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.

VikesCentric: What can we really expect from Adrian Peterson in Week 1?

Posted by: AJ Mansour under Vikings, Lions, Adrian Peterson Updated: September 6, 2014 - 9:19 AM

Zero.

Zero touchdowns, zero rushes, zero yards, zero snaps. That’s how Adrian Peterson’s stat line reads for this year’s four game preseason session. While every single one of his teammates was out on the field getting into game shape for this weekend’s season opener, Adrian stayed on the sidelines simply observing.

But there wasn’t any nagging injuries pushing him to the side, there was no differing viewpoint with the coaching staff. Nope, it was just the plan from the beginning to keep Peterson sidelined throughout the exhibition season.

This idea isn’t anything new for the rookie coaching staff. In each of the previous two seasons, Adrian has had the same empty stat line through the preseason.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Peterson said this week. “For me even more so, not participating in the preseason…The first couple years [of sitting out] it was hard. I’m a savvy vet now so I understand the big scheme.”

The idea behind this concept is to protect him. Keep any and all needless wear and tear off his body and he should last longer. Seems to make sense.

“I’ve been in the league for a long time,” Peterson continued. “Preseason, there’s a lot that comes with that, wear and tear on the body and taking chances as well. We’d just rather not take any chances. We’ll take chances, but take them in the regular season when it counts.”

So, with no in-game practice, no contact and no full speed play, what can we expect from that man that we so affectionately call “the best running back in the league” when he takes to the football field for the first time this year against the Rams on Sunday?

If history is any indicator, Adrian isn’t missing much by sitting out of the preseason.

In seasons where he hasn’t seen any carries during the preseason (2012, 2013), Adrian is averaging 88.5 yards per game in the first week of the year. He also has five touchdowns over those two games and is averaging over 5 yards per carry (5.06).

Extend that out to full season statistics in years where he has no preseason activity and Peterson is averaging 1,681.5 yards per year in those seasons. That’s more than 300 yards better than in seasons where he has played the preseason (1,350.4 yards).

But what about against this week’s opponent, the St. Louis Rams?

Admittedly, this year’s Rams squad is a different bunch than the group that Peterson most recently faced in 2012, but there are a few hangovers. That said, the last time Adrian took the field against St. Louis it was a Week 15 matchup in which Adrian ran wild for 212 yards including a career long 82-yard touchdown run.

“I remember that game,” Peterson said earlier this week. “From the secondary on down, those guys were talking so much noise. Then we ripped the long run on them and they got quiet. Hopefully things play out the same way [this year].”

AP also remembered getting off to a fast start last year in the Vikings week one matchup against the Detroit Lions. On his first carry of the 2013 season (again, zero preseason reps), Adrian cracked off a 78-yard touchdown run!

For what it’s worth, Adrian is predicting the same sort of success this weekend against the Rams.

“Touchdown, first run,” Peterson told us with a smile on his face.

It’s now the third year of Adrian being confined to the sidelines during the preseason and just like AP is finally figuring out the value in it, it appears that the fans are learning as well.

It goes without saying that we would all like to see Adrian on the field as much as possible during any point in the season. But if this week’s opponent, the St. Louis Rams, can teach us anything, understanding the balance of the risk and reward for playing during preseason is an important medium to find. They lost their starting quarterback Sam Bradford to a season ending ACL injury during this preseason.

But if there was still any doubt remaining in your mind, hopefully Adrian’s highlighted track record of success can provide a little added comfort as well. He will be fine. He’s a professional, and he’s still the best running back in the league.

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VikesCentric: Turner’s offense is primed for production

Posted by: Joe Oberle Updated: September 5, 2014 - 5:28 PM

We’ve heard it all before: Norv Turner is a successful offensive coordinator with a championship pedigree, but as a head coach, his teams have struggled in the playoffs. Well, if that’s true then it’s great he is the offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings, and is prepared to add another notch to his OC belt with this Vikings high-octane offense.

