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August 04, 2014

Points on the Purple Daily: Aug. 4 (will another safety please step up)

Posted by: Feldman

Each week during the Vikings season, me and fellow P-B sports writer Guy N. Limbeck write "Points on the Purple," a back-and-forth column about the Vikings' topics of the day. We'll make this Faceoff Blog version of POTP as close to a daily feature as possible throughout training camp and the 2014 season.

If we've learned anything about new Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer through a week-and-a-half of training camp, it's that he still keeps an eagle eye on defensive backs. Zimmer is a d-backs coach by nature and by trade, and watching him in several camp practices, you can tell he notices the tiniest miscue by his corners and safeties.

For example, during a walk-through a week ago, rookie Antone Exum was lining up at safety in a goal-line drill. Exum was only about 3-4 yards off the line of scrimmage and Zimmer stood directly behind him as the offense lined up. Just as the ball was about to be snapped, Zimmer stopped the play. He moved Exum over about 2 steps to his right and a step or two closer to the line. When the ball was snapped, Exum was in position to cut off the tight end's route to the goalpost. Following the play, Zimmer walked over to Exum and was clearly telling him what would have happened if he had stay lined up in his original position. Zimmer's arms were going in every possible direction and he never stopped talking, never stopped coaching.

Now, that's one play in a walk-through on Day 4 of training camp, when guys were only wearing jerseys and shorts.

But the point is, Zimmer is not going to settle for any defensive backs who aren't performing up to his standards for them. That's evident in the safety merry-go-round that we've seen in Mankato. Robert Blanton, Jamarca Sanford and Mistral Raymond have all been talked about as the starter at the safety position next to Harrison Smith.

Blanton and Sanford have both battled injuries or are battling injuries at various times already in camp. Andrew Sendejo, who played 10 games last year when Smith was injured, is just now beginning to practice after missing the first week of camp with a back injury. Veteran Kurt Coleman has also seen time with the first team in camp, but hasn't done enough to earn more trust from Zimmer and his staff.

Zimmer's patience with the revolving door at safety clearly grew thin over the weekend. Sunday he communicated with Chris Crocker, who has played for Zimmer for seven of the past eight seasons (one year in Atlanta, six in Cincinnati). Monday, Crocker showed up in Mankato and was signed, instantly becoming the team's oldest player, at 34 years old. Should he make the team, he'll be in his 12th NFL season. He has 15 career interceptions and 60 passes defended.

Crocker has played both safety and nickel corner in his career.

Zimmer said Monday he wasn't sure if Crocker will play in Friday's preseason opener against Oakland at TCF Bank Stadium. I'd be stunned if we don't see Crocker early in the game, possibly even starting with Smith. Zimmer is obviously fed up with the lack of consistency from the other guys battling for that spot, so why not give Crocker a good look?

Then again, Zimmer pretty much knows exactly what Crocker will give him. And that's why Zim made the call.

Who knows? If Blanton and Sendejo suddenly get healthy, or if Sanford or Raymond or Coleman, or even Exum, step up and play like a starter, maybe Crocker won't make the opening day roster. Maybe signing Crocker is Zimmer's way of sending a message to not only the safeties, but the everyone else on the 90-man: If you're not meeting expectations, you can and will be replaced.

Or, maybe Crocker is Zimmer's security blanket at a position that is most important to him. The Vikings' pass defense was atrocious last season, and the personnel going into this season is mostly the same, so Crocker really couldn't be worse. Could he?

You don't play 11 years in the NFL without being pretty good at your job, so don't be surprised if Crocker is lining up next to Smith on Sept. 7 in St. Louis.

“I think I’ve been accountable, that’s the biggest thing,” Crocker told reporters on Monday. “And (Zimmer) is just so honest. You really appreciate a guy who is going to tell you whether you’re good or whether you’re bad. At the end of the day, you know where you stand. I’ve always played at the highest level playing for a guy like that.”

August 03, 2014

Points on the Purple Daily: Aug. 3 (Looking at a decade of drafts)

Posted by: Feldman

Each week during the Vikings season, me and fellow P-B sports writer Guy N. Limbeck write "Points on the Purple," a back-and-forth column about the Vikings' topics of the day. We'll make this Faceoff Blog version of POTP as close to a daily feature as possible throughout training camp and the 2014 season.

The buzz in Mankato over the past week — just as it is every year — has been about the new guys in purple, and the new guys with whistles. Last year it was the arrival of three first-round draft picks, Cordarrelle Patterson, Xavier Rhodes and Sharrif Floyd.

This year it's first-rounders Anthony Barr and Teddy Bridgewater, as well as an almost entirely new coaching staff. There has already been much speculation about Barr and Bridgewater, where their careers in purple will go and how big of an impact they'll have on this organization (at least four Super Bowls, give or take a couple).

