VikesCentric is written by Twin Cities football writers Bo Mitchell of SportsData, Arif Hasan of Vikings Territory, Aj Mansour, who hosts Minnesota Vikings Overtime on KFAN, and Joe Oberle a long-time Minnesota based writer. The VikesCentric crew crunches numbers, watches video and isn't shy about saying what's on their minds.

Posts about Vikings defense

VikesCentric: Four who flashed vs. Houston

Posted by: Updated: August 10, 2013 - 1:34 AM

We're going to debut a new feature here at VikesCentric for the hotly awaited 2013 preseason (also known as the NFL's annual festival of gouging season-ticket holders by charging full price for a glorified scrimmage). We're calling it "Four Who Flashed" because "flashing" is our favorite preseason football cliché. No, it has nothing to do with Dino Ciccarelli (but just to be safe, don't read this with your garage door open). It's a buzzword used by the likes of Mike Mayock to describe a player who showed tremendous ability on the football field, perhaps even rising beyond expectations to merit extra attention. And we're limiting it to the preseason because in the regular season we'd have to call it "Adrian Peterson and Three Other Guys" – though we discussed tweaking it in Week 1 and calling it "While You Were Having Your Breath Taken Away by Adrian Peterson" to highlight the work of one of the less-heralded 52 Vikings. Honestly, we're still workshopping it. Stay tuned.

So without further delay, here are the Four Who Flashed on Friday night against the Texans:

1. Stephen Burton – The Vikings' seventh-round pick in 2011 hasn't had much of a chance to shine since leaving the hardscrabble (we assume) fields of West Texas A&M. With seven total catches in his first two NFL seasons, he's clearly fighting for a job this year. His performance on Friday gave him a leg up on the competition. The 52-yard catch-and-run, complete with the stop-on-a-dime cutback at midfield that broke the play wide open, surely caught your eye. I was more sold on his downfield blocking, particularly on Zach Line's rumble down the sideline for the Vikings' sole touchdown of the night. Those are the kinds of plays that will help Burton stick around in Minneapolis for another glorious season of Vikings football.

2. Cordarrelle Patterson – We're going to have to learn how to spell this guy's name without looking it up pretty soon (pro tip: if you think a consonant should be doubled, you're probably right). Because it's becoming increasingly clear the Vikings are going to find a way to get the ball in his hands this year. His 50-yard kickoff return to open the game electrified the crowd (as much as one can electrify a preseason crowd) and he showcased his guts and girth by going over the middle and bouncing off would-be tacklers en route to a 4-catch, 54-yard night. I'm still not sure he got all 10 toes in bounds on that sideline catch in the second quarter, and you can quibble about him letting a Matt Cassel dying quail slip through his fingers, but for one week at least, you can close your eyes and imagine Patterson picking up at least some of the slack left by Percy Harvin's departure.

3. Sharrif Floyd – Playing the role of Kevin Williams on Friday night (because Williams was playing the role of a highly paid spectator, like most of the Vikings' starters), Floyd batted down a pass at the line, broke through for a tackle-for-loss, and generally provided energy on the second-team d-line. He gave everybody quite a scare when he crumpled to the ground with a knee injury, but postgame reports indicate that he could have returned had the game meant anything, which, of course, it most definitely did not, unless you're the Wilfs' accountant. But he's got a lot on his mind this week anyway, so Floyd joined his mentor on the sidelines for the remainder of the game and that's probably for the best.

4. John Carlson – No former Notre Dame player who didn't have a fake girlfriend was more eager to see the 2013 season begin than Carlson, who cashed a big paycheck to come back home and then caught only eight balls in another injury-riddled season. On Friday, with fellow ex-Domer Kyle Rudolph a mildly interested spectator, Carlson was on the other end of two passes from Cassel. One took the offense inside the 5-yard line before True MVP Blair Walsh hit the first of his two field goals on the night. The other was a quick-hitter that resulted in Carlson being quickly hit by numerous Texans. That he held onto both balls was a good sign. That he popped right back up and rejoined the fray was an even better sign. You might have heard that multiple tight ends are all the rage in the NFL these days, and if the Vikings can pair Rudolph with a healthy Carlson for 16 games, their offense will be a bit more dangerous on days when Peterson is held to 175 or so rushing yards.

