2011 Vikings Review: Percy Harvin earns highest grade on offense
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Editor's note: This is the first installment in a three-part series grading the 2011 Minnesota Vikings.
The NFL lockout doesn't bear sole blame for the mediocrity of coordinator Bill Musgrave's unit. But it wiped out valuable learning time in a new scheme and contributed to several personnel decisions that didn't work out in the team's favor.
Without adequate time to prepare a rookie quarterback, the Vikings made a trade on July 29 for washed-up veteran Donovan McNabb, who was benched after six starts and granted his release on Dec. 1.
Without an opportunity to re-sign top receiver Sidney Rice or a serviceable replacement, the Vikings kept around Bernard Berrian, who managed seven catches for 91 yards and was deactivated twice before getting cut on Oct. 25.
Uneven quarterback play, an impotent perimeter group and protection woes all affected an offense that finished 18th in total offense (329.7 net yards per game), 19th in scoring (21.3 points per game) and 28th in passing (184.8 net yards per game).
The Vikings also ranked in the NFL's bottom half in turnovers (26, 19th), interception rate (3.3%, 23rd) and sacks allowed (49, tied for 28th) while using three different players at the most important position.
They did rank fourth in rushing (144.9 yards per game), ninth in red-zone touchdown percentage (56.6%) and 14th in third-down conversion percentage (38.4%). But there's no question the offense is entering a critical offseason -- and needs help from the remodeled personnel department to get the offense where everyone wants it to go.
The following are individual grades for the 33 offensive players who finished the season on the Vikings' 53-man roster, injured reserve or practice squad. Grades are based on observations of games and practice, weekly tape studies and interviews with NFL coaches and scouts throughout the season. Unofficial statistics such as targeted passes, broken tackles, drops and yards after contact are compiled by ProFootballFocus.com, an independent research firm that charts NFL games.
Players are graded on a scale that designates "A" for elite performance, "B" for above-average performance, "C" for average performance, "D" for below-average performance and "F" for failure to perform at an NFL level. Any player spending fewer than six weeks on the active roster and/or appearing in fewer than three games is given an "I" for incomplete.
Christian Ponder (D+): Drafted 12th overall, Ponder probably would have started from Week 1 if he'd had a full offseason to prepare. Instead, he replaced McNabb in the fourth quarter on Oct. 16 at Chicago, made his first start a week later against Green Bay and turned in his two best performances out of the gate. Played 575 of 1,037 gradable snaps (55.4%). Completed 158 of 291 passes (54.3%) for 1,853 yards, 13 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a 70.1 rating. Ran 28 times for 219 yards (7.8 average). Took 30 sacks. Was at his best in the first meeting with Green Bay (12 of 13 completions for first downs or touchdowns) and a win on Oct. 30 at Carolina (18-of-28 for 236 yards and a touchdown). Committed 11 turnovers over the next five games -- all losses -- and suffered a hip pointer on Dec. 4 against Denver that bugged him the rest of the season. Started the following week at Detroit despite limited practice time, got benched after four turnovers and seemed to lose confidence. Booed after three bad misses on Dec. 18 against New Orleans, which held him to 32 gross passing yards before garbage time. Knocked out on Dec. 24 against Washington with a concussion and again in the Jan. 1 finale against Chicago after aggravating the hip. Took three penalties. Has sufficient arm strength in the pocket and on the run, although he hasn't fit the ball into many tight windows. Showed a tendency to get off his spot too soon, particularly once he got banged up. Led the NFL in red-zone completion percentage (21 of 27, 77.8%, eight touchdowns, one interception). Flashed traits the Vikings believe can make him a franchise quarterback but needs more development time and weapons on the perimeter. Will get every opportunity to remain the starter in his second season.
