Time to start a new thread and prepare for 2015!!
You're right that they haven't hit well on those players (but it's not just the guards they've missed on in the later rounds), but they haven't really tried all that much either.Devils advocate, you see teams like Dallas investing 1sts on OL and drastically improving themselves. Not sexy, but somewhat a bite the bullet need. I'm not familiar enough with this class to know whether the next Hutchinson is there, but between supporting/salvaging Kalil and giving time to Bridgewater, I'm hard pressed to think of a bigger need. Going 4th-6th round OG in recent drafts has not done anything for the position... wasted picks who have earned no role on an OL so putrid you'd expect anyone should be able to jump right in and improve OG. Maybe FA is the answer for OG. I don't think drafting a 1st round WR is any solution if he too will have appx 1.3 seconds to get open before the pocket collapses.I think the loss of Fusco was a bigger blow than most realize. He'll return next year.
Left guard is certainly a need, but I don't think you need to fix that with the first rounder or even the 2nd.
You might be right. The contract that they just signed him to is essentially a year-to-year variety.Meh, it puzzles me when people talk up Fusco. I was shocked to learn PFF had him rated high in 2013; I happened to think he was horrible at pass protection. As hard as I've been on Ponder, one thing I've never scrutinized is his failure to step into a pocket. The Vikes haven't had anything resembling a pocket for the past 4 years. Even the season AP approached rushing records, the Vikes have not pass protected with this unit they've invested so heavily in.
I agree. Let's not bring in aging vets every other year. Develop a corps around a young QB.Demaryius Thomas is a pipe dream. He'll re-sign with Denver.
I hate to say it but I'm not sure Fitzgerald brings much more than Jennings does at this point in his career.
He did say "recent" picks. I'm not sure how far back that "officially" goes but I wouldn't say much past the last five years. So they haven't done very well.Biabreakable said:
Agree with this. DT would probably get franchised if they couldn't agree on a number. Not much interest in Fitz from me.Demaryius Thomas is a pipe dream. He'll re-sign with Denver.
I hate to say it but I'm not sure Fitzgerald brings much more than Jennings does at this point in his career.
Is this better talent evaluation or scheme by the Pats (or the HOF QB factor)?He did say "recent" picks. I'm not sure how far back that "officially" goes but I wouldn't say much past the last five years. So they haven't done very well.Biabreakable said:
And then there's the Patriots that are starting three formerly undrafted free agents on their offensive line.
Yeah recent picks. As in John Sullivan who has been and currently still is the starting center. What twisted logic would cause you to only look back 5 years when the current starter was drafted in 2008? These players often have close to 10 year careers when they pan out. So not much reason for a team to be replacing starters every 5 years then is there?He did say "recent" picks. I'm not sure how far back that "officially" goes but I wouldn't say much past the last five years. So they haven't done very well.Biabreakable said:
And then there's the Patriots that are starting three formerly undrafted free agents on their offensive line.
What twisted definition causes you to call something that happened seven years ago "recent"?Yeah recent picks. As in John Sullivan who has been and currently still is the starting center. What twisted logic would cause you to only look back 5 years when the current starter was drafted in 2008? These players often have close to 10 year careers when they pan out. So not much reason for a team to be replacing starters every 5 years then is there?Biabreakable said:
And then there's the Patriots that are starting three formerly undrafted free agents on their offensive line.
Yeah every team should just forego the draft process because it seemed to work out for the Patriots.
Recent as in the player is and has been a quality starter for the Vikings drafted from the 5th or 6th round.What twisted definition causes you to call something that happened seven years ago "recent"?Yeah recent picks. As in John Sullivan who has been and currently still is the starting center. What twisted logic would cause you to only look back 5 years when the current starter was drafted in 2008? These players often have close to 10 year careers when they pan out. So not much reason for a team to be replacing starters every 5 years then is there?Biabreakable said:
And then there's the Patriots that are starting three formerly undrafted free agents on their offensive line.
Yeah every team should just forego the draft process because it seemed to work out for the Patriots.
You're not really following the original discussion.
Not my intent to start a kerfuffle. I agree with a lot of what people are saying, and agree the scouting at the position is highly suspect because you should be able to get a serviceable guard outside the 1st. I do think it is unwise to be overly focused on 2014 injuries and hope that health will make a difference. Recall that people were scratching their head in week three that this veteran unit, who was healthy and well paid at the time, was not providing any resistance in pass protection. Not a surprise to me, because I don't think this unit ever protected Ponder well. This OL is just soft. It's particularly a problem when you have tackles who are getting beat quickly with an outside rush; it is critical for the QB to be able to escape up into a pocket.
IMHO, some of the pieces are workable/can be masked, but we seem to have the misfortune of investing in 5 OL who share a common pass protection weakness. I long for the days when we had tough stalwarts like Steussie/Dixon holding the line at G. The few quality years we got out of Hutch masked some of the weakness of McKinney. Dallas was scoffed at each year it 'reached' for OL recently, but as an NFL fan it fascinated me to watch Romo sometimes with 5-8 seconds to scan the field on pass plays, and the team also 2nd in the NFL in rushing. The Dallas D was in shambles due to injuries but they made the playoffs. The NFL is still a game that is decided in the trenches.
I will say it is nice to be able to anguish over a position other than QB for a change.
My draft simulator picks based on what little I know:11: CB TRAE WAYNES MICHIGAN STATEThey need to draft O-line, WR, LB and CB (not necessarily in that order), but overall I have to say things are looking up. Excited about what Teddy brings.
The future's so bright...
How is the Vikings scouting department in any way suspect in regards to their acquisition and development of late pick offensive linemen?BigJim® said:Not my intent to start a kerfuffle. I agree with a lot of what people are saying, and agree the scouting at the position is highly suspect because you should be able to get a serviceable guard outside the 1st.
Agree to disagree on success rate. If an OL can't pass protect, he's not a success. If you judge success rate by becoming a starter, then Blanton is a success, and Ponder was a success. If a guy who can't pass protect is starting, and the depth is too weak to supplant him with a player who can, that seems like a scouting deficiency.How is the Vikings scouting department in any way suspect in regards to their acquisition and development of late pick offensive linemen?BigJim® said:Not my intent to start a kerfuffle. I agree with a lot of what people are saying, and agree the scouting at the position is highly suspect because you should be able to get a serviceable guard outside the 1st.
As I have demonstrated the Vikings have a better success rate than average in this regard.
Allowing 2 sacks over the course of the 2013 season is not bad.
"I absolutely love Zimmer -- he has so much Bud Grant in him," said Lurtsema, who played for the Hall of Fame coach. "Zimmer told me that he's cut better athletes and kept lesser athletes who had more heart and more between their ears.
I thought this was a interesting stat, assisted tackles being a reflection of swarming to the ball."I looked up (Zimmer's) record when he was defensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals for six years (2008-2013), and his players were No. 1 in assisted tackles of all 32 teams in average during those years. That's six years of (comparing) apples to apples of every team. That's telling you he has his players hustling to the ball and that they're going to continue to improve."
Great burst and initial quickness. Seems to find the hole very well. I have trouble believing his size will allow him to be a workhorse back although I like the change of pace and big play potential he provides if Adrian stays or a similar feature back (Murray, Lynch?) finds their way to Minnesota next year.workdog3 said:What's everyone's thoughts on McKinnon? He showed great talent (quickness/vision) in my opinion, but they were quick to trim his role in the second half of games.
NFL draftIn summary then ...
Name | Position | Cap Savings | Age before season is over
Chad Greenway | OLB | $7,100,000 | 32
Greg Jennings | WR | $5,000,000 | 32
Matt Cassel | QB | $4,750,000 | 33
Captain Munnerlyn | CB | $3,166,666 | 27
Charlie Johnson | G | $2,500,000 | 31
Jerome Felton | FB | $2,500,000 | 28
Brian Robison | DE | $2,450,000 | 32
Matt Asiata | RB | $2,250,000 | 28
Andrew Sendejo | S | $1,000,000 | 28
Total | $30,716,666
Name | Position | Cap Hit | Age before season is over
Mark Sanchez | QB | $2,100,000 | 28
Hakeem Nicks | WR | $2,062,500 | 27
Clint Boling | G | $4,262,500 | 26
Derek Newton | T | $2,975,000 | 28
Jason Pierre-Paul | DE | $6,875,000 | 26
Stephen Paea | DT | $3,750,000 | 27
Byron Maxwell | CB | $4,262,500 | 27
Rahim Moore | S | $4,080,000 | 25
Taylor Mays | S | $1,050,000 | 28
Paul Posluszny | ILB | $4,025,000 | 27
Total | $35,442,500
... the remaining cap space looks like this ...
Salary Cap: 145,000,000
Player Salaries: 136,198,542
Dead Money: 264,728
Reserved for Draft Picks: 5,000,000
Outstanding Offers: 0
Cap Space Remaining: 9,260,690
1st trade - 1.11 to the Texans for 1.16 & 2.19
2nd trade - 4.11 to the Colts for 4.29 and 5.2 which they obtained from the Titans
3rd trade - 5.11 to the Bengals for 5.21 & 6.21
Round 1 Pick 16 (HOU): Danny Shelton, DT, Washington (A)
Round 2 Pick 13: Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma (A)
Round 2 Pick 19 (HOU): Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota (A)
Round 3 Pick 12: Mario Edwards, DE, Florida State (A)
Round 4 Pick 29 (IND): Javorius Allen, RB, Southern California (A)
Round 5 Pick 2 (TENN): Doran Grant, CB, Ohio State (A)
Round 5 Pick 21 (CINN): Jordan Hicks, OLB, Texas (A-)
Round 6 Pick 7 (CHI): Shaquille Mason, OG/C, Georgia Tech (A-)
Round 6 Pick 21 (CINN): Jake Ryan, OLB/ILB, Michigan (B)
Round 7 Pick 11: Matt Jones, RB, Florida (B+)
After the draft the roster looks like this ...
