Quotulatiousness

September 25, 2017

Tampa Bay at Minnesota – welcome to the Case Keenum show, starring Case Keenum!

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Minnesota’s starting quarterback is still out with knee issues, so backup Case Keenum got all the practice reps with the first team this week, and it really showed to excellent effect in this game. I noted in my game report last week that Keenum didn’t seem to be able to release the ball as fast as Bradford, which allowed defensive pressure to get to him far too often. That issue was completely cleaned up in this game — although it should be noted that Tampa Bay was missing a number of their defensive starters and suffered a rash of injuries during the game on top of that. The final score of 31-17 makes the game appear closer on the scoreboard than it was on the playing field.

The difference a week of practice will make for an NFL quarterback: Keenum found out about an hour before the Steelers game that he’d be starting, and hadn’t had much chance to work with the starters, and the result was painful to watch. In contrast, having the full week of practice allowed Keenum to develop a good working relationship with wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, both of whom had great games (Diggs – 8 receptions for 173 yards and 2 TDs, Thielen – 5 for 98 yards). Keenum finished with 25 of 33 completions for 369 yards (a career best) with three touchdowns and a passer rating of 142.1. Best supporting actor player for the offense was probably Dalvin Cook, who is playing at a very high level indeed (my favourite infographic during the game showed a comparison between Adrian Peterson’s first three games and Cook, showing Cook ahead on total yards and yards per carry on fewer carries … while the announcer said “nobody is comparing him to Peterson”). Cook’s numbers for the game were 27 rushes for 97 yards and a TD, with five receptions for 72 yards.

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September 21, 2017

The Vikings’ “quarterback curse”

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the Star Tribune Jim Souhan recounts the long, sad saga of Minnesota’s quest for a franchise quarterback after Fran Tarkenton retired:

Vikings fans like to claim they are cursed by big-game losses, but losing in excruciating fashion isn’t a curse, it’s the nature of sport for all but a lucky few franchises.

If they want to claim a curse, they should cite their quarterback history, which features as many hospital gowns as game jerseys.

Sam Bradford’s knee isn’t just sore. It’s the aching juncture of an existential threat to this year’s team and the franchise’s near future.

Since Fran Tarkenton retired, the Vikings have been scrambling like Sir Francis to fill the position.

Some franchises can brag about multiple greats. Joe Montana and Steve Young. Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. Terry Bradshaw and Ben Roethlisberger.

The Vikings counter with Spergon Wynn and Christian Ponder.

[…]

The Vikings have won one playoff game in the past 13 seasons. And that came with a renegade Packer making a cameo.

The Vikings haven’t won a playoff game with a quarterback they drafted since Daunte Culpepper beat the Packers in the 2004 playoffs.

The past two quarterbacks drafted by the Vikings to play in a Super Bowl: Brad Johnson with the Buccaneers, and Rich Gannon with the Raiders.

Other than Culpepper, the Vikings haven’t won a playoff game with a quarterback they drafted since Wade Wilson beat the Saints in the 1987 playoffs.

And if greatness and Super Bowl championships are the goal, this may be the most damning piece of history of all for the Vikings:

They haven’t drafted a quarterback who would make the Hall of Fame since 1961.

The Vikings’ current roster features two potential franchise quarterbacks, Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater. Both have knee injuries that threaten the team’s season and possibly their careers.

Either could theoretically be the starting quarterback at the end of this season and the beginning of next. But the team has to fear that neither will be able to recover well enough to be the players they are capable of being.

The last true franchise quarterback the Vikings employed, Culpepper, also had his career path ruined by a knee injury.

September 18, 2017

Bradford-less Vikings fall to Steelers, 26-9

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

After being the toast of the NFL last week, Minnesota’s starting quarterback Sam Bradford missed several team practices with knee inflammation and was eventually declared unable to play in Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. This meant number two quarterback Case Keenum was the starter and freshly promoted-from-the-practice-squad Ryan Sloter was the backup. The oddsmakers were quick to drop the Vikings’ chances from being 5.5 point underdogs to 11 points, and as the game unfolded, you could certainly understand why.

