Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Posts about Packers

Vikings release LB Erin Henderson

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated: February 7, 2014 - 4:54 PM

The Vikings released linebacker Erin Henderson on Friday. The move, which will save the team $2.1 million in cap space next season, was inevitable, given Henderson's rocky end to last season.

Henderson, 27, was arrested twice on drunken driving charges in a little more than a month, first on Nov. 19 in Eden Prairie and next on New Year’s Day in Chanhassen. The first arrest caused Henderson to miss the Packers game in Week 12 because of  “personal reasons.”

Henderson, who declined comment Friday, said after the first arrest that he needed the time away to self-reflect, sensing a change was needed ... until he made the same mistake again after the season ended.

The 2008 undrafted free agent out of Maryland spent six seasons with the Vikings. He played in 14 games last year and finished second on the team with 134 tackles.

Audie Cole made his first career start against Green Bay, replacing Henderson at middle linebacker, and had 11 tackles. Henderson’s reps decreased, with Cole receiving a larger role on defense until he was placed on injured reserve with a sprained ankle heading into the final game of the season.

Cole will be entering his third season. Second-year players Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges are also expected to play larger roles next season.

Vikings' Cordarrelle Patterson named to All-NFL team

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated: January 13, 2014 - 12:22 PM

Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson was selected on the Pro Football Writers Association All-NFL and All-NFC teams as a kick returner.

He was one of 17 first-time All-NFL honorees by the PFWA. Patterson was the only player selected on either team from the Vikings.

It's been a pretty nice start to his offseason so far for the rookie. Patterson was named into the Pro Bowl as a return specialist and also earned the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Month honors for December to go along with the PFWA's selection. He's one of five candidates up for Rookie of the Year (fans can vote here on the award)

Here's the complete All-NFL and All-NFC teams:

2013 PFWA ALL-NFL TEAM
Offense
QB – Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
RB – Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs; LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
WR – Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns ; Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
TE – Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints
C – Ryan Kalil, Carolina Panthers
G – Evan Mathis, Philadelphia Eagles; Louis Vasquez, Denver Broncos
T – Joe Staley, San Francisco 49ers; Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns
Defense
DE – Robert Quinn, St. Louis Rams; J.J. Watt, Houston Texans
DT – Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions
OLB – Lavonte David, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Robert Mathis, Indianapolis Colts
MLB – Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers
CB – Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks; Patrick Peterson, Arizona Cardinals
S – Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs; Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks
Special Teams
PK – Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens
P – Johnny Hekker, St. Louis Rams
KR – Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings
PR – Dexter McCluster, Kansas City Chiefs
ST – Justin Bethel, Arizona Cardinals

2013 PFWA ALL-NFC TEAM
Offense
QB – Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
RB – Matt Forte, Chicago Bears; LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
WR – Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions; Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears
TE – Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints
C – Ryan Kalil, Carolina Panthers
G – Evan Mathis, Philadelphia Eagles; Josh Sitton, Green Bay Packers
T – Jason Peters, Philadelphia Eagles; Joe Staley, San Francisco 49ers
Defense
DE – Greg Hardy, Carolina Panthers; Robert Quinn, St. Louis Rams
DT – Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions
OLB – Ahmad Brooks, San Francisco 49ers; Lavonte David, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
MLB – Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers
CB – Patrick Peterson, Arizona Cardinals; Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks
S – Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks; Donte Whitner, San Francisco 49ers
Special Teams
PK – Steven Hauschka, Seattle Seahawks
P – Johnny Hekker, St. Louis Rams
KR – Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings
PR – Golden Tate, Seattle Seahawks
ST – Justin Bethel, Arizona Cardinals

Behind Enemy Lines: Schwartz, Stafford, season meltdown and more

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated: December 27, 2013 - 8:44 AM

For this week’s edition of “Behind Enemy Lines,” we reached out to Josh Katzenstein, Lions beat writer for the Detroit News. Here are five questions we posed to Katzenstein in advance of Vikings-Lions and the final game in the Metrodome on Sunday

1. What happened in the final six weeks of the season that led to the Lions’ fall from first place in the NFC North?

JK: It didn’t seem like they were taking any of their opponents lightly. It was more just an in-game focus issue. The offense in the last six games had 21 turnovers averaging 3.5 turnovers and lost five of those games. On defense, they only forced three turnovers in those six games. They were just throwing possessions away and weren’t doing anything to get them back. Eventually those mistakes are going to cost you.

