Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Quick QB Question...

If Tarvaris Jackson was released by the Vikings tomorrow, is there a team in the league who would pick him up?

PLEASE COMMENT WITH YOUR ANSWERS - give me possible teams and would it be as starter, back-up or 3rd string?

Quarterback Mess

The 2007 season has not been kind to the Vikings and it has been particularly harsh on the QBs. Nobody thought this was going to be a real strength of the team, in fact ESPN Insider ranked our QB situation 31st in the league this offseason (only the Chiefs were worse).

I know that you were all with me that it can only get better and really we'll surprise a lot people with the play of Tarvaris Jackson.

Well, it is not better and nobody is surprised. It is pretty bad and it is hard to win games when your quarterback arguably the weakest link on your team. I am very dissatisfied with our QB play and I realize that we will not win more than 5 games this year no matter how good our defense or running game is.

The interesting (and I use that word loosely) thing is that I'm not calling for a change at QB or a change in Offensive Coordinator. We don't have an option that will allow us to win in 2007. I'm ready to accept that.

Here is my 3 step plan...

1. Let Tarvaris Play - Kelly Holcomb has been just as bad as Jackson this year and really his record is 0-3 to Jackson's 2-2. I know that young QBs often always struggle in their first year of consistent playing time. But there are 2 distinct differences between what you usually see with a young QB and what the Vikings have...

  • Their team is usually really bad to begin with. Peyton Manning's first year had a terrible offense and a terrible defense.
  • They usually show at least flashes of talent. Even as Manning struggled in his rookie season he still had moments of showing that there was some serious talent there. We were able to see that given time and some surrounding talent this kid might really be something.
Jackson is blessed with a talented defense (at least against the run), a talented expensive OLine and a game changing running back. And secondly, Jackson hasn't once shown a a unique ability or flashes that he will be anything better than mediocre. There isn't 1 pass that he has thrown that was impressive. The the 60 yd pass to Williamson is the highlite of his career and that was a long pass, to a wide open receiver that any QB at this level should be able to hit 85% of the time.

With that said we might as well let him play and play a lot. When we have no other option, we have to give Jackson every opportunity to grow into an NFL QB and prove everyone wrong.

2. Evaluate in January - I am a big believer in players have to adjust to the speed of the game. Some players adjust and can succeed at this level (Brad Johnson). For some the game really slows down and they dominate this level (Tom Brady). And for many others the NFL game is too fast for them and they struggle to keep up (Ryan Leaf). As I stated, we have no other option so why not let TJax adjust. I think a full season is ample time to evaluate if he'll figure it out or be left behind.

A perfect example of this is Jackson's performance in the pre season. If you recall, he looked good. Not great, not a QB ready to lead this team deep into the playoffs, but significantly better than what we've seen in the regular season. Why is that? The pre season game is slower. At that speed Jackson was able to see the field, his decision making wasn't rushed and he was able to execute. Week 1, things started moving faster and he has struggled to adjust.

Let him start the remaining 9 games and if we don't see improvement then I think we know that he is not a long term solution. At some point it will either click or it won't.

If TJax improves and looks like the future of the franchise, then skip step #3 and draft some help for him in the form of OLine or WR. If the results are mixed or no better than week 7, move on to step #3.

3. Find a New Solution - I for one don't believe that the game will slow down for Tarvaris and the Vikings will have to go into 2008 with a new future QB on the roster. Fortunately this will be a good offseason to find a new QB. The NFL draft is expected to be full of very good QBs. 6 current college QBs expected to declare for the draft are considered 1st round talent (3 of top 10).
  • Brian Brohm - Louisville
  • Andre' Woodson - Kentucky
  • Matt Ryan - Boston College
  • Chad Henne - Michigan
  • Colt Brennan - Hawaii
  • John David Booty - USC
And to go along with this deep QB talent, the Vikings are on pace for another to 10 draft pick. Chances are pretty good that the draft day decision makers will have their choice among 5 of the 6. This is the time and the place to bring in a new future franchise QB.

