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Players to Watch

By: Tanishka Mhaskar and Preet Shah (Savitra for Benwikere)
October 13th, 2018
photos: and

As the Vikings (2-2-1) take on the Arizona Cardinals (1-4) we thought it would be beneficial to give you all some insight on potential playmakers for either team on both sides of the ball, so you can be the smartest person in the room on Sunday afternoon.

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Christian Kirk

The rookie wideout has been off to a fast start so far this year averaging about 50 yards per game. This includes a 75 yard touchdown catch on the first play for scrimmage vs the 49ers. He was taken 47th overall out of the university of Texas A&M where in each of his 3 seasons, he got 900 plus yards receiving. It is likely that the rookie will be called upon this week with Larry Fitzgerald not at full strength.

Kirk will likely be lining up across from Trae Waynes who is coming back from a concussion which he had suffered in the 3rd quarter of the Rams game on a play where he gave up a 40 yard touchdown. We can expect to see an increase of targets and receptions as him and his fellow rookie quarterback Josh Rosen develop their chemistry.

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Stefon Diggs

It seems as if everyone is talking about Adam Thielen these last few weeks. The Vikings have another star wideout by the name of Stefon Diggs. Diggs hasn’t had any splashy games since the overtime tie in Green Bay, where he caught two touchdowns and a 2 point conversion. He has still been very productive and is seemingly always open.

OC John DeFilippo has been using Diggs, because of his speed, for handoffs and running plays. In the victory in Philadelphia, Diggs had 25 rushing yards, which mostly came from a handoff which went 20 yards on the left side of the field. He also had 91 receiving yards, and is on pace for his first ever 1,000 yard season.

The Cardinals have star cornerback Patrick Peterson, who is one of the best in the game. Just like Xavier Rhodes on the VIkings, Peterson usually shadows the opposing team’s star receiver. This could be problematic with the Vikings who arguably have the NFL’s best receiving duo. Arizona could choose to pick on either Diggs or Thielen, but will probably let Peterson spend time guarding both of them.
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Bené Benwikere

Bené Benwikere isn't a household name by any stretch of the imagination. However he is still under his former defensive coordinator Steve Wilkes, who he worked with in Carolina. This knowledge of the system has helped him excel in Arizona. He has had an interception last week vs the 49ers and the week before that he caused a forced fumble vs the Seahawks. He has been incredible so far this year and the Cardinals will rely on him to keep one of Diggs or Thielen in check.

Benwikere has been red hot so far this being one of the better corners in the league and we can clearly see that his knowledge of Steve Wilkes and his defense has benefited him. He looks to continue this start where he will line up across from pro bowl corner Patrick Peterson though he is listed as questionable for the game.

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George Iloka
With the final injury report out on Friday, Minnesota’s starting strong safety, Andrew Sendejo, is listed as out with a groin injury. Next man up, as the Vikings luckily have strong depth at the safety position. During the offseason, Iloka inked a one year, $880,000 deal to return to his first defensive coordinator in the NFL.

Iloka’s knowledge of Mike Zimmer’s system should help him play well, considering he’ll actually get playing time this week which won’t completely be on special teams, alongside Jayron Kearse and Anthony Harris.
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Chandler Jones

The reigning NFC defensive player of the week will look to continue his dominant play, terrorizing left tackles across the league. Last week against the 49ers, Chandler Jones had 6 tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles for loss, and 1 forced fumble. Jones will be going up against Rashod Hill, who usually starts at RT, but will be filling in for injured Riley Reiff.

Jones is quick on his feet and very frequently has his way spinning around the left tackle. Keep an eye out for him to make plays to keep the Cardinals in the game.
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Sheldon Richardson

Sheldon Richardson has become the monster he once was in his rookie year. After signing a one year 8 million dollar deal, Richardson has arguably been the most consistent defensive lineman on the Vikings. He has been a terror for the majority of quarterbacks he has faced when he lines up at the three-tech spot. Though an average fan may look at his season so far and see only the one sack and feel underwhelmed his impact has stretched beyond the box score, he has in many ways been the missing piece to the puzzle that Tom Johnson was not. Look for him and fellow defensive tackle Linval Joseph to have a big game vs a disappointing interior line of the Cardinals.