2. How much of this collapse is on head coach Jim Schwartz’s shoulders?

JK: The mood around Detroit is that Schwartz won’t be back next season but of course there’s nothing official to that. I think everything in the Lions’ locker room has been taking the blame. They’re saying that they’re the ones out there playing and the coaches coached them up enough. But at some point, you do have to question some of the decisions Schwartz and the coaching staff has made over the last six weeks just because it seemed there were times where they weren’t always ready for the opponents.

3. Is it time to question quarterback Matthew Stafford’s ability and decision making?

JK: I think those questions have already surfaced. Just watching Stafford even beyond the turnovers (19 interceptions and 12 fumbles), he makes a lot of really questionable decisions. He seems to rush throws at times, he seems to make off balanced throws at times. The Lions have locked him in for the future (three-year extension in the offseason with $41.5 million guaranteed) and certainly he’s going to be there for the next handful of years, but at some point you’re going to have to question exactly what his ceiling is. At times he looks like the sky is the limit but at other times it looks like the guy is throwing away the season. If you want to blame anyone more than Schwartz, it would have to be Stafford for the late season collapse.

4. What’s been the overall issue with the defense?

JK: I think consistency has been the main problem on defense. Even though the Lions’ run defense is good (fourth in the NFL allowing 94.8 yards a game) the front four has not lived up to expectations this year. They’re tied for 29th in the NFL in sacks this season and really had one dominant game and that was against the Packers on Thanksgiving when they had seven sacks. At times they’re not getting enough pressure and even when they are there seems to be a problem in the secondary.

5. What’s the mood around the team as it plays the final game at the Metrodome without playoff implications?

JK: The mood has been kind of down this week compared to the last couple months because I think guys are upset they don’t have a shot at making the playoffs. I think they are looking forward to getting back and regaining some of the pride that’s maybe been lost these last six weeks. I’ve been asking some guys about Metrodome memories, and I think they do know it’s going to be a tough test  because the Vikings have been playing for pride these last several weeks and playing really well. All these guys see that on film and they know it’s going to be a crazy crowd. They just got to find a way to tune it out and hopefully finish this thing strong.

NFL Draft Order (Week 13): Vikings fall out top five

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated: December 3, 2013 - 10:00 AM

Every Tuesday morning, we take a look at where the Vikings would pick in the 2014 NFL Draft if the season ended today.

Note: The first tiebreaker is strength of schedule where the team with the worst strength of schedule percentage wins the tiebreaker and gets a better pick. Strength of schedule is based off the win percentage of a team’s opponents, so there’s two ways to calculate it during the season. One would be to factor in a team’s entire 16-game schedule, or the other method would be to tally the records of games already played (the method used in this blog). At the end of the year, both methods will result in the same SOS percentage.

 A Tuesday after a win surely meant the Vikings would slide in the current draft projection order, but two teams in front of them also won.

The Vikings are just outside the top five at the moment with the 23-20 overtime win over the Bears. Here’s how the draft order looks right now (records and strength of schedule, if necessary, in parentheses):

  1. Texans (2-10)
  2. Rams [via Redskins] (3-9) (.521)
  3. Jaguars (3-9) (.542)
  4. Falcons (3-9) (.556)
  5. Bucs (3-9) (.590)
  6. Vikings (3-8-1)

They’re still not in a bad position for a possible top five pick, but again that tie against the Packers isn’t helping out their situation. If the Vikings’ would’ve lost, their strength of schedule would be adjusted from .514 to .521.

The Vikings and Redskins would have the same strength of schedule percentage. The next tiebreaker is division records, but they bypass that since they’re not in the same division. The third tiebreaker is conference records, which applies in this situation because they’re both in the NFC.

The Redskins sit at 1-8 against the NFC at the moment. The Vikings would go from 2-7-1 to 2-8 with the hypothetical Packers loss. So here’s how the draft order would look in that situation:

  1. Texans
  2. Rams [via Redskins]
  3. Vikings
  4. Jaguars
  5. Falcons
  6. Bucs

They’d jump three spots to third at the moment, with one of those conference wins against the Redskins. With four weeks left, it’ll be fun to see how this plays out.

The Rams-Redskins trade for quarterback Robert Griffin III in the 2012 NFL Draft doesn’t look so bad now for St. Louis.

