Archive for the Sidney Rice Category


Minnesota Vikings Win 38-10; Coach Brad, Is This The Kick Ass Offense?

Coach Brad Childress’ offensive play calling over his first three years at the helm of the Vikings has been unimaginative, too conservative and worst of all . . . utterly predictable.  

When Childress came to Minnesota he boasted that his offensive scheme was a “kick-ass offense.” Vikings fans were giddy over the prospect of seeing the purple post numbers similar to when Randy Moss and Chris Carter were catching passes from Randall Cunningham and Daunte Culpepper.

Instead fans saw simple running plays up the middle and too often saw short passes designed for receivers to earn a first down by fighting for yards after the catch.   

The Vikings offense finished 12th overall in the NFL last year.  The finish for the offensive unit was especially underwhelming given that the team boasted the league leading rusher in Adrian Peterson.

Expectations for this year were high with the addition of Brett Favre and Percy Harvin.  The offense point total has not disappointed with the Vikings scoring at least 27 points in each game this year.   

The play calling this year however has occasionally been reminiscent of the past—too conservative and too predictable.  Case in point, the fourth quarter playing calling by the Vikings on Monday Night against Green Bay during Week Four allowed the Packers to get back in the game.

Going into the St. Louis Rams game this weekend, fans were curious to see if the Vikings would unveil their kick ass offense or revert back to their old playing calling ways. 

In evaluating the Vikings play calling against the Rams, fans were left with mixed emotions.  There was nothing really imaginative about the plays called.  Yet, the Vikings did mix up their play  calling enough to keep the Rams guessing.

Simple Plays

The running game was pure vanilla ice cream without a hint of syrup.  The Vikings did not a run a single counter trap for Peterson or Chester Taylor. 

The Vikings were content to go straight ahead running primarily behind All-Pro Steve Hutchinson and Bryant McKinnie.  The result was a very pedestrian 89 yards on 24 carries.  The longest run of the day was 15 yards by Peterson.

The passing game was a little more exotic; imagine an additional scoop of chocolate or strawberry ice cream.

The Vikings really used only four passing plays to dissect the Rams secondary.

First, the Vikings ran their play action with a naked bootleg to perfection all day. 

During their first series, Favre hit a wide open Harvin who subsequently broke tackles down field on his way to a 24 yard gain.  Peterson then took the ball into the end zone on the next play.

During the second series of the second quarter, Favre again hooked up with Harvin on the same play for a nice 19 yard gain.  The Vikings subsequently kicked a field goal.

Second, the Vikings used the screen pass to take advantage of the aggressiveness of the Rams defense.   Favre hit Peterson and Visanthe Shiancoe for gains of 9 and 11 yards respectively.

The Vikings quarterback who used the play most effectively however was Tarvaris Jackson.

The Rams sought to rattle Jackson with blitzes in hopes of an interception that they could take to the house to get themselves back in the game.  

On a 3rd down and 1 at the Vikings 29 yard line, the Rams came with a blitz. Jackson very patiently waited for a screen to develop for his Fullback Naufahu Tahi.   Tahi welcomed the spotlight and went rumbling down field for a 32 yard gain. 3 plays later with the ball on the Rams 36 yard line, the Vikings were faced with a 3rd down and 7.  The Rams expecting Jackson to drop back came up the middle the hard.

The Vikings guessed correctly by calling a center screen for Chester Taylor.  Again, Jackson patiently dropped back and waited for defense to sell out.  Jackson saw the fruits of his patience as Taylor took the screen 33 yards down to the Rams 3.

Third, when the Rams were in zone coverage the Vikings would hit their second receiver after sending their first receiver through the zone as a decoy.

The beneficiaries of this play were Shiancoe and Taylor.  Favre’s value to the Vikings is likely most evident on this play because of his early recognition of the zone defense at the line and his willingness to not to lock on to one receiver.

The best example of this play was the Vikings touchdown pass to Shiancoe in the third quarter.  

