Minnesota Vikings

Vikings NFL Team Column
By Scot Acocks
2010 NFL Draft Grades

26 March 2011

The Minnesota Vikings' Draft Prospective

Overall, the Minnesota Vikings look fairly good on paper. They've got some elite players at the skilled positions on offense and the defense once again ranked in the top ten. In order for them to make the playoffs, however, they will have to plug some holes that desperately need to be filled.

The starting quarterback position needs to be addressed, even though I think Joe Webb does have some potential, the depth on the O-line is thin, and there are some key veterans on defense that are a little too long in the tooth, as nose tackle Pat Williams is 38, cornerback Antoine Winfield is 33, and linebacker Ben Leber is 32.

The team has made qualifying offers to most of its restricted free agents, including wide receiver Sidney Rice and defensive end Ray Edwards. We probably won't know much else until after the labor dispute is settled so we will focus our attention entirely to the draft, as if we wouldn't be doing that anyway.
So what are the Vikings prospects for the 2011 NFL draft? Let's take a look:

Round One

Round Two

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24 April 2010

Minnesta Vikings 2010 Draft Picks and Grades

Rd 1 Pick #30: Traded down four spots with Detroit. Detroit takes Jahvid Best. The Vikings swap fourth round picks with the Lions and also get the 255th pick overall, which is the last pick in the entire draft. The guy picked there will be crowned “Mr. Irrelevant”.

Rd 2 Pick #34: CB Chris Cook, 6’2” 212 lbs. Virginia – Grade: B- Huge corner that has risen up draft boards a lot the last few weeks. I had him rated as a third round pick but he should provide some good depth in the secondary. He should develop into a reliable starter capable of making a lot of plays on the ball. In order to stop teams like the Saints, Cardinals, Packers, and Colts a deep secondary will be a necessity for years to come.

Rd 2 Pick #51: RB Toby Gerhart, 6’0” 231 lbs. Stanford – Grade: B- Smart and tough runner who scored 27 rushing touchdowns in 2009. He should be a great backup for Adrian Peterson and could help the team as a third down back. He has good receiving skills and does not turn the ball over much. He may play some fullback but will most likely substitute AP and help keep the all-pro player fresh for the playoffs.

Rd 4 Pick #100: DE Everson Griffen, 6’3” 265 lbs. USC – Grade: A- First round talent with bust written all over him. He is a classic underachiever who did not make much of a mark in college. He does find himself on an already good D-line that could aid his development if he is willing to receive criticism and respond to coaching. At this point he is a great value pick.

Rd 5 Pick #161: OG Chris DeGeare, 6’3” 325 lbs. Wake Forest – Grade: C- Is not very athletic, quick, or smart. He has some tools to serve as a capable backup but he has a lot of work to do if he wants to stick.

Rd 5 Pick #167: LB Nathan Triplett, 6’3” 250 lbs. Minnesota – Grade C A big run-stuffer who could turn out to be a decent backup but probably will never develop into anything more.

Rd 6 Pick #199: QB Joe Webb, 6’3” 233 lbs. UAB – Grade: F A developmental prospect that needs a lot of work on the field and in the film room. He has some arm strength to help him compete but he might not have what it takes to do so in the NFL. They should have jumped on Jimmy Clausen with the 34th pick and saved this pick for a guy who could at least play special teams.

Rd 7 Pick #214: TE Mickey Shuler, 6’4” 241 lbs. Penn State – Grade: B At this point in the draft he is a good pick that has enough overall skills as a blocker and smarts as a player to find a role on this team.

Rd 7 Pick #237: LB Ryan D’Imperio, 6’1” 244 lbs. Rutgers – Grade A I feel he is a much better pick than Triplett due to his football smarts. He is limited athletically and has some durability issues but could become a great backup in the pros.

Overall 2010 Draft Grade: C The Vikings thought they could drop down to #34 and still get cornerback Patrick Robinson but got beat to the punch by the Saints so they had to settle for a player they considered the next best thing while passing up on Jimmy Clausen. I would be surprised to see DeGeare, Triplett, and Webb even make the team. Griffen could be a steal at end though and help salvage this class as a whole.

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15 April 2010

Minnesota Vikings Mock Draft

            The Vikings have been relatively quiet this off-season. Even with Brett Favre flirting with retirement again there are no huge glaring needs on the roster. The coaching staff and management have decided to allow for the chips to fall where they may. The team did re-sign top defensive tackle reserves Jimmy Kennedy and Fred Evans, as well as reserve offensive lineman Ryan Cook and safety Eric Frampton who is a key special teams performer.

            With the draft just about one week away the biggest need on the team seems to be quarterback. However, it is still likely that Brett Favre comes back for one more season. If not, Tarvaris Jackson will get another chance to be the while Sage Rosenfels waits in the wings for him to screw up. Many rumors abound about the Vikings taking Florida’s Tim Tebow in the first round but the fact is that there is too much good talent at other positions to pass up for another project at quarterback. The team could just wait until the later rounds and take a chance on a guy like Ole Miss’s Jevan Snead, Oregon State’s Sean Canfield, or Fordahm’s John Skelton while taking the best players available in rounds one and two.

            To get an idea of what the draft board may like and how the draft will pan out for the Vikings, let us take a look at my seven round mock for the team. Some of these picks may surprise some of you but they definitely would not hurt the team in the long run. As with all my mocks this is a direct reflection of the type of talent that is available throughout the draft just as much as it is an indication of the team’s needs on the depth chart.

Rd 1 Pick #30 – C Maurkice Pouncey, 6’3” 320 lbs. Florida: Could be an all-pro center and should allow everybody in the Twin Cities to forget about the loss of pro-bowler Matt Birk over a year ago. Pouncey can also play guard and will at least bring more versatility and depth to the line.

Rd 2 Pick #62 – LB Daryl Washington, 6’2” 226 lbs. TCU: Only a one year starter but played well on a great defense. He would be counted on to play special teams now and eventually take over for Ben Leber in the future.

Rd 3 Pick #93 – CB Alterraun Verner, 5’10” 181 lbs. UCLA: Not very big and physical but makes up for it with good smarts and special ball skills. After the workouts he has had this off-season it is possible that a team takes him in the second.

Rd 4 Pick #128 – S T.J. Ward, 5’10” 200 lbs. Oregon: Physical, tough, and spirited, Ward is a former walk on who knows how to earn his keep. The defense seems like it could always use players like him and they would be lucky to find him still available in the fourth.

Rd 5 Pick #161 – CB Donovan Warren, 5’11” 191 lbs. Michigan: Nice size, good tackler, and was a starter since his true freshman year. His lack of speed and sloppy mechanics have dropped his stock tremendously but his value at this point in the draft is extremely high.

Rd 5 Pick #167 – WR Marcus Easley, 6’2” 207 lbs. Connecticut: A good prospect that might get lost in the mix of good wide receiver talent in rounds two, three, and four. He is another former walk-on with great speed and a lot of upside.

Rd 6 Pick #199 – QB Tim Hiller, 6’4” 229 lbs. Western Michigan: Smart and strong-armed, Hiller could become a decent pro pocket passer. The team seems content on allowing Tarvaris Jackson another shot at being a starter if and when Favre retires but the they will probably take a guy to develop somewhere in the draft.

Rd 7 Pick #237 – RB Michael Smith, 5’7” 176 lbs. Arkansas: Not as fast as one would expect but he can catch the ball well and could become an effective third down and special team player.

By Scot Acocks

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23 March 2010

Vikings Remain Quiet until Draft

Things have been very quiet in Minneapolis since the Minnesota Vikings fell to the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship game in January. The team seems to be quietly observing the field while trying to hold the team it currently has intact for the 2010 season.

So far, the biggest free agent news concerning the team is the loss of backup running back Chester Taylor to the division rival Chicago Bears. This does limit the Vikings’ versatility and firepower on offense a bit as Taylor, who had come over to the Vikings as a free agent out of Baltimore in 2006, has been one of the team’s most dependable receivers on third down. He also provided enough ability to spell Adrian Peterson in the running game and allowed the young star to stay fresh and healthy throughout the rigors of a 16 game NFL season.

Ladainian Tomlinson was heavily considered after being cut by the Chargers to replace Taylor. He would have been a great fit, but he chose to go to the Jets instead. There still are some quality running backs available in free agency and do not be surprised if somebody gets signed very soon.

On a positive note, the Vikes did resign defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy this past week. This move is representative of the fact that head coach Brad Childress and his staff believes they can continue to remain competitive and vie for an NFC title with the makeup of the team as it is. Kennedy, who collected a sack in the playoffs, provides a big body to fill in for either Pat or Kevin Williams and keeps the defensive front stout against the run.

At quarterback the organization seems like it might be fine with giving Tavaris Jackson another shot at being the starter if, in fact, Favre stays in Mississippi this fall. Jackson helped the team win a division title in ’08 and he played well when filling in for Favre in ’09. He is only entering his fifth season in the league after being a second round pick out of Alabama State in the ’06 draft.

Maybe sitting behind a Hall of Famer for one season did the young passer some good. If not, the team still has Sage Rosenfels and John David-Booty, who was drafted in the fifth round out of USC in ’08, on its roster. Both guys may look better suited as backups but either one has the ability to step in and help direct this offense.
I do not expect any blockbuster deals to occur any time soon. With just about a month away from the draft the Vikings will be content with sitting back and waiting. Overall, this roster is strong enough to compete in the NFC and reach the playoffs once again due to their ability to draft well. In fact, it is arguable that no other team has utilized its high draft picks better than the Vikings over the last several years.

