Monday, February 26, 2007

Peter King--Nothing but a Hater

Apparently, Peter King has a problem with Dwayne Jarrett. Well, Jarrett and preteen girls that like gymnastics and cheerleading. Since this is a football blog, I'm not going to go in depth about the latter topic, but the man seems to be out to get Jarrett.

In a column that was almost all positive, King really only had four negative things to say--he made fun of some elementary school girls, a reporter, Midwestern coffee and Jarrett. And only Jarrett got ripped on more than once. The sad part is he did a poor job of mocking all of them.

To begin with, he mocks a reporter questioning Calvin Johnson (who, by the way, will not be available to the Vikings with the #7 pick. No way, no how.).

'Would you have any problem playing in a colder climate, like a Minnesota?'
--Reporter's question to Georgia Tech's Calvin Johnson during Johnson's press conference at the Combine Saturday afternoon. The Vikings have played in a dome since 1981."

King apparently has not been to Minnesota in December. It's just a little bit colder outside than it is in Georgia, where Calvin Johnson has lived his entire life. But I guess it's unreasonable to ask if Johnson cares about having to experience winter for the first time.

King's just warming up, however. He then preceeds to go after Dwayne Jarrett as if Jarrett had stolen his "coffee flavored water" or made a colonoscopy joke in his presence.

He starts off with a shot at Jarrett for being "bitter" because his stock is dropping. The quote doesn't sound bitter to me, but then again I wasn't there, so I can't comment on Jarrett's tone:

" Just look at my body of work at USC. I won a national championship as a freshman. I've been all-American two times, broke every record at USC,
fourth in NCAA history in scoring touchdowns. I had 41. So look at the
You better not sound bitter around King though, because, God help him, he will savage you if you do.
"'I respect him, he respects me, and that's how we pretty much differ.'
--Dwayne Jarrett, on his relationship with former USC wideout Mike Williams.
Was that English he was speaking?"


"Dwayne Jarrett said Saturday that Pete Carroll's coaching staff at USC 'is the best coaching staff I've ever been around.' What a tribute! Did you know the USC coaching staff is better than New Brunswick (N.J.) High's? Amazing"

That Jarrett--such a jackass. How dare he compliment his coaching staff! He's too bitter! Jarrett is awful! Don't draft him! He's a cancer! He's no Tom Brady! Or Troy Smith!

Then again, I guess that's what I get for reading Peter King--lattes, slurping and irrational hatred.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Vikings Give Recievers Reason to Fear

By resigning Tank Williams, the Vikings insured that they would have both depth and a player with the ability to level wide receivers starting at strong safety. Assuming that Dwight Smith is cut due to the depth at the position, his off field shenanigans and his lack of a strong backer in the coaching staff, the Vikings have set up a training camp battle between Greg Blue and Tank Williams. And both of them can absolutely destroy people, something Smith wasn't known for.

Blue demonstrated his ability at the position during his rookie year while filling in for Smith against the Redskins and Packers, and more importantly, showed that he has the ability to make a wide receiver remember him, a trait he also showed in college.

Even if Blue can't beat out Williams for the starting role, the Vikings will still have an enforcer back there. I don't have video evidence of this, but the man's name is Tank after all. You don't pickup a nickname like that by intercepting passes.

[On a draft related note, the Star Tribune has a nice piece today about why the Vikings should think twice about drafting a wide receiver with their first round pick that you should make sure you read]

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Forces Outside the Vikings' Control

It was an interesting weekend, not because of things the Vikings did (that being pretty much nothing) but because what other teams did impacted the Vikings' plans for next season.

First, the Colts franchised Dwight Freeney as expected, taking away one of the best options to help the Vikings' anemic pass rush. Jared Allen is still available, but if the Vikings don't sign him, look for them to spend their first round pick on Gaines Adams or Jamaal Anderson.

Secondly, da Bears became the second NFC North team to hire a new defensive coordinator this offseason, promoting their linebackers coach, Bob Babich. The difference, of course, is that Rivera didn't leave to become a head coach, but rather ended up as the Chargers' linebackers coach after his contract was not renewed. Kind of an odd situation, considering that da Bears strength the past two years has been their defense. I can't say that I've heard of something like this before, especially since it appears it was something of a mutual decision. Sadly, not only is it unlikely that da Bears will experience any kind of defensive drop off next year, but this decision will make it more likely thah the team will continue to have one of the NFL's best defenses for years to come.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Should the Vikings Go After David Carr?

