Greenway Continues To Play At Pro Bowl Level

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 1, 2010 – 3:40 pm

Last season it was easy to promote Vikings players for Pro Bowl honors because the team was having so much success and many players were having sensational seasons. This season the team is not having as much success, but there are still players who are having sensational seasons.

And they deserve to be promoted for Pro Bowl honors.

One of those players is LB Chad Greenway, who has improved each season in his 5-year career and is having his best campaign this season. Greenway currently leads the Vikings in tackles with 112 – including 7 for a loss – and he ranks 1st in the NFC and 3rd in the NFL in tackles as well. In 7 of the Vikings 11 games this season, Greenway has been the leading tackler and in the other 4 games he’s ranked 2nd on the team in stops; he also has a fumble recovery.

Chad Greenway

“He’s having a Pro Bowl season,” Vikings Interim Head Coach Leslie Frazier said on Wednesday. “I hope he gets the attention he deserves; he’s having a great season.”

Greenway might actually not be getting the attention he deserves. Part of the reason could be the team’s 4-7 record. But I think another reason he’s gone underappreciated on a national stage is the lack of “impact” plays, such forced fumbles, fumble recoveries and INTs. He recorded a season-high 14 stops against the Detroit Lions in Week 3 and he’s had double-digit tackles 7 times this season. But with those impressive numbers, he doesn’t have an INT. Last season Greenway led all LBs in turnovers (3 fumble recoveries, 3 INTs).

Unfortunately last year’s stats don’t count for this year.

Maybe the INTs are coming, though. While speaking with reporters on Wednesday, Frazier said one of the biggest areas of improvement for Greenway this season is his pass coverage.

“His pass drops have really, really improved,” Frazier commented, “and that was an issue early in last season. But now, no, he’s much improved.”

Regardless of his Pro Bowl prospects, Greenway is a defender Frazier is clearly grateful to have on his team.

“He’s such a hard worker and a guy who is so passionate about football,” Frazier explained. “He loves the game. Chad is one of those guys you wouldn’t mind having 53 of. He loves the game and he works extremely hard and on top of that he’s talented. You combine that, you’ve got a pretty good football player and he’s having a great year.”

Fan voting for this year’s Pro Bowl is open and you can cast your votes for Greenway and other Vikings by clicking here.

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Lots Of Bills And Vikings Didn’t Practice On Wednesday

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 1, 2010 – 3:19 pm

The NFL is moving into its 13th week of regular season play. One way you can tell the season has advanced into its last quarter is to take a look at injury reports around the league. Football is often a war of attrition, and both the Vikings and Buffalo Bills injury reports are excellent illustrations of that.

Between the 2 teams, there are 22 players listed on the Wednesday injury report and 13 of them were held out of practice. Only 2 – Bernard Berrian (groin) and Eric Frampton (hamstring) – were full participants.

Held out of practice for the Vikings were: DE Ray Edwards (ankle), G Steve Hutchinson (thumb), WR Greg Lewis (concussion), RB Adrian Peterson (ankle) and QB Brett Favre (ankle/neck/right shoulder). For the Bills, the following players were held out: G Eric Wood (ankle), T Demetrius Bell (knee), CB Terrence McGee (knee), LB Chris Kelsay (illness), DE Dwan Edwards (hamstring), LB Reggie Torbor (shoulder), TE Shawn Nelson (illness) and NT Torrell Troup (fibula).

Former Vikings DE Spencer Johnson, who now plays for the Bills, was limited with a hamstring injury and so was rookie RB C.J. Spiller.

The following Vikings players were limited in practice: WR Percy Harvin (illness), S Husain Abdullah (ankle), CB Chris Cook (knee), WR Sidney Rice (hip) and S Jamarca Sanford (hamstring).

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Vikings Announce 2010 All-State High School Football Team

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 1, 2010 – 2:49 pm

The Minnesota Vikings have announced the team’s 9th annual All-State High School Football Team.

