Minnesota Vikings: 2013 NFL Midseason Report
Coming off a 10-6 season and a playoff berth, the Vikings didn't expect to be one of the three worst teams in the NFL at the halfway point. They certainly didn't expect to arrive here this way, with three different starting quarterbacks, three last-minute defensive collapses and exactly one win, which came when the team faced the Pittsburgh Steelers in London. With injuries rampant on defense, uncertainty at the quarterback position and an embattled coaching staff, the Vikings simply need to get their house in order in the second half of the season.
GRADING THE MINNESOTA VIKINGS
|Quarterbacks||This has been the highest-profile problem the Vikings have had, but it probably hasn't been the biggest; their issues in the defensive secondary might be of even greater concern. Still, the Vikings haven't seen any development out of Christian Ponder, and they seem to have decided Matt Cassel -- who led them to their one win -- isn't their solution, which led them to sign Josh Freeman and rush him into action. Since Freeman's first start with the Vikings -- a 20-for-53 showing and a concussion on "Monday Night Football" -- he has not returned.|
|Running Backs||Adrian Peterson hasn't been the same dominant runner he was during his MVP season, but it wasn't realistic to expect him to run for 2,097 yards again. He finally looked like his typical self on Sunday, running for 140 yards and punishing would-be tacklers. Peterson looked hesitant early in the season, though, trying to turn too many runs into big gains, and after missing the first three games because of a suspension, fullback Jerome Felton has only recently regained his form as Peterson's escort.|
|Wide Receivers||The group can only do so much, considering what's happened at the quarterback position. Greg Jennings has probably been affected by the QB switches the most; he has a modest 31 catches for 392 yards, and his only big game came with Cassel against the Steelers. Jerome Simpson has been a pleasant surprise after a disappointing 2012 season -- he has 29 catches for 446 yards -- but he hasn't been a factor in four weeks. Rookie Cordarrelle Patterson hasn't been able to get on the field; he's got just 16 catches in a limited role in the offense.|
|Tight Ends||Kyle Rudolph had a touchdown on Sunday before breaking his foot, but hasn't been as reliable a red zone threat or as consistent a run blocker as he was last year. The Vikings also haven't been very effective running the ball with multiple tight end sets; after Adrian Peterson broke a 78-yard run on the first play of the season, he's averaged just 2.75 yards per carry with two or more tight ends on the field, according to ESPN Stats & Information.|
|Offensive Line||The group has played better after an ugly start to the season, but Vikings quarterbacks have still been sacked 20 times, and it's tough to explain why the line has had so much trouble opening holes for Peterson at times. The left side of the Vikings' line has been particularly troubling; tackle Matt Kalil has given up a sack, nine quarterback hits and 18 hurries after allowing one sack, four hits and 20 hurries all of last year, according to Pro Football Focus. And left guard Charlie Johnson has been beaten on several blitzes, allowing a pair of sacks.|
|Defensive Line||What was expected to be one of the strongest, deepest units on the team hasn't been able to get to the quarterback or stop the run like it used to; Vikings linemen have only 12 sacks, and the group has contributed to the Vikings allowing at least 100 yards rushing in five of their eight games. Lineman Everson Griffen, who was expected by many to have a breakout season, has just two sacks halfway through the season.|
|Linebackers||The Vikings haven't spent much time in their base defense, which has limited the impact of losing Desmond Bishop to a torn ACL. But Erin Henderson has struggled in pass coverage in his new role as the middle linebacker, and Pro Bowler Chad Greenway has had even more trouble; teams have thrown for 504 yards against him, according to Pro Football Focus. That's the most allowed by any 4-3 outside linebacker in the league. The site also credits Greenway with 11 missed tackles, making him just one of 12 linebackers in the league who has missed double-digit tackles.|
|Secondary||A inexperienced group, riddled by injuries and burned at the end of several games, has been among the worst in the NFL. Slot cornerback Josh Robinson has been a favorite target of opposing quarterbacks, and though he might have had his best game on Sunday, he was on the wrong end of numerous big plays earlier this year. Rookie cornerback Xavier Rhodes is also learning the nuances of zone coverage on the fly, Chris Cook has struggled to stay on the field and the group as a whole has dropped more than its share of interceptions.|
|Special Teams||At first, this grade might seem too low; Patterson has two kickoff returns for touchdowns, Marcus Sherels has one and Blair Walsh has only missed two field goals. But the Vikings have allowed three returns of at least 75 yards (two kickoffs, one punt), gave up a 34-yard run against Cleveland on a fake punt and allowed the Browns to throw for what wound up being a deciding touchdown on a fake field goal when tight end Jordan Cameron lined up alone along the sideline. Rookie punter Jeff Locke is also off to an uneven start; he is averaging 45.5 gross yards per punt, but his 38.9 net average is 25th in the league.|
|Coaching||Leslie Frazier has tried his best to keep the Vikings' positive momentum going from last season, but too often, the Vikings look like they've been figured out by opponents. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave hasn't opened up the passing game despite better weapons, but at times, he'll make perplexing decisions to throw instead of rely on Peterson. And defensive coordinator Alan Williams might be losing the confidence of his players after three late-game collapses. Players said after the first one they hadn't practiced the defense Williams called on the Bears' decisive touchdown, and Brian Robison and Kevin Williams openly criticized the Vikings' final-drive defensive calls on Sunday. With the Vikings at 1-7, Frazier and company could have a tough time keeping the team together.|
WEEK 12 - SUNDAY 11/23 - FINAL
2014 NFC NORTH STANDINGS
Play Podcast Dan & Stugotz on the Patriots, Odell Beckham's catch, T.Y. Hilton catching a TD pass after his daughter was born and are joined by Jesse Ventura.
Play Podcast ESPN NFL analyst Tim Hasselbeck talks about Teddy Bridgewater's struggles, whether Colin Kaepernick has regressed and more.
Play Podcast Dan & Stugotz on the NBPA's Michele Roberts comments on Jeff Taylor's suspension, Sio Moore's sack celebration, Dan's weight, Golic's butt & Dak Prescott & Damien Woody join.
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