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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.
Now the question is: How many moves are left?
The Vikings reportedly will still have about $25 million in cap space after the Cassel and Griffen deals are on the books. Some of that needs to be set aside for draft picks. The rest will be a test of the Vikings' priorities and patience.
Here's what we know: It's becoming increasingly harder to win in the NFL without good play in the secondary. The Vikings have two defensive ends who are young, hungry and can sack the quarterback. But they finished in the upper half of the NFL (tied for 13th with 41 sacks) in 2013, and their defense was still dismal.
They must, must, must target a high-level cornerback in free agency. It's the one big-splash move that makes sense in terms of the money they have to spend and their most pressing need. Alterraun Verner is the name most often brought up. He could fetch $10 million a year as a 25-year-old corner with a strong track record in Tennessee. He played all 16 games in each of his four seasons. He had five interceptions last year as well as 22 total passes defended. Put him with Xavier Rhodes. Get full seasons from both. Add more depth in the draft. It doesn't solve all the world's problems, but it's a great start.
We can live with modest, patient approaches at other positions. Find a plugger at nose tackle. Find reclamation project and a late-round pick who can compete for spots at guard. Draft a playmaking linebacker early. But go get that playmaking corner and don't be afraid to splurge.
State Rep. Pat Garofalo went on the apology tour on Monday, a day after his tweet heard 'round the world caused a stir, to say the least. In case you missed it, he tweeted:
"Let's be honest, 70% of teams in NBA could fold tomorrow + nobody would notice a difference w/ possible exception of increase in streetcrime."
In spite of that warning regarding the nature of NBA players (sarcasm here), we ventured boldly over to Wolves practice Monday to see what players and coaches thought about the tweet. For the most part, they smartly tried to stay out of the fray.
"I'm not talking about that," head coach Rick Adelman said. "It's got nothing to do with us. ... I've never even heard of the guy or know who he is."
"I really don't care. I didn't see it, but they told me about it when I got here," Corey Brewer said. "It's his opinion, man. People out there have opinions. He said what he wanted to say. Who cares?"
But we assume you didn't agree with him, right?
"I don't agree. Of course, why would I agree? It's stupidity, but it's his opinion," Brewer said.
Said Shabazz Muhammad: "I don't pay attention to that," he said, before talking about how much he likes his teammates (and deftly avoiding the question).
All players appeared to leave the practice court of their own free will.
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