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.

Friday, June 20, 2008

the heat of the proverbial seat

… is under the tight-end corps this year, not quarterback Tarvaris Jackson.  For a guy who's won 8 of his first 14 starts while throwing to the likes of Robert Ferguson, Troy Williamson, Bobby Wade and Visanthe Shaincoe, he's done pretty well for himself.  Granted, Adrian Peterson, Chester Taylor, and an opportunistic defense certainly had a lot to do with those wins—but those things will only get better.  The erstwhile Tarvaris Jackson himself will get better in his sophomore year at the helm, which is the year that generally shows the largest off-season growth spurt.

But, the improvement of the three tight-ends—Kleinsasser, Shaincoe, and Mills—will be the linchpin of the offense in 2008.  

Kleinsasser has been around for a decade, and though lauded as one of the best blocking tight-ends in the league, caught only four passes for 43 yards and one touchdown in 2007.  I'm not sure what the problem is at right-tackle: the sum of Ryan Cook and Jim Kleinsasser is a full stack of pancake blocks.  Everybody's favourite NoDak is in a contract year, and so will pummel many a linebacker in 2008.  He won't, however, be Jackson's go-to.

The man who carries a great football name, if nothing else, Visanthe Shaincoe—he of $18.2 million over five years—caught a whopping 27 passes for 323 yards, a score (and three dropped ones) last year.  These oh-so-impressive stats also made him the fourth-leading receiver for the 2007 iteration of the Minnesota Vikings.  Apparently, though, he's been the star of mini-camp so far.  If this man can contribute, say, 50 catches for 700 yards and 8 TD's as an every-down player, then he'll live up to his contract.  The Brad Childress offense will reside in the upper echelons of the NFL.  Also, the cows will come home.

For somebody who has played in only one for-real game since graduating from the University of Tulsa in 2006, Garrett Mills sure has generated a lot of buzz.  No wonder, either: he put up some huge numbers at said University, where he dominated Conference USA as a member of the Golden Hurricane.  Though he has yet to prove that he can produce similar numbers in the NFL, there's hope.  Here's the rub—he's listed at 6'1", 235 lbs., the size of a small fullback.  So, how could Childress expect him to contribute as an in-line blocker?  He probably doesn't; I'm not sure what coach would.  Coach Steve Kragthorpe—of the Tulsa Golden Hurricane—didn't.  He moved Mills, his best weapon, all over the field: in-line, in the slot, as an H-back, fullback and even tailback.  And so, Garrett "General" Mills picked up a lot of rushing yards in college.  If Chilly can figure out how to fully utilize that sort of versatility, the offense will improve.  And yes, the cows will come home, too.

We, the Purple faithful (who else would read this, anyway?) believe in the power of the Purple Jesus.  We all know that Adrian Peterson will scare the poop out of Minnesota's opponents next year.  The President, Chester Taylor, will too.  And so, the story goes, Tarvaris Jackson, Bernard Berrian and Sidney Rice will rip to shreds many a single coverage.  We hope.  If, however, someone emerges from this long summer at Winter Park who can—from the tight-end position—both pancake block and elude that safety in the box, the Purple should be playing in January.  And, dare I agree with Dr. Z… February, too.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

offensive depth

Depth is the most important aspect of a championship team.  The NFL season is long and unpredictable—the team more able to play at a high level despite injuries or fatigue is the one able to win in February.  The New York Giants, with their stellar defensive line rotation and formidable stable of four (four!) tailbacks who contributed over the season beat down the fatigued Patriots offensive line and thirty-something year-old linebacking corps.  There’s been much bally-hoo over the success of the 2007 New York draft, which netted eight rookie contributors to the Super Bowl champions.  Clearly, it takes much more than a fantastic group of 22 starters to win championships.

The Vikings are a deep team.  Second-line players contribute in sub-package situations—in nickle and dime defenses,  in goal-line packages, 4- and 5-wide-receiver sets—on special-teams units, and as full-on replacements due to injury.   Here’s a look at some of the reserves most likely to see the field for the Minnesota offense this season:

QB: I don’t buy the argument that John David Booty will see action this year, much less be starting by December.  If we see the rookie from USC starting against the patsy schedule of the Lions, Cardinals, Falcons, and Giants (who may or not be playing for anything during the last week of the year), it won’t be because the Vikes or Jackson have struggled, but that something has gone terribly awry with the health of both T-Jack and Ferrotte.  That said, Ferrotte is a definite upgrade from both Brooks Bollinger and Kelly Holcombe, who went a combined 0-4 as starters last season.  Though he’s spent a career on the move between several organizations,  we should expect Ferrotte to perform admirably in spot-duty and as a mentor for our young quarterback.