When criticizing the Turner hire as the Vikings offensive coordinator, some fans may confuse Turner’s head coaching record (118–126–1, including 4-4 in the playoffs) with his time as an OC for the San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins, San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns and Dallas Cowboys, where he helped win two Super Bowls. In his defense, head coach and OC require different skill sets, and the fact that he has all that head coaching experience can only help him assist first-time head coach Mike Zimmer.

"Norv's great,” Zimmer said. “The players love, not only his personality... he coaches very, very hard, but he has a fun side about him, as well. He's very demanding. He's been in so many different situations throughout the course of his career. It's great for me because I go in and talk to him about head coaching responsibilities all the time and during the course of football games we talk quite a bit about situations going on. It's been very, very fortunate for me to be able to hire a guy like him."

What’s not to like? In fact, those might have been Turner’s exact thoughts when he considered taking the Vikings job and looked at the offense he would inherit. Upon seeing Cordarrelle Patterson on the roster, he set to drawing up a number of plays for him. With Adrian Peterson (the best running back in the game) in his backfield, we can only imagine how that sent Turner’s mind to work.

St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher, who has known Turner since 1980 when Turner coached him as a defensive back for USC, said he knows that Turner is enjoying the tools he has to work with in Minnesota.

“I am very familiar with Norv and what he does,” Fisher said. “He always does an outstanding job. I would say Norv is probably walking around with a smile on his face right now because of the players he is working with. It’s a very, very explosive offense, and the longer they work together, the better they’re going to be.”

We saw glimpses in the preseason of what we can expect during the regular season, although that offense was pretty basic. But historically, Turner offenses rely on some explosive downfield passes, which open shorter underneath routes and some room for a running back. Turner likes to throw to his tight end and also exploit a pass-catching running back. That too is a simplistic overview until you start plugging in the players and their specific talents. Let’s take a look:

Adrian Peterson is the main cog of the offense. He will get the ball often—perhaps even more often than other running backs in Turner’s offenses have run the ball--yet, probably not as often as he has in the past. The Vikings have relied almost exclusively on Peterson the past few seasons as the passing game struggled. This year’s passing attack, however, will require more attention from opposing defenses and that should decrease the number of defenders (eight or nine) that teams typically put in the box to stop Peterson.

We are told that Peterson has been working on his pass catching out of the backfield—something former Turner disciple LaDainian Tomlinson made a career out of. Talk to Peterson and you will hear that he could always catch the ball, just never had to do it much and has gotten better at it. The proof of that will be in the pudding, as we’ll see if AP is taken out of the game on passing situations and replaced by Matt Asiata or rookie Jerick McKinnon, each of who can catch and run and also provide blitz protection.

Prediction: This season Peterson will rush for 1,600 yards, catch 45 passes (a career high) and have 14 touchdowns (one of them receiving).

Tight ends flourish in Turner offenses, and Kyle Rudolph is poised to take advantage of that. He came into camp leaner and faster and ready to be a leader, and Rudolph likes to lead by example. It seems like the preseason looks Rudolph got just scratched the surface of what he’ll be asked to do this season, but if the long, catch-and-run touchdown he scored in the preseason is any indication, he’ll get in the endzone often.

Prediction: If Rudolph can stay healthy (a caveat that applies to every NFL player), he will eclipse his Pro Bowl season of nine touchdown passes with 10 scores on 70 catches for 700 yards.

Turner was clearly drooling over Cordarrelle Patterson went he first saw him in OTAs; now on the precipice of the regular season, he is likely licking his chops. Patterson, like Percy Harvin and maybe even Randy Moss before him, is a unique talent in a Vikings uniform, and his OC recognizes it. Patterson will not have another season of the “Reverse Randy Ratio,” rather Turner will feature him until double team schemes try to take him away.