The Vikings were in the red zone at the Rams 13 yard line.  The Vikings sent a player in motion; the player was a decoy and it appeared sending him  in  motion had its intended effect of getting the Rams attention.

Favre did not give the play away by locking on to Shiancoe.  Instead as soon as Shiancoe broke open, Favre turned, fired, and hit him in stride preventing the Rams defenders from putting a hand on Shiancoe.

In fairness to the Vikings coaching staff, they probably didn’t open up their playbook to keep their next three opponents in the dark. 

Predictable

While the plays were simple, the Vikings did a good job mixing things up to keep the Rams guessing.

Peterson had not gained more than 100 yards in his past 3 games.  Last year, everyone would have expected the Vikings to hand off the ball to Peterson early and often.

Instead, the Vikings threw the Rams a curve ball by starting with a pass to Sidney Rice followed up with short screen pass to Peterson. 

The message sent by the Vikings is a good message to the Rams and the League. 

In passing to Rice, the Vikings are stating that they feel confident beating teams with their passing game. 

The screen pass to Peterson says he can no longer  be thought of as only a threat to run the ball.  Last year, Peterson had 21 receptions whereas after 5 games this year Peterson has already hauled in 10 catches.

On their second series, the Vikings increased their lead to 14-0 by virtue of Jared Allen taking a fumble into the end zone.

The series starts on the Vikings 34.  Last year, the Vikings would have been content to slowly grind the ball with running plays.

This year, the Vikings stayed aggressive with a pass play.  Unfortunately, Favre was sacked as Tahi failed to pick up a blitz.   Chester Taylor gained 7 yards on the next play with a run.

In his first year, Childress would have probably gone with a running play.  This year, Favre throws a deep skinny flag route to Harvin.  Harvin is behind the defender and it appears that it would be a 40 yard play for the Vikings but Harvin can’t hold on to the ball.

Good call, Coach.  Why not go for the early knock-out punch—you are up 14-0 and you are on the road.  If Harvin catches the ball, the fight in the Rams and their fans might have left at halftime.  Bags on the heads of the remaining fans would probably have followed.

Most fans probably don’t feel that the Vikings offense is a kick ass offense.  The only pass that was beyond 30 yards that was not a screen pass was Favre’s 47 yard pass to Sidney Rice pictured above.

While the Vikings are not as explosive as Moss and Company,the Vikings offense might just be good enough to get the job done if they can continue to keep defenses guessing as to their next move.

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An Honest Assessment of the Minnesota Vikings After the Monday Night Showdown

Coach Jon Gruden loves Bret Favre more than coach John Madden almost to the point where a restraining order might be necessary.   We now know that if given a chance Gruden would welcome the opportunity to coach Favre again.

I can’t ever remember an analyst bringing his favorite film from practice sessions in effort to praise a player.   I only hope for Gruden’s sake that if he did not own the film of Favre throwing deep in practice he acquired the film through the proper channels.

OK, besides Gruden’s affection for Favre, we know that while the Vikings have enough talent to make it to the Super Bowl they might not be the best team in the NFC.

If you are Viking fan you saw several things on Monday night to make you salivate over the possibilities of watching football in February.  However, if you are a NFC playoff contender, or Dennis Green, you aren’t likely ready to crown them. 

Quarterback

Favre’s physical gifts have not diminished as he still has zip on the slants and out routes.  He can throw the ball downfield with authority and can get the ball into his receiver in a two deep zone. 

More importantly, Favre has brought leadership to the team and it is apparent in post game interviews that the youngsters on the team are feeding off of his confidence.

The two questions concerning Favre are whether he is durable enough to last the entire season and can he play well in inclement weather.  Neither of these questions has been answered. 

We will however know more after Favre faces the gauntlet of Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Green Bay starting on week six.

Wide Receivers

The Vikings receivers have made several big plays and are doing a very good job of getting yards after the catch.  Rookie Percy Harvin has especially been impressive avoiding and breaking tackles.   Sidney Rice appears to be poised for a break-out season.

Bernard Berrian however still does not look healthy.  Berrian’s 31 yard touchdown catch against the Packers was due to a mental lapse by the secondary and not his speed. 

