Thursday, May 29, 2008

Killing Time: A Video (And Photo) Fix

  • The Star Tribune has a video interview with Brad Childress, which would be nice on its own, but since it features a lot of footage from OTAs as well, it's definitely worth a look. If you need even more of a fix, Mr. Cheer or Die has a ton of photos from OTAs that might sate your craving for a little while (but in end, as we all know, a little bit is never enough to quell the addiction.)

  • Football Outsiders has finally posted their breakdown of the NFC North after the draft. And one doesn't have to be statistically inclined to agree with their basic premise-the division has a lot of shaky quarterbacks and whichever team gets the most out of their shaky QB will likely win the division. Also, the Lions continue to be a messed up organization.

  • The worst draft in Vikings' history? Well, it wasn't the 2005 draft, if you asked the "experts" prior to the 2005 season, as Pacifist Viking demonstrates. And if you're wondering why the Redskins were willing to trade for Erasmus James' three sacks and extra long injury report, it's because his former coach at Wisconsin is their new defensive line coach.

  • Brett Farve was arrested yesterday (I suggest you click the link before you get too excited).

  • Gonzo at Daily Norseman is killing time this offseason by projecting the Vikings' 53 man roster. So far, he's done a projection of the depth chart at Wide Receiver, Running Back and Quarterback.

  • Finally, if you're looking to torture yourself, the NFL Network is happy to oblige. Me? I don't think I'll have enough time, since I'll be too busy seeing how many of my toenails I can rip off with my bare hands before I pass out.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Killing Time-It's Still May

You know it’s May if you’re unhappy with a column by Peter King because it doesn’t definitively tell you if Tarvaris Jackson is the answer at quarterback. King’s a big name, has great access, rambles about stuff he shouldn’t talk about or doesn’t understand and is a massive suck up, but no matter what you think about him, it’s unreasonable to be angry about the fact that he can’t satisfy your questions about Tarvaris at quarterback next season.

2005 Draft
Marcus Johnson. That’s it. He’s the only one left from the Vikings’ 2005 draft now that the Purple have traded Erasmus James for a conditional seventh rounder. Ugh. Honestly, that offseason has to rank up there as one of the worst offseasons of all time. Not only did the Vikings’ manage to turn two first round picks, one in the top ten and one in the top twenty, into nothing after three seasons, they also managed to turn Randy Moss, the only wide receiver that can seriously be compared with Jerry Rice, into Jaymar Johnson in the same time period. (Ok. Now, obviously Rice is better than Moss, but, if you have to debate who the best wide receiver of all time is, who else would you match up against Rice? Is there anyone else you could throw out there to challenge Rice’s spot without getting laughed at?) Now, I have nothing against Johnson (Actually, I’m hoping he’ll be good enough to be the punt returner this year), but seriously, Jaymar Johnson for Randy Freaking Moss? To be fair, the Purple got one good season out of Napolean Harris out of the deal as well, but as of right now, after trading away the only receiver that’s in the same conversation as Jerry Rice, a player that was so much better than all of the Vikings’ receivers last year that he would have been triple covered every play if he’d been in Purple, (defenses would have employed the rarely used 8-3 defense against the Vikings—8 in the box to stop Peterson and Taylor, 3 on Moss and leave everybody else open) they have only Jaymar Johnson to show for it. The incompetence the Vikings showed that offseason is mind boggling. You almost have to try to be that bad. Or be Matt Millen.

