Five Plays the Minnesota Vikings Should Have on Speed Dial
It's not often recommended to head coaches when you're trying to answer your biggest concerns on offense (quarterback in particular) that you wait 'til the final two months before training camp to answer them.
The Vikings clearly have a big need to their offense and team without a clear cut quarterback to lead them.
At 39-years old, Brett Favre hardly resembles a franchise quarterback that the Vikings are yearning for, but he does bring the tools and experience to help the Vikings move the ball efficiently.
Darrell Bevell and Childress will have some help from Percy Harvin to put more points on the board (17th ranked in 2008) and get more yards out of each play (12th ranked 2008).
It is true that Childress' playbook has an conservative touch, but not all his plays should be discarded without a complete review.
In fact, the Vikings had a tremendous season in 2008 at times, but it was only once they utilized their plays on the proper down and executed to perfection.
Here's a look at what the Vikings could accomplish if they save these plays into 2009...
I-Formation: 25 Strong Toss
When you have the most dynamic running back in the NFL, it's obvious what plays should be your bread and butter. Especially with an as efficient offensive line as the Vikings have.
Behind the 6'5", 313-pound pro bowl left guard Steve Hutchinson and 6'8" left tackle Bryant McKinnie, the Vikings have a solid base for their running game.
Of the 363 times Adrian rushed the ball in 2008, 154 of those rushes were on the left side of the line (not including rushes directly behind center) accounting for four of his eight touchdowns and 726 of his 1760 yards.
Although the number isn't significant to his overall total, Peterson averaged 4.9 yards per rush and would often break his larger runs on the left side of the line.
One of his most memorable touchdowns on the left side would be his 54-yard sprint down the sideline against Chicago last year in week seven’s 48-41 loss to the Bears.
A lot can be said that Matt Birk provided a great run-block for Peterson up the middle, which accounted largely to Adrian's rushing ability. Now with Birk gone, rushing to the left is the only viable option for Peterson to have his explosive game still be feared.
This play in particular features Adrian in the I Formation behind 6’0”, 254-pound fullback, Naufatu Tahi.
In the play, tight end Jim Kleinsasser, who is used as a blocking tight-end (more like an extra lineman) lines up right side. After moving in motion, the rush is a simple run to the left and puts the bulk of the blocking on Hutchinson and McKinnie.
In this play, it essential that receiver of the left side, most likely Bernard Berrian, gets a good block on the cornerback to seal on opening to Adrian to make his way to the sideline where he can burn.
Fullback NaufatuTahi lead blocks around Kliensasser and picks up the safety as Kliensasser picks up the strong-side linebacker.
Singleback: Tight Fake Left Toss / QB Bootleg
With a running game well established, the Vikings now have to use this running game to their advantage to open up the passing game via play action pass.
Often called the "Peterson Factor," (as dubbed by NFL film analyst Greg Cosell) the running game and threat of Adrian Peterson opens up the passing game down field by bringing eight to nine guys in the box.
By bringing these extra guys close to the line, normally, it opens up the passing game immensely. The problem is, without a sufficient quarterback, the “factor” is useless.
This play is meant to open up the right side of the field by selling the threat of a toss to the left. The original set up is meant to bring the wide receivers in close to the offensive line with a tight end on each side.
The tight end on the right goes in motion to the left side still giving the impression of a toss to the left.
Upon the snap, the quarterback fakes a toss to the running back to the left and bootlegs to the right. The tight end that moved in motion then runs back across to the right side behind all the linemen leading left which creates a an obstruction to hide the tight end.
The receivers bring the corners off the ball by stretching the field and creating a sense of urgency for the eight or nine in the box to not let the play get behind them. However, the key to this play is the linebackers.
By sending the tight end in motion, the linebackers will see the last blocker that could potentially lead the running back to the right side. As such, the linebackers shift to the left, selling their commitment to a toss on the left side.
Once the weak-side linebacker commits, the play takes full shape as the motioning tight end crosses to the right into the vacant zone he has just left open.
The pass is only airborne for maybe five to ten yards, but due to the streaking receiver, the safeties have pulled back leaving a wide open field to work with.