While Harvin and Rice have looked very good, the Vikings need Berrian to contribute to have a consistent passing attack. 

Running Attack

The best running back in the NFL is Adrian Peterson and pairing him with Chester Taylor gives the Vikings the best tandem in the league.   Yes, Peterson’s fumble on MNF was disheartening but the organization is unlikely to trade him anytime soon.  Taylor has done a good job doing whatever the team needs and Favre has been smart to publicly show his appreciation for Chester’s efforts.

As much talent that Peterson and Taylor have, they still need the offensive line to create some daylight.   

 
Offensive Line

The best that can be said about the offensive line is that their play has been inconsistent. 

Against the Cleveland Browns, Favre was sacked four times and was hurried several times.  The Lions pass rush put Favre to the turf on three occasions and made sure he was not lonely on several occasions.  Throw in a couple of holding penalties and Coach Childress was ready for aspirin for his headache.

On Monday Night, the offensive line was Houdini like in making the Packers pass rushers completely disappear.  Even more impressive was that the offensive line was not called for holding. 

Steve Hutchinson saw limited time in practice this week with pain in his low back.  If Hutchinson misses significant time the offensive line will not be able to continue the trend established against Green Bay and the running lanes will be greatly decrease.

Run Defense

Teams have had more success rushing the ball up the middle against the Vikings this year.  Currently, the run defense is ranked ninth after leading the league last year.  No need however to hit the panic button just yet because the “fall” to the ninth spot means the Vikings are only giving up an additional 12.5 yards a game on the ground.

Teams playing the Vikings going forward will not likely abandon trying to run the ball up the middle.   The next three games for the Vikings may reveal if the run defense is slipping as the Vikings face teams committed to running the ball in the Rams, Ravens and Steelers. 

Expect the Vikings run defense to step up their play as the unit is still among the very best in the league.

Pass Defense

Statistically, the Vikings pass defense has improved from last year as they are currently ranked 12th in the league as opposed to 18th in the league from last year.  Again, no need to go completely overboard with champagne as the spike in ranking equates to holding opponents to 5.3 fewer yards a game.

Cedric Griffin has done a good job with extra attention he receives player corner opposite All Pro Antoine Winfield.   Griffin has already grabbed two interceptions; he has five over his four-year career.

One glaring need to address in the passing game is figuring out how to defend passes over the middle.  Against Green Bay, the Vikings gave up six passing plays over 20 yards.  Five of the six big passing plays over 20 yards were on throws over the middle.   

Strong safety Tyrell Johnson and free safety Madieu Williams need to make more plays. 

Special Teams

The Special Teams play has improved from last year.  Coverage squads are doing a better job of staying in their lanes and not over committing early.

Punter Chris Kluwe continues to punt well with two coffin corner kicks against Green Bay.  Ryan Longwell is six for seven with his only miss coming from beyond 40 yards.

Harvin and Darius Raynaud have now made Viking opponents worry about their special teams’ coverage.

The Vikings have turned the corner on their special team problems from last year.

Looking Forward to this Weekend

The Vikings should roll over the St. Louis Rams this weekend as the Rams got stomped on by the San Francisco 49ers 35-0 last week and it does not look like their starting quarterback is going to be able to play. Right?

Well, a couple of reasons that the game could be a close hard fought battle:

1. The Vikings are emotionally spent after beating the Packers for their new leader.

2. Rams offensive tackles Alex Barron and Jason Smith are expected to play after missing last week’s game.

3. The Vikings are looking ahead to Baltimore and Pittsburgh instead of focusing in on the Rams.

4. Rams strong safety Craig Dahl and cornerback Ron Bartell return to the lineup to shore up the defense.

5. The Vikings coaching staff will outsmart themselves and allow the Rams to stay in the game.

A poor showing by the Vikings against the Rams will suggest that the Vikings aren’t quite ready to compete with the New York Giants and New Orleans Saints.