QB - BRIDGEWATER SANCHEZ
RB - PETERSON MCKINNON *ALLEN *JONES BANYARD JOSEY
FB - LINE
WR - C. JOHNSON PATTERSON NICKS WRIGHT THIELEN *GREEN-BECKHAM
TE - RUDOLPH ELLISON *WILLIAMS FORD
OT - KALIL LOADHOLT NEWTON WENTWORTH RICHARDSON
OG - BOLING FUSCO YANKEY
C - SULLIVAN *MASON
DE - GRIFFEN PAUL CRICHTON *EDWARDS TRATTOU
DT - FLOYD JOSEPH PAEA STEPHEN *SHELTON
OLB - BARR HODGES WATTS *HICKS KADDU
MLB - POSLUSZNY COLE *RYAN
CB - RHODES MAXWELL ROBINSON SHERELS *GRANT PRICE
S - SMITH MOORE BLANTON MAYS EXUM DIXON
K - WALSH
P - LOCKE
LS - NELSON (he gets signed after the first 10 days)
* indicates a rookie
I don't think this has much basis in reality. Is it smart cutting Jennings to save 5 million in cap if it results in 6 million in dead money? I am no cap guru but signing Jason Pierre Paul and Byron Maxwell might not kill your cap in year one but what about the future. I am going to lower my expectations for the Vikings in free agency.
Vikings 2014 Grades: OffenseThis is the second in a three-part series reviewing the 2014 Minnesota Vikings. For a review of the offense, click here. Coaches/specialists will be reviewed on Wednesday.
In the first year at the controls, coach Mike Zimmer retooled the Vikings' roster, scheme and attitude inside Winter Park and started his rebuild of a defense that finished nearly last in every category in 2013.
Improved from 31st in total defense to 14th under Zimmer, allowing 345 yards per game. Also improved the NFL's worst scoring defense (30.0 ppg) from a year ago to 11th (21.4 ppg) this season. However, they did not reach the level of run defense the new coaching staff sought. Allowed 121.4 rushing yards per game (25th), down from 16th a season ago.
Got picked apart early in the season against a tough slate of quarterbacks, but managed to improve third-down defense to 20th (42%) after finishing 30th (44%) last season. Still below average in creating turnovers (19, tied for 25th).
The signing of Captain Munnerlyn, a healthy Harrison Smith, an improved Xavier Rhodes and a retooled pass rush crafted around Everson Griffen helped turn around a secondary that allowed a league-worst 37 touchdown passes last season. Gave up 26 passing touchdowns (t-17th) and the secondary came away with 12 of the team's 13 interceptions (only 5 in 2013).
Grades are based on a 1-5 scale, with '5' marking an excellent season, '4' for above-average, '3' for average, '2' for below-average and '1' for failure to perform. Players that did not accrue a season (weren't on the active roster for at least six weeks) or played in three games or fewer are not graded. Below are individual grades, based on game and practice observations, weekly film reviews and interviews with coaches, for 30 defensive players who finished the season on the Vikings' 53-man roster, injured reserve or practice squad. Unofficial NFL stats, such as QB pressures, missed tackles and targeted passes, are compiled by ProFootballFocus.com.
• Everson Griffen (4.5): The Vikings re-signed Griffen to a five-year, $42.5 million contract to keep him in Minnesota just hours before he would've become a free agent in March. Awarded the Vikings' $20 million guaranteed trust with a career year in his fifth NFL season - the first he played solely at left end. Took over for veteran sack master Jared Allen and provided on-par pass rush with an upgrade in run support. Became the first Vikings player since Allen to win NFC Defensive Player of the Month honors after recording a NFC-best six sacks and a forced fumble in October. Finished with a career-high 12 sacks off a career-high 993 snaps [89.5%]. Initially rotated about 10-20 snaps per game, but his play was too good to remove from the field. Didn't sit out more than 10 snaps in a game after Week 6. Tied his career high with three sacks in Week 7 at Buffalo. Just as impressive against the rush and adapting to Zimmer's run-oriented technique. Combines power with ridiculous speed that surprised even some coaches, including a chase down of Robert Herron (4.48 40-yard dash) on an end around for no gain in Tampa Bay. Jumped early nine times, including twice at Green Bay and twice at Miami. Blocked an extra point in New Orleans. Batted two passes at the line. Dropped an interception after Robison batted a Geno Smith pass into the air. Penalized 11 times. Drew two holds from David Bakhtiari in Week 12. Finished fifth among all 4-3 defensive ends with 40 QB hurries. Missed five tackles. Earned a Pro Bowl alternate nod, perhaps snubbed due to lack of name recognition. That shouldn't be a problem if he continues this play beyond 2014.
• Sharrif Floyd (4.0): Reconfiguring his footwork, Floyd took a few games to get going but hit his stride in the middle of his second NFL season. Racked up 14 tackles, five QB hurries and three sacks in a four-game stretch, seeing 211 of 279 snaps [75.6%] in that span. The hot streak ended after he suffered a knee contusion when he bumped into a teammate in practice. Didn't play on Nov. 24 against Green Bay, saw just 27 snaps in the next two games and sat out again on Dec. 14 against Detroit. Forced a season-best four QB hurries the next week in Miami. Capped off the season with three QB hurries, a pass deflection and run stop in the season finale. Benched Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long into the backfield to wrap up Matt Forte for a three-yard loss. Any lack in power is made up for a quicker first step than his opponent to force them off balance. Finished second on the team with 11 tackles for a loss. Missed three tackles. Lined up once as a 3-4 defensive end, but primarily stayed at his three-tech spot. Played 584 snaps overall [52.6%]. Flagged four times, including thee at Miami - twice in the same play after he was tagged for a late hit on Ryan Tannehill and retaliated with a knock to Daryn Colledge that drew a personal foul. Could have a bright future under Zimmer's tutelage and seemed to benefit from the alterations to his technique.
• Tom Johnson (3.5): Signed to a one-year, $845,000 contract in free agency and won the backup three-technique spot out of camp. Entered the season at 30 years old with 5.0 career sacks and had a breakout campaign rushing the passer, finishing second on the team with 6.5 sacks. Credited Zimmer's team pass rush concept with his revitalized play as his role was a pass-rushing specialist, mostly working on third downs or other obvious throwing situations. Played a career-most 447 snaps [40.3%]. Flagged once for illegal use of the hands, one of a few 'points of emphasis' by NFL referees in 2014. Not nearly as effective against the run. Arrested on a misdemeanor trespassing charge on Oct. 17, just a week before he entered a guilty plea for a May 3 careless driving charge. Sentenced a year probation and a $1,000 fine for the traffic violation. A free agent and could be a priority to re-sign after successfully buying into the Vikings' revamped scheme.
• Linval Joseph (3.0): The Vikings' biggest splash in free agency, Joseph signed a five-year, $31.25 million contract in March. Missed time in training camp after a freak accident that saw him take a stray bullet to the calf when he was at a downtown Minneapolis club after the team's first exhibition game. Returned to practice the week before the season opener, started and played 37 snaps in his Vikings debut. Wasn't very impactful against the run early in the season and was susceptible to doubles, but had his best games against Dominic Raiola and the Lions. Played 744 snaps overall [67%]. Admittedly learned on the job after missing three exhibitions and half of training camp. Forced 19 QB hurries and three sacks. Missed four tackles. Flagged three times and fined twice for his roughing the passer infractions. Hit with a $16,537 fine after dragging Robert Griffin III down by his helmet in Week 9. Tagged with a $20,000 fine a month later after he knocked Aaron Rodgers down well after a throw. Wasn't at his best in 2014, but showed flashes of what made the Vikings want to lock him down for five years.
• Brian Robison (3.0): In the first season of a four-year, $22.4 million extension signed during the 2013 season, Robison played a full 16 games for the sixth time in eight years. Coming off a career-best 9.0 sacks last season, he had his patience tested as he went without a sack in the first five games under Zimmer. However, the heavy usage may have caught up to him at age 31. Played 900+ snaps for the fourth consecutive season, posting 932 plays [84%] this year. Moved around more than he's used to. Saw third-down reps at defensive tackle when Floyd was out in Detroit. Also got some spot snaps as a linebacker in passing situations. Finished with 4.5 sacks and 24 tackles, both career lows since he became a full-time starter in 2011. Still a disruptive force, but had trouble finishing. Came a half yard from his fifth sack of the season when he chased Matthew Stafford from the backside of the play on 3rd-and-4 to force a fourth down in Week 15. Forced 37 QB hurries and 11 QB hits. Batted two passes at the line. Flagged once for offsides and it was declined. Dropped into coverage a career-high 20 times in the first year under Zimmer. Missed seven tackles. Played through a volleyball-sized bruise on his butt in November and dealt with a sprained ankle in the final two weeks. Could benefit from a formidable rotation option to spell some of his heavy playing time going forward.