The Future of this Franchise

Is there any doubt that Adrian Peterson is truly the Purple Jesus? I know that this is VERY early in his career but all signs point to a franchise RB that teams have to gameplan to stop every week. If we are going to move forward with sub-mediocrity at the quarter back position we really should trade Peterson as soon as possible. It is a disservice to the league, fans and most importantly it will be a complete waste of his career. Don't make him the next Barry Sanders. Get him a competent QB and a good offensive line. Let him be the next Barry Sanders with playoff wins on his resume.

I really have not seen anything in Jackson's game that gives me any hope. His throws are erratic, his decision making is questionable at best, he has shown no leadership on the field and while you can't argue his athletic ability he has shown no ability to use it to his advantage.

Holcomb is not the answer and Bollinger is certainly not the answer. Give the ball to TJax and let this season play out. But this organization better be prepared to move in a new direction and do so quickly. They have the real deal standing 7 yards behind center, they better get someone who not only can hand off to him but can also keep defenses honest.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Year 2 of the Kick Ass Offense

Last year the Vikings KAO was awful. But Brad the Red Hot Childress Pepper assured us it was a Kick Ass Offense if it is run right. Apparently we don't have the horses to run it yet, cause the offense is awful again. Fortunately we have Adrian Peterson and his big play ability cause without Purple Jesus' 3 TDs of 60 yards or more this team might be worst off than our current 2-4 predicament.

Based on results here are 2 hallmarks of the Kick Ass Offense

Unable to sustain a drive

This offense has scored 9 touchdowns this year. The average length of a TD drive has been 67 yards. That doesn't sound too bad (I don't know the league average) but when you look a little closer it isn't nearly that good.

  • TD Drive #1 - 80 yards vs. Atlanta
    • This looks like a legit drive right? WRONG. It took a 60 yard Purple Jesus swing pass to score. This doesn't count a legit drive, this was a great play by a playmaker.
  • TD Drive #2 - 43 yards vs. Det
    • This was a legit drive that started in Detroit territory.
  • TD Drive #3 - 29 yards vs. Kansas City
    • No big plays required, we only had to go 29 yards
  • TD Drive #4 - 72 yards vs. Green Bay
    • This one gets mixed reviews. A sustained drive BUT on 3rd and 38 (you read that right) we got a facemask by AJ Hawk that kept the drive alive.
  • TD Drive #5 - 74 yards vs. Chicago
  • TD Drive #6 - 80 yards vs. Chicago
  • TD Drive #7 - 88 yards vs. Chicago
  • TD Drive #8 - 68 yards vs. Chicago
    • None of those are impressive either if you take out 60 yd pass to Williamson, and runs by Peterson of 67, 73, 35.
  • TD Drive #9 - 69 yards vs. Dallas
    • this was the best drive of the year.
So if you take out 60 yard runs by Purple Jesus this offense as has scored TDs on drives of 60 yards on average. Now, I'm not trying to indict this offense, but this is a problem.

You are just not going to win very many games when your offense is flat out incapable of sustaining a TD drive of more than 60 yards. This puts too much pressure on your defense and special teams.

Defense more potent than passing game

This one is pretty simple. Through 1/3 of the season the defense has more TDs than the passing game.

4 Touchdowns for the defense spread out over 3 games.
3 Touchdowns for the passing offense in 3 games

I'm not sure how the running game has been so productive. Usually when a team is good at running the ball defenses will "stack 8 in the box" to stop the run while still being able to cover a weak passing attack. Well, I wonder why defenses don't actually put 9 or 10 in the box. Most rushing offenses will use the run to set up the pass with play action. I'm not sure we can execute that so we pretty much use the run to set up more runs which often sets up incomplete passes.

We need a QB

I was hopeful for Tarvaris but I just don't think he is going to be a viable option at QB. I understand you have to be patient and QBs usually struggle in their first full year of starting. But you also should see some flashes of talent or playmaking ability. Through 8 starts I don't think we've seen anything. Not 1 play has Jackson been "impressive." I know he hit Williamson for 60 yards at Chicago. But that shouldn't count, Williamson had 3 steps on the coverage and Jackson hit him in stride. If he can't do that even once in a while he shouldn't be on an NFL practice squad.

I have seen in sports how stepping up to the next level takes some adjusting. When the game you are used to speeds up it takes time to adjust to the speed. Some players adjust and some just can't. I've seen players with tremendous talent who just can't adjust to a faster game. Players who adjust usually perform great when the game slows down for them, but watching TJax the game is clearly too fast for him right now and I don't know that it will slow down for him.

