Local

Will the extra preseason game pay dividends for the Vikings?

Star Tribune Sports - Mon, 06/01/2015 - 13:06
Believe it or not, we are a little over two months away from getting our first real glimpse of the 2015 Vikings in their preseason opener. The Vikings, as you surely recall, will be kicking off the preseason against the Steelers in the Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 9. And that means they will get an extra preseason game this year, playing five instead of four. While an extra game means 60 more minutes during which injuries can occur, the Vikings think the extra preseason game is a good thing. General Manager Rick Spielman said at the scouting combine in February that getting that fifth game will be especially beneficial for young players. “We thought it was a great opportunity for this team to go down to Mankato a week early and get an opportunity for those guys to play an extra preseason game because mostly you’re going to play your starters minimal at most,” he said. “It I think really aids in their development.” But how have teams that recently played in the Hall of Fame Game (then four other preseason games) fared in the regular season? I took a look at the 20 teams that played in the Hall of Fame Game over the past decade. Not many have gone on to have great success that season. Those teams averaged 7.3 wins. Only four of them made the playoffs, with no one accomplishing that feat since the Colts in 2008. In fact, only one team, the 9-7 Bills last season, has had a winning record since those Colts. In those teams’ previous seasons, they won an average of 8.4 games. Six teams, including Mike Zimmer’s 2010 Bengals, went from a playoff team the previous season to plummeting out of playoff contention the next. So recent teams playing that extra preseason game have slipped in the standings by a little more than one win during the ensuing regular season. Interestingly, the team that saw the biggest drop was those 2010 Bengals, which employed Zimmer as their defensive coordinator. A playoff team in 2009 that won 10 games, they went 4-12 after their five-game preseason. The biggest risers were the 2005 Bears, going from 5-11 in 2014 to 11-5. All that being said, I don’t feel comfortable drawing any conclusions about the Vikings playing in the Hall of Fame Game, other than saying there is no guarantee it will propel them to greatness in 2015. Each of the past 20 teams was unique, with different circumstances leading to their rise of fall. It would be difficult to draw a strong correlation between Hall of Fame Game participation and regular season results. Spielman is right in thinking the extra game will be beneficial to 2015 draft picks and other youngsters the Vikings are trying to develop. But it remains to be seen if it will pay immediate dividends for the team as a whole.
Categories: Local

Vikings rookie evaluations: WR Stefon Diggs

Star Tribune Sports - Mon, 06/01/2015 - 12:14
Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner received another versatile wide receiver in the draft when the team selected Stefon Diggs in the fifth round. He was used as an outside receiver, slot receiver and even at running back in certain option packages on offense at Maryland. Diggs was also a solid kickoff returner. Listed at six feet and 195 pounds, Diggs was voted as a second-team All-Big Ten receiver by the coaches last season. He opted to forgo his senior season to declare for NFL Draft despite a deep draft at wide receiver. The addition of Diggs will make the position very interesting to watch in training camp with six receivers capable of making the roster. What exactly will the Vikings get from their new weapon? Strengths: Mike Wallace. Charles Johnson. Cordarrelle Patterson. Jarius Wright. There’s already a lot of speed at wide receiver, and the Vikings brought in more with Diggs. It’s not that he can just fly down the field, but his biggest strength is how quickly he can change direction and accelerate. It’s like that kid in the backyard that would always try and fake someone out to get more yards, except it actually works with Diggs and he doesn’t look stupid doing those stutter steps or head jabs against much better competition. Diggs consistently gained yards after the catch in college because he was quick and moved so well laterally. Per Football Focus, Diggs led all wide receivers in this class with 9.3 yards after catch against Power 5 teams. Diggs has great hands and rarely dropped passes despite terrible quarterback play. That’s mainly due to his big hands, measured at 10 inches at the NFL Combine, and coordination. Weaknesses: Diggs didn’t finish the last two seasons due to injuries. He broke his right fibula in 2013 and suffered a lacerated kidney injury last year. Durability is a huge concern with Diggs, especially given his thin frame. Diggs needs to get stronger to handle press situations against NFL cornerbacks. That will be the biggest thing I’ll watch with Diggs once the Vikings strap up in shoulder pads. At this point, I don’t think he’s capable of playing outside receiver consistently though he was effective at the position in college. Diggs was also a pretty average blocker as well. Maybe that’s due to his build and lack of strength as well, but he struggled to maintain his blocks regardless of the situation. Bottom Line: It’s clear with the pick that the Vikings value speed and versatility at wide receiver. They didn’t give quarterback Teddy Bridgewater enough weapons to stretch the field effectively last year. Now, Bridgewater has five wide receivers capable of streaking down the field at any point in the game. Diggs fits in line with the receivers on the roster, and he adds an element of getting yards after catches. With his hands, speed and change of direction, Diggs can turn into an effective slot receiver. He needs to remain durable in order for that to happen, however.
Categories: Local

