The 4-1 Minnesota Vikings have faced quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert, Andrew Luck, Alex Smith, Matt Stafford, and Matt Hasselbeck so far this season. Through five weeks these guys have rushed 59 times for 302 yards and two touchdowns.
Robert Griffin III alone, however, has rushed 42 times for 241 yards and four touchdowns (and a concussion).
That concussion could keep RGIII off the field this Sunday, giving the Vikings their second backup quarterback in a row, but all of the reports on Monday suggest that Leslie Frazier’s Vikings will, at the very least, need to spend this week preparing to face their first uber-athletic quarterback of the season.
RGIII has taken the league by storm, right up until he got blown up this week, and is making a strong bid to be 2012’s rookie of the year. The Vikings have struggled against scrambling throwers in the recent past, but this defense has a very different feel to it.
Let’s take a look at how the Vikings defense might approach the new challenge that RGIII presents:
One of the most tried-and-true approaches to stopping a flight risk quarterback is to assign a “spy” to that player. A defender with the discipline, intelligence, and instincts to prevent a guy like RGIII from ripping off big chunks of yardage on the ground.
Antoine Winfield, Chad Greenway, and Harrison Smith all come to mind as guys that might fit that bill and they could be key in keeping Griffin under wraps. Ideally, the Vikings would be able to rotate “spy” duties throughout the defense to keep the Redskins guessing, and to perhaps sneak a few plays in there where no spy is actually assigned.
Mix It Up
Griffin has received plenty of praise for his ability to make good reads and stay cool under pressure. He is still a rookie, however, and the Vikings could be well served by showing a lot of different packages and blitzes. The team has recently made a new commitment to “keeping it simple,” but rookie quarterbacks are prone to make mistakes and confusing him could only play to our advantage.
I would be very pleased to see Winfield, Josh Robinson, or even Marcus Sherels blitz fromt eh corner from time to time, aiming for Griffin’s blind side.
Match That Athleticism
Veteran smarts and savvy cannot be undervalued on this young defense, but sometimes athleticism like Griffin’s needs to be matched with athleticism. In this case, matching Griffin with Griffen could be very interesting.
I would, at least slightly, increase Everson Griffen’s snap count this week. Griffen is almost certainly the most athletic player on this defense and he needs to be included in the effort to stop RGIII. For his size, Griffen is incredibly fast and has long limbs, both of which would help him pursue Griffin on the run.
Kevin Williams opened last week’s game by letting a tackle for a loss and then a sack slip right through his fingers. Those types of missed tackles might be a side note in the aftermath of a game against Matt Hasselbeck and the Titans, but Griffin and the Redskins are more dangerous on offense and those miscues can easily turn into important game changers in the blink of an eye.
Williams and the rest of the defense have to make sure to take advantage of the opportunities they do get. This is a tougher task than the Titans were, and missed tackles and dropped interceptions are not something we want to be the main focus after this weekend.
Yesterday was glorious, was it not? I mean seriously, how could you ask for a more perfect day from the football gods? Is it wrong that I almost enjoy watching Green Bay lose at the last second to last year’s worst team as much as watching our Vikings steam roll over the Tennessee Titans? Part of me thinks that it is just unhealthy to hold so much disdain for a division rival. The other part of me welcomes it with open arms and cherishes it.
Seriously, though – who would have thought that after week 5 the Vikings would only have one loss (a loss at the last second to the same team that just beat Green Bay) and the Packers would only have two wins? I LOVE FOOTBALL!
(I hate fantasy football… But now is not the time for that rant.)
So, now that the dust has settled after the Vikings blew up the Titans, let’s look at some of the stories that came out today.
(Edit: Apparently now Smith will not even be fined. Great news.)
