It seems like I’m always apologizing for absence, lately, but I AM sorry that I haven’t been contributing more and I AM making strides toward fixing an errant work/life balance. I should be closer to my old, obnoxious self within a couple of weeks.
That said…I haven’t been able to chime in after beating the Jets, losing to the Saints, or neutering the Lions. So, rather than reflecting on those games one-by-one or even in a group, I’m gonna take a look at the whole season thus far, now that we’re just past halfway and most of the NFC could fit under a blanket (we’ll deal with the Rams again, later).
Besides…it’s many hours ’til the matchup in Soldier Field, and I’m restless as hell.
LET’S GET ON WITH IT!
I’m gonna dial back the stats a bit in this one, as it’s mostly MY (gasp!) observations. That said, it’s kinda impossible not to use them in some instances, like our $84M quarterback.
QB- OK, the Kirk Cousins era has begun, and it’s been promising while well short of perfect. His accuracy (71.3%) and TD/INT ratio (17/5) are both very good and actually steps up from his previous seasons…and he’s just shy of 2700 yards in his first season with the Vikings. All this is laudable, but he has some unfortunate tendencies as well: he holds the ball too long, regularly, which contributes to his league-leading 8 fumbles. He can seem to be off-rhythm at times, especially last week when he was short one of his preferred targets. He’s not terribly mobile, and he’s expensive. ALL THAT SAID…his fumbling issue can be shared with our inconsistent O-Line, as can some of his rhythm issues. He is a gambler, and often tries to hit small windows that may close unexpectedly…and there’s been at least one INT caused by some type of communication issue. All told, he’s an obvious upgrade at the most important position and I think he’ll be more comfortable as he continues to steep in the new system.
RBs/FB- This season looks to be a story of two Vikings Running Games: With and Without Cook. Murray has done some good things for us, and the young’uns supporting him have likewise given the offense more toys to play with…but Dalvin’s our best weapon from the backfield and is finally healthy. With any luck, this should work our brilliantly as we’ll have him fresh for the stretch run.
WRs/TEs- Our dynamic duo of Thielen and Diggs are a complete nightmare for opposing defenses. While Thielen is setting records with his consistency and great routes, Diggs remains an elusive wild card that’s very dangerous any time the ball comes his way. Strangely, the much-lambasted Treadwell is finally carving out a niche for himself (largely due to Cousins’ persistence) while the freshly-promoted Beebe could add another viable target going forward. It’s been a strangely quiet season for Kyle Rudolph thus far, but he’s still a constant threat to move the sticks and/or be a huge red-zone target. David Morgan has been severely missed for his blocking and his opportunistic grabs…hopefully, he returns soon.
O-Line- YOU’RE ALL…um…STILL ON DOUBLE-SECRET PROBATION! Every time I’m about to throw the whole bunch under a series of buses, they do a bit better. I’d still call this a prime area of draft importance for next season, but Brian O’Neil has been a very happy bit of news on this front. As talent-packed as the team is right now, smoothing this wrinkle could be the last step in creating a legacy-building monster.
D-Line/LBs- Let’s face facts: the loss to Buffalo was largely about the team being shaken by Everson Griffen’s mental health issues. Anyone that’s been near a similar situation knows what kind of widespread havoc can come from an incident, especially when it involves a leader on a team. That being the case, we have a sack leader (Hunter), incredible depth across the line, and Griffen returning with fresh legs as the Vikings try to hit their late-season stride. I just hope we find a way to afford Richardson for the future. Concerning the LBs…well, it’s starting to look like Barr was the right player to NOT extend, as he’s been good but forgettable all season. Going into next season, it appears that he should be prepared for a modest pay bump, wherever he ends up. Kendricks is still one of the hardest-working players in the NFL.
CBs/Safeties- This bunch is kinda odd, when looked at through the filter of last season. Xavier is not as dominant, Waynes might be our best open-field tackler, and the rookie we drafted in the first round might have the best long-term career of our secondary (assuming he heals and improves going forward). Harry is still wherever the ball is, though the rotation of players stepping in for the injured Sandejo have seemingly made him look very vulnerable to trade/release. Overall, this is still a vicious bunch…just less dominant than last season.
Special Teams- I kinda feel for Kai Forbath right now, because he got replaced with a kid (fired after truly sucking), then another veteran that was an accuracy leader but has only been at about Kai’s level. The kick/punt coverages have been good if not great, we haven’t busted any returns for TDs this season, but our punter seems to quietly be a real positive. Maybe Prieffer is feeling a little heat right now…?
Coaching- Zim, Edwards, Flip, and Prieffer are all doing solid jobs after a rough start. It appears that Zim/Edwards have made adjustments to keep the defense evolving, Flip is leaning on Cousins less as our running game improves, while Prieffer…eh…we’ll see. It’s good that both our punting and kicking are solidified after the nightmare of our early season…damn…!
All in all, the team should come out of the bye in the best health since the beginning of the season. Beat the Bears tonight, the Packers next week, and the division is in a firm grip….!