The Vikings aren’t doomed without Teddy Bridgewater

It’s not all bad news for the Vikings. Teddy Bridgewater has a torn ACL and a dislocated knee, but no nerve damage. In other words, his career isn’t far, over from it, but his season is. The bigger question now is whether the Vikings’ season is over, too.

Minnesota’s gotten a lot of hype in the offseason. For good reason, after finishing with an 11-5 record last year and a missed field goal away from beating the Seahawks in the playoffs. The defense looks much better. They still have an offense built around Adrian Peterson, and the offensive line got a much needed upgrade.

Building a winning team around a good ground game and a strong defense isn’t exactly new. It’s not flashy, and Vikings fans probably aren’t going to find much solace in the fact that the team has been forced into the season with the same approach Jeff Fisher uses.

But don’t forget, the Vikings have Mike Zimmer, too, a coach who’s shown over and over again that he’s smart, tough as nails, and able to adjust to circumstances.

More: Mike Zimmer wasn’t afraid to say Cornelius Lucas Jersey how much he loves Teddy Bridgewater, and for some reason that’s rare
Offensive line — No quarterback was pressured more than Bridgewater was last season. He was pressured on 46.8 percent of his dropbacks, and it took a big bite out of the Vikings passing game, especially the deep passing game. Minnesota didn’t have Phil Loadholt at right tackle last year. They don’t have him this year either — he retired — but they installed Andre Smith in his place. The guards should be much better too thanks to the addition of Alex Boone. Don’t Dan Orlovsky Jersey forget, the Vikings also brought in a new offensive line coach, Tony Sparano, who’s got a much better record at that job than, say, interim head coach.

Head coach Chip Kelly acknowledged Kaepernick’s right to protest but said it didn’t shift the team’s focus from preparing for the final preseason game and for the regular season.

“We recognize his right to express his feelings, but that doesn’t affect what we do at 8:15 in the morning until we leave at 8 o’clock at night,” Kelly said. “We’re all about preparing for the Chargers game obviously this Thursday and, more importantly, for the Rams season opens up on Monday night.”

Prior to the game, Kaepernick met with Nate Boyer, former Green Beret and NFL long snapper, to discuss his decision to protest. Boyer had written an open letter saying that Kaepernick has the right to protest, but that he wished to understand better where Kaepernick was coming from.

Boyer and Kaepernick spent about 90 minutes together before the 49ers faced the Chargers. According to Fox’s Jay Glazer, the meeting was productive.

Thursday was yet another rough outing for the first overall pick from this year’s draft. Jared Goff finished 6 for 16 with 67 yards, a pick and a touchdown in the Rams’ 27-25 loss to the Vikings. Goff’s play through the preseason has been uninspiring enough that head coach Jeff Fisher said he’ll be the third-stringer, behind Case Keenum and Sean Mannion, a third-round pick last year, when the season opens.

Sam Bradford and the Vikings ring in their new stadium with 17-14 win over Packers

Minnesota Vikings beat the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football with a final score of 17-14. After quarterback Teddy Bridgewater went down with a gruesome knee injury prior to the start of the season, Mike Zimmer said nobody should count out the Vikings. On Sunday, they demonstrated why Zimmer’s statement was true.

Minnesota beat Jahleel Addae Jersey the Titans in Week 1 on turnovers, and against the Packers, the defense was just as aggressive. The Vikings forced four fumbles, and Green Bay managed to recover all but one of them.

The announcement broke a week of silence regarding the team’s quarterback competition. Head coach Mike Zimmer was tight-lipped Jason Verrett Jersey throughout Week 2’s practices, but made sure to compliment Bradford’s abilities when asked about his newest passer.

“The upside is that he’s a veteran,” Zimmer said of Bradford. “[He’s] seen a lot of stuff. He throws the ball great, got a good arm, gets the ball out quick.”

Those comments, along with reports Bradford had been working with the first team throughout the week’s practices, led Packers coach Mike McCarthy to expect to see the former top overall pick behind center in Week 2.

Bradford, 28, was acquired by the Vikings just eight days before the team’s opener against the Tennessee Titans after incumbent starter Teddy Bridgewater suffered a serious knee injury in a practice that ended his 2016 season. Minnesota sent the Philadelphia Eagles a first-round pick for Bradford, so there was no question that the former No. 1 overall pick would eventually take over for Hill.