That got me thinking back to 2011, when Christian Ponder was the guy who everyone expected to turn the franchise around. And to 2008, when safety Tyrell Johnson was supposed to end the Vikings' merry-go-round at the position for the next 8-10 years.

So I decided to rank the past 10 Vikings drafts (2005-2014), in order of best to worst (mostly worst … I kid … kind of). I actually only ranked eight of the past 10 drafts because the 2013 and 2014 draftees are still too fresh to criticize or praise. Feel free to let me know if I'm wrong...

2007
The picks (8): RB Adrian Peterson (Round 1, No. 7 overall); WR Sidney Rice (2, 44); CB Marcus McCauley (3, 72); DE Brian Robison (4, 102); WR Aundrae Allison (5, 136); LB Rufus Alexander (6, 176); QB Tyler Thigpen (7, 217); WR Chandler Williams (7, 233).
Analysis: Does it really matter what happened after No. 7 overall this year? No. That the Vikings found a long-term DE in Round 4 is just a nice bonus. Rice had the one big year of his career when the Vikings needed it -- Brett Favre made him into a stud in 2009. Getting the best RB in team history -- when someone in the media (possibly me, I won't confirm or deny) wanted them to draft Brady Quinn -- is enough to make this one of the best drafts of the past 10 years.

2012
The picks (10)
: T Matt Kalil (Round 1, No. 4 overall); S Harrison Smith (1, 29); CB Josh Robinson (3, 66); WR Jarius Wright (4, 118); TE Rhett Ellison (4, 128); WR Greg Childs (4, 134); DB Robert Blanton (5, 139); K Blair Walsh (6, 175); LB Audie Cole (7, 210); DL Trevor Guyton (7, 219).
Analysis: Aside from the players drafted, I chuckled when reminded the team's first sixth-round pick was shipped to Washington for a QB. Donovan McNabb. He threw just two more TDs for the Vikings than Kelly Holcomb. Heh-heh. … Rick Spielman made his two first-round draft picks count, filling holes at two key spots for years to come. Wright has provided a lot of speed at the receiver spot, Blanton was in the mix for a starting safety spot before being injured in camp this year, and Blair Walsh has made the Vikings look smart for using a draft pick on a kicker.

2009
The picks (5): WR Percy Harvin (Round 1, No. 22 overall); T Phil Loadholt (2, 54); CB Asher Allen (3, 86); LB Jasper Brinkley (4, 150); S Jamarca Sanford (7, 231).
Analysis: If Harvin had remained a Viking, this draft might be ranked higher, though, the Vikings turned out OK after trading him, essentially getting CB Xavier Rhodes in return. Say this about Harvin: He may have been a headache (no pun intended) for coaches and teammates at times, but you knew you'd get everything he had when he stepped on the field. Loadholt has turned into a solid NFL tackle, a guy you know you don't have to worry about faltering on the right side. Brinkley could be in his second stint as a starter for the Vikes this year and Sanford has started 44 games, though he may not make the roster this year.

2008
The picks: S Tyrell Johnson (Round 2, No. 43 overall); QB John David Booty (5, 137); DT Letroy Guion (5,152); C John Sullivan (6, 187); WR Jaymar Johnson (6, 193).
Analysis: This draft, based solely on the players the Vikings selected, is about as bad as it gets, with the obvious exception of Sullivan. But, the Vikings' use of their first-round pick and two third-round picks this year has to be taken into consideration. They dealt those to Kansas City for DE Jared Allen. When you consider Allen as the team's first-round pick, plus getting a possible Vikings lifer -- Sullivan -- in the sixth round, this draft isn't as terrible as it seems.

2011
The picks (9): QB Christian Ponder (Round 1, No. 12 overall); TE Kyle Rudolph (2, 43); DL Christian Ballard (4, 106); CB Brandon Burton (5, 139); T DeMarcus Love (6, 168); S Mistral Raymond (6, 170); G Brandon Fusco (6, 172); LB Ross Homan (6, 200); DE D'Aundre Reed (7, 215); WR Stephen Burton (7, 236).
Analysis: The Ponder selection seemed like a reach at the time, and it proved to be exactly that. Raymond has started 10 games, but hasn't been consistent enough to lock down a starting job. Ballard was a bust; he decided he just didn't like football. Rudolph and Fusco saved this draft. Rudolph was just signed to a $7M-plus per-year extension and Fusco could be next in line for a nice extension, if he continues his ascension. Burton's moment of fame came in a loss at Indy, when he caught a twice-tipped pass in the end zone late in the fourth quarter for a TD. At least he did that. … As a side note, the Vikings didn't have a third-rounder. It was traded to New England for Randy Moss. *sigh*