RB: “The President” Chester Taylor is the best backup in the league, hands down.  A recent piece at lists him as the 26th best running back in the league, over quite a few starters.  What second-stringer is better?  Marion Barber III, who was offictially a change-of-pace back to with the Cowboys last year, will now start with Jones’ move to Seattle.  Former San Diego backup Michael Turner has signed a lucrative deal with the Falcons to start in Atlanta rather than play second-fiddle to LaDanian Tomlinson.  Chester Taylor could start on half the teams in this league.  He did start for the Purple in 2006, and he rushed for over 1,300 yards.  He would still be the starter if not for the Purple Jesus, the offensive rookie of the year.  Maurice Hicks was brought in this offseason to replace fan-favourite Mewelde Moore, who joined the Steelers.

FB/TE: I’ve put these position groups together because there is significant crossover in personnel with the Vikings—particularly beyond prsumed starters Thomas Tapeh and Visanthe Shiancoe.  Versatility is key here.  Garrett Mills, in particular, is one heckuva versatile player.  In college, he lined up at everything from his listed position at tight end, to H-back (a position just behind the line, and very prevalent in Childress’s scheme), to a three-point fullback position, to the slot, and even (get this!) at tailback.  In 2005, he set an NCAA record for receiving yards by a tight end, but wasn’t considered for the John Mackey award (for the best tight end) apparently because he didn’t line up often enough as a traditional in-line end.  He was a fourth round pick by New England in the 2006 draft, was put on injured-reserve his rookie year (and often enough, players on IR with New England allegedly practice illegally), was waived shortly before this past season, but was snatched up by Brad The Red-Hot Childress Pepper before he made it to the Patriots practice squad.  He has only two career NFL receptions, both against Denver in the 2007 season finale.  At this point, he’s all potential—but watch out, Visanthe Schaincoe.  Jeff Dugan and long-standing vet Jimmy Kleinsasser are two of the better reasons why the Vikings have been a stellar running team and poor passing team as of late.  Both have seen time as in-line blockers and oversized fullbacks—and they’re maulers!—but neither pose much of a threat to catch or carry the ball.  A football team will always have uses for guys like that to block in goal-line situations and on various kicking units.  Nafui Tahi served as an all-purpose backup in the backfield last year, and will likely make the team to do the very same thing this year.

WR: Bobby Wade, Robert Ferguson, Aundrae Allison and Jaymar Johnson all figure to have an impact on the 2008 Vikings—if Childress can find room for 6 wide-outs on his 53-man roster.  Imagine that! the Vikings with a surplus of useful receivers!  Seriously.  Bobby Wade won’t be competing for a roster-spot, but instead will see a lot of time in the slot when the Vikings hit the field in multiple-receiver sets.  Look for this to happen quite a lot in an effort to spread out defenses and open up room for Peterson and Taylor.  Second-year player Aundrae Allison and rookie Jaymar Johnson (both of whom have wonderfully alliterative names, don’t you think?) will compete for return duites with third-string HB and return specialist Maurice Hicks.  Allison has demonstrated a real knack for returning kicks, as he set an all-time record for the longest play by a Viking with a 104-yard return against Detroit.  Both Allison and Johnson are very quick, smallish receivers from lesser-known college programs who need some time to fill Bobby Wade’s shoes.  Robert Feruguson has nurtured a reputation as one of the meanest downfield blockers in the game while springing Vikings backs for huge gains last year.  He’s big,and he’s got strong hands—but slow feet.  I hope Chilly finds a way to keep these four guys seeing time behind Berrian and Rice.