Backing Up McKinnie
Of course, if you want to be optimistic, one of the bright spots of the 2005 draft is that it gave the Vikings’ their back up left tackle, whom they had to use their first day of OTA’s (by the way—I hate this acronym and I hate the name “Offseason Training Activites”. The NFL needs to either come up with a better name or hire someone to do it for them, because OTAs is so clunky that it’s painful to type). The first four games on the Vikings’ schedule don’t look very easy right now, though they may be a little easier for the left tackle, who won't have to face a team in the top half of the league in adjusted sack rate last year until the fourth game against Tennessee. If McKinnie is out for four games (and one would think he’ll get hit with a suspension for his latest run in), things could still get really ugly fast if his backup can’t handle the job though, as the Packers, Colts and Panthers all have really talented players at defensive end. Luckily the Vikings don’t have to rely on some unsigned free agent that nobody else wanted, because they drafted Johnson in the 2nd round in 2005. So they’ve got that going for them, which is nice.

Joe Posnanski
If you don’t know who Joe Posnanski is, well, that’s a problem for you. I’ve been traveling a lot by bus lately, which means that I have a lot of time to kill. I’ve done so by reading Posnanski’s work, both The Soul of Baseball and his blog. And when I say his blog, I mean almost all of it, starting with his entries from last October. At my heart I’m a reader, not a writer (if that makes any sense, and if it doesn’t, well, that’s because I’m a reader, not a writer) and when I get something worth reading, I keep going until I’ve run out of material. I took down the 7th Harry Potter book in a night. The various Prospectuses rarely last more than a week for me (though I do tend to reread them). I just don’t stop reading until I’m done. And only one other blogger has ever reached the “I want to read everything they’ve ever wrote including stuff that's really old and not even remotely topical anymore” level for me and that was Bat-Girl. His blog is that good and his book is that good. So go read it. And stop judging me—I am at peace with how cool I am (well, technically, uncool, but you know what I meant).

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Overthinking Tarvaris

As you probably noticed, Peter King prominently featured Tarvaris Jackson in his latest MMQB column and, after reading it, I have to say, I'm still feel pretty much exactly way I did about the way the Vikings handled the quarterback position this off season as I did before.

Unlike last year, it wasn't unreasonable for the Purple to decide on Tarvaris Jackson as their starter. The alternatives were too expensive (and too risky), and as King pointed out,

"Before I spoke with Jackson, I looked at his bio and his game-by-game numbers from last year. This stunned me: In the final seven games last year, when Jackson and the Vikings went 5-2, he completed 65.2 percent of his passes. Look at these game by completion accuracy numbers, in percentages: 77, 83, 75, 64, 62, 61 and 52. The biggest thing he had to do after his career at Division I-AA Alabama State was work on accuracy (in his three seasons there, he completed 51, 52 and 61 percent of his throws, respectively) and knowledge of the pro game."

So he was getting better as he got more comfortable. That makes sense to me. You could see the same thing in the way he played against the Broncos and during the Purple's winning streak--he was finally making the adjustment to the speed of the NFL that rookies have to make (and he was a rookie in spirit, if not in name). Apparently, he's also done really well in the recent practices, something both Robert Ferguson and Steve Hutchinson pointed out to King (and both players have played with Pro Bowl quarterbacks).

But here's the thing. He might have completed a high percentage of his passes in his last few games, but he was also quite horrible in the last two games that really mattered in the season, throwing 3 interceptions against da Bears and 2 against the Redskins. I also distinctly remember a jump pass occurring against da Bears, something I will hopefully never see again.

And, once again, there isn't a backup plan. Now, I'm not a huge Gus Frerotte fan, but he was a decent backup the last time he was wearing Purple. That was also four years ago. He's 37 now--does anyone really think he can do a good enough job under center to allow the Vikings to win a game? John David Booty is what he is--a developmental quarterback that's likely to wash out of the NFL within a few years, like most quarterbacks drafted on the second day. Sage Rosenfels was available, and the Vikings almost pulled the trigger, and, well, they really should have, especially if King is right that the Vikings "would have put the efficient Rosenfels in competition with Jackson, and Rosenfels likely would have won the job". Nothing against Rosenfels, who was a solid QB in limited time last year, but if he can beat out your starting quarterback, that's a problem. Of course, that doesn't mean that King is right about Rosenfels winning the job from Jackson (I read King for his sources, not his football analysis or his writing), but still, it's disheartening to hear.