2010
The picks (8): CB Chris Cook (Round 2, No. 34 overall); RB Toby Gerhart (2, 51); DE Everson Griffen (4, 100); T Chris DeGeare (5, 161); LB Nate Triplett (5, 167); QB Joe Webb (6, 199); TE Mickey Shuler (7, 214); LB Ryan D'Imperio (7, 237).
Analysis: Looking at this list makes me want to throw a temper tantrum like my 2-year-old. Cook and Gerhart are two of the most frustrating picks in the past 10 years. Cook never lived up to the potential he'd show in training camp. Gerhart was a beast running between the tackles, but the Vikings left a lot of tread on his tires and weren't smart enough to trade him — for something, ANYTHING! — last year. They traded up for him in this draft and ended up with pretty much nothing to show for it. The coaches could never figure out how to use a guy with Webb's athletic ability and he's backing up Cam Newton now. Griffen is the only saving grace of this draft, and now he has to prove that he's worth $42.5M over five years.

2006
The picks (6): LB Chad Greenway (Round 1, No. 17 overall); CB Cedric Griffen (2, 48); C Ryan Cook (2, 51); QB Tarvaris Jackson (2, 64); DE Ray Edwards (4, 127); S Greg Blue (5, 149).
Analysis: As much criticism as Greenway has received over the past year or so, he is a two-time Pro Bowler and was a 2nd Team All-Pro in 2012. His teammates voted him the defensive MVP last season (which, I guess, isn't saying much, considering how awful that 'D' was). Griffen was OK at corner, but Cook and T-Jack never lived up to their second-round draft status. Edwards was a decent DE, but it's fair for fans to have expected more from him, playing opposite Jared Allen.

2005
The picks (7): WR Troy Williamson (Round 1, No. 7 overall); DE Erasmus James (1, 18); G Marcus Johnson (2, 49); S Dustin Fox (3, 80); RB Ciatrick Fason (4, 112); DT C.J. Mosley (6, 191); CB Adrian Ward (7, 219).
Analysis: I'm not sure whether to scream or laugh when looking at this list. I've chosen to laugh, because I otherwise might cry. This isn't nice, but here are a few players the Vikings could have taken in the first round: DeMarcus Ware, Shawne Merriman, Thomas Davis, Roddy White and some QB named Aaron Rodgers (I can give them a pass here, though; Daunte Culpepper was coming off a 39-TD, near-MVP season in '04). Still, this draft is beyond cringe-worthy. Aside from the two first-round disasters, their second-round pick, Johnson, was no better. He's best remembered for being pulled off the field in the middle of a drive at the Metrodome because he false-started multiple times. I don't know if Fox ever played a game, I didn't have the stomach to look it up.

• • • • •

2013
The picks (9): DT Sharrif Floyd (Round 1, No. 23 overall); CB Xavier Rhodes (1, 25); WR Cordarrelle Patterson (1, 29); LB Gerald Hodges (4, 120); P Jeff Locke (5, 155); G Jeff Baca (6, 196); LB Mike Mauti (7, 213); G Travis Bond (7, 214); DT Everett Dawkins (7, 229).
Analysis: Two of the nine aren't with the team (Bond, Dawkins), but the other seven already have made significant contributions or are competing for more playing time. Mauti and Hodges are in the mix of six linebackers who are competing for time. Baca should be, at worst, a key backup at multiple spots on the line. The three first-rounders are expected to take big steps forward this season as second-year guys.

2014
The picks (10): LB Anthony Barr (Round 1, No. 9 overall); QB Teddy Bridgewater (1, 32); DE Scott Crichton (3, 72); RB Jerick McKinnon (3, 96); OL David Yankey (5, 145); DB Antone Exum (6, 182); CB Kendall James (6, 184); DT Shamar Stephen (7, 220); LB Brandon Watts (7, 223); CB Jabari Price (7, 225).
Analysis: Best draft class EVER! … OK, obviously way too soon to tell, but depending on how a couple of camp battles go, we could see three starters in this group (Barr, Bridgewater, Yankey) and maybe seven of these guys make the opening day 53-man roster. Those two first-round picks could make this a boom-or-bust draft.

August 01, 2014

Points on the Purple Daily: July 31

Posted by: Feldman

Each week during the Vikings season, me and my fellow P-B sports scribe Guy N. Limbeck write "Points on the Purple" for our Vikings Playbook page in the Weekend print edition. We'll make this as close to a daily feature as possible here at the blog, with a smaller dose of POTP.

The Vikings took a day off early in training camp, so I decided to take two, as well. I'm old. My body needs time to recover.