However, if the Vikings put the Rams away early it will be a sign that they are a serious Super Bowl contenders as they are clearly focused on getting to Miami.  

Expect the Vikings to join the Giants and Saints as the elite teams in the NFC.

 

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Vikings Leave Much To be Desired, Despite a Convincing Win in Cleveland

The Minnesota Vikings were the victors in their week one bout with the Cleveland Browns, capping off the game with an outstanding 64-yard touchdown run by Adrian “All Day” Peterson (his third touchdown of the day).

In spite of the 34-20 on the scoreboard; however, I was all but impressed by the Vikings’ performance.

Disappointed, in fact.

Beyond Adrian Peterson’s 198 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns coupled with rookie standout Percy Harvin’s promising playmaking ability, little appeared different from last year’s Division winning Vikings team.

Don’t get me wrong, a 10-6 record is formidable, sure. But the Minnesota Vikings aren’t aiming towards the Division title. The Super Bowl, as many analysts and critics muse, is a very real possibility given the talent spread around this Vikings team.

The Vikings’ gaze is set upon the Vince Lombardi Trophy, as a team reminiscent of last year’s Wild Card runner-ups just won’t cut it anymore…especially given the tough division they’ve been dealt. It’s not quite the NFC West.

Now in all fairness, I don’t mean to dog on the Vikings, and I certainly don’t mean to downplay their achievements on Sunday afternoon. A 34-20 win is definitely not something to take lightly. With that being said, there were several blaring shortcomings during Sunday’s game, and unfortunately, they were the same shortcomings that held the Vikings from achieving their goals last year. For instance:

 

Special Teams

I’ll give the Vikings’ return game some credit. The addition of Percy Harvin has given the kick return a new, sleeker, meaner look. It’s only a matter of time before that guy finds the end zone on a kickoff. Also notable was the addition of punt returner Darius Reynaud, who averaged an impressive 27 yards-per-return with a long of 36.

However, the team that gave of six touchdowns on special teams last season—a league worst—failed to show any signs of improvement, giving up a 67-yard punt return for a touchdown by Josh Cribbs. In games such as their away game at Soldier Field last year, special teams touchdowns can be the difference between a win and a loss, as the Vikings gave up two special teams touchdowns and lost by seven points in that game.

 

The Passing Game

Again, to the Vikings’ credit, Brett Favre didn’t look like Gus Frerotte tossing three INT’s to one TD or anything, but the Vikings brought in Favre to strike fear into the opponents’ backfield, keeping them from stacking eight or nine guys in the box against Adrian Peterson (who still manages to have outstanding games, I might add).

That didn’t happen, at all.

Favre compiled 110 passing yards to five different players, while Peterson muscled through dehydration, cramps, and an arm spewing blood, to record 180 yards rushing, 18 receiving, and three touchdowns. This was all through the course of 25 rushes and one reception. Hardly, what I would call a passing game.

Granted, Favre isn’t necessarily supposed to be the Vikings’ gunslinger/quasi-franchise quarterback, but I can’t help but think back to the 1998 season when the Vikings brought in another star quarterback who was also well past his prime to lead the second most productive offense in the history of the NFL (only surpassed by the 2007 New England Patriots).

Randall Cunningham could throw the ball, and so can Brett Favre. I wouldn’t expect Favre to be as productive as Cunningham, necessarily. Let’s face it. Bernard Berrian, Sidney Rice, and Percy Harvin aren’t Cris Carter, Randy Moss, and Jake Reed, but they aren’t incompetent oafs either.

Air the ball out, Brett!

Or maybe Childess: Let Brett air it out. Let Percy Harvin air it out. Hell, let someone throw the football!

Speaking of others throwing the football, this leads me to my final grievance about the Viking’s week one performance…

 

Where Is This Fabled Vikings’ Wildcat Offense?

I was dismayed that the Vikings didn’t let the cat out of the bag this week. Every third down, my heart fluttered a little bit as the Vikings broke from the huddle, and each time, it was crushed when Favre lined up behind center and Harvin lined up in the slot.