From Adam Schefter himself:
Vikings S Harrison Smith is expected to be fined but not suspended for making contact with an official during Sunday’s game vs. Tenn.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 8, 2012
A-friggin-men. Because, make no mistake about it, a lot of the success this defense is having so far through the year can be attributed to the rookie safety. And I’m not so sure if it’s just his own play but more so the attitude he brings to this team. When I watch this defense it just seems obvious to me that Harrison Smith’s intensity has rubbed off on his peers. People are flying to the ball, making plays, hitting hard, making tackles and, for the most part, not making mistakes. Not to mention Smith has had some game-changing plays himself…
I didn’t think it was likely Harrison Smith would miss another game because of the incident with the ref yesterday, but I was worried about it. I think Smith could be crucial in helping to contain a guy like Robert Griffin III next week (assuming RGIII plays – I’m sure we’ll talk about that more during the week).
As far as the infraction itself that has landed Harrison Smith in so much hot water… I think it was overblown. Smith did not grab the ref and ‘shove’ him out of the way. The way I saw it (through my purple glasses, of course), the ref was driving Harrison back (for an excessive amount of time I might add) and Smith just kind of moved his arm and attempted to side step the ref. It’s not like he was aggressive in the slightest sense towards the judge. Not to mention, did anyone notice the way the ref’s arm was firmly lodged on Smith’s throat? Just saying… Either way – it is what it is. And I think it should be noted that Smith has shown great maturity by immediately taking responsibility and apologizing for it and accepting the consequences he will now face (a fine).
Harrison Smith’s intensity is great for this team and his personal play… But he does need to get his emotions under control so we don’t keep running into these personal fouls.
Our friends over at The Viking Age did a great job of pointing out some of the theories regarding Jerome Simpson’s mystery injury that kept him out of most of yesterday’s game. It seems that everyone is saying something different about Simpson’s numb leg…
Simpson himself told the media that he begin feeling the numbness in his leg the night before and that it “…just felt like my foot was kind of asleep, I guess.” The Vikings staff, however, is telling the media that Simpson did something to his leg during pre-game warm-ups.
The Viking Age have a different, unique take.
During pre-game intros, Simpson was seen doing some high-flying acrobatics. (Check out that link for a mid-air picture.) Or, in other words, it looks like he was jumping around and getting some pretty significant air (as he’s known to do). Could this be the cause of the injury? Wouldn’t be the first time someone hurt their leg during some sort of excessive celebratory maneuver, Gramatica.
And if Simpson did injure his leg during pre-game warm-ups as Leslie Frazier and Rick Spielman are saying, why is he jumping around like that during introductions anyway?
Let’s hope Simpson’s leg gets its feeling back before next Sunday and he’s able to contribute against the Redskins.
In the meantime, here’s a fun little article highlighting the “Top 10 dumbest sports injuries” which, ironically enough, happens to include Gus Frerotte injuring his neck after head-butting a wall. How many times have we all wanted to do that during a Vikings game, huh?
The bad news? The Chicago Bears won again.
The good news? Everything else that happened on Sunday.
That’s right, folks. Your Minnesota Vikings are now a 4-1 football team that absolutely dominated the Tennessee Titans in every facet of the game. They won by a score of 30-7. They had seven more first downs than the Titans. They had 123 more rushing yards and 43 more passing yards. Plus, they won the time-of-possession battle by six minutes.
It was just an all around good day for the Vikings (including that glorious loss Green Bay suffered!) and here are some main points of interest following the team’s latest victory.
Harrison Smith’s Ejection
Harrison Smith had already made an impact early in Sunday’s matchup by recovering a Chris Johnson fumble and on a couple of nice hits. What will be most remembered, however, is the look on his face when he realized he was being booted from the game when he decided to get too physical with an official following an Antoine Winfield interception.
“I really dont know,” Harrison said of his status for next week. “I hope to be out there. But I made a stupid decision and I have to accept the consequences.”
“Stupid by me,” Smith admitted to Tom Pelissero. “I should never put the officials in a position like that. I should never touch them. I know that. I’ve lost my head before, but I’ve never had an incident with an official. I completely apologize for that.”
Smith deserves credited for owning his mistake, and it is easier to forgive provided the outcome of this game, but we all will hope this event never repeats itself. His intensity needs to be contained between the whistles on a weekly basis. I’d like to say this was just a rookie mistake, but those rules are the same in college and high school and even earlier.
I would be shocked if Smith gets any sort of suspension, but he can certainly be expected to be nailed with a fine upwards of $20,000.