Limbeck was over in Mankato today and wrote about some of the injuries (and recoveries) the team has dealt with in the first week of camp. Read that story here.

Today's POTP topic: The offensive line is the biggest strength of the offense.

That's a lot to say, considering No. 28 is in the backfield. But, then again, he goes nowhere without a hole being opened for him. ... Well, that's not entirely true, because we've seen A.P. make his own running room. You get my point, though: We're so excited about Teddy, Cordarrelle, A.P. and Jerick that we forget about the big ugly guys up front who do the heavy lifting.

It would seem the only spot up for grabs on the line is left guard, where incumbent Charlie Johnson could be cut or benched and a majority of Vikings fans wouldn't notice or care. Some would even applaud. Don't rule out the possibility of Johnson not only losing his starting job, but losing his spot on the 53-man roster entirely.

The Vikings drafted Jeff Baca in the sixth round last year and, while he was inactive for 12 games, he played in the final three. Baca (6-3, 302) could battle for the starting job at left guard, but he seems more like one of those guys who is a capable backup at any position along the line. That would leave this year's fifth-round pick out of Stanford, two-time All-American David Yankey. The 6-6, 315-pounder was All-America at left tackle in 2012 before moving to guard and earning All-America honors again last season. He even occasionally lined up at tight end.

Even with the uncertainty about the starter at left guard, the line is still the strongest part of the Vikings' offense.

Left tackle Matt Kalil is expected to bounce back after a subpar sophomore season last year. John Sullivan has developed into one of the most reliable and accountable centers in the league. Brandon Fusco at right guard is one of those guys you'd have expected to see in the era when Mike Tice was coaching the O-line. He was a sixth-round draft pick out of D-2 Slippery Rock in 2011 — the Vikings third pick of that round, by the way — who has blossomed into a solid, if not outstanding pro. Pro Football Focus called Fusco "a legitimate All-Pro candidate." That's lofty praise for such a young guy, and a lot of that is probably playing next to the dependable right tackle Phil Loadholt.

Fusco is a free agent after this season, but don't expect him to hit the market. Vikings' GM Rick Spielman has shown he's willing and ready to lock up the young up-and-comers before other teams can court them. Loadholt was given a new deal before last season. He's a no-nonsense guy who just wants to do his job and win football games; he's the anchor of the Vikings' line and he graded out as the No. 98 player in the NFL last year by PFF.

The Vikings also have some depth along the line this year, with two of Baca/Johnson/Yankey backing up the interior spots, as well as veteran Vlad Ducasse, and guys like Mike Remmers and Kevin Murphy at tackle.

As good as the line has been over the past two seasons, it should be even better this season, not having to protect Christian Ponder for half the season.

July 28, 2014

Points on the Purple Daily: July 28

Posted by: Feldman

Each week during the Vikings season, me and my fellow P-B sports scribe Guy N. Limbeck write "Points on the Purple" for our Vikings Playbook page in the Weekend print edition. We'll make this as close to a daily feature as possible here at the blog, with a smaller dose of POTP.

1. Yo, Adrian! Adrian Peterson talked to the media after this morning's walkthrough at Blakeslee Stadium. The MVP addressed a lot of topics, perhaps the most noteworthy is his love for the scheme that new O.C. Norv Turner has put in place. And in doing so, A.P. finally said what we all said for the previous three years: Bill Musgrave's system stunk. A.P. was a little nicer, terming it "predictable." You can read more of what A.P. had to say today in this story.

2. Flip-flopping on Teddy. It was just two days ago that I called the Vikings' starting QB job Matt Cassel's, unless rookie Teddy Bridgewater has a Russell Wilson-like preseason. Do I have to start walking toward the Team Teddy Bandwagon? I'll wait to sprint for my spot until we see a couple of preseason games, but Bridgewater was sharp tonight, leading the second team offense in a practice under the lights at Blakeslee Stadium. He went 12-for-13 passing, the only miss being a whiff by rookie tight end AC Leonard. Bridgewater obviously hasn't won the job yet, but he hasn't hurt himself. Cassel is at least hearing Bridgewater's footsteps behind him now.

3. Considering where a lot of sixth-round draft picks end up (not on NFL rosters), Blair Walsh could probably be considered a steal. Sure, he's a kicker, but he's a darn good one. His rookie season was outstanding (35-for-38 on field goals, 10-for-10 from 50-plus yards). He regressed a bit as a sophomore, with a 26-for-30 season (2-for-5 from 50-plus), but sounds very confident heading into his third year. He made 6 of 7 field goals Monday night, including both of his attempts from 50-plus (50, 52). His lone miss was wide right from 44 yards. Vikes head coach Mike Zimmer has talked all offseason about creating competition at every position, but Walsh can relax and just kick in camp this year; he is at one of very few positions where there is no competition. There are just one kicker and one punter (Jeff Locke) on the 90-man roster.