Presented by the Minnesota Army National Guard, the 2010 team consists of 30 of the best prep players throughout the state as selected by a committee of sportswriters, broadcasters, Vikings staff and Minnesota high school football coaches. In addition to the 30 senior players selected, Jeff Erdmann of Rosemount High School has been named the 2010 Coach of the Year.

The All-State Team will be recognized during halftime of Sunday’s game vs. the Buffalo Bills.

Name, School, Position

Joe Bjorklund, Rosemount, OL
David Boegel, Wayzata, DB
Gavin Brown, Becker, LB
Reggie Gand, DeLaSalle, RB/Ret
Bill Gregg, Hopkins, QB
Tyler Hamblin, Cretin-Derham Hall, DB
Jordan Hayes, Brainerd,RB/Ret
Nick Jacobs, Delano, OL
Eric Kline, Blaine QB
Kevin Kramer, Eden Valley-Watkins, WR/RB/DB
Grayson Levine, Eden Prairie, S
Conrad Masberg, Waterville-Elysian-Morristown, QB/LB
Ezekiel Okeleye, East Ridge, RB
Dillon Olson, Grygla-Gatzke, RB/LB
Tommy Olson, Mahtomedi, OL
Jameson Parsons, Eagan, QB
Will Ratelle, St. Thomas Academy, LB
Eric Riley, Morris Area, FB/LB
Colby Salonek, Springfield, FB/LB
Ayrton Scott, Mpls. Southwest, QB/S/WR/P
C.J. Smith, Burnsville, RB/DB
Nathaniel Swoyer, Willma, FB/LB/P
Shane Taylor, Concordia Academy, WR
Andrew Tortora, Spring Lake Park, RB/LB/Ret
Dylan Ulferts, Shakopee, WR/RB/Ret
Frank Veldman, Eastview, S/WR/P/Ret
Derek Vidor, Rogers, RB
Drew Weber, Mankato West, LB
Peter Westerhaus, Holy Family, LB/TE
Ryan Woodard, Winona, WR/DB

Coach of the Year – Jeff Erdmann                Rosemount High School

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A Look At Potential Backup Plans

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 1, 2010 – 2:05 pm

It’s far too early to speculate (accurately) on whether DE Ray Edwards (ankle), LG Steve Hutchinson (hand) and RB Adrian Peterson (ankle) will be able to play on Sunday. All 3 are dealing with injuries coming out of last weekend’s win over the Washington Redskins and all 3 will be monitored closely leading up to this weekend’s game.

Whether they end up playing or not, the Vikings will have backup plans in place to make sure the team doesn’t miss a beat on Sunday while battling the Buffalo Bills. Let’s take a look at potential backup plans should any of the 3 players be unable to play.

DE Ray Edwards
It’s an inexact exercise to pinpoint how playing time will be distributed along the defensive line. More than any other position on the field, defensive line sees a rotation of players coming in and out of the game to keep legs fresh and effort level high. I’m guessing Brian Robison would get the start should Edwards be unable to go, but it’s a safe bet that every lineman who’s active will see more snaps in this scenario, including rookie Everson Griffen and DTs Fred Evans, Letroy Guion and Jimmy Kennedy.

LG Steve Hutchinson
Ryan Cook is the top reserve lineman for the Vikings, but he’s already in the lineup as Anthony Herrera’s replacement. As a result, rookie Chris DeGeare would get the call should Hutch be unable to go. DeGeare was selected in the 5th round of last April’s draft and he’s been among the inactives for the Vikings this season; he’s also been dealing with an ankle injury but is in-line to play if the need arises.

RB Adrian Peterson
We saw Peterson’s backup in action on Sunday against Washington, as rookie Toby Gerhart stepped in and picked up the slack. Gerhart rushed 22 times for 76 yards and 1 TD in Peterson’s stead, displaying the type of grit and toughness you’d like to see out of a RB. Obviously the Vikings are in a better position with both Gerhart and Peterson going, but last week was an indication that Gerhart can be the lead guy in a pinch. If it’s determined ahead of time that Peterson can’t play – as opposed to during the game – it’s likely that Albert Young would be activated for game day and join Gerhart and FB Fahu Tahi on the depth chart.

