Off to 'FANkato tomorrow for the #92Noon Production, and Gophers womens' hockey stud D RACHEL RAMSEY will co-host most of the show. Thrilled to work with this risingmedia star and bring her into the energy of on an on-site presentation.
"Patrick Peterson with a Ponytail" will see all the Vikings players for whom she will be rooting this season, and she'll have a terrific time. The 915 excites me because Rachel will set a hockey lineup using Vikings. She's charged with providing the public our first line and why, two defenseman and a game-changing goalie. Should be fun.
I'll stick around for practice and monitor the progress of rookie hybrid ANTHONY BARR and second-year CB XAVIER RHODES. I obsess over those two because they are vital to the Vikings defense being markedly better than last season. Markedly better, not marginally improved.
I was told this weekend by a respected observer Barr gets better practice by practice and has a chance to be the "best defensive player on the team by week six." I happen to think HARRISON SMITH is going to be a rock star in this type of defense but would love to see the UCLA OLB/DE shine from the start.
It seems he is becoming more crafty with his moves against veterans and has a burst the good ones have. He is a 6-foot-5, 255-pound guy with 4.5 40-yard speed. If he figures out how to overcome the craft and guile of veteran protectors he could lead us in sacks. He averaged well over 10 TFL his two seasons playing OLB for the Bruins, and when he played offense his first two years was a fast battering ram as a FB. The kid is tough, fast, smart and inexperienced on defense.
Barr providing a sneaky rush from the "base" defense helps immensely, and he'll play RDE when the team goes "nickel" at STL, EVERSON GRIFFEN moving to defensive tackle. If Barr gets a bunch of hurries and/or sacks, that will protect a secondary that has had a lot of strain and pressure applied to it this offseason.
New HC MIKE ZIMMER -- formerly a well respected DC in Cincy and DBs coach for a Super Bowl-winning Cowboys team -- rides members of his secondary harder than anybody else on the team. You can tell to accomplish what he wants the DBs have to bust butt and cover one-on-one. That assists the tricks Zimmer wants to unveil. Can't strip-sack CAPTAIN COOL if he knows it's coming. Zimmer wants our defense to be a crafty check raise in a high-stakes Texas Hold 'Em game.
Rhodes is supposed to be best suited for that and seems to flourish when asked to cover one-on-one. He has zero picks entering this season and needs to finish his second year with at least three. Zimmer just departed a Cincy team where 10 guys had at least one interception. When the rush is sneaky and comes from obscure players and from odd angles everybody feeds.
I watch practice with the defense -- not the QB battle -- as my A Topic. If the defense doesn't go from awful to above-average we won't win more than six games. Barr and Rhodes are two of the most important guys on the team. Here's to hoping they shine!