July 27, 2014

Points On The Purple Daily, July 27: Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!

Posted by: Feldman

The biggest news through the first three days of Minnesota Vikings training camp broke late tonight: Kyle Rudolph has been elevated to the top tier of NFL tight ends.

Rudolph, the Vikings' 2nd-round draft pick in 2011 (the year they drafted Christian Ponder in Round 1), signed a five-year, $36.5 million extension on Sunday, with $19.5 million guaranteed.

Tight ends don't get that kind of money for being good blockers in the running game. This big-money deal for Rudy says more about where the Vikings' new coaching staff expects him to go under Norv Turner's offense than what he's done in his first three seasons in the NFL.

This is a great deal for both sides. At 6-feet-6, 259 pounds, not only does Rudolph give QBs Matt Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater a big target, he's also fast and agile for his size. The obvious comparison here is what the New Orleans Saints have done with Jimmy Graham. Of course, it's  not fair to expect Rudolph to catch 85 balls for 1,200 yards and 16 touchdowns, BUT at $7.3 million per year, it's clear that Turner and head coach Mike Zimmer expect Rudolph to be a huge part of the passing game.

And that's exciting for Vikings fans, to add Rudolph's pass-catching skills on top of receivers Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson, Jerome Simpson and Jarius Wright. 

There are some injury concerns with Rudolph, dating back to his time at Notre Dame. Rudolph only played in eight games last season because of a foot injury, but to be fair, Rudolph played in 31 of 32 games during his first two seasons, and he caught nine TD passes in 2012.

With Rudolph's combination of size, strength and agility, Turner has to be salivating about using him in red zone situations, especially when the Vikings have the ball near the goal line. 

According to OverTheCap.com, Rudolph's deal makes him the fifth-highest paid tight end in the NFL, in terms of average annual value of his contract behind Graham ($10.0 M/year); New England's Rob Gronkowksi ($9.0 M/year); Dallas' Jason Witten ($7.4 M/year) and San Francisco's Vernon Davis ($7.35 M/year).

"I'm extremely excited to get this extension completed and continue my career with the Minnesota Vikings," Rudolph said in a press release. "I've said all along I wanted to stay in Minnesota. I love the fans, the community and most importantly, I'm excited about where this team is going."

Rudolph has 109 catches for 1,055 yards and 15 TDs in 39 career games (32 starts).

July 26, 2014

Points On The Purple Daily, July 26

Posted by: Feldman 

A new head coach. (Possibly) a new starting quarterback. A new (temporary) home stadium. An old punter stirring the pot.

We're only two days into Minnesota Vikings training camp and there is already so much to talk about. Why not do some of that on this blog?
 
In every Weekend Post-Bulletin during the Vikings season, me and the P-B's version of Sid Hartman, sports writer Guy N. Limbeck, do a column called "Points on the Purple." It's a back-and-forth, give-and-take (usually me giving Limbeck the business for his homerish opinions) about the state of the Vikings.
 
We'll try to bring some of that to the Faceoff blog during training camp, the preseason and regular season. And by "we" I mean "me." I don't think Limbeck knows what a blog is, much less how to log in and write in this space. 
 
Enough about us, though, football season is here, so let's talk some Vikings!
 
Each day, I'll do my best to come up with four "Points" about the Purple. Some days I'll add an Extra Point, just because I feel like babbling on, and the Interwebs offer limitless space.
 
Here are today's Points On The Purple:
 
1. The QB Battle. I'm definitely in the minority with this opinion, at least if I use Twitter as a judge (and we all know, if you read something on Twitter, it has to be true. Right?), but to me, there's no battle for the starting QB job. At least right now. It's Matt Cassel's job. Could Teddy Bridgewater play his way into that spot, or at least make it a battle? Absolutely. But he hasn't yet. He hasn't had enough of a chance. Unless Bridgewater has a Russel Wilson-like presason, he'll be a backup when the Vikings open the regular season on Sept. 7 at St. Louis. This doesn't mean Cassel will still be the starter in Week 17, when Chicago comes to TCF Bank Stadium. It just means there's nothing wrong with letting Bridgewater be an attentive student for most, if not all, of the season.
 
2. Keep calm about Cordarrelle. Vikings coaches and fans -- and many people around the NFL, for that matter -- are expecting big things from second-year WR Cordarrellle Patterson this season. So a few eyebrows were raised, as were some blood pressure rates, when fans found out Patterson didn't practice on the first two days of camp due to a foot injury. It's OK to take a deep breath and relax about this one. While the Vikings were practicing Saturday afternoon, Patterson was working with a trainer on one of the practice fields. Head coach Mike Zimmer said Patterson and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn (hamstring) are close to returning.
 
