Don't Count Them Out: Five Ideas for a Minnesota Vikings Turnaround
The Vikings are 0-2, and many from the North Star State have already thrown in the purple towel on their beloved Vikings, considering how grim things appear to be.
But as the old adage goes: nothing is as it always seems.
The Vikings aren’t exactly a bottom-feeding cellar dweller, even though they are currently sharing the bottom bunk with the Detroit Lions in the division. Rather, they are a team that is loaded with talent on both sides of the ball and fully capable of going toe to toe with whomever.
But, the Vikings are also a team that needs to clean off some serious rust and get back with the program.
But it isn’t nearly as difficult to do so as one might imagine, the Vikings just need to give themselves a fresh start and tackle these five ideas before the hungry Lions come traipsing along.
Get Rid Of Bernard Berrian
It’s almost taboo to just come out in any article and simply say get rid of [ENTER PLAYER NAME], but the fact of the matter is this guy simply has to go for several reasons.
- He was never that good of a receiver.
- He is NOT a true down-field threat.
- He’s about as unwilling of a football player as I have seen in years.
The plain truth of the matter is Berrian hasn’t fought through coverage to catch a ball since his days as a Bear, and that’s one of the reasons why THEY got rid of him.
QB Brett Favre will throw one of the most accurate balls in the NFL, but Favre also expects his receiver—WHOEVER IT IS—to also make the play happen if the coverage is too tight. Sometimes that means you have to come back to the ball, stop, and turn to the shoulder he is throwing to (the blind side of the defender) or just bust through the guys trying to blanket you and pilfer the ball from their greedy little mitts.
Berrian does none of this.
His unwillingness to do anything as a WR is as obvious as an elephant in a crowded room. And on a team that lives and breathes by a code of "play hard and win," that simply won’t do. There are plenty of players on that team that I am sure would like their shot at making an impact, let alone getting to play with Favre in real time.
Maybe it’s time to let one of them loose.
Get Back To The Basics, And FAST!
The offseason does have a lot do with the way the Vikings are playing right NOW, especially the situations surrounding Harvin and Favre, and it shows in the miscues on the field.
And when this happens, Favre tends to force things a little too much.
Yes, it will take time for everyone to get back to that well oiled offensive machine they were in ’09, but the best way to do that is to stick with what works.
Getting little plays over the middle, slants, dump passes, and really just grinding things out effectively, can not only move the chains, but it also adds to game management, and builds confidence in the relationship between players.
The Vikings may not be able to go deep as often as they want—yet—but they can surely beat teams with the little things that make an offense dangerous and here’s an example:
Two weeks ago, when the Arizona Cardinals couldn’t effectively go deep to Larry Fitzgerald, they simply switched over to a dump-and-go scheme with WR Steve Breaston, and it worked wonders. The same applies for the Vikings.
And to be honest, it makes more sense to take advantage of what the game gives you, rather than try to make something happen that isn’t going to materialize.
Insert The Right Players For The Job
The old saying in the construction industry is you have to have the right tools for the job, and a similar adage applies for football: You have to have the right players for the job.
If the coaching staff—I’m looking your way, Mr. Childress—didn’t feel like RB Toby Gerhart was ready to open the season as a change-of-pace back, then why in the blue hell would you put him in at the goal line against the Miami freaking Dolphins?
If Greg Camarillo is one of the only players in 2009 to not drop a pass after being targeted 70+ times, why then would you insert one of the most unreliable NFL receivers (Greg Lewis) into the game?
I understand that “Camo” is trying to still acclimate himself to the offense, but every starting receiver in the NFL knows how to run an out-pattern, and they should sure as schnitzel know how to haul it in.
Lewis was targeted too often and after showing he has soft hands and is too preoccupied with who is about to lay a hit on him, he is a fine candidate for the bench.
If the Vikings want to keep their team lingering around, they at least have to have the right personal on the field to accommodate such a risky style of coaching.
Gerhart and Lewis are not the answers right now.
Use What You Have Often
Everyone knows Adrian Peterson can run the ball as good as anyone in the league, but what is still up in the air is just how effective he can be as a pass receiver out of the backfield. So why not find out?
Through two games, Peterson has eight catches for 56 yards, which is more than Greg Lewis (2 for 26) and Percy Harvin (6 for 44).
Percy Harvin is slowed by that nagging hip injury, Greg Lewis couldn’t catch a ball if it were handed to him, and apparently the Vikings simply forgot they brought in Greg Camarillo.
That leaves Bernard Berrian, who we already discussed, and TE Visanthe Shiancoe as the primary receiving weapons.
Now, I am not a rocket scientist, but you have to think that you want to get the ball to Peterson any way possible, and that means throwing it to him as well as handing it off to him.
Use what you have and often.
Even if defenses begin keying up on Peterson as a flat receiver, that only means there is an extra undefended lane over the middle or possibly deep, depending on who is covering, so it just makes sense. Plus, the guy is the most dangerous offensive weapon on the team.
Better Protection Up Front
The Vikings did a solid job in 2009 of protecting Brett Favre until the very end of the season, and so far this year, they have picked up right where they seemingly left off.
The Vikings have allowed four sacks (tied sixth in the NFL) and 10 hits on Favre (tied seventh in the NFL) through two games, and while the two teams they faced—Miami and New Orleans—are no slouches when it comes to QB pressure, the Vikings want to make sure they don’t turn this into a trend.
Brett Favre is going to continue to believe he is perpetually 26 years old until that one hit comes and ends his days as a football player altogether, so it is up to the O-Line to make sure that doesn’t happen.
After Detroit, the Vikings face four teams that specialize in getting to the QB: the Jets, Cowboys, Packers, and Patriots, so any issue they are having up front needs to get dealt with now, before it’s too late.
The majority of what has been highlighted here today is more obvious than anything else, but that’s the whole point. And it's these points that show the Vikings aren’t too far off from returning to that dominant team they were known to be in 2009.
But to accomplish that, they’ll need to take a few more baby steps before they start leaping.
If you enjoyed this article feel free to take a look at a piece I did highlighting a possible QB Controversy In Philadelphia.