The season is over and in a two-part series Daniel House grades each player on the offensive side of the ball and provides all the final statistical information from the 2013 season.
I sat down and graded each player on the Vikings roster and today I unveil the offensive portion of the two-part series. There is a ton of information to sift through as we evaluate the roster and decide the direction the team will head from a personnel standpoint in 2014.
So without further ado, here is Daniel House's 2013 Vikings Offensive Grades:
Season Stats: 9 Games, 153 for 254, 1,807 yards, 11 touchdowns, 9 interceptions
Snap Count: 459 snaps, 44% of offensive snaps
Analysis: Matt Cassel was the 'savior' of the Vikings three-man quarterback carousel that swung fiercely in 2013. His debut in London versus the Steelers led Vikings fans to believe Cassel could potentially be the future quarterback for this team. The door continued to revolve and after a two interception performance against Carolina, Cassel didn't return to the field until Christian Ponder suffered injuries. Finally, with the Vikings continued struggles, the team decided to hand the reins to Matt Cassel in a week 12 matchup with the Chicago Bears. His performance over the final five games led the Vikings to a 3-2 record. His play failed to provide consistency and after three masterful games against Chicago, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, Cassel fell off the map in Cincinnati and committed three turnovers as the Vikings were routed by the Bengals. To close the year, he failed to convince critics he was the quarterback for the future of this team and with an option clause in his contract, it seems very unlikely he would be willing to return to a team where his starting status would be in question. If the team decides to draft a quarterback in the first round of the draft, they may keep Cassel to play a season, or the likely option would be to play the rookie immediately, in an effort to expedite the development process.
Projected 2014 Status: He will void his 2014 club option and leave the team.
Season Stats: 9 Games, 152 for 239, 1,648 yards, 7 touchdowns, 9 interceptions
Snap Count: 511 snaps, 49% of offensive snaps
Analysis: When the Vikings reached for Christian Ponder in the first round of the 2011 draft, the front office hoped he could develop into a franchise quarterback, but the plan failed miserably. In a year he needed to develop, finishing 2-6-1 was not the way Ponder was going to prove he was the franchise gunslinger. After enduring a 10-6 season in his first full season as the starter, hopes were high, but the product didn't produce. His inability to the throw the ball with accuracy, along with his unwillingness to make a mistake has led to his demise in the league. In a league where quarterbacks are becoming a precedent of playoff teams, the Vikings can't press snooze and sleep on the quarterback position again. They made a well-known reach for Ponder at the 12th pick in the draft and this year they will look to find the athletic franchise quarterback to complement a new head coach. Ponder can still be a decent backup in this league and if Matt Cassel opts out of his contract, he is likely to remain with the team as the second-string quarterback. The experiment failed, now it is time to correct a chronic mistake that has plagued this team for seasons.
Projected 2014 Status: 2nd string QB
Season Stats: 1 Game, 20 for 53, 190 yards, 1 interception
Snap Count: 71 snaps, 7% of offensive snaps
Analysis: Oh Josh Freeman, the puzzling case of a man who wore #12 and made his debut during Monday Night Football versus the Giants. It was an illustrious performance in which a man who had been with the team for just over a week threw a whopping 53 pass attempts and was 'just a hair off.' The Josh Freeman experiment failed and cost the Vikings 2.5 million to realize he wasn't the answer at the quarterback position. After one game at quarterback, we never saw Josh Freeman throw a pass for the Minnesota Vikings during the duration of 2013 season. As reports surfaced he was late for meetings and was a poor leader, it seemingly makes sense why he never saw the field for this organization. The same habits that occurred during his time in Tampa, carried over directly to his time in Minnesota. The Vikings front office took some extreme heat for this decision and it ultimately was a factor in the demise of Leslie Frazier.
Projected 2014 Status: Gone
Season Stats: 14 Games, 279 Attempts, 1,266 yards, 10 touchdowns
Snaps: 674 snaps, 65% of offensive snaps
Analysis: Adrian Peterson was coming off one of the single greatest performances by a running back in NFL history and couldn't live up to those expectations in 2013. He is Adrian Peterson and is the greatest running back to put on a Vikings uniform, but a groin and ankle injury plagued his ability to rush at his potential this year. Nonetheless, he still managed to score 10 touchdowns and eclipsed 1,000 yards for the sixth time of his career. Peterson still has a plentiful career in front of him and his unbridled ability to run with power and strength still is one of the greatest traits in the league. With an off-season for AP to recover from injuries, along with the chance the Vikings draft a franchise quarterback in this year's draft, it seems likely the best is yet to come for Peterson. When he gets his burst back and becomes 100% healthy, he can shake on defenders like he did in 2012 and begin to shatter records again because, well, he is Adrian Peterson.
