Vikes back in Minneapolis
Well fans, the Vikes are back in Minneapolis and full of...optimism. You hear that the proverbial glass is half full, and that the season is only one quarter gone (which is supposed to be good news). Boil it down, however, and the Vikes lost to numbers seven, Green Bay, 15, Detroit, and 21, K.C., in NFL power rankings. In the next four weeks they will face Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, and San Diego, ranked 18, 3, 24, and 9, respectively.
This part of the schedule is not looking as tough as it once did, but still offers no easy opponents. The Vikes will not be a favorite in any of these games unless they put something together.
It is possible. Since last year the Vikes have improved significantly in some areas, and have many of the keys in place to play winning football. They are much improved on special teams in all aspects. It is such a relief not to have to help them defend kickoffs and punts with all the body English you can muster, and they have several dangerous returners, but not Adrian Peterson anymore, okay? Even Ryan Longwell kickoffs are traveling deeper, and he has been steady on field goals.
The Vikes running game, solid last year, is now spectacular. Given just the hint of a downfield passing attack, they would make opposing defenses crazy, and it appears that the receiving corps is much more able than we might have hoped.
On defense the Vikes are as solid against the run as last year, another key to winning, and defend the pass somewhat better. They have given up few enough points to be 4-0. I believe it is harder to keep the opponent from scoring in the NFL, than to do so yourself; the game is set up that way.
That said, the Vikes are lacking, sadly lacking, in two crucial departments. Obviously, their quarterbacking has been deficient. After hammering opponents along the line of scrimmage, receivers have taken advantage to get behind the defense for the easy TD, only to be overthrown or missed out of bounds. And our QB, whether Jackson or Holcomb, has shown no ability to make a quick decision and get rid of the ball. Rather, they tend to hold it too long and then make the bad throw, often enough to turn the ball over.
And their offensive line is equally complicit in these fatal shortcomings, never providing reliable pass protection, often allowing the pocket to collapse or speedy defensive ends to get around the corner to whack the QB with their long arms. Bryant McKinnie has been beaten regularly, Ryan Cook as well, the blitz pickup is still way confused, and great, prodigious defensive tackles will often slip right through the middle of the protection, the most demoralizing breakdown for the QB of all. I believe that getting pounded by a giant lineman diminishes a QB's IQ by about ten points for the rest of the game.
There is speculation that a new zone-blocking scheme is partly responsible for the o-line's inadequacies. Let the coaches show some flexibility in getting this fixed. Perhaps Tarvaris Jackson has the tools to play QB in the NFL, but we will never know if he continues to provide mere cannon fodder for opposing defensive linemen.