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 before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.

Posts about Tarvaris Jackson

Go Figure: Bears shaky o-line presents golden opportunity for Allen, Vikings

Posted by: Updated: November 20, 2012 - 10:56 AM

As the Vikings prepare for Sunday’s Week 12 game with Chicago at Soldier Field, here’s a look at a handful of eye-opening figures and facts.


Sacks by the Vikings in their last meeting with Chicago, a 17-13 loss in the 2011 regular season finale. Defensive end Jared Allen had 3.5 sacks in that contest to set a new Vikings record for sacks in a season.



Sacks allowed by the Bears in Monday night’s lopsided 32-7 loss in San Francisco with 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith recording 5.5 on his own. Quarterback Jason Campbell, starting in place of Jay Cutler, was not only sacked six times but hit on 11 occasions. Chicago has allowed 34 sacks in 10 games, second most in the NFL.



NFL teams with fewer rushing yards as a whole than Vikings star Adrian Peterson. Peterson has 1,128 rushing yards to lead the league in that category. The Vikings rank third in rushing yards as a team, averaging 150.5 per game. They trail only San Francisco (165.5) and Washington (165.0) in that category.



NFC teams with records of .500 or above at this point in the season. That should make the playoff chase incredibly interesting over the final six weeks. The current division leaders are Atlanta (9-1), San Francisco (7-2-1), Green Bay (7-3) and New York (6-4). If the season ended today, the NFC wild cards would be Chicago (7-3) and Seattle (6-4), based on tiebreaking procedures. Also in the wild card picture right now are Tampa Bay (6-4), the Vikings (6-4), New Orleans (5-5) and Dallas (5-5).



Vikings quarterbacks to win in Chicago in the 21st century. The list is not long. Daunte Culpepper aided a 28-16 win at Soldier Field in 2000, throwing TD passes to Cris Carter, Randy Moss and Matthew Hatchette. Tarvaris Jackson was under center for a 34-31 victory in 2007 with Adrian Peterson (20 carries, 224 yards, three TDs) doing most of the offensive damage. The Vikings are 2-9 in their last 11 trips to Solider Field and also lost 27-23 at Champaign’s Memorial Stadium in 2002. The Bears quarterbacks who presided over those 10 wins: Jim Miller, Rex Grossman, Chad Hutchinson, Kyle Orton and Jay Cutler.



Takeaways by the Chicago defense this season, most in the NFL. Cornerback Tim Jennings has a league-best eight interceptions and Charles Tillman is tops in fumbles forced (seven). The Bears have scored seven touchdowns on defense as well.



Takeaways by the Vikings since the start of the 2011 season. This year, the Vikings have five interceptions and seven fumbles recovered as a team.



Percy Harvin’s NFL rank in catches through 10 games. When Harvin made his last reception, a 9-yarder early in the third quarter of a Nov. 4 game in Seattle, he led the league in that category. But a sprained ankle kept him out of the Vikings’ Week 10 win over Detroit and was followed by a bye week. In that time, seven receivers have leapfrogged past Harvin on the catch list. They are Indianapolis’ Reggie Wayne (76), New England’s Wes Welker (73), Dallas’ Jason Witten (73), Chicago’s Brandon Marshall (69), Detroit’s Calvin Johnson (65), Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez (64) and Cincinnati’s A.J. Green (64).



Vikings record after their bye week the last 10 seasons. They have sandwiched the bye week with victories four times in that span: in 2003, ‘04, ’06 and ‘09. Last year coming out of the bye, however, the Vikings were trounced 45-7 at Green Bay.



Chicago’s record, including playoffs, in games started by quarterback Jay Cutler the past three seasons. Cutler may not be an MVP candidate but he has at least steadied the Bears offense. Without Cutler as the starter, the Bears are 2-6 with back-ups Todd Collins, Caleb Hanie, Josh McCown and Jason Campbell unable to jumpstart much. Cutler’s status for Sunday’s game with the Vikings is still up in the air as he tries to get past a concussion suffered Nov. 11 against Houston. 