OL:  A few pundits out there seem to believe that the starting five Vikings lineman make up the best line in the NFL.  They created enough room for Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor to average an impressive 5.6 and 5.4 yards per carry, respectively, last year.  After those starting five, however, I believe there’s a lack of depth.  I’m not sure how many back-up linemen the Vikes will carry, but I hope that they don’t see too much time.  Artis Hicks started a few games last year at right guard before losing his spot to Anthony Herrera, who’s done a fantastic job.  Grant’s Tomb speculates that Hicks may see some time at left tackle—of all places after right guard!—if Bryant McKinnie gets a suspension for his numerous off-field incidents.  Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.  The Pionner Press, on the other hand, speculates that Chase Johnson, a second-year UFA out of Wyoming could be the man to step up and fill that (make those) hole(s).  Johnson is a gargantuan human being: 6’8” and 330 lbs.  At this point, it’s mostly speculation that he’ll have the athletic ability and mental wherewithal to play the most pivotal position on the offensive line.  Another Johnson, Marcus Johnson, backs up the right tackle spot behind Ryan Cook.  This Johnson, a second-rounder in the 2005 draft, is also the only member of that class still with the team.  He’s been given every opportunity to compete with Cook for the spot, and remains the back up; that Cook is easily the weak-link on the starting line doesn’t speak well for Marcus Johnson.  In the phonebooth—at center—2007 UFA Dan Mozes, a standout at West Virginia, has been taking reps with the first team during Matt Birk’s absence: no word in the press on how he’s been doing.  John Sullivan, formerly of Notre Dame, was drafted in the sixth round this April to compete with Mozes to replace Birk. 

The Minnesota offense suddenly looks really deep.  Three years into a massive roster overhaul by Childress and Spielman, the Vikings are no longer asking who’s going to start, but who’s going to get cut.  There’s a real influx of young, new talent in Winter Park these days, and that should overflow into less drop-off late in the season due to injury and fatigue.


Next week: defensive depth.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

erasmus james now a redskin

Yes.  The man who would be cut was instead traded to Washington for a seventh-round pick, conditional on his making the team in September.  For some reason, the thought that the man who merited the seventeenth overall selection in the 2005 draft is now only worthy of a conditional seventh-round pick is kind of nauseating.  That, and the whole thing smells like Mike Tice's last legacy in Minnesota.

Monday, May 26, 2008

monday afternoon quarterback

Uh-oh.  Peter King over at Sports Illustrated likes the Vikings this year.  Scarier still, he's confident in Tarvaris Jackson.  Does anyone else remember 2005, when he picked the Vikes to go to the Superbowl?  Everything went wrong that year: the atrocious start, the boat scandal, Culpepper tearing up his knee: terrible year.

King made that pick the summer after Mike Tice's last draft, the draft where we got Troy Williamson and Erasmus James in the first round.  The last member of that draft still on the team, Marcus Johnson, lost his job at right tackle to Ryan Cook.  

Anyhow, this article may have been the first sign of respect to Jackson that the mainstream media has ever really shown.  This is heartening.  Let the record show, however, that Gonzo, over at the Daily Norseman, has been giving Tarvaris Jackson some much-needed good print for a while now.  

Friday, May 9, 2008

brothers in arms

money for nothing
A few folks out there have complained, or voiced their concerns, or otherwise raised an eyebrow at how much money our beloved Purple have allotted to prize free-agent signee, Jared Allen.  Others, like Washington Redskins tight-end, Chris Cooley, have expressed their concerns over how much money rookies get without ever playing in the NFL.  For my money (which it isn't, thankfully—it's the Wilfs' money), I would certainly pay for the guy who's been productive in the NFL over the guy who's only been productive in college.  Sure, there are mega-free-agents who don't work out (see: Hershel Walker), but there are many more rookies who just don't get it together as professionals (see: Vikings 2005 draft).  As per the risk factor inherent in hiring a guy with a bad record for inappropriately mixing booze, cars, and cops. . . well, there's a lot to that.  First of all, though, we need to remember that if Allen keeps his nose clean through the end of September '08, then he's no longer on the hook for his past DUI's: that is, in all likelihood, he won't be suspended for a year if he gets in trouble in, say, a late-November playoff push.

