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Vikings ( Almost ) Mid-Season Grades

Can you believe the season will be half over after next weeks Green Bay game ? What are the biggest surprises so far ? Biggest disappointments ? Single best Play ? Most exciting moment ? Etc. It’s almost, but not quite time for the pigskin prognosticators to post their grades for the half-way point and I wanted to get the jump by posting mine first. I base my grades upon the players, coaches and executives actual production compared to what was expected at the beginning of the season. Keeping in mind other factors such as game results, impact plays and variables such as playing time, attitudes, team factors, etc.

Today is the first of a 5 day series critiquing the various components of the team. Starting with the Backfield, QB and Offensive line.

Running Back-

1. Adrian Peterson – 138 carries for 687 yds. And a 5.0 yds. Per carry avg. with 8 TD’s. He’s also had 18 receptions for 145 yds. – Well, this is a bit picky, but how about Adrian Peterson having ONLY 687 yards on the ground ? OK, I know this isn’t really fair, and is more likely a result of the offensive line still adjusting to two new members then the play of Peterson himself. But this is ADRIAN PETERSON !!! The games best running back and possibly the greatest runner since Barry Sanders. In game one he had well over 200 yards, but since then he has been absolutely “Human “. Of course he remains the most dangerous player in football and has made several highlight impact plays like the TD scamper vs. Cleveland in game one, and the crushing blow he delivered to William Gay vs. Pittsburgh. I also realize that he could go off on Green Bay this weekend for another 200 plus yards. But right now, considering the sky high expectations, and the continued fumbles at inopportune times, it is difficult ( albeit unfair as any other back would get an A at worst ) to give Peterson a higher rating then this. – B

2. Chester Taylor – You gotta feel sorry for Chester after the 4th quarter miscue that helped cost the Vikings the Pittsburgh game. This is the type of thing that could happen to anyone, but you could see by the look on his face that he took it hard. Let’s be real here. Taylor is one of the best # 2 backs in the league. He is an excellent 3rd down back and receiver and remains the consummate team player. He has carried the rock 40 times for 111 yds. With a 2.8 yds. Per carry and a TD. He also has 22 receptions for 194 yds. You just know he wants to start, and would for many NFL teams. But you never hear a complaint oe excuse. He simply does his job like a true professional. That said, he’s has a couple of dropped passes and missed a big block in pass protection in the Raven’s game. So his overall rank drops. – C +

3. Nafahu Tahi – FB – Losing out on free agent Leonard to Seattle last summer was an off season disappointment. Tahi was not exactly a tower of strength last season. So expectations were not high here. But so far he seems to be more comfortable in his assignments which include opening holes for Peterson by taking out linebackers in the running game. For the most part, he’s done a solid job. His pass catching has been a plus, but his snail like speed means he gets virtually no yardage after the catch, and he has had a few mental lapses, particularly in blitz situations. It is an unglamorous job, but Tahi has shown that he is not afraid to stick his head into the pile and had some key blocks to help spring Peterson along the way. He has 2 carries for 3 yds. Along with 7 catches for 53 yds. – C

Quarterback –

1. Brett Favre – Just turned 40 and is having perhaps his best season – ever ! Every time I think of Packer fans I begin a delightful spasmodic contortion of jocularity that I simply cannot contain ! Brett “ freaking” Favre plays for the Minnesota Vikings !!!!!!” This is beyond amusing, it is an event of epic hilarity. He’s ours, and so far, he is primarily the reason the team has gone from good to elite. This weekend, don’t be surprised by anything that the old cheese head troglodytes pull out of their bag of Neanderlithic tricks. Will he be shunned or welcomed as the conquering hero ? Packer fans are absolutely indignant over the way that Favre was shown the door. Many are already growing impatient with Aaron Rogers despite his supurb production. A Viking victory would mean that Favre is 2-0 vs. Green Bay. How sweet would that be ?!! The big question is…..will the citizens of Wisconsin act contrary to character, and actually show their appreciation for the man they used to love as one of their own ? Stay tuned !

