While the Vikings have high expectations for the second half of the season, there is more to figure out than simply whether or not the team makes the playoffs.
As of Thursday, the Vikings have no quarterbacks signed to their roster for next year, and you have to imagine the following eight games are going to dictate a lot of their decisionmaking going forward.
This season Case Keenum has been their starter for most of the season, with 1,610 yards passing, seven touchdowns and only three interceptions, with a 63.9 completion percentage.
Last season Sam Bradford set the NFL record for completion percentage at 71.6 and threw for 3,877 yards, 20 touchdowns and five interceptions while looking like the future QB for this franchise.
In 2015 Teddy Bridgewater led the team to the playoffs and threw for 3,231 yards, 14 touchdowns and nine picks while completing 65.3 percent of his passes. When that season ended, everyone in the front office believed Bridgewater was going to be the face of the franchise for the long-term.
Now all three quarterbacks have a chance to be the starter in the second half of the season. But if you want my guess, Keenum is going to remain the starter and any big decisions about the quarterback position will wait until the offseason.
Familiar in any role
Keenum, who was an undrafted free agent and spent his rookie season on the practice squad in Houston, is with his third team in five professional seasons. He talked about how he is comfortable in any role as a quarterback.
“My first year I started, Matt Schaub had gotten hurt, played my first game against Kansas City in my second year with the Texans,” he recalled. “I started the rest of that year. I have been a backup before, a starter Week 1, all sorts of things.”
Is it tough for him to come in as a backup?
“It is tough,” he said. “You don’t get a lot of reps but you’re expected to play at a high level. I enjoy it. I love it. I love playing and doing what I do.”
And how is Keenum feeling this season?
“I definitely get more confident every game,” he said. “I try to work on the things that I do well, keep doing those things well, and then keep working on the things that I don’t do well and continue to work on those to get them better.”
Coughlin on Grant
Carter Coughlin has been one of the standouts for the Gophers defense this season as the sophomore linebacker has 22 tackles and a team leading 8½ tackles for loss and 4½ sacks.
Coughlin talked about what kind of preparation Mike Grant gave him as his head coach at Eden Prairie before joining the Gophers.
“Coach Grant was honestly an unbelievable high school coach,” Coughlin said. “The biggest thing I have seen him be able to prepare me for is he talks about all the different life aspects of football.
“He cares so much about the community and all the people within it and it’s the same thing that [Gophers] Coach [P.J.] Fleck always talks about, that it’s about the people.”
Coughlin won two state championships during his three years with the Eagles, and his lone loss came in the state championship game his senior season.
He was asked if it’s tough to go from that to a tough season with the Gophers.
“Anybody that is a good competitor hates to lose,” he said. “If you don’t hate to lose, then you have to wonder what your motives are and why you’re playing. When we lose it gives us a whole bunch of drive to go out and practice and that’s why our team is getting a lot better.”
Coughlin’s history with the Gophers runs deep, with deep family roots with the university going back decades.
“My grandpa [Tom Moe] played football here, my dad [Bob] also played football here, my mom is a Hall of Fame tennis player here, Jennie Coughlin. My grandpa was also the AD. My family history goes really, really deep here. So it’s really special that I get to be a part of that, too.”
Wolves on a streak
The Timberwolves won another close game Wednesday, defeating the Pelicans 104-98 and now face Dallas at home on Saturday and if they can beat the Mavericks, who are 1-8 on the season, they will have won four consecutive games for the first time since Dec. 15, 2012. The Wolves also play Charlotte at home Sunday. Not to get too far ahead, but the Wolves’ last five-game winning streak was in January of 2009.
It was an impressive victory over New Orleans because Karl-Anthony Towns had one of his worst games as a pro, finishing with two points and five fouls. He’s still averaging 21.4 points and 11.0 rebounds per game and through eight games last season, he was averaging 22.1 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.
With Towns in foul trouble the Wolves outrebounded the Pelicans, who have outstanding big men Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, 47-38. Gorgui Dieng play a key role with a season high in points (12), and rebounds (eight).
The Wolves are 5-1 in games decided by single digits. They were 13-32 in those games last year.
• Nebraska freshman JD Spielman, the son of Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman, is sixth in the Big Ten in receptions per game [4.6], all-purpose yards [119.9] and kick return average [28.1]. He is fifth in receiving yards per game at 68.1.
• One of the rewarding parts of Ron Gardenhire being hired to manage the Detroit Tigers is how he’s continued to battle after being diagnosed with prostate cancer earlier this year. His wife, Carol, told the Detroit Free Press that the surgery and diagnosis changed the ex-Twins skipper. “He’s more compassionate,” she said. “He’s always been a real family man and everything, it’s just a little stronger after that. He’s very grateful.”
• Matthew Hurt, the star recruit in the Class of 2019 out of Rochester John Marshall, just finished some unofficial visits to Duke, North Carolina, Indiana, Kentucky, and with the Gophers last weekend. Matthew’s brother, Michael, is a sophomore forward with the Gophers. Currently 247sports.com, which predicts where recruits will end up, has the Gophers and Kansas as favorites to land Matthew, a 6-9 power forward.
• Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski had this to say about Gary Trent Jr., the Apple Valley shooting guard: “Gary is strong physically and just way ahead of a normal freshman as far as physical maturity. The fact of playing for the United States, he played away from home his senior year, going out on the West Coast. That pays dividends. You’re much more ready to play.”