Joe Webb (D): Limited to 21 snaps in the mostly punchless Blazer package over the season's first 12 games, Webb exploited his athleticism to make an impression once Ponder got banged up. Led the Vikings to within 1 yard of a road win at Detroit, scrambling for a 65-yard touchdown and throwing for another before fumbling on the game's final play. Finished the job at Washington, directing an option-heavy attack to four consecutive scores. Had less success in a third relief appearance against Chicago in the finale that exposed his shortcomings in a pro-style offense. Finished 34-of-63 passing (54.0%) for 376 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions and a 74.5 rating. Ran 22 times for 154 yards (7.0 average) and two scores. Rarely completed rhythm throws, although he had two big ones against the Redskins -- a 17-yard touchdown to the corner and a 36-yarder up the seam against an empty blitz. Was at his best waiting for plays to break down and extending them with his legs, although that got him in some trouble, too. Took three sacks. Increasingly saw defenses spy him and try to force him into making plays from the pocket. Played 156 snaps (15.0%), including 30 at receiver. Caught one pass for 9 yards in a scramble drill. Dropped another. Took two penalties, including a pass interference call that wiped out a 29-yard catch against Denver. Webb's unique physical tools command playing time somewhere, but he enters the offseason as the clear No. 2 quarterback behind Ponder.
Sage Rosenfels (I): Claimed off waivers from Miami on Dec. 2. Dressed but did not play in final five games. Could be re-signed as a veteran No. 3 option.
Adrian Peterson (B): Before the injuries hit, Peterson was well on his way to another Pro Bowl season, with nearly 1,000 combined yards and 12 touchdowns in nine-plus games. Suffered a high ankle sprain against Oakland, missed three games, then tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee on a hit from Redskins S DeJon Gomes on Dec. 24 at Washington. Played 504 snaps (48.6%). Finished with 970 yards on 208 carries (4.7 average) and 12 touchdowns, plus 139 yards and a score on 18 receptions (7.7 average). Fumbled only once. Broke 49 tackles. Gained 650 of his rushing yards (67.0%) after contact. Had seven runs for 20 or more yards. Took two penalties, including a false start on fourth-and-1 at Washington. Mostly was OK in pass protection but allowed sacks against Arizona and Oakland. Set to turn 27 in March, Peterson is about a month into a six- to eight-month rehabilitation process that could have him back on the field in Week 1 next season but may not have him 100% healthy at all in 2012.
Toby Gerhart (C): Elevated into a starting role during Peterson's absences, Gerhart showed how he can wear on a defense. Played 388 snaps (37.4%) over 16 games, starting five. Rushed for 531 yards on 109 carries (4.9 average) -- most of that in the six games Peterson missed all or part of because of injury (83 carries, 419 yards, 5.0 average). Racked up 324 yards (61.0%) after contact. Ran out of gas on a long run of 67 yards at Washington. Doesn't have the wiggle to get out of trouble in the backfield but is dangerous with a head of steam. Broke 27 tackles, including seven at Detroit, fighting through linebackers on fouth-and-1 and fourth-and-2. Ran for one touchdown and caught three more, including 16- and 10-yard scores against New Orleans. Took a screen for 42 yards against Tampa Bay, the longest of his 23 catches for 190 yards (8.3 average). Continued to struggle in pass protection. Allowed seven total QB pressures, including a sack and two more pressures in his worst game at Atlanta, where he had seven carries for loss or no gain and was stuffed for a 2-yard loss on fourth-and-goal. Also stopped on fourth-and-1 against Detroit. Fumbled once. Recovered another. Could have made a better effort on the interception thrown behind him in the finale against Chicago and left the game with an MCL sprain. Was in on three special-teams tackles (one solo). Whether Peterson is ready to start next season or not, Gerhart figures to get extended action while the Vikings ease their star back into action.
Ryan D'Imperio (D+): So lost in his second training camp the Vikings decided not to keep a fullback on the 53-man roster, D'Imperio earned a promotion from the practice squad on Oct. 4 and didn't show much thump in limited opportunities. Played 157 snaps (15.1%). Clearly improved as a decision-maker. Stuck blocks on touchdowns against Arizona and Oakland. Had one terrible game as a lead blocker, with a hand in three runs for loss at Detroit. Allowed a sack and an additional QB pressure at Green Bay. Pancaked on first-and-goal late against the Raiders. Caught two passes for 7 yards (3.5 average). Made one big special-teams play, shoving Atlanta CB Domonique Franks into a bouncing punt and falling on the ball to set up a touchdown. Recovered another fumble and made seven teams tackles (six solo). Must figure out how to play with more power if he wants to get more chances in the backfield.