 

Patrick Donnelly is a Senior Editor at SportsData, a contributor to the Vikings Yearbook, and has covered the Vikings for FOXSportsNorth.com, Viking Update and the Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @donnelly612.

VikesCentric: Bishop is latest Packer to cross St. Croix

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: July 24, 2013 - 9:15 AM

The NFL doesn't have a true offseason, what with the draft and OTAs and minicamps filling the time between the Super Bowl and the start of training camp. Even in the month-long quiet period, when most players and coaches and personnel types are reacquainting themselves with their families and friends and pets, the Vikings usually seem to make news.

They did so again on Monday, signing former Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop to a one-year contract. Thus Bishop becomes the latest in a long line of former Packers – Greg Jennings, Brett Favre, Darren Sharper, Ryan Longwell, et al – to cross the St. Croix River and catch on with Green Bay's rival to the west.

The signing is pretty low-risk for the Purple. Bishop, who will turn 29 in a month, spent all of last season on the Packers' IR with a torn hamstring, so when Green Bay decided to release him last week, he didn't have much leverage in contract negotiations. The Vikings, meanwhile, were prepared to go into training camp with Erin Henderson at middle linebacker and an assortment of rookies and undrafted free agent-types battling it out for the weakside spot.

Don't assume, however, that Bishop's presence means Henderson will automatically move back to his starting spot on the weakside. Reports from OTAs and minicamp were that Henderson was impressing in the middle, and Bishop has experience playing outside and inside in the Packers' 3-4 defense. The plan going forward appears to be to let both veterans get reps at both linebacker spots before the coaching staff settles on who will line up next to Chad Greenway and who'll play on the outside.

Given that Bishop racked up 8.0 sacks in his last two seasons with the Packers, don't be surprised if he finds himself on the weakside with a chance to rush the passer, leaving Henderson – who's more familiar with Alan Williams' defense – in the middle to call the signals.

Either way, sit back and enjoy hearing Packers fans whine about the defection of another one of their former favorite sons. That's always fun, no matter the time of year.

 

Patrick Donnelly is a Senior Editor at SportsData, a contributor to the Vikings Yearbook, and has covered the Vikings for FOXSportsNorth.com, Viking Update and the Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @donnelly612.

VikesCentric: Brinkley, Titans QBs and the dome

Posted by: Updated: October 5, 2012 - 1:59 AM

Time to break out a new feature here at VikesCentric – we'll call it the Friday 3-and-out. Sure, that name has a negative connotation for the offense, but let's look at the glass as half-full and think about the 3-and-outs forced by the Vikings defense this year. Three quick plays and the opponents are back on the bench. In the same spirit, the Friday 3-and-out will offer three quick-hitting opinions about the state of the Purple, then get you on your way to your weekend preparations for the big game. 

1. Jasper Brinkley has been the Vikings MSP. That's Most Surprising Player, for if not for Brinkley's seemingly out-of-nowhere performance this year, 3-1 could easily be 1-3, if not worse. Brinkley's previous moment in the sun came in his rookie season, when he stepped into the starting lineup in place of the injured E.J. Henderson late in the magical 2009 Favreapalooza and didn't embarrass himself too much. He returned to the anonymous world of special teams in 2010, then sat out all of last year with a hip injury. But he's filled the Vikings' middle linebacker spot admirably this year, even taking over nickel duties when that other Henderson kid sat out with a concussion the last two weeks. He's never been the most athletic guy on the field, but he's been able to get deep enough to disrupt the passing game in the Cover-2 (something Erin Henderson failed to do on that TD pass to Reggie Wayne in Week 2) and posted a career-high 10 tackles last week in the win at Detroit. That's about as much as the Vikings could have hoped for out of a fifth-round draft choice in his fourth year as a pro. 

