Signing TE John Carlson to a free agent contract this offseason was billed as one of the Vikings more significant additions this offseason. Carlson, at 6-5, 251-pounds, has prototypical size for his position in the NFL and the theory was that he’d provide the Vikings with another athletic, pass-catching option – along with Kyle Rudolph – who could create mismatches with LBs and safeties in the middle of the field.
An injury during training camp slowed Carlson’s progression during the preseason, and he’s yet to make a difference during the regular season in terms of catching passes. But it sounds like the Vikings are committed to changing that very soon.
“We’re overdue in getting John involved,” Vikings Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave said on Thursday. “We had some plays in for him being on the field with Kyle last week, and it didn’t materialize. We’re looking forward to making up for lost time.”
Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier mentioned something similar in his Monday press conference.
“We do want to expand it as we go,” Frazier said of Carlson’s snap count. “He got more snaps in this ball game (last week at Indianapolis) than he did in the first ball game, and we’ll probably do the same next week (against San Francisco), just try to continue to increase.
“We do want to make him a little bit more of a focal point. We had some things they took away that we had for him but we’ll keep exploring. We think he has the potential to really be an explosive player for us in our offense.”
Minnesota football fans are familiar with Carlson because of his accomplishments at the local high school level. He was a 3-sport standout as a prep at Litchfield High School, starring in football, basketball and baseball. Along with his brother, Alex, Carlson helped Litchfield win 3 state basketball titles. Carlson was also an all-state tennis player.
“I’m really excited to be here and be around family and friends,” Carlson said after he signed with the Vikings. “It’s a great place to live. I know that, and I’ve been gone for nine years. So that’s fantastic. But that’s not the reason I came back. It was a football decision. It was a business decision, and I’m just really excited and feel very fortunate to be back here where I grew up.”
Now, Carlson is looking to grow within the Vikings offense. A big step in that process could take place this week against the 49ers.
Tags: Bill Musgrave, John Carlson, Kyle Rudolph, Leslie Frazier
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The Vikings are not the only team who may be looking to increase the number of downfield completions this week. For as great as the San Francisco 49ers offense has looked in putting up 57 points over the first two games of the season, one element of their offense they’ve yet to put on consistent display is the downfield passing game.
San Francisco is tied for 24th with the Vikings and Houston Texans with 5 completions of 20+ yards this season. And they are not out of form in that ranking – the 49ers ranked tied for 23rd with the Vikings and NY Jets with 41 completions in that same metric in 2011.
A closer look, however, will tell you that San Francisco can move the ball with an explosive passing game when they put their mind to it. The number of completions of 20+ yards will not blow you away, but the 49ers efficiency in doing so does. In 2011, the 49ers were tied for the second fewest passing attempts of 21+ yards, yet they were tied for 9th in completion percentage and averaged 11.72 yards per attempt – more than Atlanta, New England and Philadelphia – on those passes. This year, San Francisco is once again tied for fewest pass attempts of 21+ yards, yet their tied for 3rd in completion percentage (50%) and QB Alex Smith has a 127.1 passer rating on those passing attempts.
“When they do take shots, they are pretty efficient in how they take their shots,” Vikings Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams said on Thursday. “So you want to make sure you’re aware of where guys are and make sure that you’re playing top-to-bottom in the back end and eliminate those shots because we’ll have enough guys to focus on the run. We just have to make sure that the shots the do take, that we shut those shots down.”
This offseason the 49ers made additions to their receiving corps that should provide Smith with even more confidence to throw deep passes. Mario Manningham, the NY Giants hero from last year’s Super Bowl, signed with the team in free agency. The 49ers drafted a receiver – A.J. Jenkins – in the 1st round of this year’s draft, and former 1st-round pick Michael Crabtree has come on strong and leads the team in receiving with 13 receptions for 143 yards. There is also Vernon Davis, one of the best TEs in the NFL and a guy who leads the League in TD receptions this year with 3.
And let’s not forget about another guy who can do a thing or two to improve the down-field passing game. Randy Moss. The 49ers also signed Moss this past offseason to add a spark to the offense. While Moss is in his 14th season already and didn’t play at all last year, you can be sure that he will not be lost by the Vikings defense in this game.
“You never want to turn Moss loose,” Williams said. “That would be a mistake, not to pay attention to Randy Moss. Until he’s turned in his retirement papers, I think every defensive coordinator, every secondary, every defense is going to pay attention to him. We have to.”
Tags: Alan Williams
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