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Managing Players “Paramount” For Frazier

Posted by cjsiewert on December 1, 2010 – 1:39 pm

Just as we mentioned earlier about Frazier’s focus placed solely on the next opponent, it’s important for the interim coach to preach that message to his players. But it’s even more important that the players understand the message and carry it out as a team.

To make sure that his message is clearly delivered, Frazier has reformed and reinstated a “leadership group,” so to speak, of select players to spread that message and reiterate it to teammates in locker room. This group has met occasionally after team walk-throughs and practices.

“They are the leaders of our team,” Frazier mentioned. “If you ask our players or any one of those guys, they would say ‘Yes, he’s one of our leaders that we look to.’ It was my discretion…the guys that I thought garnered the respect of our players. There are probably a few more that could be a part of that group, but those are the guys.”

Having a leadership group is nothing new to the team since Brad Childress did the same thing during his time at the helm, but Frazier acknowledged the importance of what the group does for the team and the communication that transpires between him and the players.

“A little bit of both,” Frazier said about asking and answering questions with the group. “There are some things I need to get their input on, but also getting them to reiterate the message that I’ve given to the team. I think that’s important. Our players respect them so much. So a combination of both.”

And now that Frazier has become more familiar with what it means to manage an entire team, rather than placing his focus solely on the defense, he’s been able to gain a closer relationship with each one of his players – something that is clearly an important aspect for Frazier in his role as the head coach.

“It’s extremely important,” Frazier said. “In this role, it’s as important as anything. When you’re working one side of the ball, you’re primarily concerned with that group and you’ve got to be able to relate to them as well. But now, as the head coach, to be able to touch every guy and make him feel as if he’s important to this ballclub, whether he’s a practice squad guy or your starting quarterback or wide receiver, that takes some doing.

“Being able to manage people is paramount in the role that I’m in.”

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Frazier’s Future Plans

Posted by cjsiewert on December 1, 2010 – 12:42 pm

It’s only been a little over a week since the Vikings named Leslie Frasier interim head coach and it’s logical that talk have begun to swirl about the new coach’s future with the organization.

Landing a head coaching job in the NFL has been a hot topic surrounding Frazier over the past 2 offseasons. Duringthat period of time, Frazier has interviewed for several head coaching positions; last Tuesday, he was unconventionally offered the position he’d been looking for as a result of a disappointing 3-7 record to start the season.

It’s commonly known in this league that winning takes care of everything, and after Sunday’s victory over the Redskins Frazier has been probed with questions about whether or not he’s looking toward next season and landing the head coaching job with the Vikings. But Frazier’s focus is solely on preparing for the next opponent – as it was last week – rather than worrying about his future.

“Not at all, and I don’t intend to,” Frazier replied when asked about any recent talks with ownership and the permanent position. “I really want to concentrate on the Buffalo Bills and what we’ve got to get done to win this game. Those things will take care of themselves.”

We can only speculate that it’s human nature to look towards the future, but Frazier has remained steadfast on what his focus is – that being the Bills. And experience with such adversity has given Frazier a unique outlook on what the future holds.

“For me it’s a little bit different,” Frazier acknowledged. “I’ve experienced some things in this league both as a player and a coach. My faith gets me through a lot of those moments where I’ve seen where it may seem a little bit dark for a moment, and light arrives. So I’m not in the least concerned about what happens post our final game of the season. Things will work out just fine.”

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Frazier Updates Injuries To Edwards, Hutch, Peterson

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 1, 2010 – 12:21 pm

Three key starters for the Vikings came out of last weekend’s game against the Washington Redskins with injuries that have put their status for this weekend’s game – and practices leading up to the game – against the Buffalo Bills in question.