3. Blanton and the safety battle. One of the position battles in the spotlight in Mankato is the competition for the starting job opposite Harrison Smith at safety. Jamarca Sanford and Mistral Raymond are the names most often mentioned as the top candidates to win that job, as well as veteran free-agent acquisition Kurt Coleman. Andrew Sendejo had been considered a front runner, too, but he has started training camp on the PUP list and his return does not sound imminent. With players putting pads on for practice, beginning Sunday, every practice, every rep Sendejo misses is costly. Don't count out 2012 fifth-round draft pick Robert Blanton, though. Zimmer and defensive coordinator George Edwards gave Blanton, who was teammates with Smith in college at Notre Dame, reps with the first team during mini-camp practices this summer. Blanton dressed for all 16 games last season, starting three in December. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder led the Vikings with 19 special teams tackles last season. In the season finale against Detroit, he started and recorded 14 tackles, the second-most in a game by a Viking last season (Sendejo had 17 vs. Washington). He was also credited with six pass breakups and two tackles for loss last year. 
 
4. Will the defensive ends hold up? The Vikings gave defense end Everson Griffen a five-year, $42.5 million contract in the offseason. They locked up DE Brian Robison a year earlier with a four-year, $28 million deal. That's a lot of money for guys who have never had a 10-sack season. Robison has been solid, recording 25.5 sacks over the past three years. Griffen has 17.5 in his four-year career. Last year, Robison appeared to shed his reputation of wearing down in the second half of seasons. He had eight of his nine sacks in the final nine games. The big question that will loom this season, though, is: Can they keep that up without Jared Allen's presence in the lineup? Perhaps Zimmer's scheme -- with pressure possibly coming from any direction on any given snap -- will help offset the loss of Allen. Griffen is saying all the right things, particularly that he thrives on and lives for the pressure he'll face this season. He'll be better against the run than Allen was, but, fairly or not, he'll likely be judged by the number of sacks he produces.
 
Extra Points: I made my first trip of this training camp to Mankato today and was reminded of a copule guys that you can count on seeing every year that make me chuckle or cringe, or both. These are guys to watch out for, and possibly mock, if you choose.
 
The first is Intense Fan. We've all seen this guy in the bleachers at MSU Mankato. He's the one who is so focused on a Day 2 training camp walkthru -- which, by the way, is nothing more than football players in jerseys and shorts, literally walking around and simulating game play -- that he can't be bothered by anyone or anything around him. "Honey, you have to keep the kids quiet! I'm trying to hear what's going on out there!" Intense Fan believes Jerick McKinnon will be a Pro Bowler because he witnessed first-hand McKinnon (wearing jerseys and shorts) catch a pass and run untouched to the end zone, while the defensive players (wearing jerseys and shorts) didn't even bother to pursue him. 
 
The second guy you'll see is Serious Security Guy. He's the guy who stands in the median on Stadium Road, halting traffic when a Vikings player or coach needs to cross the road from Myers Field House to the practice fields. Serious Security Guy will quickly and emphatically hold his arm straight out, with his palm facing you, making sure you know you need to stop your vehicle while a person is walking across the road, in a crosswalk. Once said person has safely crossed the road, SSG will start waving his arm toward you like he's telling you to hurry up and round third base because the throw is already at the cutoff man. I learned today that Serious Security Guy does not like it when you chuckle at him as you drive past while he's urging you toward home plate. 
 
Oh, there's also Sunburned Journalist Guy. He usually gets mocked by Intense Fan and Serious Security Guy. Feel free to join in. He can take it.

January 08, 2013

PHERSY AND FELDY SHOW: Welcome back!

PHERSY: Well, it's been what, like two years since we've done one of these things ... so Feldy and I got off our rear-ends and decided to tape a show tonight.

We plan to make this a far more regular feature here at Faceoff. Now, with a few of the changes at the P-B, it sounds like we'll have more time for "fun" stuff like this.

So, our lone reader ... enjoy!

This week, we wrap up the Vikings season, we talk about the Wild and the upcoming NHL season, and then Feldy talks high school hockey, and I talk about the Rochester Ice Hawks.

PhersyandFeldyShow010813

September 02, 2011

NFL | Taking a stab at the #Vikings 53-man roster

FELDY: ESPN 1500's Tom Pelissero gave his best guess earlier today at how the Minnesota Vikings final roster will shake out. Tom, a former co-worker of Phersy's, by the way (insert your favorite Sid Hartman "close personal friend" reference here) is with the team on a daily basis and clearly has a better understanding of who should make the team and who shouldn't.