Lorenzo Booker (D-): Slotted in as the co-kick returner and No. 3 running back, Booker made too many mistakes in both roles. Played 96 snaps (9.3%) over 15 games, missing the other because of concussion symptoms. Carried 13 times for 52 yards (4.0 average). Caught eight passes for 82 yards (10.3 average). Fumbled three times in those 21 touches (14.3%) and lost two. Averaged 23.7 yards on 19 kick returns, including a 68-yarder against Detroit, but made several poor decisions to bring out the ball from deep in the end zone. Allowed a QB pressure. Has some burst but often spends too much time dancing and can't be trusted to hang onto the ball. Had one solo special-teams tackle. A restricted free agent, Booker may get the minimum tender but probably faces an uphill battle to keep his roster spot over younger players. He turns 28 in June.
Caleb King (I): Signed for a $5,000 bonus on Aug. 23, shortly after going unselected in the NFL supplemental draft. Waived on Sept. 3. Re-signed two days later to the practice squad, where he remained until his promotion to the active roster on Dec. 26. Inactive for the finale. Figures to get another offseason to develop.
Jordan Todman (I): Drafted in the sixth round (183rd overall) by San Diego. Inactive for five games before the Chargers waived him on Oct. 22. Signed by the Vikings off San Diego's practice squad on Dec. 27. Inactive for the Jan. 1 finale. Has some burst that's intriguing to the Vikings. Could challenge for third-down role.
Percy Harvin (B+): As dynamic in space as anyone in the NFL, Harvin never quit, even as the losses mounted and a nagging rib issue knocked him out again and again. Participated in all 16 games (14 starts) for the first time. Played only 600 snaps (57.9%) on offense but nonetheless racked up 1,832 total yards on 155 touches. Set career highs with 87 catches for 967 yards (11.1 average) in 118 targets (73.7%) and ran 52 times for 345 yards (6.6 average), touching the ball once every 2.3 snaps he was on the field. Returned 16 kickoffs for 520 yards (32.5 average), including a 103-yard touchdown on the season's opening kickoff at San Diego and a 104-yard return at Atlanta. Caught six touchdown passes, including 52- and 48-yarders against Denver, and ran for two more. Became a focal point in Musgrave's offense, getting a variety of manufactured touches and at times lining up as a traditional halfback. Generated 14 receptions of 20 yards or more. Blocked as well as any receiver in the NFL. Dropped out of four games because of the rib issue. Spent the final 5 minutes and overtime against Detroit throwing up on the sideline. Twice returned at Carolina and spun for a pivotal 11-yard gain on third-and-7. Missed two practices because of illness the week of the Denver game, only to explode for 156 yards on eight catches. Generated 616 yards after the catch, trailing only New England's Wes Welker. Broke 15 tackles. Dropped six passes. Fumbled twice and lost both. Took three penalties. Still only 23 years old, Harvin has a chance to play himself into a monster contract after next season if he stays healthy -- and if the Vikings don't lock him up first.
Michael Jenkins (C): Signed two days after Atlanta released him in July, Jenkins had a base knowledge of Musgrave's offense and was on his way to his most productive season before a knee injury landed him on injured reserve on Nov. 29. Played 522 snaps (50.3%) in 11 games, starting seven. Caught 38 passes for 466 yards (12.3 average) in 54 targets (70.4%). Dropped three. Did most of his damage against zones, usually struggling to create space against man coverage. Scored three touchdowns, including an impressive 24-yarder on an in-cut against Packers CB Charles Woodson. Also had an uncontested 72-yard reception in that game on his way to a career-high 111 yards. Fumbled twice and lost both. Took four penalties, including a false start on fourth-and-3 at Chicago and a hold that wiped out a touchdown against Oakland. Drew two defensive pass interference calls. Failed to finish blocks all season. Assuming he comes back healthy at age 30, Jenkins figures as the No. 3 receiver next season unless the Vikings can't find anybody better.