• Shamar Stephen (2.5): Drafted in the seventh round (220th overall) in May and made the 53-man roster as the No. 2 nose tackle over veteran Fred Evans. Part of the Vikings' movement to get younger, Stephen impressed around Winter Park with his adaptation to the DL technique. Served as a rush specialist and paired with Joseph along the interior in run packages. Has the versatility to play both defensive tackle spots. Played 413 snaps [37.2%]. Did not draw a flag. Forced nine QB hurries and has strides to make as a pass rusher. Strength comes in run support, yet flashed inconsistency expected of a rookie. Had six tackles, including three run stops, against the Panthers, but was susceptible to doubles and shut out of the box score two weeks later in Detroit.
• Corey Wootton (2.0): Signed to a one-year, $1.5 million contract in free agency, Wootton served as the primary rotational end, but didn't provide much pass rush. Coming off hip surgery in January, Wootton registered just four QB hurries and a sack in 276 snaps [24.9%]. Got the sack in the season finale against his former team. Flagged twice. Missed one tackle. A free agent, but the Vikings could be looking elsewhere to upgrade at the No. 3 end spot.
• Scott Crichton (2.0): Drafted in the third round (72nd overall) by the Vikings and was active for eight games, seeing reps on defense in just two. Served primarily as a special teams contributor and finished with two tackles as a spot member on the kickoff team. Played 16 defensive snaps [1.4%]. Didn't take part in most OTAs in May/June due to NFL rules mandating rookies finish their degrees before fully moving onto the league, so he spent part of the spring back at Oregon State. That may or may not have hampered his early development as he didn't get any extended looks as a rotational end.
• Justin Trattou (2.0): Promoted to the active roster after Jerick McKinnon was placed on injured reserve in early December. Spent most of the season on the practice squad, but got nine snaps as a rotational end in three of the final four games. Did some encouraging things. Landed a third-down QB hit on Stafford to stall the Lions' second series of the game in the 16-14 loss at Detroit. Could be a backup candidate in 2015.
• Isame Faciane (N/A): Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Florida International and did not get a bonus. Made the practice squad, where he spent his entire rookie season. Worked primarily as a three-technique tackle. Re-signed to a reserve/futures deal on Dec. 30.
• Anthony Barr (3.5): Drafted in the first round (9th overall), Barr claimed the starting strong-side spot and played 793 snaps [71.5%] before a nagging knee injury he suffered on Nov. 16 in Chicago shut him down. Broke onto the scene by splitting two Rams blockers and swiping Benjamin Cunningham to the turf on a botched screen in Sept. 7 season opener in St. Louis. Got his first sack in 3.0 seconds off an A-gap blitz against Drew Brees. Tried to play through the knee injury, but wasn't the same player. Missed eight of his 22 tackles in the three games he had the injury, including five at Chicago. Had season-ending surgery to clean up the knee, categorized as 'similar to a meniscus tear,' and was placed on injured reserve before the season finale. Touted in this corner as a potential defensive rookie of the year candidate before he got hurt. Posted 11 QB hurries and 4.0 sacks on 115 blitzes. Made opponents account for him by assigning extra protection against Zimmer's traditional double A-gap blitz scheme. Boasts adequate speed to go along with his tremendous size at 6-foot-5, 255 pounds. Effective screen stopper, but got caught out of position at times in coverage. Allowed 54 catches on 59 targets [91.5%] and a touchdown, including a 3rd-and-20 conversion to Julio Jones in Week 4. Got caught overrunning the ball carrier/receiver at times. Deflected one pass. Flagged once for roughing the passer. Forced two fumbles, including the game-winning strip, scoop and score in overtime in Tampa Bay. Saw some time at defensive end early in the season before that package was mothballed. Impressed in his 12-game sample and looks like the only sure bet out of this group moving forward. Time will tell if he could be that rotational end should the Vikings find two nickel (coverage) linebackers they're comfortable with outside of Barr.
• Chad Greenway (3.0): After leading the Vikings in tackles for six consecutive seasons, even a tough one like Greenway couldn't put up with the laundry list of injuries he compiled. Played through a broken left hand and three fractured ribs to start the season before the Vikings shut him down for three weeks - the most time he's missed since his rookie season in 2006. Played 776 snaps [70.0%], yet still finished second on the team with 93 combined tackles. Led all tacklers with 15 in his first game back from the rib injuries and also forced a Chris Hogan fumble in the Week 7 loss at Buffalo. Got out of position trying to help a teammate before fellow Iowa alumnus Scott Chandler caught the 4th-and-20 conversion that led to the game-losing touchdown for the Vikings. There's no doubt heavy usage and age has taken a toll on Greenway, who turns 32 on Monday. Missed 15 tackles. Allowed 41 catches on 45 targets [91.1%] in coverage, two touchdowns and deflected a pass. After his father passed away following a long battle with leukemia, Greenway played two days later in Miami. Hobbled his way through the second quarter with a knee sprain and didn't return after halftime. Did not play in the season finale. A mainstay in purple, but he's already suffered a broken wrist, broken hand and three broken ribs in the last two seasons. One year away from his goal to last a decade in Minnesota, he figures to be at least a restructure candidate with an $8.8 million cap hit in the final year of his deal in 2015. Dedicated to playing football next season and wants to be somewhere that'll give him a legitimate shot to start.
• Gerald Hodges (3.0): Climbed up the ranks in his second NFL season. Saw spot duty as a nickel linebacker when the Vikings moved Barr down to defensive end before Greenway's injury put that package on hold in Week 3. Played 516 snaps [46.5%]. Started seven games, three at Greenway's weak side spot and four for Barr along the strong side. Looked more at home on the strong side, where he practiced at during most of training camp. That forced the Vikings to play Cole out of position on the weak side when Greenway missed the season finale. Allowed 28 catches on 35 targets [80.0%], gave up three touchdowns and deflected four passes. Boasts decent athleticism. Got his first career PD on a leaping deflection off Stafford, trying to target a deep crossing route behind Hodges' zone. Deflected two passes in that Week 6 loss, but also gave up a touchdown to rookie Theo Riddick on an angle route out of the backfield. Picked off Geno Smith on the first throw of a Dec. 7 win over the Jets, taking the botched slant pass for his first career touchdown. Tied Barr and Greenway with four tackles for a loss. Showed promise and is also starting to grow into a vocal leader in the locker room. A potential candidate to start opposite of Barr should the Vikings groom him in Greenway's weak side spot.
• Audie Cole (2.5): An ace on special teams, Cole didn't get an extended look on defense until absolutely necessary. With Greenway and Barr out, he started the season finale out of position on the weak side and flourished in those 66 snaps. Took over Greenway's relaying of play calls. Finished with a career-high 14 tackles (11 solo) and deflected a pass on 3rd-and-1 that forced Chicago to kick a field goal for a 13-9 Vikings' lead that stood as final. Had an interception taken away by a teammate's offsides penalty. Played 96 defensive snaps [8.6%]. Showed improvement on coverage units. Finished second on the team with 12 special teams tackles, including the first two on Jets return man Percy Harvin in the Dec. 7 win. Missed three tackles. Flagged twice, once on a punt return for a blindside block. Has played all three linebacker spots. Entering a contract year in 2015. Could warrant a look in the middle.
• Jasper Brinkley (2.5): Signed a one-year, veteran minimum deal to rejoin the Vikings after an injury-plagued year in Arizona. Won the middle linebacker job in camp as the veteran over younger options like Cole or Mauti. Played 471 snaps [42.5%]. Filled in as a nickel linebacker when injuries to Barr and Greenway thinned the Vikings' options. Allowed 19 catches on 23 targets [82.6%]. Flagged twice. Had three special teams tackles and got his wish for Mike Priefer to go with the base defense for the punt return team in Week 13 against Carolina. Got the Vikings' second punt block in as many quarters and escorted Griffen to the end zone. Nabbed his first career sack in his 69th career game, taking down Matthew Stafford off a blitz in Week 6. Sent on another 15 blitzes and came away with one QB hurry. Biggest asset was missing just four tackles, but is limited in both size and range. Had just two tackles for losses. Not a formidable thumper in run defense. Wouldn't be a bad backup option, but the Vikings should look for an upgrade in the middle.
• Michael Mauti (2.0): Saw work as the No. 2 middle linebacker in camp and made the roster as a special teams contributor. Played one snap on defense against Detroit in Week 6. Had four special teams tackles. Needed surgery to repair meniscus in his right knee and was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 10. Though minor compared to his three knee reconstruction surgeries in college, Mauti's health is a longstanding concern. The Vikings said Barr's injury was similar. Expects a month recovery and full strength by spring OTAs.
• Brandon Watts (N/A): Drafted in the seventh round (223rd overall) in May. Wasn't activated until Week 15 in Detroit, where five family members watched him make his NFL debut from the stands. Missed extended time in training camp with a hamstring injury. Also held back because of a knee injury in September. Frustrated Zimmer by suffering another hamstring injury after just six defensive snaps in Miami. Didn't stay healthy enough to leave much of an impression.
• Josh Kaddu (N/A): Signed to the Vikings' practice squad on Sept. 9. Promoted to the active roster after Greenway was ruled out just before the season finale. Served as the fourth linebacker on game day, but only saw time on special teams. An unrestricted free agent as he enters his fourth season out of Oregon.
• Justin Anderson (N/A): Signed to the Vikings' practice squad on Christmas Eve just before Kaddu was promoted to the active roster. Went undrafted in 2014 out of Louisiana-Lafayette and was initially signed by the New York Giants, spending time on their active roster for two weeks in November. Re-signed by the Vikings to a reserve/futures deal on Dec. 30.