In other free-agent news, Vikes Geek surmises that the reason the Vikings have made it rain signing-bonuses this offseason is to impress the good folks in the Minnesota state legislature, who have yet to warm to a publicly-funded stadium.  That seems reasonable enough to me, though that logic almost assumes that Zygi isn't interested so much in winning for winning's sake, but rather winning to make money.  When I recall how excited he got when the Vikes drubbed the in-two-months-world-champion Giants, I see a man who just likes winning.  At the same time, I'll take Zygi's word that he wants to keep the Vikings in Minnesota at face value, and so I buy VG's analysis that Purple want to show that they're trying.

so far away
Over at Grant's Tomb, my favourite blog out of the Northwest Territories, DC puts down a hearty layer of good, old-fashioned, Norse pessimism and doubt.  It's a self-protective measure that every long-time Vikings fan has developed.  We've come to expect a mid-season collapse, or at the very least, a choke-job for the ages.  So, even when our beloved Purple go out of their way to address the glaring weaknesses of a mediocre team, there's still that voice that reminds us that the Vikings just can't win a Super Bowl.  They're cursed.

So, DC tries to temper the recent assertion that the Vikings will field the best D-line in all of football by pointing out that Kevin Williams' sack numbers are down as of recent years.  It's a point well-taken.  But even so, I can't help but keep up that stupid optimism that keeps me thinking that this year will be our year.

What really worries me is that Peter King thinks so, too.

the man's too strong
What really has me worried, though, is the Green Bay Packers.  They've always got me worried, but this past year, they were really good (affected understatement).  Though we don't have to worry about Brett Farve anymore, we do have to worry about a very athletic front-seven, a very good secondary, an offensive line that gets the job done, and a gang of pretty capable wide-receivers.  Aaron Rodgers—though he's got almost no experience—is no slouch either.  So, that season-opening game at Lambeau, on Monday Night Football, while retiring Brett Favre's jersey: that'll be tough.

brothers in arms
By now it's old news that E.J. Henderson's little brother, Erin Henderson, who also plays linebacker, has signed with the Vikings as a rookie free-agent.  Finally!  Two Vikings of the same name who are related.  So many times have we heard, "Pat and Kevin Williams—no relation— . . ."  Also, we'll now have a third Williams—no relation—playing saftey: Madieu Williams.  We used to have a Williams back there on the rare occasion that Tank Williams saw the field.  Another, less-heralded last name duo: Marcus and Chase Johnson, our bookend, back-up tackles.  Imagine if McKinnie gets suspended (let's hope not) and Ryan Cook doesn't cut it (a distinct possibility); Johnson and Johnson would be blocking for Jackson and Peterson.  If 6th-round pick Jaymar Johnson makes the team, then we might see three Johnsons on the field for the Vikings offense.  More likely, those three Johnsons, on the second-team offense, will be practicing against the three Williamses—no relation.  

Monday, April 28, 2008

monday afternoon quarterback

Peter King, over at Sports Illustrated writes a weekly column called "Monday Morning Quarterback," or "MMQB."  I read it pretty much every week.  And pretty much every week, it's an irritating experience in some way or another.  I don't mean to sound snobbish (I will, anyway), but the banality of his blind love (and written adulation) of Starbucks hazelnut-lattes is neither poignant nor interesting.  

Thankfully, this week wasn't really all that bad.  Neither Starbucks, nor a heartwarming-story-of-a-soldier-abroad made it into the column.  More importantly than that, even, PK devoted plenty of column-inches to the beloved Purple.  A sample, from the teams-whose-draft-he-liked section:

3. Minnesota. In a span of five days, the Vikings added the best available pass-rusher in football (Jared Allen), the best safety in the draft (Tyrell Johnson of Arkansas State), and a good challenger to put a little heat on Tavaris Jackson, USC quarterback John David Booty.

Like I've said throughout this Allen deal, long-term it has some real risks I would not have taken. But on opening day 2008, one of the top five defenses in football will have the biggest impact acquisition of the offseason in Allen, and it will also have either the best special-teams gunner or best young tackling safety in football in Johnson.

It's good to see the national media give some love to the Vikes on occasion.  Even so, I have to break out my red pen.  The awkwardness of this sentence — "But on opening day 2008, one of the top five defenses in football will have the biggest impact acquisition of the offseason in Allen, and it will also have either the best special-teams gunner or best young tackling saftey in football in Johnson" — astounds.  The phrase "in football" appears twice.  The second clause, the one about Tyrell Johnson, doesn't have much to do with the first, aside from the observation that both new Vikings tackle people well.  

King does make the salient point that Jared Allen will make about the same amount of money this year as the combined salaries of the six best starters on the Vikes' defense.  How might Pat Williams and Kevin Williams feel about that?  I'll venture that they'll mostly be happy about their newfound lack of double-teams, salary be damned.  Perhaps I'm being too optimistic.