Week 6 Picks and Power Rankings: Vikings climbing

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated: October 12, 2012 - 9:40 AM
What else would you rather do on a Friday morning than watch a poor man swing away at his weekly NFL Picks and Power Rankings? We’ll even throw in some extra purple with Three Reasons for Optimism and Three Reasons to Go `Uh-Oh.
Power rankings
1, Texans (5-0)
Last week: No. 1.
Comment: They can pass the ball, stop the pass, run the ball and stop the run. And in a league where pressure on the QB is paramount, Houston’s offense is first in sacks allowed per pass play (three total), while its defense is fourth in sacks per pass play (16). Overcoming the season-ending loss of linebacker Brian Cushing is the next big challenge.
2. Falcons (5-0)
Last week: No. 2.
Comment: Their statistics aren’t staggering. Except for one: Plus-10. That’s their turnover margin, thanks to 14 takeaways. Only Chicago, with 17, has more.
3. Ravens (4-1)
Last week: No. 6.
Comment: When in doubt about a top-three team, Baltimore is usually a good bet. The Ravens might be the most mentally tough team in the league. They just find a way to beat most of the teams they play, whether they’re having a good day or not (see Sunday’s 9-6 win at K.C.). Their only loss was a one-point setback at Philadelphia in Week 2.
30. Chiefs (1-4)
Last week: No. 30.
Comment: Hey, at least the Chiefs didn’t get obliterated at home last week. (P.S.: Cut Chiefs fans a break for cheering after Matt Cassel was hurt. Fans have been cheering the injuries of struggling quarterbacks for decades. My earliest memory of this was at Cleveland Stadium in the ‘70s when Mike Phipps went down and Brian Sipe came into the game. A small but vocal percentage of fans in every city do it. It’s not the end of the world.)
31. Lions (1-3)
Last week: No. 29.
Comment: For the first time in three weeks, the Lions did not give up two returns for touchdowns last week. Of course, they also had a bye. Anyone else need help climbing off the Motown Bandwagon?
32. Browns (0-5)
Last week: No. 32.
Comment: Next question.
6. Vikings (4-1).
Last week: No. 8.
Comment: Remember the seemingly mandatory false start or procedural penalty that used to wreck every opening drive? Well, the Vikings have the fewest pre-snap penalties in the league through five weeks. They’ve got one. So it’s possible to be tough and smart on offense.
8. Bears (4-1)
Last week: No. 12.
Comment: Two weeks, four interception returns for touchdowns? Note to Christian Ponder: Do NOT throw the ball near Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman. Overall, the Bears have returned five of their league-high 13 picks for touchdowns.
15. Packers (2-3)
Last week: No. 11.
Comment: Amazing what can happen to the league’s best quarterback (Aaron Rodgers) when his protection and his No. 1 receiver (Greg Jennings) aren’t there to help. It’s still a team game. Rodgers is still having an outstanding year. He’s just not having the best regular season by a quarterback ever, like he did last year.
31. Lions (1-3)
Last week: No. 29.
Comment: See the three sinking seasons above.
4. Patriots (3-2); 5. Giants (3-2); 7. 49ers (4-1); 9. Eagles (3-2); 10. Broncos (2-3); 11. Rams (3-2); 12. Cardinals (4-1); 13. Colts (2-2); 14. Seahawks (3-2); 16. Cowboys (2-2); 17. Saints (1-4); 18. Chargers (3-2); 19. Dolphins (2-3); 20. Bengals (3-2); 21. Titans (2-4); 22. Redskins (2-3); 23. Steelers (2-3); 24. Jets (2-3); 25. Bills (2-3); 26. Buccaneers (1-3); 27. Jaguars (1-4); 28. Panthers (1-4); 29, Raiders (1-3).
