2014 MINNESOTA VIKINGS FOOTBALL PREVIEW
July 3, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
2014 Minnesota Vikings football preview
HEAD COACH: Mike Zimmer
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Norv Turner
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: George Edwards
TOTAL OFFENSE: 344.3
DEFENSE SCORING: 30.0
TOTAL DEFENSE: 397.6
TURNOVER +/-: -12
The Minnesota Vikings have put together a solid playoff contending team but can’t make it to the next level. One of the biggest issues is their defense ranked 31st in the NFL in 2013 giving up 397.6 yards per game, 287.2 through the air and 30 points per game. Mike Zimmer was hired to fix the defense and get better play at the quarterback position. General Manager Rick Spielman fired Leslie Frazier after a 5-10-1 season and hired Zimmer who many feel could be the quick fix for the Vikings in 2014. Norv Turner was hired as the offensive coordinator and will try to fix the quarterback problem.
It appears Christian Ponder will take the back seat to veteran quarterback Matt Cassel or Louisville first-round pick Teddy Bridgewater. What the Vikings really want to have happen is Cassel to start and then with Bridgewater having a year under his belt and step in the next season. Turner has been known to groom young quarterbacks and is very creative offensively. Turner will have future Hall of Fame running back Adrian Peterson as the focal point of the offense. Peterson led the Vikings with 1266 yards and 10 touchdowns while averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Helping Peterson carry the load will be rookie Jerick McKinnon. Whoever the quarterback will be they will have plenty of weapons in receivers Greg Jennings led 68 receptions in 2013, Jerome Simpson averaged over 15 yards per reception and up-and-coming Cordarrelle Patterson who was also an All-Pro kick returner as a rookie.
The offensive line has not lived up to its expectations despite the amount of talent. Left tackle Matt Kalil was a Pro Bowler in 2012 but suffered through a sophomore season last year. The veteran left guard Charlie Johnson struggled as well last season and may be pushed by Jeff Baca. Also up front will be center John Sullivan, right guard Brandon Fusco and right tackle Phil Loadholt. The Vikings added depth by drafting Stanford guard David Yankey.
Changes have been made to the Vikings defense saying goodbye to defensive end Jared Allen and defensive tackle Kevin Williams. The Vikings will switch to a 4-3 scheme along with a 3-4 alignment package. Veteran backup and Everson Griffen will replace Allen after spending four years as his backup. Griffin has good speed flexibility and size. Sharrif Floyd will take over for Williams and will be given every chance to live up to his number one draft status of 2013. Linval Joseph will start at nose tackle bringing the Vikings size up front at 6-4 323. The Vikings selected UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr to fill a hole at strong side linebacker. Barr has played linebacker for only two years but has great speed and unusual length and is able to cover like a cornerback. Joining Barr will be veteran weak side linebacker Chad Greenway and middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley.
In the secondary the Vikings are starting to put together a solid unit led by free safety Harrison Smith who is a first round selection in 2012. If he can stay healthy many feel he could be an All-Pro. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes is also another Pro Bowl potential player if he too can avoid injuries. Minnesota signed free-agent corner Captain Munnerlyn as an upgrade over Chris Cook who had been a huge disappointment in his four years at Minnesota. Jamarca Sanford will start at SS backed up by Kurt Coleman. Derek Cox will also get a chance to see time in the nickel package.
The Vikings had been up and down over the last five years winning 12 games in 2009, falling to six in 2010, three wins in 2011 and then 10 wins in 2012 before falling back to five wins last season. The uncertainty quarterback hasn’t helped and the lack of a dominant defense has also led to the inconsistencies in this football team. The Vikings will be counting on several young players to step in on their defense and make an immediate impact. How soon those young players will learn Coach Zimmer’s system will be a huge key. The early schedule for Minnesota will play no favors with a road trip to St. Louis, a home date against New England, back on the road at New Orleans, home against Atlanta then the Vikings have to go to Green Bay on a Thursday night. It Minnesota can survive those first five games they very well may have a chance at a playoff spot this season.
