Friday, February 29, 2008
As I wrote earlier, Williams will be a huge improvement over Dwight Smith in coverage, something that Smith was horrible at, and something that Williams is very good at. This was a very, very good move for the Vikings. By swapping Smith for Williams, they improved their talent level at safety, brought in a younger player and one who's skills will improve one of the Vikings weaknesses. Also, Williams should help cover for the Vikings young corners, something Smith wasn't very good at.
The Vikings also upgraded at fullback by signing Thomas Tapeh. Tapeh is a younger version of Tony Richardson. He has a good reputation as a blocking back, and is known for his special teams play, something at which they can always get better at, especially in a division that includes Devin Hester and Koren Robinson. And, as everyone likely knows, Tapeh is a former Minnesota Golden Gopher, and a native of St. Paul, and it's always a plus to bring a Minnesotan home to play for the Purple.
These two signings were a great start by the Vikings on the first day of free agency. They filled two of the holes in their roster, and still have a very good shot at signing the best receiver available. If DE Justin Smith doesn't sign with San Francisco, and they can talk the Texans or Bills into trading their backup QB, they'll have a very good chance of addressing everyone of their needs before the draft even starts. After all the negativity of the end of the season, its nice to finally have some reasons to be excited about next year.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
According to Don Banks of SI.com, the Vikings have offered Houston a third round pick for Sage Rosenfels, their backup quarterback. I hope Banks is telling the truth, because Rosenfels would be perfect as the Vikings backup QB. He's experienced, is happy as a backup and has shown over the last two years that he's good enough to step up and help the Purple win if he's needed, whether because Tarvaris got hurt (which happened all too often last year) or because Tarvaris is struggling (which also happened all too often).
Last year, Rosenfels started 4 games for the Texans due to injuries to Matt Schaub, and played in 5 others. In those 9 games, he completed 64% of his 246 passes for 1647 yards and 15 touchdowns, which was good for a 84.8 QB Rating. While he did throw 13 interceptions, he still amassed 39.3 DPAR, which was the 18th highest total in the NFL. He was also the 9th most valuable QB in the NFL on a per play basis, with a DVOA of 21.7%.
And those numbers weren't that much better than his statistics from 2006 either. He didn't get a lot of playing time In the 4 games he played in that year, but he was successful when he was on the field, completing 69% of his 39 for 268 yards and 3 touchdowns, while only throwing 1 pick. His advanced statistics weren't too shabby either, as he had a 9.6 DPAR and a 39.8% DVOA.
Another thing Rosenfels has going for himself is that he rarely gets sacked. He was only dropped once every 41 times he went back to pass, an astoundingly low rate. Rosenfels has only been sacked 10 times in his entire career and was sacked only once every 39.8 pass attempts. To put that in context, Tarvaris had about as many pass attempts (313), but was sacked 19 times last year, or once every 16.5 dropbacks, which isn't that bad of a sack rate (David Carr's sack rate is once every 9.4 drop backs).
Even if he cost the Vikings a third round pick, Rosenfels would be a much better backup than almost all of the other options that have been discussed. Trent Green and Steve McNair are old and injury prone, Cleo Lemon and Josh McCown have never demonstrated competence, and Chad Pennington, Quinn Gray and Chris Simms all want to be starters (not to mention Pennington and Simms injury issues). A third round pick has value (the last three years, Vikings drafted Marcus McCauley and Dustin Fox in the third round, and used their pick in 2006 to move up in the second round) but not as much as value as having a legitimate backup for an inexperienced starter at the most important position on the field. The Vikings made that mistake last year and it cost them a playoff spot. If they are able to acquire Rosenfels, it'll show that Childress has learned from his mistake, which would be a very good sign. It would also mean that they are set at the quarterback position going into the season, something they haven't been able to say since before the 2005 season.