2. The Vikings didn't necessarily catch a break with Jake Locker sitting out Sunday. Yeah, he's the Titans' starting quarterback, but that's mainly because the Titans know they're not going anywhere this year so they might as well build for the future and see what they've got in Locker. Instead, the Vikings will face Matt Hasselbeck, a savvy veteran who will be a test for a young secondary that hasn't faced a quarterback more experienced than Alex Smith yet this year. One of Locker's strengths is his ability to keep defenses on their toes by running the ball, but it's not like the Titans were going to game-plan much in the way of a ground game against the Vikings' stout rush defense. Their best hope to win is to protect the quarterback, let him sit in the pocket and try to pick apart Chris Cook and Josh Robinson on the outside. That's not Locker's strength, but Hasselbeck just might be up to the task. 

3. The dome will play a big role on Sunday. Not necessarily the crowd noise – Hasselbeck's presence in the Titans' backfield probably mitigates that to some extent. But have you checked out the weekend forecast? We could climb all the way back into the mid-50s by gametime, but then again, given Minnesota's notorious weather swings, we could be trudging through snow by then. Regardless, this will be the first time this season that fans will be thankful for that glorious Teflon roof. Stay toasty, my friends. 

Patrick Donnelly is a Senior Editor at SportsData, a contributor to the 2012 Vikings Yearbook, and has covered the Vikings for FOXSportsNorth.com, Viking Update and the Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @donnelly612.

 

VikesCentric: More rehearsal needed

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: August 24, 2012 - 10:49 PM

In NFL circles, the third preseason game is cleverly referred to as the "dress rehearsal" for the regular season. Teams use the third game to hone their timing for Week 1 by playing their starting units longer than in any of the other exhibition contests before resting the regulars in the fourth game in an effort to preserve their health. Suffice it to say Friday night's dress rehearsal didn't exactly go as planned for your Minnesota Vikings.

 
Yes, the Chargers needed a walk-off field goal to win the game 12-10. But anyone who witnessed what took place at Mall of America Field knows this was not at all what Leslie Frazier had in mind.
 
Before delving head-first into the negativity, know that I looked really hard to find a silver lining in Friday's messy showing. Believe me, I did. And the best I could come up with was that a fan won a trip to Cancun during a first-half promotion down on the field. Seriously, that's the best I could do.
 
The Vikings defense held the Chargers to 202 total yards and no touchdowns. Normally that would be impressive, but the Bolts didn't get the memo on the whole "dress rehearsal" deal. San Diego de-activated 18 players, including three-fifths of their injured offensive line starters, injured starting running back Ryan Mathews, as well as completely healthy quarterback Philip Rivers and tight end Antonio Gates.
 
Holding Charlie Whitehurst in check just isn't the same as flummoxing Rivers.
 
The Vikings' first-team offense was utterly listless, as Christian Ponder led the starters to three points even though they played deep into the third quarter.
 
The closest thing to a first-team offensive highlight came about midway through the second quarter when Christian Ponder finally hooked up with Percy Harvin downfield after a few earlier missed connections. The 40-yard, over-the-shoulder grab was a thing of beauty… but was quickly followed three plays later by a Chargers interception with 8:32 remaining in the first half. The pick was ruled a drop at first, but the fill-in referees overturned the call while Vikings fans amused themselves by doing the wave and paying no discernible attention to the game. If this had been a regular season game, the reversal would have been the fans' cue to boo lustily and berate the refs even though it was the right call.
 
Yeah, it was a bad dress rehearsal for the fans too.
 
It was kind of hard to blame them, given what they were watching. However, I have no excuses for the woman who quite literally failed the dress rehearsal by wearing a No. 85 Jim Kleinsasser jersey. I had to double-check the media guide to be sure, but Jimmy never wore any number other than 40 with the Vikes. Sigh.
 
Other sad trombone performances included first-round draft pick Matt Kalil looking like a rookie for the first time this preseason. Chargers pass-rushers seemed to give him consistent trouble and the big left tackle was beaten in the first quarter for a sack by Chargers linebacker Larry English – that's third-string linebacker Larry English if you are following along on your Chargers depth chart.
 
