What To Watch For From The Minnesota Vikings In November
By Joseph Gunther
It may be long overdue, but the bye week is coming up soon for the Minnesota Vikings. There are plenty of things for the Vikings to work on during a week of practice without game planning.
The Vikings host the Detroit Lions on Sunday before the week of healing. Coming out of the bye week, the Vikings finish its November schedule with a trip to Soldier Field to take on the Chicago Bears.
From the offense, the Vikings need to see improvement from its passing game. As bad as it has been in recent weeks, maybe even small improvement is encouraging. The Vikings players and coaching staff probably want to see a more dramatic improvement than the fans.
Christian Ponder is getting the brunt of the criticism. He is the quarterback and that is where the blame always is placed, but there are three components that are just not working together right.
The first part is the offensive line. Left tackle Matt Kalil, left guard Charlie Johnson and center John Sullivan has been the best area of the Vikings offense this season, but there have been some breakdowns. The right side of tackle Phil Loadholt and guard Brandon Fusco are getting beat more consistently in recent weeks than they were early in the season. It has been different types of players that have given them problems. Loadholt struggles with smaller, quicker defensive ends while Fusco has been blown backward by power rushers. The offensive line has had struggles, but it is not the most concerning aspect of the decline of the passing game.
That belongs to the second part of the equation, the receivers. There is Percy Harvin and everybody else. Harvin is the most dynamic player on the Viking roster. Everyone one else just cannot get open. Jerome Simpson and Devin Aromashodu have size and speed. Michael Jenkins and Kyle Rudolph have size, but not speed. We are still learning about Stephen Burton, Jarius Wright and Rhett Ellison. The fact of the matter is if no one is open, there is nowhere to throw the ball.
For those wondering, the free agent list is thin and there are no can’t miss receiver prospects for the upcoming draft.
The final part of the passing offense is Ponder. If one thing goes wrong in the first two parts, there are very few quarterbacks that can be successful. But, when he has had time and open receivers, he has been unable to make accurate throws. Ponder is not immune to criticism when the other parts breakdown.
For the defense, the Vikings need to tackle better. NFL players and coaches talk about getting back to basics when things are going well and that the bye week is a good time to work on basics. Tackling may be the most basic skill defensive players use. The Vikings have allowed 165.75 yards on the ground over the last four games. Missed tackles are a big part of the problem. At least, three of the four runners that gashed the Vikings are good – Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin and Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch.
The Vikings can still make the playoffs with five of its remaining seven games against division rivals. But, if it can’t find a way to shore up at least one these problems, it should concentrate on just winning another game.
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Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. His work can be found on Examiner.com.