Various news sources are reporting that the Vikings are considering swinging a trade with Houston for David Carr, an idea that I did not initially endorse. But, like a smart fan, I didn’t let my emotions about the Tarvaris Revolution cloud my judgment, instead choosing to base my opinion on the stats. After doing so, I’ve come to the conclusion that Carr would be a great fit for the Vikings over the next two years, allowing Tarvaris to spend another year or two developing prior to taking over.

First off, Carr’s contract should fit perfectly into the Vikings’ plans. He has only two years remaining, both of which are pretty cheap--he’s only owed $5.25 million next season and $6 million in 2008. While 2008 might feature a quarterback controversy, having Carr there would be extremely useful if the Revolution has problems as the starter.

Secondly, Carr is a decent young quarterback with room for improvement. He finished 15th overall, with an 82.1 QB rating, despite having a line that allowed him to be sacked 41 times. Even though he faced constant pressure, he still demonstrated the accuracy needed for the Vikings’ offense, completing over 60% of his passes the last three seasons, including 68.3% of them last year. He has had problems with turnovers, though, averaging 13 interceptions and 13.6 fumbles a season, including 11 picks and 16 fumbles last season. A lot of that, however, can likely be attributed to the beating he took behind the Texans’ porous offensive line.

Of course, that’s nothing new for him, as he’s been sacked 249 times in his five year career, or seven more times than Brad Johnson has been in his 15 year career. Read that sentence again—Carr has been sacked more than Brad Johnson has, despite having played for a third as many seasons. Despite the punishment, he’s held up well, having only missed three games in his career due to injury.

If the Vikings’ were to acquire him, conventional wisdom holds that his stats would improve due to his having more time to work with in the pocket. While he would likely face less pressure than he did in his first four seasons, last year, the Vikings’ line was not effective in avoiding negative pass plays, which a stat Cold Hard Football Facts keeps, which measures “how often pass plays end in either a sack or interception”. The Texans had 10.69% of their pass plays end negatively, which was the 22nd best total in the league. This was a vast improvement over the 15.7% from the year before, but still pretty bad. The Vikings were actually worse, however, as 10.81% of their pass plays ended negatively. The difference, however, was due to interceptions as the Vikings had a 19 picks and 43 sacks, while the Texans had 13 picks and 42 sacks. It’s also likely that some of the Vikings’ sacks were due to Johnson’s immobility. Carr, having slightly more mobility than Johnson (as does my desk), should be able to avoid some of the sacks that Johnson could not.

I believe that Tarvaris Jackson has the potential to be a star quarterback in the NFL, and would play well next season if he is the starter. If Brad Childress and the Vikings’ don’t think so, however, I hope that they go after David Carr, because Carr would provide durability, accuracy and potential, which Garcia would not.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Look Around the Web

As we all know, there's something of a lull between the Super Bowl and the NFL draft. And by that I mean that there's really no point in paying attention to football right now unless something crazy happens to your team (and you thought the Vikings were dysfunctional). Barring a coach firing, there really isn't a lot going on here in the land of the Purple, so it's time to take a look around the web and see what we piques our interest.

  • NFL Draft Countdown has a new mock draft up (as of Feb. 6). They have the Vikings taking Gaines Adams after Calvin Johnson and Jamaal Anderson go #4 and #5. What's really interesting, however, is their mock of the second round, where they have the Vikings bypassing the best WR left (Anthony Gonzalez) to take Greg Olson, a tight end out of Miami. Not a bad choice, since Childress' offense should feature a good pass catching tight end (based on how the Eagles have used the position), something it didn't do this last season.
  • If the Vikings take Olson, it will likely mean the end of the Jermaine Wiggins' era. While his ridiculous Bahstan accent will be missed, he wasn't able to get the job done last year, despite the Vikings' emphasis on short passes, which should have helped his production.
  • If you read that last link from the Star Tribune's Vikings' blog, you'll notice that Fred Smoot's name was not listed with Wiggins, Dwight Smith's and Mike Rosenthal's. Commenter "Jason J" appears to be correct when he said the Vikings would hang on to the Love Boat star.
  • Just because the Vikings are hanging on to Ol' Double Duty, doesn't mean he's going to start, however. As you can see from Judd Zalgad's answers to reader questions, Cedric Griffin (and not Nate Clements) will be starting opposite Antoine Winfield.
  • Finally, has actually allowed someone to question the NFL's conduct and product. And they're dead on with all of their points. The way the NFL is handling the concussion epidemic is downright criminal, as is their disregard for former players. That, combined with the legal problems of some current players has the high probability of creating a backlash, especially if the games continue to be over hyped, too long and poorly played.

