Tag Archives: Greg Jennings

2013-2014 Minnesota Vikings Preview

By: Prad

 

Projected Record: 9-7

NFC North Rank: Tied with Bears for 2nd

The Vikings made the playoffs last season in Week 17 after a win against their division rivals. Although Minnesota ruined the undefeated mark that the Green Bay Packers held in the NFC North, that wasn’t the biggest story line. The story line of note that every NFL fan followed in the final week of last season was RB Adrian Peterson’s attempt at breaking Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record. Even though, Peterson fell eight yards shy of tying Dickerson’s mark, the Vikings clinched a playoff berth, something they hadn’t done since 2009. Ultimately though, they were futile in their efforts of advancing to the Division Round, a wild card loss coming at the hands of coincidentally, the Packers. This year, the Vikings will finish the season above .500, but will fail to reach the postseason because of a deep NFC.

The Minnesota Vikings will become better contenders when QB Christian Ponder refines his talent Courtesy of Sports Illustrated
The Minnesota Vikings will become better contenders when QB Christian Ponder becomes more refined
Courtesy of Sports Illustrated

In order for the Vikings to compete at a high level in one of the most difficult divisions in the league, their quarterback needs to develop into a more complete one. QB Christian Ponder isn’t required to be responsible for the majority of the offensive burden, which is a nice feeling for a QB. The position has become relied on heavier in the NFL during recent times and the majority of team’s are going with the aerial attack far more frequently than the rushing game. Ponder finished 24th in quarterback rating (81.2) last season among starting quarterbacks. Obviously, not every quarterback has a rusher that attains 2,000 yards, but for Ponder not to even surpass the 3,000 yard mark in passing is embarrassing. It’s rare in the NFL that the disparity in yardage between the passing game and rushing game is less than a 1,000 yards. The Vikings secured a viable backup when they got QB Matt Cassel this offseason. Perhaps, Cassel could even spark some competition for the role and Ponder could potentially use this as motivation to keep his starting job and increase his production immensely.

WR Greg Jennings will be the #1 receiver Courtesy of Zimbio
WR Greg Jennings will be the #1 receiver this upcoming season
Courtesy of Zimbio

Unfortunately for him, his leading receiver from a season ago, WR Percy Harvin was traded this offseason to the Seattle Seahawks. But, the Vikings did a decent job replacing him by acquiring WR Greg Jennings this offseason, who inked a 5 year-$47.5 million deal. In seven seasons with Green Bay, Jennings caught 425 passes for 6,537 yards and 53 touchdowns. He is a proven deep threat, who can boost Christian Ponder’s TD numbers from last season, which stood at a mediocre 18. This attests to his general underachieving nature, since the average starting QB threw for 27 last year. Peterson didn’t even take a drastic amount away from Ponder, getting only 12 TDs all of last season. If Ponder can develop a better pocket presence in the redzone, it would tremendously improve the versatility of this offense.

RB Adrian Peterson will go for the 2,000 yard club again Courtesy of ESPN
RB Adrian Peterson will attempt to go for the 2,000 yard club again
Courtesy of ESPN

AP is the best running back the game has seen in a while, some even say the best since Barry Sanders, which would effectively make him the best since the turn of the century. To prove people wrong who say that last season’s numbers was a fluke, Peterson’s goal is for 2,500 yards this season. While I don’t believe that 2,500 is attainable, 2,000 yards is plausible. This will make NFL history as nobody in the game has ever reached the 2,000 yard rushing mark more than once. That would prove the people who aren’t already believers in Peterson, which is a tiny minority. In his six year career, Peterson has averaged 1,475 yards a season, which makes his career total 8,849 yards. In that time period, Peterson has rushed for more yards than any other halfback in the league. These statistics should prove his naysayers wrong and secure him an entrance to the Hall of Fame in Canton by the age of 28.

