The Vikings are off to a fast 4-1 start in 2012, and their good fortune is the result of many great individual efforts. Many of those individuals, such as leading tackler Chad Greenway and do-everything playmaker Percy Harvin, are rightfully receiving acclaim for their contributions.
But as anyone who follows the game of football realizes, team success is also a function of outstanding individual effort that merits little or no acclaim. The Vikings early-season success is not exempt from this rule. So let’s take a moment to recognize three Vikings who are performing well but have not been in the headlines very much.
TE Rhett Ellison
The Vikings have received outstanding contributions from their 2012 draft class to this point, with CB Josh Robinson and S Harrison Smith infusing the secondary with energy and talent, LT Matt Kalil (more on him below) helping to shore up the offensive line, and Blair Walsh off to a tremendous start. Many may not know it, but TE Rhett Ellison should be included in that group as well. He’s played in all 5 of the Vikings regular season games and has been a contributor on special teams as well as offense.
A lot of what Ellison does will not show up in the box score. For example, he was a vital component to the Vikings blocking scheme against San Francisco 49ers DE Justin Smith. A 3-time Pro Bowler, Smith was held in check against the Vikings and finished the game with just 3 tackles. In Sunday’s win over the Titans, though, some of what Ellison can do to help the team did show up in the box score. He had 2 catches for 35 yards, including a 29-yarder late in the 3rd quarter that led to a Vikings TD three plays later.
Ellison can block. He can catch and run. And he can cover kicks or block for returners. That’s why Vikings GM Rick Spielman selected him in the 4th round last April, and that’s why he’s one of three players we’ve identified as a top “under the radar” performer for the Vikings this season.
FB Jerome Felton
It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it. That’s perhaps the best way to characterize the contributions of FB Jerome Felton to the Vikings offense. He’s not asked by the team to carry the ball much or run routes. He’s basically an extended family member of the offensive line, paving the way for RB Adrian Peterson and solidifying the pocket for QB Christian Ponder. Some have speculated in the past that Peterson doesn’t like running behind a FB, but I’m going to guess he doesn’t mind running behind Felton. Peterson is averaging 4.4 yards per carry and the Vikings rank 9th in the NFL in rushing yards per game. Felton is a big reason why.
“I think Jerome Felton is a guy who hasn’t gotten a lot of recognition,” Vikings QB Christian Ponder said, “but watching him on tape, he’s done a heck of a job lead-blocking for Adrian.”
LT Matt Kalil
In much the same way it’s hard to measure the effectiveness of a FB such as Felton or a “blocking” TE such as Ellison, it can be tricky gauging the performance of an offensive lineman because there’s no box score metric that directly applies to the position. But you don’t need a box score metric or even a bunch of film study to realize how dominant Kalil has been through 5 games. He’s gone against several formidable DEs and he’s held his water without problem. Also, according to one statistical study, the Vikings have run to the left (Kalil’s side) with success – 44 carries for 199 yards (4.5 yards per carry).
Tags: Christian Ponder, Jerome Felton, Matt Kalil, Rhett Ellison
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