The one thing that REALLY got under my skin, however, was this: "I think, if you gave him sodium pentathol, Chris Long would tell you he wishes he had gone to the Patriots, even if it would have cost him a lot of money to do so."  Sure, maybe Chris Long would have preferred to go some other place than St. Louis.  But, Mr. King, your Patriots homerism borders on outright projection here.  I'm sure that you would have preferred Long to the Patriots, but I'm not sure that he would have.  In about three weeks, said star defensive end will graduate from the University of Virginia, where there is a strict and dearly-held honor code.  Students who are caught and convicted of lying, cheating, or stealing at UVA are asked to leave.  Somehow, I don't think that a team whose first-round draft choice was revoked as a punishment for cheating would be a good fit for first-rounder Chris Long.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

football names are great

If you find yourself reading this blog, you probably know that the NFL draft was this weekend.  Here in Virginia, a thunderstorm rained out a steeplechase — the overspilling of sunburnt, sundressed-and-pearled, seersuckered and utterly soaked truckloads of UVA undergrads this event bestowed upon town was a sight bested only by the double rainbow that followed — and in New York, the Minnesota Vikings selected five rookies with funny names.

Rick Spielman and Brad Childress have decided to build our beloved Purple from the inside out.  The first four picks of the Vikings draft play in the middle of the field: at safety, quarterback, defensive tackle and center.  It's a strategy hard to argue with.

As the offseason began, the safety position needed some help.  Dwight Smith had gotten in trouble with the law just a little too much, and was so shown the door.  Darren Sharper (who, by the way, is your blogger's favourite Viking) hasn't been getting any younger or more spry, despite his in-house hyperbaric chamber.  Regrettably, we had cut the tastefully named Greg Blue last season.  And so, the Vikes signed Madieu Williams and Michael Boulware to shore up the breaking levee.  

And then, when the forty-third overall pick came up on Saturday, Brad Childress called up his buddy Andy Reid to trade a fourth-rounder for a swap of turns at the podium with Philadelphia.  With said forty-third overall pick, the Vikings selected Tyrell Johnson, a tenaciously hard-hitting strong safety from Arkansas State.  His scouting report and bio reveals that Johnson was drafted as an MA candidate, who stayed on even after he'd earned his Bachelor's in less than four years.  Johnson has the prototypical size and speed (6', 200', 4.56 sec/40-yds) to start at strong safety in the NFL.  The tiny bit of film that I've watched shows him shedding blocks and hitting like a linebacker.  The scouts say that stiffness-of-hip keeps him from matching up well in man coverage, but his good instincts make him a very good defender in a cover-2 zone.  We should expect Tyrell Marcellous Johnson to contribute immediately on special teams, and to understudy Darren Sharper.  It's a smart pick — particularly so given the drought that affected this year's crop of safeties.

John David Booty, who possesses perhaps the best of all possible names for a quarterback out of Southern California (University of), comes to Minnesota via the one-hundred-thirty-seventh selection in the 2008 NFL Entry Draft.  [Whew.  That was a mouthful.]  Booty's got good smarts, and a knowledge of all things West Coast – West Coast Offense, that is.  Chilly's playbook should be a quick read for this cerebral QB, who ran a pro-style offense at USC.  The biggest knock on him is that he lacks toughness and real arm-strength.  Let's just hope that he's more Drew Brees than Kelly Holcomb.

In Letroy Guion, the Vikes seem to have found a quick, strong brawler of a defensive tackle, who declared eligible for the draft after only three seasons.  He's raw, but has the potential to replace augustine Pat Williams.  This season, Guion will have the occasional chance to make plays in the best defensive tackle rotation in the NFL.

In the sixth round, our beloved Purple selected an ox of a center and a sparrow of a wide receiver.  John Sullivan, formerly of Rudy University (Notre Dame), plays with a real mean-streak, and may well replace venerable pro-bowler Matt Birk, who is aging and in a contract year.  Jaymar Johnson is a small-school burner (thankfully not a small school-burner) from Jackson State, who runs a 4.35 in the 40.  Other than expounding upon the alliterative possibilities of a name like Jaymar Johnson, I couldn't tell you much about the newest Viking.

