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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.