Craig: Stretching field suddenly might not be a stretch for Vikings

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 9, 2013 - 1:07 PM

Josh Freeman’s size and arm strength intrigues team officials.

Here are some numbers that will make Adrian Peterson smile if former Buccaneers first-round draft pick Josh Freeman does indeed unseat Christian Ponder as the next leading prospect in the Vikings’ ongoing quest to unearth a long-term franchise quarterback:

16.3: The percentage of carries (52 of 319) in which Bucs running back Doug Martin faced eight or more defenders in the box while rushing for 1,454 yards a year ago. That, according to, ranked 27th in the league among backs with at least 100 carries. Peterson ranked third at 34.5 percent (120 of 348).

1.7: Martin’s average per carry in his first game without Freeman’s big arm as a balancing complement. With Freeman benched and about to be released, Martin rushed for 45 yards on 27 carries in a 13-10 loss to the Cardinals two weeks ago. Rookie quarterback Mike Glennon’s longest pass that day: A 20-yard dump to the fullback that traveled 6 yards in the air.

12: Combined catches for 40 yards or more by Bucs receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams a year ago. Each had six, tying them for second in the league, one behind Cincinnati’s A.J. Green. Jackson led the league in average yards per catch (19.2) despite being only 20th in yards after the catch (398 of 1,384). The Vikings’ entire team had only three catches of at least 40 yards last season.

9: Plays of 60 yards or more for the Bucs a year ago, a franchise record. Seven of them were Freeman deep balls.

57: Completions of 20 yards or more by the Bucs a year ago. The Vikings had 28.

Get the picture?

No, Freeman isn’t the savior all by himself. He’s 24-35 with no playoff appearances since the Bucs picked him 17th overall in 2009. But his strongest strength — the ability to throw the deep ball on time with zip and accuracy — matches the weakest weakness in a Vikings offense screaming out for a consistent deep ball to complement Peterson.

According to, a league-low 7.5 percent of Ponder’s 2012 passes were thrown at least 20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Of those, a league-low 25 percent were completed.

Obviously, there were other variables besides Ponder in those numbers. But the Vikings believe Freeman’s bigger stature [6-6, 240], ability to extend plays and stronger arm will help overcome other deficiencies when it’s time to stretch the field.

Freeman isn’t known as the most gifted reader of defenses. He struggles with check-down passes and touch on intermediate throws. But give him a deep out off play-action to Peterson and chances are good the ball won’t be late and won’t have too much air under it.

Freeman’s career completion percentage is only 58.2 percent. But he completed 62.8 percent in his last year in a West Coast scheme (2011) before coach Greg Schiano arrived with an offense that put more emphasis on the deep ball.

Freeman was completing only 45.7 percent this year, but, like all quarterbacks, it wasn’t entirely his fault. He had two touchdown passes dropped by receivers, including a 38-yarder, in the 23-3 loss to the Patriots in Week 3.

“I think he is very talented as a passer,” Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said. “I watched all his college tape. I watched probably 40 games this weekend on him.

‘‘I watched him live twice, what he did to us in the Metrodome [three touchdowns, no interceptions in a 36-17 upset a year ago] and what he did to us a few years ago when we played him. I know that he is a big quarterback with a strong arm that can do a lot of good things at all levels of the field.”

And if Freeman doesn’t pan out? The Vikings have nothing to lose but $3 million of owner Zygi Wilf’s money. It didn’t cost the Vikings any draft pick to take a three-month look at a former first-round draft pick who is only 25, 43 days older than Ponder.

Meanwhile, in Tampa Bay, the pressure is on Schiano to prove Glennon is the long-term answer. Otherwise, based on what might happen in Minnesota, Schiano could be remembered as a coach who let emotion affect his decision-making process at the game’s most important position.

Asked what his 0-4 team was trying to improve on coming out of last week’s bye, Schiano told reporters, “I think throwing the ball down the field some more.”

  • related content

  • Read the replay: Access Vikings chat with Mark Craig

    Monday September 23, 2013

    See what Mark Craig and Vikings fans were talking about during their weekly Live Chat.

  • Mark Craig's Week 6 NFL Power Rankings

    Tuesday October 8, 2013

    Week 5 Power Rankings1. Broncos 5-02. Saints 5-03. Colts 4-14. Seahawks 4-15. Chiefs 5-06. 49ers 3-27. Bengals 3-28. Patriots 4-19. Packers 2-210. Ravens 3-211. Dolphins 3-212. Browns 3-213. Titans 3-214. Jets 3-215. Cardinals 3-216. Lions 3-217....

  • Vikings waive Bethel-Thompson

    Tuesday October 8, 2013

    Bethel-Thompson waivedThe Vikings waived No. 3 quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson on Tuesday to make room for Josh Freeman.Bethel-Thompson has practice squad...

  • When Josh Freeman had success throwing deep, Buccaneers running back Doug Martin (22) benefitted from fewer defenders at the line of scrimmage. Presumably, that’s what the Vikings hope can happen with Adrian Peterson lining up behind Freeman.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Buffalo 12/28/14 12:00 PM
New England
Cleveland 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Dallas 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville 12/28/14 12:00 PM
San Diego 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Chicago 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia 12/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
New Orleans 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Carolina 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Detroit 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Oakland 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Arizona 12/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Cincinnati 12/28/14 7:30 PM
Brooklyn 109 FINAL
Boston 107
Cleveland 6:00 PM
Indiana 6:30 PM
Milwaukee 6:30 PM
Houston 7:00 PM
San Antonio 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Charlotte 7:00 PM
Oklahoma City
LA Lakers 7:30 PM
Minnesota 8:00 PM
Philadelphia 9:00 PM
Phoenix 9:00 PM
Illinois 15 4th Qtr 14:07
Louisiana Tech 21
Rutgers 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 7:00 PM
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
(15) Arizona State 12/27/14 1:10 PM
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 2:30 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Houston 1/2/15 11:00 AM
Iowa 1/2/15 2:20 PM
(11) Kansas State 1/2/15 5:45 PM
(14) UCLA
Washington 1/2/15 9:15 PM
Oklahoma State
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters



Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon




question of the day

Poll: Grade the Vikings offense

Weekly Question