2014 Minnesota Vikings Draft Picks
Born in South Bend, Ind., and raised in a Notre Dame family: His father, Tony Brooks, played fullback at Notre Dame and was drafted by the Eagles in the fourth round of the 1992 draft; uncle, Reggie Brooks, played running back at ND, was fifth in the 1992 Heisman voting and played 41 games with the Redskins and Buccaneers (1993-96); and uncle Cedric Figaro played linebacker for the Irish as well as 98 games for the Chargers, Colts, Browns and Rams (1988-92, 1995-96). Anthony grew up in Los Angeles and was raised by his mother, who is part of a large extended family, including Anthony's grandparents, who were like second parents to him. Ran track and was an all-state running back in high school, totaling 1,890 yards and 20 touchdowns as a junior (dealt with hip pointers) before suffering a season-ending broken ankle in September of his senior season. According to Barr, he felt effects of the injury through his freshman season.
Highly recruited, he spurned Notre Dame, not wanting to play receiver, and signed with UCLA and then-head coach Rick Neuheisel in order to play running back and remain close to home. As a true freshman in 2010, rushed six times for 29 yards (4.8-yard average) and no touchdowns with nine receptions for 66 yards (7.3) and no touchdowns in 12 games, including four starts at the Bruins' F-back (hybrid running back/tight end/receiver). Started 7 of 12 games played at the F-back in 2011, rushing nine times for 25 yards and a TD and three catches for 16 yards and a TD. Had arthroscopic surgery to repair cartilage damage in his right knee and missed three October contests. Converted to 3-4 right outside linebacker under new head coach Jim Mora Jr., then-defensive coordinator Lou Spanos and linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich (current DC). Sustained a head injury during 2012 fall camp and began the season with a cast protecting a broken left index finger.
Started all 14 games and ranked second nationally in sacks behind Steelers 2013 first-rounder Jarvis Jones; recorded 83 tackles, 21.5 for loss and 13.5 sacks with five pass breakups, four forced fumbles, a blocked kick and a safety. Dealt a season-ending blow to USC quarterback and 2013 Eagles fourth-rounder Matt Barkley. Sustained a head injury during 2013 fall camp but started all 13 games at ROLB and registered 65 tackles, 20 tackles for loss and 10 sacks with a pass breakup and five forced fumbles. Won the Lott IMPACT award and was a finalist for the Lombardi, Bednarik and Butkus awards. Team captain. Was invited but did not participate in the Senior Bowl.
The dual-threat QB was a three-year starter for Miami (Fla.) powerhouse Northwestern High School. Named Big East Freshman of the Year in 2011 after completing 191-of-296 passes for 2,195 yards (64.5 percent) with 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 13 games (started final 10 games). Became the first true freshman to start at QB for Louisville since Stu Stram in 1976. Threw for 287-419-3,718-27-8 (68.5) while playing in all 13 games (12 starts) in '12 to earn conference's Offensive Player of the Year Award. Only non-start was due to a fractured left wrist and a sprained right ankle suffered against UConn in which he returned to the field in a triple-overtime loss and nearly rallied a victory, as he did vs. Rutgers the following week to claim a BCS bid. Produced another stellar campaign in '13, tossing 303-427-3,970-31-4 (71.0) in 13 starts. Earned his sports administration degree in three years and graduated in December. Scored six career rushing touchdowns and had a 27-8 record in 35 games as a starter in offensive coordinator Shawn Watson's college-tailored, pro-style, West Coast offense.
Terrific competitor. Extremely driven to succeed. Well-prepared and confident in his approach. Operated a progression-read offense where he is asked to scan the whole field and help steer protections. Footwork is very clean and in rhythm -- throws on balance with sound mechanics, a fluid delivery and smooth stroke. Very good timing, touch and anticipation ? throws receivers open. Is patient working through his reads and will step up in the pocket. Sells play-action hard and takes what the defense gives him. Poised in the face of the blitz and often anticipates it coming.
Is very mentally and physically tough played through a broken left wrist with a sprained ankle in what was essentially the 2012 Big East championship game, coming off the bench to captain the Cardinals to a come-from-behind victory. Is a student of the game with a very good understanding of football concepts. Plays like a coach on the field, knows the responsibilities of everyone on the field and can get teammates lined up correctly. Makes few mental errors. Consistently moves the chains and comes through in the clutch. Is given a lot of autonomy to make pre-snap reads and adjustments at the line of scrimmage and understands how to exploit defenses. Meticulous in his preparation. Identifies with the game and really works at his craft. Smart, determined and focused. Showed gradual improvement every season. Is only 21 years old -- very mature for his age and can see the big picture. Football is extremely important to him. Highly respected, unselfish team leader. Rises to the occasion on big stages.
