Hey there, folks! Ted is out traipsing through the wine country to ring in the new year, so yours truly gets another shot at the Stock Market Report for this season.
And what a season it’s been, huh? Well, if you like roller coasters, I suppose. Things started back in late August with the Teddy Bridgewater injury, followed that up with the Sam Bradford trade, the opening of U.S. Bank Stadium, and a 5-0 start where it looked like the Vikings were on top of the world.
Then the bye week hit and everything went to hell in a handbasket. Four straight losses, injuries upon injuries upon injuries, a couple of rough losses in games that the Vikings really should have won, and finally bottoming out by watching not one, but two of our NFC North rivals make the postseason parade, one of whom was all but dead and buried in about mid-November. The win on Sunday was nice, but it only got the Vikings back to .500 and facing an offseason of uncertainty.
But, we’ve made it through another season. This is the eleventh season that The Daily Norseman has covered Minnesota Vikings football, and in that entire time we’ve managed to get ourselves one playoff win. We’re probably looking at the face of the franchise not being back in 2017, we’re not entirely sure what’s going on at quarterback, and there isn’t a first round pick to look forward to, even though there are still eight picks for the Vikings in April’s draft, including five between Rounds 2 and 4.
So, you know what? Things may kind of stink right now, but just as we always have. . .we will survive.
Well now go,
Walk out the door
Just turn around
Now, you're not welcome anymore
Weren't you the one
Who tried to break me with desire?
Did you think I'd crumble?
Did you think I'd lay down and die?
Oh not I,
I will survive
As Long as I know how to love,
I know I'll be alive
I've got all my life to live
I've got all my love to give
I will survive,
I will survive
Your Stock Market Report for the 2016 regular season finale follows.
Blue Chip Stocks
Sam Bradford, quarterback - There are people that are going to jump up and down and whine about the Bradford trade because it took away a first-round pick and the Vikings didn’t make the playoffs or whatever else. Whatever. In fifteen games, the guy nearly topped 4,000 yards, threw 20 touchdown passes to just five interceptions, and managed to be one of the few Vikings that did not get injured in a season that saw damn near everybody else of importance find their way to injured reserve. Given the circumstances he was under, he had a hell of a year. I want Teddy Bridgewater to come back next year as much as anyone else, but in the event that he isn’t ready to go. . .and I certainly wouldn’t bet on that at this point. . .this team will be perfectly fine with Sam Bradford at quarterback.
Kyle Rudolph, tight end - Rudolph had what might have been the best game of his NFL career on Sunday, and it capped off one of the best seasons that any Vikings’ tight end has ever had. He had 11 catches for 117 yards and a touchdown on Sunday, and looked like the sort of player he was always supposed to be. He was even breaking tackles and getting yards after the catch, which has been a rarity for him recently. If Pat Shurmur is still this team’s offensive coordinator in 2017, Rudolph is going to continue to see a lot of work.
Rashod Hill, offensive tackle - Who? Well, he’s the guy that stepped in at left tackle for T.J. Clemmings after he left the game with an injury. He was signed off of Jacksonville’s practice squad in November, and since the Vikings were only rolling with seven offensive linemen on Sunday, the injury to Clemmings left them with limited options. Hill came in, and in 46 snaps allowed zero pressures on Sam Bradford and did a pretty decent job in the run game. I get small sample size and all that, but given what we’ve seen from the offensive line this season, Hill’s performance was enough to give him blue chip status, if only for one day.
Xavier Rhodes, cornerback - I know that Alshon Jeffery has been suspended recently, and maybe he couldn’t have cared less during this one, but Rhodes shut him down again. Jeffery had just one catch for ten yards on three targets, and a pass intended for him on Chicago’s first possession was intercepted by Rhodes to end the drive. That was the fifth interception of the season for Rhodes, who shook off the weirdness of last week’s game in Green Bay to remind everyone just how good he is again.
Blue Chip (Lifetime Achievement category)
Chad Greenway, linebacker - Greenway is only down on the stat sheet as having two tackles on Sunday, but if the speculation is true about this being his final game. . .and he was sort of non-committal about it in the locker room afterwards. . .it’s time to recognize a guy that has been an outstanding member of the team and the Twin Cities community for the past 11 seasons. It will be a sad day in Vikings’ history when #52 decides to hang it up.
