Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.

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Posts about E.J. Henderson

Wrapping up the weekend in sports

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: September 25, 2011 - 6:35 PM
BLOG…
Congratulations to the Lynx for winning the Western Conference Finals. This sets up a big basketball week for me despite the lockout – I’ll be covering the Lynx in the WNBA finals, and Rick Adelman’s introductory press conference.
It’s nice to be able to say this about Glen Taylor’s operation without a hint of sarcasm: This is a great time to be a basketball fan in Minneapolis, even with a lockout.
On to the Vikings’ latest collapse. My column in the Monday paper will deal with the Vikings’ quarterback situation. Right now I’ll deal with the decision to try for a first down on fourth-and-1 from the Detroit 17 with 12 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Vikings led, 20-17, at that point. They hadn’t scored in the second half. The field goal unit ran onto the field, then was waved off. Donovan McNabb handed the ball to Toby Gerhart, who was lined up as a fullback ahead of Adrian Peterson, and Gerhart was stopped.
There are a number of problems with this sequence. Wouldn’t you rather give the ball to the NFL’s best running back? Yes. Of course.
But the first second-guess is the best second-guess in this case. The Vikings should have kicked the field goal. (And, by the way, I believe in first-guessing. So you can go back and see on my Twitter timeline that I said, before the play, that I’d kick the field goal.)
Even with Peterson carrying the ball, here’s the problem with going for it on fourth-and-1 from the 17: Even if you make the first down, you aren’t guaranteed an eventual touchdown. Odds are, you’d just wind up kicking a field goal, anyway. And you could turn the ball over, or take a sack, or get penalized, and wind up farther back than you started.
Kick the field goal, and the Lions have to score a touchdown to beat you. The Lions didn’t score a touchdown the rest of the way, winning the game with two field goals in regulation and one in overtime.
But if you’re going to go for it on fourth down, wouldn’t you want Jimmy Kleinsasser leading Adrian Peterson? Don’t you want your best player making the deciding play?
Lost in the loss is the outstanding play of the Vikings’ defensive ends, Jared Allen and Brian Robison. They dominated the line of scrimmage.
Both came into the season facing questions. Allen started slowly last year. Robison is considered undersized, and I wondered whether he’d hold up over the course of a game. Both have been excellent and relentless.
That’s the troublesome part of the Vikings’ struggles: They have a lot of admirable veterans who are seeing their last good year(s) wasted because the Vikings can’t get decent play out of the quarterback position.
I don’t doubt the effort or will of many of the Vikings’ veterans - Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Allen, Chad Greenway, E.J. Henderson, Steve Hutchinson. But the NFL is not about willpower; it’s about coaching, design, and offensive skill players. Discovered this stat as I was researching my Monday column: As offenses explode all around the NFL, the Vikings and McNabb have produced just one pass play longer than 24 yards. It was a screen pass that Toby Gerhart carried 42 yards.
That’s pathetic.               
Gophers football coach Jerry Kill is having more health problems.
I mean this seriously: He should take off the rest of the season. He needs to get control of his health. He also needs to understand that nobody ever wants to see him writhing on the sideline again.
His health issues aside, the Gophers have lost to New Mexico State and North Dakota State at home. Kill and his staff deserve blame, especially for their handling of the quarterback position. I’ll also blame Tim Brewster. He was supposed to be a great recruiter, yet the Gophers do not have better athletes than New Mexico State and North Dakota State. And their best athlete, MarQueis Gray, is playing out of position.
Max Shortell hasn’t won the starting quarterback job, but Gray has lost it. Start Shortell, start developing him, and put Gray at a position where he can help this team – slot receiver. You’d be improving two positions at once.
 
 
 

A Winter Park Wednesday

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: September 7, 2011 - 2:46 PM

Donovan McNabb conducted his first game-week press conference as a Vikings quarterback, and he was thoughtful and insightful. Must be the podium. He was a lot like Favre, except that he listened to the question and kept his answers shorter than 35 minutes. And he didn't ask himself rhetorical questions the way Favre did.

The Vikings appeared pretty close to completely healthy as we were allowed to watch the beginning of practice on Wednesday.

