Good afternoon everyone!
I want to take a moment and apologize for my lack of contributions in the past week and a half or so. My life has definitely gotten busier than it was when I started this blog. When I started, I had no job, it was summer and I had no money to really do much with, so I was just hanging out a lot. Well, the money situation hasn't really changed, but I now find myself working a 2nd shift job that starts at 5 p.m. and I usually end up leaving at about 3 a.m. every night. I only get to leave at 3 because my excuse is I am a student, while the rest of the shift generally is not going to be done for another hour or two yet.
There is also more involvement in school required... as much as I hate to do that, I did just get my graduation application accepted, so I better make sure to pass these classes so I can get the hell outta here when the time comes! Needless to say, with my now 40+ hour work weeks and school to boot, things have become more complicated as sleep is also necessary during my free time. It's really uncanny how easily I fall asleep these days actually. I've never really been a nap person; I always thought that if I take one I'll just sleep all night. That isn't all completely false, because I definitely have been taking naps lately and they have definitely lasted four hours at times. This is what my weekends consist of lately. I know, I'm cool.
Let's get back where I left off: predicting a 27-24 victory over the Panthers going into the bye week, saying that if we limited Steve Smith, Ponder didn't turn it over, and we fed AP the ball we would win. Lo and behold, those three things happened and we won by a score of 24-21. Not a bad prediction, if I do say so myself. Jared Allen had another sack and a fumble recovery, and CP7 was clutch on third down. It was a competitive game, but not an overly exciting one. Coming up on this Monday (which I may call into work just to watch) we have the Packers again, who are just coming off a close victory against the Chargers in which Aaron Rodgers dropped another 4 TD, 5 incompletion, monster game.
Here the Vikings stand in the middle of their year, at 2-6. My regular season predictions have not been too accurate, as I kind of went into rube mode on them and gave an optimistic outlook. If you refer back, I had us at 4-4 at mid-season, and finishing 6-2 for a 10-6 final record. I was wrong. Very wrong. However, I will say that I also mentioned in that entry that we were far more likely to start 2-6 than 6-2, so I wasn't completely blinded by my homerism. It hasn't been pretty, losing our first 3 games by blowing increasingly larger halftime leads. Donovan McNabb was benched in the 4th quarter of a beatdown on national TV by the Bears and hasn't been seen since, and Christian Ponder has given fans hope that we may have a franchise quarterback in the making. One characteristic of Ponder that is already garnering a lot of attention is his poise under pressure and proficiency on third downs. I got to thinking for a second about that, and recalled something one Trent Dilfer of ESPN had to say about him briefly following the draft. It went something like...
"His drop, his arm speed, everything about him ... it's one tempo," Dilfer said. "He has to play at the 7-on-7 tempo. The drop has to be rhythmical. The receivers have to be open. The ball goes one speed. The pocket has to be nice. Any time he's asked to quicken that up or there's people around him, his accuracy is awful. ...
"The great quarterbacks are as accurate going to [options] two, three and four as they are when you go to one. ... Christian Ponder, as soon as you get to two or three, the ball is dirting. It's high. It's all over the place. OK?. He plays with a lot of anxiety. Do you want your quarterback in the NFL to play with a lot of anxiety?
"Christian Ponder tests off the charts. He's in shorts and a t-shirt. He goes to his pro workout, he's in shorts and a t-shirt. His big pecs are hanging out. He's got big guns. He looks great. He's a good-looking young man and he spins that ball around the football field in a perfect environment and people go 'wow he can really play'."Yeah, about that, Mr. Dilfer... I think you may have been a bit off about his anxiety. He's been as cool as a cucumber on the other side of the pillow thus far on the most important downs, in the most important quarter.. From what the Minnesotan ladies are saying, you're spot on about him looking great. Ponder has not been afforded the luxury of anything even close to resembling nice pockets, or really very many open receivers for that matter. Despite that, he has looked pretty damn good for a rookie in his first two starts. Sure, he was picked off twice in his first, but it was against the Packers. The same Packers who just handed the Great King Laserface his first ever 3-interception game of his career this past Sunday.
