HERE COMES THE CHOO-CHOO!!
To start this preview off, let me give you the impression of Thomas Tapeh from someone that's watched him for the last couple years. That would be Jason, the head blogger at SBNation's outstanding Philadelphia Eagles blog, Bleeding Green Nation.
He's a solid blocking fullback. He doesn't necessarily bowl people over, but he's an effective lead blocker and most important for you guys is that he knows pass blocking schemes in that Andy Reid style west coast offense. Blitz pickup is huge for all backs in the west coast system and Tapeh knows that as well as anyone.That sounds like a pretty darn good idea to me. If we're going to get someone to replace Tony Richardson. . .who was nothing but class during the time he was in Minnesota. . .a guy like Tapeh is a very welcome addition.
Skill wise... he doesn't offer a whole lot. He's not particularly good catching the ball out of the backfield, he's not a guy that's going to convert short yardage... He really isn't going to give you much if you hand him the football, although I don't suspect that will be too much of a problem for you guys.
All in all I think he's a nice pickup for you guys and will slot well into that west coast offense. He'll open up some holes for AP and keep some blitzers off Jackson.
Thomas Tapeh's signing a contract with the Beloved Purple has got to be just a little sweeter for him, considering that he's a native of St. Paul, Minnesota, right across the river from Minneapolis. He attended St. Paul Johnson high school, and then went on to play for the Minnesota Golden Gophers for four seasons. He was selected with the 30th pick in the 5th round of the 2004 NFL Draft by Philadelphia, and after handling the ball a significant amount in college, smoothly made the transition to fullback in the NFL.
In a bit of a twist that I find pretty interesting, Tapeh has something in common with another Vikings' 2008 free agent signing, Madieu Williams. Like Williams, Tapeh migrated to the United States with his family when he was 9 years old. Williams' family came from Sierra Leone, while the Tapeh family lived in Liberia before coming to America.
As Jason said, Tapeh isn't going to do a heck of a lot for us as a ball handler. . .over the three seasons (39 games) he played with the Eagles, he had a grand total of 26 receptions and 22 rushes. But that's not what the Vikings are bringing him here for. He's coming here because he knows the offense, and because he's an outstanding pass blocker. He's also coming here to blow open holes for Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor, which is what his primary purpose is going to be, and I'm sure he knows that coming in.
Overall, Tapeh was a good pick-up for the Vikings. He came relatively cheap (only $1 million in guaranteed money), and he's young enough where he still has a little room to grow. It's going to be fun watching the local guy blocking for the best 1-2 running back tandem in the game, and helping an improving young quarterback and passing game to blossom.