Here's my take on this team: I like the people, I'm not sure I like the mix.

I think Leslie Frazier has a good chance to become a very good coach. I think McNabb has a chance to have a bounce-back season. The Vikings still have elite players in Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, Antoine Winfield, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Chad Greenway. They have highly-useful veterans like Visanthe Shiancoe, Jim Kleinsasser, Steve Hutchinson, Michael Jenkins and E.J. Henderson.

But they lack the kind of youth movement that could give those veterans one last run at a championship. Kyle Rudolph may be the only young player who could be outstanding this season. The Vikings lack roster depth, are installing a new offense with a new quarterback without the benefit of offseason workouts, play in the same division as the best team in football and need to maintain close to perfect health to have a chance to post a winning record.

So, my pick for this teams is 7-9. They went 6-10 last year, and I think Frazier's steady hand will give them a chance to win one or two more games than they did during the crazy 2010 season.

Their best hope is that they can win the games they're supposed to win, that the Bears take a predictable fall and that the Lions aren't nearly as ready to win as most people think they are. To get to 9-7, McNabb will have to be sharp enough to lead the Vikings to wins in a lot of close games.

I would love to predict that the Vikings will go 10-6 and make the playoffs. After watching the Twins stumble around all season, I'd love to cover a playoff team. But I think this team's weaknesses in the secondary and on the offensive line will be exposed by quality opponents.

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I hear a lot of fans whining about the Twins calling up youngsters and putting them in the starting lineup. That's the way this works, folks. Take it from me: I covered the Twins as a beat writer from 1993-97. Watching the kids come up and play in September was the highlight of those seasons.

I'm most interested in Joe Benson. He's a multi-talented guy who can run, hit, hit for power, throw, and cover ground in the outfield. He seems to have charsma. He loves Springsteen (!). He plays with the energy of a football player - he was a standout running back in high school. And unlike a lot of the kids who have been called up this season, he seems to be after more than a big-league paycheck.

With the futures of Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel uncertain, Benson could be a key player for this team next year.

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I highly recommend reading our hockey writer, Michael Russo, these days, even if you don't care about hockey. His piece on Derek Boogaard's death, and his quick-reacting coverage of the airline tragedy in Russia are just the latest examples of his outstanding work.

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I'll be traveling to Green Bay for the season opener against the Saints tomorrow, then coming back and heading to San Diego for the Vikings' opener. I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 weekdays from now on, and I'll be calling in from Green Bay tomorrow at that time.

Quick stat from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Bob McGinn: Saints coach Sean Payton's career record is 53-33. Packers coach Mike McCarthy's is 53-34. And they've won the last two Super Bowls.

Tom Pelissero and I will run the Gardenhire Show and Sunday Morning Sports Talk from San Diego on Sunday morning, from 9:30-11. We'll do our first NFL picks, along with my buddy Tom Linnemann, and we'll have ESPN.com NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert on to preview the games.

I'll also be calling 1500espn at 6:20 p.m. tomorrow from Green Bay.

My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.

Enjoy the beginning of football season. I know I will.

Vikings postgame

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: December 29, 2009 - 12:24 AM

Ok, anyone who owns a TV can offer a thumbnail analysis of the Vikings.

The safeties don't make plays. The linebackers aren't nearly as dynamic without E.J. Henderson in the middle. Antoine Winfield is not himself. The pass rush has been thwarted by quick passes. The offense is lacking the big plays that send defenses reeling.

Or...we could simplify our analysis.

The 2009 Vikings are 7-0 at home and 4-4 on the road.

They are 9-1 on turf, and 2-3 on grass.

They have lost their last three games on grass, and their last two in cold weather.

On the first two pass plays of the Carolina game, Brett Favre slipped. Many times on Monday night, Adrian Peterson or Percy Harvin either slipped, or eased into a cut for fear of losing their balance.

The Vikings are a speed team, a turf team. Harvin, Bernard Berrian, Peterson, Chester Taylor _ they all look like different players when they can sprint and cut on turf. Favre looks more sure of himself in the Metrodome, and his cold-weather record on the road is undeniable even after his dramatic second-half comeback on Monday night.