[Solving Our Problems is an ongoing series here at the Ragnarok where I evaluate the Vikings' options going into the offseason. I started by looking at the quarterback options, examining Derek Anderson, Donovan McNabb and possible backups for Tarvaris Jackson. I've tried to figure out who the QB is going to throw to, starting with free agent Bernard Berrian and Donte Stallworth, but I'm going to take a detour and take a look at a safety the Vikings might sign, Madieu Williams]
The Star Tribune had an article today about the Vikings' possible targets in free agency, and it's a positive one, because the Vikings are going to go after top talent. According to the article, the Vikings top three targets are wide receiver Bernard Berrian, defensive end Justin Smith and safety Madieu Williams. I covered why the Vikings should try and sign Berrian earlier, and Grant's Tomb took a look at the possibilities in the free agent market at defensive end, which I agree with, because I don't think the Vikings are going to spend big money on a pass rusher, because the talent isn't there. Aside from Smith, who struggled in his free agency year, there really aren't any game changing talents. That, combined with the fact that the draft has some quality talent at the position, makes me think that the Purple will spend their $30 million to fill other gaps, mainly wide receiver and safety. And, with Dwight Smith signing with the Lions, the Purple have to find a player to pair with Darren Sharper, and Madieu Williams is their top target.
Williams has spent his four years playing for the Bengals, but you shouldn't let that scare you. He's a talented safety, and is known off the field for his charity work (you thought I was going to say "legal troubles", didn't you? Well, he's not that kind of Bengal). And unlike Smith, his talents lie in coverage, not run support. As Football Prospectus 2007 put it, "Williams in particular is excellent in coverage and can help cover the deficiencies of the corners."
The information in the following table was taken from Football Prospectus 2007, so the stats are from 2006. I don't have access to the stats from last season yet. However, based on what I've read about Williams, he played about as well in 2007 as he did in 2006. And based on watching Smith, I think he preformed about as well this year as he did last year. So I believe that the information below is still relevant in comparing the two.
The first two statistics deal with the safeties ability to stop the run. RuYd shows where the player normally tackled a runner past the line of scrimmage and RuStp deals with the percentage of run plays in which the player was involved in stopping. The second two statistics deal with stopping the pass. Suc% is the percentage of plays targeting a player on which the offense did not have a successful play. "This means not only incomplete passes and interceptions but also short completions that do not meet our baselines for success (45 percent of needed yards on 1st down, 60 percent on 2nd down, 100 percent on 3rd or 4th down)". PD is passes defensed, which is a counting stat that includes any time a player knocked down a pass or intercepted it. Where the player ranks out of all NFL defensive backs in the first three statistics is also included.
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As you can see, Williams is nowhere near the run stopper that Smith is and Smith is nowhere near as good at coverage as Williams is, except when he comes to intercepting passes, as Smith has averaged 3.25 picks over the last four years, while Williams has averaged only 2.25 picks over the same time period. One extra interception a year isn't that big a loss, however, when you consider that Williams was almost 25% more successful at stopping plays targeting him.
While replacing Smith with Williams would likely hurt the Vikings' run defense, adding a safety with Williams' coverage ability would be a huge gain for the Vikings' pass defense. Williams and Sharper (his Suc% was also 69%) would likely make up the best pair of coverage safeties in the NFL, which would more than offset whatever damage it would do to the Vikings' run defense. And, the Vikings' can afford losing some of their ability at stopping the run if it means improving their mediocre pass defense, especially at a position that isn't as vital to run defense. Signing Williams would accomplish that, and in today's NFL, being able to stop the pass is of vital importance.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
[Solving Our Problems is an ongoing series here at the Ragnarok where I evaluate the Vikings' options going into the offseason. I started by looking at the quarterback options, examining Derek Anderson, Donovan McNabb and possible backups for Tarvaris Jackson. Now it's time to figure out who the QB is going to throw to, starting with free agent Bernard Berrian and now Donte Stallworth.]
One of the best things that Donte Stallworth has going for him is that he is available on the free agent market. The Patriots have already declined his option. The actual best thing? The fact that he has an alter ego , named Nicco that punishes him when he messes up on the field and lives on Mars when he's not playing.