Friday, February 09, 2007

"You Wait For Good Things"

The above quote from Brad Childress both explains the eighteen day wait for Tomlin's replacement and suggests that Leslie Frazier is going to be able to keep improving the Vikings' defense despite his "rocky stint" as Cincinnati's Defensive Coordinator. And I think he's right about that.

Frazier explains:

"If [defense] is your background," Frazier said, "it's a hard thing to let it go and trust. My personality, some people would say I'm a soft-spoken guy. But I have some strong convictions about certain things. Certain things, I'm not
necessarily going to compromise on."

Obviously (and thankfully) Childress isn't going to get involved on the defensive side of the ball. He didn't with Tomlin, and he won't with Frazier. It helps that Frazier is a disciple of the Tampa 2 (though really, who isn't these days?), even though his version of the scheme incorporates more blitzes than Tomlin's did.

That should be a good thing. If the Vikings retain Harris, linebacker will be amongst the deepest positions they have, with three quality players (possibly four if Greenway plays up to his potential) whose strength lies in blitzing and playing the run. Frazier's scheme should play to their strengths, allowing the Vikings to get pressure without having to rely so heavily on their defensive line.

What it will also likely do is shift the Vikings' focus in free agency from defensive end (of which there are few quality free agents) to cornerback. While Antoine Winfield is an elite corner, that stems as much from his tackling and ability against the run as it does his coverage ability. Fred Smoot is likely as good as gone. Cedric Griffin and Dovonte Edwards are both decent corners, but neither is likely to be in the Pro Bowl next year. Edwards didn't play last year, and while Griffin started as rookie, it would be best if he could remain as the Nickleback for another year. Luckily for the Vikings, it's a good year for cornerbacks in free agency. I can't say I would mind seeing the Bills starting corners from 2001 to 2003 reunited. Or seeing if Asante Samuel can set a record.

[Update: There's a breakdown of the Wide Recievers in the draft over at Rumors and Rants if you're interested. Just be careful--I don't want anyone getting hurt in the mad scramble to get over there. If you're smart, you'll pay particular attention to the recievers not named Johnson, Jarrett or Ginn, Jr. because those are the ones most likely to end up in Purple next year]

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Reason for the Wait

It turns out there was a reason for the Vikings to wait so long for a defensive coordinator--they were waiting for the Colts to be done with the playoffs. Welcome to the Purple, Leslie Frazier! Hopefully, you're even more successful than your predecessor.

Leslie Frazier, prior to adding his second Super Bowl Ring?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Some Background for Speculation

As everyone knows, the NFL really is a year round enterprise. All the end of the season does is allow people to fully concentrate on speculation. Obviously, with some money to spend, a high draft pick and an opening at a key coaching spot, there's a lot of room for Vikings' fans to join in the fray.

• Some candidates for the defensive coordinator position have finally emerged, and it appears that there was a reason for the delay—they were waiting to interview Leslie Frazier, the Colt’s special assistant and co-defensive backs coach. Frazier has some defensive coordinator experience, as he lead the Bengal’s defensive during the 2003-2004 season, Marvin Lewis’ first year as head coach. The Bengal’s defense was pretty bad that year, allowing 351.2 yards per game, fifth worst in the NFL. They were mediocre against the pass, allowing 212.6 yards per game and 138.6 rushing yards a game. That mediocrity showed up in the amount of points they allowed as well, as they gave up 24.0 per game. Of course, that team didn’t have anywhere near the talent the Vikings do. He also brings with him experience in the Tampa 2, and has worked with Childress before. Frazier seems to be the favorite and it seems like he has the ability to build on Tomlin’s success.