At any rate, it’s very hard to argue about Favre’s production. ( 69 % completions/1,681 Yds. / 12 TD‘s / 3 Ints / 102.2 QB rating ) . Even more impressive when you consider that 2 of the 3 INT’s came on passes that Favre delivered into the hands of his receiver only to have the ball bounce off and careen into the defenders grasp. He has also made a huge difference in the play of the receivers and has provided great leadership. The play vs. SF where he sprinted 30 yards downfield to throw a block while his teammates stood watching was all it took to make me a Favre believe. I couldn’t see it before, but now I know why Packers fan loved this guy so much. I still think he is the most overrated QB in history. I still feel that Tarkenton was the greatest Viking QB ever and I still do not feel he is one of the best 10 quarterbacks ever, but what he’s doing for the Vikings…..the clock management in the 2 minute drill, the ability to read, diagnose and attack defenses. The level of confidence he instills on the team in critical situations, and the contagious team first attitude he brings has been invaluable to the Vikings. As long as he doesn’t try to do too much, or force plays that aren’t there….. I cannot give him a grade less then this even if a couple of my colleagues disagree. Sorry guys, but he‘s been everything advertised and more. – A

2. Tavaris Jackson – He has appeared in a couple of games in Mop-up duty. So this grade is based upon the classy way he has handled the Favre situation. It HAD to hurt. But the man has been a pro, and continues to work hard and stay positive. He does have talent and his time will come. – B

3. Sage Rosenfels – See T. Jax above. Except he hasn’t been quite as quiet as Jax. – C

Offensive Line –

1. Bryant McKinnie – LT – I have heard a lot of complaints about the big man’s game this season, but he actually is grading out at a Pro Bowl level. There have been some minor physical lapses based upon footwork, which he was quick to recover from. He appears to be dedicated to a higher degree then in the past. ( Dare we hope that he’s finally maturing ? ) He has been somewhat a victim of expectations. When he came to the Vikings as a 1st round pick out of Miami, he was labeled as “Can’t miss” and “All world”. The next Anthony Munoz. There have been times this year that he has been absolutely dominant, particularly in the running game, but his pass blocking has been mostly stellar as well. He is a little underappreciated, but McKennie is Pro-Bowl tackle and a huge key for the offence – B +

2. Steve Hutchinson – LG – He’s so good you don’t even notice him. He actually had a false start penalty against the Steelers. For Hutch, penalties are an extreme rarity. If there is a better, more dominating offensive lineman in the game, I don’t know of him. He’s quick, aggressive, powerful and on and on I could go. Simply the BEST OFFENSIVE LINEMEN IN THE NFL. – A +

3. John Sullivan – C – My what huge shoes he’s has to fill. But honestly, has he stood out at all ? I mean that in a positive way as offensive linemen only get noticed when they mess up. He’s been beaten a few times, but has always been quick to bounce back. True, the Vikings miss Matt Burks physical strength at the point of attack. There are fewer holes in the middle for Peterson and company to run through. But Sullivan does a very good job getting out in front when pulling and he is always looking to hit someone. He shows good leadership skills as well. He is what he is. A very solid player who will not make a lot of mistakes. He is no Matt Burk, but keep in mind that Burk was only a marginal center during his first several seasons. Sullivan will probably never be as dominant as Burk. But he still can and probably will be a better then average center at worse, and possibly a Pro-Bowler down the road at best. For now, I will take solid as this was a position I worried about at the beginning of the year, and now, I feel comfortable with Sullivan manning the post. – C +

4. Anthony Herrera – RG
– Speaking of being solid, that is what Herrera has been since he took over the RG position 2 years ago. A late bloomer who began playing football well into his teens. He used to try to dominate on sheer strength and size alone. Now, he has become a much better tactician. He is usually in good position and doesn’t give an inch in the trenches. He is a “ mauler “ in the ground game and has improved his pass protection as he has improved his technique and footwork. He is usually the forgotten man along the line. He doesn’t have the size of McKenny or Loadholt and isn’t as strong as Hutchinson. But he’s the teams meanest lineman and plays with a nasty streak. – B

5. Phil Loadholt – RT – He makes up ½ of the largest tackle tandem ( McKinney ) in the NFL. This rookie out of Oklahoma has definitely had his growing pains. He has been beaten to the corner several times by quicker defensive ends, but never overpowered on a bull rush. He also has been flagged for several penalties. In the game that he missed because of an ankle injury, I felt that Artie Hicks was an upgrade. But the man has been a road grader in the running game and has overall done a good and sometimes excellent job in pass protection. He is a House ! Even though Hicks may actually be better at this point, Loadholt needs to play. Coach Brad Childress said his recovery from the Ankle injury was surprisingly fast, so he sounds like he may be a real “gamer” as well. I loved the pick in the 2nd round and am really pleased with his progress at this point, and it is likely that he will be a fixture at RT for the next 10 years. – B

Tomorrow – Receivers

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