Now, even if he didn't have an alter ego from Mars, (which, honestly, is more than enough to convince me that the Vikings should sign him), the Vikings should still pursue Stallworth this offseason. Stallworth would be a perfect complement for the Vikings current wide receivers, adding a deep threat that the Vikings are currently lacking (since Sidney Rice is not quite ready yet). Over the last three years, he's averaged 15 catches over 20 yards, and almost three catches over 40 yards a game. To put that in context, Robert Ferguson lead the Vikings in catches over 20 yards, with 5, and no receiver on the Vikings roster has ever had a season with more than 8 receptions for over 20 yards. His yards and touchdowns last year were their lowest in four years, but I think it's safe to say that was mostly due to the fact that he was Tom Brady's third option, behind Randy Moss and Wes Welker. The fact that he's only 27, and that his 46 receptions and 15.2 yards per catch were both the third highest of his career also support that assertion. And not only did he not experience any drop off in DPAR or DVOA, he posted his highest total since his rookie year, with a 15.9 DPAR and a 16.2% DVOA.
One has to wonder how much of that value actually should be attributed to the offense he was playing in and the fact that he was able to play in all 16 games, something he has only able to do two other times in his six year career. His catch percentage in 2007 seems to support the theory that Tom Brady had a lot to do with his high value, as he caught 62% of the passes thrown his way, a career high. The only other time his catch percentage broke 60% was in his rookie year, and he's had two seasons where he caught less than 50% of the passes thrown his way.
It's his catch percentages, combined with his history of injury problems that have prevented him from taking the step from "deep threat" to "#1 receiver". Stallworth's career high in receptions is 70, in 2004, and it's the only time he's had more than 58 in a season. He's never averaged more than 60 yards receiving per game, or had 1000 yards receiving in a season. His career high is 945 yards, in 2004, and it's the only season he's had more than 800 yards receiving. Also, the closest he's come to double digit touchdowns was in his rookie year, when he had 8 TDs.
It's for those reasons that Stallworth would not be the best receiver the Vikings could sign. Bernard Berrian is. However, if the Purple can't sign Berrian, Stallworth would still be a good acquisition, adding a deep threat and a veteran presence that the Purple would be lacking. And finally, he'd be a 2-1 deal, which is the kind of bargain you can't get just anywhere.
This trade brings to mind one of the many things that I'll never understand about Vikings' fans. I understand those who want Brad Childress fired. I disagree (for now), but I can see where they're coming from. What I don't understand is why people would want Mike Tice back. He took over a team with two offensive stars, but was never able to do anything with them, or provide them with any kind of support and then turned them into nothing. I understand that a lot of that can and should be blamed on Red McCombs and the personnel staff, however, in the end, the Vikings had Daunte Culpepper in his prime (and it was a beautiful prime) and Randy Moss and turned them into two years of Napolean Harris, three years of Troy Williamson and Ryan Cook, who is at best an average right tackle. Maybe that isn't Tice's fault, but I can't think of anything else when I think of him.
On a happier note, there is the outside possibility that the Vikings will be able to turn that sixth rounder into a useful player. Derek Anderson, Arnez Battle and David Tyree will all taken in the sixth round, as were Vikings Matt Birk and Robert Tate and former Vikings tight end Andrew Jordan.
I'll be looking at D.J Hackett and Donte Stallworth in the next few days, but I've already done the research on them, and I still believe that Berrian is the best receiver on the market. And he's going to be an unrestricted free agent on February 29th, because da Bears didn't place a franchise tag on him. The Vikings have $30 million in cap room, and they should use as much as necessary to bring in Berrian.
Because it wouldn't be the Vikings without some kind of really stupid off the field behavior, Bryant McKinnie was arrested over the weekend for getting in a fight outside of a club. He tried to escape via bus (Quick! To the Escape Bus!), but that obviously didn't work, and he has a court date set for March 17th, where he's being charged with aggravated battery (a felony) and two misdemeanors. That's not good. Even if he doesn't gets jail time, Access Vikings pointed out that it might not matter to Commissioner Goodell, since this is McKinnie's second violation of the NFL Conduct Policy. Whatever your thoughts on Mount McKinnie, the Vikings can't afford to lose their starting left tackle, especially if he gets hit with a long suspension. Tarvaris has not shown the ability to deal with pressure well, which he's guaranteed to face more of if he doesn't have McKinnie guarding his blindside.
The Vikings released their starting strong safety last week (I really need to update more often--I promise I'll work on it). While Smith has been a solid contributer, his play wasn't so good that it made sense to hold onto him despite his off field troubles. If you're going to get burned by Devin Hester on a simple go route that you knew he was running, well, you better not get arrested for marijuana possession and lewd conduct at a night club.