1, Ponder’s 5 for 5: I Keep this as the No. 1 reason because, in case you haven’t noticed, the Vikings have yet to play the Bears or Packers. In other words, there’s a possibility that the Purple-clad frolicking in the streets will have the breaks slammed on it come late November when the Vikings’ schedule starts to go like this: at Chicago, at Green Bay, Chicago, at St. Louis, at Houston, Green Bay. So if the bottom starts to fall out, we need to keep the focus on the No. 1 goal of this season all along: Making sure Christian Ponder is the long-term answer at quarterback. On Sunday, he threw his first two picks on back-to-back throws. But then he completed 12 of 13 for 100 yards, two TDs and no more picks. Most of them were short passes, but, like I said earlier this week, if you think short, touch passes are easy, you’ve never seen Tarvaris Jackson try to play the position.
2, The offensive line: It’s become obvious that there’s no comparison between last year’s leaky, creaky offensive line and the one that’s manhandling opponents so far this season. Another 31 carries pounded out 175 yards, a 5.6 average and a touchdown on Sunday. And Ponder was sacked once for zero yards. And the best news is the oldest guy up front is 28-year-old Charlie Johnson. These guys could be together a long time.
3, Defensive front seven: Four days after he was stuffed for a 1.6-yard average in a 23-point loss at Minnesota, Titans running back Chris Johnson played the Steelers and averaged 4.8 yards in a win. The Vikings’ defensive line is stout, the linebackers are active and the secondary – especially Antoine Winfield, as usual – is sound in run support. That’s why the Vikings rank sixth in the league in run defense and haven’t allowed more than 89 yards rushing in any of their past three games.
1, RG III: During their three-game winning streak, the Vikings’ defense has stuffed a lopsided running team (49ers), a lopsided passing team (Lions) and a team that was awful at both (Titans). The Redskins present a significant and equal threat both running and passing. And the rookie QB, Robert Griffin III, leads the league in completion percentage (69.1) while averaging 5.7 yards per carry.
2, The looming schedule: At this point, the Vikings have proven to be a team that should be respected by their opponents. So it’s not like they can’t charge into their brutal late-season schedule and keep right on winning. But the Vikings could start 7-1 and still struggle to make the playoffs starting with a trip to Seattle. The last six games – at Chicago, at Green Bay, Chicago, at St. Louis, at Houston, Green Bay – could change the entire perception of this team as quickly as the 4-1 start has.
3, Peterson’s ankle: Adrian Peterson says his ankle is fine. And the team wouldn’t put him in harm’s way. But it’s still concerning anytime the face of the franchise steps on the field with an injury that could prevent him from being 100 percent able to protect that reconstructed left knee.
Redskins 27, Vikings 21: Following the NFL theory that all highs and lows sway quickly back to the middle, I’m going with the home team. The Redskins have dropped eight straight at home and are 0-2 against Minnesota at home since Leslie Frazier took over the Vikings. The Redskins also present the most balanced offense the Vikings have seen this season. The betting line is off at this point.
CIN minus-1 ½ at CLE: Browns by 3.
IND plus-3 ½ at NYJ: Jets by 7.
KC plus-4 at TB: Buccaneers by 7.
OAK plus-9 at ATL: Falcons by 14.
DAL plus-3 ½ at BAL: Ravens by 7.
DET plus-4 at PHI: Eagles by 7.
STL plus-3 ½ at MIA: Dolphins by 6.
NE minus-3 ½ at SEA: Seahawks by 3.
BUF plus-5 at ARI: Cardinals by 7.
GB plus-3 ½ at HOU: Texans by 6.
DEN plus-1 at SD: Broncos by 3.
Record Last Week: 7-6. Vs. Spread: 5-8.
Record Season: 29-25. Vs. Spread: 21-29-2.
NYG plus-6 ½ at SF:
Giants 24, 49ers 21: Give me take Tom Coughlin, Eli Manning and 6 ½ points any day. And I’ll take the win outright as well.
Last week: ATL minus-3 at WAS. Prediction: Redskins 20, Falcons 28. Actual: Falcons 24, Redskins 17.
Record: 2-2.