Devin Aromashodu (D+): Signed to a one-year contract after five forgettable seasons with Indianapolis and Chicago, Aromashodu played extensively after Berrian's release and didn't do much with the opportunity. Played in all 16 games, starting six and totaling 676 snaps (65.1%). Made a diving 34-yard touchdown catch at Kansas City that contributed to an expansion of his role. Finished with 468 yards on 26 catches (18.0 average) in 78 targets (33.3%) -- the lowest percentage of any NFL receiver who played at least one-third of his team's offensive snaps. Dropped five passes. Turned the corner for a 60-yard catch and run against Arizona. Had one huge game against Denver (six catches, 90 yards) but otherwise showed minimal ability to get open against man coverage. Always competed as a blocker. Took one special-teams penalty for running out of bounds. Had two solo tackles on coverage units. If Aromashodu returns, it should be on a minimum deal in competition for no more than the fourth receiver spot.
Greg Camarillo (D): Convinced to take a pay cut before the season, Camarillo played 224 snaps (21.6%) over 13 games and was a healthy scratch for three others early in another disappointing season. Targeted 23 times and caught only nine (39.1%) for 121 yards (13.4 average). Dropped one. Converted three times on third-and-10 or longer over a two-game span against Chicago and Green Bay. Absorbed an undercut by Redskins FS Oshiomogho Atogwe for a 14-yard gain. Converted on fourth-and-1 in the finale. Took one penalty. Had three solo tackles on coverage units. Camarillo has the hands to remain serviceable as a possession-type player in the slot, but he's a free agent at age 29 and never has fit in here.
Emmanuel Arceneaux (I): Signed out of the CFL for a $75,000 bonus on Jan. 26. Struggled to learn NFL routes on the fly in camp and was waived in the final roster reduction on Sept. 3. Re-signed two days later to the practice squad, where he remained until the Vikings signed him to the 53-man roster on Dec. 12. Played 28 snaps (2.7%) over three games as a reserve. Had a 10-yard catch for a first down in his NFL debut on Dec. 18 against New Orleans and didn't touch the ball again. Will compete for a reserve role again next season.
Stephen Burton (I): Drafted in the seventh round (236th overall) out of Division II West Texas A&M and looked overwhelmed while battling a hamstring injury in training camp. Memorably batted down a pass in a Hail Mary drill. Waived on Sept. 3, re-signed to the practice squad and promoted to the active roster on Oct. 25. Made NFL debut at Carolina. Inactive the next two weeks, waived on Nov. 26, then re-signed again on Nov. 29. Got his most extended action against Denver, catching two passes for 38 yards. Sprained an MCL the following week against Detroit and was placed on injured reserve. Played 47 snaps (4.5%) over three games as a reserve. Has a rare height-weight-speed combination. Will compete for a reserve role again next season.
Kerry Taylor (I): Had brief stints with Green Bay, New England and San Francisco before signing with the Vikings' practice squad on Oct. 25. Quick enough to flash in practice. Re-signed to a futures contract after the season.
Kyle Rudolph (C): A second-round draft pick (43rd overall) out of Notre Dame, Rudolph struggled to get regular opportunities but made enough highlight-reel catches to raise optimism about the future. Played 486 snaps (46.9%) over 15 games, starting eight and missing one with a quadriceps injury. Finished with 26 catches in 33 targets (78.8%) for 249 yards (9.6 average) and three touchdowns. That included a whirling grab for 20 yards against Detroit, a one-handed catch in the flat at Kansas City, an underthrown jump ball he rescued at Chicago, another one-handed catch at Green Bay and an incredible 19-yard score he hauled in around Denver FS Quinton Carter's head. Turned a wheel route upfield for 41 yards at Kansas City. Had one drop in the finale. Still must prove he can get regular separation against man coverage. Had problems when asked to block inline or from the "F" spot. Beaten inside on fourth-and-1 against Detroit. Led the tight ends in snaps the last three games and figures to be a full-time starter in 2012.