I can only speculate that the Vikings aren’t going to reveal anything about their rendition of the Wildcat, until they absolutely need to. If that’s the case, then I wouldn’t doubt if they withhold the Wildcat until their week four Monday Night Football brawl against their arch-rival, the Green Bay Packers.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Childress wants to keep their toughest opponents guessing, giving them as little to work with on film as possible.

Or things could actually be as they seem…a flashy paint job on an old vehicle. The same Minnesota Vikings we all know and love.

The team that always manages to fall just short.

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NFL Football Picks: 2009 Minnesota Vikings Predictions

The last year for the Vikings was a successful one in terms of making the playoffs and having a good record. They finished 10-6 and made the playoffs.

However, once they got there, it was apparent that they weren’t equipped to make a run, as they lost to the Eagles in the first round. Although they had a solid defense and a great rushing attack, their passing game left something to be desired.

Did they do enough in the offseason to get the job done this time around? As far as free football picks go, expect the Vikings to make a run this season deep into the playoffs.

The Good News:

The biggest news of the offseason was obviously Brett Favre. Right up until the last minute, no one was sure if he’d play for them or not.

As it turns out, he rode in on his white horse and was immediately handed the keys to the team. While it might seem irresponsible at a glance, it is really the only option for the Vikings.

Jackson has proven that he’s not going to be anything special, and Sage Rosenfels is basically a career backup. Favre is a surefire Hall-of-Famer, and he will instantly upgrade the passing attack in Minny.

In addition to Favre, they have what many people believe is the best player in the NFL in Adrian Peterson. Peterson led the league in rushing last year and his explosiveness makes him a threat to score at any point. Combined with Favre, they should have a pretty solid offense.

On the other side of the ball, the defense will dominate again. Last year, they were the No. 1 team against the run, and they had a fierce pass rush.

With Jared Allen and the Williams brothers on the defensive line, they should again be formidable. If I’m an offensive coordinator, I know the Vikings’ defense is going to present some headaches.

The Bad News:

This also falls in the good news column, but Brett Favre could be a big distraction for the Vikes. Last year, it was a media circus in New York and Favre failed to get them to the playoffs. Many Jets’ players have said that Favre was not a good teammate and even got dressed in a separate locker room.

This preseason, the media have already reported that there is a “schism” in the locker room surrounding Favre. Many people believe that Jackson should be the starting quarterback and don’t like the fact that Favre skipped all of camp. He then comes in late and just gets everything handed to him. This could present a problem at some point in the year.

Outlook:

If you’re looking for free NFL football picks, expect the Vikings to win their division this year. They should even be able to work their way through the playoffs and make a run at the Super Bowl if Favre can stay healthy. If he goes down, it might be another up and down year for the Vikings.

Make sure you check out Vernon Croy`s NFL Football Picks this season.

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The 2009 Minnesota Vikings: Five Things to Watch This Preseason

The Vikings are poised to have a great season, but in examining this team, there are a few other issues that must be monitored and closely managed in order for this year to be a success. The Vikings have 3 more preseason games to see how much more work they need to put in to manage and resolve these concerns. Here are the 5 biggest concerns (in no particular order)

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Minnesota Vikings 2009-10 Season Preview: Wide Reciever

The abundance of receivers in Minnesota is a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless.

There are currently 10 receivers on the Minnesota Vikings roster, which means at least four will find themselves unemployed in the very near future.

Here is a list of the ten receivers vying for the same positions:

  • Bernard Berrian
  • Sidney Rice
  • Percy Harvin
  • Jaymar Johnson
  • Bobby Wade
  • Glenn Holt
  • Darius Reynaud
  • Vinny Perretta
  • Bobby Williams
  • Nick Moore

Ten players, five or six positions. I’m sure the pressure is feeling just as hot as the late-summer heat in Mankato, but I believe the first four of these players are locks to make the opening day roster. The other six are competing for, at most, two roster spots. Talk about competition.

