Minnesota Vikings: Report Card for Every Starter Through the First 3/4 of Season

Ray TannockSenior Analyst IDecember 7, 2011

Minnesota Vikings: Report Card for Every Starter Through the First 3/4 of Season

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    Well, it's about that time of year when we sit down and take a hard look at how every starting player measured up this season, which brings me to another "report card" piece—only this time, we'll be judging every starter.

    The one exception here will be at the WR position, where I will be grading just two receivers instead of the expected three. Yes, there are technically three starting WRs, but in Bill Musgrave's offense, the double tight end is the main feature, which showcases two wideouts more often than not.

    Let's take a look at how everyone is doing.

Christian Ponder

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    Through seven games, Christian Ponder has shown both growth and regression, but in the grand scheme of things, Ponder has shown a ton of future promise.

    Ponder has the mobility and eye movement to one day become an elite quarterback, but he must continue working on developing a quicker release and knowing when to simply kill the play.

    Seven games is not a long time in the NFL, but it has been more than enough time to show that Ponder is a cut above the rest.

    Overall Grade: B

Adrian Peterson

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    OK, I really don't think I have to say anything at all really, but what the hoot.

    The guy is one of—if not the best—running backs in the league right now, and without him in the lineup, the Vikings definitely struggle more.

    Peterson has lived up to the bill as the leader of this offense, and has shone every step of the way in 2012.

    Overall Grade: A-Plus

Percy Harvin

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    Percy Harvin is like football's "Must See TV," because you never really know what the guy is going to do on the field, or where he's going to play.

    Harvin has been spectacular as a return man, a running back and receiver.

    Harvin has also chimed in on trick plays and various other situational calls, and he has come through each time with flying colors.

    So long as those migraines stay away, Harvin has a bright future as a Viking.

    Overall Grade: A

Michael Jenkins

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    Michael Jenkins is a curious player indeed, so some of you may disagree with my analysis here, but that's quite alright.

    Some people feel that Jenkins is a fine WR-2 within Minnesota's system, but I for one feel he is not quite up to par, and I don't really believe he played as well as he could've this year.

    The problem I have with Jenkins is his inability to not only break free at the line of scrimmage, but his inability to show himself as a viable threat—two aspects that a WR-2 should accomplish in an effort to draw more defensive attention.

    Jenkins is a fine player, don't get me wrong. But I think spending most of his early years as a blocking WR (Atlanta under Bill Musgrave) has prevented him from maturing as a true catch-and-go receiver, which at times has shown through this season.

    Overall Grade: C-Plus

Visanthe Shiancoe

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    Boy oh boy, what can I say about "Shank" that hasn't already been pointed out?

    Shiancoe was asked to be a primary focal point within this offense, and he has responded in kind by being that X-factor role-player.

    With Shiancoe, you have to look beyond the stat line to understand why he has been so vital to this offense.

    Shank has been the go-to guy for Ponder when the outside lanes are closed down, and he has been the situational receiver that often primes the ground game.

    Not to mention he has been a solid mentor for Kyle Rudolph.

    Overall Grade: B-Plus

Kyle Rudolph

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    How many versions of this catch have we seen this year from Rudolph?

    While the rookie has shown us he has some work to do—as expected—he has also shown us some great future promise.

    Rudolph is maturing into a great pass-catcher, which was what he also accomplished at Notre Dame, but Rudolph's blocking skills still need to be developed—especially when he has to deal with containing an outside pass-rusher—if he is to become a complete tight end in this system.

    Overall Grade: B

Charlie Johnson

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    Sorry, this was the only picture I could find of Johnson not in a Colts uniform.

    Johnson has not lived up to the hype this season, and he has been more of a line-liability than an asset.

    There have been times when Johnson has shown himself to be effective, but the bottom line is he has struggled all year at tackle—especially with bullish rushers who have made a living off of disrupting Johnson's initial balance at the snap.

    I think if Johnson is going to stay in Minny, he'll have to show some serious improvement upon what he hasn't accomplished this season.

    Overall Grade: C-Minus

Steve Hutchinson

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    Hutch has done an admirable job this season, but it has become clear that he is certainly in decline.

    Hutch has always been a force in the ground game, but his ability to defend the QB has been spotty this year at best, much like his line counterparts.

    The problem is the fact that Hutch is 34, and his body is beginning to catch up with him in regard to that knee and simple wear and tear.

    Again, he has played admirably this season.

    Overall Grade: C-Plus

John Sullivan

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    In his first two years, "Sully" was pushed around quite a bit, and that was enough to worry about him this year as a potential starter on a line that was already in slight disarray.

    But the fact of the matter is that Sullivan has drastically improved this year.

    Sully has done a better job at establishing his footing off the snap and has improved his overall vision within the zone when blocking.

    At 26, his future now shows a high ceiling if the Vikings decide to bring him back.

    Overall Grade: B-Plus

Anthony Herrera

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    If there is a glaring weakness in this line, it is the play of Anthony Herrera, hands down.

    Herrera hasn't been able to stay healthy, which has something to do with his awful play, but in general, the guy just isn't the protector that the Vikings perhaps envisioned him to be.

    Herrera has failed to establish his "property" at the line when pass-blocking and has performed below-standard when blocking for the run.

    The Vikings may consider replacing him this offseason.

    Over Grade: D

Phil Loadholt

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    Loadholt continues to develop at the tackle position, but it seems as if the process is going slower than perhaps the Vikings organization had hoped for.

    Loadholt has times on the field when he still looks lost, and he continues to struggle against the more physical and speedy outside pass-rushers of the league.

    That is cause for concern moving forward.

