Vikings Territory content maker Drew Mahowald recaps the preseason and delivers the sixth Skol Scale reading of 2017 and shares his thoughts on the Vikings’ Week 2 loss at Pittsburgh.
It was October 30, 2005. The Minnesota Vikings were in the process of getting waxed on the road against the Carolina Panthers to fall to 2-5.
Quarterback Daunte Culpepper, fresh off a phenomenal, MVP-caliber season in 2004, scrambled and was tackled awkwardly by two Panthers and could not bring himself from the turf. He had torn three ligaments in his right knee — the ACL, PCL and MCL.
Since that day, the Vikings have been cursed with unbelievable quarterback conundrums on an annual basis. Brad Johnson took over after Culpepper’s injury and actually led the Vikings to a six-game win streak before finishing the season 9-7 and missing the playoffs.
Over the next 11 years, Minnesota started 14 different quarterbacks and nearly all of them were cycled between a backup role and a starting role, whether it be due to injury or poor play.
A quick summary of the Vikings quarterback situation each season since the Culpepper injury.
- 2006: Brad Johnson struggles, Tarvaris Jackson hype mounts and he starts two games.
- 2007: Three-headed monster of Jackson, Kelly Holcomb and Brooks Bollinger.
- 2008: Back-and-forth battle between Jackson and Gus Frerotte.
- 2009: Recruit Favre out of retirement, game-losing interception in NFC Championship.
- 2010: Recruit Favre again out of retirement. Injuries lead to starts by Jackson and Joe Webb.
- 2011: Sign Donovan McNabb, who’s benched for Christian Ponder five games in.
- 2012: Ponder starts all 16 games, misses Wild Card playoff game due to injury. Enter Webb.
- 2013: In order — Ponder, Matt Cassel, back to Ponder, JOSH FREEMAN, Ponder again, Cassel again.
- 2014: “TEDDY! TEDDY! TEDDY!” Teddy Bridgewater replaces Cassel Week 3. Ponder also started once.
- 2015: Bridgewater starts all 16 games, leads Vikings to NFC North title.
- 2016: Bridgewater’s leg nearly falls off, sits entire season, Vikings acquire Sam Bradford.
That brings us to 2017, which has the sudden potential to be the craziest quarterback dilemma of them all. Bradford apparently suffered a “bone bruise” in Minnesota’s Week 1 win against the Saints, though the actual diagnosis seems a bit cloudy. Regardless, Bradford did play Week 2 and not much optimism has been presented from the team about his status for Week 3 and beyond.
Meanwhile, Case Keenum became the 15th Vikings starting quarterback since Culpepper in a thrilling 26-9 loss against the Steelers last week. Though the offensive line wasn’t fantastic, Keenum’s tendency to immediately slide backward when he felt pressure did not help matters. For now, though, he is the Vikings’ starting quarterback until Bradford’s injury status turns positive. Yippee.
And then there’s elephant in the room — Teddy Bridgewater. On Andy Carlson’s Purple FTW! Podcast, KSTP Sports guy Darren Wolfson said the Vikings would activate Bridgewater now if they could. But since he cannot be activated until Week 7 per NFL rules, he’s out of the fold.
A week ago if you would have asked me about Bridgewater’s chances of returning this season, I would have pretty much said zero. Nada. Now? It’s entirely possible Bridgewater starts by Week 10 or so after the Vikings’ bye week. If Bradford’s injury lingers and the Vikings find themselves at or below .500, rolling the dice with Bridgewater makes sense.
The hypotheticals are fascinating. I want to say the Vikings are in good shape because they have two really good quarterbacks on the roster. But I also want to say the Vikings are in horrible shape because both of those good quarterbacks are 2-for-4 on healthy knees.
In other words, just another year for Vikings quarterbacks.
With that, let’s get into this week’s Skol Scale reading.
Xavier Rhodes: Rhodes remain closed for the season. Xavier Rhodes went head-to-head with the NFL’s best receiver on Sunday and held him to three catches on eight targets for 28 yards when they matched up. Seems good to me.
Dalvin Cook: Despite sketchy interior run blocking, Cook managed 5.3 yards per carry and nearly scored his first career touchdown on an impressive cutback 26-yard run. The vision, the patience, the burst, the power and the speed are all there. He’s a franchise running back, if that’s a thing.