Jimmy Kleinsasser (C-): Hampered by a sore elbow in his 13th and final season, Kleinsasser played only 403 snaps (38.9%) and was mostly a spectator down the stretch. Took the bulk of "F" snaps before the elbow began hurting in Week 3 and contributed to D'Imperio's promotion. Had a hand in a sack and two pressures at Kansas City. Beaten on a key second-and-goal at Atlanta. Wasn't used as much as a sixth protector in line slides, where he's made his money in the past. Mostly led well. Had a career-low one catch for 4 yards. Took two holding penalties and a false start. It won't be easy to find another guy quite like him, but the Vikings need somebody to do the dirty work.
Visanthe Shiancoe (C-): Hoping for a bounce-back performance in Musgrave's tight end-friendly offense, Shiancoe instead got more of the same -- complete with a hamstring injury that slowed him for two stretches. Played 782 snaps (75.4%) but was targeted only 65 times. Caught 36 of them (55.4%) for 409 yards (11.4 average) and three touchdowns, including a sprawling 2-yard score against Green Bay. Dropped five. Seemed to break through with six catches -- all for first downs -- at Kansas City but never matched that figure again. Had a drop on the opening series at Washington and wasn't targeted again, going without a catch the season's final three games. Took eight penalties, third-most among NFL tight ends. Held up better in pass protection than as a blocker in the run game, where he always competes but just isn't particularly stout. Couldn't adjust quickly enough to save fourth-and-goal at Atlanta. Headed into free agency at age 31, Shiancoe has spoken as if he'll return but might decide Rudolph's presence makes him better off getting a fresh start elsewhere.
Allen Reisner (D): Signed for a $2,500 bonus as an undrafted free agent out of Iowa and flashed impressive hands in camp. Part of eight subsequent transactions, spending 10 weeks on the active roster and seven weeks on the practice squad. Played 13 snaps (1.3%) over six games as a reserve. Caught one pass for 5 yards in the scramble drill at Atlanta. Had a solo special-teams tackle. Re-signed to a futures contract after the season and should compete for a reserve role next season.
Mickey Shuler (I): A seventh-round pick by the Vikings in 2010, Shuler returned on Nov. 29 as a member of the practice squad, then was promoted to the active roster on Dec. 26. Sprained an ankle in practice three days later and was inactive for the finale. Figures to compete for time as an inline tight end next season.
John Sullivan (B-): Healthy again after a 2010 season marred by persistent calf problems, Sullivan progressed so far in his fourth season the Vikings rewarded him with a five-year, $25 million contract extension in mid-December. Played 939 snaps (90.5%) over 15 starts, missing one game following a concussion and parts of two others with knee and ankle injuries. Showed improved technique, particularly in the run game. Wasn't overpowered at the point of attack even by bigger nose tackles. Had a hand in four sacks and 12 total QB pressures. Took only one penalty, for holding in the finale against Chicago. Had some trouble with shotgun snaps but improved as the season went on. The Vikings will count on him as a leader as they overhaul the rest of the line.
Steve Hutchinson (C): At age 34, Hutchinson was beat up for a third consecutive season but remained serviceable when healthy. Played 895 snaps (86.3%) over 14 starts. Was at his best working combo blocks with Sullivan in the zone running game. Stuck key blocks on touchdown runs at San Diego and against Detroit. Continued to struggle with balance in space. Took four penalties. Had two of his best games against Green Bay. Followed up the latter with his two worst games -- brutal showings against Oakland and Atlanta, where he was beaten three times in one series to thwart running plays. Allowed two sacks and 12 total QB pressures. Suffered a facial laceration and concussion against New Orleans that ended his season with two games to go. Has told teammates he intends to retire after completing his contract next season. Due $7 million in salary and bonuses for 2012, Hutchinson likely will finish someplace else unless he takes a deep pay cut.
Phil Loadholt (C): Inconsistent as ever, Loadholt nonetheless took a step forward in his third season. Started all 16 games, playing 1,004 snaps (96.8%). Was at his best in the run game, showing his size and power can make him a potent drive blocker. Remained a liability in pass protection, allowing nine sacks and 42 total QB pressures. Took 10 penalties, including two for holding against Kansas City. That came one week after Detroit's Kyle Vanden Bosch beat him for a strip-sack in 2.6 seconds -- one of eight total pressures in the game. Had another horrible performance at Green Bay, allowing two sacks and generally just looking lost. Dropped out at Chicago with a knee bruise but otherwise was durable. Rntering a contract year at age 26, Loadholt mainly needs to show he can be the same guy week-in and week-out.