So yeah, we're basically right back to where we started prior to King's column. Tarvaris has the potential to be a good enough quarterback for the Vikings to go deep into the playoffs. He's shown the ability in flashes, last year was his first year as a starter, the Vikings' went 8-4 when he played, etc. That doesn't mean he will though. As Tarvaris himself put it,

"I know what people are saying,'' he told me. " 'The Vikings have a great defense, the best running back in the league, a great offensive line ... what about the quarterback?' The quarterback position -- every day of your life you're under the microscope anyway. I understand that. I'm very confident in my growth as a player in this system. But I know what's going on. People don't have any reason NOT to ask that question about me.''

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Killing Time: CBA, OTA, and the Third Pick

It's been a long 2 weeks. Personal Computer problems combined with a lot of work have prevented me from posting, but rest assured, I haven't left yet (comforting, isn't it). A lot has gone on, so let's dive right in:

The End of the NFL?
The owners opted out of the CBA yesterday, for a variety of reasons that Pro Football Talk covered pretty well: the high cost of credit, a rookie pay scale and their inability to recoup bonuses when a player misbehaves. Now, they have until 2011 to reach a deal with the players union, so its not quite time to panic yet, but there are some warning signs on the horizon, including the players union's desire to get a greater percentage of revenue and the fact that the owners aren't afraid of using replacement players. The former is troubling because it shows a sticking point for negotiations, while the latter shows that the owners aren't willing to back down, which isn't a good sign when a compromise needs to be reached. There's a lot of time before this becomes an issue (heck, there's a lot of time before the uncapped year in 2010), but still, it's something to worry about, if you feel like worrying about something.

Let's hope that John Sullivan (or Dan Mozes) is ready to start next season, because this is Matt Birk's last season in Purple. He wants an extension and he's willing to skip workouts for it. The Vikings don't want to give him a long term extension because he's getting old. Even a Packers fan could connect the dots and see that Birk is gone after this year. That's not true of Chester Taylor, however. The Vikings have him signed for another two years and would be stupid to trade him, even with the emergence of Adrian Peterson. Taylor's an every down back, something the Vikings need in case Peterson gets hurt again or continues to struggle like he did at the end of last season. And the return for a running back would not be high enough to justify relying on Maurice Hicks to step in and fill the position.

Wolves Get the #3 Pick
I'll admit- I actually watched the lottery last night (only the part where they were slotting the teams, not the boring banter and introductions part). It wasn't on purpose, but once I flipped to it, I stayed with it. And I just knew that the Wolves were going to end up with the third pick once they ended up against the Dwayne Wade and the city of Chicago's television market. Now, the third pick has yielded some great players, and that's not even counting Michael Jordan. Carmelo Anthony, Deron Williams, Pau Gasol, Baron Davis and Kevin McHale were all chosen #3 overall. Of course, so were Darius Miles, Mike Dunleavy and Christian Laettner.

And, like pretty much every other Wolves' fan, I immediately thought of Laettner and the 1992 draft after the Wolves got the third pick. And I think there are comparisons to be drawn beyond the Wolves draft position, but the depth of the draft was different that year. Now, I wasn't exactly paying attention at the time, being a little young for that type of thing, but it seems that there were three players that were considered top flight talent in that draft (ie, possible #1 choices), in Alonzo Mourning, Shaq and Laettner. This year, there are only two players, Michael Beasley and Derrick Rose and no consensus on the #3 pick, as the TWolves Blog points out. Personally, I think Brook Lopez would be the best pick for the Wolves, since he would allow them to play Al Jefferson at his natural position. I don't know enough about Danilo Gallinari to have an opinion on him, but if he's the best player available, Corey Brewer and his 19% 3 point shooting shouldn't stop them from picking him. O.J. Mayo and Jared Bayless were both gunners in college and neither one is a true point guard, which means they're basically the same player as Randy Foye and Rashad McCants.