Has a very lean, narrow frame with limited bulk and small hands. Does not drive the ball with velocity down the field and can be affected by cold and windy conditions (see Cincinnati). Can improve placement and touch on the deep ball. Adequate athlete. Is not an overly elusive scrambler -- struggles escaping the rush and buying a second chance with his feet vs. pressure. Passing stats are padded from operating a passing game that relies heavily on short, lateral tosses. Long-term durability could become a concern without continued strength and weight gains.
Parents are both from Western Samoa. The Washington prep enrolled at Oregon State and redshirted as a freshman in 2010. Earned the starting job at right defensive end in 2011 and had 74 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss and six sacks with three passes batted and a school-record six forced fumbles in 12 games. Ranked first among the nation's freshman class in tackles for loss and sacks. Moved over to the left defensive end spot in 2012 and appeared in 13 games (12 starts), recording 44 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks with three passes batted and one forced fumble. Had a three-sack game against Washington State. Missed spring practice in 2013, rehabilitating from off-season shoulder surgery. In 13 starts at left defensive end in the fall, he had 47 tackles, 19 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks with three passes batted and three forced fumbles. Concluded his career as the Beavers' all-time leader in forced fumbles (10) and ranked third in sacks (22.5). Revealed at the NFL combine that he elected to leave school one year early to support his family; his mother works two jobs, and his father still works despite having a leg amputated.
Put together -- has a well-proportioned, muscular build with long arms and big hands. Good burst off the snap. Flashes power. Can shoot his hands, extend and get under a tackle's pads. Generally plays on his feet. Nice closing speed when he has a bead. Strong tackler. Tries for the strip (10 career FFs). Productive three-year starter.
Needs to play with lower pad level. Tends to rush upright and defend too tall against the run. Dominated by double teams. Needs to cultivate pass-rush moves and counters -- does not have a plan. Shows overall body stiffness. Struggles to dip and bend the corner with leverage or flexibility. Gets sucked inside and loses contain. Loafs on the back side. Has tweener traits -- lacks ideal athleticism for the right side and bulk for the left side. Inexperienced playing in reverse.
His brother, Lester Norwood, won four letters as a free safety at Florida. Was an all-state quarterback as an Atlanta-area prep, lettering in both football and track. As a senior, he passed for over 1,500 yards and ran for more than 1,300. As a true freshman for Georgia Southern in 2010, he played in 10 games (including one start at quarterback) and rushed 109 times for 495 yards (4.5-yard average) and three touchdowns and completed 3-of-9 pass attempts (33.3 percent) for 24 yards with zero touchdowns and one interception. Did not play in five games. In '11, he saw action in 13 games (starting six times out of the A-back position and once at tailback) and scored touchdowns running, throwing and receiving. Carried 80-537-7 (6.7), passed 3-6-37-1-0 (50.0) and caught 6-127-1 (21.2). Also had two interceptions and a 41-yard kickoff return in an FCS playoff game against Maine. Was utilized on defense in GSU's three playoff games, recording four tackles at cornerback. Did not play in one game due to an undisclosed injury. Broke out in '12, starting 14 games -- two at tailback, one at A-back, one at B-back and the final 10 at quarterback. Amassed 269-1,817-20 (6.8) on the ground, 20-49-597-7-3 (40.8) through the air and 1-15-0 receiving. Rushed for 316 yards against Central Arkansas, the second-highest single-game total in school history (Adrian Peterson, 333 in 1999). Appeared in 10 games (nine starts) in '13, recording 161-1,050-12 (6.5) rushing, 8-17-171-4-1 (47.1) passing, 3-23-0 (7.7) receiving and 3-33-0 (11.0) returning kickoffs. Started five games at quarterback, two at the A-back position and two at the B-back spot. In GSU's first-ever victory over a BCS school, he ran for 9-125-1 against Florida. Missed a late-season game with an ankle injury. Concluded his college career with 3,899 rushing yards, the third-highest total in school annals.
Very good athlete. Outstanding weight-room strength -- bench-presses twice his weight and squats three times his weight. Tough runner -- slams hard inside and usually falls forward. Good versatility. Superb worker. Efficient cut blocker. Led all backs at the combine with 32 bench-press reps. Has a 40 1/2-inch vertical jump.
On the short side. Runs a bit upright and hesitant. Average burst to the perimeter. Not a creative, make-you-miss runner. Very limited career receiving production (10 career catches). Not stout in pass protection.
