Who are the Vikings?
By: Derek Crouse
With the two recent losses at the hands of the New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins, the Minnesota Vikings have many questions that need to be answered soon or they are going to find themselves behind the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears fighting for the top spot in the NFC North. The team that was once a powerhouse has gone through a renovation of sorts this year and the new look Vikings are struggling to find their true identity. Will Brett Favre be able to mesh with the lack of training camp and gel with the talent that is presently on the field?
Every person in life who experiences great success cannot achieve it alone. They need people in the background supporting them and keeping them focused and on apex of their game. In addition, conditions need to be productive to the task at hand. The president has his cabinet, the CEO has his executives, the farmer has his chore hands, and the foreman has his laborers. As with any group working collectively for one cause, all of the pieces of the puzzle have to fit to have a clear picture of what the goals of the group truly are. If the leader of the group isn’t living up to his expectations, he tends to get the bulk of the blame. The top of the pyramid can’t stay erect if the base is cracking and falling apart.
In 2009, Brett Favre had a team with the makeup on the offensive side to contend for the top spot in the NFC. With Adrian Peterson’s power running lead buy a very physical offensive line, it seemed as this team could easily get to the Superbowl. Chester Taylor was great at picking up the block on the pass rush. Brett Favre also found a diamond in the rough with the deep threat of Sidney Rice who got him out of so many jams on 3rd down. Having Rice really kept Favre loose and created a confidence within him to have the Pro Bowl season he had. Having the gears always running well created a stability and consistency, which made the game come very easy. Instead of thinking about the plays, Brett was staying loose and just using his instincts and years of experience to produce on the field.
Even the Tight End position on a team with Favre is a major go-to-guy. In Green Bay he had Bubba Franks, in New York he had rookie standout Dustin Keller, and now in Minnesota Visanthe Shiancoe is a red-zone threat. Without having Sidney Rice keeping the defense honest, the pressure will be on Shiancoe and it gives Favre one less open guy in the middle. Shiancoe has become a premier ball-hawking tight end as of late. Favre has been known to have his favorite targets he depends and doesn’t have the style of a Drew Brees who looks to every option and doesn’t seem to favor one receiver over another.
Percy Harvin is also adapting due to the personnel on the field in 2010. At Florida, Harvin was labeled an explosive backfield threat with option plays and when given the ball in the flats would get yards after the catch. Now, it looks like the Minnesota Vikings are trying to develop him into something that he wasn’t drafted for in the first place due to Rice injury. Development of these skills should come during OTAs and training camp, not weeks into the season.
Situations develop like this every year in the NFL and some teams are flexible enough to change their style while others diminish their initial hopes for the season. On top of that, Harvin is having issues with migraines and a hip injury. The hips are the meat and potatoes of an explosive fast cutting player of Harvin’s caliber. Trying to change a recipe too much can really mess up the finished product and makes it hard to get it back the way it once tasted.
Every premier quarterback has the players around him to be victorious on Sundays. Not only do talented players have to be incorporated, but also the cohesion and consistency has to be there. Peyton Manning has had Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, and Dallas Clark. They all know each other so well and the offense is efficient because of this. Tom Brady has not always had the likes of Randy Moss and Wes Welker, but he again and again has had guys on the field that he counts on when they are needed most and a coach who adapts to every situation. When things are going good, the morale, the performance, and the chemistry seem effortless. When times are tough, people have to look other ways not taken in the past and this is when the leaders show up and adjust to the problem.
Brett doesn’t seem to have that confidence and swagger on the field that he had in 2009. It could be due to the lack of training in the off-season because of the ankle surgery. The loss of Taylor in 3rd down blocking situations is going to have a bigger effect than initially expected as well. Taking Sidney Rice out of the mix for at least the first six weeks of the season will change the dynamic as well. Furthermore, the offensive line is showing signs of sliding performance.
When Rice was on the field, the defense would have to have safeties deep on both sides because of Bernard Berrian’s speed and Sidney Rice’s knack for catching the jump ball deep down the field. The safeties couldn’t just sit on the routes because Adrian Peterson and occasionally Harvin was in the backfield and always had to be accounted for. If not, Peterson would run unchallenged and make big plays. While all of these players were covered, Vinsanthe Shiancoe would be open and accumulated many yards due to the schemes that defenses had to develop because of matchup problems that the Minnesota Vikings created.
Brett Favre has to take the pieces that he has now and make the best out of them. When the cook doesn’t have all the ingredients that he desires, he has so substitute some things to try to get the same taste and texture as he once created. We’ll see if Brett Favre will be able to make some chicken salad in the coming weeks.