Vikings 4 Downs: 10 wins, Floyd, McKinnon, Robinson

Star Tribune Sports - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 10:16
Every week, we’ll take four questions from Twitter for our weekly mailbag using the #VikingsST hashtag. After seeing the offense and defense in progressive what is legit chances of ten wins? What do you see our record #VikingsST — zach sween (@1Sween) August 25, 2014 The Vikings will be an improved team, but I don’t think that will result in 10 wins. Yes, unlike other sports leagues, there’s always a team that jumps from worst to first in the NFL. I just don’t think it’ll be this team. The Vikings have shown some good signs in the preseason, especially on offense. The defense is the biggest concern and will decide if the Vikings are that surprise team, or just another average team. It’s easy to get your hopes up with the team 3-0. Thoughts of a playoff berth and 10 wins creep in, but it’s the preseason. The record doesn’t mean a thing and it could play out dramatically different at the start of the regular season. I had the Vikings at 7-9 before the season. With Rams quarterback Sam Bradford out for the season, I bumped it to 8-8. It still projects as a third place finish, ahead of the Lions, in my opinion. @MasterStrib what can be attributed to “Sheriff” Floyd’s great preseason performance thus far? #VikingsST — Anthony Skubic (@Skubzy) August 25, 2014 Not every first rounder makes an immediate impact as a rookie and there’s seems to be a lofty expectation every year on all first round picks to do just that. If a player fails to exceed that, he’s immediately a bust apparently. Vikings defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd lost weight in the offseason, removing red meat and pork from his diet, but he’s continued to develop all-around as a defensive tackle. Floyd’s getting more opportunities now as the starting three-technique tackle rather than serving as a backup last year. He played very well the last two games, specifically his pass rushing ability, and we’ll see if he can carry that play into the regular season. Remember, it’s his second season. There will still be some growing pains Floyd will experience throughout the season, especially in a new scheme. He’ll need to show progress, however, similar to how he’s performed in the preseason. @MasterStrib: Where does Jerrick McKinnon fit into offense, and do you expect he or Matt Asiata to be named #2 RB behind AP? #VikingsST — Josh Betts (@BettsSportsBeat) August 25, 2014 Matt Asiata has been very impressive during preseason, including as an option in pass situations out the backfield. McKinnon can be a third down back and used at times in the pass offense in two-back formation, but Asiata is Adrian Peterson’s backup. It’ll be interesting to watch when offensive coordinator Norv Turner uses McKinnon to start the season. He brings a change-of-pace to big backs like Peterson and Asiata, but how often will Turner want that? Although he does provide the flexibility, it doesn’t appear that McKinnon will get too many snaps early in the year. @MasterStrib does Josh Robinson get cut? #VikingsST — Chris Duncanson (@SpyderFenix) August 25, 2014 Head coach Mike Zimmer might’ve reference the cornerback as “the other guy” last week, but cut him? Yes, he’ll make the team.
Categories: Local

Tuesday (Twins No. 6 in MLB in runs scored) edition: Wha' Happened?

Star Tribune Sports - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 09:55
The Twins’ offensive surge in August has placed them into elite territory. They are now No. 6 in the majors — not the AL, not among bad teams, but out of all 30 teams — in runs scored with 570. They are scoring nearly 4.4 per game, which in many cases should be enough to be a pretty decent team. They’ve scored them in binges and droughts, but it adds up to an impressive number. We’re as stunned as you are. They’re also No. 7 in MLB in on-base percentage and tied for seventh in MLB in extra-base hits. These numbers suggest an offensive improvement that, while perhaps not sustainable (are Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas really going to keep up their torrid paces?), does at least provide promise for the future. But just as much, they add a layer of frustration to a season in which pitching was supposed to be much-improved and the offense was going to be the major question mark. Remember, the big offseason bats added from outside the organization were Kurt Suzuki, Jason Kubel and Jason Bartlett. Suzuki has worked out wonderfully. The other two failed spectacularly. And the bulk of offseason spending went into the rotation, with Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes plus the re-signing of Mike Pelfrey. Hughes has been wonderful. Nolasco and Pelfrey have been dreadful. Add it up, and Twins’ starters have a 5.05 ERA — 28th in the majors, in line with where they have lagged ever since their great decline started in 2011. Their bullpen ERA of 3.47 is 15th in MLB — perfectly acceptable in the middle of the road. So if you’re looking for a major pleasant surprise this season, look at an offense we expected to be terrible that is somehow near the top of baseball in the most important category. And if you’re looking for the culprit in another lost season, look no further (again) than starting pitching.
Categories: Local

Vikings waive TE Higgins, set 75-man roster

Star Tribune Sports - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 09:19
The Vikings made their final roster move on Tuesday to reach the maximum 75-player limit before the 3 p.m. CT deadline. The team waived tight end Mike Higgins, a day after activating Chase Ford off the physically unable to perform list. Here’s a recap of the other 14 players the Vikings released or waived with an injury on Monday. The Vikings face the Titans on Thursday, then have until 3 p.m. CT on Saturday to finalize their 53-man roster for the regular season.
Categories: Local

