The Minnesota Vikings have played 13 games now, and if you've watched all 13 (and I have), you've probably formed plenty of opinions about the guys who have suited up for them in 2012. In this post, I bring you some of mine.
Jefferson is a funny player. I've never seen a guy in position to make so many plays – and then not make any. Perhaps this is how a prospect who has the size (6'1, 190) everyone is looking for in a corner these days, and who runs pretty well (4.51 in the 40), goes undrafted. Still, a nice in-season trade made by Vikings GM Rick Spielman to get him considering Marcus Sherels was the alternative as the fourth corner.
Sunday's Bears game was exhibit A as to why Loadholt drives some Vikings fans nuts – committing three false start penalties (at home), which are killers for an offense that can't afford to get off schedule on down and distance. But read this and the starting right tackle's value becomes more apparent. The free agent-to-be has become a solid run and pass blocker and he's durable – having only missed one game in four seasons. I like Phil Loadholt. There, I said it.
I thought Smith might have hit the mythical "rookie wall" a few weeks back. I was seeing too many shoulder tackles and too much tentativeness in playing the ball. But the past two games the Smith I had come to know and love has returned – he's wrapping up with two arms on his tackles and he has two interceptions the past two weeks. And I feel good knowing Smith is in the game, because not only does he know were he needs to be on the field but he'll make something happen when he gets there (unlike Mr. Jefferson).
Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave seems to value Burton's blocking, because the Vikings keep dressing him on Sundays. Yet the guy has only two catches this season and has dropped the last three passes thrown his way. If the Vikings are going to keep him around, then just tell him to gain some weight in the offseason and turn him into a blocking tight end. He's already listed at 224 pounds. What's another 25-to-30?
I was going to write that Brinkley is the defensive version of Christian Ponder – started out strong and has regressed ever since. That wouldn't be fair, however. Brinkley's highs early in the season probably weren't as high as Ponder's (many will argue that Ponder's "highs" weren't terribly high, either). But his lows have been nowhere near as low. And he had a pretty good game against Bears: 13 tackles, six solos and a pass breakup. I'm still lukewarm on Brinkley. He's kind of the king of tackling a ball carrier four or five yards beyond the line of scrimmage. I rarely see him make those tackles right at the line or in the backfield that E.J. Henderson did in his 2006-2009 prime. Of course, Brinkley is no E.J.
Well, here is one Spielman free agent signing that's worked out, although I think Geoff Schwartz would be working out if they would just play him instead of Brandon Fusco at right guard. Adrian Peterson is having his best season ever and it's often the bruising Felton leading AD to daylight. I see a two-year contract in Felton's future – whether it's with the Vikings or some other team in need of a battering ram to block for a star running back.
I think Robinson is currently in the "Cedric Griffin circa 2006-2007" stage of his young career. You know the drill – give the opposing wide receiver an eight-yard cushion, watch him catch the ball in front of you, tackle him, don't get beat for touchdown passes, repeat. Except against Chicago, Robinson was beat for touchdown passes – two of them. I still like Robinson's game and I think he's got a future with the Vikings (any comparison of Robinson to another Vikings third round draft pick of recent vintage, Marcus McCauley, is way off base). But he must step up his game over the final three contests, especially if Jefferson can't play against St. Louis because of the concussion.
I know the stats are modest after four games (although not as modest as the stats of Burton, Jerome Simpson or Devin Aromashodu), still I think we've got something here in Wright. He's extremely quick, and while his hands have been a bit of an issue, he can get open and gain yards after the catch. Yes, he's small. But I'm aware of no rule in the NFL that says you can't put two sub-six foot WRs on the field at the same time. I think he can be a 50-60 catch guy. So keep developing Wright, keep Percy Harvin in the fold, find a legit split end and a legit QB and – presto! – the Vikings have a modern-day NFL passing game. In 2014.