2007 – Selected all-pro running back Adrian Peterson in the first round and pro-bowl wide receiver Sidney Rice in the second.
2008 – Traded their first round pick to Kansas City for pro-bowl defensive end Jared Allen and took starting safety Tyrell Johnson in the second.

2009 – Selected starting wide receiver Percy Harvin, who had 60 catches for 790 yards and six touchdowns, with the 22nd overall pick in the first and starting right tackle Phil Loadholt in the second.

The Vikings hold the 30th pick in this year’s draft. A team usually has to be doing something right in order to be picking in that spot. The 2010 draft clears also appears to be one of the best in years so a good player will still be available once the team is finally on the clock. Who that player will be is anybody’s guess at this point.

To get a good idea of who might still be available around the 30th pick, here is my list of top 40 draft prospects:

  1. DT Ndamukong Suh, 6’4” 300 lbs. Nebraska
  2. S Eric Berry, 5’11” 195 lbs. Tennessee
  3. DT Gerald McCoy, 6’4” 298 lbs. Oklahoma
  4. CB Joe Haden, 5’11” 200 lbs. Florida
  5. OT Russell Okung, 6’6” 305 lbs. Oklahoma State
  6. OT Trent Williams, 6’5” 308 lbs. Oklahoma
  7. DT Brian Price, 6’2” 302 lbs. UCLA
  8. LB Rolando McClain, 6’4” 249 lbs. Alabama
  9. QB Sam Bradford, 6’4” 218 lbs. Oklahoma
  10. DE Brandon Graham, 6’1” 267 lbs. Michigan
  11. OT Anthony Davis, 6’6” 325 lbs. Rutgers
  12. DE Carlos Dunlap, 6’6” 290 lbs. Florida
  13. WR Dez Bryant, 6’2” 215 lbs. Oklahoma State
  14. OT Bryan Bulaga, 6’6” 297 lbs. Iowa
  15. C Maurkice Pouncey, 6’3” 320 lbs. Florida
  16. DE Jason Pierre-Paul, 6’6” 265 lbs. South Florida
  17. S Earl Thomas, 5’10” 197 lbs. Texas
  18. RB CJ Spiller, 5’11” 195 lbs. Clemson
  19. DT Dan Williams, 6’3” 326 lbs. Tennessee
  20. DE Derrick Morgan, 6’4” 270 lbs. Georgia Tech
  21. WR Arrelious Benn, 6’4” 215 lbs. Illinois
  22. OT Bruce Campbell, 6’7” 310 lbs. Maryland
  23. OG Mike Iupati 6’5” 333 lbs. Idaho
  24. DT Jared Odrick, 6’5” 302 lbs. Penn State
  25. LB Sean Weatherspoon, 6’2” 223 lbs. Missouri
  26. S Taylor Mays, 6’3” 230 lbs. USC
  27. LB Sergio Kindle, 6’4” 255 lbs. Texas
  28. TE Jermaine Gresham, 6’6” 265 lbs. Oklahoma
  29. DE Jerry Hughes, 6’3” 257 lbs. TCU
  30. DE Everson Griffen, 6’3” 265 lbs. USC
  31. CB Kyle Wilson, 5’10” 187 lbs. Boise State
  32. QB Jimmy Clausen, 6’4” 215 lbs. Notre Dame
  33. DT Terrence Cody, 6’5” 365 lbs. Alabama
  34. RB Jahvid Best, 5’10” 195 lbs. California
  35. WR Golden Tate, 5’11” 195 lbs. Notre Dame
  36. RB Ryan Mathews, 5’11” 215 lbs. Fresno State
  37. S Morgan Burnett, 6’0” 198 lbs. Georgia Tech
  38. WR Demaryius Thomas, 6’3” 229 lbs. Georgia Tech
  39. RB Toby Gerhart 6’1” 237 lbs. Stanford
  40. LB Brandon Spikes, 6’2” 245 lbs. Florida

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5 March 2010

Combine Brings Forth Dozens of Possibilities

            The 2010 version of the Minnesota Vikings may have a different look than in ’09. Gone, seemingly, is the now finally retired quarterback Brett Favre. Of course we will not know his actual final decision until after the entire 2010 season has been played without him strapping on a helmet.

            With the 30th pick in the first round of the NFL Draft, the Vikings may be hard pressed to top last year’s pick, wide receiver Percy Harvin, and select a player that will have such an immediate impact on the team. There are a few holes on the depth chart that need to get filled, including the safety position, depth on the O-line, and quarterback. Even if Favre comes back it should not be for more than one more year and taking another passer might help secure the future of the position for the franchise.

            Some of the players that the team is most likely targeting at the end of round one include:

If the team wants to grab a quarterback they will probably wait until rounds two or three to do it. There’s too much talent at other positions on hand in round one to justify reaching for a guy too high.

Some of the top prospects the team might be targeting in round two include:

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15 February 2010

Vikings Assess the 2010 Free Agent Market

If the Vikings have proven one thing in recent years it is that they are not afraid to make big off-season moves in order to become a better football team. Some of the deals that the team has been able to make, whether it’s through a trade or free agency, have turned out to be blockbuster deals for them.

The team has drafted fairly well over the years, adding players that have contributed a lot to the team’s success. Some of these guys include defensive tackle Kevin Williams (6.9 sacks per year), linebackers EJ Henderson (75 tackles per year) and Chad Greenway (104 tackles per year), running back Adrian Peterson (1495 yards per year), and receivers Percy Harvin (60 catches as a rookie) and Sidney Rice (83 catches, 1312 yards, 6 TD’s in ‘09). All in all, 14 of the starters the team fielded in 2009 were through the draft.

The first great free agent move for the team in the last five years was the signing of defensive tackle Pat Williams from the Buffalo Bills in 2005. He instantly gave them a big, powerful rock of a run-stuffing nose tackle to build their respected run defense around. After that the team went on to sign cornerback Antoine Winfield, again from the Bills, and left guard Steve Hutchinson from the Seattle Seahawks in 2006. Often overlooked, they both have been pro-bowl caliber players as well as leaders on the team. Viasanthe Shiancoe then came over from the Giants in 2007 and defensive end Jared Allen through a draft day trade with the Chiefs in’08. Shiancoe caught 11 TD’s in ’09 and has averaged 495 yards per season since joining the team. Allen has been one of the league’s best sack artists the last few seasons and has definitely proven himself worthy of the first round pick the team traded for him.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot, the team signed Brett Favre from his one year purgatory in New York right before the season started. Favre never flinched and rarely struggled throughout the season, putting up numbers that rivaled some of the best seasons he ever had as a Packer. He was having fun and winning games despite any “friction” between he and head coach Brad Childress.

With the off-season now here the Vikings face the inevitable prospect of having to find a replacement for quarterback Brett Favre as he may, in fact, retire this year. The one thing the team’s fans need to remember is that Tarvaris Jackson, who is a free agent this year, did help get this team to a division championship and a playoff spot in ’08.

If the team does go after another free agent quarterback it appears that the Washington Redskins’ Jason Campbell is the closest player who could be capable of carrying this team into the future much like Favre did. Campbell could be looking for new scenery as things have not really panned out in D.C. and new coach Mike Shanahan may want to go in another direction. The Giants David Carr may be the next best available option.

The team may also have to replace one half of the “Williams Wall” very soon as Pat Williams is nearing retirement. Backup Jimmy Kennedy, an unrestricted free agent, played well when called upon and could be brought back. It’s a good thing there seems to be a plethora of talent at defensive tackle position in the draft this year. The team would love to see Dan Williams fall to them in the first round. He is also a big, run-stuffer who just happens to bare the same last name so the fans would not have to come up with a new moniker for the unit.

Guys the team would like to have back are running back Chester Taylor and defensive end Ray Edwards, as well as tackle Jimmy Kennedy. All three have been big contributors to the team’s success and would most likely be welcomed back.

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25 January 2010

The Minnesota Vikings: Final Grades for 2009

The Minnesota Vikings ended their season in a close, bitter battle with the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. The team played well and competed just as they were expected to do but it was not enough as they fell 31-28 to a younger, faster team in the Super Dome.

It was great year for the Vikings, topped off with a total demolition job on the Dallas Cowboys at home in the Metrodome in the second round. A lot of questions will need to be answered this offseason but the team still has enough young talent and some good coaches to carry on whether or not some of the veterans return next year. To have a repeat performance will be asking a lot of any team though.

Coaching: A- Head Coach Brad Childress has done a good job with this team since taking over in 2006. The team has steadily gotten better, going 6-10 in his first season, 8-8 in his second, 10-6 last year as NFC North Division Champs, and of course repeating as division champs this season with a 12-4 record. His playoff record is now 1-2 with the Vikings and now the organization will expect more postseason wins from him after giving him a contract extension through the 2013 season. Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Leslie Frazier is the prize of Childress’ staff as he has led an outstanding unit the last three seasons while also carrying administrative responsibilities. He should get a head coaching offer in the near future. Darrel Bevell has been the Offensive Coordinator for four seasons now and did alright with limited talent at the quarterback position previous to landing Brett Favre for the ’09 campaign. With Favre on hand the team ranked fifth in the league with 379.6 total yards per game. The Vikings would be lucky to keep this group together for much longer.