• Harrison Smith (4.5): Returned to start 16 games in his third NFL season after sitting out half of the year with a severe case of turf toe in 2013. Played 1,097 snaps [98.9%] in a dynamic role in his first season under Zimmer. Jumped a crossing route in the Sept. 7 season opener and took the interception 81 yards for a touchdown. Had blitzed just 19 times in his first two seasons and was sent after the quarterback a career-most 41 times in 2014, including twice on the first four plays in St. Louis. Finished with a career-high 3.0 sacks as part of Zimmer's versatile blitz schemes. Also set his career best with five interceptions. Dropped two picks, one each in New Orleans and Miami. Flagged five times, including a DPI that gave the Packers a 1st-and-goal in the Nov. 24 loss. Allowed 26 catches on 40 targets [65%] in coverage and became one of the latest to fall victim to Aaron Rodgers' arm strength when he tossed a 66-yard touchdown to Jordy Nelson - from the right sideline to the left - with Smith trailing in the Week 5 loss. That was the only score Smith allowed in coverage. Second on the team with nine pass deflections. Saw more man coverage than he's used to and has some room to grow in that area. Played through a sprained ankle at Lambeau. Needed a walking boot the next day, but returned 10 days later to start against Detroit. Dealt with ankle, knee and shoulder ailments, but missed just a handful of snaps all season. A missile in run support. Led all defensive backs with four tackles for a loss. Took up two blockers to help force a one-yard loss for Matt Forte in the season finale. Tied for second on the team with 93 combined tackles. Missed 11 tackles. Growing into his own and, if possible, his ceiling may have been raised even higher under Zimmer's tutelage. Snubbed in the Pro Bowl balloting and didn't even get named as an alternate despite allowing a lower overall QB rating (67.9) than Eric Weddle, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. The stalwart of the Vikings' secondary.
• Xavier Rhodes (4.0): Started off his second NFL season a little shaky, but finished strong and really hit his stride in November. Played 1,052 snaps [94.9%]. Missed half of the game in St. Louis with a groin injury. Had his worst outing the following week against New England when he was flagged three times for illegal defensive contact, missed on a leaping attempt at a deflection and allowed a 44-yard catch and run by Julian Edelman. Tied for worst on the team with 12 penalties, 11 for illegal contact and once for holding on a punt return. Led the team with 18 pass deflections and tied for fourth in the NFL in that category. Allowed 44 catches on 83 targets [53%]. Got his first career interception off Jay Cutler in Chicago. Dropped a pick two weeks later against Carolina. Finished four November games with six pass deflections, an interception and was called for just one penalty. Showed improved consistency in walking the line between physical and penalty, but definitely benefitted from crews that wanted to keep the flags in their pockets. Deflected a 3rd-and-1 attempt to Jordy Nelson in the Nov. 24 loss to Green Bay. Got beat by rookie Sammy Watkins for the game-losing touchdown in Buffalo. Showed steady improvement throughout the season. Missed three tackles and can improve by staying aggressive in run support. Gained confidence from Zimmer enough to shadow him (for the first time in his career) on Calvin Johnson in Week 15 and limited him to just three catches. Shadowed from there on out, against Mike Wallace in Week 16 and Alshon Jeffery in the season finale. Solidifies at least one corner spot for Zimmer going forward and showed he can follow the league's best receivers when asked.
• Josh Robinson (3.0): Improved after being miscast as a slot corner in his second NFL season. Moved back to the outside in 2014 and finished with a career-high three interceptions, second-most on the team. Played 690 snaps [62.2%] as the nickel corner when Munnerlyn would move into the slot. Improved in coverage, but still has strides to make with his press technique. Allowed 43 catches on 76 targets [56.6%]. Had his worst game in Chicago, when Jay Cutler picked on him 15 times for 11 catches and three touchdowns. However, just two of those scores can be pegged solely on Robinson. At a disadvantage at 5-foot-10 against taller receivers, which likely helped lead to Zimmer's decision to move Rhodes around the formation. Size wasn't the issue when he got beat off the line by Percy Harvin for a 35-yard touchdown. Flagged five times, including four DPIs. Missed six tackles, but overall he played tight coverage, limiting receivers to just a 2.7-yard average after the catch. Laid a big third-down hit to stop Geno Smith short of the first down and force a Jets' punt with the game tied at 21. Allowed just three catches on 10 targets in the final three games when he was on the No. 2 receiver. Can be an asset when he's not asked to do too much. Looks like a solid No. 3 corner going forward, but could see some competition in camp.
• Captain Munnerlyn (3.0): Signed to a three-year, $11.25 million deal in free agency to fix the Vikings' slot problem after Robinson was miscast in that role a year ago. Didn't play up to his expectations or the expectations the Vikings had for him in his first season in Minnesota. Played 1,089 snaps [98.2%], starting on the outside and moving into the slot in nickel packages. Best asset came in run support, where his 51 solo tackles led Vikings' corners. Uses his physicality best when the plays are shallow and in front of him. Stout against receiver screens, including stops for one and three yards to Golden Tate in Week 15. Missed five tackles. Allowed 58 catches on 83 targets [69.9%] in coverage. Got into hot water trying to freelance at times. Went for the ball and not the tackle when he whiffed on a 36-yard screen to Devin Hester in Week 4 and gave up a 24-yard touchdown to Roddy White after looking to jump Julio Jones' route. His lone sack was negated by an unnecessary roughness penalty after he tossed Drew Brees to the turf, leading Brees to liken the move to a wrestling takedown. Flagged eight times, including two DPIs on third downs against the Jets. Drew a holding flag on Detroit that forced the Lions into a 2nd-and-28, leading to another three-and-out in the 16-14 loss. Finished with two interceptions. Has some work to do in trusting the scheme vs. his own instincts. Still provided an upgrade in the slot, which allowed Robinson to move back to his comfort zone on the outside.
• Robert Blanton (2.5): Earned a starting job for the first time in three NFL seasons despite missing the start of training camp with a hamstring injury. Played 969 snaps [87.4%]. Started 13 games before an ankle sprain gave way to Sendejo's starts. Did not start the final three games, but entered for Sendejo after he gave up a 14-yard touchdown in Miami. Led the Vikings with 106 combined tackles (72 solo) and got his first career interception off Kyle Orton in Buffalo. Allowed 14 catches on 24 targets [58.3%] for 240 yards and two touchdowns, both coming off blown coverages. Didn't always stay home in his assignments in coverage. Flagged three times. Had his best game in Week 13 against Carolina, where he was flagged for illegal contact, but also stuffed a screen for two yards and forced a 3rd-and-7 incompletion targeted for standout rookie Kelvin Benjamin. His benching following the injury showed Zimmer hasn't found a strong safety to start alongside Smith moving forward. Blanton is entering the final year of his rookie deal in 2015.
• Andrew Sendejo (2.5): Made the cut as the No. 3 safety out of training camp and took over for an injured Blanton in Week 15 at Detroit and earned the next two starts. Played 149 snaps [13.4%], starting the final three games. Stayed in as starter even when Blanton returned from the injury, but was benched after allowing a 14-yard touchdown to Dion Sims in Miami. Had been tested for a concussion just plays prior, but re-entered the game. Came back and started the full game against Chicago and had his best outing in the season finale. Finished with nine tackles (five solo), including a run stop and nearly came away with his first career sack, but Jay Cutler flipped the ball to Matt Forte with Sendejo wrapped around his ankles. Made the game-sealing tackle on 4th-and-9. Wasn't flagged. A special teams cornerstone for Mike Priefer. Had 10 special teams tackles and did not miss a tackle on those units. Missed two tackles on defense. Flashed adequate closing speed, but sometimes entered a play too fast for his own good. Allowed five catches on seven targets [71.4%] for 77 yards in coverage. Figures to remain a special teams ace, but could see some more first-team looks at safety depending on free agency/draft moves. Entering a contract year in 2015.
• Marcus Sherels (2.5): Had an up and down year after a career season in 2013. Finished sixth in the NFL with an 11-yard punt return average on 27 attempts. Took four kickoff returns for 110 yards [27.5 avg]. Set his season long with a 35-yard punt return in Detroit. However, he made some head-scratching decisions on using or not using fair catches, in which he led all punt returners with 26. Waved for one at the Vikings' 6 in Buffalo, when the ball surely would've rolled into the end zone. Decided to return one he caught at the Vikings' 5 in Tampa Bay, ultimately starting the offense off at their own 7. Flagged twice. Made six special teams tackles and missed four. Played 12 defensive snaps and wasn't targeted. Entering a contract year in 2015.
• Jabari Price (2.0): Drafted in the seventh round (225th overall) with the Vikings' final pick in May. Made the cut as the No. 4 cornerback after a strong training camp. Saw a season-high 29 snaps on defense in the Sept. 7 season opener after Rhodes went down with a groin injury. Allowed five catches on six targets for 51 yards in 47 defensive snaps [4.2%]. Primarily a special teams contributor. Benched along with Exum for the Week 9 win over Washington after he committed his second special teams penalty in four weeks. Flagged three times overall. Has decent size at 6-foot, 201 pounds and could be a project if the Vikings hang onto him. Arrested on a misdemeanor DWI charge in the early morning hours following the Vikings' season finale on Dec. 28.
