Thursday, September 4, 2008

the big day

It's the week after Labor Day, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. Wait wait. Thankfully, the Christmas season won't descend on us for at least another two months. This week does, however, represent a psychological change in the seasons. It's hurricane season, it's election season, and now—it's real football season. The New York Football Giants (yes, that's what they're really called) play the Washington Redskins tonight at 7:00 PM. Needless to say, the local sports bar here in central Virginia will be filled with red and gold. We'll have to wait nearly three days to see more NFL games, and one more after that to see the Vikings invade Wisconsin. Even so, it's almost here.

Monday, August 18, 2008

monday night blues

So here we are, watching the Cleveland Browns getting pummeled by the New York Football Giants.  30-3 early in the second-quarter.  Ouch.

Vikings related thought: the much-ballihooed story of this offseason (and the preceding postseason) has been the depth and ferocity of the Giants' defensive-line.  They're big, fast, and fierce; and there are a lot of them.  Synchronously with that story—at least the off-season portion—the Vikings' trade for Jared Allen has knotted many a sportswriter's knickers.  Jared Allen, Pat Williams, Kevin Williams, and Ray Edwards have dominated the spring and summer months as the Four Norsemen of the Apocalypse.  They're the best line in the NFL, the homers (myself included) have shouted.  Not so fast, folks.

The Vikes' D-line got run-over by Julius Jones, Maurice Morris, and Ray Rice these past weeks. (God help them when facing any other running backs with alliterative appellations this season.) Pat Williams has shown his age.  Backups Jayme Mitchell and Brian Robison are out-for-the-season and dinged-up, respectively.

On the other hand, the reigning champs, the New York Football Giants, still have the best defensive-line in football.  Even without first-ballot-Hall-of-Famer Michael Strahan, they have absolutely dominated a very good Browns offensive front-five tonight.

Excuse me, Purple faithful, while I interject a bit of skepticism into the assertion that we have the best defensive-line in the NFL.

One reason that Big Blue dominates in the trenches has been its depth, its fresh legs.  The Purple, as of now, a whole two weeks into the already injury-riddled preseason, shows a ton of drop-off between Jared Allen and Otis Grigsby.  Any more injuries, and we could be in neck-deep in, well...  that won't be good.


I don't even want to think about Tarvaris Jackson's injury anymore.  Maybe later.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

First of all, excuse me for not posting for the last month, those of you who read this blog regularly.

The big Vikings news of the last week, of course, revolves around how much better Tarvaris Jackson did against the Seattle Seahawks than Aaron Rodgers did against the Cincinnati Bengals: 8/11, 118 yards, 1 TD for Jackson; 9/15, 117 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT for Rodgers.  The Seahawks' D is pretty good; the Bengals' is not.  It's only one preseason game, surely, but what we saw from Peanut Jackson last Friday night was impressive.  In contrast, Darren Sharper is salivating over what he saw last night out of Lambeau.  Rodgers' accuracy could've been much better.  Many of those completions had as much to do with the talented Green Bay receiving corps as with where the ball needed to be.

Unfortunately, the Vikes have suffered some significant injuries on defense.  Heath Farwell and Jayme Mitchell are out for the season with busted knees.  Like the last couple of years, we lost a linebacker with a knee injury in the first preseason game.  What kind of curse is that?  The silver lining to Farwell's injury allows for space for Vinny Circiu, Rufus Alexander, and Erin Henderson to make the squad.  The loss of Mitchell really hurts our depth at defensive end, where Brian Robison is already a little banged-up.  

Madieu Williams' neck injury hurts.  Suddenly, our safety depth looks a little thin, yet again.  Don't tell me that Peyton Manning won't pick on rookie Tyrell Johnson in week two.  The sudden thinness in the secondary also hurts our ability to defend against the spread offenses that are in vogue this year, like we'll see against Green Bay in week one.

One random thought: Bernard Berrian is making my fantasy team, I'll tell you that.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

purple rain, 7.15.2008

Aside from calling a certain someone dirty-names-having-to-do-with-farm-animals, there are other things to talk about around the NFL in mid-July.

For one, ESPN decided what Purple nation has known for some time now—that the Vikings will field the best defensive line in football.

That line may have the chance to destroy a fragile Peyton Manning (fragile?!  yep.) in week 2, when he might return to action after off-season surgery.  Who woulda thunk it that we might have a quarterbacking advantage in our home opener?

Before that, however, the Vikings will make a cross-border trip for a Monday Night out with the Cheese Inspectors.  There's drama in the backfield over there, and it's not about the guy you'd expect.  Do expect the Williamses (all three of them, now!) to be on their best behaviour around the neighbours, even so.

That was a stirring video, was it not?  

Well, that should be enough hopeful news for one summer morning.  Now, we only have to wait ten days until training camp begins....

Saturday, July 12, 2008

more Favre drama

So, there's been a new development in Green Bay.  The whiny ex-Packer quarterback formally requested his release from Green Bay via letter that arrived yesterday—the Dear John letter that must break so many hearts in Wisconsin.  Who woulda thunk it?  Brett Favre's ego and his desire to play are greater than his love for the team that gave him a chance after he flopped in Atlanta.  (For those of you who don't know, Favre was a total bust with the Falcons: he completed two passes to other teams, and none to a Falcon receiver in five attempts his rookie year.)  The man would rather have a year or two with some other team (the Vikings?) than return to Green Bay as a backup to Aaron Rodgers.

