Sunday, July 5, 2015

robert blanton

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Maybe the football gods were trying to tell us something this morning when they aired the Vikings-Packers MNF game from November 6, 2000; the game where Brett Favre heaved a pass down the field that was seemingly broken up, but miraculously hauled in by a falling Antonio Freeman. If you need to jog your memory, here’s the play:

His catch sealed an overtime victory for the Packers and stands as one of the worst examples of secondary play by any Vikings team. More than that, it’s a reminder that the Vikings have been a historically sub par defense against the pass — most notably in the past 20 years. Remember when Josh McCown (THAT Josh McCown) knocked the Vikings out of the playoffs in 2003? Remember the Vikings’ 31st-ranked pass defense in 2013?

Things are looking up in Mike Zimmer’s current secondary, though. Take last season for example; the unit improved to 7th-best pass defense in the league, allowing just under 225 yards per game. Their quick turnaround can be attributed to Zimmer’s scheme and the improved play of two key players — cornerback Xavier Rhodes and free safety Harrison Smith.

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Welcome to “Sleeper Sunday” where a few of us here at VT are going to take a look at some of our favorite Day Two and Three prospects between now and Draft Weekend. Luke Inman is providing in-depth scouting reports for the bigger names set to join the NFL, but this is where we explore some of our favorite options that will be found further down the Vikings draft board.

Be sure to tune in every Sunday for a fresh batch of sleepers!

First up, I take a look at a guy that I think can be compared to Taylor Mays in a lot of ways, and we already know the Vikings have expressed interest in Mays as a free agent.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

[Note:  This segment is a part of a position-by-position look at what the Minnesota Vikings might be inclined to do during the 2015 free agency period.  This is the sixth article, focusing on the safeties.  In case you missed it, feel free to check out the quarterbacksrunning backs, tight ends, fullbacks and specialists.]

There is an enormous talent gap between Harrison Smith and the next most talented safety currently on the Vikings roster, whomever that might be.

Smith is a dominant force that doesn’t get enough recognition, yet, on the national level. Soon he will almost certainly sign a blockbuster extension that not only gets him the money he deserves, but also the ink.

Smith is set to have a $2.271 million cap hit in 2015, but his new contract could come at any time. I would be very surprised if the Vikings let the contractual matter play out into next offseason, where they would risk having to use the franchise tag to ensure Smith remains a Viking. The good news is that Smith has recently stated he plans to remain a Viking.

Image courtesy of Vikings.com

After three seasons, the 2012 Minnesota Vikings draft class is a bright spot on Rick Spielman’s curriculum vitae.

Harrison Smith, regardless of what the Pro Bowl roster says about him, is one of the NFL’s best young safeties and the Vikings will probably want to lock him up for the long-term very soon.  Josh Robinson, Jarius Wright, Rhett Ellison, Robert Blanton, Blair Walsh, and Audie Cole are all later-round players that have been positive contributors during their three years as Vikings.

Greg Childs was the casualty of a freak injury and seventh-round pick Trevor Guyton is now in Canada, but otherwise that group has been very productive.

One of the biggest question marks from this class, however, is the guy they drafted first and the guy that was heralded by many (myself included) as a “can’t-miss prospect.”  Left tackle Matt Kalil has been so underwhelming over the last two seasons that some Vikings fans are going so far as to wonder if the Vikings aren’t already scheming to replace him.

These fans are certainly going to be perplexed if the Vikings decide to pick up Kalil’s fifth year option this May when the decision needs to be made.

Percy Harvin and the J-E-T-S are coming to town and the Vikings are trying to remain at least statistically relevant in the playoff hunt.  A late-season run, with a little will-they-won’t-they drama, could be just what this organization needs heading into Mike Zimmer’s second season as head coach.

Here are some great links to keep you busy leading up to kickoff:

 

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