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 Antoine Winfield

Lambeau Lumps

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: January 6, 2013 - 12:52 AM

Wrapping up the game and the season from Lambeau early Sunday morning:

-Wrote my column about my primary observation, which is that if the Vikings had stuck with running the ball and the zone option, they may have been able to keep the game close. The Packers were on their heels during the first drive.

The Vikings' first eight plays were running plays. They marched easily down the field. Webb's first pass, on third-and-7, was an embarrassing ground ball. The Vikings settled for a field goal.

After the defense forced a quick three-and-out, the offense had a chance to dominate play and time of possession for all or most of the first quarter. Instead, the Vikings pretended they had a pocket passer. Webb threw two incompletions as the Vikings went three-and-out.

As they continued to steer away from the running game and rely on Webb in the pocket, the game got out of hand. I don't know if Webb could have won the game with his legs. But he lost it with his arm.

-When a baseball team loses in the playoffs, there's an air of sadness because the guys spend so much time together. When a football team loses in the playoffs, there is a sense of sadness because NFL players, especially those on good teams, give so much of themselves.

Everywhere you looked Saturday night, there was pain. John Sullivan had his right arm and shoulder heavily wrapped. Jared Allen was talking about offseason surgery to repair his shoulder. Antoine Winfield still had his broken hand wrapped. And everywhere were bruised, tired bodies. GM Rick Spielman walked around the lockerroom, thanking players, looking grim.

And careers are so short in the NFL that everyone knows the same group won't be back next year. Those NFL players who can play for a decade and earn big paychecks have good lives, as long as their bodies and brains and bank accounts hold up. But the sadness is real, because they don't know if they'll be back to the playoffs, or how many of them will be together even if they win a championship down the line.

-I think like most fans in this regard: I would be highly disappointed in Christian Ponder if he had any chance to play through the pain and passed. But he couldn't throw with any velocity in pregame warmups, and he had trouble even moving his right arm after the game.

We can critique his play and question his future, but I see no reason to question his toughness or character. I have no doubt that he desperately wanted to play.

-We have gotten to the point where Adrian Peterson can rush 22 times for 99 yards, a 4.5 average, and we can be disappointed. He's set quite the high bar.

-It was a lousy day of football. The Bengals and Texans were close to unwatchable. Webb's passing made the Packers game far less entertaining than it should have been. Sunday should be different. Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin and Russell Wilson might be, as a group, the three best rookie quarterbacks we've ever seen.

-I like the way the Packers play. I like their receiving depth. I like the fact that they found DuJuan Harris, a speed back, to exploit defenses spread out to cover their receivers. I like the way Aaron Rodgers plays with such intelligence and poise.

But I'm just not seeing the Packers as a Super Bowl champ this year. I don't like their defensive line, or their linebackers outside Clay Matthews. I think they're too dependent on Rodgers to beat a high-quality team. I'd pick the 49ers to beat them next week.

And if that happens, don't be surprised if Colin Kaepernick running the read option, just the way Webb did on that first drive tonight, isn't a big key.

-My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib. I'm running SundaySportsTalk on 1500ESPN with Tom Pelissero Sunday morning from 10-noon, and I'm on the station at 2:05 on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. I'm also on WJON at 7:15 a.m. every weekday morning.

I'll have a season wrap-up column in the Monday paper, in which I'll attempt to put this season into some kind of historical context. Thanks for reading.

I was first in Vikings' press room...which was a mistake

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: April 26, 2012 - 4:09 PM

Checking in from the Vikings' press room, where it has been proven that myself, Tom Pelissero and Kevin Seifert don't have a lot going on in our lives.

We're here, waiting on what has become the most interesting pick in the draft: The Vikings' selection at No. 3.

Vikings' general manager Rick Spielman has succeeding in adding mystery to the pick. My early view on what could be an unpredictable night is this:

The Vikings really can't go wrong.

If they take USC left tackle Matt Kalil, they'll be getting a good player at a position of need.

The same could be said if they drafted LSU corner Morris Claiborne.

Or Oklahoma state receiver Justin Blackmon.

I wrote the other day that Kalil makes the most sense for the Vikings. The immediate future of the franchise depends on protecting and developing Christian Ponder, and Kalil can immediately help with that.

There has been a late wave of media support for Claiborne at No. 3, based on the premise that stopping excellent passing attacks in the NFC North is the Vikings' biggest area of need. That's hard to dispute. But the Vikings should get Antoine Winfield and Chris Cook back on the field next year, and the Vikings' defensive system doesn't place a premium on elite one-on-one coverage.

I can't really argue against Claiborne. I just slightly favor Kalil.

Blackmon is a fine prospect, but I would rank him as the third-best prospect of the three and the riskiest.

The Vikings will improve themselves with either Kalil or Claiborne. They would also improve themselves with the other possibility: A trade for the right price.

I have no idea which rumors to believe and which to dismiss, so I"m not going to break them down here. If I'm the Vikings, I trade down only if I think I can land one of the players they truly value - guessing Kalil, Claiborne and Blackmon - as well as additional picks.

All three scenarios - taking Kalil, taking Claiborne or trading down - could play out very well for the Vikings.

I'll be covering the draft tonight along with Dan Wiederer, Mark Craig and Chip Scoggins.

You can follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

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Wrote about Wolves' GM David Kahn the other day, and those who support him kept pointing out that the team improved this year and could have made the playoffs with better health.

You're missing the point. The point is that he's been the GM for three years and has brought in one quality starter, Ricky Rubio, who fell to him. He has yet to make one basketball decision that demonstrated professional insight. His best moves - drafting Rubio, hiring Rick Adelman and drafting Derrick Williams - were all easy, obvious, decisions.