The Minnesota Vikings take on the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, October 14th at 1 PM EST.
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Preview: Vikings vs Cardinals

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October 13th, 2018
By: Tanishka Mhaskar and Preet Shah

Keys to beating the Arizona Cardinals
The Minnesota Vikings (2-2-1) come back home after 2 consecutive weeks on the road, a loss to the Rams and a win in Philly, to face the Arizona Cardinals (1-4) who are coming off a divisional win vs the Jimmy G-less 49ers. How do the Vikings beat the Cardinals and keep pace with the Bears and the Packers?

Avoid the trap

The Vikings are unquestionably the better of these two teams. There is little debate on that by either set of fans. The better team doesn't always win though. We saw that vs the Bills three weeks ago. After that game, the Vikings won't ever take a team with a rookie quarterback named Josh lightly. In this league, any team can beat another team on a given Sunday. In fact, it was the 4-12 Cardinals in 2003 who killed the Vikings playoffs hopes. The moral of the story: don’t underestimate any team in this league. As a wise man once said, “Finish every block. Finish every tackle. Finish every play, and finish the damn game.” The Vikings must follow this advice every game to have a successful season.

Protect Kirk Cousins 

This seems like a key every week. Although the Vikings quarterback is very good at avoiding the rush and making quick, efficient passes, Vikings fans can’t help but grimace every time Cousins hits the ground. The pass blocking has been way better than the run blocking, but the Vikings aren’t able to protect Cousins’ blind side. This has accounted for a couple of game changing fumbles this season. Take the Rams game, for example. The Vikings were down a touchdown and had almost a minute and a half to go down, score, and come away with the win. The protection and play on LT must get better to offer the rest of the offense a chance. As of right now, starting LT Riley Reiff has not practiced all week. He left the game vs Philadelphia in the first quarter and was replaced by T Rashod Hill, who will be going against star DE Chandler Jones.

Get the run game going
The Vikings still haven’t had a rushing touchdown. The current five week drought is the longest in franchise history. Starting RB Dalvin Cook practiced this week and is listed as questionable. It looks like he will play. Cook hasn’t played a full game since Week 2 vs the Packers when he got injured in overtime. Minnesota might have all four backs active on Sunday, allowing them to stay fresh.

Establishing the run game will also take some pressure off of Cousins. I would still expect the Vikings offense to primarily be an aerial attack, utilizing their two Ferraris on the outside in Thielen and Diggs.

Exploit the Cardinals interior line

The Cardinals have had struggles with the interior part of their line all season. Their starting center and guards have allowed a combined 40 pressures this season. This works perfectly for the Vikings stout defensive front, led by Linval Joseph and Sheldon Richardson who are looking to improve on their monster performance last Sunday. Mike Iupati has posted a grade of 24.3 grade on PFF and the center Mason Cole and guard Justin Pugh have posted equally abysmal grades of 31.5 and 48.3 respectively. This coupled with the facts that Josh Rosen the rookie starting quarterback for the Cardinals has posted a 30.3 passer rating when under pressure thus far. If the Vikings can get pressure with Joseph and Richardson early, it could lead to the young quarterback making some costly mistakes.

On the outside of the defensive line, both defensive ends Danielle Hunter and Stephen Weatherly, who is filling in for star defensive end Everson Griffen, have played outstanding. Hunter has had five sacks this season, one in each game, which is his longest streak. Weatherly had a sack vs the Bills, and a strip sack vs the Eagles. Expect them to keep up their production, even with the increased playing time.

Limit David Johnson

It is often said that a young quarterback’s greatest ally is his running back. If this is true, David Johnson is a great ally to have. Sure, he hasn't reached his 2016 level of productivity in his first season back off a wrist surgery. Sure, some of that is due to poor offensive line play and predictability in play calling, but he has to be respected by the defense just because of the potential threat he is. Look for the Cardinals to try to get the ball to him early and often on Sunday afternoon to establish a run game and potentially help Rosen buy more time with the play action fakes. If the Vikings can stop David Johnson early and put some points on the board, they can force Arizona to become more one dimensional, in order to play catch up, and pressure Rosen.

