Thursday, March 01, 2012

Vikings fans - peace out from Grant's Tomb

Today is an ending and a beginning for me.

After four-and-a-half years, 511 posts and millions of reader comments (getting silly here, but there have been hundreds of comments), this will be the last entry at Grant's Tomb.

I've threatened to do it before, but this time it's for real. The good news - or bad news if you despise my writing - is that I'm not backing away from blogging about the Vikings. I'm starting a new site - Kick Ass Blog - and the site has now gone live.

I'm not going to spend any time here telling you to check it out, but that's where I'm going to continue my blogging about the Vikes.

So why go from a (somewhat) established Minnesota Vikings blog brand, Grant's Tomb, to a new one?

Well, it's not just me writing this blog. I've recruited some help, and for Viking fans who are frequent visitors of Vikes-specific blogs, I think you will be quite familiar with his work.

So thanks to everybody that stopped by over the past four-plus years. I've enjoyed being part of the Vikings blog community, and I plan to continue to enjoy being part of it – just not with Grant's Tomb.

By the way, the premiere post of the new site can be found here. But I'll leave it at that.


Darren Campbell
Grant's Tomb

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

About that Vikings stadium bill ....

I don't know abut you – actually, I think I do know – anyway this Vikings stadium back-and-forth got old a long time ago.

Last week Vikings owner Zygi Wilf and Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton said they were close to agreeing on a stadium bill to present to the Minnesota state legislature. A week later, the parties still haven't agreed on a bill. And state politicians are starting to get cranky with the waiting game.

Dayton's blaming the legislators for somehow slowing the process. The legislators are blaming Dayton. Keep in mind this is just a bill that would be presented to the state to consider. Assuming that occurs, then the Minneapolis City Council has to approve it. How long do you figure all of this will take? Six months? Eight? Twelve?

(Update, via Pro Football Talk, looks like something is happening, a press conference Thursday morning has been scheduled.)

Draft Targets

The National Football Post's Wes Bunting has this look at some rising prospects in the wake of the NFL combine.

I don't pay much attention to college football, so this time of the year is when I tend to learn a lot about all these kids the Vikings may or may not draft.

The Vikings need a wide receiver, so keep an eye on a guy like Miami's Tommy Streeter, who could be available in the second or third round, and has the size and speed a team like Minnesota is looking for.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Do the Vikings need a functional or franchise left tackle?

It was probably pre-draft smoke Vikings general manager Rick Spielman was blowing, but much has been written about his quote that the Vikings could thrive by finding a "functional left tackle" to protect Christian Ponder's blindside rather than an elite one – like USC's Matt Kalil is projected to be.

The Star-Tribune's Dan Wiederer examined this a bit in a recent post, and seems to lean towards the Vikings auctioning off the number three overall pick in April's draft, getting a king's ransom in return and going the functional left tackle route.

That may not be an option anymore, with the St. Louis Rams putting the "For Sale" sign on their number two overall draft pick.

I will say this though about the Vikings need for offensive line help. Diamonds in the rough are nice. Functional left tackles is a novel concept. But the Vikings went last year with an O-line that included a sixth-rounder (left tackle Charlie Johnson), a fifth rounder (center John Sullivan), an undrafted free agent (right guard Anthony Herrera) and a fading first-rounder they signed away from another team (left guard Steve Hutchinson). Right tackle Phil Loadholt (second round, 2009) was the only starter that was a high draft pick that the Vikings selected, and he's no stud (although he's not nearly as bad as some Viking fans would have you believe).

In short, the Vikings have neglected the offensive line for far too long. It's time to invest in it. Yes, you can succeed with a "functional" left tackle in the NFL, just like you can succeed with a "functional" quarterback (see Trent Dilfer and the 2000 Baltimore Ravens). But if an elite player at one of those positions is available, and the Vikes haven't had an elite left tackle since Todd Steussie left town in 2000, you probably should snap him up.

Kalil, by all accounts, looks like an elite left tackle. If he's still available when the Vikings are on the clock in April, Spielman better get his socks blown off with a trade offer if he decides to grab some extra draft picks and pass on Kalil.

The housecleaning begins

Pioneer Press writer Jeremy Fowler says the Vikings have told wide receiver Greg Camarillo he won't be back for a third season with the team.

Camarillo is the first of many Vikings from the 3-13 squad who will be shown the door between now and March 13. By that date, Camarillo will likely be joined by E.J. Henderson, Cedric Griffin, Anthony Herrera, Visanthe Shiancoe and more.

Camarillo will go down as one of my least favorite Viking players of all time. It's not because he was a bad guy or even a terrible player. It has more to do with the fact his arrival coincided with the Vikings going from an NFC Championship team to a 6-10 and then a 3-13 team. Somehow I blame him for that.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

More Vikings free agent, draft chatter

Wide Receiver Talk

CBS Sportsline's Clark Judge has a blog post today claiming free agent-to-be wide receiver Mario Manningham will land in Tampa Bay.