But, there are so many "bubble" players this year, that there are toss-ups at almost every position, so I'll give this a whack, too, to see if we at Faceoff can guess who won't be a Viking by late Saturday afternoon.

Pelissero has Rochester's Marcus Sherels making the team, which would make sense considering he has outplayed several of the team's CBs who are also on the bubble. That said, NFL teams place a high value on players they drafted. Sherels was not drafted and, despite his strong play in the preseason, has been stuck behind some of these other guys (Asher Allen comes to mind) on the depth chart. With all of the teams in need of CB help due to injury, or just lack of consistent players, I have to believe Sherels will have a job in the NFL somewhere this season.

Elsewhere on the roster, with DT Kevin Williams being suspended for the first two games of the season, the Vikings will actually have to make one less cut than other teams. Suspended players do not count toward a team's roster total.

Anyway, here we go:

Quarterbacks: Donovan McNabb, Joe Webb, Christian Ponder. Comments: I'm going out on a limb here.

Running backs: A.P., Toby Gerhart, Lorenzo Booker, Ryan D'Imperio (FB). Comments: D'Imperio could be a cut, depending on how many tight ends the Vikings want to keep. I'd keep D'Imperio over Jeff Dugan. D'Imperio gives you a younger body who can block and play special teams. Dugan's special-teams upside isn't enough, to me, to keep him over a young guy like D'Imperio. And, there's no chance Dugan is a part of the passing game. Rookie Caleb King will certainly land on the practice squad, if another team doesn't snap him up first.

Tight ends: Visanthe Shiancoe, Jim Kleinsasser, Kyle Rudolph. Comments: This leaves Dugan and rookie Allen Reisner (undrafted, from Iowa) on the outside. Reisner, like King at running back, is an ideal practice squad guy, unless another team signs him to their 53-man, which is possible. He had a very good preseason, but is stuck behind three really good players. As for Dugan, see my comments in the RB's section. If he makes the team, it's because the coaches like his special teams value more than D'Imperio's. In that case, Dugan could be used at times as a blocking fullback.

Receivers: Percy Harvin, Bernard Berrian, Michael Jenkins, Devin Aromashodu, Jaymar Johnson. Comments: Johnson didn't do anything to single himself out as the No. 1 choice to be the punt returner ahead of Sherels, but Sherels probably didn't do enough, either. Johnson had a decent game at receiver on Thursday and will come much cheaper than Greg Camarillo, who has nearly a $1.8 million cap hit. On a team that is pushed up against the salary cap, that could be a deciding factor. Aromashodu was good on special teams in the preseason and made a few nice catches, so he likely sticks. Emmanuel Arceneaux and Juaquin Iglesias performed well in camp, but not well enough to say definitively that they belong on the roster.

Offensive line: Steve Hutchinson, John Sullivan, Anthony Herrera, Charlie Johnson, Phil Loadholt, Jon Cooper, DeMarcus Love, Ryan Cook, Chris DeGeare. Comments: This group could change if the Vikings find a player they like better on the waiver wire. Cook, from many reports, appears to be only an option at the three interior positions now, after playing as a tackle most often during his first few seasons in MInnesota. Love is raw, but likely wouldn't make it through waivers and onto the practice squad. Waiving draft pick Brandon Fusco (a center from Slippery Rock) is a risk, too, but he's not ready to occupy a place on the 53-man roster yet.

Defensive backs: Husain Abdullah, Jamarca Sanford, Tyrell Johnson, Eric Frampton, Mistral Raymond, Antoine Winfield, Cedric Griffin, Chris Cook, Brandon Burton, Asher Allen, Marcus Sherels. Comments: This could group, too, could be shaken up, based on who might become available in free agency. If Sherels is going to be the punt returner, he moves ahead of Burton, and possibly even Allen, on the list of CBs. I'd put him ahead of Allen now, but coaches and personnel men in the NFL put a ton of stock in players they drafted, especially in the early rounds. Allen was drafted in the third round in 2009. Sherels is an undrafted free agent. Hopefully, for Sherels' sake, the whole draft pick thing doesn't matter as much as I think it does. He deserves to be on the team. ... Now, I have 11 DBs making the team, including five safeties. That's a lot, but I don't know how the Vikes cut draft pick Mistral Raymond, and Eric Frampton is a tremendous special teams player.

Linebackers: E.J. Henderson, Chad Greenway, Erin Henderson, Heath Farwell, Kenny Onatolu, Ross Homan, Larry Dean. Comments: Dean may have played his way off the roster on Thursday, but the suspension to Williams gives the Vikings one more roster spot, for at least two weeks, and Dean may be the beneficiary. He did enough in the first three weeks to warrant serious consideration for a spot on the 53. The Vikings like Homan's potential too much to let him go, and Onatolu and Farwell are special teams aces. This list assumes Jasper Brinkley lands on I.R. and it leaves out David Herron, a veteran who was only with the team for a couple of weeks this preseason. Herron could well make the team in place of Dean, or they both could be cut.