Quarterbacks: A Despite a few speed bumps in Arizona and Carolina, Brett Favre had been good down the stretch. That is something he hadn’t been able to do the last couple years in Green Bay and New York. His return to the Twin Cities is “highly unlikely” but we cannot be sure until the first whistle has blown to begin next season. Backup Tavaris Jackson played well when handed the ball, which bodes well for his future with this franchise. Sage Rosenfel is an experienced veteran who was brought in before Favre to compete for a starting spot but he is better suited as a backup. John David Booty has not had much of chance to show his stuff but he will if Favre leaves.

Draft Outlook: Adding a young passer to compete for the backup job if Favre comes back and to take over once he is gone may be on top of the team’s agenda. However, there are not really any great prospects out there. Florida’s Tim Tebow may be an option late in round one but his ability as a pro quarterback may be limited.

Running Backs: A- Adrian Peterson was not the dominant player that he should have been in the second half of the season but teams game planned a lot in order to stop him. He did have 122 yards and three touchdowns against the Saints in the NFC Championship game, displaying his desire to win. Chester Taylor is one of the best backups in the biz with his ability to run and catch passes out of the backfield.

Draft Outlook: Another body late in the draft to compete for the third spot could be in order.

Wide Receivers: B+ Sidney Rice had a break out season as Favre’s go to man. Percy Harvin really exceeded many people’s expectations as a rookie. Bernard Berrian was not much of a factor but played well enough as the team’s third receiver and topped off the season with 102 yards against the Saints.

Draft Outlook: The team is happy with the way Rice and Harvin are coming along. Another guy to compete for the third spot would be nice but it is not a priority at this point. Don’t expect too much movement here.

Tight End: Visanthe Shiancoe enjoyed another productive season at tight end. He had 11 TD’s. Backup Jimmy Kleinsasser gets a lot of playing time as a blocker and does not do much in the passing game.

Draft Outlook: There will be some quality guys in round two and three that could help out here. Oregon’s Ed Dickson and Wisconsin’s Garrett Graham were productive college players who will look to improve their stock at the combine.

Offensive Line: C This unit struggled during the late season losses, giving up 34 sacks and 83 QB hits overall. The line has talent but it was Favre’s Achilles Heel in the end. They seem to be better suited as run blockers, pushing for 1,918 yards on the ground, but they need to protect whoever is playing quarterback better next season.

Draft Outlook: The organization has put a lot into this unit over the years and they would like to see it pay off a little more. There really is not a plethora of talent at either the tackle or center positions in the draft but there seems to be some great guard prospects that could be available in round two. The team would like to see the guys they have perform better before dumping a lot more into the entire line.

Defensive Line: A This is one of the best defensive line units in football, leading the league with 48. Pat and Kevin Williams have been the best pair of tackles in the game for the last four years but there time together is coming to an end with Pat reaching 38 years of age. Jimmy Kennedy played well in the playoffs when called upon, getting a sack and three solo tackles against Dallas. Jared Allen had 14.5 sacks and Ray Edwards chipped in 8.5 on the other side before going crazy on the Cowboys for three sacks and five solo tackles.

Draft Outlook: If the team is looking for eventual replacements for either of the Williams this is the year to get a good tackle as there seems to be enough for everybody. Dan Williams of Tennessee could still be on the board when the Vikings pick in round one. He has the size (6’3” 326 lbs) and name to fit in well on this line. Another pass-rusher would be nice too but the team will probably wait until the later rounds before adding players to this group.

Linebackers: B- EJ Henderson is a tough, nasty middle linebacker but he broke his leg late in the season. Rookie Jasper Brinkley filled in admirably and should contribute more in the years to come. He had nine tackles in the two playoff games but got lost in coverage a little bit. Chad Greenway ended the season with 99 tackles and continues to get better. He should be around for a while. Ben Leber is a solid player on defense but he is not a crucial piece to the puzzle. It is possible that he could be replaced very soon as he is 31 years old.

Draft Outlook: Some backups at the outside spots, as well as an eventual replacement for Leber, would be nice. Rico McCoy of Tennessee and Pat Angerer of Iowa could both be nice options in round three.

Defensive Backs: C- The Vikings ranked 19th in the league against the pass even though they led the league in sacks. Something does not add up there. Pro-bowl corner Antoine Winfield did miss a lot of time with an injury but this group should have functioned better as unit overall, especially with all that pressure up front. Cedric Griffen is decent at the other corner and had four sacks but neither Karl Paymah or Benny Sapp had INT’s at the backup spots. Strong safety Tyrell Johnson and free safety Madieu Williams left a lot to be desired as they only mustered up one INT between them. The defense did hold Drew Brees to 197 yards passing in the playoff loss in New Orleans but something may have to be done to get more big plays out of this group.

Draft Outlook: Florida State cornerback Patrick Robinson could still be there late in round one. He would probably be an upgrade at the nickel spot. Texas safety Earl Thomas would be a prize in the first but he should be long gone. USC safety Taylor Mays would be a decent consolation prize in the second round though. Many have him pegged as a first rounder but he simply is not the type of coverage player the team is looking for at safety.

Special Teams: C+ The Vikings ranked 19th in kicking, 17th in punting, and 11th in kick returns. Percy Harvin is a gem as a returner and Ryan Longwell is a solid kicker who ranked 10th in the league this year.

Draft Outlook: Another kick return man to take some pressure off of Harvin would be nice. Added talent at safety, cornerback, and linebacker would help the coverage units and a punter, such as Michigan’s Zoltan Mesko could help as well.

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19 January 2010

Super Bowl within Reach for Vikings

Wow! The Minnesota Vikings put on quite a clinic Sunday as they mopped the floor of the Metrodome with the team formerly known as the Dallas Cowboys. As of today we can just call them toast because they got burned with the 34-3 shellacking.

The Vikings did everything right and looked like the best team in the playoffs. Favre threw four touchdowns and did not throw any interceptions. Sidney Rice looked like an MVP on the other end of Favre’s passes with 141 receiving yards and three TD catches. Adrian Peterson had to work real hard to get 63 yards on the ground but did enough to keep the Dallas defense honest.

Speaking of defense, the Vikings absolutely tore the ‘Boys’ O-line open and left them for dead, sacking quarterback Tony Romo six times and picking him off once, allowing only 248 total yards.

Next week the Vikings travel to New Orleans to face the Saints and their explosive offense. The Cowboys and Saints were neck and neck in the regular season with the best offenses in the league, both teams averaging 6.5 yards per play. The Cowboys also beat the Saints late in the season.

Do I need to draw a picture?

Although I am not expecting a drubbing of such proportions again next week, it is not unlikely to see this Viking team give a repeat performance. They are built for this kind of matchup, with their ability to stop the run and get to the quarterback. It will be a long day for Drew Brees and the gang if he finds himself on his back as often as Romo did yesterday.

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10 January 2010

Dallas Cowboys Riding into Town

The Cowboys are coming to the Twin Cities. This is the type of challenge that, if won by the Vikings, would definitely make a statement to the rest of the league.

Minneapolis will be rocking. It is time for them to prove that playing in the Metrodome is not something you want to do unless you wear purple.

Dallas quarterback Tony Romo was extremely prolific against the Eagles the last two weeks, going 23 of 35 passing (66%) with two touchdowns and a 104.9 QB rating. Romo threw for a total of 555 yards over the last two weeks on the fourth best defense in the league this year. He will be a formidable test for the Vikings defense.

Dallas running Back Felix Jones had 9.3 yard per rush average, with a long of 73, as well. He is another big reason this is one of the best offenses in the league.

Just don’t forget about Marion Barber. Those that do will pay dearly. He averaged 4.4 yards per carry in the offseason with seven TD’s.

If the Cowboys can get through playing in Minnesota this week with a win, it makes them arguably the most intimidating team in the NFC playoffs.

The Cowboys had the 9th ranked defense in the league this year. They allowed a total of 14 points over the last two weeks against the Eagles, sacking McNabb eight times, making nine tackles for a loss, and recording 14 hits on the quarterback. Those are great numbers and if you have not been paying attention over the years allow me to remind you that defense does indeed win Championships.  

The Vikings defense has not been a joke either. They were 2nd in rush defense, with 87.1 yards allowed per game, and 10th in points overall, with 19.5 allowed per game. Can they hold off Romo and the Cowboy’s average of 6.3 yards per play (#1 in NFL)?

That is a good question. And it will be the ultimate key to the game. It should be fun.

This is the exact position the Viking organization was planning on being in at this point of the postseason. They were 10-6 last year and made the playoffs with Tavaris Jackson and Gus Frerotte at quarterback.

Brett Favre got his week off. I guarantee you he worked hard and is completely focused on winning this game. Whether or not he is truly having fun on Sunday will ultimately determine the outcome of this game.

The Vikings still have a lot to prove. It is time to either step up and show your toughness or lay down and die.

The Cowboys have a lot of confidence after winning their first playoff game since beating the Minnesota Vikings 40-15 in late December back in ’96. It has been thirteen years since one of the leagues most talented, and beloved teams, has been a winner this late in the year.

Meanwhile, cross the land, the Saints have the best offense in the NFL, tied with Dallas for 6.3 yards per play and the Cardinals come in after a hard fought win in Arizona over the Packers It looks to be a lot fun next weekend, as well as in two weeks.

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8 January 2010

Making a Statement

So the Minnesota Vikings entered the final game of the season with their position as the number two seed in the NFC playoffs hanging in balance. All the Eagles needed to do was beat the Cowboys to knock the Vikings into a Wildcard game this week.

Luckily though, as fate would have it, the Eagles didn’t even bother to show up for their game in Dallas, getting pounded by the Cowboys. The Vikings, on the other hand, not only showed up to play but they were looking to dispel any questions about their fortitude as a team.

They did just that by putting down the New York Giants 44-7 at home.