Projected 2014 Status: 1st String Running Back
Season Stats: 14 Games, 36 Attempts, 283 yards, 2 touchdowns
Snap Count: 300 snaps, 19% of offensive snaps
Analysis: Toby Gerhart was in a contract year and took advantage of the 36 carries he received in 2013. His quick burst, combined with his size and agility have really taken a huge stride from his first two years in the league. Toby is in the final year of his contract and with Adrian Peterson taking the first team reps in front of him, he will likely test the free agent market for an adequate starting job. His fearless rushing style and ability to shed tacklers has caused him to develop skills that aren't just backup material anymore. The Vikings may try to offer him a contract, but with an opportunity to start in the horizon, Gerhart will likely head to another organization. The Vikings will need to replace Gerhart with a change of pace running back that can fill the void behind Adrian Peterson and the quiet candidate to do so is former undrafted rookie Bradley Randle.
Projected 2014 Status: Gone to free agency
Season Stats: 11 Games, 44 attempts, 166 yards, 3 touchdowns
Snap Count: 257 snaps, 11% of offensive snaps
Analysis: Matt Asiata became the talk of the NFL after a three touchdown performance in week 15 versus the Eagles. His running style differs from the prototypical speed back and offers a powerful, imploding running approach. He closed the season with 115 yards rushing yards against Detroit and his ability to shed tacklers has carried him through his career. The problem with Matt has been his durability and inability to stay on the field when provided with limited carries. He is a free agent in 2014 and he may receive interest from other teams, but ultimately, the new coaching staff will need to determine whether he fits into the new scheme.
Projected 2014 Status: Gone/Signed as backup, depending upon Vikings new head coach
Season Stats: No rushing, 1 reception, 11 yards
Snap Count: 74 snaps, 3% of offensive snaps
Analysis: Despite seeing limited time on the field this season, Joe Banyard spent most of the season on the Vikings practice squad. Banyard recorded a dazzling preseason, which resulted in two touchdowns and the chance to join the Vikings practice squad this season. For the second season he has used practice squad eligibility, so he must land on the active 53-man roster next season. With the chance Toby Gerhart and Matt Asiata leave in free agency, Banyard should be the third-string running back behind Adrian Peterson and Bradley Randle. With his multi-faceted skill set through the passing and running game, Banyard can develop into a nice asset for an NFL team.
Projected 2014 Status: 3rd-string RB
Season Stats: 13 Games, 6 receptions, 37 yards
Snap Count: 362 snaps, 29% of offensive snaps
Analysis: When Jerome Felton was signed prior to the 2012 season, nobody saw a Pro-Bowl career following his first season in Minnesota. He continued his strong play in 2013 and is still one of the biggest pieces to the Vikings running scheme. Felton has not only played above expectations, but he has become a huge cog in the Vikings running game. When Jerome missed the first three games for violating the substance abuse policy, the Vikings rushing attack dipped significantly until his return. His ability to initiate contact and open holes in the second level have been major keys to the Vikings continued success in the running game.
Projected 2014 Status: Starting Fullback
Season Stats: 16 games, 48 receptions, 726 yards, 1 touchdown
Snap Count: 643 snaps, 62% of offensive snaps
Analysis: After a disappointing first season in Minnesota, Jerome Simpson rebounded nicely in his second season with the Vikings. He became an improved pass catcher and showed he isn't going to catch many touchdowns, but he will corral plenty of receptions and yardage. Despite receiving a DUI in the middle of the season, which violated his probation from a prior incident, he still was awarded playing time at the end of the year. With the chance Simpson faces suspension and more legality issues this off-season, it is highly likely the new coach will part ways with Jerome this year. His play on the field improved, but his reliance off the field of play took a step back, which likely means his time in Minnesota has concluded.
Projected 2014 Status: Gone
Season Stats: 15 Games, 68 receptions, 804 yards, 4 touchdowns
Snap Count: 742 snaps, 72% of offensive snaps
Analysis: Greg Jennings was nonexistent when Christian Ponder was on the field for the first half of the 2013 season, but when Matt Cassel entered, we saw the Greg Jennings we yearned for before the season started. A fluent route-runner, combined with his reliable hands, and veteran leadership, Greg Jennings was a great addition to this team in 2013. Not only was he a great player, but he was key in the speedy development of Vikings rookie star Cordarrelle Patterson. His mentorship to younger players and ability to work with his fellow teammates is a valuable asset to the Vikings locker room. Provide Jennings with a franchise quarterback who can send the ball his way in critical situations and his play elevates to the next level.