Despite the final score, this game could have been much more competitive, except for Viking penalties (14, but only 12 accepted for 136 yards), particularly defensive pass interference and holding: both Steelers touchdowns were made possible by Viking infractions.

While it’s undeniable that the Vikings’ offensive line has been much improved from last season, they are still not good enough to keep the pocket clean for as long as Keenum needed (Bradford appears to have a faster release than Keenum, so some of the pressure that got to Keenum might not have gotten to Bradford on the same play call). Names that got called far too often by the TV crew were Nick Easton and Mike Remmers — good offensive linemen almost never get mentioned in the course of a game, but linemen who get beat or get penalized get their names called.

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September 12, 2017

MNF – Vikings beat New Orleans Saints 29-19 in season opener

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

One of the bigger story lines coming in to Monday night’s game between the New Orleans Saints and the Minnesota Vikings was the return of running back Adrian Peterson. After spending his entire career with the Vikings, he was clearly relishing the chance to play against his former team and provided lots of juicy quotes to the media about his plan to “stick it” to the Vikings. It didn’t quite work out the way he was hoping…

The Vikings’ expensively re-tooled offensive line — who didn’t play a single down together during the preseason — did a great job of protecting Sam Bradford. Right tackle Mike Remmers was responsible for one sack by Cameron Jordan, but otherwise the line largely kept the pressure away from Bradford. Without the need to constantly check down or run for his life (like most of the 2016 season), Bradford put in a very impressive performance, 27 of 32 for 346 yards and three touchdowns. The most impressive was a lightning-quick three play drive late in the first half that covered 74 yards and ended in a touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs.

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September 4, 2017

After the waiver period, the Vikings sign players to their 10-man practice squad

Filed under: Football — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 05:00

The Vikings only received one player off the waiver wire, former San Francisco tight end Blake Bell. Bell was coached by current Vikings OL coach Tony Sparano during his rookie year. The team freed up a roster spot for him by waiving/injured tight end Bucky Hodges.

Among the Vikings’ waivered players, offensive lineman Zac Kerin was claimed by the Detroit Lions, linebacker Edmond Robinson was claimed by the New York Jets, and (showing just how desperate teams are for offensive linemen) former starting tackle T.J. Clemmings was picked up by the Washington Redskins. Both Kerin and Robinson had standing invitations to the Vikings’ practice squad if they cleared waivers (Clemmings almost certainly did not).

The following players have been added to the practice squad:

  • LB Elijah Lee (drafted by the Vikings in the seventh round, initially claimed he didn’t want to join Minnesota’s PS and hoped to be picked up by another team instead)
  • QB Kyle Sloter (Played the preseason in Denver, going 31 of 43 for 413 yards with 3 TDs and 0 INTs … with Taylor Heinicke going to IR, the team definitely needed another quarterback for the scout team. The Vikings are paying him serious money for a PS player: $340,000 … NFL minimum for a rookie on the 53-man roster is $465,000.)
  • RB Bronson Hill (free agent who spent time with the Bengals and Jaguars in 2016)
  • DT Ifeadi Odenigbo (drafted by the Vikings in the seventh round of the 2017 draft)
  • CB Horace Richardson (undrafted free agent, spent the preseason with the Vikings)
  • DT Dylan Bradley (undrafted free agent, spent the preseason with the Vikings)
  • TE Kyle Carter (spent time on the Vikings PS in 2016, undrafted in 2016)
  • WR Cayleb Jones (free agent who was on the Eagles PS in 2016, then signed to the Vikings PS in December)

Two spots on the practice squad remained open, as of Sunday night.

Update: The Vikings signed two players to fill the remaining spots on the practice squad on Monday:

  • C Cornelius Edison (was on Chicago’s roster and appeared in six games and spent the preseason with Atlanta)
  • OT Cedrick Lang (spent the preseason with Denver)

September 3, 2017

Vikings cut down to “final” 53 players for 2017

Filed under: Football — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

I put the quotes around the word “final” in the headline because every team in the league will be sifting through the nearly 2,000 players who were waived in the last 48 hours and a few may end up bumping someone off the roster as a result. Those veteran players who were released are eligible to sign with any team, but players with less than four years of NFL experience are subject to waiver claims, which are allocated based on the previous season’s finishing order. The team with the worst 2016 record has top priority for waiver claims and the current Super Bowl champs have lowest priority. So, for example, Cleveland could claim up to 53 players off the waiver wire, and would be awarded with every one of them. The Vikings are near the middle of the pack for waiver priority. At noon Eastern time on Sunday, teams are informed if their waiver claims have been granted and after 1:00pm, all teams can begin signing eligible players to their 10-man practice squads.