The Vikings' defensive prowess will have to be on full display this season Courtesy of Associated Press
The Vikings’ defensive prowess will have to be on full display this season
Courtesy of Associated Press

A major reason for the Vikings going 10-6 last season despite a lack of touchdowns through the passing game and a rushing attack that wasn’t top tier in regards to rushing touchdowns, was their lock-down defense. All-Pro DE Jared Allen highlights this defensive unit, which ranked in the top 10 in rushing defense and 5th in sacks. They allowed only 105.8 rushing yards per game and sacked opposing quarterbacks 44 times throughout last season. Their defensive line is a proven presence that can poke holes in opposing offensive lines and make them look inferior. Although this is probably the best part of the defense, their linebacker group is impressive as well, which is led by LB Chad Greenway. Greenway led the team in tackles last year with a whopping 148, which stands at a tie for second in the league with San Francisco’s LB NaVorro Bowman and behind only Carolina’s LB Luke Kuechly (164).

Former FSU CB Xavier Rhodes Courtesy of SB Nation
Former FSU CB Xavier Rhodes
Courtesy of SB Nation

An issue with this defense seems to be the secondary. They didn’t force enough takeaways last year through the air, only intercepting 10 passes all of last season. To make matters worse, the Vikings released, CB Antoine Winfield, who signed with the Seahawks and was released by them too and subsequently retired. Winfield amassed 101 tackles last season, leading the cornerback group, but three tackles behind FS Harrison Smith. The Vikings have not taken adequate measures to fill the void left by Antoine Winfield. GM Rick Spielman drafted CB Xavier Rhodes, who could not possibly match Winfield’s production because of a lack of experience despite much potential. Rhodes is set to be #3 or #4 on the depth chart, but has a lot of room to improve in this secondary. Overall though, this defense needs to be as effective as it was last year for the Vikings to stay in postseason contention until late in the season.

Last year, the Vikings held a 4-2 mark in the NFC North. Look for them to repeat that record this year with one loss coming to the Chicago Bears and another at the hands of Green Bay. Adrian Peterson is the best player in the NFL, but he can’t single-handily will his team to the postseason again without support from QB Ponder. This defense can maintain the proficiency they were known for last season, in spite of the departure of a leading cornerback in the secondary. The Vikings are capable of dethroning the Packers and surprising the NFC North, but much of their success is contingent upon the competency of QB Christian Ponder.

2013-2014 Green Bay Packers Preview

By: Prad

 

Projected Record: 10-6

NFC North Rank: 1st

The Packers have won the NFC North the last two seasons behind one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Last year, Green Bay had a 5-1 NFC North record en route to finishing the season off 11-5, but they eventually succumbed to the 49ers in the Divisional Round in a high scoring bout, 45-31. Their record will take a small hit as a result of some losses of veteran players, but they ended up doing very well in April’s draft, which gives them a bright future. They’ll most probably clinch a playoff berth sometime in Week 16 or even Week 17, but only that late because of their difficult schedule. 10 of the 16 games their slated to play this season, have teams that owned a winning record a season ago.

James Jones Courtesy of Telegraph Herald
James Jones
Courtesy of The Telegraph Herald

Aaron Rodgers has been among the league’s best quarterbacks for the last three years and has the accolades to back it up. He won the 2011 MVP award, the Lombardi Trophy the same year and snagged the Super Bowl MVP too. Essentially, the triple crown for football. Although he hasn’t lost any luster, his receiving corps suffered a blow following the departure of WR Greg Jennings to the Minnesota Vikings. Jennings was injured for a large part of last season, but when healthy was a dominant presence. He has topped the 1,000 yard receiving mark three of the last five seasons and has hauled in 12 TD receptions two times in his career. WR James Jones and WR Jordy Nelson will have to make up for the significant loss of production, which they have proven they can do. Jones filled in very nicely for Jennings last year grabbing 14 touchdown passes.

