Possibilities Concerning The Vikings RB Situation

Posted by cjsiewert on February 17, 2010 – 4:11 pm

Obviously, the main concern the Vikings are faced with for the 2010 season is at the QB position – will the “Silver Fox” (as Jared Allen named Brett Favre) return for a 20th season in the NFL?  This question may not be answered until early September, so, a more prevalent current concern the Vikings must solve for the 2010 season is the back-up RB.

Chester Taylor will be a free agent, thus giving him the option to sign with another team.  If the 9-year veteran is not re-signed, it would leave a large gap to fill behind All-Pro RB Adrian Peterson.

The Vikings have the 30th overall pick in this year’s NFL draft and could select a CB, given that Cedric Griffin and Antoine Winfield are currently plagued with injuries – but with the possibility of Taylor no longer standing behind Peterson, the Vikings will certainly consider drafting a RB.

With top-prospects such as C.J. Spiller (Clemson), Jahvid Best (California) and Jonathan Dwyer (Georgia Tech) most likely to be drafted in the 1st and early-2nd rounds, the Vikings would be looking for a reliable 3rd-down back that has proven capability to catch balls out of the backfield – just as Taylor provided.

USC’s RB Joe McKnight could quite possibly be the best fit for replacing Taylor (if he’s gone).  McKnight has all the qualities that the Vikings would be looking for – he’s a talented runner and a very capable pass-catcher.  Just this past season, McKnight caught 22 passes for 146 yards, averaging 6.6 yards per reception.  Those numbers fall a little short of Taylor’s  ‘09 campaign – 44 receptions for 389 yards, averaging 8.8 yards per reception – but they are also skewed by the fact that McKnight played in 13 games compared to Taylor’s 16.

Certainly, there are many different factors that may possibly make McKnight unavailable for the Vikings 62nd overall pick, but if the situation calls for it, McKnight would be a great fit in the Vikings backfield.

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A Look At The Vikings CB Situation

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 11, 2010 – 8:42 am

The position that will receive maximum attention this offseason for the Vikings is QB, with most of the talk centered on whether or not Brett Favre will return for a 20th NFL season.

But as important as Favre’s return or non-return is to the Vikings, let’s not forget that, as is the case for all 32 teams in the league, there are several other questions the Purple must answer before the 2010 season arrives.

Other areas of the Vikings roster that will remain in the offseason spotlight include DT, where Pat Williams may or may not be back in 2010, as well as LB E.J Henderson’s return from injury and the free agent status of RB Chester Taylor.

In this NFL Network video, Michael Lombardi and Charles Davis do a nice job of talking about a few of these offseason storylines. But there’s another position that I think deserves as much or perhaps even more consideration this offseason – CB.

The guys touched on it a little bit at the end of the video, but I wanted to go into more detail here on Click this link to read more about the Vikings CB position this offseason, including how the health of Cedric Griffin and Antoine Winfield will impact the way the Vikings address the depth chart at CB…

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Friday Notes Before The Big Game Against Big D

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 15, 2010 – 9:22 am

Will this game ever get here?! It’s been 12 days since the Vikings last played and we still have to wait 2 more days before they play again.

It feels like we’ve analyzed every possible aspect of this game over the past 5 days, from blogging about it to the news articles we’ve posted to my conversation with PA on his 9-noon show on Thursday. Here are a few random thoughts and updates on previous thoughts…

– In our Monday morning preview video we cited health as one of the key storylines in this matchup. As it turns out, both teams appear to be fairly healthy with the  game just 2 days away. Only one player for the Vikings has missed practice this week (FB Fahu Tahi) and the Cowboys expect to have both Marion Barber and Tashard Choice in their backfield.

– You’ve surely heard ad nauseam about the importance of the Vikings pass protection against Cowboys edge rushers DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. I won’t dismiss that point – it’s key in this game – but a few things to follow up on that. First, don’t forget about the middle of Dallas’ defensive line, which features Pro Bowler Jay Ratliff. He’s good against the pass and the run, as we point out here. Secondly, the Vikings have a couple of good edge rushers, too, in DEs Jared Allen (14.5 sacks) and Ray Edwards (8.5 sacks). Lastly, I’m actually anticipating that both the Vikings and Cowboys offenses will find a way to scheme against those lethal pass rushes and at least avoid disaster. So, which team can find the best antidote?

– Here’s something we haven’t discussed this week: Cowboys CB Terence Newman is very good. Whichever Vikings WR he lines up against will have a challenge.

