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 Rookies

Bridgewater content if a backup, but recent history suggests he won't hold a clipboard for long

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated: June 9, 2014 - 10:06 AM

Vikings rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said all the right things last week when he was asked if he would be content with holding a clipboard at the start of the NFL career.

Of course, he isn’t the only first-round quarterback who is carefully choosing his words when it comes to questions about his immediate future in the NFL. Coaches and executives in both Jacksonville and Cleveland, like those here in Minnesota, are preaching patience with their young passers, and Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel have said similar things as Bridgewater.

The reality is, though, that these guys are competitors who want to play.

Another reality is that all three of them probably will sooner than later.

As I wrote after Bridgewater was selected 32nd overall last month, all nine of the quarterbacks selected in the first round from 2011 to 2013 made at least five starts as rookies, including Christian Ponder, who is jockeying with Bridgewater and Matt Cassel on the Vikings’ depth chart today. Six of those first-round quarterback started for their respective teams in Week 1.

And according to ESPN Stats and Info, 69 percent of the quarterbacks drafted in the first round since 2008 started in Week 1 and those quarterbacks, including the ones who didn’t play in Week 1, started an average of 12.3 games as rookies. Contrast that with the numbers from 1970 to 2007, when just 20 percent of the first-round QBs started right away and made an average of 5.4 starts.

One more interesting factoid from the folks over at ESPN Stats and Info: Forty-nine percent of the first-round quarterbacks since the 1970 merger started within their team's first five games.

Will Bridgewater follow suit and take over the huddle before Week 6?

The schedule appears to have some major challenges for the Vikings in the first five weeks of the season. They open the season on the road against an emerging Rams team then are tasked with defeating the respective squads of Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers in the following four weeks. If the Vikings -- specifically Cassel -- were to stumble and face-plant over that stretch, the team could potentially turn to Bridgewater, if they hadn’t done so already.

Of course, it’s still too early to predict how things will play out. But it’s hard to ignore recent NFL history -- and these numbers -- when it comes to first-round quarterbacks like Bridgewater.

Rookie pass rushers like Barr often start slow

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated: June 2, 2014 - 12:36 PM

When trying to project how first-round pick Anthony Barr will fare during his rookie season, you may want to point to what Aldon Smith and Von Miller did as rookies as the best-case scenario.

The reality is, though, that it takes most edge rushers time to find their groove at the next level.

While Smith had 14 sacks for the 49ers in his first season in 2011 and Miller was not far behind with 11.5 for the Broncos, edge rushers racking up double-digit sacks as rookies is not common.

For every Smith and Miller, there is a Vernon Gholston or Aaron Maybin who made little impact.

Looking at the 32 edge rushers selected in the previous seven drafts, those players averaged just 3.7 sacks and 20.2 tackles as rookies despite playing 509 snaps on average in their first season, according to Jeff McLane, who did some digging on rookie pass rushers for the Philly Inquirer.

Gholston and Maybin were top picks of the Jets and Bills, respectively, who did not record a sack as rookies. Gholston is the worst-case scenario, having washed out of the league without a single sack.

The Vikings, of course, are confident Barr will develop into a star pass rusher. General manager Rick Spielman has said that they projected the outside linebacker out of UCLA as the second-best pass-rushing prospect of this class behind Texans outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney.

While it appears that Barr will be facing an even steeper learning curve than his rookie peers and predecessors considering he didn’t start playing defense at UCLA until his junior year, the Vikings said that Barr, before he got sent back to California, did not look like a major project.

“I know that’s a big thing with everybody that he’s only played two years, but the things he’s done defensively he’s done pretty well,” coach Mike Zimmer, who envisions Barr playing a hybrid role like Miller does in Denver, said two weeks ago. “I don’t think it’s going to be an issue whatsoever.”

Still, while the Vikings anticipate that Barr will ascend to a starting role by the time training camp ends, it might be best to curb your enthusiasm when it comes to his first-year sack total. Potent rookie pass rushers like Smith, Miller, Brian Orakpo (11 sacks for the Redskins in 2009) and Clay Matthews III (10 sacks for the Packers in 2009) appear to be exceptions to the rule.

“Everybody has a development stage,” Spielman, speaking generally about the immediate contributions of rookies, said last month. “Some hit it right off the bat. Some take some time.”

How can undrafted Vikings rookies impress Zimmer?

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated: May 19, 2014 - 10:42 AM

For Vikings draft picks such as Teddy Bridgewater and Anthony Barr, this past weekend’s rookie minicamp was an opportunity to meet future coworkers, settle into their new office and start to familiarize themselves with the team’s playbook and scheme on the field.

Not all of the 10 draft picks are locks to make the 53-man roster when the preseason ends, but they do have time to make an impression over the next few months.

The undrafted rookie free agents -- and even more so the couple dozen tryout guys who were invited -- could be gone in an instant, so they have less time to distinguish themselves.

So how exactly could they do that during the rookie minicamp that wrapped up Sunday?

“I think it’s just the flash part of things, the athletic ability, and then obviously knowing what to do a little bit,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “Obviously, they aren’t going to know everything to do. But you see a guy with the right measurables, size-wise, and things like that and then he flashes at you a few times and gets better over the course of the weekend, those are the kinds of guys that we are really looking for.”

Zimmer said that before the first practice Friday, so we don’t know which undrafted rookies caught his eye. The minicamp featured all 10 draft picks, a handful of young veterans without NFL game experience, 15 signed undrafted rookie free agents and a couple dozen or so tryout guys.

But if they didn’t flash for Zimmer over the weekend, it is going to become even more difficult for the undrafted free agents to distinguish themselves in the coming weeks, when they will be competing against the Vikings veterans during offseason workouts, which start late next week.

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

Jared Allen on hazing: 'It's a rite of passage you go through'

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated: November 5, 2013 - 2:45 PM

Vikings defensive end Jared Allen said he gets nostalgic with 11-year veteran defensive tackle Kevin Williams on how the NFL used to be when they started their careers.

Allen, in his 10th season in the league, said "hazing" has changed significantly since he started his career with the Chiefs in 2004 and feels the rite of passage message in having veterans establish the atmosphere in the locker room has been lost to a degree.

"From a player’s standpoint, I think some of the younger guys come in and there’s a sense of entitlement, and you lose that work ethic, you lose that true veteran-led locker room sometimes," Allen said. "You got to know who you’re dealing with. You can’t treat everyone the same. You can’t treat every rookie the same. Some guys are more sensitive than others, but it’s a sign of respect."

Allen said he knows Dolphins guard Richie Incognito, who has been suspended by the team as the NFL reviews a harassment complaint from tackle Jonathan Martin, but he doesn't know the details of the situation in Miami. He said it's a terrible situation for Martin, Incognito and the team that's down two offensive linemen. 

"Richie has a good heart, he really does," Allen said. "I know he's catching some heat right now, but from what I know of Richie, we've always had a good relationship. He's always been cool with my family. We have mutual friends, so it's a bad deal."

Reports on the hazing issues in Miami mention an instance where the rookies were stuck paying a $30,000 team dinner. Allen recalled during his rookie year driving 20 miles to pick up Popeyes chicken before every team flight with the Chiefs and has heard of first-round picks picking up $50,000-$60,000 tabs at the "rookie dinners" before the NFL implemented a rookie wage scale.

“It just depends on when you came in," Allen said. "Reasonable back in the day? Yeah. I mean, I’ve heard of worse. I’ve heard of less. It depends. That’s usually how it is. But usually it’s a rite of passage you go through, so as a rookie from a football standpoint you go through stuff and that’s what kind of brings you together as a team."

Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier has a policy against hazing with the players, and players have to tread lightly with a rookie.

"We do little things like, ‘Go get me coffee,’" Allen said. "Nothing too crazy, but I appreciate it going through that because I had the respect of the vets. Then when it’s your turn, you don’t feel so bad giving it to someone else."

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