This is exactly what the organization had envisioned and hoped for when they signed Brett Favre back in August. Now the team will get a week off to get some much needed rest while awaiting to see who their opponent will be next week.

We all knew this team was going to be good, as they have been for the previous three seasons. Now we will see if Brett Favre was indeed the missing link, taking this team to the next step: making a run at the NFC Championship and a Super Bowl berth.

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29 December 2009

Stumble Toward the Finish Line

It is the last week of December and the NFC playoff picture has been in clear focus for a few weeks already. Two weeks ago the New Orleans Saints were 13-0 and the Minnesota Vikings were 11-2. Both looked like the cream of the crop in the NFC. As we go into the last week of the 2009 season there seems to be more questions than answers as the Vikings have lost three of their last four games and both have dropped their last two.

It goes without saying that December is not a good time to start slumping. Every year a team that ripped through the first half of their schedule starts slumping late and then collapses in December, missing the playoffs by slim margin or getting knocked out of the postseason early. Last year it was Tampa Bay and Dallas. The Buccaneers blew a 9-2 record by losing six straight. The Cowboys lost three of their last four games. The Atlanta Falcons, who had been hot all year, got tripped up in the first round and went home prematurely.

On the other hand, there seems to always be a late surging team that gets in by the skin of their teeth and makes a strong playoff run. Last year the Cardinals virtually won their division by default and then got hot in week 17, carrying the momentum all the way to within one second of winning a Super Bowl Title over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

This year it seems that the two best teams, whom both had mightily cut right through opponents for the first three months of the season, are now the teams skidding into the final week. Luckily for them they both won enough games early that they secured playoff spots nearly a month ago.

This Sunday they both will be playing for something though. The Saints will be playing to reclaim their confidence and dispel any negativity that may be flowing through the clubhouse. The Vikings will be doing the same, as well as trying to hold off the Eagles from taking their place as the number two seed.

The Green Bay Packers have gotten hot as of late, winning six of their last seven games. They are in, they are good, and they will be dangerous, especially to the Vikings. Minnesota has already beaten them twice this year on their way to a division championship and I assure you the Packers are chomping at the bit to get another shot at them. It is hard enough to beat a team twice in one year but to do it three times is improbable.

The Philadelphia Eagles are the team to watch. All the Eagles need to do is beat the Cowboys this Sunday to take the first round bye away from the Vikings and send them into a wildcard match-up at home for the first week of the playoffs. If the Eagles win they will have won seven straight to close out the season. That is the type of strong, late-season performance that can help carry a team all the way into February.

I am sure fans throughout the Land of 10,000 Lakes are planning to tune in at 4:00 ET to see what their fate will be. Of course, that is IF the Vikings can put away the New York Giants earlier in the afternoon.

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21 December 2009

Vikings Inadvertently Repeat as NFC North Champs

With the Green Bay Packers losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier in the day, there was cause for celebration in Minnesota before the team even took the field in Carolina for the Sunday night game. With the Packers loss the Vikings wrapped up a second consecutive division championship. Apparently though, nobody told them that they still had to play a game and forgot to show up for the 8:20 kickoff.

In what seemed like a repeat of the beating they took in Arizona two weeks ago, the Vikings had no answers for a fired up Panther defense that incessantly harassed Brett Favre. The twice retired quarterback was sacked four times and Adrian Peterson couldn’t quite get his groove on either. The result was a 26-7 loss that could turn out to be very costly. It most definitely has left many people wondering just who the Vikings really are as a team.

Some may think that the Vikings do not have anything else to play for at the moment but that is far from the truth. If the Vikings could win their final two games, against the Bears and the Giants, and the New Orleans Saints drop their final two, against Tampa Bay and Carolina, they would have identical 13-3 records. The Vikings would then get the number one seed as they hold the tie-breaker based on the strength of schedule. That is definitely something worth fighting for as home field advantage in the Metrodome can be deadly for opposing teams.

If the Vikings lose their last two and the Philadelphia Eagles can thump Denver and Dallas, then Minnesota would find itself as a number three seed and having to play against a wild card team instead of staying at home and getting some much needed rest. I’m willing to bet that Brett and the gang would at least like to have that first round bye.

Are these late season losses a sign of things to come or just a minor blip in the overall scheme of things? Next week’s Monday night game in Chicago should tell the football world a lot about what this team is made of. Are they the Super Bowl contenders or the has-been pretenders? Did Brett Favre come here to add the final dimension to an already good team or did he show up in Minneapolis just a little too late to see a once great defense come apart at the seams? Only time will tell. Next week everybody will be watching and wondering…

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13 December 2009

Vikings Regain Their Focus

Whew! Now, that’s more like it. The land of 10,000 lakes can expel a little sigh of relief. After the trip and fall in Arizona last week it seemed that some fans, and maybe even some within the organization, were fearful that it may have been a sign of some bad things to come. A lot of worries were put to bed though with a solid win over a hot team, as the Minnesota Vikings beat down the Cincinnati Bengals 30-10.

The win displays the type of resolve that this team possesses and it bodes well for them in the future. Maybe that loss to Arizona last week was a bit of a wake up call that instilled a sense of urgency into a team that was experiencing a little smugness. They had been rolling over lesser teams throughout the month of November and simply ran into a good, well prepared team with a lot on the line.

The Bengals have a lot on the line as well while trying to fend off Baltimore for the AFC North Division crown. With four games left in the season and a three game lead over the Ravens the Bengals could have used another win to put an exclamation point on their efforts. However, the Vikings were simply the better team this Sunday and reminded the rest of the league that they will indeed remain a force to be reckoned with.

Brett Favre didn’t do anything too extraordinary throwing one touchdown and one pick. He was simply efficient enough to keep the Bengal defense off balance. Adrian Peterson helped out tremendously, recovering from a disastrous week against the Cardinals to get 97 yards and two TD’s at home against Cincy. Chester Taylor chipped in 25 yards on five carries and Sidney Rice caught Favre’s only TD pass to continue his Pro-Bowl worthy season.

The defense gave up nearly five yards a carry however, and allowed former Chicago Bear Cedric Benson to get 96 yards on 16 carries. Brian Robison got the only sack on quarterback Carson Palmer but the pass defense was solid, only giving up 103 yards through the air. Antoine Winfield saw his first action since week six, returning from a foot injury to lead the team with nine tackles. His presence will be crucial as the team looks to close out the season on a high note.

Next up on the schedule is a Sunday night game in Carolina against a feisty 5-8 Panthers team that would like to save face and keep from ending the season with a losing record. Expect to see a lot of Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor. The Vikings would like to take it easy on Favre’s aging arm. However, they will do what they must to get a win as another loss could be costly as team fights off a hot Green Bay team from stealing the division title.

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7 December 2009

Warner and Company Expose Vikings Weaknesses

It is hard to keep up a winning pace week in and week out in the NFL. Eventually you will run into a team that has an answer for anything that you throw at them. On Sunday the Minnesota Vikings ran into such a team in the Arizona. The Cardinals, last year’s Super Bowl darlings, seemed to be one step ahead of the Vikings handed them only their second loss of the season with a 30-17 beat down.

QB Brett Favre nearly doubled his season total for interceptions with two in the third quarter and again faced a lot of pressure, being sacked three times. The 40 year old quarterback has only been sacked a total of 25 times this season but he may not be able to take a lot of hits late in the season as the team looks to seal the deal on a division championship. Expect the Bengals, Panthers, Bears, and Giants, the Viking’s last four opponents, to put a lot of effort into their pass rushes in hopes of forcing Favre into more mistakes.

RB Adrian Peterson also had trouble against the Cardinals and probably had his worst day as a pro, rushing for 19 yards. Chester Taylor and Percy Harvin both had more yards on the ground with 21 and 22 respectively. However, if this team is to do something come January, Peterson will need to be the man.

The defensive backfield had trouble stopping the Cardinals receivers as Larry Fitzgerald had 143 yards and one TD and Anquan Boldin had 98 yards and two TD’s. They didn’t get much help up front though as Jared Allen had no sacks and didn’t even record a single tackle. Nobody else seemed to show up either as there were no sacks on quarterback Kurt Warner who ended up with 285 yards, three touchdowns, and no INT’s.

The biggest blow of the night is the loss of middle linebacker E.J. Henderson with a broken femur. He will miss the rest of the season and may require a lot of rehab to get back to 100% by next fall. Rookie Jasper Brinkley may step in and take over the job. He has the ability to do the job every bit as well as Henderson and many here at the NFL Draft Dog believed him to be one of the biggest steals of the draft in the fifth round.

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1 December 2009

Two Is the Magic Number

There are hardly any things in this world you can count on these days, nothing is for certain except death, taxes, and winter in Minnesota; just a few things that come to mind. However, checks in the Minnesota Vikings’ win column seems to be as common as snowflakes in December thus far this season and as we go into the final month of the year the team from the Twin Cities will look to keep that trend going.

The Vikings (10-1) keep pounding inferior opponents into the ground at the steady pace of an Alabama chain gang. Detroit and Seattle were hardly even speed bumps in the road to double digit wins and the Chicago Bears (4-7), who were supposed to compete for an NFC North Division Title this year, were completely wiped out of contention by the 36-10 drubbing they received at the hands of Brett Favre and company on Sunday. Now, the only team in the division that has a chance to catch Minnesota is Green Bay (7-4).

