NFL Preview 2019: Minnesota Vikings
A look back
At the end of the splendid season 2017 and culminating with the defeat at the hands of the Eagles in the NFC Championship game, the feeling in the world painted purple and gold was that the team needs one or two additions targeted by the lift the first Super Bowl in its history. The want of the season, the all-in producing arrivals in Free Agency-QB Kirk Cousins (84 million guaranteed for a 3-year contract) and DT Sheldon Richardson and the appointment as the OC of the enfant prodige John DeFilippo. The confirmation in a block of one of the defenses most dominant in the League, and the growth in attack of the park receivers and a RB in the dynamic Dalvin Cook gave hope and confidence in the fans of Minneapolis.
But history teaches us that the Minnesota Vikings have a special talent for to disappoint their fans, especially when the common feeling is that of being close to an important milestone. The last season is, in fact, ended with a defeat at home to the work of the Chicago Bears already qualified for the Playoffs in a match that, if won, would have sent the Vikings to the Playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since 2008-2009. And then the record final 8-7-1 can not be seen as a step backwards of discrete dimensions.
Cousins in 6 matches more difficult (Rams, Saints, Patriots, Seahawks, and Bears x 2): 169 to 247, 1,584 yards, and 10 TD, 5 INT, 90.9 rating
Cousins in the other 10 games: 256 to 359, 2,714 yards, 20 TD, 5 INT, 105.8 rating
There are many contributing causes, among which the strong regression of the line of attack, the difficulties of the Cousins in the level up and drive the game of the team, the usual injury of the Cook (15 games played on 32 in two seasons), the failure of management DeFilippo, as well as a series of injuries in defence (Rhodes and Griffen all) that have limited the productivity, especially in the match against strong opponents, for the department to be coached by George Edwards.
Defense the Minnesota Vikings in 6 tough matches: 368.5 yards and 27 points allowed to the media
Defense the Minnesota Vikings in the other 10 games: 274.4 yards and 17.9 points granted to the media
To look ahead
The Minnesota Vikings are on the starting line of the season 2019 with a team almost unchanged. The contract of quarterback continues to occupy a huge slice of the salary cap, and the Vikings have not been able to build around a cast of support. To make things worse and increase the expectations in terms of instant win there are, as reported by Yahoo Sports, the over 219 million dollars in contracts on the payroll in 2020, with 11 players with a cap hit of at least $ 10 million. These numbers make us clearly understand that the Front Office is expected to be important decisions in the upcoming offseason. Moreover, the saturation of the Salary Cap, an absolute novelty for a team that under the management of the cap guru Rob Brzezinski had made the careful management of its trademark, had already led in the past few weeks to work out the restructuring of some contracts (Kendricks, Rudolph) just to get the money you need to put under contract players selected in the last Draft before the start of Training Camp.
The Vikings have managed to keep on the team LB Anthony Barr, and TE Kyle Rudolph, but they lost Sheldon Richardson, one of the leaders on the defensive, and the RB Latavius Murray, who had performed well when used in place of Cook. Between the arrivals of relief, you report, Free Agent OG Josh Kline, and from the draft C Garrett Bradbury, TE Irv Smith, and RB Alexander Mattison.
The arrival of the running guru Gary Kubiak as Assistant Head Coach and Offensive Advisor and the confirmation of Kevin Stefanski as OC (replaced DeFilipo to three days from the end last year) will lead to some changes in the attack, anticipated the very first interviews given by Zimmer. The Vikings in 2019 will try to run more, maybe using formations with 2 TE, and win by playing football, more physical, approach all in all, in contrast to the explosion offensive that has characterised the championship 2018, and to the same systems of play used by the majority of the other 31 teams, only 29 teams out of 32 in the last year they ran more times than they launched). Much therefore will depend on the ability of the Cook to capitalise on the improvements made to the line of attack and the arrival of Kubiak, maybe completing for the first time a season without injuries. The running game will still be supported by what Pro Football Focus has named the best pair of receivers in the NFL, Adam Thielen (113 rec x 1373 yards and 2° Pro Bowl) and Stefon Diggs (102 rec x 1021 yards) and a line of attack finally close to enough (Reiff LT, Elflein LG, Bradbury C, Kline RG, O'neill RT). Another source of concern is the absence of a WR3 role, and today the prerogative of the one between Chad Beebe and Brandon Zylstra.