• Antone Exum (2.0): Drafted in the sixth round (182nd overall) in May, Exum made the cut out of training camp over veterans Chris Crocker, Jamarca Sanford and Mistral Raymond. Part of the Vikings' youth movement, he was flagged three times on special teams in a four-week span and got benched with fellow rookie Price the following week. Fined $22,050 (nearly 20% of his signing bonus) for a blindside block on Packers corner Jarrett Bush in the Oct. 2 loss at Lambeau. Fell to the sixth round partly because of a torn ACL he suffered in a pickup basketball game about 17 months before the draft. Played both corner and safety for Virginia Tech, but positioned as a safety for the Vikings. Saw 16 defensive snaps. Failed to recover a Jets' fumble on a punt return, which helped lead to overtime. Recovered a fumbled kickoff return two weeks later in Miami to help set up a five-yard touchdown run on the next play.
• Shaun Prater (1.5): Went through Zimmer's training camp for the third time in his three seasons after he was selected in the fifth round (156th overall) by Cincinnati in 2012. Made the roster as the sixth cornerback and saw some work at safety during practices. Active for 10 games as a special teams contributor and saw just five snaps on defense, four coming when Price was deactivated for the Week 9 win over Washington. Had two pass deflections and a sack in four exhibitions, but couldn't crack the top 4 cornerbacks to get substantial playing time. Needs to improve on coverage units. Finished with two tackles on special teams.
• Ahmad Dixon (N/A): Had an active preseason for the Dallas Cowboys, but was waived after he showed up late for a team meeting on Sept. 1. Vikings signed him to their practice squad on Sept. 3 before the Bears added him to their active roster a week later. Waived by the Bears on Nov. 18. Joined the Dolphins' scout squad on Nov. 25 and cut a week later. Rejoined the Vikings practice squad on Dec. 6 and promoted to the active roster on Dec. 17 after J'Marcus Webb was released. Wasn't activated for the Vikings.
Adrian Peterson touched the ball on nine of the Vikings' first 11 plays of the 2014 regular season, but his absence from the next 15 games would dictate a substantial change in Norv Turner's plans for his first season as offensive coordinator in Minnesota.
Season-ending injuries to Brandon Fusco, Phil Loadholt and Matt Casselcombined with lingering ailments to Jerick McKinnon and Kyle Rudolph to constantly turn over the depth chart as Mike Zimmer and Turner attempted to develop rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater on the fly, mentor a struggling Cordarrelle Patterson as a route runner and fix franchise left tackle Matt Kalil.
The offense's most complete game came in a 41-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons in Bridgewater's first start, putting up 41 points and a season-best 241 rushing yards. That game came in the middle of a 62-drive streak without a touchdown pass from Week 2 to Week 7, though Bridgewater finished the season with the franchise's rookie record of 10 consecutive games with a touchdown toss. The offense sputtered with the ups and downs of a rookie quarterback, but Bridgewater found some one-on-one mismatches with Charles Johnson, who was added midseason after Jerome Simpson's release.
Finished 28th in passing (202.8 yards/game) and regressed about four points per game from 2013, ranking 20th in scoring offense (20.3 ppg). Ranked 14th in rushing yards per game (112.8) and also improved third-down percentage, up to a 39-percent conversion rate from 36 percent a year ago. Also trimmed the turnovers down to 20, including a NFL-low two fumbles.
Grades are based on a 1-5 scale, with '5' marking an excellent season, '4' for above-average, '3' for average, '2' for below-average and '1' for failure to perform. Players that did not accrue a season (weren't on the active roster for at least six weeks) or played in three games or fewer are not graded. Below are individual grades, based on game and practice observations, weekly film reviews and interviews with coaches, for 37 offensive players who finished the season on the Vikings' 53-man roster, injured reserve or practice squad. Unofficial NFL stats, such as QB hurries, drops and broken tackles, are compiled by ProFootballFocus.com.
• Teddy Bridgewater (3.0): A first-round pick (32nd overall) in May, he was thrust into the starting role exactly nine months after his final collegiate start at Louisville. Bridgewater led the three NFL rookie quarterbacks with at least 200 attempts in completion percentage (64.4), yards per game (224.5) and completions over 20 yards (38). Played 813 of 1,051 snaps [77.4%]. Completed 259-of-402 passes for 2,919 yards, 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Finished 6-6 as a starter and led four fourth-quarter comeback and/or game-winning drives. His season can be separated into two parts: first seven starts and the final five. Debuted on the Vikings' second drive in a 20-9 loss at New Orleans in Week 3, taking Cassel's place behind a shaky offensive line. Scrambled three times for 21 yards in his debut. Finished third on the team with 209 rushing yards. Completed the Vikings' first pass of 20-plus yards on his sixth NFL throw when he found Jennings on an open corner route for 30 on 2nd-and-9. In his first start the following week, he sprained his ankle in the fourth quarter on a 3rd-and-2 scramble at the goal line. Stayed in for the handoff to Asiata on 4th-and-1 for the go-ahead touchdown and left after tossing the two-point conversion to Ellison, seizing a 35-28 lead over the Atlanta Falcons. Ceded 11 snaps at the end to Ponder, who started the Week 5 loss at Green Bay. Returned to greet his 'welcome to the NFL' outing in Week 6 -- took eight sacks in Detroit and averaged 5.08 yards per throw, which still stands as his career low. Tossed a career-worst three picks in the loss, two from tipped passes. Started 3-of-11 for 21 yards and two interceptions in the Week 7 loss at Buffalo, bounced back to finish 12-of-15 for 136 yards and his first career touchdown pass on a four-yard screen to Patterson. Threw at least one touchdown in 10-straight games to end the season. Toned back the turnovers and threw seven picks in the final nine games, including two more off tipped passes and a botched Hail Mary attempt. Experienced a little of everything as a rookie, including clock malfunctions at Soldier Field. Took five penalties, four for delay of game and one for intentional grounding. Drew six defensive offside calls against opponents, but had his hardcount mocked during a failed 4th-and-3 attempt to get Carolina defenders to jump. Seemingly overcame his accuracy demons in the final month, which helped public perception forget about his rocky starts in November. Finished third all-time among rookie quarterbacks with his 64.4 completion percentage, buoyed by 72-percent rate in December as the Vikings fell a field goal and a safety short of an undefeated month - mostly with three backups along the line. Completed nearly 60 percent of his passes when facing pressure. Set career-high marks in completions (31), attempts (41) and completion percentage (75.6) in his first rematch at Detroit on Dec. 14. Undeterred by in-game mistakes, but wasn't able to eschew the inaccuracy until after the Nov. 24 loss to Green Bay. He could've tossed three picks to the Packers, but one was wiped out by a defensive hold and another dropped by Tramon Williams. Expectations will be high in Year 2 and he'll need to capture and bottle that December accuracy to keep rolling.
• Matt Cassel (N/A): Won the starting job out of training camp over Bridgewater, made three starts and played 146 snaps before LB Curtis Lofton ended his five-yard scramble with a broken left foot in New Orleans. Placed on injured reserve. Finished 41-of-71 (57.7%) for 425 yards, three touchdowns, four interceptions and a 65.8 rating. His helmet mic stopped working in the season opener at St. Louis, running the offense on his own for the remainder of a drive. Tossed a career-worst four interceptions the following week against New England. Could be a restructure candidate after signing a two-year, $10 million deal to rejoin the Vikings last offseason in the hopes he'd hold down the starter job while they groomed the next franchise quarterback. He turns 33 in May and will be the backup if he stays in Minnesota.
• Christian Ponder (N/A): Entered the season as the No. 3 quarterback and was inactive for the first three games before Cassel went to IR. Served as Bridgewater's backup for 12 games, starting the Week 5 loss at Green Bay. The door hit Ponder on the way out of Minnesota with that Oct. 2 drubbing, in which his fall from grace hit rock bottom. Ponder completed 22-of-44 passes for 222 yards, two interceptions and a garbage time touchdown run. Turned a 14-0 hole into a 21-0 deficit with a pick-six to Julius Peppers and didn't look remotely close to ready for his lone start under Turner. The Vikings declined to pick up his fifth-year option before the season and will likely part ways once he officially becomes a free agent in March.
• Pat Devlin (N/A): Signed on Nov. 3 to take Chandler Harnish's place on the practice squad after Harnish was stepped on during practice, suffering a season-ending Lisfranc injury. Devlin, 26, went undrafted in 2011 after throwing for 22 touchdowns and three interceptions in his final collegiate season at Delaware. Spent two months as the scout squad QB. Re-signed to a reserve/futures deal on Dec. 30.
• Jerome Felton (4.0): Without Peterson, Felton's playing time suffered the most. Saw a season-high 18 snaps in the Sept. 7 opener in St. Louis, the only game Peterson played. Finished with 175 snaps [16.6%], down from 304 in 2013 and his career-high 421 in 2012. Despite his lack of involvement in the Peterson-less offense, he made the most of his spot duty. Named a Pro Bowl alternate. Didn't make the original Pro Bowl ballot and therefore missed out on a $500,000 bonus. Did not draw a penalty. Laid out a Falcons linebacker to pave way for McKinnon's career-long 55-yard run. Nearly 100 games into his career, he scored his first touchdown in a Dec. 7 win over the Jets by recovering a Charles Johnson fumble in the end zone. Mostly phased out of Turner's three-receiver offense. Still in his prime at age 28. Says he'll opt out of his current deal after the Vikings took away $500,000 in a restructure last offseason and gave him that option to turn 2014 into a contract year. Plans to hit free agency and may have played his final game in Minnesota after three seasons.
