What to Expect from Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings Offense in Week 6
What else can you say? It's been a crazy two weeks for the Minnesota Vikings.
From the team's big win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in London to the signing of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman, per ESPN's Adam Schefter, it's clear that the Vikings haven't given up on their season.
Create space for Adrian Peterson
Through all of the recent turmoil, the one constant for this Minnesota offense has been Adrian Peterson.
On paper, this looks like it could be a tough matchup for the reigning MVP. He's going up against the seventh-ranked run defense in the NFL.
Although it's not the 2,000-yard start he was looking for, Peterson has still been effective, accumulating 421 yards rushing and six touchdowns for this offense.
That's why no matter who's playing quarterback, feeding Peterson the football will be a top priority. Even with a stingy Carolina defense looking to bottle him up, Peterson's unique skill set should allow him to find success.
Combining the advanced metrics of Pro Football Focus (subscription required), with a lengthy film study session, we are able to understand how Minnesota's rushing attack can be effective this weekend.
For starters, the one man the Vikings need to account for at all times is linebacker Luke Kuechly. An all-around superb defender, this second-year pro shines whenever he's asked to defend the run.
According to PFF's metrics, Kuechly has a positive 6.0 grade for run defense this season. Kuechly is the third-best run-stopping inside linebacker in the NFL right now.
On film, you begin to see right away the superior vision of Kuechly.
Before the play even starts, Kuechly turns his attention to Arizona Cardinals running back Rashard Mendenhall and positions himself perfectly to cut off his running lane.
If the Vikings want to create rushing lanes for Peterson, they will need to set the edge and find ways to take Kuechly out of the mix with misdirection and creativity. That includes running behind fullback Jerome Felton.
Christian Ponder's final chapter
Sunday's game against the Panthers might be the last time we get to watch quarterback Christian Ponder start for the Vikings.
Hands down the most talked-about player this past offseason, Ponder's recent struggles seem to have finally awoken general manager Rick Spielman and the Minnesota coaching staff. Even if they aren't saying it publicly, by signing former Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman, it's clear that the team has decided to put an end to the Ponder era.
While Freeman won't play this Sunday, according to Ben Goessling of ESPN, moving forward he will have a chance to compete for the starting job.
Frazier says #Vikings told Freeman he would have a chance to compete for starting job. Said Ponder is still the starter if he's healthy.— Ben Goessling (@GoesslingESPN) October 7, 2013
With Ponder's days numbered and Matt Cassel not a long-term solution, it's just a matter of time before Freeman is the quarterback in Minnesota.
So what can we expect from the Minnesota passing attack this Sunday?
Incorporate a quick passing game
Expect this offense to incorporate a ton of quick passes right away.
Facing a solid Carolina pass rush, it will be key for the Vikings' success to make sure guys like Greg Hardy, Charles Johnson and Kawann Short don't get into the backfield too often.
If offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave is looking for some creative ways to execute these types of passes, he should check out the 5-0 Kansas City Chiefs.
If the Vikings are going to move the football effectively, Musgrave has to call plays that will create easy throwing lanes for his quarterback.
By sending running back Jamaal Charles out into the flat, the defense caves, allowing wide receiver Donnie Avery to turn around and make an easy six-yard reception.
Although these kind of plays aren't flashy, they will move the chains and give Adrian Peterson a chance to find bigger holes as the game wears on.
Get your playmakers the ball in space
One of the most successful things the Vikings did against the Steelers in Week 4 was allow their playmakers to get the football in space.
Whether we're talking about Greg Jennings' touchdown catch or just a quick slant to Jerome Simpson, quarterback Matt Cassel made sure his wide receivers had every opportunity to make plays.
In the example pictured above, Cassel makes a great decision throwing the football to Jennings knowing that he has a ton of space to work with.
The result? Jennings pieced together an incredible series of moves and scored an awesome 70-yard touchdown.
If the Vikings have any hope of beating the Panthers, they are going to have to limit their turnovers and understand that this week it's all about creating space.
Remember, stay away from Luke Kuechly, run the football creatively behind Jerome Felton, and don't forget to get Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson involved early.
*All stats courtesy of ESPN.com, unless noted otherwise.
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