Most of the players who didn’t make the 53-man roster were not expected to, but one player not only was expected to, he was a starter: offensive guard Alex Boone was released only one year into his four-year contract. Boone had not been playing as well as hoped, but few people expected him to be cut. His release means the team takes a $3.4 million hit (the guaranteed portion of his salary), but also frees up another $3.3 million under the salary cap. Arif Hasan found the cut “baffling“.

Until the waiver wire results are announced, here is the Vikings roster for 2017:

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August 28, 2017

Vikings edge 49ers 32-31 with last-second two-point conversion

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

For most teams, the third preseason game is a dress rehearsal for the regular season: they play their starters for the first half, getting in some good drives (ideally) and shutting down their opponents’ drives (also ideally). One of the teams playing in Minneapolis last night did both of those things, while the other team signally failed to do either. Unfortunately for the home fans, it was San Francisco’s starters who clearly outplayed the Vikings’ starters on both sides of the ball, and it wasn’t close.

The Vikings’ expensively retooled offensive line did not show well, and the 49er defence made them look almost as bad as last season’s collection of tackling dummies. Sam Bradford was under siege and that forced several check-down passes that failed to move the chains. Top wide receiver Stefon Diggs dropped two passes that would have secured first downs, and Dalvin Cook was not being given a lot of running room between the tackles. A few players did show up to play: Adam Thielen and Laquon Treadwell made some tough catches, but overall the starters made enough mistakes to ensure they were down 14 points at the end of the first half, and the starting defence seemed to be out-of-synch through two quarters as well. Defenders seemed to have a knack for getting in one anothers’ way, which created opportunities for 49er receivers and running backs. At one point two linebackers each ran the wrong way — almost colliding — effectively taking them both out of the play. The defensive backs also showed an inability to track receivers or to tackle them after the ball arrived. Safety Harrison Smith and corner Xavier Rhodes both made blatant mistakes in coverage, allowing key completions to San Francisco.

During the second half, backup quarterback Case Keenum was able to get the offence moving, eventually scoring two touchdowns (one to tight end Kyle Carter and the other to receiver Stacy Coley). Running back Jerick McKinnon helped shift momentum back to the Vikings after a terrible defensive breakdown led to a long San Francisco touchdown by returning the ensuing kickoff for a Vikings touchdown.

Finally, reportedly playing with a rib injury, third-string quarterback Taylor Heinicke put together the final drive of the game, finishing with a short rushing touchdown by Terrell Newby and then sealing the win with a quarterback scramble to score the two-point conversion right at the pylon. He certainly showed grit and determination, although his passes were not as accurate as usual (probably also due to his injury). The NBC announcers were quite impressed with Heinicke’s effort and even if he doesn’t make the Vikings roster, he certainly boosted his chances of making another team’s roster after cut-down.

August 27, 2017

Stop Subsidizing Sports!

Filed under: Economics, Education, Government, Sports, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 25 Aug 2017

Let’s talk about “sports”—that thing where we gather around to watch a muscular stranger put a regulation-size ball in a specific location.

Why are taxpayers forced to pony up cash for athletic ventures that don’t benefit them? Franchise owners routinely extort massive stadium subsidies through threats of relocation and fake promises of economic revitalization. Universities jack up student rates to subsidize athletic programs that should be self-sustaining. And the Olympics is economically devastating to every municipality foolish enough to get suckered by one of the oldest scams around.

Mostly Weekly host Andrew Heaton explores the sports phenomenon and why we should quit throwing other people’s money at it.

Links, past episodes, and more at https://reason.com/reasontv/2017/08/25/stop-subsidizing-sports

Script by Sarah Siskind with writing assistant from Andrew Heaton and David Fried.
Edited by Austin Bragg and Siskind.
Produced by Meredith and Austin Bragg.
Theme Song: Frozen by Surfer Blood.