Despite the injuries that have caused a decline in the statistics, the defense of the Vikings in 2018 is still among the top ten in the NFL, and has put almost always the team in position to win the games in the tournament. As reported by Michael Rand of the Star-Tribune 10 of 11 probable owners of the version 2019 of the toy Coach Zimmer were already on the team in 2015: Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph, Shamar Stephen (return after a short period in Seattle to replace Richardson), Danielle Hunter (with 14.5 sacks and is the first Pro-Bowl) , Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr (4th consecutive Pro Bowl), Xavier Rhodes, Takes Waynes, Harrison Smith (4th consecutive Pro Bowl selection), and Anthony Harris. Zimmer has rightly sought in the continuity the key to successful defensive of the Vikings and the results are certainly giving reason, even if the clock keeps ticking and the age of some players has reached thirty years (Smith, Griffen, Joseph). The unknown greater surely lies in the capacity of Shamar Stephen in the replace in line the excellent Richardson passed to the Browns.
The ST have been one of the sore points of the Minnesota Vikings in 2018. The arrival of the K veteran Dan Bailey, who has replaced in the current season Daniel Carlson has not brought the necessary peace of mind to the kicking game of the Vikings (only 21 FG out of 28 processed), and the anonymous first-year Punter Matt Wile are gearing up for the renewal of the contract to Mike Priefer, who has gone to Cleveland, and was replaced by Marwan Maalouf, Assistant ST Coordinator in Miami from 2013. The common feeling is that if Bailey does not find the form that led him to become one of K-most accurate in NFL history, we may see a cut during Training Camp. The management hopes that the new Coordinator can put in order a department that in the early years of management Priefer was one of the best in the League.
In the sixth season to help the Minnesota Vikings and Mike Zimmer, the ninth coach in the history of the Vikings, and 26^ on the sideline the NFL. The confirmation of Stefanski as the OC under the careful eye of Gary Kubiak should improve the attack and allow Zimmer to focus on only defense, in analogy to what happened during the management of the Funds the Turner, and then of Fritz Shurmur. Kubiak has managed to produce top-10 offenses with Matt Schaub, Flacco, and Peyton at the end of his career. Kubiak brought with it the son Klint (QB), Brian Pariani (TE) and Rick Dennison (OL), as well as Kennedy Polamalu, who arrived from USC to take care of the RB.
With regard to the defence sixth season for George Edwards, already in Washington DC and Buffalo. Working under the close supervision of Zimmer, Edwards has transformed the defense of Minnesota, 31^ in 2013, in a group positioned consistently among the top 5 in the League.
In his staff, the eighth season of Andre Patterson (DL), Adam Zimmer (son of Mike) to the sixth season in purple and gold, and finally, Jerry Gray (DB).
The neo-coordinator of the ST, Marwan Maalouf, has 14 years of experience in the NFL as a coach, culminating with the post of Assistant ST Coordinator in Miami from 2013 to 2018.
The Minnesota Vikings are a good team with great potential, but they also have the tenth calendar more difficult than the Alloy (strength of schedule) with seven games against teams expected in the top-10 in 2019. Last year, the Vikings finished the year 0-6 against top 10 teams and it is hard to believe that this trend, with Cousins in the director's cabin (4 – 25 against winning teams in his career) can be completely subverted. The team is there, but in my opinion is inferior to at least other 5 or 6 teams in the NFC and will finish the season with 9 or 10 wins.