Minnesota Vikings: 5 Predictions for Donovan McNabb in 2011 NFL Season
Donovan McNabb entered the 2011 season with a fresh start.
He was beginning a run with a new team made up of many more talented players than his previous squad.
Vikings fans were very high on the opportunity to once again have a veteran QB leading their squad, hopefully back into the playoffs.
Unfortunately, McNabb wasted his opportunity. The Minnesota Vikings failed to impress, falling to the San Diego Chargers by a score of 24-17. The Week 1 loss showed some good things for the Vikings, but McNabb wasn't one of them.
The 34-year-old quarterback threw for a mere 39 yards on seven completions in 15 attempts, including an interception.
For the most part, the Vikings defense was able to keep the team in the game. But ultimately the lack of offensive production cost them the game.
So where will things pan out for McNabb from here?
Here are five predictions for McNabb in 2011.
Vikings Passing Game Will Rely More on Tight Ends
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The biggest lapse in the offense against the Chargers was a passing game.
Because the Vikings were unable pass the ball, they had trouble converting on third downs, and ultimately they couldn't move the ball or even control the clock. Minnesota couldn't hang on to their 17-7 halftime lead, and without possessing the ball long enough, they did not give their defense sufficient time to recuperate.
This lack in passing offense came from miscommunication between McNabb and the receivers and the general inability to find openings against the Chargers defense.
Beyond that, there were very few plays directed to the tight ends, even though the Vikings coaching staff declared a desire to involve them more in the passing game.
I think that with McNabb's inability to make plays in the passing game will ultimately lead to the tight ends getting more involved in close to intermediate routes. This should be an attempt to help McNabb; but if he still can't get the timing down with his receivers, he could find himself out of a job.
McNabb Will Take a Beating from Bad Offensive Line Play
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In McNabb's defense, he didn't get much help from is offensive line.
That's not to excuse a complete lack of timing or decision making, but the offensive line seriously needs some improvement.
Left tackle Charlie Johnson was bull-rushed right into the pocket far too many times, ultimately resulting in the collapse of the pocket or a sack on McNabb.
The Chargers kept eight men in the box almost all game, and this not only caused the Vikings' run game to become less effective, but it threw off the timing in the passing game.
McNabb's early interception to Chargers oustide linebacker Shaun Phillips came from the inability to pick up the blitz and contain the pass rush. If Johnson was able to control the left side of the line a little more, the pass could have been a 10-yard gain instead of a turnover.
The Vikings picked up veteran offensive lineman Joe Berger off waivers; this should add some much needed depth to the interior of the offensive line.
Unfortunately, the Vikings probably won't be able to address their need at left tackle until the end of the season or in the 2012 draft. I think that this makes things difficult to protect the quarterback, especially an older McNabb.
Because there really aren't any opportunities to pick up a starting left tackle this late in the year, I think McNabb will end up taking a beating from opposing defenses. Strong pass rushing teams will be able to recognize a weak offensive line and take advantage of it.
With defensive players in the NFC North Division, such as Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers and Ndamukong Suh, McNabb should be quaking in his boots. There is the possibility for some injuries based on the inconsistency from the offensive line.
McNabb's Number of Interceptions Will Rise
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One thing McNabb did well in the matchup with the Chargers was escape a collapsing pocket to pick up a few yards here and there. He didn't do it every time, but the effort was good to see from a fan's (and probably a coaching) standpoint.
You can't knock McNabb's decisions to not throw the ball if he recognizes that the play isn't there. He's done this his whole career.
There is a certain degree of criticism surrounding the fact that McNabb sometimes hangs on to the ball too long, ultimately resulting in larger yardage losses on sacks.
As criticism of McNabb's performance mounts, I think he could end up getting more desperate to make plays in the passing game.
This opportunity with the Vikings could be McNabb's last in the NFL, he knows that he needs to make plays to keep his job and this could end up with him trying to force the ball more.
With the strong passing defenses the Vikings play this season, this could end up in a huge spike in interceptions for McNabb as the season goes on.
Look at it this way, in 2009, Brett Favre had a career-low in interceptions because he wasn't under as much pressure due to the amount of talent around him. In 2010, however, his interceptions total nearly tripled from the previous season due to the expectations he set for himself by bringing the Vikings within a fumble of the Super Bowl.
If the passing offense doesn't begin to open up more, McNabb will begin to force the ball more. This will result in a rise of interceptions for the Vikings quarterback.
McNabb Will Lead the Vikings to a 4-4 Record Heading into Their Bye Week
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The way I see it, the Vikings have a pretty tough schedule this season.
I was unimpressed with the offense against the San Diego Chargers, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are incapable of winning some ball games.
The Vikings have their bye week in Week 9. Leading up to that point, they will have a game against each of their divisional rivals, and also match up against the Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kansas City Chiefs and, obviously, the Chargers.
At this point, I don't believe the Vikings will be able to muster up a win in any of their divisional games, however, the remainder of the teams I listed are very beatable.
After Week 1, I think the Lions are a better team than the Vikings. They are by no means, however, significantly better or in a different class.
The Lions were able to down the Buccaneers and keep quarterback Josh Freeman's production to a minimum. Because they were able to do that, the Lions were able to come out on top. I think that if the Vikings can do the same thing in their matchup with the Bucs this week, they could see the same outcome.
The Cardinals and Panthers are both very similar in that, they both have some great play-makers, but both have some serious questions as well meaning that they are still beatable with solid defense and offensive production.
The Buffalo Bills were able to contain the Chiefs very well; and I think that if the Bills can crush the Chiefs, why not the Vikings? In my mind, the Vikings are a superior team than the Bills, so I don't see any reason why the Vikings couldn't win that matchup.
It all comes down to the fact that the Vikings still have the best running back in football and a very strong defense. Those two factors will keep the Vikings in games leaving it up to McNabb to make only a few plays in the passing game. This may sound easy, but McNabb struggled with it anyway.
I think he'll be able to get it together enough to come out on top against the weaker teams I mentioned. I don't, however, believe that he'll be able to lead the Vikings to any divisional wins based on what I saw from Week 1.
I think a 4-4 record is extremely generous, but out of respect for a veteran like McNabb, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and at least give him that.
McNabb Will Be Replaced by Christian Ponder After Bye Week
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The first half of the Vikings schedule is far and away the easiest stretch.
As I predicted on the previous slide, a 4-4 record (or possibly worse) will not be enough for McNabb to keep his starting job with the Vikings.
In the second half of the Vikings season, they will match up against their divisional foes once again, but will also add some challenging matchups against the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints (among others) as well.
I know that the Falcons were unimpressive in their debut against the Chicago Bears, but I think that by Week 12, Atlanta will have things figured out.
I figure that with a losing record going into the bye week, things won't be getting any easier for the Vikings. If that's the case, they may choose to go with rookie quarterback Christian Ponder to get him some experience before he becomes the full-time starter, presumably, next season.
The way I see it, it's more beneficial for a team to lose with a rookie than it is to lose with a veteran. If McNabb can't get it together, Ponder will likely replace him when the Vikings resume their season in Week 10.
From what I saw in Week 1, the Ponder era can't start soon enough in Minnesota.
Thanks for reading.