Quarterback: I - I'm giving us an incomplete on this one. McNabb looked terrible. NO ONE DENIES THIS! But as I stated above, Christian Ponder has all given us hope. He looks unrattled by pressure, doesn't lose a lot of yardage on sacks, and hits open receivers. In the three fourth quarters that Christian Ponder has played, the Vikings are 10 of 16 (62.5%) converting on third down. In the five fourth quarters that Donovan McNabb played, the Vikings were 4 of 17 (23.5%) converting on third downs. He has thrown a couple picks, and there have been other throws he has almost had picked as well. These things happen to every quarterback. He has also been phenomenal on 3rd down conversions and nearly led a comeback against the world champs. There is hope.
Running Backs: A - Adrian Peterson has looked really good this year. He has looked different than other years for some reason, maybe it is just in my mind, but he has been an especially tough runner so far this year and leads the league in yards after contact. That is a testament both to the terrible play of our line as well as the awesomeness that is Purple Jesus. Toby Gerhart has looked good spelling him, and Booker hasn't had to do much, but has been solid in special teams.
Receivers/Tight Ends: C+ - Michael Jenkins has been a reliable possession receiver. He makes the catch when it's thrown on target to him, but he does not have a lot of ability to get separation and is best suited as probably a 3rd or 4th receiver on a very good team. I would be satisfied if we had a game-breaker at the 1WR position, Jenkins at 2WR and Percy in the slot, where he does the most damage. Speaking of Percy, he has had a good year but not the breakout year as a receiver I envisioned for him. He is a phenomenal athlete and we have found ways to get him the ball, despite him not being on the field nearly as much as our top 2 WRs. I just have this fear of his talent being wasted as being barely more than a gimmick. I do not want Reggie Bush, Jr. on our team. I think Percy has the ability to be Wes Welker or even a Steve Smith. Are my thoughts baseless and inaccurate? Perhaps more on the Smith comparison than the Welker, but I still want to see more out of him. He has been our best wideout for what it's worth, and now that Ponder has taken the reigns, perhaps he will show me a bit more of what I've been looking for. Kyle Rudolph has looked good in limited action. He has made some amazing catches for a TE, but looks a little less fleet of foot than some of the elite tight ends in the league. Then again, he probably has around the same speed as Jason Witten. I would settle for having Jason Witten. Shiancoe has looked better since Ponder started playing, and is his favorite target on 3rd downs so far. He has been very reliable in getting those conversions. Bernard Berrian was awful and probably never should have made the team, letting him stick around for 5 weeks is what drags the group down, which has achieved what should be expected of them, relative to their abilities.
Offensive Line: C- -This is most definitely one of the areas of the team that needs to be addressed in the early rounds of this year's draft. Like, the first round (unless we can get Justin Blackmon and Matt Kalil is gone). We are 9th in the league in sacks allowed, but surprisingly in the bottom third of the league in QB hits. Our line has the best pound-for-pound running back in the league running behind them, and he is near the league lead and has been leading the league in rushing despite them. We lead the league in negative rushes up the middle with 11. I think the word that could describe this unit best is inconsistent. We see a lot of negative rushes, and quite a few big gainers. Charlie Johnson gets beaten like a red-headed stepchild regularly on pass rushes, John Sullivan is not anything special, and Phil Loadholt is penalty-prone. Hutch is not going to be here forever, and who knows who is even starting at RG anymore. We have a lot of work to do in this area.