As followers of this blog are aware, I've been writing about Manningham as a potential free agent target for the receiver-poor Vikings for a couple of weeks now.

I don't think Manningham would be a coup as a free agent signing, but he'd help the Vikings. So let's start doing some math here when it comes to what was looking like a stacked free agent wide receiver class.

According to Judge, Manningham will land with the Bucs. Dwayne Bowe is looking like he's getting franchised by Kansas City. Wes Welker (an unlikely target for the Vikes anyway) will be franchised by the Patriots. The Eagles are likely to franchise DeSean Jackson and then maybe trade him. That's several blue-chip receivers who will "likely" be off the market and not heading to Winter Park when March 13 arrives.

Which means the competition for Vincent Jackson, Stevie Johnson, and even Early Doucet is going to be fierce. Not good.

Draft Talk

If this report I spied on the Daily Norseman's site today is to be believed, Vikes general manager Rick Spielman won't have to worry about fielding multiple offers for Minnesota's number three pick on draft day.

And that might be just fine – if Matt Kalil's performance yesterday at the NFL combine translates on the field. The Vikings need a left tackle and based on a few reports I'm going to link to below, Kalil did nothing to dispel the notion he's the best left tackle available in the draft.

For more on Kalil's combine effort, check out Kevin Seifert's post here (does Kalil look "slender" to you in this photo?); Tony Pauline's post here; and Wes Bunting's post here.

There is no need for the Vikings to overthink this one come April. Matt Kalil is their man.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Vikings Weekly Wrap

Joe Webb

I know what most Vikings fans are thinking after head coach Leslie Frazier said Friday that Joe Webb will concentrate on being a quarterback this season – it's about time.

For two seasons now, we've watched Webb make some jaw-dropping plays and perform pretty competently when he's been forced to play significant reps at quarterback. Those performances have been enough to have us fantasize about what Webb could accomplish if the Vikes coaching staff stopped jerking him around and had him focus on becoming an NFL quarterback. This week Vikings Territory head honcho Adam Warwas penned a guest post for me calling on the team to commit to developing Webb as a quarterback full-time. Warwas got his wish.

This is the right move for a number of reasons.

1) If starter Christian Ponder develops into the QB the Vikings expect him to, but Webb also shows he's got starter potential, the Vikes – if they play it smart – can trade Webb to another team for a premium. That would not be a bad return on a sixth-round investment.

2) If Ponder develops into a good starter, but Webb blossoms into a great starter, then the Vikes trade Ponder to another team for a premium.

3) And if Webb can't beat out Ponder, but still hones his craft enough that he's a solid backup option, that's okay as well. You can always use a decent backup.

Webb was never going to pan out as a wide receiver or kick returner anyway. So today was a good day for Joe Webb, the Minnesota Vikings and Viking fans.

Leslie Frazier

I think it's fair to say the bloom is off the rose for Frazier when it comes to Vikings fans. Being the head coach for a team that goes 3-13 never does a whole lot for a guy's popularity. Still, I liked some of the things coming out of Frazier's piehole in this post by ESPN 1500's Tom Pelissero.

The 2012 season is going to be a big one for Frazier. His team will have to show great improvement in order for him to keep his job. At least he's saying things right now that make perfect sense to me: that he's told Adrian Peterson to get smart when it comes to rehabbing his knee; that he wants to get Percy Harvin on the field more than we saw in 2011; and that he wants to give defensive lineman Jared Allen, Brian Robison and Kevin Williams more rest to keep them fresher next season.

What doesn't make much sense to me is entertaining the thought of bringing back Cedric Griffin. After two major knee operations, Griffin doesn't look like he's got anything left.

Again with Mario Manningham

No, I do not have a Mario Manningham fetish. However, I've been writing about him lately because I get the feeling the Vikings are going to pursue him when free agency starts on March 13. He's young (25), he's been reasonably productive (in 2010 he caught 60 passes for 944 yards and nine touchdowns) and he likely won't be horrendously expensive. That's a combination Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman will like.

Yet Manningham probably doesn't fill the Vikings need for a number #1 wide receiver. That is the view of The National Football Post's Matt Bowen, anyway.

That doesn't mean the Vikes shouldn't target Manningham, as he would be an obvious upgrade at the position. But the Vikings, and Vikings fans, should be realistic about what player they are getting if Manningham does sign with Minnesota. He's a good player. I don't think he's a great player. This club could use a few more good players, though.

Matt Kalil

The USC left tackle would fill an obvious need for the Vikings. That's why many mock drafts have Minnesota taking him with the number three overall pick.

