The Minnesota Vikings have been very average this season. Last years’ MVP Adrian Peterson has nine touchdowns yet is struggling to put up the big yards on a consistent basis, the quarterback situation is still a bit of a rubix cube and the defence is really struggling to stop teams from scoring.
So, what exactly is the mystery that is the Minnesota Vikings? First of all, the situation at quarterback is still a huge factor, good teams have a good quarterback and never shop and change. This is not the case with the Vikings, Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ QB Josh Freeman has played just one game and it was a nightmare, 37.7% pass completion rate throwing for zero touchdowns and one interception. The rotation that head coach Leslie Fraizer has employed has sometimes been enforced through injuries to Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel however; the quarterback situation is something that needs to be addressed. I like to compare the quarterback position to the goalkeepers in football, great teams in football are built on great goalkeepers and you only have one of them on the field. Consistency is key and a strong personality and often a loud mouth are required, constant rotation could soon become a problem. This could be said of the Vikings situation, tinkering with your quarterback not only creates unrest between the QB core but also the receivers as each quarterback will have preferred targets, different arm strength, composure, intelligence and so on.
You get the feeling that the Vikings starting quarterback for the 2014 season is not on the roster yet and with a flood of quality QB’s in the college ranks now the Fraizer could do a lot worse than pick up one, maybe two and wash his hands of say, Freeman and Ponder. Ponder so far this season has thrown five touchdowns in six games, rushed for another four yet his turnovers are killing him. The former Florida State man has lost three of his five fumbles and has thrown seven picks so far, for a team that struggles to stop the opposition scoring the last thing the Vikings need is to be giving the ball back to the opposition offence and not build up momentum for Peterson, Greg Jennings and rookie wide out Cordarrelle Peterson.
A combination of bad reads and poor throws has left the Vikings passing game stale and as the quarterback, Ponder has to take a significant amount of heat for that, I mean that’s why the Bucs’ ousted Freeman, and he’s currently playing third string in Minnesota. Ponder should possibly look at Freeman’s season so far and realise what could potentially happen if you keep turning the ball over. The Vikings surely need to go out and get themselves a new ‘franchise’ quarterback.
However, amidst all of the confusion in the quarterback position it hasn’t greatly affected their scoring. Vikings have scored 30 or more points of three occasions this season including 31 in the high scoring loss against the Green Bay Packers, which is a feat in itself considering their problems.
Second Best Secondary
Looking at the other side of the ball now and the Minnesota defence has been, a bit of joke if we’re honest, the secondary looks none-existent at times being unable to defend against intermediate passes especially over the middle. The Vikings have given up 67 out of 134 third downs to their opponents, meaning that their defence stays on the field longer thus getting tired and so on and so forth, this is not good enough and is a key reason why opponents put so many points on them.
If you look back at the week 10 game against RGIII and the Washington Redskins, the Redskins had three touchdown drives in the first half exceeding 75 yards (78, 85 & 82.). If we take the drive that led to the Redskins’ second touchdown, the drive lasted 13 plays in which the Vikings defence had the Redskins on third down three times and just could not kill off the drive. Each time Robert Griffin III passed the ball on third down it always went over the middle to either tight end Jordan Reed or wide receiver Pierre Garcon, who had the Vikings secondary on toast. This is only one game of course but it happens on a consistent basis, against the Bears the final Bears’ touchdown came on a drive in which Cutler and co had to manage third down no fewer than three times and again it was Cutler going over the middle to get the first down. If Minnesota are going to stop teams from scoring heavily on them the first thing that they will have to fix on defence is to stop giving up easy third downs.
Yet despite this failure to stop teams on third down the Vikings have pretty much been in every game losing three games by less than a touchdown (Bears, Brown & Cowboys). And only one game could really be considered a blowout in a loss against the Carolina Panthers (35-10). If the Vikings can sort their secondary out in the last six games then there is no reason why can’t win two or three on the spin.
Reigning MVP Adrian Peterson has nine touchdowns so far this term but don’t let that deceive you. The powerful running back is averaging 4.5 yards per rush and is currently second in total rushing yards with 786 yards, behind Redskins sensation Alfred Morris who has 825. Peterson has been prone to fumbling in the past, it could be due to his ‘angry’ running and the fact that he is so powerful that sometimes the ball pops out. The Vikings’ star man has fumbled the ball on three occasions so far this season losing two of them, he only lost two all of last season and you feel he will fumble again in the remaining games. Peterson has just three games with 100 rushing yards or more, this time last season he had five games with that statistic including three games with over 150 yards a feat he is yet to reach this season.
The reason for Peterson’s struggle could be down to defences focusing more on him. The oppositions defensive line crashing in, hitting the gaps hard and swallowing Peterson up, often at the line of scrimmage. Purple Jesus needs his offensive line to be stronger in the blocks so he can hit the holes and sprint free much like his opening day touchdown against the Detroit Lions. Adrian ‘all day’ Peterson was consistently electric last season, he ran for a minimum of 60 yards last season in week two against the Colts, after that his lowest total was 79 rushing yards off 17 attempts (7.1 avg). this season he has had games where he looks as flat as Ne-Yo’s Wembley performance.
Throughout all of these problems there is surprising hope for the Vikings, there is light at the end of the purple tunnel. If the quarterback situation can get sorted out then there are a lot of exciting weapons of offence. Greg Jennings is not the same deep threat he used to be but can still make big plays from time to time and would make a good slot receiver. Exciting and explosive rookie receiver Cordarrelle Patterson looks like a genuine playmaker, his stock greatly rose with his record breaking kick return against the Packers and teams, such as the Redskins, have taken notice when punting the ball opting not to give the speed machine a chance to return for big yardage.
Tight end Kyle Rudolph is rapidly making a name for himself. Last season he had 53 receptions for 493 yards, this term he has 313 yards from 30 receptions. Obviously being greatly trusted by his quarterbacks. At 6ft”6in the man out of Notre Dame is huge vertical threat and can create many Jimmy Graham-esque mismatches downfield. If he continues to excel then he will soon become just as valuable to the Vikings as Graham is to the New Orleans Saints.
Peterson will always be a threat from running back and is the jewel in the Vikings crown, a crown of thorns at present. If the Vikings can mix up their offence and make the opposition defence think a little more then perhaps Peterson would have more joy when running the ball. Just listing the qualities of these players makes you wonder why they are failing to put up 30 or more points on a more consistent basis.
Team all of this weaponry together and there is the makings of an exciting football team. Remember, this is a team that made the playoffs last season so clearly they have the quality to go that far. The secondary needs to tighten up big time if they are going to shut down teams and have a realistic chance of winning game, if you’re having 30 plus points put on you every week you are going to struggle to win games. The quarterback situation is something that needs to be addressed in the draft and lift that offence. This Vikings side is not as bad as perhaps their record suggests but if they are going to have an offence that rains points and can stop teams from raining on them then much work is needed.