• The other intriguing candidate (at least to me) is Vikings’ linebacker coach Fred Pagac. Promoting from within has its benefits, such as continuity and knowledge of the players. What makes Pagac such an interesting candidate is the job he did with the linebackers this year. Under his tutelage, Napoleon Harris and E.J. Henderson turned in quality seasons after spending their previous time in purple looking lost. Pagac’s ability to get players to understand their jobs on the field bodes well for his ability to run a defense.

• With Dwight Freeney off the market, it’s looking more and more like the Vikings will be taking a defensive end in the draft. Those hoping for a wide receiver shouldn’t despair, however—this is a good year for receivers, and the Vikings should be able to pick up a talented player like Dwayne Bowe or Anthony Gonzalez with their second round pick.

• The Vikings are apparently persuing Jeff Garcia to be the starting quarterback. I can't say I'm all that excited about him, despite how well he played after Donovan McNabb got hurt. Obviously, I'm a huge backer of the Tarvaris Revolution and would like to see him start, but I'm also getting some crazy Brad Johnson type vibes from Garcia. Garcia played better last season than Johnson did in 2005, but it wasn't all that much better. And like Johnson, he's old (he turns 37 this month) and his play could fall off just as dramatically. Remember, this is the same Jeff Garcia that played so poorly he couldn't even stick in Detroit.

• While he hasn’t had any luck convincing the state to help him build a stadium, Zygi did make a smart decision earlier this week. I think he understood that now was not the best time to raise ticket prices, at least if he wanted to insure the Vikings had all of their home games televised.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A Look at the Offense--the "Wide Recievers"

Everyone knows that the Vikings’ receivers were bad this year. I didn’t realize how bad they were, however, until I looked at their value as measured by DPAR. I’ll put it this way--the thesaurus does not have enough synonyms for “awful” for me to properly write this article.

Lead by a strong effort by Travis Taylor (8.6 DPAR), the Vikings receivers added a combined 7.5 DPAR to the team this year, or roughly half the value contributed to the Steelers by Nate Washington, one of thirty three (THIRTY THREE!!) wide outs to contribute more than double the value of the Vikings’ entire wide receiving corp.

While no one was predicting Pro Bowls for the Purple’s receivers before the season, few expected them to be as awful as they actually were. Taylor, Marcus Robinson and Troy Williamson’s putrid performance in 2006 was a major drop off from their 2005 totals:

Travis Taylor

DPAR RankDVOA RankCatch %
2005 11.1 35 4.2% 4256%
2006 8.6 51 .6% 46 65%

Marcus Robinson

DPAR RankDVOA RankCatch %
2005 12.0 31 17.4% 1454%
2006 -0.2 69 -15.5% 69 50%

Troy Williamson

DPAR RankDVOA RankCatch %
2005 4.4 61 -1.2% 5446%
2006 -0.9 72 -16.1% 70 49%

As the above tables show, all three receivers performed significantly worse than in 2005, with Taylor being the lone exception. That can likely be explained by the huge increase in Taylor’s catch percentage and the likely reason for it. Catch percentage “represents the percentage of passes to this receiver completed” and refers only to complete v. incomplete passes. Drops are not taken into account. Taylor’s double digit increase is most likely due to the change in the offense. Childress’s passing game and Brad Johnson’s weak arm increased the emphasis on short passes, playing to Taylor’s strengths and making him more of a focal point in the passing game.

I could probably go on and on about how pathetic the Vikings wide receivers were this year, but I think this will probably sum it up the best. Travis Taylor was the most valuable wide out for the Vikings this year. His most productive year was 2002, when he posted a 12.3 DPAR, good enough for 35th overall, a position he equaled in 2005. To put that into perspective, in 2006, Pittsburgh, New Orleans and Arizona each had three receivers that ranked higher than 35th in DPAR, eight other teams had two receivers and nine more had one. Twenty teams had better wide receivers than the best year of the Vikings’ most productive wide out. At his most productive, Taylor would only be the second most valuable receiver on nine teams, the third on eight teams and the fourth on three teams. And he wasn’t even at his best in 2006.