But given just a week to prepare for the game, the Vikings left Bradford on the bench to begin the season and turned to Hill to lead the way against the Titans.

The 36-year-old journeyman quarterback was competent but unspectacular in the start. He completed 18 of his 33 passes for 236 yards, zero touchdowns and zero interceptions. Minnesota only gained 301 total yards with Hill behind center, the sixth-lowest total in the league for Week 1. The Vikings failed to score an offensive touchdown, instead relying on a pair of defensive scores to defeat Tennessee, 25-16.

Bradford, the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, started four seasons for the Rams before missing the entire 2014 season with an ACL tear. In 2015, Bradford was traded to the Eagles and finished his only season in Philadelphia with a career-best 3,725 passing yards along with 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

He was replaced by rookie Jacoby Brissett, who was selected by the Patriots in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Brissett did just enough to preserve the win for the Patriots. He didn’t throw any interceptions, and his only fumble was recovered by his teammate James White, so no harm done.

He has a good shot and is said to be a hard worker

Position: Left wing Ht wt: 6, 212 | Shoots: Left 2014 stats: 18 goals, 15 assists, plus-4 rating, 14 penalty minutes Salary cap hit: $4 million A 13-year veteran, the 36-year-old would provide depth up front for the Red the event Johan Franzen isn’t able to return this from a concussion. Position: Defenseman Ht wt: 6, 207 | Shoots: Right 2014 stats: Five goals, 31 assists, plus-8 rating, 22 Michael Cooper Jersey penalty minutes Cap hit: $6 million A two-time Trophy runnerup, the 29-year-old Green would provide offense after scoring at least 12 goals four times 10 NHL seasons with a career-high 31 2008. But he’s unrestricted free agent this year. Position: Defense Ht wt: 6, 210 | Shoots: Right 2014 stats: Two goals, six assists, minus-6 rating, 12 penalty minutes Salary cap hit: $4 million Michalek, 32, would give the Red size and the right-handed shot they covet on the blue line but he won’t provide much offense and is a similar player to rookie Alexey Marchenko. Position: Defenseman Ht wt: 6, 200 | Shoots: Right 2014 stats: Four goals, 11 assists, minus-25 rating, 32 penalty minutes Salary cap hit: $3 million Petry, 27, is the son of former Detroit Tigers’ pitcher Dan Petry. He has a good shot and is said to be a hard worker.

Can log a lot minutes. Postion: Defenseman Nick Young Jersey Ht wt: 6, 208 | Shoots: Right 2014 stats: Seven goals, 21 assists, minus-11 rating, 32 penalty minutes Salary cap hit: $5 million Wisniewski, a 31-year-old Michigan native who played junior hockey for the Plymouth Whalers, has two years remaining on his contract at $5 million and the Red are reluctant to take on that kind of money.

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MANCHESTER UNITED have made a move for Borussia Dortmund’s Mats Hummels. Hummels’ future with Dortmund has been the subject of intense speculation recent months, and the international, 25, has been repeatedly linked with a move away from the Westfalenstadion. According to reports, Premier League duo Manchester United and Arsenal are both interested signing the former Bayern Munich centre-half, who joined Dortmund 2009. The Bundesliga giants have ruled out selling Hummels on numerous occasions and have insisted he is not available for any amount of money. But sources Italy have suggested their resolve is currently being tested. Italian journalist Gianluigi Longari claims the Red Devils have made offer to acquire the centre-back’s services. Longari has not confirmed the amount United have bid for the, but the offer is believed to be the region of £35m.

He has never faced the Blue Jays

All eyes be on Samardzija on when he makes his first start as a member of the Oakland A’s. Samardzija joined the green Bob Cousy Jersey and gold Saturday, when Oakland officially announced its blockbuster trade with the Cubs. Along with Jason Hammel, Samardzija look to put the American League West leaders over the top. The right-hander introduce himself to the Coliseum crowd ‘s four-game series finale against the Blue Jays. I’m right where I need to be, man, Samardzija said Saturday, when he joined the team Oakland. I’ve been begging for this for a while, situation-wise, of coming every day to win.

The A’s ranked second the Majors at 3 entering Saturday, but general manager Billy Beane still felt his pitching staff would benefit from added depth. This was area a few weeks ago we absolutely felt like we had to address, Beane said Saturday morning. Really started the process of trying to find at least one and ultimately decided we needed two guys … We thought they were two of the best guys available. Samardzija is having All–caliber season, despite having just two wins to his name. His is 2, and he has fanned 103 batters while Brandon Bass Jersey walking just 31. The 29-year-old right-hander has spent the first six-plus years of his career with the Cubs, meaning mark his first time pitching for American League team. 15 Interleague appearances, Samardzija is 2 with a 4.

