Monday, October 7, 2013
How Josh Freeman can help the Vikings
By Ben Goessling
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- We'll hear more from the Minnesota Vikings later today about their reasons for adding Josh Freeman to their roster, but an obvious one might be what he can do to help the Vikings' downfield passing game.
If there's been one thing Freeman has done well in his time in the league, it's throw the deep ball. Since 2011, he's thrown 139 passes that traveled 20 yards or more in the air (the 11th-most in the league) and completed 50 of those, to the tune of a 92.6 QB Rating, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Freeman's QBR on deep balls is only the 15th-best in the league since 2011, thanks to nine interceptions, but Christian Ponder's is 23rd-best in the league, and Matt Cassel's is 24th.
When Adrian Peterson affords the Vikings more eight-man fronts than any team in the league, their quarterback should be salivating at the number of opportunities that provides. Freeman saw eight men in the box on just 45 dropbacks from 2011-13 in Tampa Bay; Ponder had it happen on 118 dropbacks in that time. Freeman's QBR still hasn't been great in those situations -- it's only 50.6 -- but it's still better than Ponder's (35.9) or Cassel's (30.5).
Cassel proved again last Sunday against the Steelers what Ponder has shown in his better moments in Minnesota -- that the Vikings don't necessarily need an elite quarterback to win games when they have Peterson racking up yards and dictating how defenses play. Freeman is far from a perfect solution at the position, but if he does wind up starting for the Vikings at some point, he might help them maximize a part of their offense that, quite frankly, should work better than it does with Peterson in the backfield. We'll see what the Vikings' immediate plan is for Freeman, and how he factors into a complicated quarterback picture.