Troy Williamson–In The Doghouse

Vikings rookie wide receiver, Troy Williamson, the seventh pick in this year’s draft, is apparently in Mike Tice’s doghouse. that Williamson took a knee in practice last Wednesday and that knee landed him in the doghouse. I don’t really know what the problem is; the Vikings do, after all, have .

Sitting Williamson is probably for the best; it will give him some time to think about how he can improve his game.

Williamson has been a disappointment this season. , and I was wrong, but still, it’s not unreasonable to expect more production from Williamson than we’ve gotten thus far.

It seems to me that the rookie receiver’s main problem is tracking the ball. Williamson seems to do a very good job when he can see the ball come out of the quarterback’s hands; on slants and crossing routes, for example. He has more trouble hanging onto the ball on timing routes such as outs, where he’s not looking toward the ball until the last second.

More troubling, since this is primarily why he was drafted, is that Williamson also seems to have trouble locating the ball on long fly routes. Sure he’s caught a few this season but it looks like he has trouble if the ball is not thrown exactly where he expects it, usually over his inside shoulder. If the ball is under- or over-thrown, he has trouble going to get the ball. And if he’s covered and has to fight for the ball, forget it; he just can’t seem to adjust to the situation.

It’s far too early to panic, of course. Unless you’re Randy Moss or Anquan Boldin, it generally takes rookie receivers three years to really come into their own.

On the other hand, I have heard many coaches say that the ability to find the ball is something you have or don’t have. Here’s hoping that Williamson will prove them wrong by learning the skill.

Vikings Code Of Conduct

The Hater Nation takes rather hilarious aim at the Minnesota Vikings recently released Code of Conduct. Example:

Section 1, Paragraph 29: Report any illegal ticket scalping to your head coach immediately.


Section 32, Paragraph 1a: If you are going to do drugs, even once in a blue moon, please let us know ahead of time so Matt Birk can take your drug test.


Jim Marshall, Not Jeff Feagles, Is The NFL Ironman

Go ahead and say it, dismissively and with contempt: Jeff Feagles.

New York Giants punter, Jeff Feagles, will, in all likelihood, break outstanding former Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jim Marshall‘s ironman record of 282 consecutive games played by playing in his 283rd game today against Seattle.

If any sports record deserves an asterisk, this one does. The only impressive thing about Feagle’s streak is the odds-defying fact that he has yet to suit up for a game in which his team did not need to punt.

The fact that a punter will break Jim Marshall’s consecutive games streak is particularly insulting to me because I grew up watching Marshall play as a member of the famed Purple People Eaters Vikings defense of the 1970s. I saw how tough he was week in and week out.

I was at his last home game at the old Met Stadium on December 9, 1979, against the Buffalo Bills. The Vikings won, 10-3; a game in which Marshall sacked Bills Quarterback Joe Ferguson twice and played offensive tackle during the Vikings final series.

While Feagles sustained his consecutive games streak solely by punting the football, Marshall started every game he played in, for twenty years–and that’s not counting 1959, when he left Ohio State a year early to play for the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League before being drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 1960 and then being traded to the expansion Minnesota Vikings in 1961. For all but one of those seasons, NFL teams played 14-game seasons; in 1979, the league expanded to the current 16-game schedule.

In all, Jim Marshall played in 409 pre-, post-, regular-season and Pro Bowl games and accumlated 1050 tackles, 133 sacks, 29 fumble recoveries (an NFL record), one of which he returned the wrong way to score a safety for the other team. (The aforementioned tackles and sacks statistics do not include his year in Cleveland, for which no individual records were compiled.)

Marshall played in an era before the emergence of such situational niche players as the "pass rush specialist" or the "run stuffer" or rotational defensive line schemes designed to keep players "fresh."

And despite his incredible career, Jim Marshall has yet to be inducted into the pro football Hall of Fame.

Marshall is graceful about the imminent demise of his amazing record. "Records are meant to be broken, and I’ll congratulate [Feagles] when he does it," Marshall told the Star Tribune recently.

But I can’t muster up much grace.

If you watched the Vikings beat the New York Giants two weeks ago, you’ll know what I’m talking about. On Mewelde Moore‘s third quarter punt return for a touchdown, Jeff Feagles had a chance to make a play on Moore and perhaps prevent a touchdown. I half hoped that Moore would plow into Feagles but Moore must’ve taken pity on the pathetic punter because it was obvious that Feagles wanted no part of Moore. He stepped aside and let the Vikings have the touchdown. The twerp.

How else to explain Feagles’ feebleness but that he was eager to preserve his consecutive games streak and did not want to risk injury? You’d never see Jim Marshall do such a thing.

Scouting – Cleveland Browns News

Here are some links for you to read up on this week’s opponent, the Cleveland Browns:

Is The Conservative Message Wearing Thin?

While it’s far too early to tell for sure, there are indications that Minnesotans may be tiring of hard-core conservativism. The most obvious evidence of that is Chris Coleman‘s landslide victory over incumbent St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly.

Granted, there are plenty of caveats to throw at the argument: Kelly is a Democrat, not a Republican. Even if you concede that he’s as close to a Republican as a Democrat can get in this state, you still have to acknowledge that he lost in an overwhelmingly DFL city.