Tank Williams and Mike Doss are both unrestricted free agents, which means that they don't have anyone to start at the position next year, unless they plan on moving Antoine Winfield to strong safety (a position he would excel in), which would create a similar gap at cornerback. I wouldn't be surprised to see Childress bring Tank back (and he does have a bad ass name), something that would at least justify the Vikings' decision to release Greg Blue before last year. Even if they do bring back Tank, however, they should try and find a long term solution in the draft, something they were likely planning on doing last year, until the Redskins drafted LaRon Landry at #6 and the Purple Jesus fell into their lap. Kenny Williams, a senior from the University of Miami, is widely considered the best safety in the draft, but he might not be available to the Purple at #17. Despite that, he's officially been added to the list of players I plan on taking an in depth look at prior to the draft (along with defensive ends Derrick Harvey from Florida and Calais Campbell from Miami, as well as a few others).
Thursday, February 14, 2008
[Solving Our Problems is an ongoing series here at the Ragnarok where I evaluate the Vikings' options going into the offseason. I started by looking at the quarterback options, examining Derek Anderson, Donovan McNabb and possible backups for Tarvaris Jackson. Now it's time to figure out who the QB is going to throw to, starting with free agent Bernard Berrian.]
As we all know, Brad Childress isn't a big fan of taking a wide receiver in the first round. I have no problems with that, especially after considering how the difference in performance between Sidney Rice and Troy Williamson. That means, however, that if the Vikings want to get an impact wide receiver to pair with Bobby Wade and Rice next year, they're going to have to sign them in free agency. Luckily for the Vikings, there are quite a few talented receivers who are unrestricted free agents this year (and that's not even counting Randy Moss, who is sadly just a pipe dream).
After Moss, the next best receiver on the market seems to be Bernard Berrian, formerly of the Chicago Bears. Berrian was drafted out of
And there’s a reason for all of the excitement surrounding Berrian. He’s increased his receptions and yards every year, and, while his touchdowns fell last year (from 6 to 5), that probably had as much to do with da Bears’ offense becoming worse. He’s 6’1 and is a good leaper—with an accurate quarterback (which he might not have in Purple), he’d be perfect for the fade pass, giving the Vikings another big receiver to throw to in the Red Zone. His hands are pretty good as well, as he caught 55% of the passes thrown his way, despite having inaccurate quarterbacks, and aside from his rookie year, he’s never caught fewer than 50% of the passes thrown to him.
He’d also provide the Vikings with an experienced deep threat that could take the pressure off of Sidney Rice. He has 11 catches for over 20 yards in each of the past two years, and has averaged a little under 4 catches over 40 yards per year in his career. He’s also had at least one reception over 50 yards in each of the last three years, and had two catches for 49 yards in his rookie year.
Berrian is fast, tall and experienced. He fell only 52 yards short of 1000 yards receiving last year, despite catching passes from Kyle Orton, Rex Grossman and Brian Griese. He has good hands. So what’s the problem? Well…
The first problem is that he wants to remain with da Bears, and da Bears want to resign him. That doesn’t guarantee anything, however, mainly because of the second problem, which is that Berrian is represented by Drew Rosenhaus. That’s right—the guy who represented Terrell Owens is the agent for the top free agent wide receiver on the market. That’s a good sign, in that it means that Berrian could end up anywhere. It’s also a bad sign, because it means that he’s chosen a guy like Rosenhaus, who’s perfectly willing to make things insanely difficult if it means getting his client what he wants. That probably bodes well for the Purple, as it makes it less likely that da Bears will slap the Franchise Tag on Berrian, an option that they still have, as Rosenhaus (and Berrian) will fight it.
Is Berrian the Vikings best receiver the Purple could add this year? Yes. Are they going to be able to sign him? Probably not. He’s much more likely to stay in
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
According to WebMD, "Leukemia is cancer of the blood cells", and "there are several different types of leukemia. In general, leukemia is grouped by how fast it gets worse and what kind of white blood cell it affects."
- It may be acute or chronic. Acute leukemia gets worse very fast and may make you feel sick right away. Chronic leukemia gets worse slowly and may not cause symptoms for years.