No matter who the Wolves end up taking, odds are they won't live up to their billing. Of the Wolves draft picks under Kevin McHale, only Wally Sczerbiak (1999 draft), Kevin Garnett (1995 draft) and Stephen Marbury (1996 draft) have made an All Star team. And quotes like this from McHale don't exactly inspire confidence:

"It's supposedly a two-man draft. I love being third. We have eight players that you look at in this draft and you really, really like. It gives us a lot of flexibility at that third spot."

So yes, I fully expect the Wolves to add another guard that's too short to play the two spot but can't play the point. Or maybe they'll trade away their choice for Josh Howard or something. I don't know how they'll do it, but they'll do it. Which is why it's probably for the best that they didn't get the first or second pick, because I couldn't have taken it if they'd messed that up somehow (and rest assured, they would have).

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Searching For a Name: The Return of Tyler Thigpen

I'll be perfectly honest. I'm jealous of Pacifist Viking. It's not because of his writing, the fact that he's got help writing his blog or anything like that. It's solely because he came up with a great title for all of his link centered posts: "Blizzard". That's just genius. Genius. I've been trying to come up with something that good for a long time and have nothing.

Any suggestions for something equally catchy would be appreciated. While you're working on it, here are a few articles worth taking a look at:

Former Viking seventh round pick, Tyler Thigpen, might actually challenge for the Chiefs starting quarterback job. You may remember Thigpen as the player the Vikings tried and failed to slip through waivers onto the practice squad last year so they could keep Brooks Bollinger and Kelly Holcombe. Hopefully, if Thigpen does win the starting job, it's because the Chiefs are so awful they don't have a better option than a seventh round draft choice, otherwise we're going to have to add Holcombe over Thigpen to the list of really regrettable roster decisions by the Purple. Thankfully, it's highly unlikely he'll turn into a valuable player (more on that tomorrow and Friday).

The Vikings didn't make a first round pick this year, which means that they will likely avoid the problems that come with trying to sign their top draft pick. As Chris Cooley points out, rookies are vastly overpaid (consider that Jake Long was signed for a similar amount of guaranteed money as Jared Allen) and current players don't really like it. It's definitely been a problem for the Purple in the past (Bryant McKinnie sat out the first half of his rookie year), but a lot of that can likely be laid at the feet of Red McCombs. Whether or not the system is fixed, expect it to dominate the news as rookies sign and especially as they don't sign.

The Twins just missed being no hit by Gavin Floyd last night, avoiding it only because of a slicing double into the gap by Joe Mauer in the ninth inning. What makes the Twins' offensive performance even more embarrassing is that Floyd wasn't even pitching lights out--the Twins just made him look like he was by swinging at everything. Then again, I guess that's what can be expected from a team that has only four players better than league average at laying off pitches outside of the strike zone and feature the players who have swung at the third and fourth highest percentage of balls in the American League.

When I wasn't watching the bonus coverage of the Twins' game on ESPN (I don't know why they chose the Twins feed over the awful White Sox announcers, but after I realized they had, it was the happiest I've been with ESPN in a long time), I was watching Kevin Garnett actually outplay another NBA star in crunch time of a playoff game, the first time he's done so since he dominated the fourth quarter of Game 7 against the Kings. Watching his post game interview only reinforced my feelings of hatred for Kevin McHale--I'm still a KG fan, even if I want the Celtics to lose horribly. Can't say I'm particularly happy that he's finally starting to realize that he can and should take over in crunch time though.

Finally, if you can, sign up to donate Bone Marrow and help fight Leukemia. Do it for Kenechi.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Two Quick Thoughts

I'm working on something big (and, I expect, both redundant and slightly negative), so I'm not going to write too much today, but I did find two articles worth posting.

