Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.
Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.
Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.
We'll take a daily look at where the Vikings' roster stands at the moment position-by-position leading up to our NFL Combine coverage next week.
Position: Wide receivers/Tight ends
On the roster: Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson, Jarius Wright, Kyle Rudolph, Greg Childs, Kamar Jorden, John Carlson, Rhett Ellison, Chase Ford
Free agents: Jerome Simpson, Joe Webb
Outside of the quarterback position, Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner has some good pieces to play with on offense. We looked at running backs on Wednesday, and Turner has the power ground game in place with running back Adrian Peterson. He also has the deep passing threat with some of the wide receivers and tight ends on the roster.
The Vikings finished 23rd in pass offense last year, averaging 214.2 yards. They didn’t have a 1,000-yard receiver, which was more a reflection on the inconsistency at the quarterback position. Greg Jennings led the unit with 68 receptions, 804 receiving yards and four touchdowns.
Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson also had four receiving touchdowns to go along with three rushing and two on kickoff returns. He was eased into the game plan and proved to be just as dynamic in the final month of the season and former Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin. Patterson could be in line for a monster sophomore season with Turner as his offensive coordinator given how Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon led the league last year in receiving yards with Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden and Brian Hoyer as his quarterbacks.
Jerome Simpson was second on the team with 726 receiving yards, but he will be a free agent this offseason. He started his career with the Bengals in 2008, the same year Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer joined as a defensive coordinator. There’s some familiarity there, but Simpson, 28, has signed a one-year deal in consecutive seasons now with the Vikings. He said during the season he wanted to show that was worth a multi-year contract. Simpson also pleaded guilty to a third-degree DWI and careless driving charges to a Nov. 9 arrest but avoided jail time.
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said he hasn’t heard from tight end John Carlson on whether he’s made a decision to return. Carlson said retirement could be an option this offseason with the amount of concussion he’s suffered during his career.
Tight end Kyle Rudolph suffered a broken foot he suffered nine weeks into the season. Rudolph, Jennings and Patterson will be a nice trio of weapons for the next Vikings’ quarterback. That doesn’t even include wide receiver Jarius Wright and tight end Chase Ford. Both had a few solid performances last year (Wright blew right by Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman on a double move for his first touchdown catch last year) and mentioned by Spielman and some of the young talented players on the roster that Zimmer will inherit.
Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson won’t be snubbed from the Pro Bowl after all.
Patterson has been named as a replacement to the event, replacing Steelers wideout Antonio Brown as a return specialist. Brown was selected as both a wide reciever and return specialist, but he will participate as a receiver because he had more votes than Patterson.
Thanks to all the #flashyfans Vikings will be represented at 2014 ProBowl. My rookie year just got better!— cordarrelle (@ceeflashpee84) January 3, 2014
He's the seventh rookie in franchise history to be selected to the Pro Bowl along with Chuck Foreman, Randy Moss, Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, Blair Walsh and Matt Kalil
Patterson became the first player in NFL history to record four receiving, three rushing and two kick return touchdowns in a season. He finished with 469 receiving yards and 158 rushing yards.
The rookie also won the league’s Offensive Rookie of the Month honors in December on Thursday. He will join running back Adrian Peterson as the only Vikings selected to the Pro Bowl.
The teams won’t be set until Jan. 22 when Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders select their squads.
The Vikings have a 7-0 lead at halftime over the Lions in the finale game at the Metrodome. The Vikings have outgained the Lions 235-56
The good: Cordarrelle Patterson’s only season in the Metrodome has created for some memorable plays. The latest from the wide receiver: a 50-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. It’s the longest touchdown run for a wide receiver in franchise history.
It’s Patterson’s third rushing touchdown this season, breaking Percy Harvin’s single-season record for a wide receiver.
Defensive end Jared Allen also recorded a sack in the first half to give him 10.5 this season. He’s recorded double digit sack totals for seven straight seasons now and sits alone for 13th all-time with 127.5 sacks.
The bad: Allen also took a snap on offense and missed a shot at a touchdown. Everyone knew Allen would likely get the ball once he was announced as an eligible receiver, but he was still wide open on the play action pass. Quarterback Matt Cassel rolled out of the pocket and missed Allen badly, nailing a photographer behind the end zone. Cassel threw an interception two plays later.
The ugly: While the Metrodome is closing, this game has the feel of two teams eliminated from the playoffs with coaches on the hot seat. Some may say it’s a fitting way to say goodbye, but it surely isn’t pretty to watch.
A good example: the Lions had the fourth best run defense in the NFL entering this game. Running back Matt Asiata, who started for the injured Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart, has nine carries for 57 yards.
Need another one? Both teams have punted nine times.
OK. It's been well documented that Adrian Peterson was agitated that he fell 9 yards short of breaking Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record a year ago. And in order to raise the bar for 2013, Peterson has announced a personal goal to chase a 2,500-yard season.
But that's not the only milestone the always motivated running back keeps in the back of his mind. Peterson also wants to some day leave the game as the NFL's all-time leading rusher, a record currently held by Emmitt Smith.
Peterson, with 8,849 yards, is approaching the halfway mark to Smith's 18,355-yard record. And last December, in our in-depth profile of Peterson as the Star Tribune Sportsman of the Year, we told A.D. that he was on pace to catch Smith in Week 4 of 2019. Peterson wouldn't accept the math, vowed to get the record sooner and promised to get back to us with his prognostication.
On Saturday, in an exclusive sitdown with the Star Tribune, we finally made Peterson do the math.
The full transcript of our discussion with Peterson will post online soon. And you won't want to miss his candid thoughts on a whole variety of topics, ranging from Robert Griffin III's ACL recovery to the trade of Percy Harvin to his suspicions of performance-enhancing drugs in the NFL to the lingering sting of the Vikings' NFC title game loss to New Orleans four seasons ago.
But here is the part of the exchange where Peterson, playing along in good spirits, finally delivered a projection on reaching Emmitt Smith.
Just to break it down for you in full, that gives Peterson 79 games to amass the 9,506 yards he needs to reach Smith. That comes out to a per-game average of 120.3 yards per contest with the assumption that Peterson avoids injury and doesn't miss a game between now and Week 16 of 2017. Yes, it's pushing it indeed. But good fun to consider, right?
Check back to StarTribune.com on Sunday night for the entirety of our conversation with Peterson.
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