That's right, Pro Football Focus has once again shined a spotlight on some of our Vikings players for having an outstanding, and largely unnoticed performance last week against the Chicago Bears. Each week Pro Football Focus chooses players that don't get the credit they deserve, or who play positions that don't tend to get a lot of recognition for their "Secret Superstar" series. You can check out the entire article here, but as we tend to do here at the Daily Norseman, we've got the relevant Vikings bits for you right here.
There's many things we love here at Pro Football Focus but, as you'll know by now if you're a Secret Superstars veteran, we're always partial to some nice lead blocking. Considered by many to be a position from days gone by, there's something quite special about watching a throwback fullback clear the way like a battering ram for a running back. In Minnesota they already have the best running back in the NFL in Adrian Peterson so it's almost unfair to gift him with fantastic play from his lead blocker, but that's exactly what he got in the form of Jerome Felton (+6.8) in Sunday's overtime win over the Chicago Bears.
After serving a 3-game suspension to start the year Felton has been getting in a grove with Adrian Peterson lately. Pro Football Focus was a little down on Felton in his first few games back, but he's clearing away defenders and looking every bit as good now as he did last year when he made the Pro Bowl. Congrats Jerome!
Audie Cole, LB, Minnesota Vikings
While we've seen big things from Felton before, the play of another Viking came as more of a surprise. Deputizing for linebacker Erin Henderson, Audie Cole (+3.3) shone in his second start of the season, just a year after being drafted in the seventh round of the NFL Draft out of North Carolina State. Playing predominantly special teams earlier in the year, he had seen just six snaps on defense before starting for the first time in Week 12 and looked a bit out of place, struggling against the run in particular. Thankfully he was able to improve drastically this past week, and finished as our highest graded inside linebacker from the full slate of games.
He wasn't outstanding against the run by any means, but he still looked much improved on a week ago, missing just one tackle and picking up several unblocked defensive stops. In coverage he allowed just 11 yards from three targets, adding a pass breakup as well. However, it was his play on 2nd-and-11 with 6:57 left in the game which will be the lasting impression from his day against the Bears. Tipping the ball after quarterback Josh McCown had tried to flip it to running back Matt Forte, he watched as it landed in the hands of offensive lineman Kyle Long. Cole reacted quickly, ripping the ball from his grasp as he went to the ground, gifting the Vikings the ball in the red zone.
All aboard the Cole-Train! This kid continues to impress and the fact that he has seemingly come out of nowhere, after being released by the team no less, really makes me wonder why the heck the coaching staff didn't realize what they had. It's true that it's still very early, and he's only started 2 games. There's a lot of excitement about this linebacker, and for good reason. But finishing as the highest rated inside linebacker of the week? That says a lot about his ceiling, and it's why so many of us are excited about Audie Cole in the middle.
Congratulations Jerome Felton and Audie Cole for being Pro Football Focus' Secret Superstars of the week. Here's hoping you can continue this excellent play in Baltimore this week!