The problem is, the Vikings now are in a position where they could find themselves playing a road game in the second round of the playoffs, or in the championship game if they make it that far. And they are not a good road team.

They also aren't strong against the pass of late, and every team likely to make the NFC playoffs can throw the ball at will.

All of which means that the Vikings are in big trouble. I wouldn't be surprised to see them beat the Giants at the Metrodome _ I don't think this team lacks gumption _ but I think that game will be meaningless in preparing the Vikings to win a road playoff game.

And after falling behind the Eagles in the playoff seeding on Monday night, they probably will have to win a road playoff game or two to advance to the Super Bowl.

-As I wrote in my column for the Tuesday paper, the negatives that led to and resulted from the loss to the Bears were trumped by watching Favre lead a dramatic second-half comeback. Isn't that why you watch sports, to see moments like that _ fourth-and-goal, 22 seconds left, Favre lofting the ball to Sidney Rice?

-Nice piece by our Myron Medcalf on Ralph Sampson III and basketball-playing sons in the Tuesday paper. Also a bunch of interesting quotes in Jerry Zgoda's Wolves feature on Al Jefferson's new view of the Triangle Offense.

Jefferson can be moody, but when he's in the mood to talk, he's a great quote, and a lot of Timberwolves people have told me he treats team employees better than 99 percent of the players who have come through town - which is a much better way to judge an athlete than by the way he treats the media or his superiors.

-I'll be on am-1500 at 6:40 with Reusse, then on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:14. I'm on with Matt Thomas on am-1500 at 7 p.m. Tuesday _ it'll be my last appearance with Matt before he leaves for Houston.

You can follow me on Twitter at SouhanStrib.

 

What a thumping

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: December 7, 2009 - 12:00 AM

Let's see, the Vikings couldn't run the ball, Adrian Peterson looks startlingly mortal, the offensive ilne is beat up, the defensive line got whipped, the secondary got exposed, the middle linebacker who was playing very well is lost for the season, and Brett Favre threw two awful interceptions and a couple more passes that should have been picked off.

Ah, but it didn't snow.

There are two reasonable ways to look at this game:

1) At 10-1, with the division pretty much clinched, coming off three easy games, the Vikings just weren't ready emotionally to do what it took to beat a good team fired up for a big game at home.

2) The Vikings' flaws can be exposed when they play good teams, especially good teams with dynamic passing games and physical fronts.

The Cardinals are physical and athletic, and Kurt Warner was very sharp Sunday night. I picked the Vikings to win because I expected either Matt Leinart to start or Warner to look woozy. Instead, he went after the Vikings' weaknesses with great success.

The Vikings need to get Antoine Winfield healthy. They also need to reestablish their running game, which, when it's working, strengthens the rest of their team.

Without a good running game, Favre becomes reckless and the defense can be exposed. This defense specializes in playing with a lead, or stuffing run-first teams. The Cardinals threw the ball with ease.

I've been saying for weeks now that Adrian Peterson appears to be playing with some kind of injury or limitation. He just doesn't look dynamic or fast right now. I also said during his first two seasons that we should enjoy him while he's healthy, because his running style does not portend a long career. Defenses are just too big, fast and violent to play running back for long without the ability to make defenders miss. Peterson takes a lot of big hits for a great back.

I've praised Brad Childress a lot the last two years, but I disagree with his insistence on keeping star players in the game after the game is decided. Shortly after he saw E.J. Henderson break his leg, he left Favre and Peterson in the game for the Vikings' last drive. Nothing good can come from that, and plenty of bad can result.

Several players looked quite shaken by Henderson's injury. E.J. has turned himself into a team leader after being a big question mark early in his career, and he was having an exceptional game Sunday.

Suddenly, the stretch drive looks more interesting. The Packers can close the gap to two games by winning on Monday night, and the Vikings have Cincinnati (one of the best teams in the league), Carolina (unpredictable), Chicago (ok, the Bears stink, but it's a grass field in late December, and Favre no longer likes playing in the cold) and the Giants (who were left for dead before beating the Cowboys on Sunday, and may have a lot to play for.)