Vikings Interim Head Coach Leslie Frazier briefly went through each player’s current status with reporters this morning following his team’s walk-through and here’s what he had to say…

Adrian Peterson – left game in 2nd quarter with ankle injury
“It is an ankle sprain. It’ll probably be day-to-day, maybe going all the way up to Sunday as to whether or not he’s going to be playing. We’ve all got our fingers crossed. We’ll see what he’s able to do today. May or may not be on the practice field, we’ll see. But we’re hoping that he’ll make it to Sunday.”

Ray Edwards – left game with ankle injury and did not return
“With Ray Edwards, his ankle injury is probably a little bit worse than we thought. But still, there’s a chance he’ll be able to play on Sunday as well. But he’ll be in the same situation where we’ve got to wait and see how he progresses over the course of the week.

No ligament damage. His is much more tender than Adrian’s was. He’s not quite putting quite as much weight on that ankle as you would hope three days after the game. We’ll see how he does today.

What we’re not certain about, and I’ve got to get some clarification about it, his is on the border of being a high ankle sprain.”

Steve Hutchinson – injured hand during game and was able to play through it
“With Steve Hutchinson, his thumb is a little bit worse than we thought. He actually fractured that thumb, so he’ll have to be cast and heavily bandaged in order to play. That’ll be a day-to-day thing as well; he’s got to get out and see how he functions with the work that they’re going to do with his thumb, so we’ll see. He’s obviously a vital part of our success on the offensive line and he’s a tough guy. But we’ll see how he does over the course of the next few days.”

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Setting The Table For The Buffalo Bills

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 1, 2010 – 7:54 am

Wednesday is the day NFL teams officially flip the calendar to the next week, as coaches introduce players to the week’s game plan and on-field preparations begin for the upcoming opponent. Wednesday is also the day we shift from analyzing the previous week’s game and focusing on the upcoming opponent.

And this week’s upcoming opponent is the Buffalo Bills, a team that sits at 2-9 through 11 games and is led by head coach Chan Gailey. But don’t let the poor record deceive you – their 2 wins both came in the last 3 weeks against the Detroit Lions and Cincinnati Bengals and they took the Pittsburgh Steelers to overtime last week and lost by a FG. In analyzing the Bills, the stat that sticks out to me the most is this: They’ve had 7 games decided by 8 points or fewer and 5 of their last 6 games have been decided by 3 points or fewer. In all of those close game, they’ve come out on the winning end just 1 time.

Suffice it to say, the Bills have suffered a lot of losses this season but they’re not being blown out.

Let’s take a brief look at all 3 phases of the Bills now, then throughout the day and week we’ll delve in further and in more detail…

The Bills On Offense: There are 2 main storylines with Buffalo’s offense and the first one to address is their QB. His name is Ryan Fitzpatrick and he’s a guy Vikings fans have seen in the past. He’s a 5th-year veteran already and he’s out of Harvard. Against the Vikings as a member of the St. Louis Rams in 2005 he didn’t look so smart, though. In that game he threw 5 INTs and was sacked once in a Vikings route. This season he’s been much sharper, however. Fitzpatrick replaced Trent Edwards as the starter early in the year and through 9 games played he has 19 TDs. He’s shown the ability to lead an explosive passing game, with a pair of 300-yard, 4-TD passing performances and 5 multiple-TD passing performances in 9 games. But Fitzpatrick has also shown he’s prone to mistakes, with 4 multiple-INT performances in 9 games and 3 games with a passer rating below 70.0.

Ryan Fitzpatrick

The other main storyline to address is Fitzpatrick’s favorite target – WR Steve Johnson. A 7th-round pick 3 seasons ago, Johnson has officially burst onto the scene in 2010 with 9 TDs already and a 13.5 yards-per-catch average. Last week he dropped several passes, including one in the endzone in overtime that would’ve won the game, but he’s clearly the best and most reliable target in the passing game and he’s a guy the Vikings secondary must contain.