    As a run-blocker, Loadholt has performed adequately, but he does tend to have "sticky hands".

    Overall Grade: C

Jared Allen

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    There's little I can say here other than the guy just doesn't quit, is a true team leader and plays with a motor that seemingly never shuts down.

    You would think that a player in his position, on a losing team, would put up no better than 50 percent output, but that just isn't the case.

    Teams have had to account for Allen all year long, and Allen has done a stellar job as a pass-rusher.

    Overall grade: A-Plus

Brian Robison

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    Robison has done a real nice job this year on both ends of the stick for Minnesota, which has been a little bit of a surprise.

    Robison has really come on strong the past four games in a row as well, racking up 11 tackles and a fumble recovery.

    Robison is locked in for three years, so Minnesota can take comfort in knowing that.

    Overall Grade: A

Kevin Williams

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    Another quality aspect of this defensive line has been the play of Kevin Williams as the primary "three-technique" man.

    Williams has been able to apply pressure all season long and hasn't missed a step, even after he dealt with a suspension wile also playing two games without pay.

    He has the stuff, but at 31, the Vikings will have some decisions to make this offseason.

    Overall Grade: A

Remi Ayodele

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    Ayodele has been a roller coaster of a player this year, struggling to really establish himself as a true starter.

    In Week 10, against the Packers, that up-and-down play caught up with him as Ayodele was demoted from the starting lineup, which was a move that seemingly started a fire under him.

    Ayodele has improved his play since Week 10, but he will have to show consistency if he is to be trusted moving forward.

    Overall Grade: C-Minus

Erin Henderson

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    Henderson has done a solid job as the primary floating linebacker for the Minnesota Vikings, keeping opposing ground game at bay while also offering supporting defense against the shorter passes over the middle.

    At times, Henderson often gets caught in traffic, especially when blitzing, which hurts his overall grade here.

    Nonetheless, he's a solid backer.

    Overall Grade: B

E.J. Henderson

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    The other Henderson has been holding his own at 31 years of age, but his time may be over in Minnesota as a starter.

    Henderson has done a solid job against the run this season, but he has been a big liability against the pass all season long, which has hurt Minnesota often this year.

    The Vikings are trying to get younger, and Henderson—if kept—could be in line for a bench role in 2012, if the Vikings score another backer who fits the "future mold."

    Overall Grade: C-Plus

Chad Greenway

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    Greenway has been the star student at the linebacker position all season long.

    Greenway has been more than effective against the run and pass while also offering up good containment against the more mobile quarterbacks in the league.

    If I had to mention anything about Greenway in regard to improvement, it would be lateral coverage, which seems to be his weakness.

    Other than that, he's been sound all season long.

    Overall Grade: A

Cedric Griffin

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    Griffin has been up and down all season long, which is frustrating because we all know this guy has the talent.

    The problem has been partly due to the scheme, and what he has been asked to do at times (anyone remember the stupid play dialed up by Pagac which put Griffin one-on-one with Calvin Johnson earlier this year?).

    Griffin is better suited in a system that relies heavily on support over the top from the safety, since he isn't the greatest man-to-man cover player in the world.

    Overall Grade: C-Minus

Antoine Winfield

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    OK, here's the deal—Winfield is an aging player who has a lot of upside but a lot of risk, and it has shown this season sporadically.

    At 35, Winfield has played just as well as anyone out of nickle-and-dime packages, but in other cover schemes where he is dealing with youth and skill, he struggles heavily.

    I think Winfield's days as a starter could be nearing an end, but it's been a good run.

    Overall Grade: C-Minus

Husain Abdullah

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    Abdullah hasn't played since Week 10, but prior to the concussion that knocked him out of the lineup, he was doing an admirable job.

    Abdullah's presence was a comfort zone the Vikings were enjoying despite dealing with a makeshift secondary all year long, thanks to various injuries to various players.

    Abdullah did shows signs of struggle against the deep ball, especially out of the blitzing packages this season, which is something he'll have to tighten up.

    Overall Grade: B-Minus

Jamarca Sanford

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    Despite being another victim of the injury bug, the young Sanford showed a lot of promise this season as a guy who can do multiple tasks, including safety and cornerback.

    What I would like to see Sanford improve upon is his open-field tackling, which is a part of his game that suffers the most.

    Overall Grade: C-Plus

Honorable Mentions

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    Each position has had additional players who have—at times—played as a starter, especially on the defensive side of the ball, so we'll take a quick look at a few of these players.

     

    Defense

    Asher Allen, Tyrell Johnson, Christian Ballard and Everson Griffen have all had time as a starter, with Allen and Griffen leading the way.

    Allen has done a serviceable job as a cover-man for Minnesota, while Griffen has seemingly turned the corner as both a player and a person. Each of these two players have their idiosyncrasies, of course, but nothing that can't be worked on as time moves forward.

    The young Ballard and Johnson both have a lot of work that has to be done if they are to eventually become the impact players that the Vikings had hoped for. Johnson has been the bigger disappointment thus far.

    Overall Grades:
    Allen - C-Plus -
    Johnson - D-Minus

    Ballard - C-Plus
    Griffen - B-Minus


    Offense

    Toby Gerhart and Devin Aromashodu have been thrust into the starting role thanks to injuries to MIchael Jenkins (Aromashodu) and Adrian Peterson (Gerhart).

    Toby Gerhart has been much more of a standout than Devin Aromashodu, but that doesn't mean that both players haven't had their impact.

    Aromashodu hasn't quite been able to establish himself as a short receiver, though, which does limit his overall ceiling.

    Overall Grades:
    Gerhart - B-Plus
    Aromashodu - B-Minus