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Short of a healthy Bradford, Vikings at least need QB clarity

If the escalation of concern of Sam Bradford’s knee injury was subtle over the last week-plus — from showing up on the injury report last week, to being limited in practice to missing the Steelers game to another few days of limited practice time this week — Friday brought a more dramatic jolt.

Per an ESPN report, Vikings fans read the words they never want to read about a starting quarterback: “second opinion … Dr. James Andrews … pronounced pain.” Those were exact words in Adam Schefter’s tweet about Bradford.

In my experience in life and in sports, you don’t generally get a second opinion if you like the first one.

Not long after the reports started flying, the Vikings officially ruled him out for Sunday’s home game against Tampa Bay.

The optimism level from 10 days ago, when the Vikings were coming off a Monday Night opener in which Bradford played his best game in purple and perhaps even as a pro, to where it is now has clearly dropped dramatically.

But while there is no direct good news in any of Friday’s Bradford updates, there is at least this that could come from a second opinion: A better chance at some sort of clarity on this injury and the associated timetable for recovery.

When asked about Bradford’s health after a 26-9 loss to the Steelers in which backup Case Keenum had played like, well, a backup, head coach Mike Zimmer offered a vague and perhaps facetious assessment that Bradford could return in one week or six weeks. Even a day later when Zimmer was in a better mood, he talked about how he didn’t have a crystal ball to predict Bradford’s return.

That exasperation had dual roots: It’s hard enough to be without your quarterback; not knowing how long you’ll be without him makes it even worse.

Not being able to diagnose the severity of an injury and waiting for it to heal — or not — puts a team in a holding pattern. That’s particularly true of the Vikings, who have playoff aspirations and as complicated a quarterback situation as you could ever imagine.

Bradford is a free agent after this season with a history of knee problems. The QB he replaced, Teddy Bridgewater, is trying to get healthy enough to return this year. But Bridgewater still has to prove he’s recovered from his own major injury and the Vikings have a contractual incentive to keep him inactive all season.

Keenum is a guy who can probably hold down the fort for 2-3 games – he should look better Sunday against Tampa Bay – but he’s not a quarterback who will take you to the playoffs. Newly elevated backup Kyle Sloter is an undrafted rookie. Meanwhile, the best available free agent quarterback is Colin Kaepernick – a player many feel is being blackballed by NFL teams for his social justice stand.

But until the Vikings have a handle of Bradford’s injury, it’s hard for them to know how to proceed. Having Andrews look at it and deem the injury short-term would be ideal. Having him find something more serious that requires an extended absence would be bad for Bradford but would be the next-best-thing for the Vikings.

In the latter case, the onus would be on the Vikings and GM Rick Spielman to make a fascinating, difficult decision about 2017 and beyond. We’d find out a lot about what they think about their overall team this season and the urgency level Spielman is feeling. We’d find out what they think of Keenum and how healthy they think Bridgewater is at this point — and maybe even what they think of Sloter or available quarterbacks like Kaepernick.

Without clarity? It’s more day-to-day, week-to-week until time potentially runs out on making an actual decision.

Rhodes among NFL's worst corners, Alexander is Vikings' best?

Pro Football Focus has become somewhat of a football statistics bible.

Just like any sacred text, though, that can mean two different things to those who read it: some treat it as the definitive final word on everything, while others believe it is more open to interpretation.

I tend to think of PFF in the second way. The various data produced by those who work for the site is generated by a thorough review of game film, which makes it more useful than a lot of other evaluations. But any grade is inherently subjective, particularly since each player’s assignment on every play can be complicated and known only to his team.

With that as a windup, there are some very interesting grades from PFF as they pertain to Vikings cornerbacks this season. This is only through two games — an exceedingly small sample size — but I think most of you would agree the grades deviate from what the eye test and overall narrative have suggested this season.

Out of 106 cornerbacks ranked at the moment (subscription required), four of them play for the Vikings. They go, in order: Mackensie Alexander, Terence Newman, Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes.

The two stunners in that mix: Alexander, at No. 29 overall with a very solid 79.1 rating, is the top Vikings corner. And Rhodes, with a dreadful 44.0 rating, is 81st out of 106.

Rhodes spent much of last season among the top 25 PFF corners, ranking 14th in a piece they wrote in late November. He was generally thought to have played well the first two games of this season, holding Michael Thomas in check in Week 1 against New Orleans and keeping Antonio Brown to five catches for 62 yards in Week 2 against Pittsburgh.