Prediction: Patterson will haul in 80 catches for 900 yards and nine touchdowns. Of course, he will also have a couple rushing and return touchdowns apiece to round out his total at 13.

When the Patterson double teams come look for Greg Jennings to benefit. He saw a lot of double coverage last season, as the team’s passing game did not have opposing defenses shaking in their boots. Jennings and quarterback Matt Cassel did form a connection last season, and, as two of the more senior members on the team, appear to be able to count on each other.

Prediction: Now as a secondary target, Jennings will catch 65 passes for 750 yards (roughly matching his 2013 numbers) but will improve in the touchdown category with five scores.

The Vikings offensive line is basically still intact from 2012, the year Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards, and Zimmer likes that continuity. That also means they are two years older, and for veteran left guard Charlie Johnson (30 years old), his age could be a concern. Johnson is flanked by former pro bowler Matt Kalil, who along with the rest of the line had a down year last season. (Plus Kalil put this performance on tape recently.) In addition, right tackle Phil Loadholt sprained an ankle this preseason but is ready to tee it up on Sunday. There are some question marks with this unit.

Prediction: As the line goes, so goes the offense, so it is a big year for them. And that’s what they will have.

If the No. 1 key to how well the Vikings perform this season is the play of the defense, than key No. 1-A is how the quarterback performs. Because Matt Cassel has been given the keys to an offense that should run like a Formula 1 racecar, and he need only steer it in the right direction (although that’s easier said than done).

While Cassel performed well enough late in the season last year to salvage some wins and make the starting job his to lose this year, his career has been marked by inconsistency and unfulfilled expectations. While playing in nine games (starting six) for the Vikings last season, Cassel had 153 completions in 254 passes (a 60.24 completion rate) with 11 touchdown passes versus nine interceptions. Even more will be needed from him in 2014.

Prediction: Providing Cassel leads the team to some early victories and remains at the helm this season, he will have 25 touchdown passes (if I added correctly above) versus 12 interceptions.

To me it comes down to Peterson. Cassel can hand off to Peterson and the box won’t be crowded as often for him when he does. Cassel has two great safety valves in Rudolph (a huge target) and Jennings (a crafty veteran who knows how to get open) when Patterson isn’t open deep. There are playmakers all over this offense and the defense will have some trouble figuring out what’s coming.

Turner is going to have a lot of fun running this offense. But for Vikings fans, it will be a blast to watch.

VikesCentric: Teddy will be ready when it's his time

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: August 27, 2014 - 9:11 AM

The three quarterbacks selected in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft – Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater -- will all open the season on their respective teams’ benches.

Chad Henne has been named the starting quarterback for the Jaguars. Brian Hoyer has been named the starting quarterback for the Browns. And Matt Cassel has been named the starting quarterback for the Vikings.

In a not-so-subtle effort to rile up some fan bases and stir up controversy, ESPN seized this opportunity to run a graphic on SportsCenter Tuesday morning showing the other quarterbacks selected in the first round of the NFL Draft since 2006 who did NOT start their first games as a professional. I double-checked their list just to make sure, and the players are as follows:

2011

Jake Locker

Blaine Gabbert

Christian Ponder

2010

Tim Tebow

2009

Josh Freeman

2007

JaMarcus Russell

Brady Quinn

2006

Vince Young

Matt Leinart

Jay Cutler

Of the 10 quarterbacks on the list, only two are still starting now (Cutler and Locker). Six are out of the league now (including Brady Quinn, who was released by the Dolphins yesterday). The other two are Gabbert and Ponder. Enough said, right? Time to leap to conclusions.

The implication of course is that nowadays, if a first-round quarterback doesn’t get the start from Game 1 of his career, it doesn’t bode well for his future. That may be true of recent history, but deductions based on small sample sizes and varied individual circumstances is bad science. In fact it’s not science.

Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill and Cam Newton all started their first games in the NFL. Are we to assume then that Bortles, Manziel and Bridgewater have no chance of being as good as any of these guys?

