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Lunchbreak: Vikings Safeties Smith, Harris Highlighted by PFF

Next week, Vikings safety Harrison Smith is headed to his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl appearance and recently was named by PFWA to the All-NFC team.

It sometimes seems like another day, another recognition for Smith, who consistently is among the NFL’s top safeties. Analytics site Pro Football Focus this week named Smith the league’s most efficient tackler among his position. PFF’s Austin Gayle wrote:

The NFL’s most efficient tackler at the safety position in 2018 was none other than the Minnesota Vikings Harrison Smith, [who missed] just four of his 86 tackle attempts en route to a position-high 21.5 tackling efficiency. He missed just one tackle on his 406 run-defense snaps and three on his 571 snaps against the pass.

Gayle also highlighted Anthony Harris, who stepped in and played alongside Smith when Andrew Sendejo was sidelined by a groin injury.

Though he played just 602 defensive snaps and attempted 42 tackles, Vikings safety Anthony Harris finished tied for third in tackling efficiency (21.0) among qualifying safeties in 2018. But, perhaps more impressive is Harris’ passer rating allowed in coverage, as he led all safeties with 250-plus coverage snaps played in passer rating allowed at 24.0. He allowed just 13 receptions for 52 yards and logged three interceptions across 324 coverage snaps.

NFL.com ranks Barr, Richardson in top 15 free agents

NFL free agency doesn’t start until March, but analysts and media members across the league are taking a look at which players are set to become available at that time.

NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal recently ranked his top 25 free agents, and two Vikings are included on his list, both in the top 15. Rosenthal placed Anthony Barr at No. 11, saying that “the skill set and splash plays didn’t always add up to excellent overall production” but that the linebacker had a good 2018 season.

Coming right below Barr at No. 12 was defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, whom the Vikings signed as a free agent last spring. Rosenthal opined that Richardson’s beginning of the 2018 campaign was stronger than down the stretch. He wrote:

Richardson started out his season like a man on fire before settling into another campaign that made his employers probably want just a little bit more. He's been stuck on the "prove-it contract" cycle for years.

The only other NFC North name on Rosenthal’s list was Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, who was ranked No. 21.

Rosenthal’s top 10 free agents – nine of which are defenders – are as follows: Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence, Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell, Texans OLB/DE Jadeveon Clowney, Falcons DT Grady Jarrett, Patriots DE Trey Flowers, Seahawks S Earl Thomas, Chiefs LB Dee Ford, Seahawks DE Frank Clark, Giants S Landon Collins and Ravens LB C.J. Mosley.

Former Vikings WR named UW-Lacrosse offensive coordinator

A former Vikings wide receiver and Minnesota native has taken a new role in coaching.

Isaac Fruechte, who was a standout at Caledonia High School before playing for the Gophers and the Vikings (2015-16), was announced this week as the offensive coordinator for University of Wisconsin – La Crosse.

Colten Bartholomew from the La Crosse Tribune wrote about the hiring:

The hiring keeps Fruechte in the position he took over last season after former offensive coordinator Luke Bengtson was reassigned within the university. Fruechte was co-offensive coordinator with offensive line coach Andrew McGlenn for the seven WIAC games last season, but Fruechte now will assume full OC duties for [Head Coach] Mike Schmidt’s staff.

“I am very grateful for the opportunity from (UW-L athletic director) Kim (Blum), this university and coach Schmidt,” Fruechte told Bartholomew. “I can’t wait to get back to work.”

Schmidt couldn’t remember the exact number of candidates Fruechte edged for the position, but said the pool was strong as it’s been in recent searches. This is the third offensive coordinator hired since Schmidt took over the program in 2016.

Schmidt said a few other candidates came to campus for interviews, and that Fruechte’s head start on building relationships with UW-L players and his performance after taking over the position last season were factors in the decision to promote the former wide receivers coach.

Schmidt told Bartholomew that he and his staff saw “calm in the eye of the storm all year” from Fruechte.

“He hadn’t called plays, or put together an offense, let alone the offense we were running,” Schmidt said. “And he put all those things together in his head, he did such a great job picking that all up and putting it out there.”

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