Yet Rhodes finds himself ranked barely ahead of Waynes, who is 87th out of 106 corners with a 42.9 rating (though he does have one of the best run-defense grades among corners).

Alexander, a second year corner who was enough of a question mark coming into this season that the Vikings made a late trade to add Tramaine Brock, finds himself ahead of even Newman — a PFF darling who finished in their top 10 last year. Newman is still a respectable 43rd this season with a rating of 74.8.

So is this just a case where a few plays have skewed the sample size (even if it’s hard to find those plays as they pertain to Rhodes)? Is it a case where film review is showing something we’re missing during games? Or is it a reason to be skeptical of PFF as the football bible?

It could be some combination of all three, but it bears watching as the season goes along if Rhodes and Waynes are the future of this secondary.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

< >
  • Colorado at Wild (preseason)

    5 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Twins at Detroit

    5:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • FC Dallas at Loons

    7 pm on Ch. 29, 1500-AM

  • Twins at Detroit

    11:10 am on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Tampa Bay at Vikings

    12:05 pm on Ch. 9, 100.3/1130

  • Los Angeles at Lynx

    2:30 pm on Ch. 5, 106.1-FM

  • Wild at Colorado (preseason)

    6 pm on 100.3-FM

  • Twins at Cleveland

    6:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Los Angeles at Lynx

    7 pm on ESPN2, 106.1-FM

  • Wild at Dallas (preseason)

    7:30 pm on 100.3-FM

  • Twins at Cleveland

    6:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Twins at Cleveland

    11:10 am on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Wild at St. Louis (preseason)

    7 pm on 100.3-FM

  • Detroit at Twins

    7:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Lynx at Los Angeles

    8 pm on ESPN2, 106.1-FM

  • Maryland at Gophers football

    11 am on FS1, 100.3-FM

  • Detroit at Twins

    6:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Dallas at Wild (preseason)

    7 pm on 100.3-FM

  • Loons at Houston

    7:30 pm on Ch. 29, 1500-AM

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Today's Scoreboard

  • LA Angels

    Houston

     

    - F

    2

    6

  • Chicago Cubs

    Milwaukee

     

    - F

    3

    4

  • NY Yankees

    Toronto

     

    - F

    5

    1

  • Boston

    Cincinnati

     

    - F

    5

    0

  • Cleveland

    Seattle

     

    - F

    11

    4

  • Minnesota

    Detroit

     

    - F

    10

    4

  • Tampa Bay

    Baltimore

     

    - Top 8th

    5

    1

  • St. Louis

    Pittsburgh

     

    - Top 7th

    6

    10

  • Philadelphia

    Atlanta

     

    - Bot 8th

    2

    2

  • Kansas City

    Chicago White Sox

     

    - Top 8th

    8

    2

  • Washington

    NY Mets

     

    - Top 8th

    3

    3

  • Miami

    Arizona

     

    - Top 4th

    6

    4

  • Colorado

    San Diego

     

    - Top 4th

    0

    0

  • Texas

    Oakland

     

    - Bot 2nd

    0

    1

  • San Francisco

    LA Dodgers

     

    - Bot 2nd

    1

    0

No NFL games today

No NBA games today

  • Los Angeles

    Vancouver

     

    - F

    4

    3

  • Colorado

    Minnesota

     

    - F

    1

    2

  • Toronto

    Buffalo

     

    - F

    3

    1

  • Boston

    Detroit

     

    - F

    1

    5

  • NY Rangers

    New Jersey

     

    - F

    1

    2

  • Montreal

    Ottawa

     

    - F

    1

    5

  • Carolina

    Washington

     

    - F

    4

    1

  • Dallas

    St. Louis

     

    - 2nd, 1:42

    2

    0

  • Columbus

    Chicago

     

    - 2nd, 15:30

    1

    1

  • San Jose

    Arizona

     

    - 1st, 4:20

    1

    3

  • Winnipeg

    Edmonton

     

    - 1st, 3:41

    1

    2

  • Houston

    New York City FC

     

    - F

    1

    1

  • Toronto FC

    New England

     

    - F

    1

    2

  • Chicago

    Philadelphia

     

    - F

    1

    3

  • San Jose

    D.C.

     

    - F

    0

    4

  • New York

    Columbus

     

    - F

    2

    3

  • FC Dallas

    Minnesota

     

    - End 2nd

    1

    2

  • Seattle

    Real Salt Lake

     

    - H

    0

    0

  • Colorado

    Vancouver

    9:00 PM