Backup running back Matt Asiata made the strongest bid at being my Vikings silver-lining player, rushing for 48 yards on nine carries and scoring the go-ahead touchdown with just under two minutes left, but the silver was tarnished somewhat by the third-quarter fumble he lost at the Chargers' four-yard line. Fellow running backs Lex Hillard and Derrick Coleman also coughed up fumbles.
 
In all the Vikings turned the ball over four times, punted five times, allowed five sacks and were flagged six times for 81 yards.
 
It was more mess rehearsal than dress rehearsal.
 
One week after selling a heaping helping of hope to their fans with a 36-14 shellacking of the Bills it seems the Vikes have a lot more rehearsing to do between now and the start of the real games. It's enough to make you wonder whether they might call an audible and give their starters a little extra run next Thursday in their preseason finale against Houston.
 
 
Bo Mitchell is the VP of Content at SportsData and co-host of the Fantasy Football Weekly radio show on KFAN 100.3 FM.
 
You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

VikesCentric: Do the Vikings have any chance at Lambeau?

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: November 9, 2011 - 5:32 PM

Last Wednesday, when I was on KFAN with Paul Allen, he was already looking 12 days down the road past the bye week to Monday night's game against the Packers in Green Bay. I couldn't really blame him since he's the "voice of the Vikings" and the team had the week off. Why not look down the road a bit? After all, there was nothing very worthwhile to look back on from the first half. 

However, I was a little caught off-guard when PA not only looked ahead but suggested that the Vikings might be able to beat the Packers and then run the table.
 
Now, I know Paul drinks a lot of Purple Kool-Aid (I'm pretty sure it's in his contract) and I know he lives and dies with the Vikings. But I assumed he was being a little tongue-in-cheek with this particular bit of speculation. I played along and said the Vikings could give the Pack a game if they played them as well as they did in Week 7 at the dome when they only lost by six.
 
I went on with PA again this Wednesday and, and even though he didn't bring up his fanciful notion that the Vikings might pull the massive upset this Monday, I could tell he was fired up. Then I saw his "Bits and Boredom" post for Wednesday over on KFAN.com where he once again speculates how tremendous it would be if the Vikings won the rest of their games.
 
As you can see from the link, just above the post is a clip of Gary Wright's 1976 classic "Dreamweaver."
 
Yeah, PA is dreaming and he knows it.
 
No one in their right mind can seriously think the Vikings are going to make a playoff run this season, to say nothing of their chances of "running the table." Not a chance. But do the Vikings have a shot of defeating the Green Bay Packers in prime time to end their 14-game winning streak? Any chance at all?
 
I certainly don't think they do. Nor do the Vegas odds-makers who have installed the Super Bowl champs as a two-touchdown favorite.
 
Based on the "on any given Sunday... or in this case, Monday" rule, however, the Vikings have a shot. Anyone has a shot of beating anyone else, I suppose. So what is the Vikings' perfect recipe for winning on Monday night?
 
I can think of only a few scenarios that don't have something to do with an injury that knocks Aaron Rodgers out of the game – which I would never root for, and not just because Rodgers is on a few of my fantasy football teams. Rodgers might be the best player in the NFL right now and – even if you despise the Green and Gold, as I suspect a high percentage of those reading this blog do – he is darn fun to watch if you call yourself a football fan. He's having a season for the ages. Any defeat of the Packers that doesn't include Rodgers would be a hollow victory. Let's not go with the injury scenario.
 
So how do the Vikings beat the Packers with Rodgers at the helm?
 
The most obvious answer might be to keep the ball away from him as much as possible. Despite the Packers' feeble pass defense, no team has been able to out-point their fast-break offense this season. The Chargers tried to last week, but fell short.
 
Playing keep-away might be the only way.
 
And if any team is uniquely qualified to play keep-away, it's the Minnesota Vikings. They have the NFL's best running back, fresh off his bye week. Give Adrian Peterson 30 carries. Give Toby Gerhart 10. Give Percy Harvin a handful. Run, run, run, and run the clock down. Long drives will give the Packers fewer chances to score and keep the Vikings defense fresh. It's an age-old strategy – one that every team that has faced the Packers this season has undoubtedly already considered.
 
