The Viking Ship - Smooth Sailing
By: Christopher Torola
The Viking's season is officially half way done. After a solid victory over the Packers in Green Bay this weekend the Vikes are now 7-1 and heading into an easy part of their schedule in which they will play home games against the Lions, the Seahawks, and the Bears. If they win those games, which they should, they will have the NFC North all but locked up, and have a clear view at a first round bye come play-off time.
With the bye-week coming up, it seems like a good time for a mid season report card.
Quarterback: Brett Favre - Has exceeded all expectations this year. He has thrown for a league leading 16 touchdowns, while only throwing 3 interceptions, two of which bounced of Vikings receivers hands. There are only 4 QB's with higher quarterback ratings than Favre - Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers. Grade: A+
Running Backs: Adrian Peterson - Is second in both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, and that is with the much improved Vikings passing game taking away a lot of red zone touches. The numbers are good, but they don't do justice to watching All Day just run through defenders. The only possible complaint with Adrian is that he has been held in check against a few opponents. Look for an even stronger second half from Peterson. Grade: A
Wide Receivers: Bernard Berrian, Sidney Rice, and Percy Harvin - Bernard Berrian has been slowed down all year with multiple injuries, and has never really been in sync with Favre. Look for Berrian to play better as he gets healthy and spends more time working with his QB. Sidney Rice has stepped up in a HUGE way, coming in at number 6 overall in receiving yards to date. Rice seems to have his QB's trust and is emerging as a young start in the NFL. Percy Harvin has stepped into the role of an NFL receiver far better then could have been expected. 21 of his 28 receptions have been for first downs, and 3 have resulted in touchdowns. For a smallish receiver, Harvin has proved hard to get down. As a kick returner he is 2nd in the NFL for average yards with 30.7, and has scored twice. Grade: B+
Tight Ends: Visanthe Shiancoe - Shiancoe has score 6 touch downs this year, that is second best in the NFL behind only Vernon Davis. Shiancoe has been an extremely reliable pass catcher the last year and a half and does not look to be slowing down. Grade: B+
Overall Offensive: This years Vikings team is currently 1st overall in scoring, but have played 2 more games then the Saints. The Vikings are an amazing offensive threat this year, despite starting slow in several games at the beginning of the season. Grade: A
The Defensive Line: Ray Edwards, Kevin Williams, Pat Williams, and Jared Allen - Minnesota's D-line has done everything the team has asked of them. They are holding teams to under 100 rushing yards per game, and haven't allowed a 100 yard rusher since 2007 (the longest current streak in the NFL). So they are stopping the run. They also have a league leading 31 sacks, including 10.5 by NFL sack leader Jared Allen. The next closest team is at 23, so they are getting to the QB as well. Grade: A
Line Backers: Chad Greenway, E.J. Henderson, and Ben Leber - EJ and Greenway are the teams top tacklers. Leber has helped out in rushing the QB with 2.5 sacks on the year. The Vikings linebackers play well, but in the zone that they play they end up allowing too many catches, instead of breaking them up. Greenway is the standout so far this year, who has 2 interceptions, 2 fumbles recovered, and should develop into a pro bowl player. Grade: B
Secondary: Antoine Winfield, Cedric Griffin, Madieu Williams, and Tyrell Johnson - This is the weakness of the Minnesota Vikings, especially later in the game. Good teams have been able to pass on the Vikings. So far they have been able to get stops when they need them, or the offense has bailed them out. The problem with the Vikings secondary is not wholly their fault. When the team builds a league, the coaching staff puts the secondary into a "Soft Zone" to "prevent" the big play, instead allowing teams to march right down the field with intermediate passes. If you'll notice that all of the Vikings starting secondary is near the top of the team when it comes to tackles. To me this means that they are being forced to play off the receivers to stop the long touch downs instead of challenging them to stop the reception. Grade: C.
Overall Defense: It is hard to rank them too low, as they have done enough to win on a consistent basis, and a lot of the short comings are a result of the style of defense the team is asked to play. Grade: B-
Coaching Staff: I think that Brad Childress has done an amazing job as a personal guy since taking over as head coach. His one mistake was Tavaris Jackson, but since then he has brought Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen, Percy Harvin, Madieu Williams, and Brett Favre to the team. He has also passed on guys like Jay Cutler and Matt Castle. His biggest mistake lately appears to be letting Darren Sharper go, although he wasn't able to prosper in the Vikings style of defense under Leslie Frazor. All that being said, I do not like the Vikings red zone play calling at all. Too often the will get into the red zone and give Adrian Peterson a break for a couple plays. This is when the team seems to end up settling for far too many field goals. The Vikings are tied for 4th in the NFL for 3-pointers. It is hard to be too hard on Chilly when the team is winning, but until they learn to put together a game plan that allows then to close out a game, the best grade I am willing to give is... B-.
Here is to another amazing half of football and a deep run into the play offs... S'kol Vikings, Let's S'Kol!