Saturday, February 6, 2016

Norv Turner

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The theme of today’s Sleeper Sunday is Big-10 football. This morning, Carl introduced readers to Wisconsin strong safety Michael Caputo. He’s a physical member of the Badgers secondary with a style of play and frame similar to that of Harrison Smith. Now, a look at one of the conference’s best-kept secrets; Indiana running back Jordan Howard.

Jordan Howard — RB, Indiana

Measurements

Height – 6’1″
Weight – 230 lbs.
Age – 21

At First Glance

As a first-year player at Indiana, the junior rushed for 1,213 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2015. Howard was named to the First Team All-Big Ten after the season and was a member of the Doak Walker Award and Maxwell Award Watch Lists. He caught 11 passes for 106 yards for a touchdown and also finished second in the conference with 134.8 rushing yards per game.

Before the 2015 season, Howard had spent two seasons a the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). A two-star recruit in 2013, the Alabama native opted to stay in-state for his collegiate career. There, he rushed for nearly 2,500 yards and scored 15 touchdowns on the ground. In November 2014, UAB disbanded it’s football program and left Howard without a home. Fortunately, other Division 1 schools had kept an eye on the productive running back. With his pick of more than 20 programs, Howard made the decision to replace Tevin Coleman in Indiana. That choice appears to have been the right one.

“I think a lot of us, me and my former teammates we realize it was kind of like a blessing in disguise,” Howard said in October. “It gave us an opportunity to be more in the spotlight and show we can play on any type of level.”

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More than just Jim Kleinsasser 2.0

Minnesota Vikings tight end Rhett Ellison is a key contributor
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Rhett Ellison tries to stand up, but his right knee won’t let him. One step, and the leg gives out. Something’s wrong. Seriously wrong.

There’s a little over 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship Game, and Teddy Bridgewater throws a pass to Ellison out of the backfield. The tight end turns upfield, but Green Bay Packers linebacker Nick Perry pulls him down from behind. His right leg gets stuck in the ground and suddenly “pops.” It’s a torn patellar tendon, an injury that’ll keep him down for at least six months.

Down, but not out. That’s because Ellison represents every cliché in the football book; tough, gritty, hardworking, reliable. An injury is just another obstacle, much like the defenders he meets in the trenches or safeties swarming to tackle him down the field. It’s Ellison’s job to recover and make it back onto the field this offseason, and it’s a job he’ll gladly accept.

No matter what the Vikings have asked of Ellison, he’s done so without hesitation. Line up in front of Adrian Peterson as a fullback? Check. Spilt out as a slot wide receiver? Check? Contribute on every special teams unit? Check. He’s the Swiss Army Knife in Mike Zimmer’s pocket, and the tool these Vikings will need in 2016. Set to become a free agent this March, Ellison deserves one more shot in Minnesota, whether fully healthy or not. Without him, the Vikings are another crucial piece away from the Super Bowl.

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Name Adrian Peterson OPOY and MVP
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 Defensive Player of the Year. Today, a look at the dual-winner of  VT’s final two awards.

Adrian Peterson, RB — Minnesota Vikings

Adrian Peterson is the Minnesota Vikings’ most productive offensive weapon, but also their most divisive. It’s his style of running that makes it so easy to love and hate Peterson at the same time. One play, he’ll lose yards after a few too many jump cuts. And the next, he’ll burst through the line of scrimmage for an 80-yard touchdown run.

It’s the same story on a game-to-game, and even season-to-season basis. Against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1 this year, he looked indecisive, rushing for 31 yards on 10 carries. The very next week, at home versus the Detoit Lions, he eclipsed 130 yards and looked like the Peterson of old. Well, Peterson pre-2014, when he missed 15 games while serving a league-mandated suspension stemming from child abuse charges.

Peterson is the king of the comeback, with a history of ups-and-downs that span his entire nine-year career. Last season’s rushing title came after a year off from football, and his 2012 MVP Award represented a miraculous recovery from the ACL tear he suffered the season before. Few expected he’d win the rushing title at 30 years-old, but Peterson’s proven time and time again that expectations mean little for him on the football field.

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Norv Turner's job is safe...for now

Minnesota Vikings Name Shurmur Tight Ends Coach
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

An NFL coaching staff is a lot like a dinner table. Mike Zimmer’s at the head seat for the Minnesota Vikings, surrounded by a number of coaches who used to sit in his very position.

There’s offensive coordinator Norv Turner, former head coach of the San Diego Chargers. Next to him is offensive line coach Tony Sparano, who once buried a football as interim head coach of the Oakland Raiders. And now, former Cleveland Browns head coach Pat Shurmur’s pulled a chair up to the table. As announced on the team’s official website Monday, Shurmur was named the Vikings’ tight ends coach.

With Shurmur joining the staff to coach Kyle Rudolph and Co., former tight ends coach Kevin Stefanski will replace Kirby Wilson as the team’s running backs coach. The Vikings originally interviewed Shurmur on Friday and spent the weekend keeping their decision under wraps. ESPN’s Ben Goessling reported Saturday that the team had hired Shurmur, but hadn’t released details of his position on Zimmer’s staff.

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Should the Vikings trade Adrian Peterson
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

“Should the Vikings trade Adrian Peterson?”

If you identify as a Vikings fan, then the odds are good that you’ve been asked this question more times than you can count over the ups and downs of the last four seasons, give or take. I know I have.

The problem, however, is that most people asking that question are looking for you to answer in a concrete way. They want a “yes” or “no” answer that they can either agree with or scoff at. They want you to enable their ability to hit that “like” button or give you the old “thumbs down.” They are not looking for a thoughtful, nuanced answer. Ambiguity beyond a “for the right price” qualifier simply won’t be tolerated.

The problem, however, is that the answer to this particular question is so complex that a simple “yes” or “no” isn’t giving it the thought it deserves, and neither of those answers could possibly be concrete and true.

For the first time in his career, however, I am not at all hesitant in saying that the Minnesota Vikings should absolutely consider trading Adrian Peterson.

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