image courtesy of Vikings.com

Vikings Territory staffer Drew Mahowald presents the second edition of his brand new segment for the 2017 season, the Skol Scale.

Football has begun.

It’s August, which means Minnesota Vikings training camp is underway. It also means the Skol Scale meter has begun fluctuating.

For readers who aren’t familiar, the Skol Scale acts as a measuring device for the optimism I feel about the Vikings on a 1-10 scale. It considers everything that could impact the team’s success, from injuries to off-field issues to scheme and personnel changes.

The inaugural calculation of the Skol Scale spat out a score of 6.5 factoring in several good and bad factors that took course throughout the offseason.

Through eight practices in Mankato, several new storylines have already begun to form. How have they impacted the Skol Scale?

The Good

The Skol Scale has picked up on several positive factors weighing into its second measurement. They include:

  • Michael Floyd’s Emergence: Minnesota signed Floyd to a low-risk, high-reward to bring the Cretin-Derham Hall alum back to his home state. His resume on the field was undoubtedly impressive — three 800-yard seasons with Arizona among his most notable achievements. But many had doubts about his chances to find success with the Vikings. The ugly DUI and kombucha situations have left him on very thin ice, but his performance on the field in Mankato has turned heads. Sure, he’s seeing reps mostly against second-team defenders, but he is consistently carving them up. He and Laquon Treadwell are in a true battle for the third receiver role, though Treadwell likely has the edge due to Floyd’s impending four-game suspension.
  • How ‘Special’ Dalvin Cook is: It’s the most common word used by fans and analysts alike to describe what they’ve seen from No. 33 so far in Mankato. He’s special. Take it from Albert Breer from MMQB: “You don’t need to be Ron Wolf to see what’s happening. On one play, Dalvin Cook gets skinny inside the hole and makes three defenders miss without covering more than five yards. On another, he’s split left, and his speed commands enough respect from the defense to clear out space underneath for everyone else. And so you have color to what you’ll hear plenty around here: That job Latavius Murray signed up for in March? It’s already gone.”
  • New Extensions: Since the first edition of the Skol Scale, Minnesota locked up two of its most valuable defensive players for the long haul. Two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Everson Griffen signed a four-year extension worth $58 million that will keep him in Minnesota through 2023. Just a few days later, shutdown cornerback Xavier Rhodes signed off on his pay day. His extension was worth $70 million over five years with $41 million guaranteed, bringing his total earnings to $78 million over the next six years. General manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer have found the pieces to what could be an elite defense, now Vikings salary cap guru Rob Brzezinski is in the process of keeping them around for the forseeable future.
  • Rashod Hill’s potential: Not many people know much about Hill besides his one career start in Week 17 last season. The Vikings picked him up last season from the Jacksonville practice squad, and he has proven worth of a roster spot ever since. He held it exceptionally against Chicago’s talented front seven in his only career start and has received mostly high praise throughout camp. Hill figures to provide reliable depth at the tackle position that the Vikings haven’t had for some time.

The Bad

The Skol Scale has also included a few negative factors into its second measurement. They are:

  • Injuries: Why are the Vikings the most injury-ridden team in the NFL on a yearly basis? Newly acquired left tackle Riley Reiff has missed several practices now with an undisclosed injury, and it doesn’t appear a timetable has been offered for his return. Additionally, Latavius Murray was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list and also does not have a clear timetable for return. These are arguably the two most notable free agent acquisitions the Vikings made this offseason, and neither has had the opportunity to find chemistry with their new teammates.
  • Offensive Line concerns persist: Reiff’s injury bleeds into this section a little bit, but it’s not just about Reiff. Mike Remmers, another free agent acquisition this offseason, has not received good reviews from analysts and media members at training camp. To be fair, he is mostly dealing with two of the most prolific pass rushers in the NFL in Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen. But signing Remmers was already a bit of a questionable move before training camp, and the negative reviews haven’t changed that for the better.
  • Holes remain on the defensive depth chart: Several holes remain in the defensive depth chart, including slot cornerback, 3-tech defensive tackle and weak linebacker. To be fair, it’d be a bit brash of Mike Zimmer to name starters at those positions so early into training camp. Mackensie Alexander appears to be the heavy favorite for the slot cornerback role, thus I will admit I feel a lot better about that position. But the defensive tackle and weak linebacker roles are still a bit cloudy. Who will step up and snatch the opportunity? So far, nobody has taken a commanding lead at either of those positions like Alexander has at the slot cornerback role. 

The Skol Scale figure: 6

Wait, you’re less optimistic now than you were before camp? Yes, I am. I am terrified about the lack of continuity along the offensive line thus far. I understand that the Vikings are playing it safe with the guy they just signed to a $11 million per year contract, but allowing him to build chemistry with Alex Boone on the left side of the line is a must. If Reiff can’t do that, it brings up legitimate concerns.

The offensive line was the stem that led to many of the Vikings’ problems in 2016. Sure, several pieces have been added, but what difference does it make if the performance on the field doesn’t improve?

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