– I brought this up with PA Thursday on the radio. QB Brett Favre did not guarantee a victory during his Wednesday press conference. The fact that some media outlets took what he said and turned it into a guarantee is quite a stretch, but I get it – stretching it into a guarantee creates buzz and promotes the self-interests of said media outlets. Favre said he would be shocked if he weren’t doing another Wednesday press conference next week. What else should he say? On top of that, he said Dallas is playing as well as any other team in the NFL right now. Let’s move on.

– I haven’t really shared this opinion on the site because I myself don’t want to be the source of inflammatory remarks regarding the coming opponent. But it’s Friday and we’re close to the game, so here it goes. I think the Vikings can take advantage of the middle of the field on offense. I like guys such as Chester Taylor, Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin working the middle and taking advantage of one-on-one mismatches. Conversely, the Vikings defense must be on their “A” game when defending the middle of the field. TE Jason Witten is a player and when players such as RB Felix Jones and WR Miles Austin get the ball in their hands, the Vikings defense must tackle them. Tackling issues – something the Vikings defense has had periodically this season – will devastate the Vikings if they arise again on Sunday against Dallas.

– There is going to be at least one key special teams play in this game. Special teams play often goes under the radar, unless there’s a big breakdown. But collectively, special teams ends up playing just as much of a factor in the outcome of a game as offense or defense. Regardless, you’re going to see a combination of at least a few big plays on special teams. Whether those plays are returns, turnovers, blocked kicks, kickoffs out of bounds to give away great field position, I don’t know. But I have a feeling that someone, somehow is going to make a big impact on special teams. Right now I’m sensing a big return somewhere along the line by either Percy Harvin or Patrick Crayton, a FG at the end of the game or a blocked FG/punt in the middle of the game.

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Five (Good and Bad) Trends To Watch

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 7, 2010 – 10:45 am

The good news is that the Vikings earned a 1st-round bye and won’t play their 1st playoff game until 4 other teams are eliminated. The bad news is that means there will be no Vikings game to watch or talk about this weekend.

So we have to talk about something else in the meantime.

As a result, we’ve come up with 5 good and bad trends the Vikings have going as they enter the playoffs. The good trends are obviously ones we’d like to see the Vikings continue as the playoffs march on. The bad trends are ones we’d like to see eliminated, or at least tempered, as the postseason moves forward.

It’s always better to take the bad news first, so we’ll start with 5 trends we’d like to see eliminated. But come back around lunchtime because that’s when we’ll post the 5 positive trends.

1. Pass Defense
We all love the Vikings rushing defense – it’s #2 in the NFL. But at times the pass defense can make you nervous. While the Vikings aren’t terrible in yards allowed, there are 4 other areas of pass defense that need to be improved in the playoffs. They are:

1) Passing TDs allowed. The Vikings rank just 23rd in this category with 26 allowed, and only 2 other playoff teams have given up more passing TDs (Philadelphia, Green Bay).
2) The Vikings are tied for 26th with just 11 INTs. No other playoff team has fewer than the Vikings 11 INTs.
3) Opposing passers have a 92.5 passer rating against the Vikings and no other playoff team is allowing a better rating.
4) Opposing passers are completing 63.7% of their passes against the Vikings and only 1 other playoff team (Indianapolis) is allowing a higher percentage of completed passes.

2. Negative Plays On Offense
The Vikings were the league’s 2nd-highest scoring team behind New Orleans and only 4 other teams averaged more yards per game, those are great trends. On the flip side, though, the Vikings led the league with 116 negative plays. The Vikings were a great 3rd-down offense, converting 44.8% of their 3rd down conversions, but they could be even better on 3rd downs (and all other downs) if they could decrease their rate of negative plays.

3. Takeaways
The Vikings finished on the plus side of the turnover margin in 2009, but they finished in a tie for 22nd with just 24 takeaways. Vikings assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier stresses taking the ball away to his defense, and he’ll continue to do so as they prepare for their 1st playoff game.

4. Ball Security
Fumbling wasn’t a rampant problem for the Vikings in 2009, but at times it reared its ugly head. The most memorable fumble is of course RB Adrian Peterson’s in Chicago, but he wasn’t the only guy to put the ball on the ground. Favre lost one in Pittsburgh that was returned for 6 points and both Chester Taylor and Darius Reynaud fumbled against the Giants in Week 17. Maybe we’re being nit-picky here, but it’d be nice to see 0 fumbles during a long postseason run.