The Vikings hope to keep the momentum from their victory in Philadelphia last Sunday, and they hope to avoid another loss at home.


Preet: Vikings 31- Cardinals 13

Tanishka: Vikings 30- Cardinals 14
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Revenge Game: Vikings at Eagles

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October 6th, 2018
By: Tanishka Mhaskar and Preet Shah

Can it all come together where it all fell apart?

The Minnesota Vikings (1-2-1) travel to Lincoln Financial Field to take on the Philadelphia Eagles (2-2) at 3:25 PM (CT). This well anticipated revenge game will go down to the wire with two teams desperate for a win. The Super Bowl champions are coming off a heartbreaking 26-23 overtime loss to the Tennessee Titans, and the Vikings fell 38-31 to the red hot Los Angeles Rams.

The last time these two teams met was in the NFC Championship when the Vikings were blown out 38-7. This time things are a bit different. Both sides have different quarterbacks in Kirk Cousins and Carson Wentz, and both defenses are not performing to their full strength. The Vikings are looking to get some momentum on the season and come away with a season saving win. Five keys will help them do this.

1) Protect Kirk Cousins

The Eagles defensive line is arguably one of the best in the league. The Vikings offensive line is one of the worst. Let's just get this out of the way: the OL has been abysmal this year. They have given up 81 pressures through 4 games. The average OL in the NFL gives about 160 pressures a year. This means the Vikings are on track to give up roughly 320 pressures this entire year, which is the most ever since that stat has been recorded.  The OL held up pretty well vs the Rams (better than expected at least). Now we need to see what the interior linemen will do against Fletcher Cox and Michael Bennett. Another interesting matchup in the trenches will be Riley Reiff vs Brandon Graham. Reiff has been disappointing this year, much like Graham, so it should be a matchup of the sleeping giants.

2) Establish the Run

So far the much anticipated return of Cook has been underwhelming. At the time of writing this article, he is listed as questionable. Cook did not practice until Friday, when he was limited. The Vikings have not had a 100 yard rusher so far this year. This coupled with that in the last two weeks Cousins has had to throw 105 passes in the last 2 games, due to the Vikings having to play catch up in the majority if those games. If the Vikings want a shot of winning, they have to commit to the run long term and make the play action pass effective for Cousins so he can buy more time. They also need to keep the Eagles alert with the play calling because despite how mediocre the Eagles secondary is, the Vikings OL may not hold up long enough for the passing lanes to open up. Be it the Chef or Tay Train, the Vikings must establish the run.

3) Exploit the Eagles Secondary

It doesn’t take a genius to tell that the Eagles defense hasn't been great so far. Last week they were abysmal in pass situations. For example, they let the Titans convert a 4th and 15 in overtime. They also allowed WR Corey Davis 161 yards and drew a couple of pass interference penalties. Vikings fans would have been salivating at the thought of what Diggs and Thielen would do to this secondary who are deprived of Safety Rodney McLeod. Thielen has started right where he left off last season becoming only the 3rd player to get 100 yards in the first 4 games. The only others being Isaac Bruce and Randy Moss, but keep saying Juju is the best number 19 in the NFL, Steelers fans. Thielen looks to continue this streak against 2nd year corner, who missed all but one game last year, Sidney Jones. Diggs has also been explosive thus far, putting up amazing numbers in three out of the four games so far. He will likely be matched up vs Jalen Mills. If the Vikings want to win they must expose the weak link of the defense. Also expect touchdown machine Aldrick Robinson to have another productive day, or at least give the Eagles another man to potentially worry about.

4) Fix the Coverage

The Vikings secondary has not played very well this season. The cornerbacks and safeties are letting receivers get open and are giving up on routes. Almost all of the Vikings opponents have done a good job isolating a single CB or even LB on their starting TE. The Vikings Safeties must dial in this week to help out the CBs and play tighter coverage. With the Vikings being down to only two DE’s, Minnesota should play LB Anthony Barr at DE, where he played extensively in college, given how much he has struggled in coverage. In exchange for Barr, the Vikings can put in Safeties George Iloka or Andrew Sendejo as a hybrid LB-S. This three safety set would help if they were able to drop Iloka in coverage and isolate Eagles TE Zach Ertz onto the hard-hitting Andrew Sendejo.

