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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If the Vikings, at 3-5, can't get into contention this year, I'm going to be much more interested in the performances of four key rookies than the final record. These are four people who could determine the near-future of the franchise. Here's how I thought they did on Sunday.
Rookie head coach Mike Zimmer
His defense has played very well the last three weeks, with the exception of two late drives against Buffalo and Tampa.
Against Buffalo, he failed to call a timeout while his defense was in disarray, and it led to a fourth-and-20 conversion that, at the moment, is the difference between the Vikings being 4-4 and 3-5. Sunday, his defense looked unprepared for a fourth-down play on the Bucs' last drive, and he called timeout. He said after the game that he thought ``it was going to be a big play, and I wanted to make sure we were organized.''
What I like about Zimmer is that while he's a very experienced NFL coach, he admits he's new to running a sideline. He's not afraid to admit when he makes a mistake, and he's willing to learn from those he does make.
Rookie running back Jerick McKinnon
He rushed 16 times for 83 yards and caught one pass. He had two receptions wiped out by penalties.
His backup, Matt Asiata, rushed four times for one yard.
McKinnon also blocked well in pass protection.
There is no reason at this point to play Asiata unless McKinnon needs a break. McKinnon basically gains about twice as many yards per carry as Asiata, is more dangerous out of the backfield, and is improving in pass blocking. He's a keeper, and Zimmer raved about him after the game.
The real question with McKinnon was whether he would be a specialty, pass-receiving back, or an every-down back. I believe he is the latter.
Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater
Bridgewater completed 24 of 42 passes for 241 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
He made a number of puzzilng throws, and missed badly on a couple of deep routes, but otherwise stood in well against teh pressure, and began finding Cordarrelle Patterson, which will be a key for this team going forward.
I ripped Greg Jennings when he whined about not having Aaron Rodgers to throw him the ball, when it was he who chose to leave Rodgers. I'll give him credit for this: He's saying all of the right things to Bridgewater. He snapped Bridgewater out of a funk in Buffalo, and Bridgewater immediately began to play better. This week, Jennings told Bridgewater to stop waiting for receivers to get wide open, to trust that if he put the ball in the right place they would make the play.
That was the key to Bridgewater's beautiful touchdown pass to Jennings. Bridgewater was under heavy pressure. Had he waited, he would have been sacked. Instead, he threw while Jennings was making his cut, and hit him in teh back of the end zone.
That might have been the best throw of Bridgewater's brief career.
Rookie linebacker Anthony Barr
I wrote my column for Monday on Barr, so I won't go too far in depth in this space. Let's just say that hsi coaches and teammates rave about his intelligence, and he there was no doubt he was a unique athlete. He's going to be a star for a long time if he stays healthy.
I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:14 each weekday, and 1500ESPN at 12:15 each weekday.
St. Louis -
Just got to the press box at the Edward Jones Dome (such an elegant name). And here's my pick for today:
I think the Rams are an ordinary team. Their strength on offense should be running the ball with Zac Stacy, and yet Stacy is being pushed for playing time by Benny Cunningham. If your lead back isn't really your lead back, how good are you at running the ball?
I think the key to the game will be the Vikings' offensive line, because the Rams' strength is its front seven. If Matt Kalil plays well, Vikings win, something like 23-16.
I'm placing my faith in Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner. I think he'll put the offense in position to win, whether that means helping Kalil or running plays that defuse the Rams' pass rush. The Vikings have enough talent on offense to score points against even a quality defense, and the Vikings' defense will face its most comfortable matchup of the early season.
Korzo is in studio and I'm in St. Louis for Sunday Sports Talk, 10-noon on 1500ESPN-AM. Vikings beat writer Matt Vensel and regular guest Tom Linnemann will join. Enjoy Group of Death.
Adrian Peterson looked tired. At least he looked better than London's version of the Vikings' mascot.
That version was a small cutout figure outside the soccer fields surrounding Wembley Stadium, where the Vikings made their first London appearance on Tuesday.
The mascot was small and purplish, with what looked like goat horns. It looked like what the creators of Pokemon would have envisioned a Viking to be.
Peterson just looked worn out. He played catch with London schoolchildren and ran them through the drills. Here's what he had to say as the Vikings prepare for their game on Sunday at Wembley against the Steelers:
``I haven't had the opportunity to talk to anybody who's played over here, but we have a pretty good game plan to adjust to the time change and be ready to play on Sunday,'' Peterson said. ``It's just another game on the schedule, but it's definitely time for us to get a W. This is not a vacation for us. It's time for us to focus and win a game.
``It can be challening, but it's challenging for the other team, too. Equal playing field.''
I was impressed by the attitude of the Vikings' players and coaches. They put on a good show with the kids.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said he didn't know if defensive backs Chris Cook, A.J. Jefferson and Jamarca Sanford would practice on Wednesday. That's bad news this week. The Steelers don't run the ball well. Their only hope offensively is for Ben Roethlisgberger to make big plays with his wide receivers, particularly Antonio Brown.
Please check in at startribune.com regularly for updates, stories, columns, blog posts and videos from London, where Chip Scoggins, Mark Craig, photojournalist Carlos Gonzalez and myself will be covering the team all week.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at noon with Judd and Dubay each weekday, per usual.
OK, since I used my column to hammer Christian Ponder for an awful performance and not taking full responsibility for that performance, I"ll offer a positive thought in this space:
The Vikings' receivers are greatly improved.
Greg Jennings made two fine catches on poorly-thrown balls. Cordarrelle Patterson, in just a couple of cameos, showed off an impressive burst and cutting ability. Jerome Simpson looks like a new man. Jarius Wright, highly-praised in training camp, should be a worthwhile fourth option.
Given that Ponder looked so inaccurate and indecisive, the Vikings would be wise to emphasize a couple of the simplest routes a quarterback is asked to throw: The behind-the-line screen to the wideout that would showcase Patterson's skills, and the deep routes that allow a receiver to adjust to even poorly-thrown balls.
Patterson could emulate Harvin in the short passing game, and Simpson made two fine catches on less-than-perfect downfield throws on Sunday.
When asked to make multiple reads and find an open receiver, Ponder looked terrible.
It's silly to call for the starting quarterback's job after one game. So I'll wait a week.
I heard about Randy Moss saying, jokingly or not, that the Vikings were being disrespectful by allowing Cordarrelle Patterson to wear No. 84.
This from the king of disrepectfulness.
I might actually take Moss seriously if he didn't treat just about everybody badly.
This is the guy who, given free food in the lockerroom by a local caterer, said he wouldn't feed that food to his dog. (I've eaten at that restaurant. Great stuff.) This is a guy who, after being paid by the Vikings in a game in which he gave up on a catchable deep pass from Brett Favre, went to the Vikings' podium in New England's stadium and praised the Patriots.
I could give you far worse examples of his behaviour, but I wouldn't be able to quote him accurately, so I'll leave it to your imagination.
He's a classless jerk. A tremendous player, but a classless jerk.
This is a pet peeve of mine, TV stations giving jobs to athletes and coaches who were terrible with the media during their careers. Shannon Sharpe and Moss might be the two worst examples.
Congratulations to Lindsay Whalen on her contract extension.
She's all class and a great player. What a couple of years: Comes back to her hometown team, wins a WNBA title, plays an unexpectedly large role on an Olympic champion, and signs an extension.
I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:05 a.m. then on with Judd&Dubay on 1500ESPN at noon tomorrow.
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