Defensive Backs: D - Our defensive backfield has been awful for years and years and years. Can anyone name a great cornerback that is not named Winfield, who has played for us over the past ten years? Jimmy Hitchcock? Orlando Thomas? Wasswa Serwanga? Whatever. This is just about this year. We've been injury prone and felony prone as well. Chris Cook, who I was especially hard on in the preseason, looked like he was really developing into a solid starter. Then, he went and choked his girlfiend. He is still on the roster, which points to the possibility that we may be keeping him around and giving him another chance. I support that. He isn't Pacman Jones choking out strippers and having his posse shoot bouncers. He was probably drunk and made a mistake. If he does it again, he should be gone, but I am in favor of giving him this chance first. Asher Allen hasn't looked as terrible as he has in the past, but overall this is as big of a mess, if not bigger than the O-Line. The fact that Tyrell Johnson is still seeing playing time is an indicator of just how terrible the situation is. He almost lost us the game last week by taking a terrible angle at the receiver on 4th down and let him get about 20 yards more than he should have. He does not belong in a starting role on this team, or probably any team for that matter. We have always had a solid rush defense, which makes people say that our statistics against the pass are inflated by the fact that people pass more because they can't run against us. This is not the case in my mind. Teams pass against us because it is a sure thing.
Linebackers: C+ - Our linebackers are decent. E.J. Henderson is the baddest MF on the planet for playing every week with a steel rod in his leg, but it doesn't help his case in pass coverage. We get hit on seam routes quite frequently and those are mostly his responsibility. His brother has been a nice surprise, and can really cover sideline to sideline. Chad Greenway got a huge contract in the offseason and has really not made any splash plays. He also gets beat in coverage quite frequently. This is not our worst unit by a stretch, but we need to be better in pass coverage. Teams have beaten us quite a bit by just throwing in the flats or hitting their tight ends in the seams.
Defensive Line: B+ - Jared Allen really brings this unit's grade up. He is on pace to break the league record for sacks in a season, has 3 forced fumbles and 3 recoveries to go with one interception. Brian Robison started the season out strong, but has leveled off in the past few weeks. Remi Ayodele has been virtually invisible. I think he has like 6 tackles this year, and I am pretty sure I'm overestimating that. Kevin Williams has been decent, but quiet. Maybe Pat Williams was more important than we thought he was, because KWill has not been playing up to his usual Pro Bowl level. I don't want to end all of these on negatives, so let me rehash that Jared Allen is the freaking man and is playing like his mullet is on fire this season. He is awesome. I was watching midseason awards on NFL Live last week for the simple fact that I thought Jared was a shoe-in for DPOY. Turns out, ESPN's fans are a bunch of bubble boys who know absolutely nothing about football, because they voted Ndamukong Suh the midseason DPOY. Suh has 3 sacks this season. I really have nothing but words that make me look like a politically incorrect jerk for the people who voted for that.
Special Teams: B+ -Chris "The Godfather" Kluwe has been very good, as usual this season. Ryan Longwell has missed a couple kicks (13-16), but also nailed a 50+ yarder last week that was integral in getting a win. The biggest surprise has been Marcus Sherels giving us a legitimate threat in the punt return game. What a pleasant surprise he has been. His only kick return of the season went for 78 yards last weekend, and he is averaging 10 yards per punt return. Percy brought the first kick of the regular season all the way back, and other than that we have been pretty average on kick returns. We also gave up a touchdown to Devin Hester on a kickoff, but other than that have been very good in coverage. Everson Griffen is relentless on kick coverage, and is a huge guy. Ipso facto, he is a beast.
Alrighty, so overall, we kinda suck this year. It's been a rough year. The one thing that is keeping the attention of anyone other than hardcore fans is Christian Ponder, and he has done a good job of it so far. With a team that is basically out of the competitive picture this year, we just have to look for positives we can build on as a team. It's encouraging that our two best players, Jared and AP, have absolutely continued to show up this season and play their best football. That shows me they are two Vikings all-timers, so hats off to those two and any of the other players that continue to work their tails off despite the fact that our season is already basically over. I think the second half will be prettier than the first, and that's really all we can hope for as fans! I'll leave with the midpoint interlude of Tha Carter II, which is the best album Lil' Wayne has put out to date. See ya next week guys. SKOL!