I don't think he should be benched (partly because our options are very limited). I think he gives us just as good a chance to win as Holcomb or Bollinger. But we cannot go into 2009 with Jackson as your only option at QB. I fear that he is not the answer nor the keeper of the Kick Ass Offense.

Vikings v Cowboys Recap

This game was relatively close and the Vikings even lead at halftime by a touchdown, but did anybody really feel like we were in this game? I know that lets just say that FG isn't blocked but instead it goes in. That is the 10 point swing we needed. But it was and it didn't so we lost.

I think that we are fantastic on the first drive of games. After allowing Dallas to score on their opening drive we put together an 11 play, 69 yard drive for a TD that ties the game. WOW. So many things with this drive that had me excited.

  • We scored a red zone touchdown.
  • We put together an 11 play drive that didn't stall.
  • Jackson starts out 2/2, has a 6 yard scramble and looks confident behind center.
  • Childress shows some moxy and converts a 4th and 1.
All in all this was a good start. BUT, that was the end of our offense for the day.
  • That 1st drive of the game accounted for 35.2% of our offense for the game.
  • 100% of our offense scoring occurred on that first drive.
  • We crossed the 50 twice for the remainder of the game.
  • Jackson went 4/16 passing the rest of the game.
  • The offense had 8 more drives that ended in 3 plays or less.
Quick grades...

Offense (D+) - the passing game was absolutely terrible. Dallas was more committed to stopping the run than Chicago was a week ago. And to counter that we had no passing plays to keep them honest. I'm not talking about deep routes to move them back. Why can't we spred them from sideline to sideline? Why can't we have quick hitting slants and curls that are easy reads for Jackson? Why can't we send guys out and have safe check downs to the TE or RB? None of this occurred. The running game doesn't stand a chance if we can't complete more than 6 passes for the entire game.

Defense (B+) - this may have been their best game of the season. The defense equaled the offense in scoring and really allowed the Cowboys to put together 2 drives all day. Those 2 drives accounted for 38% of their total yards. The rest of their 9 drives averaged 26 yards. We also forced 2 fumbles and a missed FG. All in all that is a pretty good day for a defense. The Cowboy offense has been very good all year. They are currently #2 overall in points per game and yards per game. Holding a home team to 10 points fewer than their season average, is a feat.

Speical Teams (F) - I usually don't grade the special teams but they were really bad all game. Blocked FG for a touchdown and consistently starting drives inside the 20 (6 of 12 possessions), including 3 inside the 10. Our offense needs help from the defense and special teams. This offense is not capable of sustaining drives of 80 yards or more so we basically had a chance for 6 points on only half of our offensive possessions.

All in all this game wasn't the end of the world. We played well at times and if this offense could get to a level of competence we might actually win enough games to play Dallas again.

More to come on this offense in my next post...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

NFC Power Rankings Week 7

With a chance to vault up the polls, Minnesota came up short against the Cowboys. Probably a good thing though cause then I'd have to put the Packers back at the top.

  1. Dallas (6-1) - offense struggled a bit but pulled out the home win
  2. Green Bay (5-1) - BYE
  3. NY Giants (5-2) - 5 game win streak, look out Green Bay
  4. Carolina (4-2) - BYE
  5. Washington (4-2) - home against Rattay, 2 point win? a W is a W I guess.
  6. Tampa Bay (4-3) - couldn't score more than 16 vs. Detroit?
  7. Seattle (4-3) - beating the Rams isn't impressive
  8. Detroit (4-2) - hey, the defense had their best game, not bad
  9. Arizona (3-4) - tight road loss, with Rattay at QB
  10. Minnesota (2-4) - must beat the Eagles at home
  11. Chicago (3-4) - beat the Eagles, way to go
  12. Philadelphia (2-4) - about to be 1-4 vs. NFC North (ouch)
  13. New Orleans (2-4) - we have a win streak ladies and gentlemen
  14. San Francisco (2-4) - can't get over how bad this offense is.
  15. Atlanta (1-6) - Brian Brohm lottery has begun
  16. St. Louis (0-7) - Brian Brohm lottery has begun

Fun with Long Snapping

So locally we have the misfortune of having to getting to listen to the Superstar Mike Morris on KFAN each and every morning. Morris, in another life was the long snapper for the Vikings in the 1991-1999 seasons. Some blame his snap for Gary Anderson's missed FG in the 1998 NFC Championship game (the only missed FG of the season), but is yet to be proven.