Jerick McKinnon, running back - McKinnon had a very good game today, managing to average 5.6 yards per carry and find the end zone twice. Again, some of that might have been due to disinterest on the part of the Chicago defense, but he did some very good things. At this point, I’m not as sure of his ability to be an every-down guy as I was at the end of last season, but he does have a place on this team just because of all the things he can do.
Terence Newman and Trae Waynes, cornerbacks - Waynes had an interception of his own on Sunday and, like Rhodes’, it also stopped a drive that had gotten into the red zone. Waynes has the ability to be a solid cornerback if he can not be quite so grab-happy. Whether or not he steps into a starting role next season will likely depend on what happens with Newman. After leading his mini-mutiny last week in Green Bay, Newman did his job and actually bounced back and forth between corner and safety in this one. The Bears’ offense did nothing through the air on Sunday, and both of these gentlemen were part of the reason why.
Kai Forbath, kicker - Cobra Kai. . .and I’m going to keep pushing that nickname until it sticks, damn it. . .has swept the leg in outstanding fashion since he was brought in to handle the kicking duties for the Vikings. He finished the season 15-of-15 on field goal attempts, and frankly has earned the right to come back to this team next season. He’s also done well on kickoff duties, for the most part (though the Bears did manage one big return that led to a field goal at the end of the first half).
U.S. Bank Stadium Security - How in the sweet blue hell do you let two guys get a huge banner and all sorts of climbing apparatus into the building and then let them up onto the damn roof? I mean, I don’t know if this was some sort of Ocean’s Eleven sort of deal or how exactly this all came about, but honestly. . .not a good look for the security folks. Particularly when the National Football League won’t even let you bring a damn purse into the building (unless it’s one of those clear “league approved” bags) from what I understand.
Buy: Rashod Hill had a pretty solid performance today - For a guy that hadn’t really seen any real NFL action prior to this afternoon’s game, he stepped in and did a very good job in both pass protection and moving people in the run game. He’s definitely got a future with team.
Sell: Rashod Hill is the left tackle of the future - However, let’s slow our roll for a bit here, ladies and gentlemen. The Vikings still need a ton of help on the offensive line, and they’ll almost certainly be looking at potential “franchise” left tackles in the draft and free agency. The potential certainly appears to be there, but we’ll have to see where this leads.
Buy: This pass defense is still one of the NFL’s best - The Vikings’ defense did a very good job of shutting down Chicago’s passing attack on Sunday, intercepting two passes and forcing one Matt Barkley fumble that was returned for a touchdown by Everson Griffen. When everything is working, the combination of this pass rush and secondary is as good as any unit in the league. The past couple of weeks were just a bump in the road.
Sell: That run defense, though - However, they certainly aren’t the Williams Wall when it comes to stopping the run. For the second time this year, Jordan Howard looked like the second coming of Walter Payton, racking up 135 yards rushing against the Minnesota defense. He was just about all the Bears had on offense on Sunday, and they still had a lot of difficulty stopping it. Outside of offensive line help, the Vikings’ biggest need this offseason might be someone to pair with Linval Joseph on the defensive interior.
Buy: Mike Zimmer as the coach of this team - I shouldn’t even have to say this, but apparently I do. I think most of us still like Mike Zimmer, the coach, and given some of the circumstances that he’s dealt with in his first three seasons, he’s done about as good a job as you could expect. We’ll get more into that in the next few days.
Sell: The suggestion that Zimmer’s job was ever really in jeopardy - I’m not sure where this came from, but apparently both Bleacher Report and Pro Football Talk “confirmed” after the game that the Vikings would be “bringing Mike Zimmer back.” I know there was the whole issue with the defensive game plan in Green Bay, but honestly. . .there was no way that the Vikings were going to fire Mike Zimmer. Is he going to be under a bit more scrutiny this offseason and into next season? Yes, I’m sure he will be. But that’s an entirely different thing from suggesting his job was in danger.
That’s what I’ve got for this final edition of the Stock Market Report for the 2016 regular season, ladies and gentlemen. If you think I missed anything, feel free to drop it into the comments section here. Have a good rest of your evening, and Happy New Year to all of you reading out there!