Monday, September 15, 2008

Turning Around the 2008 Vikings

Nothing in the Vikings' loss to the Colts Sunday can be pinned on the defense. Not only did the Vikes shut out the Colts for the entire first half, but they often stopped drives so early they provided the offense with excellent field position. As Mike Morris said on KFAN after the game, the Viking defense basically gave up two long pass plays. But if you're playing a team that can pass as well as the Colts can, and you're consistently stopping drives and allowing the offense to start drives near midfield, you have to expect the offense to give you more than a 15 point lead. You have to do something so that two long pass plays doesn't cost you the game.

The secondary played admirably, the pass rush was ferocious, and the run defense was smothering. Everything in the loss goes on the Viking offense.

Furthermore, nothing can be pinned on the running game. Adrian Peterson was dominant, and it took one half for Indianapolis to realize they didn't need to account for the passing game at all, and they could focus all their attention on stopping Peterson. Peterson can play great, but unless he's running for long touchdowns, he'll still need the Vikings to sustain and finish some drives with the pass.

No, the Colts' loss is entirely on the Viking passing game.

Can the Vikings put together a competent passing game during the 2008 season? I don't know if the pieces are there to do so. But it's obvious the passing game they have is a failure. I have a few suggestions for ways to possibly improve the passing game immediately.

1. Substitute Gus Frerotte for Tarvaris Jackson
We can make excuses for Jackson: his receivers aren't helping him, his coaches aren't helping him, there are successful pro QBs that weren't even playing in their third seasons, whatever. But what we're seeing is obvious:

--Jackson regularly throws passes so inaccurate his receivers have no chance to catch them.
--Jackson seems unable to pass from the pocket.
--Jackson's limitations severely limit what the Vikings are able to try do offensively.

I don't think Gus Frerotte, right now, is a good quarterback. I don't even think Gus Frerotte, right now, is an average quarterback. But we're not even looking for average! If Frerotte can be a replacement level game manager, able to occasionally threaten defenses with a deep pass, able to occasionally help finish drives with successful passing in the red zone, he can help this team win.

Jackson has done nothing to show he can be a successful passer in this league. We have to admit this, and move on.

2. Substitute Garrett Mills for Visanthe Shiancoe
At this point, when Visanthe Shiancoe drops passes in the end zone, we should be more angry at the Viking coaches than at Shiancoe. We know that Shiancoe drops passes regularly, so why do the coaches still call pass plays to him in key situations?

We don't entirely know what Mills can do, but we know what Shiancoe can't do, namely, catch the ball regularly. He's a negative presence on the Viking offense, and needs to be less used.

3. Call more pass plays on first down and more run plays on third down
Adrian Peterson is truly stunning: the defense knows what is coming, but Peterson still churns out positive yardage.

But what if there was more variety in playcalling? What if the Vikings passed on first down enough that defenses had to account for it? The passing game has more potential for successful plays on 1st and 10 than on 3rd down. And what if the Vikes ran the ball in situations like 3rd and 5? What might Adrian Peterson do if he gets the ball when the defense isn't counting on him getting the ball? And how might the passing game on 3rd down improve if defenses knew they had to account for runs to Peterson, too?

The Vikes have been awful on 3rd down; variety in playcalling may change that.

I don't know if the Viking passing game can be turned around right now. But it's obvious that they need to try something different if it is going to be turned around, and these are my three basic suggestions.


  1. Anonymous10:19 AM

    I bet small parts of even the most dyed-in-the-blood purple fans out there are wishing we could have somehow finagled Favre

  2. I think this post hits it right on the head. Sadly, we are finding out there are more wrongs than rights with this team.

  3. Anonymous11:33 AM

    I really thought for a second that this season would be a bit different, but the passing game seams to be as bad as ever. even though the first half of the football game went well on the scoreboard I was shocked and disapointed that they passed as little as they did. I havn't given up on this season yet, but a few more weeks of this and i will be looking forward to next year, with a new qb and a new coach, hopefully.

  4. Anonymous5:01 PM

    The passing game is to blame, but I'm not ready to say that it is Jackson is the main culprit. Yes, he could be more accurate and not rollout every time he feels the walls are closing in, but this feels a little like the exact passing offense that we had two years ago. The run-run-pass play calling isn't working, especially when the catches made are too short to reach the first down. Two years ago, Childress was getting hammered for the play calling and the quarterback not being able to complete the passes past the ten yards they would need to move the chains. This year we are saying that it's the quarterback first and the play calling second. What I know is that there was one constant in the two years: The Coach.


  5. PV:

    How did the receivers look Sunday? You wrote last year that they got such poor separation from defenders that Vikings QB's had very small windows to throw into.

    The Vikings signed Berrian and we expected improvement from guys like Rice and Allison. Did they look any more open than in 2007? This is something you can't really judge watching on TV

  6. It did not appear to me that the WRs were getting much separation. However, I'm starting to wonder what role playcalling has in that: I'm not sure there were many pass plays called to give WRs a chance to get separation.

    In my perception, it also seems the Vikes rarely try throw over the middle to WRs. I don't know if the WRs don't get open, if it is scheme, or if there's an attempt to make things easier for Jackson by trying to just call pass plays to one-on-one outside WRs.

    I'll also admit that on most pass plays I'm in a bit of a blind panic staring at Jackson in the pocket.

  7. So without necessarily letting the WRs off the hook, I'm saying that given most of the pass plays are called on obvious pass downs, and given that most of the pass plays are toward the sidelines, I don't think defensive backs and defensive coordinators are exactly at a loss on how to cover the Viking WRs.