We've got to have higher standards in this town. I had people arguing that he's fine because he isnt' that important in the organization because Adelman can make the personnel decisions.

Do you really want an older coach making personnel decisions? Isn't that how teams wind up mortgaging their future, by trying too desperately to win right away? Don't you want Adelman to at least have a smart counter-balance in the front office?

I do.

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Buckle up, people. There will be a showdown in Target Field this weekend.

The Royals beat Cleveland on Thursday and head to Minnesota with a record of 5-14, same as your Twins.

The tension will be...awkward?

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I'm saying it here and now, just as I've been saying for months: I think Andrew Luck will be a good NFL quarterback, and I think Robert Griffin III will be better than Luck.

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I'll check back later tonight when we have some news.

I'll be on KFGO in Fargo with Mike McFeely at 4:35 to talk the draft and Twins. I'll be on 1500espn at my usual time, 2:05, on Friday, and Pelissero and I will run a studio version of Sunday Sports Talk on Sunday from 10-noon, following the Ron Gardenhire Show at 9:30.

 

Knee-jerk reaction to Monday night

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: November 14, 2011 - 11:39 PM

Green Bay, Wi. _ Antoine Winfield has a broken clavicle, meaning the Vikings' lousy secondary just got worse. Husain Abdullah also has a concussion, so Carson Palmer must be feeling quite good about his decision to return to the NFL in time to face the Vikings.

As for the game itself, the Vikings have never been beaten worse by the Packers than they were tonight. They lost, 45-7, and only Randall Cobb's fumbled punt allowed the Vikings to score.

For the Tuesday paper, I wrote about the Vikings' ineptitude in this game. For the Wednesday paper, I plan to write about what the Vikings should do moving forward. Right now, I'll just offer this instant reaction:

The Packers are the best team in football. The Vikings are very close to being the worst team in football. That's stunning not only when you consider where these teams were in '09, when the Vikings swept the Pack, but where they were last year during the first game at Lambeau, which the Vikings very nearly won.

I didn't write about Aaron Rodgers tonight because I didn't think he played spectacularly well, not by his standards. And yet I got back to the press box and saw his final stats and they were as follows: 23-of-30 for 250 yards, four touchdowns, a 140.3 passer rating and no interceptions.

He completed passes to 10 different receivers and survived a strong pass rush by the Vikings. In fact, the pass rush was the Vikings' only strong point on Monday night.

The Vikings have the most lopsided roster I've ever seen. Adrian Peterson and Jared Allen are MVP-caliber talents. There are a few other good players in their prime. But most of the roster is comprised of too-young, too-old or too-lousy players.

``I can't really put my finger on it,'' coach Leslie Frazier said when asked what the problem was.

Well, the coaching doesn't look too good at the moment. It's not a great team, but even mediocre teams should be able to avoid silly penalties and line up correctly.

This team is a mess. I picked the Vikings to go 7-9 this season and it turns out I was a raving optimist.

I don't think the Vikings' leadership can stomach this, but it's time to look to the future. The present? Nothing to see here.

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Through nine games, Rodgers has thrown 28 touchdowns and three interceptions.

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Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 on Tuesday and the rest of the week with Reusse & Mackey.

 

Trouble brewing

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: October 23, 2011 - 1:00 PM

The Vikings are becoming more interesting for all of the wrong reasons.

Chris Cook is arrested on suspicion of felony strangulation.

A report appears from NFL.com and the NFL network that Donovan McNabb lacked a strong work ethic and didn't fully prepare himself.

Head coach Leslie Frazier calls out his defensive line, and defensive lineman Kevin Williams takes exception.

The team is 1-5 while ownership seeks approval of a new stadium plan.

This is not only a bad team, this is an organization in disarray in part because, as you've read here many times, it doesn't have a true general manager who can make decisions based on what's best for the franchise and who can be held accountable when things go wrong.

First of all, there were red flags attached to Chris Cook, and yet the Vikings drafted him, just a few years after the Wilfs issued the Code of Conduct. Maybe a real general manager would have viewed hte big picture and not taken a chance on him.

Second, the fact that someone in the Vikings' organization is leaking inside information (true or not) about McNabb after he was benched could be seen as someone in the organization second-guessing Leslie Frazier's decision to bring in McNabb. It's a piling-on move that's unecessary and hints that the decision-making group of the Vikings is not all on the same page. At least, that's the way I read it.

Third, Frazier's cache as a coaching candidate was that he was going to get the most out of his players. I admire Frazier and don't hold him solely responsible for the 1-5 record - this organization has much bigger problems than the identity of its head coach - but if key players like Williams are publicly sparring with him, that's not a good sign.

And the pursuit of a stadium makes the Wilfs more likely to be reactionary with their decisions, when what this organization needs is patience and a long-term plan to regain respectability.

This is a mess right now.

Having covered Troy Aikman, Rich Gannon and Daunte Culpepper as young quarterbacks, I can tell you that there's nothing more interesting than watching a young quarterback develop, and nothing more rewarding than watching a young quarterback learn how to win in the NFL. But Christian Ponder is going to have a tough road with this organization. They have a million flaws and yet no one decision-maker who can set the right course.

I think Ponder will probably play well today. But I don't think that will matter. Not with Aaron Rodgers facing a secondary that was porous even when Antoine Winfield and Cook were healthy.

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Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2 p.m. every weekday, and also contributing to Tom Pelissero's 6-8 show Monday and Friday. My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib, and I'll tweet from the Vikings-Packers game as much as the Metrodome wireless system allows.

 

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.
 
 
 

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