A couple of other quick hitters on the Bills offense:
– The running game is paced by Fred Jackson, a 6-1, 215-pound grinder who averages a respectable 4.4 yards per carry and has 5 TDs. He’s tough to tackle and is a north-south runner who rarely wastes energy running sideways. The complementary back is rookie C.J. Spiller, a top 10 pick in last April’s draft who has dealt with injuries this season. Spiller has not fulfilled his top-10 pick billing yet, but he should be back in the lineup this week and he must be respected both as a runner and a kick returner.
– The Bills rank 23rd in passing offense, 20th in scoring offense and 18th in rushing offense.

The Bills On Defense: We’re going to ignore their rankings in important statistical categories for now and focus on some individual players because their rankings are not good, but some of the individual talent is very good. You have to start with their safeties, in my opinion. Donte Whitner is a beast, with over 100 tackles on the season already. He’s coming off a monster game last week against Pittsburgh in which he was the game’s leader in tackles with 18. He can play the pass and he’s excellent in coming up to play the run. Whitner wears #20 and you’ll be quite familiar with him after this game because he’s all over the field on a week-to-week basis.

Donte Whitner

Whitner’s fellow safety is #31 Jairus Byrd, a sensational playmaker in his 2nd season out of the University of Oregon who was named to the All-Rookie team last year and also earned a Pro Bowl berth. He had 9 INTs this year and I’m guessing opposing teams took notice of that because it appears that this year no one is throwing the ball anywhere near him. Byrd had 11 tackles last week against Pittsburgh and also tallied a forced fumble and fumble recovery.

A few other guys who play well on a regular basis are NT Kyle Williams, who anchors Buffalo’s 3-4 defensive scheme and has 5.0 sacks this season. At 6-1, 306 pounds, he’s dangerous because of his quickness on the inside. DE Marcus Stroud is a 10-year veteran who used to play in Jacksonville and he provides a stout presence at his position. Finally, Paul Posluszny plays an ILB position in the 3-4 scheme and, when healthy, is a talented defender. He’s played just 1 full season through his 4-year career, but he’s does have a pair of 100-tackle seasons and he’s hit that benchmark already this season in just 9 games played.

A couple of other quick hitters on the Bills defense:
– Buffalo ranks last in rushing defense, 29th in scoring defense, 26th in overall defense and 11th in pass defense.
– Teams convert 45.0% of their 3rd downs against Buffalo.
– Buffalo has 12 total takeaways (8 fumbles, 4  INTs) and they are -7 in turnover ratio.

The Bills On Special Teams: Buffalo has not allowed a special teams TD this season and they have 1 kickoff return for a TD. Opposing teams average 23.1 yards per kickoff return (ranks 16th in the NFL) and 9.6 yards per punt return (ranks 20th). On the flip side, Buffalo averages 24.0 yards per kickoff return (ranks 12th) and 8.9 yards per punt return (19th in the NFL).

When healthy, Spiller is the team’s kickoff returner and he’s talented in that role. He has taken 30 returns this season, with an average of 25.3 yards per try with 1 TD. If Spiller can’t go, CB Leodis McKelvin steps in and he averages 23.0 yards per return. Roscoe Parish is a talented punt returner for Buffalo but he’s been lost to injury, so McKelvin and Spiller split punt returning duties as well.

CJ Spiller

Rian Lindell is Buffalo’s place kicker and he handles kickoffs. Lindell is an 11-year veteran who has been with the Bills since 2003. He’s 12 of 17 (70.6%) of FGs this season with a long of 51 yards and he has 6 touchbacks on kickoffs. Brian Moorman is Buffalo’s punter and he is a 10-year veteran who has spent his entire career with the Bills. This season he’s netting 38.0 yards per punt (ranks 25th) and he’s put 12 of 51 punts inside the 20 with just 5 touchbacks.

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