5) Generate Pressure

Minnesota has really struggled with play action, partly because the DL is not generating pressure, giving the QB lots of time, and letting the secondary slow down and allow receivers to get open. This year, when pressured Wentz has looked like a deer in headlights. The Eagles OL has looked shaky at best, allowing eight sacks in the last two games alone. The Vikings DL might lose their rotation since they will be without DE’s Everson Griffen (knee/non-injury related) and Tashawn Bower (ankle)  who are listed as out.

The Vikings have a couple of options here. They could use LB Anthony Barr on the line, or they could kick defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who has experience at the position, outside and put Tom Johnson back at defensive tackle.

To generate pressure, the Vikings could also blitz more. Safety Harrison Smith and LB Eric Kendricks are very good at getting past the OL and back to the quarterback. This would put Wentz into uncomfortable positions and force him to throw the ball away due to his limited mobility.

The Minnesota Vikings hope for a season turnaround and revenge for all the 38-7 jokes (Don't tell people on social media that you're a Vikings fan or else the boneheads from Philly will come at you, virtually throwing beer cans. Trust me, Vikings fans have been through worse--aka the 41-0 NFC championship vs the New York Giants. You don't hurt us). Although they are three point underdogs, the Vikings look to leave Lincoln Financial Field with the win.

Preet: Vikings 27 Eagles 23
Tanishka: Vikings 24, Eagles 19

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What Happened to the Vikings Defense?

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By: Tanishka Mhaskar
Editor: Preet Shah
September 30th, 2018

One question has been going through each Minnesota Vikings fan—really, each NFL fan. What happened to the Vikings defense? Every year in the NFL, units that were rock solid make unexpected regressions. No one expected that to happen to Mike Zimmer’s prized defense. With a couple of upgrades, such as the additions of DT Sheldon Richardson, to fill the void at three-technique which was there since Sharrif Floyd was injured, and CB Mike Hughes, drafted in the first round in 2018, the defense was expected to start where it left off. Plus, all former starters returned aside from Tom Johnson, who the Vikings acquired in Week 3, and Terence Newman who retired at the age of 40 and moved to the coaching staff.

In 2017, they finished first in yards per play, points allowed per game, and third down conversions. The Vikings managed to accomplish this feat while ranking 17th in sacks and 23rd in turnover difference. The previously vaunted unit has Pro Bowlers at every level--players that have proven themselves to the fans and the league.

Yes, Minnesota is going through some off the field issues with star defensive end and third year captain, Everson Griffen, but the depth the team has built over the years should be enough to overcome Griffen’s absence. Without Griffen it seems as if the Vikings can’t get any pressure on the defensive line.

In Week 3, Bills QB Josh Allen was very comfortable in the pocket, and he completed his passes with ease. The Vikings did have three sacks versus Buffalo, including one by third year defensive end Stephen Weatherly who is replacing Griffen on the edge, but they couldn’t get constant pressure. No pressure and the continuous blown coverages resulted in the Vikings being blown out. At home. This loss was reminiscent of the game versus the Indianapolis Colts back in 2016. The Colts were obviously inferior to the 2016 Vikings but managed to play on their overconfidence and shock them by eliminating them from playoff contention.]

In the 38-31 loss against the Los Angeles Rams, the Vikings had a single sack and absolutely no pressure. Granted the Vikings were traveling approximately 1900 miles and over 2 time zones to face the current best offense in the NFL who only had one 3 and out prior to the Vikings coming to town. It seemed as if their other star players like S Harrison Smith, LBs Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks, and CB Xavier Rhodes had simply forgotten to play overnight. They allowed Rams QB Jared Goff to stomp all over them, as he threw for more than 400 yards, 5 touchdowns, and posted a perfect 158.3 passer rating. Let’s take a look at what happened on the touchdowns.

