Vikings Don’t Have Fond Memories Of Carolina WR Smith

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 26, 2011 – 2:09 pm

Since WR Steve Smith was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in 2001, he’s suited up against the Vikings 5 times. But because of the success he’s had in those 5 games, Vikings fans probably feel like he’s suited up against their team 55 times.

In 5 games against the Vikings, the 5-18, 195-pound speedy receiver has 30 receptions for 525 yards and 3 TDs. His best outing came in 2005, when he hauled in 11 receptions for 201 yards and a score. And he wasn’t bad in the last Vikings-Panthers battle, racking up 157 more receiving yards and a TD on 9 receptions.

That last outing came against a Vikings team that was on its way to an eventual appearance in the NFC Championship Game, and also against a Vikings team that had Leslie Frazier as its Defensive Coordinator. Because of that experience and undoubtedly several more that Frazier has had against Smith over the years, you can be sure the Vikings are working hard this week to find a way to contain #89.

And though Smith is already in his 11th season out of the University of Utah, he’s showing no signs of slowing down. He already has 4 games of 100+ receiving yards, including an epic season-opening performance where he caught 8 passes for 178 yards and 2 TDs. Smith is the NFL’s leader in receiving yards with 818 and he’s averaging a ridiculous 21.0 yards per reception as well.

“He’s having a terrific season, maybe the best start of his career,” Frazier commented on Wednesday. “He’s a guy that we have to pay attention to in the passing game every single down and try to come up with an answer for some of the plays that he’s making. And he’s making plays on everybody. But he’s a guy you have to contend with, we’re well aware of him, and hopefully we can play better than we have in the past against him.”

Every time Smith has gone against the Vikings, he’s produced a performance worth remembering. His worst outing was in 2008, when he had 4 receptions for 70 yards, which is still a pretty decent showing. This year, though, the Vikings will try to make this outing one to forget for Smith.

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Will Camarillo’s Role Increase?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 26, 2011 – 9:28 am

The Vikings acquired Greg Camarillo from the Miami Dolphins roughly two weeks prior to the start of the 2010 regular season. Camarillo’s primary contribution last season was as the team’s punt returner, where he fielded 39 returns without a single fumble. He’s been an occasional contributor in the Vikings passing game, collecting 20 receptions in 2010 and 3 more so far this year.

Camarillo’s role diminished some early this season. He was active in Week 1 but inactive for the next 3 games, largely because Marcus Sherels has handled punt return duties this season. But here have been three developments with the Vikings recently that have caused me to wonder if Camarillo will have a more prominent role with the team going forward.

First, the Vikings are now down a receiver with the release of Bernard Berrian. With Berrian now out of the mix, Percy Harvin and Michael Jenkins become the primary receivers with Devin Aromashodu as the third option. That elevates Camarillo into the regular WR rotation and likely ensures that he’ll be active on a weekly basis.

Secondly, rookie Christian Ponder is now the starting QB and I believe Camarillo’s craftiness and 6 seasons of experience make him a natural safety blanket for a young QB. Case and point is last week’s game against the Packers, where Camarillo consistently wiggled open after Ponder bought time in and out of the pocket. Both of Camarillo’s receptions last week came on 3rd and long plays, where Ponder needed a bailout reception.

“There were a couple times when a route was called and things break down a little bit and Christian runs around and he (Camarillo) ends up uncovering, and part of it is due to his experience and just his wherewithal and his understanding of coverages,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said. “It’s something a veteran receiver would do and he ended up making some big plays for us.”

Lastly, Camarillo could be called upon once again to contribute as a punt returner. Don’t get me wrong, Sherels has done a fine job as a returner. His 12.8-yard average per return is 6th best in the NFL right now. Where Camarillo would help the Vikings as a punt returner is when the opponent is trying to land a punt inside the 20. Sherels has made a few errors in this area of the field by either fielding a punt too close to the end zone or letting a punt hit the ground and be downed by the opposing team deep in Vikings territory. With Camarillo’s sure-handedness and experience in the punt return game, I think he’s less likely to make these errors and therefore could be implemented as a “pinch hitting” punt returner at the appropriate time.

All of this combined with something Frazier said about Camarillo (quote is below) on Monday leads me to the opinion that Camarillo should become more involved in the Vikings game play on a weekly basis. We’ll see if it happens beginning this week in Carolina and then coming out of next week’s bye. I’ll leave you with a complimentary statement from the Vikings Head Coach on Camarillo.

“When you get to know Greg, he is one of those guys that are a true professional,” Frazier said. “He comes prepared everyday to work. He is very studious when it comes to what he has to get done in the classroom and preparation before practices. He works extremely hard and he is the same way when it comes to preparing for games on Sundays. You go to bed on Saturday night thinking you may not be active and then all of a sudden you are active and he doesn’t miss a beat. He goes out and plays an excellent game for us. He is where he is supposed to be, he makes a lot of great catches. That’s who Greg Camarillo is; he’s a pro in every sense of the word.”

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Reminder: “Vikings Country” Featuring Chad Greenway Is Live At Mall Of America Tonight

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on October 26, 2011 – 7:59 am

As is the case each Wednesday during the NFL season, fans can head to Mall of America tonight from 6:30 to 7 to check out “Vikings Country,” a weekly radio show hosted by Mike Mussman and co-hosted by either Jared Allen or Chad Greenway.  Tonight, Greenway is the co-host.

The show will be broadcast live from the Sky Deck Sports Grille and Bar at Mall of America – located on the fourth floor, east side – every Wednesday during the regular season and will air on KFAN (FM 100.3); the show will also be aired on Fox Sports North at 11:00 a.m. every Sunday. Allen and Greenway will alternate weeks as co-hosts of the show with Mussman, and the Vikings Street Team will be at each broadcast giving away great prizes.

