After Two Poor Performances Where is This Team Going?

Written by on September 23, 2020

I hesitated to write about the Vikings this year. What is there to say when there is no traditional training camp, preseason, or natural buildup to the season? In a season in the “Pandemic World” where everything is turned on it’s ear all you can really do is speculate. Now that there are a few games under their belts we get a better idea of where the Vikings and the NFL as a whole might be headed.

The Vikings off-season started just like everyone else’s: some players will leave and some new ones come in. Gone is the temperrmental Stephon Diggs the stellar wide receiver known for tough catches, precise route running, and bringing us the Minneapolis Miracle. He’s in Buffalo and that trade got the team in the position to draft rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson in the 1st round. He has potential to be as impactful as Diggs was, but that may take a year. Linval Joseph, who anchored the middle of the defensive line left via free agency, but the Vikings signed Michael Pierce to replace him and is probably an upgrade at the position. However, due to asthma he opted out this season leaving a big hole at the position. One of the biggest position losses was both starting cornerbacks, Xavier Rhodes and Trea Waynes left via free agency as did nickel cornerback Mackenzie Alexander who in today’s NFL plays as much as a starter does. The team has been keeping that position stocked withe capable backups and eventual replacements in Mike Hughes and Holton Hill. Hughes is a former 1st round pick who has had injuries keep him off the field, but has show real promise in hos limited playing opportunities while Hill was a talented player who didn’t get drafted due to character questions off the field. He also has shown moments, but has come up short at really being a player to count on. The Vikings drafted Jeff Gladney at the bottom on the 1st round and Cameron Dantzler later on and both have been put into the starting rotation earlier than everyone had expected or hoped. Emotional leader on the defense Everson Griffen signed with Dallas and that took away one half of a great pass rushing team in he and Danielle Hunter, one of the best in the league who has started the year on the Injured Reserve list which means he can’t play until after week 3 at the earliest. Now the Vikings did trade for premier pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue from the Jaguars just before the season started, but without Hunter he has not been as effective as the team hopes as of yet. Anthony Barr is also now out for the season as he tore a pectoral muscle against the Colts. The team still has Kirk Cousins at quarterback, Dalvin Cook on a new contract at running back, Kyle Rudolph at tightend, and the ever reliable Adam Thielen at wide receiver. With all of these moves and the strange NFL aura the team has been struggling.

Versus the Packers the Vikings could not get much going offensively. They even got Cousins sacked in the end zone for a safety. The defense was probably even more at fault as the allowed Aaron Rodgers to march up and down the field and put 41 points up against them. The only shining stat was that the Vikings did put up 34 points with only 18 minutes of possessing the ball which means they have striking ability. Losing Diggs is a big hit, but how do you keep a disgruntled player around if he doesn’t want to be there? The offensive line still has issues. Riley Reiff is still the anchor at left tackle and Brian O’Neill is an underrated phenom at right tackle having only given up 3 sacks in as many years. Garrett Bradbury played well at center as a rookie last year and so far hasn’t made any glaring mistakes. The guard positions are a big question mark and it just keeps getting more questionable. Pat Elflein the much maligned player has moved to his more natural spot of right guard and he played OK in the Packers game, but got injured in practice and got put on IR before the Colts game. In steps Dru Samia who many thought might challenge and push Elflein out of his starting position. He plays with a mean streak and was outstanding in college. He got pushed around in his first outing against the Colts and got absolutely blown up by DeForest Buckner on one play. Dakota Dozier is playing at left guard and was a strong backup player for the Vikings last year. His first year starting hasn’t been great either. The offensive line has been opening holes for Cook, but Cousins has been under constant pressure. That’s what lead to Kirk getting tackled for a safety for the teams third consecutive safety in a regular season game. Add into all of this no fans in the stands due to Covid-19 and we have the worst game day experience I’ve ever felt.

So, where does the team go from here? Basically the old saying: nowhere to go but up. While some fans have already decided they should lose enough games to be able to draft Clemson standout quarterback Trevor Lawrence next spring there is still hope of a successful season. Once Hunter comes back from injury that will increase the pass rush and take pressure off the young cornerbacks and elite safety Harrison Smith and his counterpart Anthony Harris. The Vikings swiped line backer Ryan Connelly when the Giants released him, and many New York fans were not happy about losing the former Badger and Minnesota native. He may be able to step in at some point and help fill the gap Barr has left. The rest is up to the young and inexperienced players to step up and just plain get better. If they can we may at least get a glimmer of a positive future. If not, the future could be the number one pick in the draft and a whole new slate of possibilities.

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