Kirby Puckett

Kirby Puckett

Monday, December 29, 2014

Vikings Season in Review

Three Reasons to be Optimistic
I couldn't be more excited about Teddy right now. It's still a bit ridiculous that he fell all the way to number 32 in the draft, considering he had three really good years at Louisville but was passed up for Blake Bortles because of not doing well in a situation that's kind of similar to a football game, but I'm obviously not complaining. He improved a ton throughout the season, especially on the deep ball. I'm excited for the future.
2. Improvements to the defense
Lots of players on D made jumps this year, like Everson Griffin, who justified his massive extension with 12 sacks this year, or Sharrif Floyd, who went from 19 to 42 tackles from 2013 to this year, or Anthony Barr, who made 55 tackles in 12 games and just generally wrecked havoc wherever he was. But none improved more than the young cornerback-safety combination of Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith. We'll start with Rhodes. The second year corner out of Florida State finished eighth in the league with 19 passes defended and shut down the dangerous Alshon Jeffery last week (two receptions, 34 yards) while shadowing him for the entire game, something he's likely to do more of next year. As for Smith, he had a good rookie season two years ago before being sidelined with an injury in 2013 that held him to eight games. This year he made the leap, being the only player in the league with at least three sacks and three picks, (five total interceptions) and making several really athletic plays like his interception against the Dolphins. They're two big reasons the Vikings' D went from 31st to 14th in yards per game allowed this year.
3. The receiving corps
Charles Johnson and Jarius Wright both did very well this year, unfortunately it came at the expense of....
Three Reasons to be Pessimistic
1. Patterson
I understand that Patterson didn't progress as a route runner and struggled to fit into Turner's offense, but nobody seems to notice that he isn't getting the same opportunities as last year. All the screen passes that went to Wright this year could have easily gone to Patterson. As stupid as Bill Musgrave was, at least he knew how to get Patterson involved, on relatively simple things like screens and reverses. Of course, it's likely that there are things going on internally that we don't know about. Patterson clearly isn't very popular with the coaching staff, as evidenced with this quote in the Star Tribune from Zimmer. “I’ve got a plan for this offseason for him, and hopefully it works. But it’s going to be up to Cordarrelle. I’ll leave it at that.”
2. The offensive line
Teddy was overwhelmed with pressure all year, often having to throw the ball away. There's a good chance the Vikes will address this in the draft, and a bounce back season from Matt Kalil, who was terrible this year but is only 25 would help a lot. 
3. It's in our nature
Almost every Vikings fan knows this feeling. We're always expecting the worst. Late, game winning drives from other teams haven't surprised me for years. We've always had that attitude, and it isn't changing any time soon.
Looking Ahead to the Draft
The Vikings need several things, most notably offensive linemen and defensive backs. If he's there at number 11, I would take Cedric Ogbuehi, an offensive tackle from Texas A&M who needs to improve his run blocking, but is an excellent pass protector, the area the Vikings struggled most in last year. If Kalil can bounce back, suddenly a really weak area last year can become a strength. 
What's next with Peterson?
It's been the elephant in the room all season. What do the Vikings do with Peterson? He'll be 29 next season, which is just before running backs start to lose their legs, and the child abuse scandal would be the perfect excuse for the Vikings to cut ties with him and get 15 million dollars worth of cap space. That said, if they release him, a rejuvenated All Day could make them regret that decision. It's a big dilemma and a potential franchise swinging choice.

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