Morris considers himself to be one of the best long snapper in the history of the NFL. But I think he has been surpassed by this guy...

Bryan Pittman of the Houston Texans is rather accurate, check THIS VIDEO link out.

Just for fun here is more long snapping fun. I think it is safe to say that Briana is happy with her snapper.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sunday Morning Countdown - Keyshawn Johnson is TERRIBLE

Who let Keyshawn Johnson on the ESPN set of Sunday Morning Countdown. I thought Michael Irvin was bad, but Keyshawn is FAR worse. Two things jump out at me immediately.

1. I guess the Houston Texans are going to struggle today and here is why (according to Keyshawn). WR-Andre Johnson is not playing and that is going to make things difficult for QB-David Carr.

WHAT? Somebody please tell Mr. Johnson that David Carr is in Carolina and the Texan's QB is Matt Shuab (has been all year Keyshawn). Holy crap, give me a break. Who let him on the set?

2. Later we get to watch an interview with Bengals WR-Chad Johnson. Chad has been struggling this year along with his team. Keyshawn had the audacity to accuse Chad of being a DISTRACTION!! Are you kidding me? Keyshawn is one of the top 5 NFL distractions in my lifetime. It got funnier as Keyshawn made it known that he was "mentor" to Chad but lately Chad has "forgotten" what Keyshawn taught him. "He doesn't get what I'm trying to tell him," says Keyshawn. I didn't know that Keyshawn was qualified to mentor a player and "teach" him how to be a team player that doesn't bring attention to himself.

Seriously, I get that it is kind of important to have former NFL players/coaches on the show. Steve Young has been very good and I LOVE Emmitt Smith. Michael Irvin annoys the crap out of me but he is Emmy worthy when compared to Keyshawn Johnson. He is terrible and destroys the credibility of the show.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

NFC Power Rankings Week 6

Well, it is a good week when the Vikings move up and the Bears move down.

  1. Dallas (5-1) - lost to the best, can't fault them for that.
  2. Green Bay (5-1) - Favre breaks another record! Fortunate to win @Washington
  3. Carolina (4-2) - 2 straight wins both on the road and one with Testaverde at QB!
  4. NY Giants (4-2) - 4 game wins streak is impressive but can't rank ahead of Vinny.
  5. Tampa Bay (4-2) - Michael Bennett, NFC West better look out!
  6. Washington (3-2) - might be the best NFC team nobody is talking about
  7. Arizona (3-3) - couple impressive wins and a couple ugly losses
  8. Seattle (3-3) - ho hum team and I hate west coast teams as a general rule
  9. Minnesota (2-3) - up to #9 only because of Purple Jesus factor
  10. Philadelphia (2-3) - rough start is behind them
  11. Detroit (3-2) - the Lions just suck. Given up 56, 26 and 34 in the last 3 weeks.
  12. Chicago (2-3) - loss to the Lions is a greater factor than beating Green Bay
  13. San Francisco (2-3) - terrible offense, I mean really terrible
  14. New Orleans (1-4) - hurray a win, hurray!
  15. Atlanta (1-5) - enter Leftwich as the fight for draft picks begins
  16. St. Louis (0-6) - Scott Linehan fire watch? He'll be a college coach by the end of December

Monday, October 15, 2007

Vikings v Bears Recap

"This ain't college, Rook!" That was what Peanut Tillman had to say to Adrian Peterson (the MN version) early in the 1st quarter. Good call, Peanut!

Really this game came down to the following equation...

Purple Jesus > Devin Hester

The rest of the parties involved were just average.

OK, so maybe we need a little better analysis than that, but if you are just skimming the blog, that is all you need to know. We'll start with the grades....

QB (B+) - this was TJax best game as a pro. The sad part his he didn't top 150 yards and completed fewer than 40% of his passes. With that said he made 1 huge play to Williamson to give us a TD that nobody was counting on. He also did not turn the ball over, which goes a LONG way towards winning a ball game. And his numbers would be much better were it not for some dropped passes by Sydney. But he also missed a few guys including Richardson on what would have been a huge play (it not a TD) late in the 2nd qtr. Overall a solid game but nothing to get excited about.

