RobertSAnkleLimitedFullFullProbable
    Bridgewater, TeddyQBLeft ShoulderFullFullFullProbable
    Floyd, SharrifDTAnkleLimitedFullFullProbable
    Kalil, MattTToeLimitedFullFullProbable
    Kendricks, EricLBRibsFullFullFullProbable

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