On the first touchdown, LB Anthony Barr simply had trouble keeping up with RB Todd Gurley. S Harrison Smith was looking at the left side of the field, where LB Eric Kendricks already was, to provide help. Rams HC Sean McVay was able to isolate Barr onto Gurley, creating a mismatch. This was similar to what Saints HC Sean Payton did with RB Alvin Kamara and LB Eric Kendricks in the 2017 Divisional Playoffs.

Jared Goff’s first explosive touchdown was a 70 yarder to WR Cooper Kupp. The play was verywell designed and it caught the Vikings off guard. The Rams managed to isolate LB Anthony Barr after 3rd year corner Mackensie Alexander let him cross the field and took himself out of the coverage. Kupp started by running a shallow crossing route which he immediately took upfield. Barr was the closest to him, and there was no Safety help. This was simply a misdirection for the Vikings defense.
Kupp had another touchdown in the second quarter. This was a 19 yarder right over the heads of CBs Mike Hughes and Trae Waynes. Coverage wasn’t too poor on this touchdown, but even speedy Waynes just couldn’t keep up with Kupp. McVay designed another beautiful play with a couple of short routes at the right side of the field. This let Goff have more time to throw, and Kupp snuck to the back of the end zone.

After the game, McVay said, “It’s almost like you’re throwing it away and Cooper did a great job saving them a bit of room, and Jared put it in about a six inch box that he could only fit it into.”

Another touchdown that went against Trae Waynes came in the third quarter. This time it was WR Brandin Cooks who struck for 47 yards. Cooks ran a vertical route, and Waynes could not keep up with him. Again, no Safety help. The Rams called this play when CB Xavier Rhodes, who spent the majority of the game on Cooks, was on the sidelines. This benching occurred after a 15 yard unsportsmanlike conduct for kicking a flag which was thrown to indicate a defensive hold on him.

The final Los Angeles touchdown came on another Minnesota misdirection. This 31 yard score went to WR Robert Woods. Goff motioned his receivers to the outside, clearing the backfield. The Vikings had to adjust quickly as the ball was snapped. The Rams got the mismatch they hoped for. The four receivers all ran verticals, and once again, Anthony Barr ended up having to cover a wide receiver downfield for more than 20 yards. For about the millionth time that night, he had no Safety help.

The Vikings have seven days until they play an NFC Championship rematch in Philadelphia. Hopefully the defense can get on the same page. HC Mike Zimmer was baffled at his coverage units. “We’ve never been, probably anywhere I’ve ever been, I’ve never been so poor in pass coverage. We’re going to have to look at everything we’re doing.”

With the mini bye week, we can be sure that Zimmer will put in extra effort in fixing the coverage. Onto Philly for the well anticipated revenge game! SKOL

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3 Keys to Beating the Rams

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By: Tanishka Mhaskar
September 27th, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS-The Minnesota Vikings play the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday September 27th in the Coliseum in Los Angeles. The Vikings are coming off of an embarassing loss to the Buffalo Bills while the Rams are coming off of an impressive win against the other Los Angeles team: the Chargers. The Vikings open as seven point underdogs. Keep reading for three keys to beating the red-hot L.A. Rams.

1) Stop RB Todd Gurley. 
The explosive Rams RB has 376 total yards and 5 total touchdowns. If the Vikings can stop the Rams’ run game and make them a one-dimensional offense, they put more pressure on QB Jared Goff to throw.

2) Capitalize on the backup CBs. 
The Rams upgraded their secondary this offseason by trading for CBs Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. The shutdown corners both got injured in the Rams win against the Chargers. On Wednesday, Los Angeles placed Talib on the IR, and Peters is listed as questionable. He is unlikely to play. Stepping in for Talib and Peters are backups Sam Shields, Troy Hill, and Nickell Robey-Coleman. On the other side of the ball, the Vikings have arguably the best receiver duo in the league in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. If Vikings QB Kirk Cousins has enough time to through the ball, Thielen and Diggs win the matchup.

3) Don’t abandon the run game. 
The Vikings rank 31st in rushing. They ran the ball 6 times for only 14 yards on Sunday. This was partly because they were playing catch up, versus the Bills. The Rams defense has some big holes that can provide good lanes for running. None of this will matter if the offensive line doesn’t step up. Luckily for the Vikings, their star center Pat Elflein is expected to start vs the Rams. Elflein has the ability to get into the secondary and block. Explosive RB Dalvin Cook is also expected to play, even though he was listed as questionable on Wednesday’s injury report.