August 26, 2017

Hot takes are easy, if you’re Andy Benoit

Filed under: Football, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

At the Daily Norseman, taking shots at “pro” sports personalities comes as second nature. Ted Glover and Eric Thompson have developed a particular joy in sharing the … gems … from Andy Benoit’s Twitter feed, and have taken it one step further:

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August 22, 2017

Vikings preseason game 2 good and bad performances

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

I was all set to watch last Friday’s preseason game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Seattle Seahawks, only to discover that my local cable provider had, at some point since last season, changed out the NFL Network channel for something like “Memories of NFL Network” instead. Where the real NFL Network channel was showing the Seahawks and Vikings, my local “equivalent” was showing endless episodes of something like “A Football Life”. I’d tell you more, but I turned it off quite quickly.

This is why, among other reasons, I didn’t do any kind of post about the game over the weekend. To make up for that, I’ll just roundup the winners and losers in the race for the 53-man roster from game in Seattle.

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August 11, 2017

Vikings beat Bills 17-10 in (predictably ugly) preseason action

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

The Vikings broke training camp earlier this week and flew to Buffalo to face the Bills in the first preseason game for both teams on Thursday night. Neither team’s starters were expected to see more than perhaps a quarter of action before yielding to second and third stringers, hoping to solidify their chances at a roster spot after the mandatory cuts at the end of the preseason.

The first quarter was filled with vaguely football-like activities, with both teams’ starters knocking off some of the rust in full-contact play. Minnesota’s retooled offensive line didn’t look great: Sam Bradford was sacked twice before Case Keenum came in at quarterback. Disturbingly, each of the offensive tackles gave up a sack. The backups on the offensive line seemed to do better protecting Keenum than the starters had done for Bradford, but Keenum’s faster release (and the play-calling) probably had a lot to do with that. Other than that, it was the Dalvin Cook show, with the rookie running back seeming to be the only Viking player allowed to touch the ball while the starters were on the field. He ended up with five carries for 13 yards and four catches for 30 yards. Neither team set the scoreboard on fire, with the first half ending in a 3-3 tie. The bad news in the first half was starting cornerback Trae Waynes leaving during the first defensive series with a shoulder injury. Joining him early in the second half on the injured list was running back Bishop Sankey, who suffered a non-contact knee injury at the end of a 10-yard run.

Third-string quarterback Taylor Heinicke didn’t look as strong in this game as he did in the 2015 preseason, prompting this jab:

A few other players who stood out during the course of the game were WR Stacy Coley (three receptions for 67 yards), DE Tashawn Bower (a sack, three QB pressures and a batted pass), FB C.J. Ham (a short rushing TD), and LB Eric Wilson (six tackles).

The next Vikings preseason game will be in Seattle on Friday, 18 August.

August 7, 2017

Dutee Chand and the international sporting dilemma

Filed under: India, Sports — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Dutee Chand is a woman who competes for India in track and field events. Dutee Chand has elevated levels of testosterone in her body … this creates a problem for those who determine who is allowed to compete as a woman in international sporting events:

Dutee Chand won the bronze medal in 22nd Asian Athletics Championships in Bhubaneswar, 8 July 2017. (via Wikimedia)

For the past two years, Dutee Chand could be herself.

She could run and train and even compete in the Rio Olympics. She didn’t have to constantly remind people that, yes, of course, she is a woman and that, yes, of course, she qualifies to compete with other women despite her naturally high level of testosterone.

She didn’t have to feel pressure to change her body so it conformed to rules or contemplate quitting her sport — pressure placed on her after doctors subjected her to gender testing in 2013, humiliating her by doing so, when she was only 17.

For two years, she could just be Dutee Chand. That’s because, two years ago last month, the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which is the supreme court for global sports, temporarily suspended an international track and field rule that had barred her from competing as a woman.

Chand, a sprinter from India, and women like her were excluded because their bodies produced a high amount of testosterone. It was often so high it was classified as being within the male range, a situation the authorities considered an unfair advantage. The only way these women could compete, track and field officials ruled, was if they took hormone-suppressing drugs or had surgery to limit the amount of testosterone their bodies produced.

