Sunday, August 28, 2016

zach line

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

On Monday morning, it was announced that longtime Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Phil Loadholt had decided to retire. With his retirement, Loadholt’s spot on the Vikings roster is presumably vacant.

Minnesota now has three openings on their roster before their total number reaches the NFL’s 90-man limit. The Vikings can decide to leave those spots empty before they start training camp later this week, but that would not be any fun would it?

Surprisingly enough, there are still plenty of talented free-agents available that could produce for Minnesota during the 2016 season.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Fullback Zach Line won’t ever get the blockbuster deal that dominates headlines during the NFL’s free agency news cycle, but you can’t hold positional value against him too much.

In an age where the fullback position is listed as an endangered species (or should be) in the NFL, Line has proven plenty capable of being one of the best among the guys still talented enough to be employed. Line might have a limited role within the Vikings offense, but he plays that role well, and we listed him as our second most important free agent the Vikings have this offseason.

Line is a restricted free agent and the Vikings have opted to place a tender on him, according to a press release from the Minnesota Vikings, giving the team the right to first refusal should he sign an offer sheet with another team.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

The 2015 season has officially concluded with the Denver Broncos defeating the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 last Sunday. For the next six months, the world will sadly be without any NFL football games taking place.

But that does not mean there will be nothing to talk about during the time before the 2016 regular season begins. Free agency, the NFL Draft, and training camps will all give people plenty to discuss and hold themselves over until real football is played and everyone’s hot takes are proven to be wrong.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

At 8-3, the Minnesota Vikings are the surprise team in the NFC and a legitimate threat to claim the NFC North division title. With the league’s second-best scoring defense and Mike Zimmer’s steady hand leading the ship, Minnesota has — at the very least — a 90 percent probability to reach the postseason.

When the Vikings lost to the San Francisco 49ers to open the season, a playoff berth appeared unlikely. The defense couldn’t stop the run, Adrian Peterson ran like a 30-year-old running back, and the offensive line looked lost without John Sullivan and Phil Loadholt. Mike Zimmer’s team lacked an identity early on, but they’ve slowly established themselves as one of the NFL’s most physical, technically sound teams on both sides of the ball.

As I’ve written these “What Went Right” pieces, I’ve noticed a consistent pattern. When the Vikings win, it’s because of the defense and the legs of Adrian Peterson. Specifically, the defense plays with discipline, filling run gaps correctly, tackling in space, and preventing big plays down the field. On offense, Minnesota wins when they unleash Peterson, who has at least 19 carries in every Vikings victory this season. Any less, and they’ve gone on to lose.

While the defense created turnovers against Atlanta in Week 12, it was Peterson who powered Minnesota to victory. This Sunday, when the Vikings host the Seattle Seahawks, he’ll need to do the same against an aggressive, stout run defense that hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher all season.

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Vikings Raiders
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

The Vikings have won four straight games. They’ve won on the road, against division foes and, most recently, against a team with a winning record. The Vikings are 6-2 and are now not only in the playoff conversation but also in the division championship conversation. Looking ahead at the schedule. the Vikings have some difficult match ups in front of them. Just a week ago, ESPN found that the Vikings have the hardest remaining schedule in the NFL. It seems like from this point forward, every week is going to be a tough game.

This week is no different as the Vikings travel to Oakland and take on a similarly young and up-and-coming team. Featuring some intriguing player parallels between the likes of Stefon Diggs and Amari Cooper as well as Anthony Barr and Khalil Mack, the duel most people are talking about are between the two sophomore quarterbacks, Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr. Both quarterbacks have had impressive early campaigns in their young careers and it should be fun to watch the two go head-to-head in what is hopefully a display of the NFL’s future at the position.

We still have a couple of days yet until these pillaging teams face off. In the meantime, we’ve compiled a bunch of links to get your prepared for the game and catch you up on the latest Vikings news.

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