The comeback of course is that Brandon Weeden and Mark Sanchez both started their first games in the NFL, too. So there’s that.

I’m relatively certain that Jaguars, Browns and Vikings fans are glad their teams’ rookie quarterbacks aren’t being lumped onto the same list as those guys. Indeed I’m 100 percent sure Vikings fans are hoping Bridgewater’s career arc bears no similarities to those of Weeden or Sanchez.

As you might suspect (reading the bold print between the lines) my opinion of Bridgewater did not change when head coach Mike Zimmer named Cassel the starter on Monday. I figured from the beginning this was Cassel’s gig to lose, and to his credit he didn’t do so.

Coach Zimmer insisted Monday that Teddy really didn’t do anything wrong. It’s just, neither did Cassel.

“I’ve loved everything [Bridgewater has] done and it wasn’t anything that Teddy did or didn’t do but Teddy will be still, in my estimation, a great player for this franchise for years to come,” Zimmer said.

It is worth noting Bridgewater didn’t start his first three games at Louisville, either. Not starting from Game 1 in college frustrated him to the point of nearly quitting and transferring to a school closer to home. The reasoning: he would be able to start at a smaller school and he could better care for his mom, Rose, as she battled breast cancer. I detailed this trying time in Bridgewater’s life in my profile on him for the Official 2014 Minnesota Vikings Team Yearbook (available online and at the stadium).

Here’s an excerpt from that feature:

“My college plan wasn’t going the way that I wanted it to go, but that’s where the saying ‘delayed, never denied’ came into play… I wasn’t starting at first. I was telling my coaches, ‘I think I just want to go home, take care of my mom and get my education closer to home,’” Bridgewater told me.

He was close to walking away after just two games at Louisville, close to going home to help his mom. Close to changing all his plans. But he had a talk with the Cardinals team chaplain and decided to stick it out. His mom had taught him that mantra: “Blessings are never denied but they may be delayed.” It’s a saying you’ll still find on his Twitter page (@teddyb_h2o). Go back to May 8: “Delayed but never denied,” he tweeted shortly after the Vikings drafted him.

“It’s amazing how God works,” Bridgewater recalls. “Going into the week that we played Kentucky I had a great feeling that I was going to play and it just so happened our starting quarterback [Will Stein] was injured. I came in the game, I threw two touchdowns and we won the game.”

Bridgewater would go on to start against Marshall the following week and remained the starter for the rest of his career at Louisville.

You see, Bridgewater has been in this type of position before. I trust he learned from the Louisville experience that he shouldn’t get overly frustrated. He might be the one holding the clipboard and sipping Gatorade on the sideline in St. Louis a few weeks from now. But his time will come.

His number will be called.

It’s up to him to be prepared once it is, and on that front I’m convinced he will be.

We all saw it in the first three preseason games: Teddy passes the eye test. He looks like he belongs. He displays poise, flashes playmaking ability and puts points on the board.

He’ll be studying the entire time he’s forced to watch, taking mental reps with each snap of the ball Cassel takes.

One of the many things that stood out to me about Bridgewater from the time I sat down and interviewed him for the Yearbook piece back in June was his thirst for learning. He’s an absolute sponge.

He watches Cassel and Ponder closely.

“Just the way the guys approach each day has stood out to me,” Bridgewater told me. “I’ve just been able to learn from guys from a mental standpoint – seeing how guys prepare for practice, how Matt and Christian warm up, how they prepare themselves before they go in for their reps.”

Even when I switched gears in the conversation and asked Bridgewater about playing on the same team as Adrian Peterson, it didn’t take him long to go back to talking about studying and observing.

“It’s a great feeling knowing that you have the best running back in the National Football League behind you,” Teddy started, as most people would when asked about Peterson.