Sounds great in theory, huh?
 
A win over the dreaded rivals from the East on Monday night in an otherwise joyless season might be enough to do the unthinkable: put a smile on the faces of Vikings fans.  In reality, though, I think we'll have funding approved for a new Vikings stadium before this team beats the Packers again.
 
Vikings fans: suspending reality for a moment, what is your dream scenario for beating the Packers on Monday night? Share your winning recipe for the Vikes in the comments section below.
 
Bo Mitchell is VP of content at SportsData and co-host of the Fantasy Football Weekly radio show on Saturday mornings on KFAN 100.3 FM.
 
You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

VikesCentric: Pondering a change …

Posted by: Updated: September 26, 2011 - 12:47 AM

The Vikings keep finding more creative ways to lose games, and in the wake of the ever-stupefying defeats, naturally fans are looking for somebody to blame. Leslie Frazier, Bill Musgrave, Tyrell Johnson, Ragnar … hell, there are probably some people still mad at Bob Schnelker.

But the No. 1 target of the fans' disdain is quarterback Donovan McNabb. The scorn is justified. McNabb has been everything we saw last year in his dismal stint with the Redskins – inconsistent, indecisive, and all too inaccurate. So naturally, Vikings fans and even some in the media have begun calling for Frazier to bench McNabb in favor of rookie Christian Ponder.

I understand the argument – I really do. McNabb has been just shy of terrible, three other rookie quarterbacks (Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert and Andy Dalton) are already starting even though Ponder was dubbed the most "NFL-ready" of the No. 1 draft picks, and the backup quarterback is always the most popular guy on the roster.

So I understand the calls for Ponder. I just don't agree with them.

To be clear, this is not a defense of McNabb. He's been the main reason for the three straight second-half collapses – the offense has done next to nothing after halftime all year, leaving the defense tired and exposed. He can't throw downfield (though his receivers and offensive line are a huge part of that dynamic), and when he had a chance to hit Bernard Berrian (!) with a potential game-winning TD on Sunday, McNabb's throw fluttered harmlessly out of bounds.

But this decision should have nothing to do with McNabb. Remember, when the Vikings traded for the veteran quarterback, they told us he was brought here to protect Ponder. The Vikings brain trust didn't want to rush the rookie. They didn't want to force-feed their No. 1 draft pick to NFL defenses before he was ready, and the offseason labor stoppage cost him valuable time to master Musgrave's offense.

Thus, it really doesn't matter if McNabb throws for 39 yards in a game, or can't hit an open man in the end zone, or throws ball after ball at his receivers' feet. Because this decision isn't about McNabb – or at least it shouldn't be.

The only factor that matters is whether Vikings coaches believe that Ponder is ready to start. If there's any chance that playing Ponder right now will risk long-term damage to his development – or endanger his health, given the Vikings' pass-protection issues of late – there's no reason to throw him to the wolves right now.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this team is not Super Bowl-bound. I'll admit that when the season started, I thought the Vikings were about an 8-8 team – maybe they'd catch a few breaks, win a couple tossup games and pull out a Wild Card berth. Well, they've now had three of those tossup games, and they've lost them all.

Sure, it's frustrating to watch an over-the-hill McNabb waste three straight impressive performances by the Vikings defense with second-half performances that would make Spurgeon Wynn cringe.

But even if you think Ponder gives them the best chance to win right now, there's no sense in calling on the rookie quarterback to save the season, because there's nothing to save.

The Vikings traded for Donovan McNabb to serve as a bridge to the Christian Ponder Era. No need to cross that bridge until you have a better idea of what's on the other side.
 

Patrick Donnelly is a Senior Editor at SportsData, contributor to the Maple Street Press Vikings 2011 Annual (on newsstands now!), and has covered the Vikings for FOXSportsNorth.com, Viking Update and the Associated Press.

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