RB (A+) - not much needs to be said about what Purple Jesus did on the field. A few viking records were broken and all in all he pretty much carried the entire team to the W. It should also be noted that Taylor had a decent game as well. 83 yards isn't anything special but he got stronger as the game went on averaging 3.3/carry through 3 qtrs and finishing the 4th with 4.3 including 2 runs of 12 or more.

WR (C+) - Williamson's TD is the lone bright spot today. He ran a good route, got behind the coverage and most importantly caught the ball. But apparently South Carolina receivers have trouble catching NFL passes as Sydney Rice dropped a few balls that would have helped sustain drives. TJax put the ball where it had to be a number of times and it was just plain dropped, that can't happen.

OL (B+) - Only gave up 1 sack and this was their best game of the year. But watching the game I felt like PJ was making the OL look good, not the other way around.

Overall Offense (B+) - hard to criticize 31 offensive points (final 3 points was all special teams), we may not see that again this season. I think we are lacking some balance when 68% of our plays were running plays, but you have to go with what is working. Overall, I can't really complain about anything.

DBs (C-) - They gave up a ton of yards and 3 big plays for TDs. That just can't happen. If we give up 3 passing TDs of 33 yards or more again this year we better hope for 300 yards rushing or we'll lose that game. Brian Griese won't have 380 yards passing again this year (well maybe on Dec. 17) and it is kind of embarrassing that he did yesterday.

LB (A-) - I love this group of linebackers. EJ has been making plays all over the place, Leber is seriously underrated and Greenway is on his way to being a force at this level. The Bears has 9 plays that ended up in negative yardage, 7 of those 9 were made by a Vikings linebacker. Also add 1 forced fumble and 1 interception to the linebackers combined stat line.

DL (B+) - a little more pressure on Griese would have been nice. Ray Edwards probably had the best day of this group with 5 tackles including 1 for a loss (combined with EJ). The Williams brothers were pretty quiet but for the most part I think the Bears were scheming to run away from them.

Overall Defense (B-) - gave up a lot of points but for the most part played their part. A ton of passing yards given up but kept the running game shut down. By my simple math they gave up 22 rushing yards in the 2nd half. It is always nice to make teams 1 dimensional, now we just need to figure out what to do with them when we know they are going to pass.

All in all this was a good game by the Purple. On the road, against the defending NFC champs and we were clearly the physically dominant team. That was the first time all year we have won the battle at the line of scrimmage. This Bears defense isn't what it has been in recent memory but it still had Urlacher, Briggs, Hillenmeyer, Ogunleye, Tommy Harris (playing hurt) and Mark Anderson (6 of starting front 7 from week 1).

Chicago was able to hit us with big plays through the air and return games but we dominated the box on both sides of the ball. Hester is hands down the best returner in football, and if healthy will be one of the best all time (and 2nd to Favre as my most hated players in NFL, I can publish a list later). We won't have to face that with any other team.

The passing game remains a problem on both sides. The Bears were missing 3/4 secondary starters and we really didn't couldn't take advantage of that. Defensively the fact remains that ANYBODY can pass on this defense. That needs to be curtailed. I don't expect it to be fixed but it has to be mended a little bit.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Vikings v Bears Kool-Aided Preview (wk 6)

Denny Green is priceless, nobody can deny that. But I can't help but agree. The Bears are who we thought they were. And I think they are showing that this year. Before we get into the actual preview please enjoy this remix...

Seriously though the 2006 Bears were living on that razor thin edge of making exactly 1 monster play to win the game in spite of their QB making the plays to lose them the game.

Grossman in 2006

  • @ Min - threw 2 picks including 1 for a TD. But defense makes a huge play late in the game to give the offense a final chance to win the game
  • @ AZ - threw 4 picks but defense and special teams score 3 straight TDs to win the game
  • vs. Min - throws 3 picks but defense scores 16 to win the game
All 3 games were wins in spite of your starting QB. And the team's 3 losses were all a direct result of Rexi and his poor play (all had 3 games he threw 3 INTs).