He then immediately added: “I’m just interested in learning from him also – from what motivates him, what gets him going, what drives him… For me it’s about the mental approach to the game. Because he’s had such success, I want to know what’s contributed to his success – his eating habits, his mental approach, his study habits, the way he trains his body in the weight room. I can’t wait to continue to learn from him.”

I walked away from that conversation awfully impressed with Bridgewater’s maturity, thoughtfulness, intelligence and eagerness to soak up all that he could.

Nothing is guaranteed, but if I were a betting man I’d say he has a much better chance of being the next Jay Cutler than the next Matt Leinart or JaMarcus Russell from that aforementioned list. He has the physical tools and you can bet he’s honing the mental tools as well.

No, he’s not starting in Week 1; but when he gets his chance, Teddy will be ready.

Head on over to VikingsJournal.com to join in on the discussion of Matt Cassel being named the starting quarterback and a look at whether Christian Ponder would be a good trade fit for the Rams.

Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at SportsData, head writer at VikingsJournal.com, co-host of the Fantasy Football Pants Party at 1500ESPN.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.

You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

VikesCentric: Preseason positives

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: August 25, 2014 - 9:51 AM

Who doesn’t need a little positivity on a Monday morning? In particular, “Purple Positivity.” While the Vikings remain unsettled at a couple starting positions and have had a few worrisome performances from key players, the overall vibe through three-quarters of their “meaningless” preseason games has been quite positive.

Preseason records are basically hollow. They matter about as much as dental floss to a state fair carny. There is no direct correlation between preseason NFL success and regular season success or vice versa. Thus, I really hesitate to mention (but will anyways as I did on Twitter Saturday night) that the last time the Vikings began the preseason 3-0 was 2009 – the year they went 12-4 and advanced to the NFC Championship. Just file that away in case similar success transpires this season. That way we can all look back fondly and say “we knew it all along… saw it coming in August.”

Having said all that, it’s generally better when your team plays well, stays healthy and wins some games as opposed to the alternative in preseason. It can’t hurt team confidence.

A few more preseason statistical positives to take with a large grain of salt: through Saturday the Vikings ranked eighth in the NFL with 70 points scored and fifth in the NFL with 46 points allowed. Their plus-24 differential ranked fifth in the league. Again, all truly meaningless, but I think we can all agree it’s better than ranking near the bottom in all those categories. The Vikings finished 1-3 each of the last two preseasons and had a cumulative differential of minus-32 points.

No doubt, the Norv Turner offense looks like it has some viable weapons and should be in good hands at quarterback… and we haven’t even seen Adrian Peterson play in this offense yet. By the way, I think that goes beyond just “keeping Adrian healthy.” I think there’s some gamesmanship at play here, too. The coaching staff doesn’t want to unveil the new ways in which Peterson will be used this season. Hint: catching more passes and even split out wide on occasion. That’s a different topic for a different post.

Let’s see if we can even spin the somewhat bad news into a positive.

The Vikings still haven’t settled on two of the starting positions in the back seven on defense: middle linebacker and strong safety.

Middle linebacker appears to be a two-horse race. Jasper Brinkley started against the Chiefs Saturday night and appears to be slightly ahead of Audie Cole in the battle at MIKE. Cole (33 snaps) got a longer look than Brinkley (20 snaps) against the Chiefs, though, so this one will probably be decided Thursday night in Nashville. I prefer Cole; however, neither has played an entirely clean game this preseason and the position will likely remain one of worry for Vikings fans regardless of who starts in Week 1.

The bigger concern is at strong safety. Chris Crocker, 34, started Saturday and is the most familiar with head coach Mike Zimmer’s defense having played for him in Cincinnati. The worrisome part is that the Vikings had to go out and sign the 12-year veteran just three weeks ago because nobody else was taking charge at the position. Robert Blanton made his preseason debut against the Chiefs and played 34 snaps to Crocker’s 10 after missing three weeks with a strained hamstring. He could still make a late push. Others in the mix include Kurt Coleman and Andrew Sendejo, both of whom played fewer snaps than Blanton Saturday. Jamarca Sanford’s chances were sabotaged by a quad injury Saturday. Vikings fans shouldn’t feel particularly good about any of these choices. I would not be stunned if the team brought in another safety to look at following roster cuts this week.