Defensive linemen: Jared Allen, Kevin Wlliams, Remi Ayodele, Brian Robison, Everson Griffen, Adrian Awasom, LeTroy Guion, Fred Evans, Christian Ballard. Comments: Some of the team's toughest cuts may come here, with Stylez White and rookie D'Aundre Reed left on the outside. Griffen could be considered a linebacker, too, after getting some work there on Thursday, but after just one week of practicing (part-time) at LB, is he ready to play that spot against No. 1 offenses? And, can he cover slot receivers or tight ends? It's one thing to do it against the Texans backups, but what if he got matched up against Vincent Jackson, Antonio Gates or Malcom Floyd in week 1? That's why I'll leave him at DE for now. And I'm betting they'll need him to sub for Robison far more than they're letting on. Guion will probably start alongside Ayodele in Williams' absence. Awasom was too good in the preseason to not have earned a spot on the 53, and Ballard could eventually out-perform his draft position. Evans could be a question mark here, though he'll likely stick around to add depth with Williams out.

Specialists: Ryan Longwell (K), Chris Kluwe (P), Cullen Loeffler (LS). Comments: duh.

July 31, 2011

Vikings | Stringer is still missed

Posted by: Feldman

Ten years ago today (Monday, Aug. 1), I was standing outside the Gage Hall dormitory on the campus of Minnesota State University, Mankato, at one of the first days of Vikings training camp, 2001. I was waiting for my ride home, fellow P-B sports reporter Troy Young, when I overheard a radio reporter from the Twin Cities talking with Vikings linebacker Ed McDaniel.

McDaniel was in a hurry to get to lunch and, like a lot of veterans, didn't really want to talk, though he obviously understood it's part of the deal for players in the opening days of training camp.

"Who's the funniest guy on the team?" the reporter asked.

McDaniel's face lit up. With a big smile, he answered, "no question it's Korey Stringer. That guy could make anyone laugh."

On our drive home, we heard on the radio that Stringer had been taken from the field during the morning practice -- neither of us had noticed -- and that he had been transported to a local hospital.

Dehydration, we thought. Heat exhaustion, we thought. (The heat index that day had been close to 110; I remember wondering what in the world I had been thinking that morning when I put a dark blue polo shirt on). He'll be fine, back on the practice field in a couple of days, we thought.

The next morning, at about 7:45, I got a phone call from a friend and fellow Vikings fan.

"Dude, Stringer's dead."

I remember running to the TV to turn it on, speechless. I honestly don't know if I even said anything before I hung up the phone. Later that day, watching Denny Green, Cris Carter and Randy Moss give a tear-filled press conference, it was surreal. There's no other way to put it.

To watch Moss not be able to control his tears, to not care that he was breaking down in front of thousands of people watching on TV, it was a heavy reminder that these guys are people, just like the rest of us.

They may make more money, spend more money, have (much) bigger egos, and live a different lifestyle than many of us, but their emotions are the same.

A couple of weeks later, I was in the Washington, D.C., area, covering the Rochester Redhawks baseball team in a national Babe Ruth tournament (they weren't a Legion team at the time), and I went to a sports bar to watch the Vikings' first preseason game, on the road against New Orleans, a nationally-televised game on ESPN (the Vikes and Saints had met in the playoffs the previous season). It was a bar full of Redskins fans, but when Moss caught a deep ball early in the game for a long TD, and pointed to the sky, the bar erupted.

I can't say it's my favorite sports memory, but it gave me chills and it's one I won't forget for a long, long time. Just like Vikings fans won't forget Stringer.

It's hard to belive 10 years have passed since that day. Stringer's son, Kodie, is 13 now. Stringer would be 37, maybe still playing football, maybe still in Minnesota.

No doubt, though, he would still be able to make anyone laugh.

April 28, 2011

LIVE NFL DRAFT/VIKINGS BLOG TONIGHT!!

PHERSY: I just wanted to get the word out to you Faceoff viewers.

Feldy, Guy N. Limbeck and I will have a live Vikings/NFL Draft blog tonight at PostBulletin.com starting at 6:45 p.m.

Please log in to make fun of Feldy, and that Limbeck clown as well. We may not have anything intelligent to say, but I'm sure we'll make you laugh with our stupidity.

SO, PostBulletin.com at 6:45 tonight ... watch for the link for our live blog!!!

Thanks peeps!