- It may be lymphocytic or myelogenous. Lymphocytic (or lymphoblastic) leukemia affects white blood cells called lymphocytes. Myelogenous leukemia affects white blood cells called myelocytes.
Monday, February 11, 2008
ADRIAN "PURPLE JESUS" PETERSON!!!!!!!
Ok, I'll be honest--I didn't watch the Pro Bowl last night. I don't know anyone who did. Personally, I was watching Washington upset UCLA. That being said, it's good to see Peterson look like his dominant self again. I know, I know, it was the Pro Bowl, and that most of the recaps referenced flag football in their descriptions, but still. Watch the highlights. Tell me you don't see the Adrian Peterson that dominated San Diego and Chicago.
The best part? The second rookie to win Pro Bowl MVP (Marshall Faulk was the first) is going to get better. Coach Childress has pinpointed the two areas that Peterson needs to improve in, and if Peterson can do so, well folks, he's going to be even better than he is now. And both Peterson's pass protection and how deals with 8 and 9 man fronts are areas he can improve on. The former kept our biggest threat off the field in passing plays, and Peterson's issues with the latter are why he averaged only 2.7 yards per carry in his last four games. It looked as if he was trying to break every run for a touchdown rather than hitting the hole quickly and trying to pick up as much yardage as possible and that hurt the Vikings, considering how important it was to to the offense to pick up 3-4 yards on first down.
I fully expect Peterson to improve in those two areas and become a complete back. Considering how well he played as a rookie, there's no reason not to.
Monday, February 04, 2008
- Which was more ridiculous: Eli's escape from four Patriots, or the catch David Tyree made? Both were jawdropping.
- The Giants rush was the defining factor in this game. The fact that they could get pressure on Brady without blitzing not only allowed them to have more success in coverage, but also made their blitz more effective. The Patriots didn't know if the Giants were blitzing, and so they couldn't adjust easily. The Giants were also doing a great job of disguising their blitzes. Kawika Mitchell ran a delayed blitz perfectly in the third quarter, turning almost completely around before pinning his ears back and shooting through the gap untouched and causing an incompletion by hitting Brady as he threw. Troy Aikmen did a great job of pointing it out as well.
- Did anyone else have a flashback when Bill Belicheck successfully threw the challenge flag to get a "12 men on the field penalty"?
- I was exceedingly happy to see Randy Moss have an impact on this game, after the Patriots were unable to get him the ball in the first half. He had the go ahead touchdown catch, and end up with 62 yards, and most of his receptions went for first down. The Patriots (and Brady's) inability to involve Moss in the game (Brady overthrew Moss multiple times) was a major reason that the Patriots were unable to get their offense going. I think it was likely a game plan issue, as its too easy to use Moss as a decoy and forget that he's the best wide receiver in the game.
- I enjoy watching Brandon Jacobs run the ball, especially since it usually involves him running over a defender.
- The fact that Art Monk was chosen ahead of Chris Carter is just another piece of evidence that Hall of Famers in all sports are chosen because of writers biases and ulterior motives, not because of their performance during their careers. Pacifist Viking captures the rational reasons why this was a bad choice by the voters, while Big Daddy Drew nails the emotional response.
Sunday, February 03, 2008
- Randy Moss. In seven years in Purple, Randy Moss caught 574 passes for 9142 yards and 90 touchdowns, an average of 1306 yards, 82 receptions, and 12.9 touchdowns a year. He also returned a punt for a touchdown. In those seven years, he made five Pro Bowls and was named an All Pro four times. He starred on the second best offense of all time and helped to turn the franchise around. Moss also was the genius behind A.F.R.O.S. (America's Finest Receivers on Sunday) and mooned the Lambeau crowd, an event that made Joe Buck apoplectic and led to Moss saying "Straight Cash Homey". The Moss Era can only be surpassed by the Bud Grant era as the best time to be a Vikings fan, which is why I've been a huge Randy Moss fan since he tipped that touchdown pass to himself in his first game and why I will always be a Randy Moss fan.