With five games left on both team’s schedule the Vikings simply just need to bag two more to win the division. The Vikings would need to drop four to end the season in Hindenburg-like fashion and allow the Packers a chance to steal the title from them. With three of the Viking’s five games being road trips to Arizona (7-4), Carolina (4-7), and Chicago on Monday Night it appears doable. However the Cincinnati Bengals (8-3) and the New York Giants (6-5) are the remaining two home games and both of those teams seem capable of storming into Minnesota and spoiling the party.

Considering the way the team has been playing, coupled with the fact that the Vikings own the tie-breaker over the Packers with two wins on them already. It seems highly unlikely that they won’t repeat as division champs.

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24 November 2009

Making a Statement

A few days after Vikings head coach Brad Childress got a contract extension the team slapped another weak opponent in the face and tossed them to the side like a rag doll, defeating the Seattle Seahawks 35-9 at home. The ‘Hawks were never able to get into the game as the Vikings were extremely efficient on offense, scoring five touchdowns through the air for every six passes they completed on the day. The defense also stepped in and only allowed Seattle to rush for a total of four yards on the ground, making a statement that they are as good, if not better, than they have ever been.

Brett Favre was once again impressive while throwing four touchdowns and completing 22 of 25 passes for a whopping 88% completion rate. Even backup Tavaris Jackson played well, as he came in late in the game, to complete 6 of 8 passes for 77 yards and another TD. Percy Harvin, Visanthe Shiancoe, and Bernard Berrian each caught touchdown passes and Sidney Rice had another pro-bowl caliber performance with six receptions for 89 yards and two TD’s.

The remarkable passing numbers are somewhat indicative of the fact that defenses are keying in on the running game. Adrian Peterson had a mediocre day by his standards with only 82 yards on the ground. I am willing to bet, however, that he doesn’t mind it as long as the team is winning games. Overall it was another nice performance from a team that has competed hard week in and week out and looks to be a real contender for the Super Bowl this year.

Lately the Minnesota Vikings have been doing more than just winning games though. They have been outright dominating in the last couple weeks and are in position to secure a round one bye in the playoffs. Look for Tavaris Jackson to get more snaps as the season winds down. Childress and his staff want to make sure Brett Favre is not worn down come January and continues to play at the Hall of Fame level he is at right now. The most important thing at this point is that the team does not get complacent and continues to play as hard as they have so far this season.

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16 November 2009

Vikings Dispose of Lions

At some point in an NFL season a good team is simply expected to do its job and take out the trash. The Lions have been nothing but garbage on the Vikings schedule for years now and on Sunday appeared to be a task that is merely annoying and nothing more than time consuming. The Vikings, who continue to prove themselves worthy of Super Bowl contention, disposed of them just as any good team should with a 27-10 win.

RB Adrian Peterson did a lot of the work with 133 yards rushing (7.4 avg) and two touchdowns. The rush defense only allowed 93 total yards on the ground, displaying their dominant form from the past three seasons. Lions quarterback Matt Stafford was able to throw a nice TD pass in the third quarter to put them within a score of tying up the game but it wasn’t enough as Brett Favre, who completed 20 out of 29 attempts on the day for 344 yards, threw a classic late TD pass to backup tight end Jeff Dugan in the fourth to help seal a win against the lowly Lions.

The Vikings appear to have few weaknesses on their roster and seemingly few peers in the league. With an 8-1 record they host the 3-6 Seattle Seahawks this week. There are some tough games ahead, including road trips to Arizona and Carolina, but a 10 win season and a playoff spot is now well within reach. At the moment it looks like a good bet for the Vikings to get the second seed in the playoffs behind the currently undefeated New Orleans Saints.

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11 November 2009

Vikings Midseason Report: Harvesting Crucial Wins

With fall in full swing and winter just around the corner many NFL teams around the country are harvesting the fruits of their labors and preparing for a long, hard battle for a playoff spot. The Vikings sit on top of the NFC North after a successful first half to the 2009 season and look to capture a first round bye in the playoffs. That’s exactly what the team had hoped for and nobody can ask for anything more at this point.

Last week the Vikings came away from Lambeau Field with a big win over the division rival Packers. It was the first homecoming of sorts for Brett Favre after leaving Title Town in a tumultuous manner over a year ago and he reminded the fans of Green Bay just why he was so beloved by them for so many years. After the win Favre was choked up with emotion and struggled to keep his composure as he reminisced over his career in America’s Dairy Land. Regardless of all the hoopla surrounding his pseudo-retirements in the past couple years he has reminded us all exactly why he has been so good for the game and I for one am glad to have seen him play.

It’s still a long road ahead and a lot could happen between now and January. Favre’s age may catch with him in the second half of the season and prevent the team from competing at such a high level as it has so far. Hell, there’s so much football left to be played that even the Detroit Lions still have a chance to make the playoffs. Yeah anyway…

Before the second half of the season kicks off let’s take a look back and see how the team has graded out so far.

Quarterback: A- Favre will make the pro-bowl once again and will look to his teammates to help him get through the rest of the season. His leadership, along with his knack for big plays, has been a key component to the team’s success. The only question mark is the backups as they haven’t seen the field.

Running Back: A Adrian Peterson is simply the best running back in the game, averaging nearly 100 yards a game and 4.81 yards per carry. Chester Taylor has been very productive when given a chance as well. There’s really nothing this duo can’t do on the field. Expect them to each get more carries down the stretch.

sidney-riceReceivers: B Sidney Rice has stepped up his game this year with 37 receptions for 585 yards and has become Favre’s favorite target. Visanthe Shiancoe has 6 TD’s. Bernard Berrian hasn’t stood out but he has had his moments. He and will look to take advantage of attention given to other players in the second half of the season. Percy Harvin has also played well as a rookie surprising many people, including myself, who thought he would be a bust. His superior athleticism, along with Favre’s knack for just letting it rip, has allowed Harvin to overcome deficiencies in his route running.

Offensive Line: C+ This unit has been productive but it could do more to protect Brett Favre. He has been sacked 18 times already and will not be capable of taking lots of hits late in the season. Nobody can complain about the 4.1 yards per carry they average as a team though.

Defensive Line: B- They lead the entire league in sacks with 31 and have only given up one rushing touchdown. However, they have not been able to stop the run as well as they have the last three years and allow 4.1 yards per carry. Jared Allen is on a record-setting pace with 10.5 sacks already.

Linebackers: B- It’s nice to have EJ Henderson back at full strength. He leads the team with 57 tackles. He is a formidable presence against opposing running games. Chad Greenway has developed into a dependable defender as well with 51tackles and two fumble recoveries.

Secondary: C The team wishes it had Darren Sharper back at free safety. They’ve only mustered up six interceptions as a unit while Sharper has racked up five by himself in New Orleans. Antoine Winfield is now nursing a foot injury and may be out for a few more weeks.

Special Teams: B+ Harvin has been outstanding as a kick returner averaging 30.7 yards per return and getting two TD’s. Darius Reynaud is averaging over 17 yards per punt return and Ryan Longwell has only missed one field goal.

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27 October 2009

Stepping Up and Having a Ball

The Vikings suffered their first loss of the season this past Sunday at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense. Even though Brett Favre threw for 334 yards, he did not throw any touchdowns and gave up one pick. That is typical Favre though. He will wow you one week with impromptu heroics and then kill you the next week when faced by a defense that thrives on his type of risk-taking play. It is simply hit or miss with him. Luckily for the Vikings, it has been more of a hit than a miss this season.

The youngsters in Minnesota are definitely taking advantage of Brett Favre’s ability to turn something out of nothing, something that didn’t happen quite as much in New York last year. This all bodes well for the Vikings now, as well as in the future, as they are learning how to become playmakers. Donald Driver and Greg Jennings learned the same thing catching passes from Favre, and veterans such as Andre Rison, Sterling Sharpe, and Lavernues Coles have all thrived with him as their quarterback.

Here are a few Viking players that have done well all the while taking advantage of Favre’s presence:

  • RB Adrian Peterson-It seems as though AP has become the forgotten man in Minnesota as most of the talk has revolved around Favre. The young running back has been the catalyst of the offense, however, rushing for 98 yards per game and scoring 8 TDs through the first seven. It’s really nothing new but for this team to continue finding success it needs its offensive MVP to keep playing like one or it won’t matter who is playing quarterback.

  • WR Percy Harvin-To put it simply, playing the way Harvin has as a rookie makes the Vikings scouts and coaches look brilliant. His numbers have been solid with 23 receptions for 265 yards and 2 TD’s. He has been a valuable tool in the Viking offense but his biggest contribution has been on kickoff returns (29.6 avg, two TD’s). I’ve got a sneaky suspicion, though, that he wouldn’t be performing as well on offense if Tavaris Jackson were at the helm. In fact, before Favre joined the team I had Harvin pegged as a bust.

  • WR Greg Lewis-He hasn’t exactly been a complete package or a consistent contributor, only bringing in five receptions, but he came up with one of the greatest touchdown catches in NFL regular season history to win one over the 49ers. It was all made possible by one the greatest playmakers at the quarterback position.

  • Sidney Rice-This guy has definitely benefitted the most from Brett dressing up in purple. In the previous two seasons the 6’4” 202 lb Rice had a total of 46 receptions for 537 yards and 8 TDs. This season he already has 34 receptions for 545 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught a 58 yard hail-mary from Favre late in the fourth quarter against Baltimore for yet another come from behind win.

The fans in Minnesota are not quite used to this kind of balanced offensive ball game. It has been a while since they had the ability to put up 30 points on a consistent basis and nobody really remembers when they’ve had to rely on it because the defense has been so inconsistent. Going into the 2009 season the Viking run defense was expected to continue being the standard at which all other NFL defenses measure themselves. Rashard Mendenhall only rushed for 69 yards on Sunday. The kicker is that he only needed 10 carries to get there. It’s hard to win any contest when you’re giving up nearly 7 yards per carry.