He has never faced the Blue Jays. Samardzija be a tough assignment for the Jays. Their offense is sputtering of late, and they have won just two of their last nine series. Right-hander Drew Hutchison get the ball for Toronto on the heels of one of his best starts of 2014. Hutchinson held the Brewers — the second-leading offense the National League — to one run over seven innings on Tuesday, notching a career-high 10 strikeouts. Like Samardzija, Hutchison be seeing his opponent for the first time. Blue Jays: Encarnacion leaves Saturday’s game with soreness Jays first baseman Encarnacion exited Saturday’s game the first inning with right quadricep soreness. Encarnacion went down after beating out a potential double-play ball that brought home Toronto’s first run. He remained on the for several minutes before being helped off the field. Lind replaced Encarnacion — who was credited with his 70th RBI — at first base. A’s: Milone sent down to make room for Samardzija Left-hander started Milone became a victim of numbers Saturday the wake of Oakland’s blockbuster trade with the Cubs, getting optioned to Triple-A Sacramento to make room on the 25-man roster for Samardzija. A number of factors were working against Milone after the trade, including the Athletics’ desire for bullpen depth after a 12-inning contest, coupled with the fact that Milone would not be available to pitch again for several days. Mills, who be replaced by Samardzija the rotation, gave the A’s eighth bullpen option Saturday. Milone has been fantastic since May 9, going 6 with a 2 11 starts.

Manager Bob struggled to find the right words to break the news to his southpaw. If you’re position, what do you even say to a like that? said. He was a little bit shocked, and understandably so. But you haven’t seen the last of Milone here. Worth Noting: • Donaldson, Yoenis Cespedes and were all line to start the All- Game advance of ‘s roster announcement. The A’s have not had a fan-elected player since 2000. • Encarnacion leads the Majors with 49 extra-base hits, ahead of the Angels’ Trout.

Stewart tossed 4 complete and struck out a team-high 75 98 innings of work

Stewart tossed 4 complete and struck out a team-high 75 98 innings of work. 2012, the right-hander was named a Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper and the MAAC Rookie of the Year. Round 10 LHP WILLIAM STRODE AGE DOB: 22, 10 College: State University BATS THROWS: L L HEIGHT WEIGHT: 6 185 Signed 6 Strode went 3 with a 1 and 14 saves 30 appearances with State University his Danny Lansanah Jersey senior campaign. Had a similar year 2014, going 2 with a 2 and 49 strikeouts 48 innings pitched. The Parkland, native was named to the All-ACC Academic 2014 and the ACC Academic Honor Roll from 2012 and 2013. Round 11 RHP CHANDLER NEWMAN AGE DOB: 18, Feb. 5 High School: Richmond Hill HS BATS THROWS: R R HEIGHT WEIGHT: 6 175 A 2015 graduate of Richmond Hill High School, Newman was honorable mention to the Perfect Game Preseason Southeast Region All-High School team. The Southern commit boasts a fastball that sits at 95 mph and helped guide the Richmond Hill Wildcats to three straight GHSA Region 3-AAAAA titles. The righthander’s older brother, Hunter, currently pitches at LSU. Round 12 LHP PEREZ AGE DOB: 21, Oct 27 College: University BATS THROWS: S L HEIGHT WEIGHT: 6 190 Signed 6 Perez went 4 for the University Eagles with a 4 12 appearances 3 starts the 2015.