5. Kick Return Coverage
Before we get into this one, I want to qualify this trend by saying 2 things: 1) the Vikings kick coverage units were much improved from last year and generally performed well on a week-to-week basis and 2) the Vikings covered more kickoff returns than any other team during the regular season. With those 2 things said, the Vikings did allow 53 kickoff returns of 20+ yards, which was 2nd-most in the NFL, and they allowed 6 kickoff returns of 40+ yards, which was tied for the 4th-most. Again, maybe we’re being nit-picky here, but it’d be good to see a couple of 0s in those categories during a long postseason run.

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A Down Season? Not For Adrian

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 4, 2010 – 11:35 am

A constant criticism I’ve heard this year from people who follow the Vikings is about Adrian Peterson. It’s as if some suggest that #28 had a down year.

And I’m just not seeing it.

Or maybe I’m just not agreeing with it. I can see where fans point to the 7 lost fumbles. I’ll acknowledge, that is a bad mark on his body of work. And it’s also important to point out that his yards per carry number went down this season while his negative yardage runs went up.

But with all of that said, I look back at Peterson’s season to this point and think he actually had a great year. He finished 2nd in the NFC and 5th in the NFL in rushing yards with 1,383, which is the 3rd best single-season effort in Vikings history and is more than he had during his rookie season. He averaged 4.4 yards per carry and was 2nd in the NFL in runs of 20+ yards.

Perhaps most importantly, though, is the fact that Peterson tallied a league-high 18 TDs and set a Vikings single-season records for games with a TD (12).

Another criticism I hear about Peterson is that the Vikings don’t use him correctly. But again, I disagree. I’d actually argue that the Vikings have done a great job so far this season of using #28.

Sure, there are times late in games – in crunch time – when the Vikings best player (Peterson) isn’t in the game. But isn’t that why you have a player such as Chester Taylor? If you’ve got a guy who can pass protect and come out of the backfield as a great receiver in the screen game and the short passing game, why not use him?

On top of that, utilizing Peterson and Taylor in combination has probably increased production from Peterson. Since Peterson was drafted by the Vikings in 2007, Taylor has 352 carries and he’s gained 4.5 yards per carry. So, the Vikings have taken 352 carries off of Peterson’s workload (that’s a whole season’s worth of carries) over the past 3 seasons and they’ve still gained 4.5 yards on each of those carries. That’s a very good job of managing RBs.

Just think about how quickly we’ve seen guys such as Larry Johnson and Terrell Davis and Jamal Anderson fall off the shelf because of over-use. The Vikings are avoiding that by using Taylor a fair amount. It’s extending Peterson’s career and, this year more than any other year, it’s kept Peterson fresh as we approach the playoffs.

Finally, one more reason I think Peterson has had a great year and the Vikings have done a great job of managing the league’s best RB is because they’re continuing to improve his overall skill set. Peterson had a career-high 43 receptions for 436 yards during the 2009 regular season. His previous single-season high for receptions was 21 for 125 yards. The coaching staff is finding more ways to get him the ball? I’m all for that.

My conclusion is the Vikings used Peterson beautifully this season. They put him in when it counted (18 TDs), they saved wear and tear on him (Chester had 138 touches) and they nearly doubled his previous career-high in receptions.

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Vikings Getting The Job Done – Lead 31-0 At Half

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 3, 2010 – 1:47 pm

Needing a win to keep their hopes for a 1st round bye alive, the Vikings did what they needed to do in the game’s first 2 quarters against the NY Giants at Mall of America Field.

Brett Favre and Co. took a 31-0 lead into the locker room at halftime. Favre was 19 of 23 for 271 yards, 3 TDs and 0 INTs to lead the Vikings offensive effort. TE Visanthe Shiancoe and WR Sidney Rice were his primary targets – Shiancoe had 7 grabs for 94 yards and 1 TD in the 1st half while Rice contributed 5 receptions, 83 yards and 2 TDs to the effort.

RB Adrian Peterson had 7 carries for 32 yards and 1 TD as well. Chester Taylor also contributed on the ground and with a couple of screen pass receptions.

The defense, meanwhile, completely shut down Eli Manning and the Giants offense. They scored 0 points, of course, and Manning threw for just 80 yards while also being intercepted once.

At some point early in the 2nd half, hopefully, the Vikings will pull their starters and this thing will turn into a preseason game.

If the Vikings hold on and win, all eyes will be on the Philadelphia Eagles-Dallas Cowboys game in Dallas, which starts at 3:15. If the Eagles lose, the Vikings will get a 1st-round bye in the NFC playoffs, which begin next weekend. If the Eagles win, they’ll secure the bye and the Vikings will play at home next weekend.

