Friday, July 31, 2015

toby gerhart

The NFL extended the NFL trade deadline to Thursday due to Hurricane Sandy shutting down the league offices, so we got a bonus two days of speculation that will almost certainly end up being anticlimactic.

Leslie Frazier somewhat fueled the fire on Wednesday, however, when he was asked about the open roster spot resulting from Chris Cook’s injury status.

“Without giving too much away, the trade deadline is Thursday, so you want to do everything you can,” Frazier said. “I know Rick (Spielman) and our personnel department is doing everything we can to improve our team and help our team be better. You want to exhaust all avenues in doing that.”

It is suspicious that the Vikings have yet to fill Cook’s spot but it is unlikely that the Vikings make any major moves on Thursday.  Still, speculation is fun, so let’s do some of that:

Michael Vick:  Some have brought this idea up.  I won’t.

Tim Tebow:  See: “Michael Vick.”

Steve SmithPro Football Talk started this one off by suggesting the Panthers receiver could be an answer to the Vikings passing woes.  I don’t buy it.  Tell me where an aging receiver with questionable leadership abilities fits into a rebuilding roster.

Dwayne Bowe:  The player makes great sense.  The draft pick compensation and subsequent contract extension probably wouldn’t.

Ramses Barden:  This one is an Adam Warwas special.  Tremendous potential (with low mileage) that has been stuck behind Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, and Victor Cruz in recent years.  At 6’ 6” and 224 pounds, Barden could possibly be pried away from a Giants team that seems to view him as more of a luxury than a necessity and lend the Vikings deep game a helping hand.

Toby Gerhart:  Sell?  That’s right, I said it.  The Vikings have gradually been taking more and more of the load away from Gerhart and there are a number of teams hungry for running backs right now.  The market is flooded with aging and expensive veteran backs, so perhaps Gerhart would represent a more attractive option to certain teams.

Okay, what off-the-wall speculation do you guys have for me?  Only a few more hours to throw something out there!

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While the Vikings first preseason game against the 49ers wasn’t horrible, it definitely left fans wanting to see something more. A sign of improvement. A glimpse of development. Well, I think Vikings fans got that and then some as the Vikings defeated the Bills 36-14 at Mall of America Field Friday night. There was definitely more positive than negative in this week’s exhibition game. I think there may be a feeling in the air now that this team could cause more problems in the tough NFC North than given credit for by most NFL analysts. (Something I’ve been saying here for a while now). With that being said, let’s get moving on the notes and analysis I have from the second preseason game of the year. We’ll start off with a summary of the injuries suffered in yesterday’s match up.

Injuries

The Vikings managed to get through another exhibition game without any major injuries. Kyle Rudolph suffered a laceration behind his ear and was evaluated for a concussion but the tests came back negative. Chris Cook suffered a concussion on a play where he stripped the ball from a Bills receiver. Both players will be fine but I wouldn’t expect either of them to start in the next preseason game against the Chargers. If it was the regular season game, I wouldn’t be so sure. But as it is just an exhibition match up and both players are crucial to the Vikings roster, I would be surprised if Cook (Rudolph is more likely) saw playing time. Then again, it remains to be seen if Adrian Peterson will play next week so, really, who knows?

“No Huddle”

  • Let’s start off with Ponder because, let’s face it – if a certain rookie, seventh round linebacker hadn’t stole the show in the fourth quarter, the main thing we’d take away from this game is that Ponder looked excellent. He showed great accuracy, led receivers, stepped up in the pocket to make throws and was able to get away from pressure when needed. Moreover, he really just looked the part. Looked comfortable in his own skin. He had the time to go through his reads and was able to find the open man. Ponder finished the night 10-13 for 136 yards (with an almost equal passer rating) and a touchdown. Amen.
  • Jerome Simpson knows how to get high. I mean really, really high. I guess this is both a great thing and bad thing for the Vikings, though. On one hand, Simpson will go over just about anyone in an effort to get to the endzone. On the other hand, it means he’ll miss the first three games of the year. Something I saw that I thought was really awesome about the Simpson play below is how friggin’ fast Matt Kalil is. Watch the full highlight on NFL.com and notice how Kalil is seriously right behind Simpson as he flies down the field. Big guy has speed.

