Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Throwing down with Vikings Territory

I'm a bit of a lone wolf when it comes to blogging about the Vikings, but that is changing today. One of the best Vikings blog on the blogosphere – Vikings Territory – is run by Adam Warwas.

A few weeks ago, Adam was kind enough to ask me if I wanted to collaborate on some blogs in the near future. After thinking about it for three seconds, I agreed.

Below you will find the result of our collaboration. We've each provided answers to 10 questions that we think are pressing issues for the Vikings heading into the 2012 offseason. Our answers to five of those questions can be found at Adam's blog here.

As for our thoughts on the other five questions? Read on.

6. Is Toby Gerhart a legit NFL starter?
ADAM: Yes. Look around the NFL, what is a starting running back these days? We live in a world where LeGarrette Blount can go undrafted, get picked up by the Titans and then cut, and then rush for 1,000 yards as a rookie with the Bucs. This is a league watched by fans that voted Peyton Hillis onto the cover of Madden. Heck, arguably the best running back in the game today, Arian Foster, was passed up by all 32 teams before being signed as an undrafted free agent. Gerhart can not only run like a starting running back, but he has skills as a pass catcher and blocker, too. Gerhart has to be part of a committee and shouldn’t be described as a “featured back” (of which there are now few in the NFL) but he definitely capable of being a starter.

DARREN: I had my doubts after his rookie season. But after watching him play in 2011, he can definitely get the job done. I love his sledgehammer running style – although it’s probably not conducive to a long career. He reminds me of John Riggins a bit. And he can catch the ball and block well enough to help out in those areas as well.

7. Chris Cook – should the Vikes cut him or keep him?

ADAM: One of the two. Both have possible negative consequences, but this whole let him stay at home and collect a paycheck is the worst of both worlds, in my opinion. Cook has talent, but Cook also has problems, and it will be a hard decision either way. So far, the Vikings have taken the easy route and seem to be hoping the courts can make this decision for them. Soon, however, the Vikings will have to decide if they can help this young man become a successful football player and human being, or if he is a lost cause. Me? I say they have invested too much into him to bail without further cause at this point. That could very easily backfire though.

DARREN: Keep him – unless his court appearances this spring prove he committed some heinous acts. Cook will be playing somewhere in 2012, he’s too talented not to be picked up by some team that needs a big, rangy corner if the Vikings cut him. So why allow some other team to pick up your top draft pick in 2010 for free? I don’t see why Cook should be playing or any team other than Minnesota in 2012.

8. How can the Vikes get more reps for Everson Griffen?

ADAM: By making him earn them. For years Brian Robison pressured Ray Edwards for the starting role at left end, but now I think it will Griffen applying that pressure. There is no doubt that he is a talented young man, and could possibly find himself in a position battle come August, but lets not get ahead of ourselves. First, Griffen has to make it through an entire offseason without getting into trouble. If that happens, then he needs to outplay Robison for the left end spot to crack the starting lineup. As long as the Vikings employ the 4-3 and have Jared Allen, then left end is going to be the place where Griffen stands to make an impact. Not outside linebacker. Not safety. Left End.

DARREN: I don’t agree with Adam that he hasn’t earned them. In some games Griffen was getting 10-15 snaps, yet he still had four sacks in 2012. Starting right defensive end Brian Robison had some games where he was non-factor, especially in the final eight contests where he seemed to tire. Starting left end Jared Allen could use a blow now and then, too. And you’re telling me Christian Ballard or Fred Evans are better options playing tackle on passing downs than Griffen?

9. Does Visanthe Shiancoe have a future with the Vikings?

ADAM: I’m not sure that a 32 year old tight end fits into a youth movement real well. I’m not sure that a tight end that has been largely ineffective for two straight seasons fits into a rebuilding strategy very well. If the Vikings get a discount on Shiancoe, then I think they could certainly do worse. However, I’m not sure that there aren’t cheaper options out there that could be equally productive, if not more so. Shiancoe just doesn’t scare defenders any more, simply put.

DARREN: Nope. If the Vikings had plans for Shiancoe beyond 2011, they would have signed him to an extension before the season ended. It’s Kyle Rudolph’s time in 2012 (and Allen Reisner’s time, or whatever younger tight end the Vikings bring in to replace the 30-plus Shiancoe.) I’ll miss Shiancoe’s sense of humor. But there will be younger, cheaper options out there the Vikings can invest in.

10. Which single pending free agent should be this team’s biggest target in March?
ADAM: I’m going to go with Carl Nicks, the guard from New Orleans. He is quite possibly the best guard in the game and may end up on the free agent market since the Saints also have to figure out how to handle the contracts of Drew Brees and Marques Colston. At age 27, Nicks still has plenty of great years ahead of him, and would immediately be an anchor on an offensive line that needs one. The Vikings could couple him with Matt Kalil in an effort to really solidify their line. They could sign him and then cut Hutch to save cap space. They could move either him or Hutch to the right side and replace Herrera. Overall, he’s just a damn good player that could give this damn awful offensive line some help and some more options.

DARREN: Interesting choice by Adam to say New Orleans guard Carl Nicks. My pick is Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson. The Vikings really, really, really need another target for Christian Ponder to throw to. Jackson’s had over 1,000 receiving yards in three of his last four seasons. He’d make Ponder better. He’d make Percy Harvin better – if that’s possible, and I think it is. He’d make Kyle Rudolph better. If San Diego lets him go (not a certainty), the Vikings should do all they can to get him. There were rumors last year that the Vikings tried to do just that when he was in a contract dispute with the Bolts. This time they won’t have to work out a trade to get Jackson, they’ll just have to show him the money.


B. Grant said...

Nice job, guys! Darren, a little better comparison to Toby would be Bill Brown - dang near a spittin' image. Thanks for pickin' out an OL as the top free agent, Adam. You did that just for me, right?

Fran the Man said...

Ditto what Coach said; Nice job guys and an excellent read.
Man, it's going to be nice to have actual free agency this year.
I too hope we can significantly up grade our O-line. We MUST protect Ponder better if we don't want another David Carr on our hands.The guy got hit way too many times last year. Unless we surprise the masses and pick up Blackmon in the draft, Vincent Jackson would be a fantastic addition. If we could start next year with a solid O-line and a couple of good receivers, I think we get ourselves out of the "Rebuilding" class. Of course we're still lacking in our secondary, to say the least but if we get Cook back (and I hope we do) and 'Ced makes it back to his pre-injury form and Winfield has a injury-free season, we'd be set to at least entertain a shot at the playoffs.

Darren Campbell said...

Mr. Grant:

Thanks for dropping by. Bill Brown is just a bit before my time. My guess is Gerhart is a bit faster than Brown was.


There's no way I'm entertaining playoffs for this team. Even if they upgrade the O-line and WR, it's then up to Ponder to really step up his play and make use of the help he's been given. I'm not sure how much he will progress in year 2.

B. Grant said...

You're right Darren, Boom Boom was no speedster. His speed was a little like a loon taking off in flight from a lake. Took a long time to build up his speed. However, if he did get it built up, lord help the man who had to stop that truck! I just cannot recall Bill ever "getting up slowly". That was passed on to the guy in the other shirt. He would usually pause and ask the guy if he was OK, though. Never knew for sure if he actually cared or not, but it was a nice touch.