Fans are encouraged to attend the live broadcast each week at the Sky Deck Sports Grille and Bar, where they will enjoy a state-of-the-art restaurant and entertainment facility that features high definition TV’s, quality billiards, 12 lanes of bowling and a great menu of beverages and food.

Allen will co-host on the following dates: November 16, November 30, December 14 and December 28. Greenway will co-host on the following dates: tonight, November 9, November 25, December 7 and December 21.

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A Quick Look At The Carolina Panthers

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 26, 2011 – 6:39 am

Coming off consecutive NFC North contests, the Vikings will hit the road this week to play the NFC South’s Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. While this game features two teams with a combined record of 3-11, the hook is that both teams are led by promising rookie QBs, and it’ll be the first time in franchise history that the Vikings and their opponent start a rookie QB.

Panthers On Offense
The Panthers had the 1st overall pick in last April’s draft and it looks like first-year head coach Ron Rivera and the Panthers front office chose wisely. They selected Cam Newton, and the Heisman Trophy winner from Auburn stepped in right away and has impressed every step of the way. In his first game, Newton threw for 422 yards and 2 TDs in a loss to Arizona, and he followed that effort up with a 432-yard performance in Week 2. For the season, Newton is completing 60.3% of his passes and he has a TD-INT ratio of 8-9. Newton is also a lethal threat running the football, particularly on 3rd downs and close to the end zone. He’s averaging 4.7 yards per rush on 57 attempts and he has 7 rushing TDs.

Newton isn’t the only bright spot on this Panthers offense. Carolina ranks 5th in total offense at 416.6 yards per game, they have Top 10 rankings in both the running game and passing game, and they lead the NFL with 41 plays of 20+ yards (35 passing, 6 rushing). The rushing attack is paced by a two-headed attack that features starter DeAngelo Williams and wingman Jonathan Stewart. Williams, who signed a big contract this past offseason, is averaging 5.0 yards per carry, while Stewart is just a touch below with a 4.8 yard average.

The aerial attack features one of the NFL’s top downfield threats in WR Steve Smith and also a pair of productive TEs in Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey. Smith is the NFL’s leader in receiving yards (818) and he’s also the leader in yards per receptions (21.0) among pass-catchers with 15+ receptions. His 17 receptions of 20+ yards are also tops in the NFL. While he measures in at just 5-9, 185 pounds, Smith is a tremendous downfield threat because of his speed and his relentlessness in going up after passes. The Olsen-Shockey TE tandem has also been productive for Newton and the Panthers. Together they have 48 receptions for 577 yards and 3 TDs.

Setting the stage for all of these playmakers on the Panthers offense is a pretty sturdy offensive line. Carolina’s front five are especially solid in the middle and on the left side, as evidenced by the fact that Carolina averages over 2.0 yards more per carry running to the left than they do running to the right. C Ryan Kalil is among the best players at his position in the NFL, and to his left the Panthers feature Travelle Wharton at LG and 2-time Pro Bowler Jordan Gross at LT. Jeff Otah, a 1st-round pick from 2008 who plays RT for Carolina, is on the Reserve/Injured list, and his absence from the lineup is a big blow to Carolina’s offensive line.

A few more stats to consider about Carolina’s offense
– Newton leans heavily on Smith, as he has 13 more receptions than any of his teammates.
– Carolina ranks 14th in scoring, averaging 23.7 points per game
– The Panthers convert 42.0% of their 3rd downs, which is 10th in the NFL.

Panthers On Defense
Carolina isn’t as impressive on defense as they are on offense. This is largely because of injury, where their best defender – LB Jon Beason – is out for the year and another LB – Thomas Davis – has also been placed on the Reserve/Injured list. The Panthers are also going through a big transition on defense from a philosophical standpoint. Their new head coach, Ron Rivera, is a former defensive coordinator and he’s in the process of making significant changes to his defensive group. And trying to make changes to the defense while your top two LBs are out for the season because of injury is obviously a difficult charge.

Carolina ranks in the top half of the League in pass defense (12th), but there are areas to exploit. The Panthers yield 8.3 yards per pass attempt (30th in the NFL), they have just 12 sacks on the season and only 3 teams are yielding a better passer rating than Carolina’s 96.3.

The Vikings will work hard to find ways for rookie QB Christian Ponder to exploit Carolina’s pass defense, but their bread and butter should be using RB Adrian Peterson against the Panthers 29th ranked rushing defense. Peterson is the NFL’s leader in rushing yards (712) and rushing TDs (8), and he’ll be going against a Panthers run defense that yields 133.4 yards per game and has given up an NFL-high 9 rushing TDs.

From a personnel standpoint, Carolina’s best defensive player is right DE Charles Johnson, who signed a huge contract to remain with the team this offseason. Johnson’s break-through season was last year, when he tallied 11.5 sacks and replaced Julius Peppers, who left the club via free agency to sign with the Chicago Bears. The Panthers leading tackler is strongside LB James Anderson, and a name with whom fans will be familiar is CB Chris Gamble, who is in his 8th NFL season and has 25 career INTs.

A few more stats to consider about Carolina’s offense
– The Panthers have the NFL’s 3rd worst 3rd down defense, as opponents convert 45.5% of their 3rd downs
– Carolina has allowed 32 plays of 20+ yards (22 pass, 10 run), which is 27th in the NFL
– Carolina has the NFL’s 30th-ranked scoring defense (allow 26.1 points per game)

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