High school league suspends dance team coaches at four schools for one year

Star Tribune Sports - Mon, 06/01/2015 - 12:10
Coaches at Chaska, Eastview, Lakeville South and Wayzata received suspensions for their roles in an awards ceremony protest in February. Medals previously not awarded were approved for dancers on the second- and third-place teams.
Categories: Local

Draw with New York ends rough week for United

Star Tribune Sports - Mon, 06/01/2015 - 11:12
Minnesota United FC got knocked out of the US Open Cup, and – mostly – out of the running for the NASL Spring Championship.
Categories: Local

FOX Sports letting go of regional sports reporters

Star Tribune Sports - Mon, 06/01/2015 - 08:16
The network says it is switching its web strategy toward video content instead of beat reporting.
Categories: Local

LaVine: "Excited to see what we're all about" after Wolves draft No. 1

Star Tribune Sports - Mon, 06/01/2015 - 06:22
Headed for his "1st annual" camp in Mendota Heights next week, Wolves guard excited about team drafting "another up-and-coming player" with No. 1 overall pick
Categories: Local

Dance team controversy on high school league's Monday agenda

Star Tribune Sports - Mon, 06/01/2015 - 06:19
The Minnesota State High School League's board of directors, meeting on Monday, is scheduled to discuss and vote on the dance team awards ceremony in February that resulted in a boycott by five teams.
Categories: Local

United's Ibarra called up to U.S. team

Star Tribune Sports - Sun, 05/31/2015 - 23:06
Ibarra will travel to Europe to play the Netherlands and 2014 World Cup champion Germany as the U.S. prepares for the Gold Cup in July.
Categories: Local

Bucked by life, trainer Bob Baffert makes another push for the Triple Crown

Star Tribune Sports - Sun, 05/31/2015 - 22:27
Personal loss and a heart attack have the trainer viewing this Triple Crown push differently.
Categories: Local

Minneapolis schools roll out new athletics funding plan

Star Tribune Sports - Sun, 05/31/2015 - 22:01
Officials want to build a multipurpose athletics facility and create a foundation to raise money for the district’s sports.
Categories: Local

Winning clubhouse is dance party central

Star Tribune Sports - Sun, 05/31/2015 - 21:59
Led by Torii Hunter, the Twins are winning and having fun.
Categories: Local

Twins notes: Nolasco leaves early because of sore ankle

Star Tribune Sports - Sun, 05/31/2015 - 21:48
The righthander is day-to-day, but results of an MRI exam are pending:
Categories: Local

MLB gets it right with a Twins-Brewers weekend series

Star Tribune Sports - Sun, 05/31/2015 - 21:36
“It’s huge to have Milwaukee for a weekend series,’’ Twins President Dave St. Peter said, and fans of both teams will agree with him.
Categories: Local

Lynx have a few roster spots to settle

Star Tribune Sports - Sun, 05/31/2015 - 20:43
Team likely will keep extra guard if Wright isn’t ready.
Categories: Local

Postgame: On the bullpen, Colabello and an amazing May

Star Tribune Sports - Sun, 05/31/2015 - 19:49
The Twins turn the calendar to June hoping they can maintain the momentum they built in May.
Categories: Local

NBA may lure Hoiberg away from Iowa State

Star Tribune Sports - Sun, 05/31/2015 - 19:42
A deal with the Chicago Bulls appears close to being done.
Categories: Local

Johnson makes history with 10th win at Dover

Star Tribune Sports - Sun, 05/31/2015 - 18:53
The six-time series champ became the fifth driver with 10 or more victories at at single track.
Categories: Local

Gwen Jorgensen races to her 10th straight ITU World Triathlon Series victory

Star Tribune Sports - Sun, 05/31/2015 - 18:30
The St. Paul athlete led a U.S. sweep in London.
Categories: Local

Still in Love: Cavaliers forward Kevin Love says he will be back next season with Cavaliers

Star Tribune Sports - Sun, 05/31/2015 - 18:07
Knocked from his first playoffs in the opening round by injury, Love spoke Sunday for the first time since undergoing surgery.
Categories: Local

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