The Vikings hope to rebound from last week’s loss. Tune in at 7:20 CT on Fox, Amazon Prime, or NFL Network. SKOL

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Bills Stun the Vikings AT U.S. Bank Stadium

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By: Tanishka Mhaskar
September 23rd, 2018

Vikings Suffer A Disappointing 27-6 Loss

 The Minnesota Vikings did NOT look like the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday afternoon. They had a complete meltdown on every phase of the ballgame. In a very uncharacteristic loss, the Vikings made terrible mistakes knocking them down to 1-1-1 on the season. 

The team fell apart on the Buffalo Bills' opening drive. On the third play of the game, LB Eric Wilson sacked Bills QB Josh Allen. There was an unnecessary roughness penalty on Linval Joseph and the Bills moved the chains. After another penalty on the same drive, Josh Allen ran 10 yards for a Buffalo score. Things weren't too terrible at that point. 

The Vikings offense received the ball inside their 10 yard line only for QB Kirk Cousins to fumble while trying to run for a first down. The Bills receive the ball in the red zone and kick a field goal. 10-0, no problem. 

On the Vikings' next offensive possession Cousins fumbles again, due to terrible protection by LT Riley Reiff. The Bills stroll into the end zone, and were up 17-0. 

This was pretty much the theme of the day. Mistakes and penalties by the Vikings on all phases end the game. I'll just name a few that really could have changed the game: Waynes' dropped pick, Smith should have recovered the fumble, Diggs should have caught the touchdown pass, and a Latavius Murray mishap that turned into an interception. 

The Vikings ran the ball four time for 14 yards, forcing Cousins to throw 55 times. The run game was NOT there, and the Vikings pretty much abandoned it because they were forced to play catch up the rest of the game. The fact that explosive RB Dalvin Cook sat out really made a difference. 

The Vikings may have taken this game a bit too easily and they shot themselves in the foot on countless occasions today. Look for the Vikings to be fired up as they take on the 3-0 Los Angeles Rams on Thursday night. TE Kyle Rudolph would love to get the bitter taste out of his mouth. "The best way to bounce back from such a poor performance is to go play well. Thankfully, we don’t have to wait seven days to go play well."
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True Professional

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Jamie Harmer
Published 9/1/18
Image: DHartist 

Hearing the recent news that 11 year vet Brian Robison has been released. So instead of writing about why he was, and how we have to trust the process, I'd rather look back on a player that I've looked up to for many years.
Robison was drafted to the Vikes in the 4th round of the 2007 draft.( That's not a typo, he really has been in MN that long) Spent his first couple years as a back up. Getting his shot after the departure of Ray Edwards, Robison took his spot among the starting front four. Didn't take long for the long haired Longhorn to make his mark as a pass rusher. Combining with the likes of Jared Allen to create quite the pair of bookend DE's.
As the years went by, Robison became a Fan favorite. Launching 96 questions on, adding flair to his sacks with the Reel 'em in celebration, and most importantly never taking his profession for granted. I can't tell you how many times I've seen Robison interact with fans. Be it over social media or in person, B-Rob always had time for the fans.
It's never easy to write a piece on a players release, but I chose to write this one to express my graditude for 96. It's not often a player goes 11 years with the same team in today's NFL. Hell, it's not often a player goes 11 years in the NFL period. We as fans were lucky to have a guy with such high character suit up every Sunday for the passed 11 seasons for the Purple and Horns! Here are Robison's on field stats: 289 tackles, 60 sacks, 13 forced fumbles, and 1 TD.
One stat you won't find on any stat line is what he has done outside of the game of football. The Reel em In foundation maybe Robison's most impressive stat of all. We all have seen the awesome merch and the fishing tournaments Robison has done. What we don't see is the countless hours he has spent creating a foundation that provides financial assistance in the training of law enforcement K9s.
On behave of the crew here at VikingNations, we thank you Brian Robison for being a true professional in every sense of the word. No matter where life takes you, you will always be a Viking!
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