The problem for international sporting bodies is that they’re still stuck in the binary — only two genders — model of competition, which leaves them unable to cope with situations like this. They can either prevent athletes like Dutee Chand from competing against other women or accept that the old standards no longer apply. Pushed to the limit, this means there can no longer be any kind of binary division of sporting activities into the old “male” and “female” categories … which will, in all likelihood, be devastating to women hoping to compete internationally, nationally, or even regionally. There’s no easy answer, and any Solomonic decision is going to make the situation worse, not better.

At its core, the sports world — rigidly separating men and women — will perpetually struggle to adapt to increasingly nuanced gender distinctions. In June, the District of Columbia became the first jurisdiction in the United States to offer an “X” gender, signifying a neutral gender, on its driver’s licenses. In March, a transgender New Zealand woman crushed her competition in her first international weight-lifting meet, and a transgender boy won a Texas state championship in girls’ wrestling.

Not every governing body is equipped to rule on these kind of eligibility questions. Not every athlete fits into this box, or that one.

To Chand, though, the issue of hyperandrogenism in sports is clear cut. She grew up as a girl. At 21, she is a proud young woman. She wants to race as one.

On Saturday, she did. But in the coming months, the Court of Arbitration for Sport will decide whether letting her continue to do so is fair.

What if it gets it wrong?

Vikings training camp – “Oh, no, here we go again!”

Filed under: Football — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

At the Star Tribune, Jim Souhan explains why the recent rash of injuries at Vikings training camp is causing incidents of deja vu for both coaching staff and fans:

Reiff has missed much of the beginning of training camp with a back injury. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer says it’s not serious, but it already is.

The 2016 Vikings should have won 10 or 11 games even without Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson. An offensive line that collapsed like a Teflon dome in a snowstorm reduced the victory total to eight.

Reiff became the Vikings’ most important free agent signing. He immediately became the starting left tackle, a position that turned into a wind tunnel last year.

Reiff is a former first-round draft pick. When you take a left tackle in the first round, you hope he’ll hold the position for a decade or more. He lasted five years in Detroit. Then the Lions let him leave.

For all of the hopes attached to him, he’s a lot like the player he’s replacing. Matt Kalil was a first-round pick in 2012 who lasted five years before leaving in free agency. For all of the angst caused by Kalil’s regression, the Viking at this point would settle for a Kalil-like performance at left tackle. Anything but a windsock would be an improvement.

So the Vikings’ last stay in Mankato is not going as Zimmer would have hoped.

Reiff is hurt. Even if he returns soon, he will have missed valuable time learning the offense.

Free-agent running back Latavius Murray hasn’t practiced. Wide receiver Laquon Treadwell is recovering from an injury he says wasn’t caused by a scuffle with Antone Exum. Given the NFL’s history of injury disclosure what we can take from that is that he was definitely injured in a scuffle with Exum.

Reiff, Murray and Treadwell were supposed to be three reasons for optimism. Like the offensive line last year, they have become problems.

August 1, 2017

QotD: NFL preseason game passion and intensity

Filed under: Football, Humour, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The NFL pre-season is getting underway, with teams using their matchups to assess the rookies and free agents who all hope to make the team. The Vikings played the Arizona Cardinals in Minnesota on Saturday night. The new coach of the Cardinals was formerly the head coach of the Vikings. The Cardinals had a last-second, fourth-down, desperation play in the last regular season game which knocked the Vikings out of the playoff race. There was thought to be plenty of incipient drama to this game. This article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press talks about the lack of excitement in the game:

    Last and best sign it’s the preseason: The Vikings were offside on a fourth-quarter kickoff. Twice. In succession.

Reposted from the old blog (no longer online), 2004-08-15.

July 28, 2017

Vikings training camp begins

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

While the rookies and some recent free agents reported to camp on Sunday, the bulk of the team and most of the veterans didn’t have to report until Wednesday afternoon. The theory to this was to build on the OTA and rookie mini-camp experiences for the younger players, and those new to the Vikings organization this season, before the full team practice sessions began. The team is holding their final training camp at Minnesota State University in Mankato after 52 years, and next year’s training camp will be held in their new team facilities in Eagan, MN.

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