I'm not going to write about that today. Instead I am going to make fun of a quote of his that appeared in this Thursday post by ESPN NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert.

Seifert marveled (at least I think he was marveling) that Kalil didn't look like a prototypical portly offensive lineman at the combine. "I'm so tall and slender, I could weigh 310, and it wouldn't look it," Kalil told reporters with a straight face.

I love this. It might be the first time in history a 6'6, 306-pound guy called himself slender. Matt – 6'6 and 206 pounds is slender. When you're 6'6 and over 300 pounds, well, that's just big.

Blog Developments

After some lean months in 2011, I've been blogging pretty steady here at Grant's Tomb since September and have every intention of doing so for the foreseeable future.

But change is afoot. On March 1st, I'll be putting Grant's Tomb out to pasture after 500-plus posts and debuting a new, mostly Vikings-focused blog.

I'm pretty pumped about this, and what's even better is I will have some help. I have recruited another writer to contribute regularly to the blog, and while I don't want to give anything away at this point, I think fans who frequent Viking sites regularly will be somewhat familiar with the writer's previous work.

I will leave it at that for now. Just be sure to check back here on March 1st, as I will post a link to the new site at Grant's Tomb on Thursday.

Ahh, the excitement. Can you feel it?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

What will Antoine Winfield's role be in 2012?

ESPN's Kevin Seifert had a short post today at the NFL combine that had nothing to do with potential Viking draftees. It was actually about cornerback Antoine Winfield and what role he will have with the team next season.

The post comes after Seifert attended a press conference where Vikings general manager Rick Spielman gave the media horde some of his thoughts. A couple of points about that post and Spielman comments.

1. Seifert seems to think the Vikings are considering all kinds of roles for Winfield – including moving him to safety. I can't see that happening – not because it doesn't make sense – but because in an article several weeks ago (which I could not find on the Internet in order to link to it here) Winfield made it pretty clear he ain't playing safety. His basic comment was something like, "corner is where the action is, so I'm going to be a corner."

But Spielman and the Vikings have something cooking with Winfield. A GM knows how the media game works and Spielman would not put something out there publicly unless he thought it was in his best interest to do so. I think what he's trying to do is pave the way for an Antoine Winfield who plays several less snaps in 2012 than he has played in the past. And that could be Spielman's plan on how to get two more full seasons of football out of a still effective, but aging and increasingly brittle veteran like Winfield.

I think the perfect role for Winfield is that of a Charles Woodson-type hybrid corner-safety position, where he's moved around the field and asked to do a number of things. Winfield's still a deadly tackler. He also shown a good feel for blitzing (and stripping the ball from quarterbacks). Finally, he can still cover. The only problem with that idea is the Vikings Tampa Two defensive scheme doesn't seem to allow for that kind of creativity. But I don't see Winfield playing safety. Ever.

2. If Winfield isn't going to be a full-time player, and instead will only play when opponents use three and four wide receiver sets – which will still be a lot of the time in today's NFL – what does that do to the Vikings run defense?

The Williams Wall, E.J. Henderson, Jared Allen, Ray Edwards, Chad Greenway, Ben Leber, Cedric Griffin – they all had a hand in making the Vikings essentially the top run-stopping unit in the NFL from 2006-2009. But Winfield played a large role in that as well. He was like an extra linebacker out there. He sealed off outside running lanes with a great ability to knife through blocks and take out running backs, fullbacks and wide receivers in space outside the numbers.

The Vikings didn't have that guy much of last year, and while it wasn't the only reason Minnesota was subpar stopping the run, I think it was a factor. If Winfield isn't playing on downs when opponent's are using only two receivers, the unit will be playing those (likely) running downs without one of their best run defenders. I don't know how you square that circle.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The NFL draft combine is here and so is Vikings draft excitement

The Minnesota Vikings haven't had a more important draft since the last time the team went 3-13, which as most Vikes fans know, occurred in 1984. In the spring of 1985, the Vikings selected future Hall of Fame defensive end Chris Doleman, steady cornerback Issiac Holt and center Kirk Lowdermilk with their first three selections. The rebuilding effort was on.

If the Vikings do as well with their first three picks in the 2012 college draft, fans should be pleased. And the first step towards finding out who the Vikings might select in April started Wednesday as the NFL draft combine kicked off in Indianapolis.

I won't devote a lot of attention to covering it over the next few days, however, as most of the stuff will be happening while I'm doing my real job. Plus, I'm not into shuttle drills and guys throwing footballs in shorts.

There will be a couple of writers worth checking out if you're looking for info on who the Vikings brainthrust is oogling and what players are surging or struggling at this annual meat market though.

One of them is ESPN North's Kevin Seifert, who says he will be blogging the hell out of the combine. The other is ESPN 1500's Tom Pelissero, who will be tweeting regularly throughout the combine.