The switch-pitcher Dashon Goldson Jersey struck out 33 batters while allowing 16 walks. Perez also tallied 3 saves on the year. He was the 2014 West All- MVP while playing for Hyannis the Cape Cod League. Round 13 C SALTERS AGE DOB: 22, Feb. 5 College: Baptist BATS THROWS: L R HEIGHT WEIGHT: 6 210 Signed 6 Started 57 for the Baptist Patriots 2015, batting.261 with 15 doubles, one triple and 4 HR. Salters also tallied 36 RBI and 31 walks. He was originally drafted by the Washington Nationals 2014, but did not sign. The catcher was named to the 2015 All-Regional as the Patriots went 3 at the NCAA Regional. Round 14 RHP ESPARZA AGE DOB: 20, Aug 22 College: UC Irvine BATS THROWS: L R HEIGHT WEIGHT: 6 195 Signed 6 Started 16 this, finishing 8 with a 3 for the Anteaters. The right-hander struck out 81 hitters and surrendered 35 walks. 2014, Esparza was a first team All-Orange Empire Conference selection while with Cypress College. Round 15 RHP SPRINKLE AGE DOB: 18, Oct. 14 High School: White Hall HS BATS THROWS: R R HEIGHT WEIGHT: 6 230 The 6, 230-pounder is Auburn University commit. The White Hall, Arkansas native led his team to the 5A State Championship 2014, giving up 3 hits and striking out 8 a complete-game performance that earned him the State Most Valuable Player. Was named a PRO-DAY Prep Gear All-American Honorable Mention as a sophomore and a PRO-DAY Prep Gear Second- All-American as a.

Round 16 INF COBIE AGE DOB: 17, Aug. 24 High School: Pine HS BATS THROWS: R R HEIGHT WEIGHT: 5 185 The 2015 graduate of Pine High School and Alabama commit was a preseason Perfect Game first team selection the Atlantic Region. was also a 2013 and 2014 Underclass Honorable Mention. 2014, he hit.405 with 7 doubles and 30 runs scored. Round 17 INF NICK MADRIGAL AGE DOB: 18, 5 High School: Elk Grove HS BATS THROWS: R R HEIGHT WEIGHT: 5 145 and was a member of the 2014 USA Baseball U18 National that took Gold La Paz, Mexico. Madrigal hit.481 with one triple, 7 RBI and 7 stolen bases at the Pan Am, playing all 8. He was selected as a Preps All-American after his. From on Madrigal: A small middle infielder with sparkplug type skills, Madrigal has shown a penchant for playing above his tools against very good competition. The high school shortstop was a standout for USA Baseball’s 18 and Under team last on both sides of the ball. He handles the bat well putting the ball play consistently; he didn’t strike out once with USA. He’s not particularly physical and power never be a part of his game, leading to more David Eckstein comps than, say, Pedroia or Altuve. He has plenty of speed and maximizes it as a base-stealing threat.

The Oregon State commit has the tools to stay at shortstop thanks to his quickness and accuracy, though without pure arm strength. He’s a natural leader and a coach on the field from short. Teams have to look past Madrigal’s size and project some added strength when deciding to take him. With his tools and plus makeup, he’s the type who proves any skeptics wrong. Round 18 INF ANTHONY MILLER AGE DOB: 20, Oct. 4 College: County CC BATS THROWS: L R HEIGHT WEIGHT: 6 240 Signed 6 Hit.443 60 2015 at County Community College. tallied 26 HR, 15 doubles, 5 triples and 79 RBI, while walking 43 times against 28 strikeouts.

The Rhinos were denied a try two minutes after the restart.

The Rhinos were denied a try two minutes after the restart. Hodgson lost possession a big hit from Leuluai and Brett Delaney swept on the loose ball to score. But after deliberation, video ­referee Phil Bentham ruled that ­Leuluai had knocked on after making the ­tackle.

And Warrington Willie McCovey Jersey struck again for their third try when play was switched to the left for Ryan Atkins to put Chris Reilly over the corner, but Hodgson couldn’t add the extras. The Wolves were full flow now. ­Atkins went from Hodgson’s pass ­before McCarthy burst over from Westwood’s offload. Hodgson converted both scores with Briers slotting over a 62nd-minute drop goal.

Jones-Buchanan returned to the fray for Leeds who pulled four points back with a Kallum Watkins try from a Zak Hardaker. Hodgson dummied over on 75 ­minutes and converted his try. Leeds kept ­fighting with Watkins getting his ­second try of the afternoon but they couldn’t live with Warrington’s ­second-half assault.

Warrington coach Tony Smith Ahtyba Rubin Jersey ­saluted the diminutive, 12-stone Hodgson ­saying: He may not be the fastest, strongest or even the best looking but he knows how to play. He was ­fantastic. He copped a pounding but he ­recovered to show his smartness. But he had some help.

I thought Adrian Morley really lifted us when he came on and Michael Monaghan gave us a real spark. We turned over too much possession the first half on the half-way line. But we made things happen the ­second half and took opportunities when they came along. Leeds coach Brian McDermott thought that Delaney’s disallowed try should have stood. It was a big moment what ­happened the second half, he said. I didn’t see a knock-on, but ­Warrington were better on the day and deserved to win.