Maybe the Vikings react well to this loss, whip the Bengals, and erase all of these questions. But this felt like watching one of Denny's lesser teams, when they'd build a good record against mediocre quarterbacks then get shredded by a good one.

As Favre said after the game, good teams start peaking now. He was praising Arizona, and perhaps questioning whether his team will rise to that challenge.


Upcoming: I'm on with Reusse on am-1500 at 6:40, then WJON at 7:14. I'm taking vacation from the paper this week but working on a project that will run in the Sunday paper. (Buy the paper instead of tipping the Barista for pouring you a coffee. Seriously. That's worth a tip?)

I won't be on FSN for my weekly debate with Jim Petersen this week, but will resume next week.

You can follow me on Twitter at SouhanStrib. If you become my 1,000 Twitter follower, I promise to reward you with a free copy of the autobiography that Sid wrote himself.

 

What a thumping

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: December 7, 2009 - 12:00 AM

Let's see, the Vikings couldn't run the ball, Adrian Peterson looks startlingly mortal, the offensive ilne is beat up, the defensive line got whipped, the secondary got exposed, the middle linebacker who was playing very well is lost for the season, and Brett Favre threw two awful interceptions and a couple more passes that should have been picked off.

Ah, but it didn't snow.

There are two reasonable ways to look at this game:

1) At 10-1, with the division pretty much clinched, coming off three easy games, the Vikings just weren't ready emotionally to do what it took to beat a good team fired up for a big game at home.

2) The Vikings' flaws can be exposed when they play good teams, especially good teams with dynamic passing games and physical fronts.

The Cardinals are physical and athletic, and Kurt Warner was very sharp Sunday night. I picked the Vikings to win because I expected either Matt Leinart to start or Warner to look woozy. Instead, he went after the Vikings' weaknesses with great success.

The Vikings need to get Antoine Winfield healthy. They also need to reestablish their running game, which, when it's working, strengthens the rest of their team.

Without a good running game, Favre becomes reckless and the defense can be exposed. This defense specializes in playing with a lead, or stuffing run-first teams. The Cardinals threw the ball with ease.

I've been saying for weeks now that Adrian Peterson appears to be playing with some kind of injury or limitation. He just doesn't look dynamic or fast right now. I also said during his first two seasons that we should enjoy him while he's healthy, because his running style does not portend a long career. Defenses are just too big, fast and violent to play running back for long without the ability to make defenders miss. Peterson takes a lot of big hits for a great back.

I've praised Brad Childress a lot the last two years, but I disagree with his insistence on keeping star players in the game after the game is decided. Shortly after he saw E.J. Henderson break his leg, he left Favre and Peterson in the game for the Vikings' last drive. Nothing good can come from that, and plenty of bad can result.

Several players looked quite shaken by Henderson's injury. E.J. has turned himself into a team leader after being a big question mark early in his career, and he was having an exceptional game Sunday.

Suddenly, the stretch drive looks more interesting. The Packers can close the gap to two games by winning on Monday night, and the Vikings have Cincinnati (one of the best teams in the league), Carolina (unpredictable), Chicago (ok, the Bears stink, but it's a grass field in late December, and Favre no longer likes playing in the cold) and the Giants (who were left for dead before beating the Cowboys on Sunday, and may have a lot to play for.)

Maybe the Vikings react well to this loss, whip the Bengals, and erase all of these questions. But this felt like watching one of Denny's lesser teams, when they'd build a good record against mediocre quarterbacks then get shredded by a good one.

As Favre said after the game, good teams start peaking now. He was praising Arizona, and perhaps questioning whether his team will rise to that challenge.


Upcoming: I'm on with Reusse on am-1500 at 6:40, then WJON at 7:14. I'm taking vacation from the paper this week but working on a project that will run in the Sunday paper. (Buy the paper instead of tipping the Barista for pouring you a coffee. Seriously. That's worth a tip?)

I won't be on FSN for my weekly debate with Jim Petersen this week, but will resume next week.

You can follow me on Twitter at SouhanStrib. If you become my 1,000 Twitter follower, I promise to reward you with a free copy of the autobiography that Sid wrote himself.

 

      

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