 

Absolute, sure-fire locks to be on the field against Cleveland on Sept. 13

You can’t cut a man making multiple millions of dollars unless his name is Nick Punto. Bernard Berrian will be making nearly $14 million this season, and probably earning every penny. His team-leading 964 yards over 48 receptions provided the perfect deep threat for either Frerotte or Jackson last year.

Sidney Rice started just three games last year, but that was because he was incapable of remaining healthy for more than a few hours at a time. He has shown glimpses of brilliance in the past, however, and should enjoy a breakout season as a 23 year old with tons to lose yet the ability (and height) to prove himself.

First-round selection Percy Harvin has done nothing but impress so far this year. Considered by some as the best overall athlete on the team, Harvin has a running back’s open-field instincts to go with his elusiveness and great hands. While he didn’t play in a pro-style offense last year, Harvin appears to be doing just fine with Childress’ plays.

Should get in, will be shocked if he doesn’t

Jaymar Johnson, now that he has received the blessing of Cris Carter, is no longer a secret. With extreme speed, the reason Johnson was drafted in the sixth round was because of his small size and poor hands. Since last year, though, Johnson has apparently put on twenty pounds and Carter claims his hands are fine. I trust No. 80 to make receiver judgments, don’t you?

 

The favorites and contenders

The remaining six receivers currently on the roster are fighting for, at best, two spots. The favorites on this list are Bobby Wade and Darius Reynaud, both of whom were impressive last year. Wade, although not flashy by any means, was one of the most reliable options either Frerotte or Jackson had last year, while Reynaud made a few great kick returns.

With Harvin sliding into the slot position, Wade seems to be the odd man out this year. Gonzo, of the Daily Norseman, explains better:

The problem that Wade is going to run into this season is attempting to figure out where, exactly, he fits into the roster. His ideal spot is as a slot receiver, but Percy Harvin will almost certainly take a big part of that role away…He could also possibly fit in as a punt returner, but the Vikings appear to be grooming both Harvin and Jaymar Johnson to take on those responsibilities. He’s simply not big enough to line up full-time on the outside, and even if he was, Bernard Berrian and Sidney Rice have those spots locked down.

Even though Wade lead the team in receptions last year, there is a possibility he may not find himself on a team come Sept 13. I have a hard time believing that the Vikings will go with Reynaud over Wade, and I am also struggling with the idea of Reynaud being cut, so I’m going to guess that they both make it on the final roster and that Childress rolls with six receivers for the 2009-10 campaign.

The remaining smorgasbord of receivers

Vinny Perretta, Bobby Williams, Nick Moore, and Glenn Holtremain. Holt was a fairly effective kick-returner for the Bengals last year, but was cut by them for a reason: he simply isn’t very good. If both Harvin and Reynaud are on the roster there will be no need for Holt. The rest were long-shots from the start but could possibly find themselves with a practice squad invitation.

In review, here are the six receivers who I think will make the September 13 roster when the Vikings open the season against the Browns, along with the role they will play:

  1. Bernard Berrian—Primary deep threat
  2. Sidney Rice—Second wide-out
  3. Percy Harvin—Slot receiver and part-time kick/punt-returner
  4. Jaymar Johnson—Fourth receiver
  5. Bobby Wade—Primary receiver off the bench
  6. Darius Reynaud—Primary punt/kick returner, seldom-used as a receiver
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Battles of Mankato: Vikings Training Camp 2009

With time winding down until the beginning of Vikings training camp August 1st at Minnesota State in Mankato, now would seem to be the perfect time to take a look at the position battles that will be resolved heading in camp.

The Vikes find themselves standing on a razor’s edge at the moment.

The team has locked up a solid core of a run dominated offense with All-Star Adrian Peterson and one the largest lines in the NFL. Their defense is one of the most stout in the NFL and is the best at stopping the run behind both Kevin and Pat Williams at the Tackle Positions.

With only one or two more pieces needed this training camp may be one of the most important ones the Vikings have ever held, as its results will determine if the franchise will progress towards contention of a NFC title and possibly a Superbowl or continued mediocrity

So let’s take a look shall we?

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