Minnesota Vikings Rookie Report: Who Has Impressed the Least so Far?
The Vikings have one of the youngest rosters in the NFL, whether you choose to compare the average age of starters or the 75-man rosters. A big part of this retooling is making sure to find the right rookies who can develop into solid players over the long term.
Another important facet of a young team is the need to critically analyze young players on the roster and cut those who can't make it.
Out of the 15 rookies, six are providing some worrisome play on film and could all be categorized as potentially least impressive.
OT Kevin Murphy
Murphy wasn't expected to make the roster, but neither was he expected to make it nearly impossible to evaluate Joe Webb. He, along with Austin Pasztor and Pat Brown, gave up an extraordinary number of pressures against San Francisco, and didn't look hot against the Bills, either.
A lot of his issues are correctable, and he's been looking good in individual drills over the course of camp, but that doesn't mean anything if he can't translate that to the field.
His biggest issues are footwork and pad level. He can get an OK first step, but doesn't react well to defensive end moves and, if he guesses wrong, will almost always get beat inside or outside.
He moves stiffly and can't move side-to-side as effectively as a tackle should.
Beyond that, he can get powered out of plays on bull-rushes simply because he plays far too high.
He can shoot out on running plays, but is not impressive in this capacity, and will certainly not be a saving grace.
His best asset is field intelligence, and seems to read the flow of the run well, while also understanding schemes. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to be in sync with the offensive line and this obviates most of his advantage in field intelligence.
WR Jarius Wright
20 players have received a pass this preseason, and Jarius Wright isn't one of them. This isn't always due to statistical chance; coaches will make many different receivers the designated hot read or the first read during preseason play in order to better evaluate them.
Wright may not be entirely responsible for how his team's offensive line has created issues in the passing game, but he has had issues getting open against off coverage when there was no pressure on the QB.
As someone who thrives on slot play, he'll need to use quickness, agility and separation to provide value for the Vikings.
While nothing has indicated he can't improve, the former Arkansas receiver hasn't displayed the type of agility that earned him fourth-round consideration, or the moniker "Percy Harvin-lite."
As a punt returner, Wright has been much less than impressive in practice than the Vikings may have hoped for, and didn't do as well in small spaces as advertised.
Wright clearly has a lot of potential, but shows up here because his expectations were much, much higher than he showcased.
LB Corey Paredes
While Paredes has recorded four tackles this preseason, only one was a good individual effort that was a result of solid linebacker play. One came on third-and-long, after the Vikings intentionally played a soft zone to take away the third-down conversion.
He hasn't shown anything of note, and that's worrisome for a team who has been taking a serious look at linebackers to evaluate all of their options.
While he doesn't seem to lack the ability to position himself correctly on plays, he's been in so few preseason snaps that there's not much to evaluate him on.
His camp performance wasn't great, and certainly didn't earn him a spot with the second-team defense. He hasn't made any big plays in camp or the offseason, so he has very little to make himself stand out.
For the most part, the worries about Paredes' size ring more and more true. Although speed might be more important than any other physical attribute, the inability to close down offensive lineman or shed blocks means he has a very good chance of not making the roster.
OL Austin Pasztor
Pasztor has had a rough offseason, and his documented inability to communicate well on the line makes him a bit of a liability. Sometimes, he'll find himself preventing interior pressure because of his strength, but can't seem to consistently provide good technique.
Pasztor gave up a significant amount of pressure against San Francisco, and his poor technique is a big reason why.
The former CFL standout can't seem to do well against stunting defenders or pass-rushers that engage in misdirection. This is much more of a problem with the pass game than the run game (where he is in fact OK), as Pasztor's presence on the line almost guarantees pressure up the middle.
He can't seem to develop proper leverage and also looks stiff for an offensive lineman. He won't get low enough on his blocks, and this may be related to his documented issues in making sure he has proper knee flexion off the snap, but it is worrisome at any rate.
Pasztor has not shown any reason he can be a legitimate roster option for the Vikings, but instead displayed several reasons that he should be avoided.
DT Chase Baker
A big defensive tackle out of Boise State, Baker was hoping to make an impression using his strength and secure the third nose tackle spot.
While very strong, Baker hasn't displayed a full skill set to justify having the largest bonus of the undrafted free agent rookie class.
He's been slow off the snap, and perhaps the slowest off the snap of the entire defensive line corps. Given that the difference between a sack and a hit, or a hit and a pressure ends up being tenths of a second, his criminal lack of burst will keep him off rosters.
Not only that, he will find himself being pushed around in the run game because of his low functional strength—how strong he plays on the field. His poor footwork is a big part of it.
The biggest problem with Baker's performances is that he's a nose tackle that almost never gets doubled, even in run play. That's telling in a big way.
OL Tyler Holmes
Tyler Holmes can't seem to find a way on to a beleaguered second-string offensive line, and his performance in camp and on the field has been wanting. While he hasn't given as much pressure in live play as Brown or Murphy, he's also generally been up against much worse defenders.
Holmes can't seem to consistently react to the snap quickly enough in order to be in the right spot, which is worrisome, as he should know the snap count.
This has only seemed to create an issue with false starts once, but it could show a degree of tentativeness that might be fatal to his NFL career.
Who has been the most disappointing rookie so far?
Holmes has an issue determining where to put his body or how to react to a defender driving him up the field, and doesn't seem to have awareness of where the quarterback is (or should be). If he steps back to in order to set himself up for better protection, he might find himself running into the quarterback.
While Holmes hasn't been awful in every aspect of play, he could use a lot of work.
It would be easy to add the injured Greg Childs or the less injured Robert Blanton, but they haven't been unimpressive so much as having missed opportunities. Blanton will likely make the squad as a safety, and the Vikings will evaluate him as the year progresses.
Childs will spend the season on injured reserve, and hopefully make a comeback next year. His absence will hurt the Vikings, but it's not because he's a disappointing player; something disappointing happened to him.
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