Projected 2014 Status: Starting wide receiver
Season Stats: 45 receptions, 469 yards, 4 touchdowns, 2 kickoff return touchdowns
Snap Count: 436 snaps, 42% of offensive snaps
Analysis: What isn't there to like about Vikings rookie Cordarrelle Patterson? In his first season, Flash not only exceeded expectations, but he crushed them. His development as a receiver was expedited extremely fast and those who questioned his ability to the learn the playbook were silenced very quickly. I attribute this to wide receivers coach George Stewart, who has a pedigree in developing wide-outs into stars. Patterson became a multi-faceted receiver and was deadly on the outside and in the backfield when he was lined up as a running back. This guy creates plays and when the ball is in his hands, he has the chance to explode for an electrifying touchdown at any time. The best is yet to come for CP84 and he is quietly becoming a face of this franchise.
Projected 2014 Status: Starting wide receiver
Season Stats: 26 receptions, 434 yards, 3 touchdowns
Snap Count: 417 snaps, 40% of offensive snaps
Analysis: Jarius Wright only saw four more catches than he did in 2012, which was disappointing to me. He proved he could be explosive and was great after the catch, but he wan't awarded more opportunities in the passing game. Wright has great hands and is a shifty receiver at the line of scrimmage, which has caused headaches for opposing defensive backs. Jarius has saw limited balls because of the Vikings offensive scheme and the inability for the Vikings to have a quarterback who distributes passes to all of his receivers. With a new head coach entering the fold and the chance the Vikings draft a franchise quarterback, Jarius Wright's ceiling seems to be very high.
Projected 2014 Status: Starting wide receiver
Season Stats: 5 receptions, 33 yards
Snap Count: 188 snaps, 18% of offensive snaps
Analysis: Joe Webb's efforts aren't going to show up in the box score, but his main role with this team was as a run blocker on offense and special teams. In fact, after converting from quarterback, Webb transitioned nicely to a his primary role as a special teams player. He was behind springing several long runs on offense when the Vikings were in four or five wide receiver sets, but his role has been limited. With a new coach entering Winter Park, it seems likely the master plans of Joe Webb could change and he may be released this off-season.
Projected 2014 Status: Gone
Season Stats: 8 Games, 30 receptions, 313 yards, 3 touchdowns
Snap Count: 424 snaps, 41% of offensive snaps
Analysis: After suffering a broken bone in his foot at the midpoint of the season, Kyle Rudolph missed the duration of the season after hurting his foot. Rudolph became one of the premier Vikings targets in 2012, but with the Vikings quarterback quandary, he failed to see similar success in the limited amount of games he played in during 2013. With a new quarterback and offensive scheme entering town, it seems as if Rudolph could be focal point to revolve upon, especially in the red zone, where he is most successful. He could easily develop into a quarterback's favorite target, much like Jimmy Graham has developed a deadly rapport with Drew Brees.
Projected 2014 Status: Starting Tight End
Season Stats: 13 Games, 32 Receptions, 344 yards, 1 touchdown
Snap Count: 497 snaps, 48% of offensive snaps
Analysis: John Carlson rebounded nicely from a disappointing 2012 season and did so with a plethora of extended snaps in Kyle Rudolph's absence. Bill Musgrave's offensive scheme famously utilized John Carlson on a frequent basis, which yielded more receptions for the hometown tight end. His role as a pass catcher evolved nicely and he really became great at moving the chains. The issue was the concussion he suffered in the fourth quarter of the Vikings week week 15 matchup with the Baltimore Ravens. Carlson has had a storied past with concussions and suffered his fourth concussion of his career in that game. The Vikings quickly shut Carlson down for the season and he has expressed his career might be coming to a close after suffering a another life-threatening concussion.
Projected 2014 Status: Retires due to concussions
Season Stats: 9 Games, 11 Receptions, 133 yards, 0 touchdowns
Snap Count: 149 snaps, 14% of offensive snaps
Analysis: After watching every Minnesota Vikings practice in Mankato during training camp, I became very impressed with the former 'Cane, Chase Ford. His tall stature, combined with his ability to run routes like a wide receiver, caught my eye very quickly. With the injuries at the tight end position, Ford saw a more extended role and didn't reach for the end zone, but became a target in the offense. With some work on his run blocking, which has been his continual problem, he could be a nice addition to the Vikings offense. In addition, I would like to see him add a few more pounds to his frame to make him able to chip better off of the line of scrimmage.
Projected 2014 Status: 2nd-string tight end
Season Stats: 11 Games, 5 receptions, 61 yards, 1 touchdown
Snap Count: 435 snaps, 28% of offensive snaps
Analysis: Rhett Ellison still was as dominate in the run blocking scheme of the equation, but a knee injury plagued him for the vast majority of the season. In the passing game Rhett saw more targets, which exposed some of his weaknesses. He has a problem securing the ball and gaining footing in open spaces, but this could be attributed to the knee injury he was battling. His asset comes in the running game, especially given his ability to get out on the edge and clear paths for running backs. The Vikings drafted him in the fourth round of the 2012 draft and he has work to do, but he is progressing to filling his status with this team. With work on his skills in the passing game, combated with his ability to be a premier run blocker, Ellison is becoming a key cog to the Vikings rushing game.