The positive spin: the rest of the starting jobs are basically settled.

Zimmer is reportedly set to name Matt Cassel the starting quarterback this morning. The positive here is that both Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater have looked pretty good this preseason and if Cassel got hurt or had a run of bad games few people would feel uncomfortable with the reins being handed to the rookie.

More positives: Blair Walsh looks like he’s back to being Blair Walsh after going 3-for-3 in field goal attempts Saturday.

The Vikings have four interceptions through three preseason games after having the fewest in the NFL over the last three years. The aggression on defense is noticeably different from the last couple seasons under Leslie Frazier.

First-round draft pick Anthony Barr is looking like a quick study. The defensive line rotation appears to be in good shape. Particularly impressive on Saturday were Fred Evans and Shamar Stephen.

Despite some inconsistent play from Matt Kalil at left tackle, the offensive line looks pretty strong – and the center, right guard duo of John Sullivan and Brandon Fusco is as good as you’ll find in the NFL.

Just as I hesitated to address preseason records and stats above, mentioning the injury situation also gives me pause. Not that I believe in jinxes or anything, but knock on wood. If objective 1A during the preseason is settling on starters, a depth chart and roles, objective 1B has to be staying healthy. To that extent, the Vikings have again succeeded. Jamarca Sanford has a quad and Mistral Raymond (who is on the roster bubble) got hurt Saturday. The only other concerns are Linval Joseph, who should return in time for Week 1, and Phil Loadholt, who suffered a minor ankle contusion against the Chiefs.

Thursday’s game in Nashville against the Tennessee Tians will not feature many snaps from the starters. In fact, you can bet that some will join Adrian on the sideline and be kept far from harm’s way. The few remaining starting gigs and roster decisions will be on the line and with any luck the Vikings will escape the preseason relatively unscathed on the injury front.

It’s purple preseason positivity, people. Don’t get carried away with the Purple Kool-Aid and begin planning playoff parties. Just pass it on and enjoy it for what it is. The regular season starts in 13 days. Happy Monday.

Head on over to VikingsJournal.com to join in on the discussion of Matt Cassel being named the starting quarterback and a look at whether Christian Ponder would be a good trade fit for the Rams.

Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at SportsData, head writer at VikingsJournal.com, co-host of the Fantasy Football Pants Party at 1500ESPN.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.

You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

VikesCentric: In search of interceptions

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: August 20, 2014 - 7:14 AM

No NFL team has fewer interceptions over the last three seasons than the Minnesota Vikings. They have only managed to pick off 30 passes since 2011. For the mathematically impaired, that’s an average of 10 interceptions per year. For the NFL-impaired, that’s not good at all.

Frankly, anyone associated with the Vikings the past three seasons is shocked to a certain extent at the sight of an interception by someone wearing a Vikings uniform.

There were just three (!) interceptions by Vikings cornerbacks in 2013. Three. As in one more than two. That’s just absurd given that record numbers of passes are thrown in the NFL every year now and cornerbacks are usually right alongside the intended targets of most of those throws. By the way, the other two Vikings corners to intercept passes last year were A.J. Jefferson, who’s no longer on the team, and Shaun Prater, who’s a longshot to make the team this year. Sherels himself is on the roster bubble again this August.

Xavier Rhodes is being positioned as the Vikings’ No. 1 corner… only he didn’t have any interceptions as a rookie last season. Captain Munnerlyn, who was signed out of free agency following five seasons with the Carolina Panthers, is slated to start opposite Rhodes. Munnerlyn has seven interceptions in his career. That’s a little more than one per season, which qualifies him as a ball hawk among Vikings corners.