First, via Access Vikings, has an article that talks about teams playing "Big" Nickel and how the Vikings gave themselves that option by drafting Tyrell Johnson. Basically, "Big" Nickel is a package where you use a third safety as the nickel back rather than a third corner and it's used for two reasons, the first, of course, being that your third safety is better in coverage than your third corner. It wouldn't surprise me if this was true for the Vikings next year, especially considering that Tyrell Johnson is fast for a safety and has great closing speed. It's also used against offenses that feature quality tight ends, as the bigger safety is usually able to handle tight ends better than the smaller corner. Even though the Vikings will have seven games against teams with tight ends that had over 500 yards receiving last year (GB, HOU, CHI, IND, NYG), I'm not sure that's as big a deal for the Purple, as Marcus McCauley is the same height and only a few pounds lighter than Tyrell Johnson.

Secondly, via Daily Norseman, the Chicago Tribune thinks that the Vikings signed the best class of rookie free agents. Don't underestimate the importance of rookie free agents either, as this article from last year's playoffs points out, they can turn into valuable contributers on playoff and Super Bowl winning teams.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Offseason Plans and Some Links

The big news this weekend was the cutting of Dallas Starz by the Vikings. He lasted almost two months with the Purple after failing to make the Redskins last year despite being their fifth round pick in the 2007 draft. Also, Rookie Camp started, and from all accouints, it's going well. And by that, I mean that the Vikings didn't have a high draft choice show up late on the first day because he overslept. It wasn't that big of a deal though, as his brother explained, "Knowing Frederick [Davis] the way I do, he was probably just out late and he overslept, he probably just didn't hear the alarm. And I know he wasn't feeling too good the other day".

Ok. Enough wannabe Mike Florio talk. It's May, which means, that barring something negative happening, there's not going to be a whole lot going on. This time last year, I took a sabbatical for the summer. I'm not going to do that again, but I'm not going to confine myself to just football talk. I love the NFL, but I love baseball and college basketball too, and if I tried to confine myself to just football in the offseason, I won't have anything to write about.

For example, I could talk about the Vikings' Rookie Camp, or I could talk about the first place Minnesota Twins. I'm going to go with the Twins, who, thanks to slow starts by the Indians and Tigers, were able to wrest first place away from the White Sox with a five game winning streak that included a two game sweep of the White Sox and a three game sweep of the Tigers. Now, I'd love to say the this is all about the Twins, but the reality is that the Tigers and Indians are better than their sub .500 records show, while the Twins are playing at about the level that their most optimistic fans thought they'd be able to pull off. Carlos Gomez isn't walking yet (but man, is he fast) and Delmon Young isn't hitting for power (but his walk rate is up), but despite that, the Twins have overcome the injury to their clean up hitter and are, well, second to last in the AL in runs. And now, Scott Baker, their best pitcher is likely going on the DL. I don't think a team that gives up as many outs as the Twins can compete unless all of their pitchers are pitching well. So far, they have, but there have been cracks in the bullpen and I don't trust Nick Blackburn and Livian Hernandez to continue to be successful with such low strikeout rates.

It's only been a month, but still-it's nice to see a team I didn't expect to be good until later in the season in first place. It probably won't last, but, like the Vikings last year, all I want out of the Twins is for them to be in contention, and so far, they're doing everything I could ask of them.

And now, some quick, football links worth taking a look at:

  • The Pioneer Press Vikings' blog has a scouting report for all of the Vikings' rookie free agents.
  • While the Vikings didn't have one of their draft classes make the list, the Pro Football Reference blog has an interesting take on the top draft classes of all time.
  • Sports Illustrated is starting to hop on the Vikings bandwagon. Don Banks has the Vikings as a "riser" and Peter King has the Purple ranked #7 in his power rankings.
  • The Vikings weren't the only team that had an awful 2005 draft. As Pro Football Talk explains, the 2005 first round was full of players that didn't turn out (just another reason why trading for Jared Allen is more likely to work out than keeping the picks or using them to move up in the draft)