Vikings 2012 regular season schedule is released

Posted by: Updated: April 17, 2012 - 7:07 PM

The Vikings’ 2012 regular season schedule has been released. Here’s your quick look at what’s ahead as the team looks to bounce back from last year’s 3-13 disaster.

Sunday, Sept. 9
Vs. Jacksonville, Noon
A measuring stick duel between second-year quarterbacks Christian Ponder and Blaine Gabbert.
Sunday, Sept. 16
At Indianapolis, Noon
The Vikings’ first ever trip to Lucas Oil Stadium will provide an up-close look at prodigious QB Andrew Luck.
Sunday, Sept. 23
Vs. San Francisco, Noon
Randy Moss returns to the Metrodome for the first time ever as a visitor during the regular season.
Sunday, Sept. 30
At Detroit, Noon
Matthew Stafford posted quarterback ratings of 108.8 and 115.2 in two 2011 games against the Vikings.
Sunday, Oct. 7
Vs. Tennessee, Noon
NFL graybeards Steve Hutchinson (now a Titan) and Kevin Williams will grapple in the trenches.
Sunday, Oct. 14
At Washington, 3:15 p.m.
Two of Leslie Frazier’s six wins as Vikings head coach have been road triumphs over the ‘Skins.
Sunday, Oct. 21
Vs. Arizona
The Vikings and Cardinals meet for the sixth time in the past seven seasons.
Thursday, Oct. 25
Vs. Tampa Bay, 7:20 p.m.
The Vikings’ last win over the Bucs came on Sept. 30, 2001 – with Cris Carter scoring a TD in an NFC Central clash.
Sunday, Nov. 4
At Seattle, 3:15 p.m.
Which Seahawks QB will Jared Allen try to calf rope: former teammate Tarvaris Jackson or former Packer Matt Flynn?
Sunday, Nov. 11
Vs. Detroit, Noon
The 2011 downward spiral was accelerated by a home loss to the Lions in which the Vikings blew a 20-0 halftime lead.
Sunday, Nov. 18
Sunday, Nov. 25
At Chicago, Noon
The Vikings have lost on 10 of their past 11 trips into Soldier Field.
Sunday, Dec. 2
At Green Bay, Noon
Last year’s 45-7 loss at Lambeau may have been the most embarrassing of the season.
Sunday, Dec. 9
Vs. Chicago, Noon
Will a refurbished secondary be able to defuse the Jay Cutler-Brandon Marshall fireworks show?
Sunday, Dec. 16
At St. Louis, Noon
With only 15 wins the past five seasons, the Rams are hoping to be revived by new coach Jeff Fisher.
Sunday, Dec. 23
At Houston, Noon
Led by running back Arian Foster and receiver Andre Johnson, the Texans are the new top dogs in the AFC South.
Sunday, Dec. 30
Vs. Green Bay, Noon
MVP Aaron Rodgers was 47-for-60 for 585 yards and seven TDs in two wins over the Vikings last fall.


  • The Vikings have six games in 2012 against teams that made the playoffs in 2011 and 10 contests against opponents who finished .500 or better.
  • The Vikings’ only prime-time game is a Thursday nighter at home to be played Oct. 25 at 7:20 p.m. against Tampa Bay. Those teams combined for a 7-25 record last season.
  • The Vikings’ toughest stretch may come after their Week 11 bye. They face division rivals Chicago and Green Bay twice each over the final six games. A Dec. 23 trip to Houston is mixed in in that stretch.
  • Projected record: 6-10


Seventh round: Two Virginia Tech offensive lineman could interest Vikings late

Posted by: Updated: April 15, 2012 - 7:53 AM

Everyone from the expert-level draftnik to the most casual Vikings fan has discussed the Vikings' No. 3 overall pick ad nauseam. But what about the team's nine other picks? What might a team with numerous holes to fill do on Days 2-3 of this month's NFL draft? Access Vikings is taking a round-by-round look at the team's history in Rounds 2-7 since Rick Spielman began overseeing the team's draft preparation as director of player personnel in 2007. We'll also take a look at players Spielman, now the team's general manager, might select later this month.