Jay Cutler has right thumb sprain, not expected to need surgery

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has a sprained thumb on his throwing hand but is not expected to need surgery, coach John Fox said Tuesday.

“To my knowledge, right now, no [he will not need surgery],” Fox said. “But to eliminate it down the road, I’m not a doctor, so I can’t tell you that. But it doesn’t appear like that at this point.”

Fox said the veteran quarterback is considered day to day, but stopped short of declaring Cutler out for Sunday night’s road game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Cutler, 33, completed 12 of 17 pass attempts for 157 yards and one interception. He also lost a fumble.

An 11-year veteran, Cutler has missed 15 games because of injuries since 2010. He broke his right thumb in a Nov. 2011 game against the San Diego Chargers while trying to make a tackle following an interception. The injury caused him to miss the rest of the season.

“Jimmy played a lot of plays yesterday, which was good,” Pete Carroll said. “Not quite as many targets that I know what everybody would like to see, but he did a really good job when the ball was thrown to him. He had some nice plays, blocking, he had a lot of play time. He’s really in the groove to go, and that was significant that he was able to do that. That’s a good deal for us.”

Together, Allen and Woodhead accounted for about one-third of San Diego’s offensive output in 2015.

“I will promise you one thing — Danny will be back stronger than ever,” Chargers coach Mike McCoy said about Woodhead, who is in the final year of his contract. “And that is why he has been so successful in this business. He always has that chip on his shoulder, comes to work every day and treats it like his last day. He is a great example of what it means to be a pro.”

With those two prolific playmakers out, the Chargers will have to count on the person who has not missed a start in more than a decade: quarterback Philip Rivers.

Pittsburgh Steelers’ new weight room powered by jerky and AstroTurf

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers’ new weight room is so sprawling that it’s basically broken up into suburbs.

Better believe the team’s strength and conditioning staff has named them.

“If you go to Shake City, you know you’re going to the power plates,” strength and conditioning coordinator Garrett Giemont said. “If you go to Machine Alley, you know where you’re headed. If you go to Rack Row, if you go to Speed City, you know where it’s at.”

Keiser weights with air-resistant training.

I’ve made a ton of predictions this preseason, and while the odds say it’s unlikely all of them will come true, they are steeped in research, scouting and facts that suggest they are much more likely to happen than not.

So the idea for this column is not to nail low-percentage outrageous predictions, but rather to highlight players I have strong feelings about, one way or the other. These are scenarios that are not likely to happen, but they aren’t impossible, either.

For the past two years, after Michael Brown’s killing in Ferguson gave rise to a volatile America divided by police and protest, the sports machine — rooted in the structure of black player/white media/white ticket buyer/white owner — was largely silent. Some prominent black players expressed support for the protesters; virtually no white male players did. With the exception of the Baltimore Orioles, teams have ignored the grief of their large black fan bases and abandoned their historical neutrality on social issues in favor of hero worship of police at the ballpark, supported by a white mainstream that is rarely the target of police aggression.

Kaepernick protested, and the reaction was predictable. White athletes and the predominantly white media, once largely silent, finally spoke but said very little about the substance of his dissent. They opted for intimidation by pile-on. Athletes and pundits were canvassed, leaving the likes of Drew Brees and Boomer Esiason — who have no record of scholarship, interest or knowledge regarding police brutality — to distort Kaepernick’s position into a lazy, pseudo-erudite conversation about patriotism. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said something while saying nothing. “I understand and respect the cause … but I love the flag,” he said, only adding to a false argument designed to reinforce the foundation of the establishment.

Jeff Fisher would be ‘surprised’ if any Rams mimicked Colin Kaepernick

IRVINE, Calif. — Jeff Fisher’s profound respect for the national anthem was noticeable during a recent episode of HBO’s “Hard Knocks”, which aired footage of a team meeting in which the Los Angeles Rams coach walked his players through the proper way to salute the flag before games. But Fisher wanted no part of the controversy that has engulfed San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is sitting during the national anthem — his way to raise awareness for racial oppression in the United States.

Isner ended his answer — and his news conference — by declaring: “I’m a big Blaine Gabbert fan now,” a reference to another 49ers quarterback.

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said he respected Kaepernick for speaking out, even if he wasn’t sure about the methods.