OT Bryan Bulaga has left a void at offensive tackle Courtesy of SB Nation
OT Bryan Bulaga has left a void at offensive tackle
Courtesy of SB Nation

Rodgers has been known for getting sacked frequently throughout his career. In fact, last year, the Packers offensive line gave up 51 sacks, which is the second highest total in the NFL, behind the Cardinals. To make matters worse, they lost their best offensive lineman in Bryan Bulaga, who is out for the season with a torn ACL and lost C Jeff Saturday, who decided to retire. Although Rodgers is an above-averager scrambler when under pressure, he’ll have to do much better this upcoming year to make up for the key losses. Bulaga was a left tackle, which means Rodgers is going to be vulnerable on his blind side. As a result, he has to be cognizant about his numbers in the fumble department throughout the season. However, it’s a good thing GM Ted Thompson selected two offensive lineman, OL David Bakhtiari and OL JC Tretter in this year’s draft. They’ll prove to be helpful in providing good blocking for the rushing attack but I can’t say with certainty whether they’ll aid in providing Rodgers more time in the pocket. Only time will tell their immediate impact.

Former Alabama RB Eddie Lacy Courtesy of ESPN
Former Alabama RB Eddie Lacy
Courtesy of ESPN

This April, Green Bay drafted two halfbacks, RB Eddie Lacy and RB Johnathan Franklin, who can bolster a previously mediocre rushing attack. Even though this has the potential to be a dynamic combo in the backfield, the more talented and athletic Lacy will take most of the rushes this year. Hopefully, with some young legs, Rodgers and the aerial attack don’t need to take on a massive chunk of the offensive burden this year, something they’ve gotten accustomed to in the past few seasons. Last year, the rushing game had 1,702 yards throughout the season, while the passing game was responsible for 4,049 yards. Although it is common for a team’s passing attack to outperform its rushing game in terms of yards, the disparity between the two with Green Bay is one of the greatest in the NFL. If the rushing game has good production in the first few weeks, that bodes well for the team and Rodgers for the rest of the season, since he’ll be more of a threat with a degree of uncertainty.

Packers Defense Courtesy of Bleacher Report
Packers Defense
Courtesy of Bleacher Report

The Packers defensive unit has been one of the league’s best in recent times. They sacked an opposing quarterback 47 times last season, which ranked them 4th in the NFL. Their secondary was tremendous as well, ranking inside the top 10 for both yards allowed and points allowed. Charles Woodson was a pivotal element on the Packers for seven seasons, attaining 38 interceptions during that time. He got elected to the Pro Bowl four times as a Packer and was considered amongst the league’s best safeties just a couple seasons ago. Although his departure to the Oakland Raiders is disappointing, the aging Woodson, 36 was injured for half of last season and probably would’ve become more injury prone in future years. The team’s D still remains excellent with linebacker Clay Matthews as the centerpiece. To round out their linebacker crew is rookie first round selection Nick Perry, LILB AJ Hawk, and MLB Brad Jones. This four man group is set to be a top 5 linebacker unit in the NFL next season. Their defensive line has also excelled, which is led by DT BJ Raji and DT Ryan Pickett, both Pro Bowl caliber players. The only concern on this defensive unit seems to be the secondary. They haven’t done enough to replace Woodson and his production. The Pack didn’t acquire a safety during this offseason. Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers seems to simply be starting MD Jennings at strong safety and Morgan Burnett at free safety, both of whom lack starting experience. Yet, nobody can argue against the potent cornerback duo of Tramon Williams and Sam Shields. So, this defensive will NOT inevitably fail without the veteran Charles Woodson leading the secondary.

Clearly, GM Ted Thompson has addressed many concerns on the offensive end with this year’s draft and much of the defense remains intact despite a few alterations. The Green Bay Packers, a fixture in the postseason, are a formidable threat to any opposing team on their schedule, but will not be able to advance past the Divisional Round again this season due to a highly competitive NFC.  However, Green Bay will remain NFC North Champions, because nobody in their division has enough versatility on both sides of the ball to dethrone them.