Newest Wolves players arrive in Minneapolis

Star Tribune Sports - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 07:02
Timberwolves GM Milt Newton welcomed Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Thaddeus Young at the airport.
Categories: Local

TFD: Allison Stokke, other Olympic hopefuls, pole vaulting on Brit's Pub rooftop Saturday

Star Tribune Sports - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 06:41
We’re not sure exactly how this is going to work — we expect to sort that all out as the week goes on — but we do know this: There is going to be pole vaulting on the rooftop of Brit’s Pub in downtown Minneapolis on Saturday. There are many divisions throughout the day, leading up to a professional competition at night with several Olympic hopefuls competing — including Allison Stokke, who caused somewhat of an Internet stir seven years back. It’s free. It’s pole vaulting on a roof. There will be beer. You could do worse on a Saturday night.
Categories: Local

Series preview: Twins at Kansas City

Star Tribune Sports - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 22:11
A look at the series that begins Tuesday:
Categories: Local

Twins, Class AAA Rochester reach deal on two-year extension

Star Tribune Sports - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 22:06
The deal cements a relationship that began in 2003. The working agreement runs through the 2016 season.
Categories: Local

Twins know preemptive rain delays can be disruptive

Star Tribune Sports - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 22:04
The Twins have learned how preemptive calls can leave fans steamed and pitching staffs in disarray.
Categories: Local

Spartans look like beasts of the Big Ten East

Star Tribune Sports - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 21:00
The injury to Ohio State QB Braxton Miller opened things up, but Michigan State is legit.
Categories: Local

Big Ten East: New blood flows in new division

Star Tribune Sports - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 20:58
A look at five story lines in the Big Ten East:
Categories: Local

Ranking the Big Ten East

Star Tribune Sports - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 20:53
The Big Ten East, in predicted order of finish by Star Tribune college football writer Joe Christensen:
Categories: Local

Cassel will start at QB for Vikings

Star Tribune Sports - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 20:32
Mike Zimmer’s decision was expected and officially makes Teddy Bridgewater the backup.
Categories: Local

Vikings notes: First cuts include Raymond, Cox

Star Tribune Sports - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 20:29
Veteran defensive backs Mistral Raymond and Derek Cox didn't make the grade.
Categories: Local

Number of pheasant hunters, and harvest, plunges

Star Tribune Sports - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 20:02
Just 62,000 pheasant hunters went afield last fall, and they bagged only 169,000 roosters. That's the fewest hunters and lowest harvest in 27 years. Hunter numbers declined 19 percent and the harvest was down 32 percent from 2012.
Categories: Local

Rand: Will Vikings' QB carnival ride end?

Star Tribune Sports - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 19:21
Although Matt Cassel will start the season opener, history shows us there's a strong chance Teddy Bridgewater will play sometime this season.
Categories: Local

Zimmer says media, fans should take Pro Football Focus grades 'with a grain of salt'

Star Tribune Sports - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 14:35
Before Mike Zimmer fielded questions from reporters today, he made a few announcements. One was that he had picked a QB. We knew that was coming. Another was that a bunch of players were released. We figured that one would be coming, too. But the last announcement Zimmer made came out of nowhere, and it was about one of the most popular NFL analytics sites on the web. Zimmer aired out his reservations about Pro Football Focus, a website whose data we sometimes use on this blog. While he was polite about it, the Vikings head coach made it clear he has concerns about their individual grades for players, which are done by a grader watching the coaches film. “I look at the grades and I can’t tell you what a 0.7 is or anything like that,” said Zimmer, who is in his first year as head coach. “I know the people that are grading our games and our defenses and our offenses, they don’t know if the tackle gets beat inside he wasn’t sliding out to the nickel, or who our guys are supposed to cover. I guarantee they don’t know who’s in our blitz package and what they’re supposed to do. I would just ask that everybody take that with a grain of salt, including our fans. We as coaches get paid a whole bunch of money to do the jobs that we do, evaluate the players that we evaluate and grade them how we grade them, not based on something else.” For a full explanation from Pro Football Focus on how and why they do their grades, click right here. We occasionally reference their grades on this blog, but we try to be careful about it for the same reason Zimmer stated. In some cases, it’s obvious when a defensive end makes a great play or a receiver drops a pass he shouldn’t have. In other cases, the evaluations get a little murky. That being said, PFF is a great resource for advanced stats on things like a wide receiver’s catch rate, which linemen the backs run behind most and which pass rushers disrupt quarterbacks most. The NFL has certainly embraced the use of analytics in chorus with their own scouting and player evaluation, with some teams embracing it firmer than others. Sure, there are plenty of old-school coaches and scouts — I’m not saying Zimmer is one of them — who may always be skeptical of what someone with a calculator tells them opposed to seeing it with their own two eyes. But teams such as the Ravens, Jaguars, Browns, Rams and Bills have dipped their toes into the analytical waters. The Jaguars even said one PFF study helped convince them to draft tackle Luke Joeckel in 2013. But when it comes to grading players, Zimmer made it clear that the Vikings will stick with their own grades, though something tells me they won’t be publishing them to the internet like PFF does.
Categories: Local


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