- Laurence Maroney. Maroney might be from St. Louis, but he was a Gopher, and he was a good one. He rushed for over a 1000 yards in each of his three seasons in the Maroon and Gold, a much more impressive feat in the shorter college season. And he wasn't racking up those yards on a lot of carries either. In those three seasons, he averaged 6.9 YPC, 6.2 YPC and 5.2 YPC, his last year the first that he did not have to share carries with Marion Barber III, and he never had fewer than 10 touchdowns in a season. There's a very good chance he was the best running back to ever put on the Maroon and Gold and now, he has a chance to get a Super Bowl ring. And yes, I understand that there will be quite a few people who see Maroney as a reason to root for the Giants because of how badly he burned them in Fantasy Football, and I sympathize with those folks.
- 41-0. The Patriots, as a franchise, have never really done anything that bad to the Vikings. Sure, they picked them apart on Monday Night Football last year, creating a blueprint for how to beat the Purple, but lots of teams have done that. We all know what the Giants did to the Vikings in 2001, and I'm not sure if I can forgive them enough to root for them, just like I'll probably never be able to pull for the Falcons (except, of course, against the Packers).
- Eli Manning. Lots of people hate Eli. Personally, I love him. And so should all Vikings fans. I mean, how can you not love a guy who, in his two starts against the Purple, has thrown 8 interceptions and completed only 45% of his 97 passes? The man has single handedly given the Vikings two victories against the Giants in his career, and for that reason, I hope he does well today.
- The Vikings beat them. I think everyone can agree that this season was as close to a success as it could be without actually being one. That being said, one of the best moments was the Vikings' unexpected victory over the Giants at the Meadowlands, a victory that launched them into playoff contention and made up for the embarrassing loss to the Packers two weeks before. And if the Giants can win today, it will make that victory even better, because it will have come against the Super Bowl Champion.
- Bill Simmons' post Super Bowl column. I'm a big fan of Schadenfreude, and a Giants win would launch a 1000 angry, bitter, complaining Patriots columns and blog posts. It would be awesome. The one I'm looking forward to the most? Bill Simmons--he's become the personification of the obnoxious Boston area fan, and seeing him have to deal with the Patriots blowing their perfect season would be unbelievably enjoyable.
Friday, February 01, 2008
A lot of that has to do with the fact that its a lot easier to avoid the "annoying" media in this day and age. If I want to read about football, I don't have to read the paper, or even go to ESPN.com or SI.com. I'm sure that if I did, I'd be annoyed, and would probably have decided that I hate the Patriots and their fans (because of Bill Simmons, a writer I like reading occassionally, but try to avoid when he goes into Bahstain fan mode). Instead, I can go to Kissing Suzy Kolber, read the analysis of Cold, Hard Football Facts, and Football Outsiders, or dive into the numerous Vikings blogs that I've linked to on the sidebar. I don't have to go through the mainstream media for my news and analysis (though I still need them to actually report the news first). It's the reversal of a trend that started with radio and went into overdrive with the spread of television-we are starting to regain the ability to narrowcast, something that was lost in the 1960s, and which last played a role in the Presidential election of 1960, which I studied in college.
In that race, the last to be won by a Democrat that was not from the South, JFK was able to make a connection with the African American community in a way that Richard Nixon could not, despite Nixon's leadership on Civil Rights issues throughout his career through narrowcasting. When Martin Luther King, Jr. was jailed, Nixon did nothing because he was worried that it would alienate White Southerners. JFK, however, trusted that a small gesture would not break into the national conversation, but would break into the conversation of the African American community, thus avoiding any backlash by White Southerners. He was right, and thus won enough support amongst African Americans to win the election.
Now, I'm not saying that we'll be returning to the days without a national media. However, I think its clear that we are bringing back narrowcasting. I don't spend enough time studying or thinking about the future of the media, so I won't speculate on what it means, except to say thatthe change has allowed me to avoid the relentless, soul crushing hype of the two weeks prior to the Super Bowl, and thus I'm excited about the game. And there's a lot to be excited about: Plaxico v. Asante Samuels, Randy Moss, Brandon Jacobs running over the Patriots linebackers, etc. And, no matter the outcome, I'll be able to view it through the narrow lense of my choice and avoid the Patriots, Giants and National Media's takes on it, unless I choose to take a peek (What? You don't think I'll be reading Simmons' column if the Patriots lose? That sucker will be PRICELESS. Unless of course, he doesn't write one, which will be almost as amusing.)