This week the Vikings travel to Green Bay. Ryan Grant is averaging 4.19 yards per carry and Aaron Rodgers is having a solid year completing 66% of his passes for 11 touchdowns and only two interceptions. The crowd will be into it as the Packers look to avenge the loss to the Vikings a few weeks ago in Minnesota. Unless the defense really shows up and puts a stop to the Packers’ running game I don’t see the Vikings winning this one either. I’m calling for them to drop their second game in a row to hit the half point mark of the season and enter their bye week with a 6-2 record.

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23 October 2009

Hail Mary Saving Grace

The Minnesota Viking defense hasn’t been itself these days. Even though they have been able to get to opposing quarterbacks the team ranks in the bottom half league in total defense and has given up a lot of yards through the air. In the Metrodome on Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens put up 31 points. Joe Flacco threw for 385 yards and two touchdowns. Ray Rice was on the receiving end of 117 of those yards out of the backfield. He also added two more TD’s on the ground.

Brett Favre, however, put up another gutsy display and Adrian Peterson did his job by rushing for 143 on the offensive side of the ball. After the defense melted down and allowed Rice to run 33 yard for a TD with 3:37 left in the game, untouched by the way, Favre launched a hail mary 58 yards to Sidney Rice and put the Vikings into position to kick the game winning field goal.

The Raven’s offense wasn’t quite finished though as they then drove down the field to get into field goal range. It took a classic choking by kicker Steve Hauschka, missing a 44 yard field goal as time ran out, to seal the deal for Minnesota.

It is not far-fetched to say that the Vikings are at least partially lucky to be undefeated going into week seven.

Overall, it was a fun game to watch and it showed some spirit on the part of the Viking offense. The sad thing is that the defense continues to have trouble keeping the team in games. The last three years it has been the foundation of the team’s success. Hopefully it won’t become an Achilles heel.

We will find out a little more about this team on Sunday as they travel to Pittsburgh to play the defended Super Bowl champs. That’s always a tough trip and you know the Steelers will be looking to make a statement on their own turf. The crowd will be hostile. It’s nothing Brett Favre hasn’t encountered before though and his experience will be the key.

It is hard to say how the defense will play so the offense needs to continue putting up lots of points. Without a nice cushion this team will in serious danger. That is a tall in order in Pittsburgh so I’m calling for them to drop their first game.

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16 October 2009

Speed Bumps Ahead

So the Vikings are 5-0 going into their week six matchup against the Baltimore Ravens. They have looked extremely good at times as the Brett Favre experiment has thus far been very successful. In the first five weeks he has shown some of the heroics that make him one of the game’s most beloved quarterbacks. However, all this has come with the reality of facing NFL clubs with a combined record of 7-18. It is obvious to see that the next three weeks will tell us all a lot about this Viking team.

The Ravens come to town with a 3-2 record. They have more to prove than the Vikings. Quarterback Joe Flacco has been solid in his sophomore campaign but the defense has not been as good as usual. They rank 26th in total defense. Favre and company should be drooling at the opportunity to put up more points en route to going 6-0.

The formula for success against the Ravens, as well as the rest of their opponents, is based around the Vikings ability to keep their offense balanced. Being both a threat in the running and passing games will dictate their play deep into the season. The Vikings will no doubt hand the ball off to Adrian Peterson a lot this Sunday but Childress should not hesitate to let Favre take some shots downfield on a good pass defense as well. In order for this team to continue finding success offensively they really need to keep opening up the playbook.

The Vikings’ defense ranks 10th against the run and 18th against the pass. They are in pretty good shape at the moment but they could stand to improve. They should be able to put some pressure on Flacco with the NFL’s best pass rush so far this year (18 sacks) and the interior has continuously proven itself to be the standard in run defense. To say the Vikings need to focus on defense in the upcoming draft may sound ridiculous…but I believe the Vikings will focus on defense since it has been a calling card of theirs for a few years now. All the great Super Bowl teams are known for their stout defenses. The Vikings know that and they’ve got a good thing going. They want to see it continue well into the future.

Southern Cal safety Taylor Mays is an interesting prospect that will get a lot attention this winter. Mays brings a lot of size to the secondary at 6’3” and 230lbs and he covers a lot of ground with some good speed and athleticism. He doesn’t necessarily play as tough as his size might suggest but he’s no softy either. He simply makes a lot of tackles. He has gotten at least 53 stops in each of the last three seasons. Supposedly he can run the forty in the 4.3 range but that will be put to the test during pre-draft workouts. How fast he does run may determine whether or not he’s a top 10 pick or not. At this point he looks like a sure bet to go in the top 20. So far this season Mays has 28 tackles and one interception and USC is 4-1. Keep an eye on #2 this Saturday as USC travels to South Bend, IN to play Notre Dame.

Safeties have become more of a commodity in the NFL with the emergence of Ed Reed and Troy Palamalu (a USC grad) as bona fide stars. Former Cowboy Roy Williams has also helped put some life into the Cincinnati Bengals defense from the strong safety position. Expect more attention to be paid to the position in the NFL as better athletes are continually being put at that position in order to stop the spread offenses in college. No safeties were selected in the first round in 2009. The first one taken was Louis Delmas by Detroit with the first pick in the second round. So far this season he has been one of the Lion’s best defensive players. Don’t be surprised if more than one is taken in this year’s draft with Mays most likely going in the top 20.

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12 October 2009

Minnesota Vikings: On Top of the Game

First Quarter Report


The Minnesota Vikings could not have opened the season any better than they did this year. Going 4-0 the team is looking as good as it had hoped while ranking first in the league in touchdowns (13) and first in the league in sacks with 17.

Brett Favre has been putting up more Hall of Fame-type numbers (85 att 125 comp, 837 yds, 8 TD, 1 INT) and completed one of the most miraculous comebacks in NFL history against the 49ers. Wide Receivers Bernard Berrian, Percy Harvin, and Sidney Rice have done their jobs on the receiving end of Favre’s passes, combining for six TD’s.

Adrian Peterson is averaging 4.9 yds/carry and backup Chester Taylor has offered up some offense of his own with 18 catches. This is the most dangerous offensive backfield in the league.
The defense is going about its usual business and shutting down opposing running games and getting to the quarterback. No Viking fan could ask for anything more.

It’s extremely difficult to find a weak link on this team. They will be challenged in the next few weeks, however, with the upcoming schedule including a visit from the Ravens and road trips to Pittsburgh and Green Bay. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and the team continues its tough play up front.

Vs St Louis

In week five the Vikings did exactly what a really good team should do to weaker competition: dispose of them early and put up big numbers.

In the 38-10 win Favre threw for 18/24, 232 yds, and a touchdown. Wide receiver Percy Harvin continued a strong rookie campaign with 4 catches for 66 yds. Adrian Peterson punched in a couple scores while Chester Taylor put one in as well. Visanthe Shiancoe also caught one on top of his 49 yards.

St Louis couldn’t get anything going consistently on the Viking defense but what else is new. The Viking D has been good for years. Now the offense has come around and is running like a well-oiled machine. This is one of the top teams to watch in the next month.

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28 September 2009

Key Players Come Through for the Vikings

Against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, Brett Favre didn’t do anything great but played like a steady veteran who knew he only had to do one thing: keep handing the ball off to Adrian Peterson. AP, who is my early pick for MVP honors, rushed for 180 yards and three touchdowns. Brett Favre threw one TD to rookie Percy Harvin and did not throw any interceptions. You throw in the Williams Wall to stop opposing running games on defense (number one in the league against the run the last three seasons) and you’ve got the recipe for some winning football.

Overall, however, this team didn’t really look too different than it has for the last three years. To just be good they didn’t really need to improve too much but for this team to really take the next step and become a factor come January Favre needs to be able to push the ball deep downfield. The Vikings were unable to do that against the Browns as Bernard Berrian nurses a sore hamstring but if that does happen then things should only open up more for guys like Visanthe Shiancoe and Percy Harvin to make plays. In the meantime the team will get by with Peterson running wild and the defense playing its brand of football. At the very least Favre should not wear down late in the season like he did last year with the Jets.

Judging by the overall makeup of this roster and what the biggest needs of this team may be I’d be willing to bet that this team makes a move to find an eventual replacement for Pat or Kevin Williams in the 2010 draft. This team has thrived on these two guy’s ability to clog running lanes for several seasons now and it is a trend that has served the team well. It would be in their best interest to keep up that sort of tradition if they want to continue having success in the future.

There are some defensive tackles working the college gridirons right now with the size and strength to fill in for either one of the Williams down the road. One such guy who has caught the eyes of NFL scouts is Alabama’s Terrence Cody.  This guy is listed as standing at 6’5” 365 lbs and the word is that he can move well and even dunk a basketball. If he actually proves to put up some decent numbers this year and the Crimson Tide do very well against SEC running games then the big guy will get first round consideration.

The biggest question mark concerning Cody, however, may be his greatest asset. His size will no doubt come into question and a good showing at the combine would crucial to his draft status as teams will be curious to know exactly what type of work ethic and diet he possesses. If all goes well it would not be a surprise to see the Vikings taking such a player somewhere near the end of the first round.

Just as I will be doing in my Detroit Lions column each week during the 2009 season, we will continue to analyze the Minnesota Vikings needs throughout the season and look at possibilities to correct those problems in the upcoming draft.