• Jerick McKinnon (3.5): Entered as the No. 3 running back out of camp. Drafted in the third round (96th overall) in May, the rookie finished tied for fifth in the NFL among RBs with >100 carries by averaging 4.8 yards per attempt. Played 341 snaps [32.4%]. Finished with 538 rushing yards. Did not draw a penalty. Took his first five carries for seven yards. Split duties with Asiata in the Sept. 28 win over Atlanta, racking up a career-best 135 rushing yards, including a career-long 55-yard burst. Led the team in both rushing and receiving yards in his first start on Oct. 12 against Detroit. Allowed four QB hurries in that loss, but proved to be a more consistent pass protector than coaches initially projected. Gave up just one sack and one hurry in the final five games before a back injury he suffered in the weight room forced him to undergo season-ending surgery. Forced nine missed tackles in a two-game stretch in October. Wasn't as effective after his back injury, breaking just one tackle in two games after the bye week before the team shut him down. Overall, he surpassed expectations as a project pick, one that played triple-option QB at Georgia Southern and was acclimating to being a full-time RB. Provided the explosive acceleration that was lacking in the backfield since Peterson's absence and is hardnosed for his 5'9" stature, leading the team with 2.6 yards after contact per carry. Dropped three passes in his first three games, but caught 22 of the next 27 targets. Showed promise in the eight-game sample and could contend for the No. 1 spot depending on Peterson's future with the team.
• Matt Asiata (2.5): Assumed Toby Gerhart's old role as Peterson's backup and started nine games in his absence. Played 538 snaps [51%] and led the Vikings with 570 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns. Drew two penalties. Took a flat route for 25 yards and the Vikings' only score in the 30-7 loss to New England in Week 2, which marked the beginning of a 62-drive streak without a touchdown pass. Finished second on the team with 44 catches, but dropped seven passes and tipped three of those into interceptions. His 3.5-yard average was lowered somewhat by numerous goal line carries. A tough runner without much acceleration. Plays like a FB/RB hybrid and even lined up at fullback on a handful of plays, but still has room to grow as a lead blocker. Lost the starting job after fumbling on a game-long 11-yard run in the Week 5 loss at Lambeau. Did not fumble on his next 102 carries. Pleased people at Winter Park with how he handled his demotion to McKinnon's backup. Allowed five QB hurries in 94 pass-blocking snaps. Became the first player in NFL history to rush for three touchdowns and a two-point conversion in the same game against Washington on Nov. 2. Missed the Nov. 24 loss to Green Bay with a concussion. Resumed the starting role after McKinnon's injury for the final five games and hit his stride in the last three. Gained 271 yards from scrimmage in the last 12 quarters. Broke three tackles and set season bests with runs for 16 and 19 in the season finale against Chicago. A restricted free agent and likely to contend for the No. 2 job again if he stays in Minnesota.
• Joe Banyard (2.0): Promoted from the practice squad after Peterson's placement on the Commissioner's/Exempt list and primarily served as a special teamer until Asiata's concussion held him out of Week 12. Active for a career-most 15 games. Finished with two tackles as a frequent member of the kickoff team. Did not draw a penalty. Played 100 snaps on offense [9.5%]. Served as McKinnon's backup against the Packers on Nov. 24 and averaged 5.6 yards per touch. Benched in the second quarter the following week for blowing a blitz pickup. Allowed three QB hurries on 18 pass protection snaps as coaches felt he wasn't consistent enough in that area. Has decent speed and showed elusiveness in space, but wasn't sound in blocking. A bad punt snap helped force a game-losing safety in Miami, but it was Banyard that got beat off the edge by Dolphins rookie Terrance Fede that helped lead to the block. Entering a contract year in 2015. Could be in the mix for the No. 3 spot, depending how crowded the room gets with free agency/draft moves.
• Zach Line (N/A): Waived to make room for Banyard after Peterson's placement on the CE list. Didn't want to leave Minnesota and was pleased when the Vikings honored their promise by keeping him on the practice squad. Promoted back to the active roster after the team waived Chandler Harnish in Week 5. Did not play on offense. Activated for the first time in the season finale and saw nine special teams snaps. Under contract for 2015. Has played in just four NFL regular season games, but could be in the mix for the fullback spot.
• Henry Josey (N/A): Signed off Jacksonville's practice squad before the Dec. 28 season finale to take Ben Tate's place as the third running back. Inactive for his lone game on the roster. Left Missouri after 1,166 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns in his junior season, but went undrafted in 2014.
• Dominique Williams (N/A): Re-signed to the Vikings' practice squad on Nov. 19 after he was let go in final cutdowns after training camp. Spent a week on the Cardinals practice squad before he was released with an injury settlement on Sept. 9. Re-signed to a reserve/futures deal on Dec. 30.
• Adrian Peterson (N/A): Finished with 75 rushing yards and two catches for 18 yards in the Sept. 7 opener, his only game in 2014 for the Vikings. After news of his formal indictment on child injury charges was made public on Sept. 12, the Vikings deactivated him for their home game two days later. Initial reinstatement was met with sponsor backlash and the Vikings' brass changed course and worked with the NFL to put him on the Commissioner's/Exempt list during the legal process. His indefinite suspension with a six-game fine can end as soon as April 15, but the Vikings can decide on his future before that. He turns 30 in March and has a $15.4 million cap hit in 2015 -- $3 million more than any other RB in the league.
• Greg Jennings (4.0): The highest-paid Viking outside of Peterson, Jennings played a full 16-game slate for the first time since 2010. Turned 31 in September. Struggled to see consistent production in another three-quarterback season with the Vikings. Since signing a five-year, $45 million deal in 2013 free agency, Jennings has played with four different starting Vikings quarterbacks. Saw the fewest targets per game [5.75] of his nine-year career, yet led the team with 59 receptions on 92 targets [64%] for 742 yards and six touchdowns. Played 899 snaps [85.5%]. The most efficient and reliable route runner and it's not really close. Had his worst game in the Week 2 loss to New England; shadowed by Darrelle Revis, caught one pass for four yards and was called for two penalties. Hasn't topped 100 receiving yards in the last 18 games, but provided a reliable set of hands for Bridgewater. Longest catch went for 38 yards on a jump ball down the seam in Buffalo. Admitted fault when he didn't contest a Bridgewater interception in the Nov. 24 loss to Green Bay. Caught four of Bridgewater's final 10 touchdowns of the season and had one wiped out after he dropped a 35-yard touchdown in the season finale; also saved a 3rd-and-12 overthrow from Bridgewater with a one-handed grab for the first down against the Bears. Forced five missed tackles and dropped five passes. Still below average as a blocker, but showed more willingness to do so as the year went on. Could be a restructure candidate as his base salary increases $4 million, making his cap hit $11 million each in the final three years of his deal.
• Jarius Wright (3.5): Entered as the No. 4 receiver and took advantage of attrition and Jerome Simpson's release. Served as the third receiver in three-wide sets all season. Set career-best marks in receptions (42), yards (588) and first downs (25). Added five rushing attempts for 71 yards. Played 526 snaps [50%] and showed improvement as a route runner in his third season. Can be a solid No. 3 for a Vikings' receiving corps currently lacking a No. 1 option. Led the team by catching 67.7% of his targets. Did not draw a penalty. Caught both of Bridgewater's longest passes of 2014 on screens. Took one for 52 yards against the Falcons and set Bridgewater's career long with a game-winning, 87-yard screen for a touchdown in overtime against the Jets. Led the team with 333 yards after the catch. Left the season finale with a back injury. Entering the final year of his rookie deal in 2015.
• Charles Johnson (3.0): Signed off Cleveland's practice squad when the team parted ways with Simpson on Sept. 18. Spent his rookie season with the Browns on injured reserve, but was able to pick up some concepts about Norv Turner's offense. Showed that off by assuming the starting split end role just two months after he joined the team. Played 357 snaps [95%] in the final six games. His first start coincided with Bridgewater's most inaccurate start, catching just 3 of 11 balls and really only had a shot at about half of those in the second loss to Green Bay. Caught Bridgewater's longest non-screen completion on a 56-yard touchdown against the Jets. Nearly had a second touchdown that game, but fumbled at the Jets' 1 to give Felton his first career score on a fumble recovery. Said he wasn't fully comfortable leaping off his surgically repaired knee and hopes to put that behind him in 2015. Dropped two balls. Flagged for offensive pass interference twice, including on 3rd-and-2 in Miami that killed the Vikings' first drive out of halftime. Should push Patterson for the starting split end role this offseason.
• Adam Thielen (3.0): After spending his rookie season on the Vikings' practice squad, Thielen made the 53-man roster as the No. 5 receiver after a solid preseason and did some encouraging things at the end of 2014. Primarily a special teams contributor, but rotated in as a run-blocking receiver early in the season. Looked undersized and has room to grow as a blocker. Played 152 snaps [14.5%] on offense. Scored his first career touchdown with his fiancée at TCF Bank Stadium when he blocked a Panthers punt, recovered and scored for the first of two blocked punts returned for touchdowns by Minnesota in the 31-13 win. Filled in for an injured Wright and benched Patterson in the season finale, catching his first touchdown pass on a 44-yard go route against busted coverage by Chicago. Finished second on the team with 12 combined tackles on special teams coverage units. Prevented a Bears' kickoff return for a touchdown by tackling the returner after a 67-yard gain. Ceiling might not be very high, but impressed some with his commitment to special teams and will likely stick around in that role.