That's right.  Ted Thompson, GM of GB, decreed that the only way Favre could come back as a Cheese Inspector would be as a backup.  Said Cheeseheads—at least at the level of management—have moved on, and are looking to the future with their young, project QB.

For one, this episode of will-he-or-won't-he certainly tarnishes Favre's image as a Packer.  I can only guess into what sort of conniptions this has thrown the digestive tracts of cheddar lovers Wisconsin-wide.  He's no Green 'n Gold saint; not any more.

It also seems like Thompson and the rest of the Green Bay management won't let him play for any other team.  Thank goodness we don't have to read Kevin Seifert, who now writes for ESPN about the NFC North instead of the Star Tribune about the Vikings, conjecture about Favre in Purple.    (See below for why that won't happen.)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

meet the starting offense

While reading Defensive Indifference, where there's an excellent piece about the Top 20 Minnesota Vikings, earlier this afternoon, a thought occurred to me.

Which five offensive skill players make up the most versatile set?  That is, who should start?

Here's my list: Adrian Peterson, Bernard Berrian, Sidney Rice, Bobby Wade, and Garrett Mills. 

Purple Jesus at RB is an obvious choice, with all due respect to The President, Chester Taylor.  Berrian, too.  Rice is a prototypical #2, possession sort of receiver, who's got great leaping ability and hands, but not fantastic speed.  Wade, who was the Vikes' top receiver last year, fits best in the slot, where he can find holes in zone coverage and crack-block linebackers.

But Garrett Mills?

Here's why.  This guy, though he's a 'tweener (too small f
or an end, kinda tall for a fullback, and a little too squat to play wide-out), has great instincts and experience all over the field in college, where he was his team's top playmaker.  He's played in only one NFL game, in the 2007 finale loss to Denver, where he caught two passes for twenty-six yards.  But, he's very versatile.  Read on.

If the Purple come out in a three-receiver set, how does the opposing defense come out?  Most defenses defend this increasingly popular personnel-package with a nickel back, and six defenders in the box.  

Imagine what Adrian Peterson would do to six defenders in the box.

Wasn't that fun?  It wasn't if you were trying to stop Purple Jesus with only two linebackers.  So, if you're a defensive coordinator facing that personnel set, you almost have to leave your base 4-3 or 3-4 on the field, which means that either a safety or a linebacker draws Bobby Wade in coverage.  That's not good for you, either, Mr. Sanders.  

In this scenario, where the Vikes come out with these folks in of the huddle, Tarvaris Jackson starts salivating.  Bobby Wade has a favourable matchup in the slot.  Berrian's probably not double-covered.  Sidney Rice is out on an island with a shorter defensive back.  Peterson has less than eight defenders with which to condend between the tackles.

And then, there's this guy, the new guy picked up off the waiver wire last September.

Jackson can move Mills into the backfield, where he's a threat to take a quick fullback dive or trap as much as he could lead block for AD.  He can stay at end, or get motioned into the slot (spreading the field with a four-receiver set) where his quickness really stands out against a linebacker.  Simply moving him around before the snap will give Jackson information about the sort of coverage he'll be facing.

Gone are the days of Brad Childress lining up in a two tight, I-formation and running off-tackle against nine defenders in the box.  The Vikings have the personnel and the experience to spread the defense, create favourable matchups, and chuck the ball downfield.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Farve to the Vikings?

So, the rumour mill has started grinding on this gem: Brett Favre, out of sheer reflex, feels that he should be playing football in July; the Packers are trying to get on with their lives—with Aaron Rodgers at QB—and so don't want him around; upon release (but certainly not trade), he signs with his rival of almost two decades, the Minnesota Vikings.  How's that?  


Ahem.  That ain't gonna happen.  You see, our coach, Brad Childress has gotten this crazy idea in his head that Tarvaris Jackson, whom he drafted in the second round in 2006, will be the Vikings' quarterback of the future.  Tarvaris Jackson, who couldn't beat out now-receiver Matt Jones to start at quarterback for Arkansas, whose career passer rating of 69.0 wows nobody—Tarvaris Jackson, he of the jump pass—Brad Childress believes in this man.

And he's right to believe.

I would rather have Tarvaris Jackson starting at quarterback for the 2008 Minnesota Vikings than Brett Favre. 

The locker room of our beloved Purple believes in Tarvaris Jackson's ability to win games for them.  He's won eight of his first fourteen.  He posted a 139.2 rating against the New York Giants pass-defense—the very same that rattled Tom Brady in the Super Bowl.  His 2007 passer rating is within a standard-deviation of that of draft-classmates Jay Cutler and Vince Young, which, one could argue, means that they played at a similar level.  And he managed this feat with a receiving corps whose speed-threat was Troy Williamson, not Plaxico Burress or Brandon Marshall.  Tarvaris Jackson has a future with the Minnesota Vikings ahead of him.

Meanwhile, Brett Favre threw the overtime interception that cost the Green Bay Packers a win on their own frozen turf, in January, for the NFC Championship.  Brett Favre, whose playoff performance over the last decade clocks in at 3-10, has not played like the force of nature that he's made out to be.  He's 38 and getting older.  He's never completed a pass for any team other than Green Bay.

And some of us here in Purple nation even think of him as the Wicked Witch of the East.  

Brett Farve will never, ever be a Viking.  You see, John David Booty already has his number 4 jersey.