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17 September 2009

Key Players Come Through for the Vikings

Against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, Brett Favre didn’t do anything great but played like a steady veteran who knew he only had to do one thing: keep handing the ball off to Adrian Peterson. AP, who is my early pick for MVP honors, rushed for 180 yards and three touchdowns. Brett Favre threw one TD to rookie Percy Harvin and did not throw any interceptions. You throw in the Williams Wall to stop opposing running games on defense (number one in the league against the run the last three seasons) and you’ve got the recipe for some winning football.

Overall, however, this team didn’t really look too different than it has for the last three years. To just be good they didn’t really need to improve too much but for this team to really take the next step and become a factor come January Favre needs to be able to push the ball deep downfield. The Vikings were unable to do that against the Browns as Bernard Berrian nurses a sore hamstring but if that does happen then things should only open up more for guys like Visanthe Shiancoe and Percy Harvin to make plays. In the meantime the team will get by with Peterson running wild and the defense playing its brand of football. At the very least Favre should not wear down late in the season like he did last year with the Jets.

Judging by the overall makeup of this roster and what the biggest needs of this team may be I’d be willing to bet that this team makes a move to find an eventual replacement for Pat or Kevin Williams in the 2010 draft. This team has thrived on these two guy’s ability to clog running lanes for several seasons now and it is a trend that has served the team well. It would be in their best interest to keep up that sort of tradition if they want to continue having success in the future.

There are some defensive tackles working the college gridirons right now with the size and strength to fill in for either one of the Williams down the road. One such guy who has caught the eyes of NFL scouts is Alabama’s Terrence Cody.  This guy is listed as standing at 6’5” 365 lbs and the word is that he can move well and even dunk a basketball. If he actually proves to put up some decent numbers this year and the Crimson Tide do very well against SEC running games then the big guy will get first round consideration. The biggest question mark concerning Cody, however, may be his greatest asset. His size will no doubt come into question and a good showing at the combine would crucial to his draft status as teams will be curious to know exactly what type of work ethic and diet he possesses. If all goes well it would not be a surprise to see the Vikings taking such a player somewhere near the end of the first round.

Just as I will be doing in my Detroit Lions column each week during the 2009 season, we will continue to analyze the Minnesota Vikings needs throughout the season and look at possibilities to correct those problems in the upcoming draft.

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1 September 2009

Five Questions The Vikings Need to Answer

                  With the 2009 NFL pre-season in full swing teams all over the league are diligently preparing themselves for the ensuing battle that is the regular season. Last year the Minnesota Vikings were good enough to win the NFC North Division but got dismantled by the Eagles in the playoffs. With the addition of a few players at some key positions the team’s fan base has high expectations this year.
                  As far their running game and run defense goes the Vikings have very few peers. It’s the passing game that has given the Twin City fits and had them sitting at home come late January the last few years. The team has made some moves in an attempt to shore up those troubled areas but at first glance they seem more like acts of desperation than adding significant pieces to the puzzle.
                  I believe Head Coach Brad Childress is on the hot seat even though his team has shown improvement in the win column over the last three seasons. In order for him to keep his job this team needs to make a run at the conference championship and in order for them to do that some big questions need to be answered.  Some of them are obvious but as always, in a league filled with parity and x-factors, some questions are not so obvious.

  1. Can Brett Favre take the team to the NFC Championship game after coming out of semi-retirement once again?

The number one question surrounding this team now is the most obvious one of them all. Despite the addition of Brett Favre and Sage Rosenfels at quarterback the selection of talent, that also includes returning starter Tarvaris Jackson and second year man John David-Booty, is mediocre at best. If the team was going for quantity over quality they have succeeded. Favre is no longer a miracle worker and Rosenfels has thus far been known more for his follies over his ability to make plays (Did anybody in Minnesota see his game against the Colts last year?) At this point it basically is Favre’s job to lose as many in Minnesota believe he could be the key to a championship. If Favre can develop good chemistry with WR Bernard Berrian and TE Visanthe Shiancoe then they have a chance. Berrian has the speed that Favre’s receivers were lacking in New York last year. I believe it’s all a shot in the dark, however, and I believe it will not end happily for all of those involved.

  1. Q: Can Adrian Peterson continue to be the standard for other running backs in the NFL?

He is the best running back in the league and can win games for the team behind a solid group of blockers. He will make life easier for whoever is at quarterback but he would greatly be helped if Bernard Berrian and new first round pick Percy Harvin provide some big plays at wide receiver on game days. While playing college ball at Oklahoma AP had a reputation of being fragile and he has held up well thus far in his first three seasons in the NFL. He has already reached over 3,000 rushing yards in his career and won the rushing title last year with 1,760 yards. If the team does lose him to any type of long term injury they have a capable backup in Chester Taylor, but this offense would obviously lose any sort of identity it has at this point and struggle mightily as a result.

  1. Can the receivers get open and make plays on the ball for whoever is throwing passes?

Berrian will drop some balls but he can be a difference-maker in games. He showed he was worth the contract the Vikings dished out to him last off-season. All eyes are on Percy Harvin to see if he can adjust to playing a new position in the NFL. He often lined up at running back for the Gators. Running precise routes and not playing in a spread offense are two things that will hurt him for sure. Look for Childress to try to get creative at getting Harvin the ball with screens and swing passes. To me he has bust written all over him and nobody else on the Viking’s roster scares anybody so an injury to Berrian could be just as devastating as losing AP.

  1. Can the defense continue to be the best run stoppers in the league?

 This unit has been the best NFL run defense over the last three years. Defensive tackles Pat and Kevin Williams are huge contributors in the middle of the line and they both face four game suspensions for the use of a banned substance. Without them the defense could take on a whole new shape as the depth behind them is not that great in Fred Evans and Letroy Guion. Luckily for them the NFL schedule makers did them a favor and put Cleveland, Detroit, and San Francisco up first so the Vikings shouldn’t find themselves in too big of a hole by week five. Defensive end Jared Allen doesn’t help much in the running game and he could also struggle with more double teams coming his way.

  1. Can the offensive line hold up with the loss of center Matt Birk?

The Vikings could still really use Birk at the helm of the offensive line. He was a smart, instinctive player who made the pro-bowl six times while in a Viking’s uniform. 2008 sixth round draft pick John Sullivan better be up to the challenge, as well as 2009 second round pick Phil Loadholt. Loadholt’s huge frame (6’8” 343 lbs) could really help the running game if he can claim the right tackle job. No doubt he his is a monster of a human being but the NFC North is a far cry from the Big-12 Conference. Opposing pass rushers, such as Chicago’s Adewale Ogunleye, Green Bay’s Aaron Kampman, and Detroit’s Julian Peterson may expose his inexperience and wreak havoc in the Minnesota backfield as a result.
                 
It’s really easy to doubt the team’s chances at repeating as division champs, considering that the quarterback talent is far better on all three of the other teams in the NFC North. As far as I’m concerned, even the hapless Detroit Lions have Minnesota beat with former Viking Daunte Culpepper, rookie first overall pick Mathew Stafford, and the scrambling Drew Stanton all looking to compete for the starter’s position down there.
                 
At the very least it doesn’t seem like Minnesota has any real plans for the future as the pieces are in place to make an immediate run for the playoffs. If things don’t work out then there will be some changes very quickly. In my opinion anything short of a division championship and at least one playoff win will cost Childress his job. I’m putting my money on defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier taking over the head coaching job before February.

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27 August 2009

Questions and Answers:

By Dan Skogen

Question and answer session with Minnesota Viking insider Dan Skogen. Dan from Albert Lea, Minnesota and has been closely following the Vikings since the early 70s, is still a die-hard fan and has kept current with their daily activities since.

Q1: Dan welcome to NFL Draft Dog and thanks for taking the time to do this. Most fans think Brett Favre can still be a good quarterback, but do you think his late signing and him skipping camp will be a distraction or cause any animosity in the Vikings locker?

A1: I doubt there is too much discord but there is bound to be some. It probably matters more how well he interacts with his new team and also how well he performs.

Q2: The last Brett Favre question and then we will move on. From the outside it looks like Coach Childress either got duped or was in on the whole Brett Favre deception. Either way, there are many that feel that Childress has lost credibility with his team over this. Will Childress’ coaching life now live or die on the shoulders of Brett Favre?

A2: I believe the issue of his credibility was more media driven than anything. I’m sure he informed the team as to where he stood during this whole process. His coaching life will live or die on how far the team progresses. There are high expectations so they need to perform or he will be gone.

Q3: How is lead foot Loadholt doing at right tackle. At what, 6’ 8” 380 pounds he doesn’t have the quickest feet, how will he be able to block the speedy NFL pass rushers when he struggled doing it in college. Will Loadholt even beat out Ryan Cook?

A3: Loadholt has done fine so far. He was a left tackle in college but was drafted to be a right tackle in the pros. Left tackle is where you see the premium pass rushers. His lead feet shouldn’t be as much of a problem at right tackle. His shear mass will make him more of an asset than a liability. He will beat out Ryan Cook.

Q4: How do you see the Vikings using rookie Percy Harvin this year and do you think Harvin would be a good fantasy pick?
A4: They will use Harvin all over the place. Still haven’t seen much of him in the preseason. He might be worth a late flyer on draft day. As a niche player and a rookie, I don’t know if it’s reasonable to expect more than four or five touchdowns from him. He should however make special teams interesting.

Q5: Who are your top five Vikings that you would select in a Fantasy Football Draft?