Ponder Makes Some Progress
Christian Ponder sandwiched some very poor decisions with a great start to this game and a strong finish. He ended up completing 25 of 35 passes for 258 yards and two scores. He also tacked on a trio of good looking runs for 31 yards.
His first two interceptions of the year came on back-to-back pass attempts, one at the end of the first half and one to begin the second half. The first resulted in a missed opportunity to add points and the second could have shifted momentum greatly had the Vikings defense not been so dominant today.
Ponder hit eight different pass catchers today, though, and looked mostly comfortable in the pocket, confident, and like he is making strides in the right direction.
Harvin Continues Incredible 2012 Campaign
Last week, Harvin willed his team to a victory by making the most of his special teams opportunities against the Lions, and this week he didn’t get to return a single kickoff.
Instead, he ran the ball twice for eight yards and a score, and hauled in eight catches for 108 yards and a touchdown.
I am becoming more and more convinced that no single player, especially non-quarterback, is as important to his football team as Percy Harvin is to the Vikings right now. His ten yard touchdown catch and run is something I could watch over and over and over and over.
Walsh Leads Impressive Rookie Class
Six rookies registered stats in the box score today, but perhaps none is quite as important than Blair Walsh’s three field goals in as many attempts. Not to mention his five kickoffs for touchbacks, neutralizing the return unit of the Titans.
Rookie cornerback Josh Robinson led the defense with six solo tackles and held up well considering how much the Titans tried to pick on him today.
Rick Spielman and his staff deserve credit for this rookie class coming in and helping in ways, both big and small, to get the Vikings to where they are now.
While the Vikings first preseason game against the 49ers wasn’t horrible, it definitely left fans wanting to see something more. A sign of improvement. A glimpse of development. Well, I think Vikings fans got that and then some as the Vikings defeated the Bills 36-14 at Mall of America Field Friday night. There was definitely more positive than negative in this week’s exhibition game. I think there may be a feeling in the air now that this team could cause more problems in the tough NFC North than given credit for by most NFL analysts. (Something I’ve been saying here for a while now). With that being said, let’s get moving on the notes and analysis I have from the second preseason game of the year. We’ll start off with a summary of the injuries suffered in yesterday’s match up.
The Vikings managed to get through another exhibition game without any major injuries. Kyle Rudolph suffered a laceration behind his ear and was evaluated for a concussion but the tests came back negative. Chris Cook suffered a concussion on a play where he stripped the ball from a Bills receiver. Both players will be fine but I wouldn’t expect either of them to start in the next preseason game against the Chargers. If it was the regular season game, I wouldn’t be so sure. But as it is just an exhibition match up and both players are crucial to the Vikings roster, I would be surprised if Cook (Rudolph is more likely) saw playing time. Then again, it remains to be seen if Adrian Peterson will play next week so, really, who knows?
The Vikings host the Buffalo Bills tonight at Mall of America Field in their second preseason game of the year. Last week when the Vikings traveled to San Francisco, I saw some positive signs of improvement but I also saw some all too familiar shortcomings. While watching the game tonight (7:00 PM CDT), I’ll be paying close attention to the items below and, in general, looking for more signs that this is an improved unit who can surprise some doubters this year.
The Vikings invested pretty heavily in the Notre Dame safety this past draft. And while reports from training camp say Harrison Smith has looked great so far, we’ve yet to really see what he can do in-game. Tonight though, we should get that opportunity as Harrison Smith is set to make his first start for the Vikings.
What I’ll be looking for: Intensity. Some of the buzz surrounding Smith is that he brings a certain edge to the Vikings secondary that hasn’t been around for a while. It was even reported a while back that the rookie got into a minor scuffle with Percy Harvin during practice after repeatedly trying to strip the ball out of his hands. After the shoving match, Smith said, “I don’t think it was me standing my ground. It’s just football… Football is an aggressive sport played by aggressive people.” I want to see that aggressiveness in game. I want to see Smith attack defenses. Be quick to the ball on rushing downs and be quick and responsive in coverage. The Vikings really needs their secondary to make improvements this year and I’ll be looking for any glimpse of them tonight.