[A look at the Fullbacks is coming tomorrow, and if you've missed any of the other positions, the links are below]

Tight Ends
Running Backs
Offensive Line

Monday, February 05, 2007

It's the End of the Season As We Know It, And I Feel Fine

Thus ends the 2006-2007 season. I enjoyed the game, with the crazy turnovers, Grossman's Farve like interceptions and a pretty sweet halftime show. And to top it all off, I even picked which scion of the Tampa 2 would come out on top.

What we saw last night was a superior quarterback defeating a defense that is designed to thwart an impatient quarterback, as well as that same defense embarrassing an impatient quarterback. Manning, after that first interception, settled down and staid with the blueprint for beating the Tampa 2, finding guys over the middle, in the flats and only going deep when it was wide open. This, along with some comical attempts at dropping back by Grossman lead to Indy's lead which lead to Grossman's implosion. Once the Bears were behind, Grossman lost his patience and started chucking it deep, with predictable results. And it didn't help that his throws weren't even remotely accurate. These weren't even passes that Bernard Berrian or Muhsin Mohammed would have been able to catch with only one guy on them, let alone two.

Really, the only way the Bears were going to pull the game out was with big plays by their defense and special teams. Even they knew that Grossman couldn't be counted on to win it (as shown by their decision to run on third and long inside their own twenty). They got what they wanted from Devin Hester, but the defense wasn't able to do much against Manning after that initial interception. He wasn't going to force anything, and he wasn't going to make mistakes unless they pressured him relentlessly, something they were unable to do. And the Bears' pass rush was also up against Manning's improved ability to throw on the run, as well as his mad option skills. I'd bet that Lovie and Rivera didn't have their defense ready to stop Manning's Tommie Frazier impersonation, that's for sure.

And so the Colts are the NFL's champions. Which means that IchirioHoya is the winner of the inaugural Ragnarok's Playoff Pickoff, finishing with a final record of 8-3. Be on the look out for his post sometime this week, probably on the pain Baltimore is feeling now that the Lombardi Trophy is residing in Indianapolis. Then again, he may go on a rant about Brian Billick. No matter the topic, I'm sure it'll be a quality read, so stay tuned!

[And I promise, I'll finish my look at the offense tomorrow. I know I've been putting off the wide outs, but they just sucked soooo much]

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Playoff Pickoff: Super Bowl Edition

It all comes down to this. With only the Super Bowl remaining, Ichirio has a one game lead over Jason and Stud. With the right pick, we may have to go to the tie breaker. Or, we might end up hearing a rant about the Ravens. Which would be fun, I guess.

Jason: Colts -- I'm stuck in a prisoner's dilemma. The leader by one,IchiroHoya, suspects that I will take the Bears to offset the logicalselection of the Colts. IchiroHoya counters by taking the Bears, makingmy move even more genius and also keeps me parallel to various"investments" with off-shore websites. [Don’t you hate it when you over think things? Me too.]

IchirioHoya: Colts, 30-16 -- Even against a very stout Ravens defense (please allow the Baltimorean to self-sooth a bit here) the Colts proved that they could move the ball a little bit. Against the Bears defense they will also be able to move the ball a little bit, and, with their rediscovered penchant for getting into the end zone, the Colts will put enough points on the board to win this one with some comfort. No Super Bowl win for Rex Grossman. Trent Dilfer exhales. His title of "Worst QB to Win a Super Bowl" remains safe for another year.

Stud: Bears, 23-21--I'm going with the Bears because it's the only way I have a chance at winning, not because I actually have faith in them. I friggin hate picking them, but hey, at least in 2 weeks we can start the official "When will Mark Prior/Kerry Wood break down, thus ending the Cubs season before it starts" pool.

Mookie: Colts—I don’t think the Bears can win. Why? Because I hate the Bears, and they hate God. Otherwise, why would they have beaten His messengers? And Rex Grossman is stupid. He doesn’t even have a real name-he has a dog name. Stupid Rex. [Ummm…Ok.]

TBird41: Colts—I just have a good feeling about Peyton winning this one. Maybe I’m missing something, but the Bears just aren’t as good a team as the Pats and Ravens were.