Be sure to stay tuned to today during and after the game. We’ll have comprehensive and exclusive coverage, including a live streak of all Vikings post-game press conferences. Then, we’ll be rushing out of here to find a TV to watch the Eagles-Cowboys game.

Once the Eagles-Cowboys game concludes and the Vikings fate for next weekend is determined, we’ll be back here updating the site and filling you in on all the details.

So, we look forward to having you here on all day and night and all throughout the playoffs.

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Did You Know?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 3, 2010 – 10:55 am

With some help from our Vikings PR buddy Jeff Anderson, here are some interesting subplots to watch during today’s Vikings-Giants game…

– WR Percy Harvin needs just 15 rushing yards to break the team record for the most rushing yards by a rookie WR (Bob Grim – 127 in 1971). Harvin currently has 113 rushing yards.

– Harvin also needs just 22 combined yards to pass RB Adrian Peterson’s record for most combined yards in a rookie season (2,021). Harvin has 2,000 on the season thus far.

– The Vikings can clinch the #2 seed in the NFC playoffs with a win and an Eagles loss or tie.

– Today’s game will feature the 2 players with the most consecutive games played in NFL history – P Jeff Feagles (351) and QB Brett Favre (286).

– With 11 rushing yards, RB Chester Taylor will move into the top 10 in team history for the most career rushing yards. Taylor’s 2,785 trails Terry Allen’s 2,795 for 10th place.

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Peterson, Taylor Expose Mismatches In Passing Game

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 15, 2009 – 9:51 am

The Vikings rededicated themselves to the running game in last week’s contest against Cincinnati, an effort that resulted in more rushing attempts (37) than passing attempts (30) for the first time in 3 weeks. And the effort ultimately resulted in a 30-10 win, too.

But 2 key elements to the Vikings running game – RBs Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor – were also factors in the passing attack on Sunday. The pair of RBs combined to register 5 receptions for 72 yards. Minnesota’s top 2 WRs on Sunday combined for just 10 more yards on 3 more catches.

Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress indicated on Monday that the key to Peterson and Taylor’s success in the passing game is matchups. On several of their receptions against the Bengals, QB Brett Favre delivered the ball to the RBs in a position where they could catch the ball on the run and sprint away from pursuing LBs.

“Well, we look at them as plus matchups,” Childress said of a RB lined up against a LB. “I am not going to tell you that a corner lined up on a running back extended in a set is a great matchup or a cornerback lined up on a tight end extended is a mismatch.

“I would tell you that a running back should in our estimation be able to out athlete a linebacker when they are in those one-on-ones.”

And Peterson and Taylor did just that on Sunday.

Peterson and Taylor had long receptions of 28 and 26 yards, respectively. Peterson’s long reception came on a 2nd and 20 after a pair of penalties had backed the Vikings up. Then, 3 plays after Peterson’s 28-yarder, Favre found Sidney Rice for a TD to go up 10-0.

Taylor’s long reception came on 3rd and 12 near midfield and was part of a series that saw Taylor touch the ball 4 times and gain 54 yards while also picking up two 3rd-down conversions. Peterson finished that drive off with a 1-yard TD plunge to increase the Vikings lead to 23-7.

“Anytime you can find those guys, sometimes those are the best matchups there are even though this is an up the field, intermediate to down low,” Childress explained. “You can see being able to dunk the football off. It’s a high percentage and it’s a way to get everybody involved and get them involved in mismatches.”

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RB Taylor Delivers When Called Upon

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 14, 2009 – 9:59 am

Having skilled offensive players does not guarantee offensive success. Aside from those players performing on the field, coaches must also do their part by putting those players in a position to succeed.

The Vikings have found offensive success this season thanks to many talented offensive weapons, from stud RB Adrian Peterson to rookie WR Percy Harvin. The coaching staff has put these players in a position to succeed and the players have delivered.

But sometimes lost in the Sidney Rice highlight-caliber grabs and electric Harvin kick returns is a player who, perhaps more than any other, is used perfectly by the Vikings coaching staff.

Chester Taylor.

Taylor came to the Vikings in 2006, head coach Brad Childress’ 1st season on the job in Minnesota, and he quickly established himself as a quality #1 RB with 1,216 rushing yards and 6 TDs in his 1st season as a feature back. But then the Vikings drafted Peterson, and #28 quickly emerged as the league’s best RB, which in turn decreased the number of opportunities for Taylor.

But the beauty of the situation for the Vikings is that although Taylor’s number of touches have gone down, his impact and the significance of his opportunities remain vital to the Vikings success. And that’s a credit to the Vikings coaching staff.