And by the bye: Mr. Irrelevant, the unofficial title of the last pick in the draft, is an outside linebacker from Idaho named David Vobora.  The St. Louis Rams, who opened the 2008 selection process on Saturday with UVA Cavalier Chris Long (the picking-first-overall Dolphins signed Jake Long earlier this week), closed it on Sunday with pick 252.  This year's Mr. Irrelevant will join a team with a center named Richie Incognito.

Don't you love football names?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

"to verb the adjective noun!"

Today is draft day.  It's not the draft for Iraq (within the year, I will happily lose a $55 bet from 2004 about such a thing), thankfully, but for the NFL.  Because the Vikings only have one pick today, I will be babbling about other things, by and large.

There are several sports-related sites out there that have assigned someone to "blog the draft."  All over the interweb, people are blogging the draft.  It's such a strange turn of phrase, really.  Say you were from 1997 or so (wouldn't that be strange) and didn't know what a weblog was.  I wonder what you would think when someone told you he was going "to blog the draft."  

The noun-ness of the word "blog" is pretty great, eh?  The word "blog," aside from being a weblog of something — a 'blog — suggests a booger or a hairball or some other byproduct of one orifice or another.  My friend's blog runs the subtitle, "i think i ate a blog once."    Incidentally, on said blog, she shares with us recipes for gluten-free pad thai.

The verb-ness of the word "blog" might be even more scrumptious.  "Weblog" doesn't translate well into a verb in the same way that it is already a noun.  As a transitive verb, well, it sucks. "Todd McShay will weblog the draft," for example, just doesn't sell ESPN Insider subscriptions in the same way that, "Todd McShay: Blogging the draft," does.  Somehow, "to blog" has a certain, well, umph.

A couple of years ago, I was in a coffee shop with a buddy of mine.  There was a girl that he really liked, and he was chatting her up in a by-and-large mundane sort of way.  She lit up, however, when she mentioned her blog.  She'd recently started blogging.  Dutifully, my friend perked up and said — completely unwittingly — "I'll blog your blog!"  The awkward silence that followed was priceless.  

So, without having blogged anything of consequence, your dutiful narrator will sign out for now.

Friday, April 25, 2008

"Sulphate Injections"

In an effort to curtail global warming, some scientists have suggested pumping suphur into the atmosphere.  Other scientists, who fear ozone depletion, don't warm to the idea.  

Read the article here.

. . .

Please tell me if you disagree, but the slant that both the Science and the BBC reporters take on this idea suggests that this here sulphur idea is, well, not smart.

At least, it seems like a self-evidently stupid idea to me.  

Has anyone else noticed that the press has begun to use "climate change" interchangeably with "global warming?"  Here, the BBC reporter writes, "Sulphate injections are one of several 'geo-engineering' solutions to climate change being discussed by scientists."  Now, if a "sulphate injection" affects the ozone layer over the Arctic and Antarctic poles, or blocks enough sunshine to cool the planet, then it changes the climate, and it is itself "climate change."  So, what's the difference?  "Global warming" is the increase in average atmospheric temperature.  "Climate change" refers to the chage in average weather over longer periods of time, like seasons, years, and decades.  Global warming causes climate change.  

Also, does the phrase "suphate injection" make anyone else uncomfortable?

Inaugural Post! (break out the purple champagne)

So.  Welcome to the Virginia Viking, a stop on the information superhighway to get one dislocated Minnesota Vikings fan's outlook on our Beloved Purple.  

I had meant to launch this blog this weekend, concurrent with the upcoming NFL draft.  If you've found this site, you probably already know that Zygi has traded away our first-round pick and both of our third-round picks in exchange for star defensive end Jared Allen.  The Kansas City Chiefs will almost assuredly have the more exciting draft this weekend.  That's all ok though, as we will almost assuredly have the most exciting defensive line this season. 

Alas, that's old (but exciting!) news.  

Earlier this offseason, I stopped by Pacifist Viking, and found out that the wicked witch is dead.  That's right -- Brett Farve retired.  Then he almost un-retired.  Now, he's on the cover of Madden '09.  How frustrating is that?  Really.  As long as I've been a Vikings fan, that man has been the nemesis personified.  I thought that we could all begin to move on, but no.  At least the Madden Curse isn't directed toward the Purple Jesus this season.

Anyhow.  There will be much more to come.  For now, welcome to the Virginia Viking!