Adjusted from a triple-option quarterbacking role as a junior to a tailback role as a senior and possesses the athletic ability to warrant a chance as a change-of-pace back in the pros. Could even be tried as a return man and cornerback, where he began his college career. Would benefit from focusing on one position and will require some time to develop. Displays some similarities to Chicago Bears 1999 fifth-round pick Jerry Azumah.
Born in Sydney, Australia. Prepped in Georgia. Appeared in two games as a true freshman in 2010, but suffered a season-ending injury. Started all 13 games at left guard in 2011. Won the Morris Trophy as the Pac-12's most outstanding offensive lineman in 2012, when he started all 14 games at left tackle. Saw action at six positions: both tackles, both guards and two tight-end spots vs. Oregon State in 2012. Started 13 games at left guard in 2013. Missed the Washington game after his father, David, died of cardiac arrest. Team captain.
Very good size. Has sheer mass to lean, wall off or cover up defenders. Solid base in pass protection -- gets his hands on rushers, anchors and slides to fan pressure. Effective short puller. Durable three-year starter. Has played guard and tackle. Smart and dependable.
Average hip snap. Does not roll off the ball and overpower defenders. Stiff, lumbering movement. Needs to improve contact balance, particularly on the move. Tends to get out over his skis and slip off blocks. Could struggle to corral quicker interior defenders -- lacks ideal athleticism, lateral suddenness and recovery ability.
Big, physical, smart, serviceable offensive guard who will not score many style points, but generally gets the job done. Has starter-caliber ability and fits best in a power scheme that takes advantage of his size and pulling ability.
High school defensive back-quarterback who also returned kicks as a Virginia prep. Redshirted in 2009. Saw his first collegiate action in 2010 and played in 14 games, including four starts at free safety and one start at the WHIP linebacker position; had 45 tackles, a team-high nine pass breakups and no interceptions with 1.5 tackles for loss and one forced fumble. Was suspended for the first quarter of the Orange Bowl for missing a team curfew. Started all 14 games in 2011 (11 at FS, three at rover) and had 89 tackles, 10 pass breakups and one INT with five tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. During spring drills in 2012, he was moved to cornerback and had a breakout year, totaling 48 tackles, 16 pass breakups and five INTs with 1.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles in 13 starts. Was named the MVP of the Russell Athletic Bowl, returning an interception 32 yards in the Hokies' victory over Rutgers. Suffered a torn ACL and lateral meniscus of his right knee in a pickup basketball game in January 2013, requiring surgery (performed by Dr. James Andrews). Was unable to participate in off-season workouts and spring drills. After sitting out the first seven weeks of the season, he returned to the field in October and started three games, tallying four tackles, one pass breakup and no INTs. Early in his third start against Miami, he sprained his left ankle and missed the rest of the year.
Thickly built with defined muscle, a nice wing span and thin ankles. Very good body control and ball skills. Adjusts well in the air. Fluid pedal and movement skill for his size. Very good press strength to hem receivers at the line. Has extensive experience at safety and was used as a gunner and jammer on special teams. Very smart and well-spoken.
Average short-area quickness and leaping ability. Technique needs to be coached up. Not natural commanding the back end and making coverage adjustments vs. complex schemes. Likes to do things his own way -- confidence borders on arrogance and could rub some people the wrong way.
Big, strong cornerback with appealing size, field speed and press-coverage ability. Must prove that he can recover from off-season knee surgery and return to being the player he was as a junior.
Defensive back-receiver who also played basketball and was a member of a state-champion track squad as a New Jersey prep. Redshirted in 2009. Played in 11 games in '10 and made 16 tackles with zero pass breakups and zero interceptions as a reserve defensive back and special-teams player. Started 13 games at right cornerback in '11 and had 50-4-3 with one forced fumble. In '12, he registered 46-12-3 with two forced fumbles in 11 starts at RCB. Scored his lone collegiate touchdown on a 100-yard interception return at Bryant. In '13, recorded 36-9-2 with 2.5 tackles for loss in 13 starts at RCB. Also had a blocked field goal against New Hampshire. Did not broad jump at the NFL Scouting Combine (hamstring).
Outstanding timed speed and leaping ability (39-inch vertical). Terrific balance, body control and agility. Fluid and flexible with loose hips and ankles to transition and change direction smoothly. Mirrors in man coverage. Aware in zone. Plants and drives quickly. Shows burst to close and recover. Good ball skills. Will come up and stick his nose in run support. Has special-teams experience as a gunner. Three-year starter.
