Each Wednesday, beat guy Matt Vensel will highlight five Vikings stats that really mean something.
98.2 — rushing yards allowed per game by the Vikings from 2008 to 2013.
Head coach Mike Zimmer and the Vikings overhauled their defensive line in the offseason, most notably saying so long to Jared Allen and Kevin Williams. Everson Griffen and Sharrif Floyd will take on bigger roles and the team is banking on newcomers such as Linval Joseph and Corey Wootton. The new group has quite a reputation to live up to. From 2008 to 2013, the Vikings allowed just 98.2 rushing yards per game, ranking only behind the Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens. They were also fourth in the NFL over that span in yards allowed per carry (3.8).
53 — sacks for the St. Louis Rams in 2013, which ranked third in the NFL.
Only the Carolina Panthers (60) and Buffalo Bills (57) had more sacks than the Rams last season. The Rams had five guys with at least five sacks, and with 19 sacks himself, All-Pro right end Robert Quinn was second in the NFL behind Indianapolis Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis. The Rams, who will be even richer on the defensive line if first-round tackle Aaron Donald pans out, will be a tough test for left tackle Matt Kalil and a Vikings offensive line that gave up 44 sacks in 2013.
78.4 — quarterback Matt Cassel’s accuracy percentage during the preseason.
It is probably wise to take most preseason stats with a grain of salt, but it is worth noting that Cassel, who has been erratic throughout his NFL career, was pretty accurate during the exhibition season. According to Pro Football Focus, Cassel had an 78.4 percent accuracy percentage, which is essentially what his completion percentage would be if not for drops. That ranked ninth among qualifying QBs. His career high of 76.9 came during his breakout 2008 season in New England.
five — consecutive games with a touchdown for wide-out Cordarrelle Patterson.
Patterson was used sparingly on offense during the first half of his rookie season, leaving him to make an impact only on special teams. But once they carved out a sizable role for him on offense, the first-round pick sure spent a lot of time in the end zone. Patterson scored a touchdown in each of his final five games — three as a runner and two as a receiver — to give him nine total in Year 1.
12,240 — net yards for running back Adrian Peterson in his Vikings career.
With 171 net yards against the Rams on Sunday, Peterson can pass former Vikings wide receiver Cris Carter for the most in franchise history. Peterson has a combined 12,240 yards as a runner, receiver and returner in his seven NFL seasons. It took Carter, who was productive enough to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame, a dozen seasons in Minnesota to pile up his 12,410 career net yards.
Every weekday, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening with the team that day.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
— Would signing DE Michael Sam have made sense for the Vikings?
— The Vikings listed S Robert Blanton and MLB Jasper Brinkley as starters.
— The Vikings added rookie OT Austin Wentworth to the practice squad.
— I did another chat with Vikings fans, hitting a variety of topics.
— Expect the unexpected this NFL season — except for maybe the NFC North champs.
TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY
Nice to see Ms. Rose, mother of Card Forever Teddy Bridgewater, supporting the Cards tonight! #L1C4 #blACCout pic.twitter.com/pJ2Kun99yF
— Nick Stover (@ULFlyingCard) September 2, 2014
BEHIND ENEMY LINES
— Waived by the Rams, Sam is joining the Cowboys’ practice squad.
— What will newly-acquired QB Case Keenum bring to the Rams?
— The Rams will again be one of the youngest teams in the NFL.
TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE
The Vikings practice at 12:50 p.m. Head coach Mike Zimmer and starting QB Matt Cassel will talk to reporters. Rams head coach Jeff Fisher and QB Shaun Hill will speak on conference calls.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
RB Adrian Peterson needs two more 200-yard games to break O.J. Simpson’s all-time record of six. As someone who just started covering the team and has only been able to admire Peterson from afar, I couldn’t help but think one thing when I first saw that stat… He only has five?
The second era of Twins GM Terry Ryan began in the offseason following 2011, a disaster for which former GM Bill Smith was largely blamed.
Since then, the Twins have tried to dig themselves out of that hole, with results that, at their kindest, haven’t been seen yet in terms of results. The Twins followed 99 losses in 2011 with 96 losses in both 2012 and 2013, and they could very well lose 90 again this year.