Joe Berger (C-): Signed to a two-year deal on Sept. 12, Berger confirmed his versatility, appearing in 13 games and starting seven at three different positions. Didn't play until Week 4, then got on the field in every subsequent game for a total of 486 snaps (46.9%). Relieved Sullivan at Kansas City and Chicago. Started at center against Green Bay and held up well, throwing two blocks on Peterson's 54-yard run. Had three poor snaps. Started the next three games at right guard and had one lousy performance, with a hand in two sacks against Oakland. Didn't have much chance of pulling in time to save fourth-and-goal at Atlanta. Relieved Hutchinson against New Orleans, then started the last two games at left guard. Allowed 10 total QB pressures. Took two penalties. Turns 30 in May but comes cheap and figures to get a shot at competing for a starting job.
Charlie Johnson (D+): Signed on Aug. 1 as a short-notice replacement for McKinnie, Johnson flashed the athleticism that could make him effective at guard but was out of place from the start. Started all 16 games and played 1,026 snaps (98.9%), the most of any offensive player. Didn't finish against Kansas City because of a triceps injury. Allowed eight sacks, including one that killed the final drive in the opener. Gave up nine additional hits and 49 total QB pressures. Was better as a run blocker, though he had lapses there, too. Took five penalties. Had his best all-around game in a win at Washington. Figures to replace Hutchinson at left guard if the Vikings can find a true left tackle elsewhere.
Anthony Herrera (D+): Injuries once again slowed Herrera, who returned from left knee reconstruction and triceps surgery to start the opener, then suffered damage to the lateral collateral ligament in the same knee on Oct. 23 against Green Bay. Played 766 snaps (73.9%) over 12 starts but never looked like himself. Had awful games against Detroit (sack, eight total QB pressures, turned on failed fourth-and-1), New Orleans (two sacks) and Chicago (five pressures, lots of penetration in run game). Missed four games with the knee injury and dropped out briefly at Washington with a lower-back injury. Took one penalty, a false start in the finale. Surrendered the three sacks and 23 total QB pressures. Due $2.75 million in salary and bonuses in the last year of his deal, Herrera turns 32 in June and doesn't fit with the Vikings' youth movement.
Brandon Fusco (D): Drafted in the sixth round (172nd overall) out of Division II Slippery Rock, Fusco was inactive the season's first six weeks, then dressed and made his NFL debut in relief of Herrera against Green Bay. Also relieved Herrera at Washington and took a dumb personal foul. Held up OK otherwise. Played 25 snaps (2.4%) in those two games and also saw action on special teams in the finale. Figures to compete with Berger at right guard if Herrera doesn't return.
Patrick Brown (D-): Played in 15 games, mostly on special teams. Also played one snap as an extra lineman against Tampa Bay and made two rocky relief appearances, for Johnson at Kansas City and for Loadholt at Chicago. Gave up a pressure to Chiefs LB Tamba Hali and a sack to Bears DE Israel Idonije. Also took a holding penalty. Totaled 45 snaps (4.3%) on offense. Is an exclusive-rights free agent and will need to make a leap if he wants another shot.
DeMarcus Love (I): Drafted in the sixth round (168th overall) out of Arkansas, Love was inactive for all 16 games. Had postseason surgery to clean out bone spurs in one of his knees. Progressed in practice and could factor as the "swing" tackle next season.
Chris DeGeare (I): Showed up to camp out of shape, lost his spot with the first-team offense after one game and ended up getting waived on Sept. 3. Re-signed to the practice squad two days later and stayed there all season. Re-signed to a futures contract after the season. Could earn a reserve role next season if he improves his conditioning.
Scott Kooistra (I): Signed a one-year deal on July 31 and got some action with the first string before suffering a spinal-cord injury in a preseason game on Aug. 20 at Seattle. Underwent emergency surgery and was placed on injured reserve. Career likely over.
Butch Lewis (I): Spent eight weeks on the practice squad over two stints. Re-signed to a futures contract after the season.