• Cordarrelle Patterson (1.5): A disappointing second season ended by playing just 28 snaps [9.1%] in the final five games. Started the first nine games before he was benched out of the bye week in favor of Johnson. Caught just one ball on seven targets in his final start against Washington, including a head-scratching move in which he lamented an incompletion before the ball hit the ground on a wide open go route. Still saw the bulk of the snaps at Chicago in Week 11, but Johnson's six catches for 87 yards put the nail in his coffin for a team looking to develop their rookie QB. Needs major work as a route runner and wasn't catered to by Turner in his first year at the controls. Flagged twice. Dropped two balls. Broke 16 tackles, including six in the Sept. 7 season opener. Took three rushing attempts for a career-best 102 rushing yards in St. Louis, but couldn't find any room without Peterson in the backfield. Used primarily as a decoy and saw just seven rushing attempts the rest of the season. Still a threat with the ball in his hands, but the Vikings weren't looking to manufacture his touches as he struggled through learning his fourth offense in four years of football. Had the lowest catch rate of any receiver, nabbing 33 receptions on 67 targets [49.2%]. Limited as a kick returner after his dynamic rookie season, partially due to a crop of new special teamers blocking for him. Still finished sixth in the NFL with 25.6 yards per return, but did not score a touchdown. Bobbled his lone target in the season finale into an interception. The Vikings have sought out the help of a former player and/or coach to tutor Patterson in the offseason. Should have every chance to regain his starting split end job, but he likely can't afford another season like 2014.
• Kain Colter (N/A): Signed for a UDFA-high $8,000 bonus out of the rookie minicamp and spent the entire season on the practice squad. Undrafted free agent out of Northwestern, where he played both quarterback and receiver. Saw work as a return man in the offseason. Re-signed to a reserve/futures deal on Dec. 30.
• Donte Foster (N/A): Signed for a $1,000 bonus and spent the entire season on the practice squad as an undrafted free agent out of Ohio University. Another presumed slot option at 6-foot-1, 193 pounds. Re-signed to a reserve/futures deal on Dec. 30.
• Rhett Ellison (4.0): Assumed the starting tight end spot in Rudolph's two-month absence and was a major asset as a run blocker and extra pass protector. Played 564 snaps [53.7%] and set career highs in receptions (19), yards (208) and longest catch (40 yards). Playing like a tall fullback, Ellison forced six missed tackles on 19 catches, including three in the 16-14 loss at Detroit. Can lineup anywhere in the formation and saw a chunk of snaps in the shotgun backfield. Served as Bridgewater's personal protector with 14 pass-blocking snaps in the 29-26 win over Washington. Became more consistent in pass pro as the season went on, but struggled in both matchups against Detroit. Allowed two sacks and five QB hurries on 82 protection snaps. Flagged for a false start in the season finale. Far from perfect, but a very versatile fullback/tight end option that also showed splashes as a tough runner. Entering a contract year in 2015.
• Chase Ford (3.0): Came to training camp with a broken foot, sat out and didn't make it through final cuts. Added to the practice squad and promoted after Rudolph was ruled out for two months following hernia surgery. Played 296 snaps [60.8%] in the seven games without Rudolph. Admitted some hesitancy with running routes with a screw in his foot, but still set career-best marks with 23 catches, 258 yards and his first career touchdown on a 20-yard toss from Bridgewater against Washington. Called for an offensive pass interference in Tampa Bay. A tall target and stout blocker at 6-foot-6, 255 pounds, Ford showed promise if he can stay healthy.
• Kyle Rudolph (2.5): Suffered a tear in the abdominal muscle away from his pelvis, categorized as a sports hernia, just days after he signed a five-year extension worth $36.5 million at the start of training camp. Finished with 24 catches for 231 yards and two touchdowns. Had high hopes after a successful preseason under Turner. Played through the injury for the first three games before the athletic training staff decided surgery was the best option. Sat out two months and wasn't completely healthy upon return. Played 268 snaps [85.6%] in the last five weeks. Caught 14 of 18 targets in those games, but lacked the explosiveness his slimmed-down figure showed in the offseason. Called for three flags: two false starts and a hold. Didn't catch a pass from Bridgewater until Nov. 24 against Green Bay. Hopes to be healthy by spring practices as he enters 2015 the fifth-highest paid at his position.
• Ryan Otten (N/A): Started 2014 with the San Diego Chargers, but was cut after training camp. Joined the Bengals practice squad for a week before he was let go. Initially joined the Vikings' scout squad on Sept. 24 before they released him on Nov. 3 for RaShaun Allen. Seattle grabbed Allen for their active roster and the Vikings re-signed Otten on Nov. 12. He was re-signed to a reserve/futures deal on Dec. 30.
• John Sullivan (4.0): None of the Vikings' linemen looked as good without Peterson in the backfield, but Sullivan remained the anchor in an injury-ravaged group. Played a full 16-game slate for the third consecutive season at age 29. Saw 997 snaps [94.9%], only missing time when he took a knee to the head just 14 plays into the Week 7 loss at Buffalo; suffered his fifth documented concussion, cleared protocol the following week and returned. Committed his lone holding penalty of the season after getting whipped off the line by Chicago's Jay Ratliff in the season finale. Had a rough game in the Oct. 2 drubbing at Lambeau, where he was embarrassed by Mike Daniels for a sack. Daniels later split Sullivan and Kalil for a half sack. Otherwise stout in protection, allowing a line-low 12 QB hurries. Instrumental in paving the way for a season-best 241 rushing yards against the Falcons in Week 4. Still stout against the run, but didn't get as much pub in 2014 with a rotating backfield. Flagged four times. Turns 30 in August. Remains a fixture at center for the foreseeable future. His $5.75 million cap hit in 2015 ranks eighth at his position.
• Phil Loadholt (3.0): Started 11 games at right tackle before suffering a torn pectoral muscle at the end of the Nov. 24 loss to Green Bay. Played 732 snaps [69.4%]. Motioned out to tight end in Week 1, but a false start killed the play and the Vikings didn't use that wrinkle again. Played poorly in the first meeting against the Packers, allowing five pressures and a sack in pass protection. Bull rushed back into Ponder for a quick sack by Nick Perry. Overall, he allowed five sacks, but only three can be pegged directly to him. Played one of his best games of the season against Mario Williams in Buffalo, helping pave the way for McKinnon's 103 rushing yards. Gave up a sack and two QB hits to Willie Young a month later in Chicago. Still the ideal right tackle in run support, but was far from consistent in pass protection in the first year under Turner's scheme. Likely won't be able to get into the weight room again until February and aims to be at full strength by training camp. Paid among the top-5 at his position, he'll need a more stable season in 2015 to show this coaching staff he's worth it.
• Joe Berger (3.0): Took over for Ducasse as the replacement right guard for Fusco in Week 8 and started the final nine games. Played 626 snaps [59.6%]. Had his best game in Week 15 against Detroit, relentlessly shutting down Ndamukong Suh to just one tackle. Showed at age 32 that he's still an adequate, versatile backup. Also filled in at center in Buffalo. Drew one penalty for a false start. Allowed 12 QB hurries. A 2015 free agent that could be a priority to re-sign unless they opt to develop younger players.
• Mike Harris (2.0): Started the final five games at right tackle for Loadholt after the Vikings claimed him off waivers from the Chargers in final cuts on Aug. 31. Admirably filled in at right guard in Buffalo and did a sufficient job considering he was playing out of position. Wasn't able to find similar success on the outside as he allowed five sacks, including two in a tough matchup to Miami's Cameron Wake in Week 16. Also struggled in the season finale with Bears backup David Bass, giving up a couple pressures and a sack. Can be physical in the run game when he's aggressive, but wasn't able to consistently apply that through five starts. He's a restricted free agent and likely has the Vikings sorting out their options at swing tackle moving forward.
• Charlie Johnson (2.0): Re-signed to a two-year, $5 million contract in the offseason, Johnson started 13 games at left guard before an ankle sprain forced him to miss the games at Miami and Detroit. Played 886 snaps [84.3%]. Paired with Kalil to make a treacherous left side for Bridgewater as Johnson allowed five sacks and 27 QB hurries, both marks worse than his 15-start campaign in 2013. Flagged once for a false start. Returned and had his most complete game in the season finale against the Bears, but he may not be guaranteed his spot in 2015. Still has one year left on his deal. He'll be 31 in May and should have competition this offseason.
• Vlad Ducasse (2.0): Started four games at right guard for Fusco before a knee injury removed him from the Buffalo game. Lost his starting job to Berger after that and didn't see any time again until Johnson left the Jets game to injury. Filled in at left guard for the next two games. Played 417 snaps [39.7%]. The heaviest guard on the roster listed at 325 pounds, his strength is supposed to be in run blocking, but he looked consistently slow in getting to the second level. Beat up by former Vikings NT Letroy Guion in Week 5, giving up two sacks and two pressures. Allowed nine QB hurries and four sacks overall in pass protection and at least proved tough to move. Drew five penalties, including tying a team high with four holding calls. A free agent this offseason, but the Vikings may have seen enough.