Taylor has been an excellent change of pace back for the Vikings and he’s eased the load on Peterson during their 2+ seasons together in Minnesota. Since Peterson was drafted, Taylor has carried the ball 335 times for 1,534 yards, which averages out to 4.6 yards per carry. That’s 335 fewer times Peterson has taken a hit, yet the Vikings still got 4.6 yards per touch.

Against the Bengals on Sunday, Taylor continued to be a factor for the Vikings offense. He had 5 carries for 25 yards and 2 receptions for 32 yards. More impressive than the raw numbers, though, is the timing of his contributions.

Specifically, Taylor was crucial to the Vikings scoring on their opening possession of the 2nd half. On 3rd and 5 from the Vikings 45, Taylor’s number was called and he delivered with a 6-yard reception. On the next play, he gained 5 yards on a rushing attempt. Two plays later, after a penalty and a sack, Taylor picked up a 3rd and 12 from midfield with a 26-yard reception. On the next play he registered a 17-yard rush down to the Bengals 8.

Taylor touched the ball 4 times on that drive and gained a total of 54 yards, ultimately setting up a Peterson 1-yard TD run on the 10th play of the series and putting the game out of reach for Cincinnati. Both of his receptions came on 3rd down, one of which converted a 3rd and 12. And speaking of 3rd and long situations, Taylor leads the league in receptions on plays of 3rd and 8 or longer with 14.

The opening drive of the 2nd half on Sunday is a great example of the Vikings coaching staff putting Taylor in a position to succeed, and Taylor delivering when put in that situation.

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Peterson Poised To Finish Season Strong

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 25, 2009 – 9:12 am

It’s funny how quickly we can get used to superstar production from a superstar player. Last season, RB Adrian Peterson toted the ball a franchise-record 363 times and won the NFL rushing title with 1,760 yards.

This year, we’ve seen fewer sensational single-game totals – Peterson has two 100-yard games through 11 weeks in 2009 and had 6 such performances through 11 weeks in 2008 – but I would actually argue that Peterson and the Vikings running game might be in better shape this year. Let me explain…

– #28 is still on pace for 1,600 yards. And he’s going to do that with fewer carries this year than he had last year. I like that. Perhaps it’ll keep him fresher as we get to the late stages of the season and into the playoffs.

– Peterson’s yardage totals are a bit lower in 2009, but he’s finding the end zone more, too. He had 10 rushing TDs last year and this year he already has 11 and is on pace for 18.

– The slight downturn in rushing yardage this season is a function, in my opinion, of the Vikings improved passing attack with Brett Favre under center. The Vikings are throwing it more this season and they’re having much more success in doing so. This is largely because opposing teams MUST respect the Vikings ground game first, and that allows a sharp QB such as Favre to take advantage of mismatches and opportunities.

– Speaking of the passing game, Peterson has improved. His blocking is getting better by all accounts and he’s on pace to record career highs in receptions and receiving yards. Peterson’s career high in receptions is 21 and he already has 25 this year. His career-high in receiving yards is 268 and he’s on pace for 344 this year.

– I realize the Vikings have the 2nd most negative rushes in 2009, not a good trend. And Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress addressed that fact in Monday’s press conference. But it’s also important to note that the Vikings are 2nd in rushes for 20+ yards and they do average 4.67 yards per rush on 1st down, 9th-best in the NFL.
With all of that said, there’s one more reason for optimism going forward with regard to the Vikings rushing offense – there are still 2 games to play against the Bears. No disrespect to Chicago’s 2009 defense – the Vikings obviously haven’t faced them yet – but Peterson loves playing Chicago.

#28 set a then-franchise record at Chicago on 10/14/07 when he rushed for 224 yards and tied a team mark with 3 rushing TDs. He also set a team record with 361 combined yards (224 rushing, 9 receiving, 128 kickoff returns) on the day. In total against Chicago, Peterson has 554 rushing yards and 8 TDs in 4 games.

Perhaps the only angle of concern I can find for Peterson going against the Bears has nothing to do with dominant defensive linemen or athletic LBs. It’s actually a pesky defensive back.

If you’ve watch the Bears over the past couple of seasons or even the last couple of times they’ve played on prime time TV, you’ve probably noticed CB Charles Tillman and his propensity to strip the football from ball carriers. Over the last 2+ seasons (2007-present), Tillman has 14 forced fumbles, a very high number. He has 6 this year already, with 4 coming over the past 2 weeks alone.

With all of those forced fumbles to his credit since 2007, none of them have come against the Vikings. And if Peterson and Chester Taylor can continue that trend, I see them increasing the Vikings rushing trend this weekend and through the end of the 2009 season.

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