Projected 2014 Status: Key run blocker
Season Stats: 1,114 snaps, 100% of offensive snaps
Analysis: After an amazing rookie season, which yielded a Pro-Bowl for Matt Kalil, he took a few steps back this year. It started early in the preseason, but gradually improved as the middle of the season approached. He was a step slow off the ball and defensive lineman would perform one move and have a sack in an instant. Kalil cut some wait in the off-season and added some muscle to his frame, which surprisingly seemed to slow him down a bit. Nonetheless, Kalil is still one of the best left tackles in the league and with time to correct some of his mistakes, he will come back stronger next season. His durability has been fantastic and he played in every snap this season, which is a remarkable feat. He has his body perfectly tuned, which could be a key if the new Vikings offense sees a more up-tempo style.
Projected 2014 Status: Starting LT
Season Stats: 1,043 snaps, 95% of offensive snaps
Analysis: Charlie Johnson has never dazzled me during his time in Minnesota and his inability to perform consistently has caused him to be ineffective. His passing blocking abilities have been leaky, but his run blocking has been somewhat desirable. Teams seem to be getting a nice push on the left side of the offensive line and I'm beginning to wonder if Matt Kalil's struggles are attributed to him overcompensating for Charlie Johnson's mistakes. Johnson's contract expires this season and he indicates he is going to test the free agent market this off-season. He was especially upset after the Vikings fired Leslie Frazier and was extremely open to testing the free agent market at that point.
Projected 2014 Status: Leaves for free agency
Season Stats: 1,059 snaps, 98% of offensive snaps
Analysis: John Sullivan is the true heart of the offensive line and is a key veteran leader in the Vikings locker room. He continually stressed the importance of playing hard even when there was nothing left to work for. As for his play on the field, after struggling with injuries in every season he has been with the team, 2013 was the first year he was healthy for the duration of the season. He participated in 98% of snaps and was much better at not allowing inside penetration this year. Once again, his improved performance could be linked to his health, as he may have been playing when he shouldn't have in season's past. Sullivan is the cornerstone of the Vikings offensive line and will be for many seasons to come.
Projected 2014 Status: Starting Center
Season Stats: 964 snaps, 87% of offensive snaps
Analyis: Brandon Fusco is my highest rated offensive lineman this year and it is an encouraging sign in just his second season out of Slippery Rock University. His run blocking as a pulling guard is absolutely phenomenal and his ability to get to the second level is really developing nicely. Fusco has been known for his fierce competitive nature and his ability to stick his nose in the pile. He was rated as the seventh best offensive lineman by Pro Football Focus and is making strides as one of the best offensive lineman the Vikings currently own. This is a steal considering Fusco was a late-round draft pick and entered the draft from an unlikely small Pennsylvania University. He is a great story and will be a nice piece for the Vikings to build off of among the offensive line.
Projected 2014 Status:
Season Stats: 1,020 snaps, 92% of offensive snaps
Analysis: Big Phil was average this season and he has plateaued at his current development stage. Phil Loadholt has always been successful as a pass blocker, but his ability to block in the second-level has been not near as desirable. Phil needs to get in better physical shape, especially if the Vikings transition to the read-option offense as a new scheme is installed. The difference between the Vikings and other teams is the ability to run a creative scheme which involves a massive volume of offensive plays. With a new coordinator this doesn't bode well for Loadholt, who will need to get in shape and improve his skills as a run blocker in the second level.
Projected 2014 Status: Starting RT
Joe Berger: 365 snaps, 21% of offensive snaps
Analysis: Joe Berger filled in nicely when injuries plagued the Vikings offensive line, which is important when constructing depth at this position. If Charlie Johnson leaves for free agency, Berger could fill the role of starting left guard next season if the Vikings promote from within. This may not happen as Berger can fill the void at a vast majority of positions among the offensive line, but this a great problem to have.
Projected 2014 Status: Rotational backup
Season Stats: 131 Snaps, 10% of offensive snaps
Analysis: Phil Loadholt was injured and it opened the door for late free agent signing J'Marcus Webb to see the field. In his first snap his door was blown off for a strip sack and fumble recovery touchdown in Dallas, but in his start the next week, he settled in very nicely. Webb didn't work in Chicago, but the change in scenery has proven to be effective. Webb has been working hard to improve and I'm told he is spending time out west with several Vikings players as they look to improve their games. Webb is a very, very, good backup and can come off the bench and fill the role as a starter.
Projected 2014 Status: Backup offensive tackle