• Matt Kalil (1.5): Coming off his first career surgery in April, Kalil missed most OTAs in May/June and wasn't able to get into the full swing with his surgically repaired knee until training camp. Played all 1,051 snaps and has yet to miss a play in his three NFL seasons. Exhibition struggles foretold the disappointing season to come as he allowed a career-worst 36 QB hurries and gave way to stellar performances by New England's Chandler Jones and Detroit's Ziggy Ansah in the first half of the season, which led to conference player of the week honors for both. Gave up 1.5 sacks to Jones and a blocked field goal in Week 2 and followed that up with Ansah's 2.5-sack outing in Week 6. Wasn't balanced in his pass protection sets early on, leading way to struggles vs. quicker rushers like Junior Galette and Ansah. His hand placement also looked out of whack as he led the Vikings with 12 penalties, including four holds, two illegal use of hands and a face mask. Looked lethargic at times against the run and didn't always stick to blocks. Drew a career-worst three penalties in the Nov. 24 loss to Green Bay, leading frustration to boil over as he walked away from reporters and got into a minor spat with a fan outside the stadium. Bounced back after that. Allowed just one sack, on a stunt from Sheldon Richardson which led to a safety, in the final five games. Still gave up 10 pressures in the last four games and can benefit greatly from a surgery-less offseason to get his knee and technique right.
• Austin Wentworth (N/A): Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Fresno State with a $2,000 bonus, Wentworth made the 53-man roster but was waived just hours later after the Vikings claimed Harris from the Chargers. The Vikings shed 2014 draft pick Kendall James to put Wentworth on the practice squad, where he stayed for three weeks before Fusco moved to IR. Promoted to the active roster and played seven snaps [3.5%] in the final three games as an extra tackle. Could benefit from a full offseason in the weight room. Praised by coaches for his versatility, playing all five positions in camp.
• Brandon Fusco (N/A): Awarded a five-year, $25 million extension just before the season opener, he started three games before suffering a torn pectoral in New Orleans. Played 176 snaps [16.7%]. Played like a rock at right guard by allowing just one QB pressure in those three contests. Flagged for a false start against New England. Plans to be back in the weight room by the end of January and aims for full strength by OTAs.
• David Yankey (N/A): Drafted in the fifth round [145th overall] in May, Yankey wasn't activated until Week 16 in Miami. Wasn't with the team much after the draft as he had to complete his degree at Stanford and can benefit from a full offseason in the weight room. Wasn't strong enough to warrant spot start consideration in his rookie season, but could have the chance to push for the left guard spot this offseason.
• Carter Bykowski (N/A): The Eden Prairie, Minn. native was signed off San Francisco's practice squad on Dec. 10 and got his first shot on a 53-man roster. Wasn't active for the final three games. At 6-foot-7, 306 pounds, he has decent size, but could add more to his frame. A backup candidate for 2015.
• Zac Kerin (N/A): Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Toldeo without a bonus, Kerin was added to the practice squad after final cuts. Stayed on the scout squad all season as a center. Re-signed to a reserve/futures deal on Dec. 30.
• Jordan McCray (N/A): Added to the practice squad on Dec. 17 after the team promoted safety Ahmad Dixon to the active roster. Originally signed with the Packers as an undrafted free agent out of Central Florida. Re-signed to a reserve/futures deal on Dec. 30.
• Antonio Richardson (N/A): Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Tennessee without a bonus. Considered one of college football's rising left tackles after his sophomore season in 2012, but knee surgery and a supbar 2013 created concerns about his health. Landed on injured reserve and had two knee surgeries in September. Has high potential, listed at 6-foot-6, 336 pounds, but needs to stay healthy to stick around.
The last poll they had on this was back in late November/early December.. at that time, while things were still up in the air if he'd play the last month or not, over 70% of the Fans wanted him back.Based on recent statements it seems that the Vikings want to keep Peterson. I am somewhat skeptical about that due to how the majority of Minnesotans feel about child abuse. But much worse things have been done against the will of the public.
If they do keep Peterson, it is possible there is a contract renegotiation that could free some cap space and the Vikings are not really in trouble do to the salary cap.
For free agents at RB not many of them are really an upgrade over Matt Asiata who is a RFA this year. I expect Asiata to be retained.
Of the free agent RB some of them are receiving RB such as Shane Vereen and Roy Helu who could be capable of a larger role than they have earned thus far.
Other free agents to consider are Frank Gore, CJ Spiller, Ryan Matthews, Knowshon Moreno, Maybe DeMarco Murray becomes available.
If the goal is to upgrade a power RB of Matt Asiata the Vikings could consider Mark Ingram or Steven Ridley. Are they any better than Asiata?
The draft offers a lot of options and perhaps better ones than what is available in free agency. I would prefer the Vikings not use a pick hgher than the 4th round to address this position so that they can focus on upgrading the defense and offensive line with those earlier selections. Although the Vikings got a lot better on defense last season, they still need playmakers at all three levels of the defense.
Good luck reading the tea leaves when it comes to Rick Spielman. But it seems pretty clear he is looking at all available options.A month ago, general manager Rick Spielman noted if Adrian Peterson wasn't in the Vikings' future, they wouldn't be scraping for options in the upcoming NFL draft.
"I think a lot of it will depend on Adrian's situation," Spielman said. "But I also know just initially as I've started putting a little bit of the draft stuff together, it's a pretty good running back class this year. I think it's one of the better running back classes in depth-wise that has came out in a while."
Peterson is under contract for $45 million in the next three seasons, none guaranteed. His current situation, top-market salary entering age 30 while still entangled in a legal battle between the NFL and its union, isn't ideal for neither Peterson nor the Vikings, who have continued to send a clear message they'd welcome Peterson back, if he's cleared to play by the NFL. At what price? That's not as clear. The Vikings will surely be doing their due diligence on this year's running back class to prepare for all possible outcomes. Matt Asiata is a restricted free agent after carrying the bulk of the load in Peterson's absence off a one-year, $570,000 contract. Coach Mike Zimmer appreciated Asiata's modus operandi, though he lost the starting job to Jerick McKinnon before McKinnon's season ended with back surgery. McKinnon could contend for a starting role if Peterson isn't in the picture, however that scenario likely includes adding a player or two.
[SIZE=small]Level of need[/SIZE]
Low to high -- Since drafting Peterson in 2007, the Vikings have only selected two running backs in seven years -- Toby Gerhartand McKinnon. The club currently has Peterson, McKinnon, Joe Banyard, Dominique Williams and Henry Josey under contract. Without Peterson, the Vikings could look to add a higher-level talent to the mix, whether through free agency or the draft. If Peterson stays, the group would be very well off with a 1-2 of Peterson and McKinnon.
[SIZE=small]Players to watch[/SIZE]
There are 36 running backs invited to participate in the combine, so the Vikings should have a short list to watch. After the top tier, the prospects include Alabama's T.J. Yeldon, Minnesota's David Cobb, Michigan State's Jeremy Langford, Auburn's Cameron Artis-Payne, LSU's Terrence Magee, Louisville's Dominique Brown, Texas' Malcolm Brown, Florida's Matt Jones and USC's Javorius Allen, among others.
Of the 30 mock drafts that we've selected for our Pre-Combine database, a whopping 19 of them have the Vikings taking a wide receiver with their first pick. That's about a 63% selection rate for the wide receiver position, far more than all the other positions in this database combined. The overwhelming favorite at this point is Louisville wide receiver DeVante Parker, who appears 13 times. That's 43% of our mock drafts that have the Vikings reuniting Parker with his former Louisville teammate, Teddy Bridgewater. Kevin White of West Virginia comes in second among wide receivers, and second in our database overall, with five selections, or right around 17% of selections. There was also one selection for Amari Cooper out of Alabama (3%).
The only other position with multiple players and multiple selections is the offensive line, which garnered eight of the 30 selections in this Pre-Combine database. So, approximately 27% of our mock drafters think the Vikings need to shore up the offensive line. The most popular pick among the offensive linemen so far is Iowa guard/tackleBrandon Scherff, who appears three times (10%). Pittsburgh offensive tackle T.J. Clemmings comes away with two selections this time around (7%), while La'el Collins of LSU and Andrus Peat of Stanford each come away with one selection (3% each).
There are four positions that had one player receiving one selection this time around, or approximately 3% of the proverbial pie. The defensive tackles are represented by Danny Shelton of Washington, the safeties by Landon Collins of Alabama, the cornerbacks by Trae Waynes of Michigan State, and the linebackers by Shelton's Washington teammate, Shaq Thompson. I'm classing Thompson as a linebacker for the purposes of the database because that's where he's said he'd prefer to play.
“It’s interesting, because Minnesota’s sitting there at No. 11 and the whole Peterson thing becomes intriguing because (Jerick) McKinnon’s coming off surgery. (Matt) Asiata was a tough guy. I get all of those kinds of things. But at the end of the day, you’re going to have to look for a full-time tailback.”
“At running back we start talking about big, strong guys that are the Boise (State) kid, (Jay Ajayi), he’s a solid second round pick. Tevin Coleman from Indiana is a little like a (Darren) McFadden from the Oakland Raiders. Upright, explosive kid. He gets a gash and he can take it to the house.”
Reportedly McKinnon will be fully healthy and ready to participate in OTAs. Of course the importance of the Vikings adding another RB through either FA or the draft is largely dependent on what they decide to do with Adrian Peterson. If Peterson is not going to play for the VIkings in 2015 then I agree RB becomes a higher priority. I think McKinnon is fully capable of a 250+ touch role in the offense. But without Peterson depth and a upgrade from Asiata become more important. If Peterson stays, then the need for another RB is very low.“I think offensive linewise, left guard, right tackle, corner is still a need. I really like what’s happening with Xavier Rhodes, and I think Mike Zimmer’s one of the best corner evaluators and coaches in football. So if they win corner at 11, that wouldn’t surprise me.”