Flash forward to 2007, this has finally caught up with them. Injuries to the defense, a lack of a strong running game and awful QB play has led the defending NFC Champs to a 2-3 record. Rexi has been benched and Griese has given mixed results through 2 games.

Of course the Vikings have their own set of issues, ESPECIALLY at QB. This makes for an interesting matchup and will likely be a very ugly game.

Here are the Keys to a Viking Victory...

1. Cover the Tight Ends - I know this is not a sexy key matchup but I think it is huge. The Bears have not shown a strong running game all year. Griese has not shown an ability to throw the ball downfield (and he has 4 INTs in 2 games). Statistical examples?...
    • Muhammad + Berrian = 2 catches vs. Green Bay
    • Greg Olson + Desmond Clark = 7 catches and 2 TDs vs. Green Bay
    • Cedric Benson is averaging 60 yards per game (50.5 if you take out KC)
    • Chicago Rushing offense = 27th in the league vs. Min's #1 rushing defense
Cedric Benson does not worry me. Griese loves the check down so his wideouts aren't as scary either. But EJ Henderson and the safetys have to cover the TEs and not let them beat us in the middle of the field.

2. Run the Ball with the Pass - The Bears started the year strong against the run, but recently they have been more succeptable. I think eventually we'll be able to establish some semblance of a running game. With that said, there is no doubt that the Bears will be keying on the run each and every play and the Vikings struggle (mightily) to pass the ball. I'm not asking for this zebra to change his stripes, I don't expect Jackson or Holcomb to rack up 300 yards of passing to the receivers.

What I want to see are screens and swing passes to Peterson and let him get out in space and make guys miss. Play Action then hit the back when he clears. Short passes that are essentially runs will be more effective than trying to run the ball down the throat of this Bear defense. We have been unable to dominate the line of scrimmage in any game this year and I don't expect that to change against this D. But short/quick passes will hide our lack of a real passing game and hide Bryant McKinnie's inability to pass block.

3. Don't let their Special Teams win the game - We don't have to win the special team's battle but just have to be relatively even. If Hester is able to return one for 6 or consistently put their anemic offense 20 yards closer to a FG then Minnesota will struggle to keep up in the battle for 3 points. Kick it out of bounds if you have to but don't let Hester win this game for them. He has done it before and is capable of it every week.

Fearless Prediction...

Vikings win 18-16 and here is how it ends.

Longwell lines up for the game winning 37 yd FG. Right before the snap Lovie calls a timeout to rattle the Vikings kicker. Longwell actually misses that FG but gets a 2nd chance because of Lovie's timeout. Ryan nails the 2nd attempt and Minnesota wins.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

NFC Power Rankings Week 5

I know that I skipped a week or two or three. I have several excuses so if you want to hear them shoot me an e-mail. If not then quit whining and enjoy the official power rankings...

  1. Dallas (5-0) - I'm one who turned it off and went to bed, this looks to be the best the NFC has to offer
  2. Green Bay (4-1) - Maybe the refs didn't get the memo, this is Ol'#4's last year so they have to go 19-0.
  3. Arizona (3-2) - beat Pitt, lost 2 close games and revived with Warner
  4. Washington (3-1) - just happy they killed the Lions
  5. New York (3-2) - OOOOH, a 3 game win streak, LOOK OUT!
  6. Seattle (3-2) - beat Cincy, but that just gets them a ranking above Carolina
  7. Tampa Bay (3-2) - has anybody called He Hate Me yet?
  8. Carolina (3-2) - unimpressive but still above .500
  9. Detroit (3-2) - most points allowed in NFC (and they even played the Vikings)
  10. Chicago (2-3) - nice road win, be sure to send a gift basket to James Jones and Favre
  11. San Francisco (2-3) - raise your hand if you knew Trent Dilfer was still in the league
  12. Minnesota (1-3) - a 1 week non-losing streak heading into Bear week
  13. Philadelphia (1-3) - ranked below MN cause it is my freaking blog
  14. Atlanta (1-4) - Hey, the team we beat got a win, YAY!
  15. St. Louis (0-5) - there is always next year
  16. New Orleans (0-4) - I thought they'd be bad, but this is ugly

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Guaranteed or your Money Back

The Vikings will NOT lose this week! And thank goodness cause we need a week without a loss.

Should this week be considered a moral victory?

Kool Aid Drinkers