Berry is unlikely to play in Thursday night’s final preseason game against the Green Bay Packers at Arrowhead Stadium. But he said he would play, and play well, in the regular season opener on Sept. 11 against the San Diego Chargers at Arrowhead.

“I’m confident in that,’’ he said. “The only thing is just getting used to having so many bodies flying around, NFL bodies. You try to fill it in with high school players and other people that are just around playing. But it’s different when you have 11 guys on the field that know what they’re doing and know where to be. Things tend to move a little faster.’’

Berry referred to the workouts near his home in the Atlanta area that he conducted when the Chiefs were at training camp. In what can be taken as a sign of how serious Berry was about those workouts, he conducted them each day at the time the Chiefs were practicing without him.

“I tried to tailor things toward the way practice is structured and the way the game is structured,’’ he said. “I just tried to do everything I could on my end to make sure when I came here it could be as much [alike] as possible.’’

While the Chiefs were practicing, Berry was working out. When they were playing, he was watching, from afar on TV. The starting defense struggled in the first couple of preseason games without five starters, including Berry.

But he was cheered by the way the starting defense played against the Bears on Saturday. Playing just in the first half, the Chiefs allowed only 20 yards and two first downs.

“One thing about our team: We adjust very well,’’ Berry said. “You saw that in the Bears game. The problems we had early on, they get fixed. It’s just about making those adjustments and minimizing mistakes.’’

How Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin gave defenses fits on third down

RENTON, Wash. — In the second half of 2015, no quarterback in the NFL was better than Russell Wilson on third down.

“I felt better today, honestly, than I thought I was going to wind-wise, conditioning-wise, running those routes being full padded and everything,” Nelson said after practice, which lasted 1 hour, 47 minutes. “I thought that was a good sign. We’ve been working inside, so we’ve been getting the conditioning aspect in. But there’s nothing like playing a game, and playing a game in Jacksonville Week 1, it’s going to be hot down there. I’m sure everyone will be having to deal with it, and it’ll be part of it.”

Nelson said despite his extremely limited return, he believes he’s on track to play against the Jaguars in the opener on Sept. 11.

“Absolutely. I don’t think anything’s changed,” he said.

With only one more full practice scheduled this week before Friday’s preseason game at San Francisco, it’s unlikely Nelson would play against the 49ers. And typically, coach Mike McCarthy doesn’t play his starters in the preseason finale, although it’s unknown if he would make an exception for the Sept. 1 game at Kansas City to get Nelson some work before the regular-season opener against the Jaguars.

The scariest thing, perhaps, is the players I haven’t named who narrowly miss out on this team. Chris Harris was an undrafted free agent in 2011 before turning into a perennial Pro Bowl corner in Denver. Jimmy Smith, Byron Maxwell and Buster Skrine could easily step in as nickel corners. Aldon Smith was as dominant a pass rusher as there was in the league before his career unraveled. Ryan Kerrigan and Pernell McPhee are dominant at their best, as is defensive tackle Jurrell Casey. Cameron Jordan has made two Pro Bowls and can’t even sniff this team. The talent level in this class is unreal. It is already historic.

What can rival it? The best defensive draft in post-merger NFL history is almost definitely the class of 1981, which produced five Hall of Famers on the defensive side of the ball: Lawrence Taylor, Ronnie Lott, Howie Long, Mike Singletary and Rickey Jackson.

That ’81 class made 15 first-team All-Pro appearances through its first five seasons in the league, a staggering number. The defenders of 2011? They have 16 All-Pro appearances in their first five seasons. Watt, Peterson, Sherman and Miller have been awarded the honor multiple times. The offensive players from that same draft have combined for just four All-Pro appearances over that span.

Can the class of 2011 live up to the lofty heights of 1981 and send five defenders to Canton? It’s not out of the question. Watt faces some injury concerns, but he’s probably already done enough to justify enshrinement. Every eligible two-time defensive player of the year has made it to the Hall of Fame, and Watt has already won the award three times.

The same logic also suggests that Peterson and Sherman have already done enough to get in. Of the 25 Canton-eligible, post-merger defenders who were named first-team All-Pros three times during their careers, 16 (64 percent) made the Hall of Fame. Both NFC West cornerbacks have done that before the sixth year of their respective careers. Miller, who has racked up the same honor two times, is knocking on the door. The fifth Hall of Famer isn’t quite as clear, but with Dareus (when not suspended), Houston and Quinn all regularly producing dominant seasons, there are reasons to be optimistic.