    (Image courtesy of SB Nation.)
  • I thought Toby Gerhart showed some great speed in Friday’s game. We’re used to seeing Gerhart plow through people to get the first down. There were a couple times though that I thought he showed great agility and burst to get through the first wave of defenders. It’s comforting knowing that even without our starred franchise player Adrian Peterson, we could still have one of the better ground attacks in the league.
  • Though Ponder was sacked twice on the opening drive, neither of them came as a result of rookie Matt Kalil being beat. Kalil, who had an above average first NFL game last week, showed us again why he was worth a fourth overall pick.
  • On the second offensive drive, the Vikings managed to come away with a field goal thanks to rookie kicker Blair Walsh after the drive stalled in front of the Bills’ goal line. I think it’s worth noting though that, if it was a regular season game, we probably would have been forced to punt instead. The Vikings went for it on fourth and short near midfield and got a first down allowing them to continue the drive… It’s unlikely they take that risk in the regular season.
  • I really don’t care for flea flickers (unless they work, of course). They just take too long to develop and I rarely see them end well. The Vikings attempted to run a flea flicker during their second offensive drive and the play ended up incomplete as Ponder was forced out of the pocket and had to throw it out of bounds down field. The pressure came from the left side after Matt Kalil basically stopped blocking Bills defensive end Chris Kelsay. Not sure what happened on that play… But again, flea flickers… They just don’t do it for me.
  • The real test for rookie kicker Blair Walsh will come when the Vikings are down by 2 at Lambeau Field with five seconds left on the clock. With that being said, he had another great game, Friday. Not only was he booming kick offs again (the guy managed to put one through the uprights on a kick off) but he was nailing difficult field goals. Walsh accounted for half of the Vikings 38 points against the Bills and was 5/6 on field goals. The kick he missed was from about 47 yards out and was wide right. With that being said, he also nailed another 47 yard field goal right down the middle later in the game.
  • Harrison Smith seemed to have a pretty good game. He only had a couple stand out plays – one of which being a beautiful blitz where he batted a throw down at the line. More importantly though, he didn’t have any biffs that I noticed. I guess it’s a good thing when you aren’t constantly hearing a safeties name because typically it means they are being beat, missing tackles, etc… I think it’s safe to say that Smith has secured a starting spot on the roster this year. Now we’ll just have to see who starts beside him. Personally, my vote is for Mistral Raymond after Friday’s game. Raymond was on fire and definitely made a statement after struggling last week (and publicly being called out for it by the front office) against the 49ers.
  • Chris Carr and Eric Frampton. Yikes, these guys looked bad.
  • Josh Robinson didn’t look spectacular but he also wasn’t glaringly bad. Which, I guess, is about as much as you could ask for from a rookie in his first game coming off of a hamstring injury. He did get beat on a bomb down the left side of the field but his blazing speed allowed him to catch back up with defender and put some pressure on him causing an incompletion. He also had a dropped interception but at the very least managed to interrupt the ball in the air.
  • Joe Webb has another impressive game as a running back. As a quarterback? Not so much… With that being said, I’m starting to feel like maybe I’m not giving Joe Webb a fair shot? While I do think he is inaccurate, unable to read a defense and prefers to run first when there is any sign of pressure, he is working with the second stringers. And from everything I’ve seen in preseason, there is a huge disparity between the starters and the back ups. Yet, the fact remains that I just don’t think Webb can be a starting quarterback for this team. If he could look as comfortable throwing as he does sprinting down the field, he would look like Peyton Manning. But the fact is Joe Webb was never a quarterback and I’m still convinced that he is not one. Not an an NFL level anyway.
  • When the Vikings drafted Jarius Wright I was pumped. As some of you know, I spent a good amount of time “scouting” the receivers in this past draft class and Wright was one of my later-round favorites for the Vikings. While some just consider him a “poor man’s Percy Harvin,” I thought he could be much more than that. Not only does he have the speed, agility and evasiveness of a great slot receiver, but, in my opinion, he has the breakaway speed that could make him a deep threat (despite his short stature)and a threat in the return game. Unfortunately for Wright, though, he hasn’t really stood out much this preseason so far. And I’m not sure if it’s because maybe he’s not as good as I thought he was or he just hasn’t really had the opportunity yet. Wright hasn’t been targeted much as a receiver so far. In fact, he didn’t have a single catch against the Bills. You know who did have a reception, though? Fourteen other players! That has to be kind of scary if you’re Jarius Wright. He really needs to show in the next two games why he deserves to be on this team and what he’s capable of. Wright also hasn’t gotten a real opportunity on any returns yet either as most of the punts he’s been back to receive ended in a fair catch.
  • Matt Asiata, who the Vikings are looking at as a potential fullback, looked really great to me. In fact, I think he could potentially be someone the team looks out to add depth at running back. The guy showed great speed and vision. Asiata had a couple of big gains on the ground where he looked much quicker and more agile than your typical full back.
  • Other than a long, perfectly passed bomb to Emmanuel Arceneaux, Sage Rosenfels didn’t really do much to show why he should be the second QB on this roster. Then again, I’m not sure he really cares much as he is a [very] veteran player who was likely just brought back to provide an experienced perspective at the position. What do I know, though? Maybe he’s dying to have an opportunity to get back on the field if Ponder goes down during the year. If that’s the case though, he’s got some more work to do.
  • Audie Cole. Audie, freakin’ Cole. He’s all anyone is talking about after having two interceptions for touchdowns within 16 seconds or so in the fourth quarter. It definitely added a spark to an otherwise pedestrian second half. I don’t know that I would go as far as anointing him as the steal of the draft, though. Let’s not forget that he was going up against Tyler Thigpen and Brad Smith – the fourth “quarterback” on the Bills roster. (And I use the term quarterback loosely, here.)  Both quarterbacks basically made the same horrible read two times in a row and Audie Cole just managed to capitalize on it. With that being said, it doesn’t mean that I don’t think what Cole managed to do was easy or undeserving of recognition. If anything, I think it should definitely earn him some more playing time to see what else he can do. But a guaranteed spot on the roster? I’m not so sure…

I have been pretty critical over the last two years of the Vikings trade forwards in the 2010 NFL Draft to select running back Toby Gerhart.

