The Vikings’ defense is 6th in points allowed, with just 15.8 per game. For comparison purposes, the Niners are #1 in points per game allowed, with 13.6. They’re 7th in yards per game allowed, with 304.2. To compare that with the previous season, the Vikes were 21st in yards (358.2) and next to last in points (28.1). Last season, ESPN’s Tom Pelissero reported that two sources claimed that Vikings defensive backs often refused to execute the calls defensive coordinator Fred Pagac was calling. CB Cedric Griffin was reportedly a big part of that. Griffin is now a Redskin. This season, the Vikings secondary is playing much better, and have been helped by the addition of 1st round pick safety Harrison Smith.
What was more interesting to me in taking my first real look at the Vikings, however, was the play of Christian Ponder and the Vikings offense as a whole. The Vikings’ handling of Ponder this season reminds me a little of what the Skins have tried to do with Robert Griffin III. So far this season, the Redskins have given RG3 the opportunity to execute simple throws, while mixing in a heavy dose of the run. In many ways, that’s similar to what the Vikings have done so far this season with 2nd year QB Christian Ponder. Here are the Top 10 QBs for passer rating so far in 2012:
Pretty good company, huh? Note RG3′s and Ponder’s completion percentages. They’re #1 and #2 in the league:
In the first game against the Saints this season, the Shanahans called WR screens right, WR screens left, all the way down the field. The Vikings, meanwhile, for their first pass plays of the game, have called the following:
- Week 1: Play action, TE screen right. Got 15.
- Week 2: Quick screen left to Percy Harvin. Got 11.
- Week 3: Play action, misdirection swing pass left to Percy Harvin. Got 12.
- Week 4: Play action, dump down to Adrian Peterson. (Dump down not by design, but still safe and effective). Got 9.
- Week 5: 10 yard stop route right side to Jerome Simpson. On target, drop.
All easy, high percentage throws. It appears as though the Vikings are very interested in getting Ponder into an early rhythm. Let him see a completed pass right off the bat and get his confidence going. I might be drawing up an aggressive attack and try to jump something early if I’m Jim Haslett.
Last week I talked about the the Falcons being a team that, while explosive, rely almost exclusively on just three weapons in their passing game. With the Vikings, it’s just 2 guys that you need to worry about. TE Kyle Rudolph is one. Rudolph is a nice up and coming player and red zone threat, but “the guy” is Percy Harvin. Here’s a crazy statistic that builds on the theme above that the Vikings are asking Christian Ponder to make easy throws. Look at the yards after the catch that Harvin is getting in relation to his total receiving yards:
77.6% of his receiving yards are after the catch. That’s abnormal. Here’s an example of the ways the Vikings are using Harvin. This was the first pass play of the game against the Niners Week 3. It’s going to be a play fake to Adrian Peterson, with Harvin coming in motion on a fake reverse:
Here’s the play fake:
And the swing pass:
Look at all the space Harvin has to run after the catch. This play went for 12.
I’ve come to the conclusion that while Ponder’s numbers are very good, they’re a little misleading in that the Vikings aren’t asking much of him. Now, that doesn’t mean that the guy can’t play. Here was a gorgeous play by Ponder on 4th and goal on their opening drive against the Niners. The Niners aren’t fooled at all by the naked boot, but watch the throw Ponder makes while rolling left with a defender right in his face. And oh yeah, he can run a little too, and even better, he’s good at describing his runs:
The Vikings’ punt returner is a player by the name of Marcus Sherels. He looks like a guy that wants to make plays, which is good and bad. In Week 4 against the Lions, he returned a punt for a TD. He probably had no business doing anything other than calling a fair catch, but he took a hit as he fielded the punt, broke the tackle (and then several more) in route a bigtime play. Here’s Sherels making the most of an INT in the preseason. Impressive speed. However, here’s Sherels fumbling a punt return in that same preseason game. Very careless with the football here, holding it away from his body. High risk, high reward kind of player.
The Vikings’ kick returner is Harvin. Remember him from above? Anyway, here’s this Harvin guy returning a kick 105 yards Week against the Lions:
Billy Cundiff was awful for the Skins. He shouldn’t have made the team in the first place and it was definitely time for him to go, but at least he did a good job on touchbacks. That could have come in handy this week against Harvin and the Vikings.
And obviously, no Vikings report is complete without mentioning Adrian Peterson. Peterson has been good, but not the amazing player he was his first two years in the league. Here are his numbers so far:
The fact that Adrian Peterson is effective… at all… is absolutely remarkable. He didn’t just tear an ACL. He completely shredded his knee. Torn ACL, MCL and meniscus. In 2005, Duante Culpepper tore his ACL, MCL, and PCL, and it wrecked his career. Tom Brady tore his ACL, MCL, and meniscus in 2008, and it took him two years to get back to where he was. Those are QBs, of course, and obviously healthy knees are less important to a QB than they are to a RB. Peterson suffered his injury Week 16 last year, coincidentally against the Redskins, and he’s already back out there playing, and playing well. Medical marvel.