Vikings snap counts: Henderson dressed but didn't play

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated: December 2, 2013 - 8:51 AM

The morning after the Vikings 23-20 overtime win over the Bears, we take a look at the snap distribution on offense and defense

Offense: 86 snaps

Quarterback

QB Matt Cassel – 61 snaps (played 71% on offense)

QB Christian Ponder – 25 (29%)

Ponder left the game due to concussion symptoms right before halftime, but the offense was more effective under Cassel, who’s responsible for all three wins this season.

Cassel went 20 of 33 for 243 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He finished with an 80.7 quarterback rating. Ponder was 3 of 8 for 40 yards.

Running Back/Fullback

RB Adrian Peterson – 78 (91%)

FB Jerome Felton – 38 (44%)

RB Toby Gerhart – 7 (8%)

It took the Vikings five possessions to take advantage of the Bears worst-ranked run defense in the NFL. But once they started, they relied heavily on the shoulders of Peterson, who had 35 carries for 211 yards (both season highs).

Peterson was healthy enough where the team didn’t use Gerhart as much compared to last week against the Packers where Peterson played 65 of the team’s 81 snaps (Gerhart spotted him on 14 plays).

Wide Receiver/Tight End

TE John Carlson – 78 (91%)

WR Greg Jennings – 50 (58%)

WR Cordarrelle Patterson – 48 (56%)

TE Rhett Ellison – 45 (52%)

WR Jerome Simpson – 40 (47%)

WR Jarius Wright – 31 (36%)

TE Chase Ford – 10 (12%)

WR Joe Webb – 5 (6%)

Something about Cassel brings out the best in Jennings. He caught his third touchdown this season, all thrown by Cassel, and led the team with seven receptions for 78 yards. Jennings had just one catch for two yards with Ponder. Carlson also had a solid game with four receptions for 61 yards.

Patterson started over Simpson for the third straight week and received a season-high 48 snaps. He’s had over 40 reps in three straight games, but the rookie finished with one catch for four yards. Patterson did, however, score on a 33-yard run in the second quarter

Offensive Line

G Charlie Johnson – 86 (100%)

C John Sullivan – 86 (100%)

T Phil Loadholt – 86 (100%)

G Brandon Fusco – 86 (100%)

T Matt Kalil – 86 (100%)

As it’s been for most of the season, the starting unit played the entire game against the Bears. Cassel and Ponder were sacked a combined five times in the game (Bears defensive end Julius Peppers had 2.5 sacks), but the Vikings ran for 283 yards.

Defense: 66 snaps

Defensive Line

DE Jared Allen – 58 (88%)

DE Brian Robison – 56 (85%)

DT Kevin Williams – 45 (68%)

DE Everson Griffen – 33 (50%)

NT Letroy Guion – 29 (44%)

NT Fred Evans – 22 (33%)

DT Sharrif Floyd – 21 (32%)

The front line had three of the team’s four sacks (Allen, Robison and Floyd) and hurried Bears quarterback Josh McCown six times.

Guion had five fewer snaps than he did in his return last week against the Packers (34). Evans, who had 17 reps last week, played more as a result.

Linebacker

LB Audie Cole – 66 (100%)

LB Chad Greenway – 64 (97%)

LB Marvin Mitchell – 20 (30%)

LB Larry Dean – 2 (3%)

Although he was suited up on the sideline, linebacker Erin Henderson did not play for a second consecutive game. He missed last week's game due a personal issue, which was revealed Henderson was arrested for an alleged DWI on Nov. 19. 

Cole replaced Henderson last week in his first career start and has played the entire game in consecutive weeks. He had nine tackles and a pass deflection.

Greenway left the game during the overtime session due to a wrist injury he’s played through for over a month, but he only missed two plays. He tied for a team-high 10 tackles, three for loss, and a sack.

Secondary

FS Andrew Sendejo – 66 (100%)

CB Xavier Rhodes – 66 (100%)

SS Jamarca Sanford – 66 (100%)

SS Robert Blanton – 45 (68%)

CB Chris Cook – 43 (65%)

CB Marcus Sherels – 24 (36%)

Rhodes put together another good game with six tackles, one for loss, and a nice pass deflection in the end zone against Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall.

Cook was ejected for making contact with an official after allowing a 46-yard touchdown to wide receiver Alshon Jeffery in the third quarter. It left a thin unit to rely on Sherels, who typically plays a spot corner, to play opposite of Rhodes and Blanton as the nickel corner.

Jeffery broke the Bears’ franchise record with 249 receiving yards. He also had 12 receptions and two touchdowns, both against Cook. 

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