So what are the Vikings going to do about this interception dilemma? After all, something must be done. Takeaways lead directly to wins. Turnover ratio is one of the most telling statistics in the NFL.

The answer seems fairly simple – beyond just, you know, catching more passes thrown by the opponents. It’s all about defensive scheme.

Vikings fans were ecstatic when they learned that new head coach Mike Zimmer, whose specialty seems to be coaching up (and occasionally using “colorful” language towards) defensive backs, does not employ or probably even condone the Cover-2 defense. We’ve seen enough of the Cover-2 in Minnesota. It was a favorite of the previous administration and led to pillow-soft coverage.

The new name of the game on the Vikings defense is aggression. Sure, it might get you burnt sometimes, especially against some of the uber-talented receivers the Vikings have to contend with in the loaded NFC North. But more aggressive man-to-man coverage should also result in fewer easy receptions, more passes defensed and, by God, more interceptions.

One of the most shocking developments out of the Vikings’ final week of training camp in Mankato was not the fact that Teddy Bridgewater threw five interceptions in the span of two days, it was that the Vikings intercepted five passes in two days. I don’t think they keep records of such things (nor should they) but I’m guessing we haven’t seen an outburst of turnovers like that in Mankato for the better part of a decade.

Of course, training camp interceptions mean about as much as training camp touchdowns. Preseason interceptions are a little more meaningful, and new Vikings safety Kurt Coleman picked one off in the preseason opener against the Raiders to the delight of the Helga Horn-adorned faithful at TCF Bank Stadium.

Half of the Vikings’ interceptions last year came from linebackers and defensive linemen. That percentage has to change, and really should change in Zimmer’s defense. By the way, the Cincinnati Bengals intercepted 34 passes the last two seasons under Zimmer in the same scheme he’s transplanting to the Twin Cities. They had 20 picks last year, tied for fifth in the NFL.

Vikings safety Harrison Smith seems to have a nose for the football, having accounted for five of the team’s 22 interceptions over the past two seasons. He should be good for another handful of interceptions this season.

However, the biggest uptick in picks needs to come from the corners. Rhodes needs to step up in year two and begin picking off passes. Let’s start with one and let’s hope it comes in the first month of the season or else the kid might start wondering if he’s ever going to get one. Munnerlyn needs at least two or three as well.

Opposing quarterbacks have felt too comfortable throwing at the Vikings’ secondary the last three years. If that doesn’t change, this defense is in for another long season of getting sliced and diced by the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford.

Head on over to VikingsJournal.com for more reaction to the Vikings’ settlement with Chris Kluwe and take part in our contest to guess the exact date head coach Mike Zimmer names a starting quarterback.

Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at SportsData, head writer at VikingsJournal.com, co-host of the Fantasy Football Pants Party at 1500ESPN.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.

You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

VikesCentric: Fantasy football Q & A

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: August 18, 2014 - 7:09 AM

We are in the midst of fantasy football draft season. I can tell because my calendar is filling up with drafts and auctions, my Twitter feed is filling up with fantasy football questions and my refrigerator is filling up with beer. On that note, let’s take a look at six pack of burning questions (both Vikings and non-Vikings related) being kicked around by fantasy owners this week. Better yet, I’ll also attempt to answer said questions.

Q: Which of the top-ranked running backs concerns you the most?

A: Every year, several of the running backs ranked in the top-10 on cheat sheets turn out to be busts. It never fails. Be it due to injury or simply under-producing, there are disappointments every year – and when the disappointment is a top-flight running back that you likely spent a first or high second-round pick on, it can be tough to overcome. This season, one such running back sticks out like a sore thumb to me: Jamaal Charles of the Chiefs. He’s going in the top-3 in every draft, but has almost nothing around him on offense. If I’m an opposing defensive coordinator facing the Chiefs this season, I have one game plan: stop Charles and let Alex Smith try to beat me with his cute little four-yard passes.

Q: Which Vikings player is being most undervalued?

