Access Vikings

Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


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

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated August 26th at 12:38pm 272719041

Every Monday, well Tuesday in this case, we’ll take four questions from Twitter for our weekly mailbag using the #VikingsST hashtag.

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.

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.

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.

Head coach Mike Zimmer might’ve reference the cornerback as “the other guy” last week, but cut him?

photo (2)

Yes, he’ll make the team.

Vikings waive TE Higgins, set 75-man roster

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated August 26th at 9:19am 272708211

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.

Access Vikings morning walkthrough: starting QB named, roster cuts, Zimmer vs. PFF and more

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated August 26th at 7:24am 272692251

Every weekday, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening with the team that day.

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

— Head coach Mike Zimmer named Matt Cassel his starting quarterback.

— Backup QB Teddy Bridgewater still thinks Minnesota is a perfect situation for him.

— S Mistral Raymond and CB Derek Cox were among the team’s first roster cuts.

— The Vikings activated TE Chase Ford from the PUP list.

— Zimmer is apparently not a big fan of Pro Football Focus.

TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY

AROUND THE NFC NORTH

— Jimmy Clausen won the battle to be the Bears’ backup quarterback.

— Rookie C Corey Linsley must step up with J.C. Tretter sidelined.

— The Lions claimed two tight ends off of waivers.

TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE

After the morning walkthrough, coordinators Norv Turner and George Edwards will chat with reporters at 11 a.m. and the locker room will be open. The Vikings start practice at 12:50 p.m.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

Zimmer cares not for the grades from Pro Football Focus, but he may not mind seeing that they have graded Everson Griffen the third highest among 4-3 defensive ends during the preseason. They have Griffen down for eight total quarterback pressures in 53 total snaps as a pass rusher.

Vikings injury report: Ford returns; 11 players out

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated August 25th at 3:10pm 272612051

Tight end Chase Ford was activated off the physically unable to perform list on Monday. He participated in his first practice since minicamp after missing all of training camp and three preseason games with a broken left foot.

“It feels real good to be back,” Ford said.

It was Zimmer’s first chance to see Ford in pads. Zimmer said Ford has been cleared to do everything based on the rehab reports he’s received.

“We’ll have to see what kind of condition he is in, his recall for the plays,” Zimmer said. “He’s been out here and watching but that doesn’t mean that he knows the plays and being able to execute them and what kind of blocking he does. These next 13 days will be important for him.”

While Ford returned, there were 11 players either sidelined with an injury or absent from practice. Wide receiver Rodney Smith, offensive tackle Phil Loadholt (ankle), defensive tackle Fred Evans, nose tackle Linval Joseph (leg), linebacker Gerald Hodges (knee), cornerback Jabari Price and safety Jamarca Sanford (quad) did not participate but were at practice.

Joseph, Hodges and Price all worked on conditioning during the start of practice. While the injury is unknown, Smith landed awkwardly on his neck recovering an onside kick late in Saturday’s game against the Chiefs.

Linebacker Anthony Barr, safety Chris Crocker and linebackers Michael Mauti and Brandon Watts were not on the practice field.

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

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated August 26th at 6:41am 272597351

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.

Peter King of MMQB wrote today that 13 teams currently have contracts with Pro Football Focus.

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.

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Minnesota
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