With Adrian Peterson being one of this offseason’s biggest question marks, however, it is comforting to know that the Vikings have such a quality option to lean on if Peterson needs a limited role, or if they need a full time starter.

“I’m just preparing to be the guy,” Gerhart said of the situation. “I try to do that every year, but this year it’s a little more prevalent. I’m doing everything I can to be here, work hard, work with the new guys we have coming in, pushing everybody and getting pushed by other guys. Preparing to be the guy, depending on whether Adrian comes back.”

Gerhart has six career starts, with five of them coming last season, and his numbers are nothing to scoff at.  Over 109 attempts Gerhart averaged 4.9 yards per carry, and also grabbed 23 passes for 190 yards and three touchdowns.  Despite last season’s increased in touches, he improved upon the fumbling issues that worried us in his rookie season, and only fumbled once last season.

“I feel I’ve been able to work through it pretty nicely,” Gerhart said of his own, less serious knee injury from last year. “Coming back, it’s getting better and better, just rehabbing the last few months. Got out here for a little bit; being back out here taking care of it, and its feeling good running around.”

Despite Gerhart’s favorable numbers from last season, he said he sees plenty of room for improvement and will work on these items throughout OTA’s and training camp.

“For me, I’d like to be a little more agile in the second level,” he said.  “There were a couple of times coming through, about six to seven yards, if I can make a safety miss, it can be a bigger gain. Working on my feet a little bit, getting a little quicker, little shiftier left to right.”

Whether or not Gerhart gets his full time gig for any period of time remains to be seen.  Peterson not only seems hell bent on being back for week one of the regular season, but he even describes himself as “50-50” for training camp.

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On December 24th, Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson suffered a major knee injury and had to celebrate the new year while recovering from reconstructive surgery.

On Wednesday, Peterson and head trainer Eric Sugarman met with Minneapolis media to show that both the player and team are cautiously optimistic that he will be able to return to playing meaningful football early in the 2012 season, perhaps even the opening game.

“That first game against Jacksonville, I plan on being back, so that will be disappointing if I’m not,” said Peterson.

“I’ve been ahead of the schedule since Day One,” Peterson continued. “The staff here, the staff down in Houston, they’ve been doing a great job with just pushing me, pushing me, but having that limit on it and knowing that, ‘Hey, Adrian, I know you want to do this, but you’ve just got to play it slow and it will come.’ ”

“You know, he’s to the point now where he’s really safe to do just about anything,” Sugarman said. “We gradually ramp him up to functional activity, and when we get to the point where he’s comfortable and has normal strength back to the other side — or better than the other side — and can function as he needs to, then we make that decision.

“He realizes now that there’s too much to lose by doing something foolish,” Sugarman added. “He has been pretty good. Now you have to pull back on the reins every once in a while and just remind him. But he has been pretty good about it, and I’m on the record as saying that he’ll continue.”

Peterson worked out in front of the media on Wednesday, performing a litany of drills and exercises to show just how far he has come.  He wore a brace on his knee for everything except for straight-line running.  Cutting and deceleration are the hardest things to do for Peterson at this point.

While Peterson showed a willingness to appease trainers by taking things as slow as his ultra-competitive personality will let him, he said that he has no intentions of playing second fiddle to Toby Gerhart once he does make it onto the field in the regular season.

“I’m not going to see myself in a limited role,” he said. “I want to be out there full throttle. … I feel like I’ll be able to go out there and help my team. That’s where my mind-set is going to be at.”

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Is this Adam posting?!?  Really?  Sorry for my absence as of late, everyone.  Those of you that have been reading my rambling jottings for a while now will likely remember a couple of years back when I had to miss the NFL Draft because the company I work for held their annual shareholder meetings (attendance not optional for employees) during Draft Week.

Luckily, since we have big plans for a weekend-long live chat, this year I will be around for the entire draft which is good news.  The bad news, however, is those meetings are this week so I have been swamped.  Brett has done a fantastic job, however, of keeping the site updated with his Draft analysis and I really, really appreciate it.

As always, I couldn’t go too long without posting, though, so I wanted to pass along a little bit of good news that is a couple of days old.

Running back Toby Gerhart injured his MCL at the end of last season and decided to forego surgery and proceed with rehabilitation.  Gerhart thinks he will be ready by the time OTA’s get started.

“I should be able to do everything once we get back,” Gerhart said.  “I’m still strengthening the quad, and the MCL has healed on its own. The key is just doing more running. I still get a little soreness when I run, but that goes away the next day. I’m on track.”

This is an important piece of news as Gerhart stands to carry a heavier-than-normal share of the work at the beginning of this season, as Adrian Peterson is still on the mend from his ever-serious knee injury of his own.

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