Does not look the part -- is skinny with extremely short arms and small hands. Must bulk up and get functionally stronger -- gets wired to blocks. Bench-pressed 225 pounds just nine times at the combine, one of the lowest totals among DBs. Does not have strength to press -- will be outmuscled by larger receivers outside the numbers. Tackles low and needs help from the cavalry when he cannot chop down ball carriers with momentum. Lacks experience playing inside.
Undersized, extremely short-armed, feisty corner with potential to contribute as a sub-package defender. Offers appealing fluidity, twitch, speed and ball skills, though he will always face size and strength limitations.
His last name is pronounced "STEF-an." The defensive lineman also lettered in basketball as a New York prep. Redshirted in 2009. Made his college debut in '10 and was a regular member of the defensive front all year, recording 27 tackles, four tackles for loss and two sacks in 12 games (eight starts). Appeared in all 11 games in '11 and recorded 17-1-0 with one pass batted. In '12, he sprained his right MCL during preseason drills and missed two games. After returning from the injury, he played in 10 games (nine starts) and totaled 26-2-0 with four passes batted. Underwent surgery after the season to clean up a right shoulder labrum issue. In '13, he started all 12 games at defensive tackle and tallied 60-10-3 with one pass batted and one blocked kick. Team captain.
Terrific size. Very athletic for a big man. Generally plays on his feet. Occupies blocks. Flashes the ability to lock out and reestablish the line of scrimmage. Has raw tools to work with. Scheme versatile. Solid personal and football character.
Lethargic get-off. Average eyes, instincts and recognition (doesn't sense screen). Needs to go to school on blocking schemes and learn to fight pressure. Could stand to play with more violence in his hands -- feels his way through plays instead of imposing force. Linear, vanilla rusher (just five career sacks). Moved by double teams. Compete level leaves something to be desired. Disappears for stretches.
Big, athletic, raw interior defender with underachiever traits who had a fairly nondescript career at UConn, but has crude physical tools for a defensive line coach to mold. Developmental prospect who potentially fits in a 4-3 or as a 3-4 five-technique.
Rare timed speed. Very quick to the perimeter and covers a lot of ground. Easily keeps stride with tight ends in the slot and offers solid man-coverage ability on backs. Can carry receivers vertically and buzz the flats. Lines up on the edge and offers some pass-rush potential. Is fluid and loose-hipped dropping into coverage. Posted 6.89-second three-cone drill at pro day workout. Has gunner experience.
Light-framed and does not play with power in his body. Very limited strength to fend off blockers -- is easily sealed and walled off. Average eyes and reactive quickness vs. the run and pass. Allows separation vs. quick-cutting receivers. Has room for improvement as an open-field tackler.
A finesse, run-and-hit, coverage linebacker with the athletic traits and raw speed worth developing on the weak side, where he can be covered up in a fast-flowing, one-gap defense such as Dallas, Seattle or Tampa Bay. Could factor on special-teams coverage readily.
Played cornerback and safety as a Florida prep. Was selected as an All-American Scholar by the United States Achievement Academy. Enrolled at North Carolina in 2010 and played in all 13 games as a true freshman, recording 20 tackles, five pass breakups and one interception. Started the final four games of the season at left cornerback and saw significant action on special teams. During fall practice prior to the '11 campaign, he tore a tendon in his left hand during a blocking drill (which necessitated surgery) and missed the first five games. In eight contests after his return (two starts), he had 16-2-0 with one tackle for loss. Made 11 starts in '12 and registered 76-9-1 with four tackles for loss, one sack and one forced fumble. Missed the season finale with a shoulder injury. Was healthy all season in '13, tallying 80-9-0 with 4.5 tackles for loss and one forced fumble in 13 starts.
Good speed and acceleration -- can turn and run deep. Competes in the air. Aggressive, productive tackler -- doesn't hesitate to support the run. Has worked as a gunner on special teams.
Adequate size. Limited instincts and anticipation. Loses separation at the break point. Loses phase when his eyes get stuck in the backfield. Tends to clutch and grab. Dull plant-and-drive. Was not a playmaker -- recorded just two career INTs. Still has some maturing to do.
Fairly nondescript cornerback who does not excel in man or zone coverage. Speed and tackling ability play well on special teams, where he will have to stand out to have a chance.
Week 1 | Sept. 7 | Noon | at St. Louis