Run Defense: The Steelers offense didn’t just boast the best wide receiver in the NFL — it also boasted the best running back in LeVeon Bell. The Vikings held the Saints to less than three yards per carry in Week 1 and followed it up by holding Bell to 3.2 yards per carry on 27 carries in Week 2. Additionally, the Vikings only allowed a long carry of 11 yards, showing gap discipline and a willingness to be patient as Bell chooses his plan of attack.
Penalties: At least 17 of Pittsburgh’s points on Sunday can be directly attributed to Vikings penalties. Brian Robison’s offside penalty on a 4th-and-1 play in which Ben Roethlisberger never once considered snapping the ball led to a Steelers touchdown. Trae Waynes (more on him later) was beat over the top and had to interfere to prevent a touchdown, which happened a few plays later anyway. Overall, the Vikings accumulated 131 penalty yards on the day. Not great.
Trae Waynes: I might just go ahead and copy/paste what I had in this section about Trae Waynes in last week’s Skol Scale. He got beat over the top twice against the Steelers, which is supposed to be the one thing he doesn’t let happen. It’s time to consider other options.
The Passing Game: 167 yards on 37 attempts for Case Keenum isn’t very fun. The offensive line’s lack of continuity showed when Pittsburgh’s complex blitz schemes breezed through the Vikings like a revolving door. Meanwhile, Keenum’s response to pressure was to fall backward and throw off his back foot. Both things need to improve against arguably a tougher defense in Tampa Bay this Sunday.
Special Teams: Jerick McKinnon is trying way too hard to replace Cordarrelle Patterson. If you’re nine yards deep in the end zone when you catch the kickoff, please stay there. You can even run backward. Don’t bring it out and get smothered at the 12-yard line anymore. And if Kai Forbath could make his extra-point attempts that wouldn’t suck.
Skol Scale Figure: 5
The Skol Scale jumped an all-time high 1.5 points last week from 6 to 7.5. And in typical Vikings fashion, things went hilariously wayward and the Skol Scale dips 2.5 points. Bradford’s cloudy injury situation is the main reason for the dip, and the figure should really be lower except for two things:
- The penalties that cost the Vikings 17 points likely won’t be a repeating theme as long as Mike Zimmer is coaching.
- If there’s any game on the schedule that the Vikings would “like” to lose, it would be a road game against an AFC opponent that went to the AFC Championship nine months ago.
Minnesota gets a chance to rebound at home against a tough Tampa Bay team in Week 3. Quarterback Jameis Winston brings an array of weapons at his disposal such as Mike Evans (another fun matchup for Rhodes), DeSean Jackson, Cameron Brate and rookie tight end OJ Howard. This offense isn’t quite as explosive as Pittsburgh’s but it boasts multiple matchup problems for the Vikings. Who, on a defense that has struggled with tight ends, will cover both Brate and Howard? Which cornerback will be assigned with keeping DeSean Jackson in front of him?
Defensively, 3-tech Gerald McCoy is already in Nick Easton’s nightmares, probably. Easton has gotten off to a slow start in 2017 and a matchup with one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL isn’t actually what the doctor ordered.
My pick for the Vikings-Bucs game hinges on Bradford’s availability. If he starts, give me the Vikings. If it’s Keenum, the Vikings are 1-2.
More Skol Scale figures:
Five. QB may become a huge problem. If Keenum plays five or more games, season is in jeopardy. Also too many dumb penalties. Be smarter.
— Mike Zimmers Ears (@MikeZimmersEars) September 20, 2017
6. I do think it's a playoff team, but a few more losses without Bradford will start adding up quickly.
— Zach Harmon (@Zach15Harmon) September 20, 2017
7. This team is really good, and the penalties are fixable. With Sam, we have one of the most dangerous teams in the league.
— Hunter Plante (@PlanteHunter19) September 20, 2017
0.5 because Vikings fans can never have nice things. pic.twitter.com/FDLOuXxlS2
— Seth Toupal (@sethtoups) September 19, 2017
2. As in the amount of times they scored on Sunday.
— JZ Designs (@TheJrad) September 19, 2017
Be sure to listen to Episode 108 of the About the Labor podcast for more analysis of the Vikings’ Week 2 loss to Pittsburgh.