The Vikings best demonstrated this play best against the Atlanta Falcons last year in week sixteen at the Metrodome. Tarvaris Jackson took the snap from center, faking to Peterson, while Bobby Wade pulled the strong-side linebackers and safeties up field while Bernard Berrian stretched the weak-side leaving an open zone for Visanthe Shaincoe to score a 21-yard touchdown.
With Percy Harvin now on this offense, the effectiveness of this play should only improve.
Utilizing Chester Taylor More
The original Vikings starter at running back for the Childress era deserves more respect in the playbook calls then he's been getting. Everyone knows Taylor has respectable skills, but the Vikings playbook hasn't really given him plays that best fit his skill set.
You don't have to look too far back to see how Taylor's presence impacts the Vikings offense. In 2006, before the arrival of Adrian Peterson, Chester Taylor had either run with the ball or been passed to on 44 percent of the offensive plays.
One such play could be by using a split back set up with Taylor and Peterson on field. Such a dream play was only run five times in '08 with Peterson getting four of the rushes.
The play would only help those in the passing game if people were afraid of either running back touching the ball.
Another such scenario could include a shotgun short pass behind the offensive line as long as it isn't used on 3rd-and-long. This also can help open up the game downfield when using the shotgun.
In 2008, Taylor finished with 399 rushing yards (averaging 4.0 yards per attempt), 399 receiving yards (averaging 8.9 yards per catch) and one receiving touchdown.
Nickel: Corner Blitz al la Antoine Winfield
After 11 seasons in the league, Minnesota Viking, Antoine Winfield was selected to his first pro bowl after an amazing 2008 season including 95 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, four forced fumbles and a blocked field goal recovery for a touchdown.
It's clear the Winfield embodies the secondary in Minnesota. How the heck does he not? With physical style of play, ideal to the Tampa 2 scheme, Antoine is an exceptional player for the Vikings.
The one play that worked like clock work for the Vikings on defense, was been sending in Antoine Winfield on a corner blitz intermittently using his hard hit ability and speed to make a move on the QB while he's looking down field.
The best examples of this were in Week Three against the Carolina Panthers and in week five against the New Orleans Saints. In both games, Winfield successfully executed this play for both of his sacks on the season and forcing and recovering his own fumble.
In the Carolina game, he returned the fumble untouched for a touchdown.
The play proves risky of course because only on 3rd-and-5+ yards do teams generally pass downfield. But if everyone knows that on 3rd-and-5+ yards, No. 26 is coming in on the blitz, they'll account for him and the play could prove disastrous for the defense, so timing is key.
As you can see, the defense gets stretched to man coverage at some points as the right side defensive end goes into a zone at flat where the corner (Winfield) has just vacated on the blitz.
Generally it wouldn't be wise to run this play often, but would catch a lot of teams not paying attention mainly late or really early in games.
Coming off a year being ranked 17th in the NFL in plays that amounted to 20 yards or more, the Vikings weren’t exactly a team that could strike at any moment, but when they did, it usually found it's way to Bernard Berrian's hands.
Berrian started his first season in Minnesota in 2008 and proved why Minnesota paid him $42 million ($13 million guarunteed). He caught seven touchdowns with the Vikings with five of them coming in the form of a deep bomb.
He also tied for second in the league with seven 40+ yard catches.
In this play, Sidney Rice (or in 2009, Percy Harvin) would line up wide right, Shaincoe lined up left of center motioning right. The backfield lines up in the I-Formation.
At the snap, Shiancoe will be running a corner route while Rice (Harvin) runs a five-yard cross route. By doing this, if the cornerbacks are in man coverage, Shiancoe should have a good look out right.
The key to this play is selling the run to the right side of the line behind full back Naufatu Tahi. With Shiancoe motioning, the play would seem, like the bootleg play already mentioned, a toss play out right.
If they linebackers/nickel corners bite on this for just a second, Berrian can get his much needed two step (or more) lead on his man as he streaks up the sideline.
If he's covered up, Adrian on the flat, Shiancoe out right, and Rice (Harvin) across the middle provide suitable out routes.
Berrian finished the '08 season with 964 total yards (averaging 20.1 a catch) his seven receiving touchdowns already mentioned and one punt return for a touchdown.