[[[ See our previous breakdowns: ROUND 2, ROUND 3, ROUND 4, ROUND 5, ROUND 6 ]]]
VIKINGS' PICKS: 210th and 223rd overall.
SINCE 2007: Seven in the magic number. The Vikings have made seven picks in the seventh-round since 2007. Six of those players are still in the NFL, five with the Vikings and Tyler Thigpen hanging around in Buffalo.
HITS: 1.
1, Jamarca Sanford, S, Mississippi, 231st overall, 2009: Look, Sanford may never be a secondary standout. But seventh-round picks have an uphill battle just to make the team. And last season, Sanford started 15 games at strong safety. While the Vikings would love to return him to a reserve role with an upgrade in talent at the position, Sanford remains a solid special teams contributor.
1, Tyler Thigpen, QB, Coastal Carolina, 217th overall, 2007: The Vikings quickly signed Thigpen after the 2007 draft and let him compete with fellow quarterbacks Tarvaris Jackson, Brooks Bollinger and Drew Henson during training camp. They released him after the preseason with the hopes of adding him to the practice squad. But the Chiefs swept in and scooped him up immediately. Thigpen then made 11 of his 12 career starts for Kansas City in 2008.
2, Chandler Williams, WR, Florida International, 233rd overall, 2007: Small but fast, Williams didn’t make it past training camp in 2007 with the Vikings and has had subsequent stints on practice squads in Miami, Atlanta and Kansas City. He’s currently on the roster with the Tampa Bay Storm in the Arena Football League.
1, Mickey Shuler, TE, Penn State, 214th overall, 2010: The Vikings’ hopes of stashing Shuler on the practice squad early in the 2010 season were foiled when Miami intervened and snagged the tight end for their active roster. The Vikings’ got their hands back on Shuler late last season and will give him a chance to figure into the tight end equation in 2012.
2, Ryan D’Imperio, LB, Rutgers, 237th overall, 2010: Drafted as a linebacker, D’Imperio was converted into a fullback last season and saw action in 12 games. The Vikings’ recent free agent signings of fullbacks Lex Hilliard and Jerome Felton indicate D’Imperio may be pushed into a lesser role in 2012.
3, D’Aundre Reed, DE, Arizona, 215th overall, 2011: The Vikings insist they love Reed’s promise, intrigued by his quickness and positive energy. Yet as a rookie, he was part of a rare NFL occurrence, remaining on the 53-man roster all season yet declared inactive on game day for all 16 contests.
4, Stephen Burton, WR, West Texas A&M, 236th overall, 2011: Burton, a practice squad member at the start of his rookie year, had two catches for 38 yards in a Week 13 loss to Denver in December, his only offensive production. Assuming the Vikings add depth at receiver through the draft this month, Burton may face an uphill climb to remain in the mix.
1, Jaymes Brooks, OL, Virginia Tech: If the Vikings want to add depth to the o-line with their final picks, they may zero in on a pair of Virginia Tech players who have shown promise during the pre-draft process. Brooks is 6-foot-2, 310 pounds and can play both guard and center. Hokies teammate Blake DeChristopher can play both tackle and guard and reportedly has least piqued the interest of Vikings’ assistant o-line coach Ryan Silverfield.
2, Cyhl Quarels, S, Wake Forest: A big-hitting safety who is fantastic in run support, Quarels has special teams value as well. He’s big (6-1, 213 pounds) and has the skill set to flourish in a zone system.
3, D’Anton Lynn, CB, Penn State: Lynn is exactly the kind of hybrid defensive back the Vikings plan to take a long look at, a decent cornerback with the size and skills to potentially make a move to safety. He’s polished fundamentally and has a good understanding of the game.
4, Lavonn Brazill WR, Ohio: His ability to make plays on the ball give Brazill some potential value as a field-stretching deep threat. If the Vikings are still searching for receivers in Round 7, Brazill is at least worth a glance.
5, Brandon Marshall, ILB, Nevada: A starter during all four years of his college career, Marshall is a reliable tackler who plays with obvious energy and hustle.

What comes around, goes around with Seattle and T-Jack

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated: March 21, 2012 - 11:23 AM

While taking a breath in this free-agent yawner frenzy ...

Funny how things change in a year.

A year ago, the Seahawks needed a quarterback. They signed Tarvaris Jackson, who had spent his first five NFL seasons either struggling and/or being shoved aside to make room for Brett Favre's post-Mankato arrivals.

When the Seahawks nabbed T-Jack, Seattle GM John Schneider gave an interview to Yahoo! that slammed a big old club right over former Vikings coach Brad Childress, who hooked T-Jack in 2006, but was too stubborn to throw him back when he started to stink up the boat.

"He has not been in a good situation," Schneider said at the time. "He's been jerked around. We wanted to put him in a stable situation."

Schneider also said, "He's 28 years old, and quite frankly, was ..." um, well, "... on for four years."

Schneider later apologized to the Vikings. As free agency unfolds this year, one has to think that somewhere in Northeast Ohio, Childress, the Browns new offensive coordinator, is enjoying what's going on in Seattle this spring.

One of the more fascinating non-Peyton transactions of the spring is Seattle's signing of quarterback Matt Flynn, who got a three-year deal that will pay him $13 million for each of the two NFL starts he now has on his resume.

So, yes, the team that said the Vikings jerked T-Jack around by signing Brett Favre went out and got its own former Packer -- albeit one with about 300 or so fewer starts. By the way, the Seahawks also tried to sign Manning as well, which is further evidence that teams trying to groom Tarvaris are usually going to be teams looking to replace Tarvaris.

The Seahawks say Flynn and Jackson will compete for the job. But something tells me if this were a 40-yard dash, Flynn would be starting on the 33-yard line.

A year after ripping the Vikings for jerking Jackson around, Schneider might want to thank them for helping Jackson deal with what appears to be the backup to a guy with two starts.


Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters