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We just met with Linval Joseph, the defensive tackle the Vikings nabbed away from the Giants. Joseph is a big man, he admires Pat Williams and he wants to win a second career Super Bowl with the Vikings. Those are all good things. The proof will be on the field, but he didn't say anything to dissuade us from having a positive impression of the signing.
But the biggest thing on our mind Vikings-wise today is this: Blaine Gabbert was traded about 24 hours ago from the Jaguars to the 49ers for a sixth-round pick.
Gabbert was in the same draft class as Christian Ponder, so they are in similar situations in the final year of their rookie deals -- Gabbert as the No. 10 overall pick in 2011, Ponder as No. 12.
You can argue Gabbert had less to work with in Jacksonville than Ponder has had in Minnesota, and you are not wrong. But we would also argue this: As uneven as Ponder has been -- and that's a complimentary term -- he has had a more successful three-year run than Gabbert.
Gabbert has a career passer rating of 66.4, a completion percentage of 53.3 and a record as a starter of 5-22.
Ponder's numbers: 77.3, 60.2 and 14-20-1, including a 10-6 mark and trip to the playoffs in 2012.
If there is a market for Gabbert, even as a reclamation project with the 49ers, there has to be a market for Ponder as a backup quarterback. Even if you want to argue Gabbert has more upside because his situation in Jacksonville was so bad, Ponder's accomplishments far surpass those of Gabbert.
The Vikings have already signed Matt Cassel, giving him more money than they did a year ago. He's making enough to be the clear-cut starter. Vikings brass has already said they will add another QB in the draft. Our guess at this point is that it won't be with the No. 8 pick, but that's just a guess. We would bet a lot of money on it being someone at least in the first three rounds. That QB should at least be considered the No. 2 guy.
For the sake of everyone -- Cassel after what transpired in 2013, the fans, and even Ponder -- we would hope the Vikings are making every effort to get anything they can for their former first-round pick. If Gabbert fetched a sixth-rounder, we have to think Ponder would at least do the same if not slightly better.
This is not news, merely review, but as the NHL regular season winds down, we find ourselves increasingly frustrated by the dishonesty of the league standings as currently constructed.
It is laughable that an overtime or shootout victory is counted as a victory while an overtime or shootout loss is merely treated as "overtime." Hey, nothing to see here! The way the points are accumulated is fine, but the categorization gives a false impression of the relative strength of a lot of teams -- including, perhaps, the Wild.
So as a public service, here is our modified Wild record 65 games into the season:
*Basic premise: Regulation wins and regulation losses stay the same. Overtime wins still count as wins because even though it's 4-on-4, it's still real hockey with real goals. Overtime losses count as losses for the same reason. Shootout wins count as ties. Shootout losses count as ties. They are perhaps useful in exciting the crowd and awarding an extra point in a game, but they are otherwise fictional events.
*So the Wild, as currently shown in the standings, are 34-22-9 -- 34 wins, 22 losses, 9 "overtime" (AKA shootout or overtime losses). The problem is that when you just write out that record, it looks like those 9 shootout or overtime losses are ties.
*The Wild is 7-6 in shootouts and 2-3 in overtime games. So subtract seven wins. Those are now ties. The two overtime wins stay in the win column; the three overtime losses go into the loss column; and the six shootout losses count as ties.
*The Wild's new modified record is 27-25-13 -- 27 wins (regulation or overtime), 25 losses (regulation or overtime) and 13 ties (games that went into a shootout). That is an honest accounting of the team, particular when it comes to the postseason where there are no shootouts (and no ties, but still).
*If the playoffs started today, Minnesota would be the No. 7 seed and would face No. 2 seed Anaheim. A lot can change, but that's where things sit as of now. Anaheim's record is 43-15-7. The Ducks are 2-6 in shootouts and have one overtime loss. Their modified record is 41-16-8, one of the few teams that is pretty close to their "real" record.
*Other possible Wild opponents in the playoffs:
The Blues' record is 44-14-7; their modified record is 36-18-11
The Blackhawks' record is 38-13-14; their modified record is 33-19-13
The Sharks' record is 42-17-7; their modified record is 33-19-14
The Avalanche's record is 42-18-5; their modified record is 39-20-6
Your thoughts, please, in the comments.
The Giants, aided no doubt by massive nose tackle Linval Joseph -- whom the Vikings snatched away in free agency on Tuesday -- were No. 4 in the NFL in yards allowed per attempt ... at 3.8 per carry.
No doubt, having a stout rushing defense can create an identity. The Vikings of the mid-to-late 2000s were fantastic against the run to the point that teams just flat-out stopped trying. They allowed a paltry 2.8 yards per carry in 2006 and fewer than 1,000 yards rushing for the whole season. By the time the offense caught up to the defense in 2009, they were still quite good against the run, ranking second in the NFL in yards allowed.
By that token, we're all for the Joseph signing. If he can be a run stuffer in the mold of Pat Williams -- a lofty expectation, but let's think big -- it will no doubt help the overall product.
That said, this signing will not mean as much as maybe it would have a decade ago if the Vikings don't also address the secondary in a major way. The Vikings gave up 4,595 yards passing and 37 passing TDs last year. The league averages were nearly 1,000 yards and 12 TDs fewer than that.
Going from middle of the pack to above average as a run defense wouldn't be nearly as meaningful as taking one of the league's worst pass defenses and making it average.
The Vikings haven't signed seven free agents in the past three hours, so clearly this day has been wasted.
OK, no, no. Just joking. Free agency takes time, and we can't forget they already locked up Matt Cassel and Everson Griffen, moves that were made official today. And they snagged DT Linval Joseph.
Outside of the usual suspects we have been hearing about for weeks, the most interesting name at least linked to the Vikings on Tuesday was Darren Sproles, the veteran pass-catching RB who appears destined to be let go by the Saints. Per a tweet from NFL Network's Albert Breer:
The Saints still haven't officially cut Darren Sproles. If New Orleans can't deal him, one team to watch for Sproles -- The Vikings.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 11, 2014
While running back certainly isn’t the No. 1 position on the radar of many when it comes to the Vikings – it might be last, actually, because of Adrian Peterson – the idea of Sproles in purple is intriguing mostly because they haven't had a legitimate pass-catching running back in a really long time. Yeah, they used Percy Harvin some in the backfield, but most of his catches -- even the short ones -- came with him either in the slot or split wide.
Sproles averaged 77 catches a season over the past three years in New Orleans. The last time the Vikings had a running back who caught even 60 passes was Moe Williams in 2003.
Defense remains the top priority, but the notion of one more offensive weapon to fill this specific niche is intriguing to say the least.
"He's the closest thing I've seen to myself. Russell Wilson has some of it. But Manziel has those similarities even more so than Russell," Tarkenton said. "Manziel is a quarterback savant."
Tarkenton played 18 seasons and led the Vikings to three Super Bowl appearances during his second stint (1972-78) with Minnesota. He was 6-0 and 190 pounds in 1961, when he was selected in the third round out of Georgia. Manziel checks in a quarter inch shorter but 17 pounds heavier.
Some worry Manziel's smaller-than-ideal frame will expose him to increased injury and translate into more turnovers. Not Tarkenton.
"People are going to say, 'Well, he's only 5-11¾ tall,'" Tarkenton says. "I wasn't as big, strong and fast as all these other players. But I knew how to play."
We are confident Manziel will be the most productive of the quarterbacks drafted this year. Whether he does it purple, of course, remains to be seen.
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