The basic blueprint in recent seasons has been as such: try to figure out which young players can make an impact, bolster the minor league pipeline and try to supplement with free agent talent in the mean time. We’re here to rate that last part: how have the Twins done in free agency for the past three years. We’ll give each player/acquisition a grade and then grade free agency overall:
Josh Willingham: Had a career year in 2012 (35 HRs, .890 OPS) before injuries and regression caught up with him in 2013 and 2014. Even in those last two seasons, before being traded to the Royals, Willingham got on base and had power streaks. If a marginal “win” in baseball costs about $5 million according to many in the sabermetrics game, and Willingham posted a WAR of nearly 5 in his time here, the Twins got decent value for his relatively modest 3-year, $21 million deal. Grade: C+
Ryan Doumit: The Twins ended up paying Doumit $6.5 million over two seasons before dumping another year at $3.5 million on Atlanta. He was below average as a catcher and outfielder, but his offensive production (averages: 16 HRs and 65 RBI in two seasons) was certainly decent. He’s been bad for the Braves, meaning the Twins probably got rid of him at the right time. Grade: B-minus
Jamey Carroll: He was worth $8.8 million to the Twins in 2012, FanGraphs says, and he was only paid $2.75 million. He was less successful in 2013, when his salary was $3.75 million (the Twins traded him to the Royals), but overall he was as advertised. Grade: B.
Kevin Correia: He signed for 2 years, $10 million. FanGraphs says he was worth about $10 million to the Twins in that time. So the value wasn’t bad. That said, it certainly can be argued the Twins could have achieved similar results with a younger pitcher. Grade: C.
Mike Pelfrey: The Twins took a one-year flier on Pelfrey for $4 million. He had a 5.19 ERA in 29 starts, but his FIP was 3.99 per Baseball Reference and somehow FanGraphs thinks he was worth $10.9 million last season (is this thing broken?) The Twins rewarded him with a new two-year deal worth $11 million, and it’s been nothing short of disaster so far. Grade: D-plus.
Ricky Nolasco: The big-money pitcher has been bad when he wasn’t been hurt, and hurt when he wasn’t bad. For $49 million over four years, he has a lot of catching up to do. History suggests he’ll be better in future years. For now, though, this has been a bust. Grade: D.
Phil Hughes: The opposite of Nolasco, Hughes has been the brightest spot in the Twins rotation in years. He’s had top-of-the-rotation stuff, and it’s been paired with top-of-the-rotation production at a relative bargain (3 years, $24 million). Grade: A.
Kurt Suzuki: He was an All-Star and has brought stability to the catching position post-Mauer along with a reliably professional at bat. The Twins extended him for two years at $6 million each season, and even if he regresses some from this season they should wind up getting decent value over the long haul. Grade: B-plus.
Kendrys Morales: Remember when the Twins had a quaint notion of contending this year? That’s why they signed Morales, who was a flop before they flipped him to the Mariners. Not a bad gamble and they got a decent prospect. It just didn’t really work. Grade: C.
Jason Kubel/Bartlett: Did not work. Grade: F.
Overall, 2012-14: The Twins have done decently in free agency with position players (except for the low-cost failures of the Jasons this year), while the pitchers have been spottier. Nolasco and Pelfrey are major black marks right now, and only Hughes’ brilliance is saving the Twins’ foray into the pitching market from being an outright disaster. Ryan and co. have done a fairly good job not locking position players into too long of terms, with the idea that there are minor league players waiting in the wings to take jobs at low costs. One could argue the Twins haven’t done enough in free agency to be competitive these past three years, but one could also argue that a few more wins these last few years wouldn’t have made a difference anyway and that saving their money until the team is (hopefully) more competitive in the future is a fine strategy. The real proof will be in what happens if/when the time comes that the Twins look like contenders again. Will they re-open the wallet?
But that’s a question for another time. The final grade for the Twins in free agency from 2012-14 is a C-plus. There have been failings in the organization, to be sure, but free agency hasn’t doomed them. They just haven’t had enough of the good pieces to build around.