Few Vikings players are undervalued in drafts taking place within the Minnesota borders. However, Greg Jennings is one that stands out as getting absolutely no love. No, he didn’t have the greatest season in 2013, but neither did his quarterback for most of the year nor his offensive coordinator. Right now Jennings is going in about the 12th round, according to average draft position (ADP) statistics in ESPN.com leagues. He’s the 45th wide receiver off the board on average, behind highly suspect options such as Dwayne Bowe and Hakeem Nicks. Is this ADP info perfect? Hardly. But it’s an indication of a soft market for Jennings, who now finds himself playing in a Norv Turner offense and catching passes from Matt Cassel, with whom Jennings vibed last season. In the seven games Cassel either started or had the most playing time last year, Jennings had 41 receptions for 491 yards and four touchdowns. In the other nine games he had 27 receptions for 313 yards and zero touchdowns.

Q: Should Matt Cassel go undrafted in fantasy leagues?

Cassel is, in fact, going undrafted in standard-sized leagues nation-wide. However, I would argue he’s a solid QB2 in 12-team or even 10-team leagues. The more it becomes apparent he’s going to be the Week 1 starter, the more I’m moving him up my draft board. Right now I have him at 21 among quarterbacks. He’s not a fantasy starter, but given the weapons he has at his disposal and the offensive guru he has calling the shots, I don’t mind him as a plug-in player on certain weeks.

QB: Are you worried about Blair Walsh?

In a word: no. The naysayers are getting riled up after Walsh missed field goal attempts in each of his first two preseason games. One was from 51 yards, the other from 53. Those are kicks he usually made indoors. I do have him ranked a little lower this season, but he’s still a top-10 fantasy kicker in my book. Moving out from under the Teflon sky at the Metrodome to the elements at TCF Bank Stadium will have an effect but not enough to completely derail his fantasy value.

Q: Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel or Blake Bortles in a dynasty league?

Two weeks ago I thought this was going to be a redshirt season for Bortles, the top quarterback taken in this year’s NFL Draft. Now I’m not so sure. He’s definitely passed the eye test this preseason. The problem is that he has very few weapons in Jacksonville. Manziel doesn’t have it much better in Cleveland. I think he might get the nod over Brian Hoyer to start for the Browns, but no Josh Gordon would leave a giant hole in their receiving corps and the Browns are going to feature a run-heavy offense this season. Even though I think Cassel starts the season ahead of Bridgewater, the next two or three seasons should be bright for Teddy. He sure looked good on Saturday night, albeit with a second-string offense against a third-string defense, and when you compare his surrounding talent to the supporting cast in Jacksonville and Cleveland, it’s no contest (assuming Gordon remains suspended this season). I give the nod to Bridgewater.

Q: How would you rank Percy, Patterson and Crabtree in a full PPR league?

This is a Twitter question asked of me by @ryanhorner7 that I thought might be interesting to Vikings fans. The ESPN.com ADP metrics currently have Percy Harvin as the No. 20 wide receiver, Michael Crabtree at 21 and Cordarrelle Patterson at 24 so this is kind of a tough one. However, I’d rank them Patterson, Harvin and Crabtree in that order. We know Harvin’s upside, but we also now his downside: namely injury. Percy is a huge injury risk and plays in a Seattle offense that called the second-most rushing plays in the NFL last season. Crabtree is never healthy for more than five minutes either. Give me the dynamic Patterson in Norv Turner’s offense. He has the makings of a top-10 fantasy wide receiver.

By the way, you can also send me your fantasy football or Vikings-related questions and comments via Twitter any time and I will do my best to answer all of them.

Head on over to VikingsJournal.com for my updated fantasy football cheat sheet and take part in our contest to guess the exact date head coach Mike Zimmer names the Vikings’ starting quarterback.

Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at SportsData, head writer at VikingsJournal.com, co-host of the Fantasy Football Pants Party at 1500ESPN.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.

You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

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