Even so, as the papers all pointed out, Kelly was the first incumbent St. Paul mayor to lose re-election since 1972. And he lost in a city that was perfectly happy to elect a conservative Democrat mayor twice (himself and his predecessor Norm Coleman) and a Republican (Norm Coleman, again, in 1997) as its past three mayors.

Both Norm Coleman and Randy Kelly ran on no new taxes pledges. This time, Kelly not only said he wouldn’t raise taxes, he wanted to make it harder to raise taxes by requiring a supermajority from the City Council.

It sure looked like Kelly’s endorsement of President Bush was the kiss of death (it looked as if St. Paul voters were saying, I didn’t vote for that!), but what’s remarkable is that judging by the polls, it appears as if St. Paulites were perfectly happy with the job he’d done as mayor. But for the endorsement…

The other factor indicating voters may be growing weary of the conservative message is the result of the school referendums. As the Star Tribune reported, "Twelve of 18 Twin Cities-area districts won yes votes from their constituents for tax increases for new buildings or more operating mon ey." And statewide, "64 districts won voter approval for property-tax increases, while 20 failed. The 76 percent passage rate was the highest since 1999."

Those results would seem to indicate that the appeal of the absolutely no new taxes message is waning.

Finally, as Politics In Minnesota pointed out in the October 30 issue, in a piece on talk radio, conservative talk on the airwaves appears to be losing steam in Minnesota, while liberal talk is gaining appeal:

In the political talk category, the most noticeable movement is the massive downward trend of KSTP-AM 1500 which had a 6.0 rating a year ago but only mustered a 3.8 this summer. Recall the station’s marquee national program, Rush Limbaugh, is leaving for a new talk station owned by Clear Channel that will debut in January. 

On the more "minor" political talk stations, there is some apparent growth for Air America which posted a 1.2 rating up from 1.0 in the spring and .9 in the winter. The conservative equivalent, the Patriot (1280AM), came in with a 1.4 for the summer, up from a 1.2 last spring.

Too early to tell? Yes. But these results coupled with President Bush’s low poll numbers are giving liberals hope that the tide may be turning.

Scouting – New York Giants News

Here are some links for you to read up on this week’s opponent, the New York Giants:

Xbox 360 Specs – High Definition Gaming

I was planning on doing a wish list of features I’d like to see in the next version of Grand Theft Auto. One was the ability to create mayhem at a sports stadium filled with people. I’d like to be able to sneak into a football stadium packed with people watching their hometown team and snipe at people and sorta just create panic in the stadium ala Black Sunday.

GTA does a pretty good job at having the ambient AI (artificial intelligence) characters in the game react realistically but usually it’s groups of people, three or four in a bunch, who react. I can’t recall seeing more AI characters reacting to something you, as a player, have done.

I ran across an article on about the Xbox 360’s artificial intelligence capabilities that explains why you don’t see massive crowd reactions to player actions in games. The article quotes Chris Satchell, General Manager of the Game Developers Group at Microsoft, explaining what the computational processing power of the Xbox 360 will mean for next-gen games beyond beautiful, high-definition graphics and 5.1 Dolby surround sound:

"I love it when you take an NPC [non-player character] and give it some really simple rules—by itself, it looks okay—then you put 10 of them together and the interaction makes things start to look interesting. Then you put 100 of them together, then you put 500 of them together…the emergent behavior is really amazing."

"You plug in some really simple things [A.I. rules]—fleeing behavior, avoidance, fright—you put these emotions in and you run it with 30 NPCs, you get one type of behavior. You run it with 500 NPCs, and you get a film. You see a scene and now you’ve got enough processing power to run 500 NPCs, with enough processing power to render them and to do collision for them, you get experiences in games you’ve never seen before."

So not only will the Xbox 360 improve dramatically from a look and sound standpoint, gameplay itself will be improved and more realistic.

Add to this the graphics improvements and sound system improvement and the next-gen systems will bring video gaming a large step closer to the holy grail of gaming: photorealism.

Take a look at Madden 06 for Xbox 360 trailers at The graphics are clearly vastly improved over the curent-gen version of the game. Much sharper and more detailed. Take a look at Brett Favre‘s face in the Packers vs. Vikings clips and you’ll see the character actually looks like Farve. The players’ movements are also immensely improved; they are much more fluid and natural.

Couple these improvements with the built in 5.1 Dolby surround sound support and the improvment in the realism of the games becomes obvious. You may be able to hear a fan heckling the quarterback in the stands on the right-hand side. Or in first person shooters, you may be able to hear shots coming from behind you on your left, allowing you to wheel around to face the threat without ever having seen it.

Games need to get to the point where it becomes less and less obvious that you’re playing a video game and more like you are a participant in a drama. That requires realism and realism, ultimately, is where video games must improve if the industry is to elevate itself above films as the predominant entertainment and art form. The Xbox 360 will help the industry reach that goal.

Scouting – Detroit Lions News

Here are some links for you to read up on this week’s opponent, the Detroit Lions (updated 10/6/06):