Simply stated, the Vikings defense got torched on the ground last week against the 49ers. The team had a hard time filling gaps and just looked a little sluggish getting to the ball overall. The caveat was that the Vikings defense was missing major contributors who probably wouldn’t have allowed it to get so out-of-hand (or out-of-hand at all). Tonight, there will be no excuses as all healthy players are expected to play. That means Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Brian Robison will all be in with the first teamers. Antoine Winfield, known for his run-stopping and tackling, will also be starting tonight.
What I’ll be looking for: The Vikings not getting ran over. The defensive line needs to show that what happened last week is not a representation of what this defense is going to do in the regular season. The Bills don’t have the best running backs in the NFL, but Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller are both very capable. And if the defense performs like it did last week, we could expect to see a similar result.
Beyond stopping the run, I expect Jared Allen to really get after Ryan Fitzpatrick as last year’s leading sacker will be going up against rookie left tackle Cordy Glenn.
Much has been made over the offseason about how improved the Vikings offensive line is this year. With the addition of first round pick Matt Kalil and the shuffling around of other pieces, the unit is expected to be much better than last season. Last week against the 49ers, the first team offensive line performed pretty well overall against one of the toughest defenses in the league. Tonight, they will be tested even further going against what could be one of the best defensive lines this season. A defensive line that features Mark Anderson, Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus and, Buffalo’s big offseason signing, defensive end Mario Williams. Phil Loadholt, the lineman in charge of covering Williams, will definitely be tested tonight as goes up against one of the best ends in football right now (behind our Jared Allen, obviously).
What I’ll be looking for: I’m looking for Kalil to continue to impress and show everyone why he was worth such a high pick in the draft. I’m also looking for Ponder to not even come close to being touched. He should have adequate time to complete his drop, go through his reads and get the ball out before defenders are in his face. If that can happen tonight against the Bills first team defensive line, I think it would be safe to say that our new and improved offensive line is legit.
Make sure to check back tomorrow for my in-depth analysis and notes from the game.
When you are a blogger, especially a hack blogger, lists can be your best friend. I like lists. I like to use them. They keep me organized and look nice. Columnists often get more creative in how they relay information and opinions, but I stick with lists.
So… not to shock you: I have a list for you.
Here is my list of the top five things I will be watching for in tonight’s matchup against the 49ers:
1. Harrison Smith To Bring The Big Hits
Reports surfaced this week that first round rookie safety Harrison Smith got into it with Percy Harvin over some contact that was made during practice. Smith made some comments following the incident that suggest he may be a little frustrated with practice rules that are keeping him from showing the coaches what he can really do. I look forward to seeing him in action tonight.
2. Moss Reemerges With Niners
I should probably be most concerned with the Vikings and only the Vikings, but I have always enjoyed watching Randy Moss play football regardless of which uniform he is wearing. Tonight he makes his return to the NFL after taking 2011 (and some would argue 2010) off, and I am excited to see how he does. Oh yeah, and it’ll be fun to see the Vikings corners try to blanket the aging Freak.
3. Blair Walsh Kicks Things Off
I think kicker is one of the most underrated positions in football, but some recent contracts being dished out around the league indicate that teams realize the value of having a dependable leg on the roster. Rookie Blair Walsh will be under the microscope all season long and the scrutiny, or praise, will begin tonight. Much has been made of his field goal attempts during training camp (where he seems to be faring pretty well), but after years of watching Ryan Longwell I am equally interested to see if he can boot a kickoff or two out of the back of the end zone.
4. The Young Skill Players
Vikings receiver coach George Stewart recently stated that he thought Manny Arceneaux has improved more over the last year than he has ever seen out of any player. Manny is one of many young offensive skill players I am curious to watch. The young receivers have a chance to make a name for themselves and the third running back spot could be an interesting battle if Jordan Todman or Derrick Coleman can outshine Lex Hilliard.
5. Ponder Is Where It Is At
You guys are going to eventually get tired of me ending my lists this way, but the theme is repetitive because it is a fact: 2012 is all about Christian Ponder.
End of story.