A5: Peterson, Shiancoe, Berrian. Favre, Harvin

Q6: The 2008 NFL Draft looks a little slim at this point but it looks like you have two starters from that draft class. You drafted safety Tyrell Johnson early in the second round and center John Sullivan in the 6th round. Both of those guys are replacing legends, how do you think they will do?

A6:  Johnson’s going to be a good one. He started seven games last year as a rookie and the Vikings liked him enough to let Sharper go. He’s fast and will knock your shoes off. Sullivan actually has bigger shoes to fill. The coaches have loved how he has been able to handle all the line calls and protections. Just like Birk, he’s smart and the thinking is that he’ll do fine. Time will tell.

Q7: The performance of the young starters Loadholt, Johnson and Sullivan are the keys to your success this year in my opinion. Do you agree with that, and if not, what are your keys to success?

A7: Those are certainly important issues but from a team standpoint it will be more important to get improved play from the quarterback position and special teams. Last year, special teams gave up seven touchdowns and the return game was mostly horrid.

Q8: What is your prediction for the 2009 Vikings’ season?

A8: As a homer, I hate to think of anything less than a march to the Superbowl. Objectively, I think the season would be a huge disappointment if they didn’t make it to the NFC Championship game.

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20 June 2009

Vikings Pre-Camp Roster Grades

Here’s a roster that is decently balanced and capable of competing for the playoffs every year. However, some key holes remain at some key positions, namely quarterback, and as a result the Minnesota Vikings are at risk of falling behind their division rivals.

All the talk in the Twin Cities, as well as the rest of the professional football world, is centered around Brett Favre’s retirement plans. Apparently he is not quite ready to give it up again. He played well early in the season for the Jets last year but things fell apart later.

Running Back: A+ Adrian Peterson is considered by many as the best running back in the league. He is a true game-breaking player with the ability to beat people in a variety of ways. He’ll get the majority of touches and should have an opportunity to rush for 2,000 yards. Chester Taylor is a great backup who has plenty of experience and he will give Peterson a break often. Rookie receiver Percy Harvin has the ability to play running back as well and may see time here on third and long situations if he can show that he can withstand the punishment dished out by opposing defenses.

Defensive Line: A- Last season right end Jared Allen come on and provided the spark in the pass rush that this defense was sorely lacking and he quickly became a fan favorite as a result. Defensive tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams are immovable objects in the running game and require a lot of attention by opposing offensive lines. They will each miss four games due to suspensions for using banned substances. The depth is not that great at the moment so the Vikings may sign somebody before training camp begins. Defensive end Ray Edwards will man the left end spot opposite Allen. He can stop the run and occasionally provide pressure on the quarterback.

Linebackers: B EJ Henderson is a formidable middle linebacker and Ben Leber is solid at one of the outside spots. Chad Greenway hasn’t blown up the league with his play but he hasn’t done anything to make the front office regret drafting him in the first round a few years ago. Rookie Jasper Brinkley is a great prospect who may eventually cause one of the current starters to be expendable. He should prove to have been a late round steal. Overall, this is an above average group that moves well and takes full advantage of the league’s best defensive line in front of them. It will be interesting to see how they perform while the Williams tandem serves their suspensions.

Kicking: B Kicker Ryan Longwell and Punter Chris Kluwe are both experienced and will do their jobs well.

Offensive Line: B- Guard Steve Hutchinson is as good as it gets at the position and he teams with tackle Bryant McKinnie to provide the Vikings with a formidable pair on the left side. Rookie Philip Loadholt is a giant (6’8” 335lbs) who may be able to play either tackle spot. He’ll get a chance to provide the same type of push in the running game that Korey Stringer once did at right tackle. Right guard Anthony Herrera is decent but nothing special. Center John Sullivan is no Matt Birk but he’ll have to do his best impression of the former Viking pro-bowler to win and keep the starting job.

Cornerbacks: B- Cedric Griffin and Antoine Winfield form a tough, hard-hitting pair of corners who know how to tackle. They may not be the best cover corners in the league but they will get the job done. The problem though is Winfield is 32 years old and unsigned. Negotiations broke down in May and he has been a no show at the Vikings' mini camps and OTA's this off-season. There is not much proven depth behind the starters in Karl Paymah, Marcus McCauley, Asher Allen, Charles Gordon and Benny Sapp. Keep an eye on McCauley, he could be a gem.

Tight Ends: C+ Jim Kliensasser is big and can block well while Visanthe Shiancoe is capable of 50 receptions. Together they form a decent duo that is above average but nothing too special.
Safeties: C- Second year man Tyrell Johnson and veteran Hamza Abdullah will battle for the starting free safety position. Both have decent size and athletic ability but neither seems to be a threat to be a huge difference maker in the secondary. Veteran Madieu Williams will be decent but doesn’t make a lot of big plays either. Overall this unit needs to make more tackles and create more turnovers, particularly INT’s.

Wide Receivers: C- Bernard Berrian came over from Chicago and proved to be worth the money for the Vikings. In fact, he provided the big-plays the Vikings needed in order to beat the Bears at home late in the season. He will continue to be the deep threat this team has needed since Randy Moss left. Bobby Wade isn’t special but he can catch 50 balls and help keep the chains moving occasionally. The addition of Percy Harvin is intriguing to say the least. He was a versatile play-maker in college with the speed to compete against anybody. He will have to work hard to become a legit wide-out in the NFL as his route-running skills, durability, and commitment have been questioned. He may be a great option to return kicks as well so expect the Vikings to get milk whatever they can out of him. Sidney Rice hasn’t done much since joining the team a couple years ago.

Quarterbacks: D+ The addition of Sage Rosenfels provides some healthy competition for the starting job with young holdover Tavaris Jackson. Rosenfels has more experience and should win the job but he is not the long term answer that this team needs. Jackson has struggled in his short career which led to the trade for Rosenfels. Second year man John David Booty is still in the developmental phase of his career but there is hope for him in the future. If Brett Favre did sign with this team he’d only raise the grade to a C+ as his age is catching up to him and his erratic behavior concerning his retirement has been too much of a distraction.

This team is close to contending for an NFC Championship as the roster is solid across the board. However, the lack of leadership and talent at the quarterback position is severely dampering their chances to win big games down the stretch. Somebody needs to step up and take the reigns. At this point it does not seem apparent that any of the QB’s on this roster will be able to do that. Without a good signal-caller Minnesota is at risk of falling behind the other teams in the division, including Detroit.

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29 April 2009

Going for Gold in the 2009 NFL Draft

Looking to take the next step the Minnesota Vikings were really only looking for a couple things going into this draft. Depth on defense and the offensive line, as well as a playmaker in the passing game were high priorities going in and they may have fulfilled those needs overall.

However, the one position that didn’t get addressed and probably should have been may be the most important one of all. The jury is still out on whether one of the current quarterbacks on their roster, being Sage Rosenfels, Tavaris Jackson, or John David-Booty, can get the job done.

It is a safe bet to assume that if one of the top three quarterbacks fell to them in the first round they would have jumped at the chance to draft them. The guys that they did get may help them get over the hump and compete for a NFC Championship.

#22: Wide Receiver Percy Harvin, Florida – The Vikings may have taken a gamble on Harvin but it is a gamble that could pay off big. This guy has the speed to go the distance every time he touches the ball and is versatile enough to return kicks and play running back on passing downs. With Bernard Berrian establishing himself on the other side and Adrian Peterson breaking records in the backfield this offense has the potential to be as good as any in the league. Harvin won’t have to do too much. If he can get the ball five to eight times a game and score touchdowns in a variety of ways as he did in college then chances for the other guys to make plays will only become more abundant.

#54: Offensive Lineman Phil Loadholt, Oklahoma – Minnesota needed a big body on the OL and they got one. The massive (6’ 8” 335 lb) Loadholt may do very well paving the way for the Vikings running backs. He was once thought of as a potential first round pick due to his size and ability, but there seems to be something lacking in his game. He will be tried at right tackle and he may have to play guard. It all depends on whether or not he can protect the quarterbacks from getting destroyed on passing downs. #86: Cornerback Asher Allen, Georgia – This was another need area as the Vikings were looking for somebody to add depth and compete for the nickelback job. Asher has the skills to develop into a quality contributor on defense even though he does not have elite speed. At the very least he should bolster the special teams coverage and return games a bit. He ranks third all-time in kickoff return yards for the Bulldogs.

Jasper Brinkley#150: Linebacker Jasper Brinkley, South Carolina – The hope is that Brinkley provides quality depth at the position with his large body (6’ 2” 250 lb) and ability to hit with authority. He’s not the fastest prospect but he has enough speed to compete at the next level. Came back very nicely after destroying his knee as a junior. Turned some heads in the weeks leading up to the draft having a good workout at his pro day: Brinkley (6-1 5/8, 249) looked very quick and fluid in all positional drills. Brinkley ran a 4.39 short shuttle, a 6.92 three-cone. At the 2009 NFL Scouting Combine he ran a 4.67 forty.

#231: Safety Jamarca Sanford, Mississippi – Sanford will have to throw his weight (214 lbs) and strength (29 reps) around on special teams in order to stick around on the active roster. This is a great pick in the seventh round as he was the SEC’s leading tackler over his four year career with 287. Head Coach Brad Childress neglected his own policy of avoiding receivers in the first round, but he did take what many considered the best players on the board. In any case, the depth of the team was improved and the Vikings should be in the playoffs again in December. It may simply only be a matter of one of the team’s quarterbacks stepping up to the plate and delivering sound game management skills and leadership. Those are the key components that have kept this team from being considered elite.

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