Thursday, July 28, 2016

Norv Turner

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Too many cooks in the kitchen?

The Offensive Triangle
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

This 10-part series focuses on the biggest questions facing the Vikings as they head into Mankato for their training camp festivities. The second question that comes to mind is how the crowded, experienced coaching staff will coexist and and impact the offense in 2016. If you missed the first question, you can read and respond HERE.

Time is running out for Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Since joining Minnesota’s coaching staff in 2014, he’s failed to turn his lengthy pedigree into on-field results. His offenses have finished 27th and 29th in total yards, respectively,  despite having one of the league’s best young quarterbacks and an All-Pro at running back in Adrian Peterson.

When the 2015 season concluded and head coach Mike Zimmer addressed the media, he made it clear that Turner’s future in Minnesota wasn’t a sure thing. “I anticipate, yes,” he said, when asked if Turner would return the following year. For a coach who campaigned to bring Turner in, Zimmer’s answer wasn’t exactly an endorsement of his second-in-command.

And neither were Zimmer’s subsequent moves — the hiring of Tony Sparano as offensive line coach and Pat Shurmur as the team’s tight ends coach. Both have extensive experience coaching in the NFL, and both have coordinated West Coast offenses — a system many believe would benefit Teddy Bridgewater. They’ll start the year hyper-focused on their respective positional groups, but what happens if the offense doesn’t score or fails to move the football? Will Sparano gain more influence on the running game? Will Shurmur take over play calling duties from Turner?

With two new voices at the table and a contract that expires at the end of 2016, the pressure is on Turner to turn Minnesota’s offense around. If he doesn’t, fans may see a new coordinator (or two) up in the booth for the Vikings.

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VT QOTW

shift from Peterson to Bridgewater
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Teddy Bridgewater’s only played in 17 total games with Adrian Peterson, and yet, the Minnesota Vikings find themselves in a bind. Peterson’s 1,485 rushing yards led the league last year and propelled the Vikings to an NFC North title and playoff berth; the team’s first since 2009. But it could be argued that Peterson’s success affected Bridgewater, limiting the young quarterback to the role of ‘dink-and-dunk’ game manager.

This wouldn’t be an issue if Peterson weren’t on the wrong side of 30. A younger running back, like Jerick McKinnon, could learn to work with Bridgewater, adapt to the quarterback’s preferred shotgun formation, and become a liable threat in the passing game. But Peterson is Peterson, and asking an old dog to learn new tricks will only come with challenges. And challenges take time, time the Vikings can’t afford to waste with their Super Bowl quickly opening.

To burst through that window, Minnesota needs to focus on the future. Right now, the future is Bridgewater and his ability to carry the Vikings’ offense. Peterson himself admitted just yesterday that this is the third-year quarterback’s team to lead:

“For this third year we are expecting big things from him,” Peterson said. “I don’t think it’s pressure toward him, but he understands it now even more going into this next year. He’s the leader of this team when it comes to the offensive side of the ball. He just knows that and takes control.”

All signs indicate a shift from Peterson to Bridgewater: the addition of Laquon Treadwell; the hiring of Pat Shurmur; reports of Bridgewater’s improved deep ball; Peterson’s own admission that he must improve as a pass-catcher and shotgun runner.

But if it ain’t broke, there’s no need to fix it, right? That very well may be the case in 2016, especially with Norv Turner at the helm of the offense. Peterson shows no signs of slowing down and remains a focal point of the organization. With one lucrative year remaining on his contract, there’s no reason for Turner not to run Peterson into the ground.

I’ve pitched the ball; it’s up to Vikings Territory staff — and a special guest — to answer the question:

How many rushing yards will Peterson have in 2016?

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Cordarrelle Patterson to contribute
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

A few months ago I wrote a quick post about Cordarrelle Patterson. It was about his offseason conditioning, how he was again working out with a man dubbed “Hell’s Trainer” in California. Not an extremely engaging story, since it’s well accepted that Patterson’s inability to get on the field the past two seasons has had much more to do with mental factors than physical ones, but the post sparked an interesting discussion in the comments section. These points that arose have stuck with me, and made me ponder the situation more than I have in the past.

Mandatory disclaimer: I understand the Patterson criticisms. Many of the negative things said and written about his attitude, grasp of the offense, and work ethic have been justified, and I’m certain the coaching staff has at least somewhat legitimate reasons for keeping him off the field. He hasn’t developed as a player—as a receiver—the way they would have liked him to. At times, he has been downright selfish.

But…

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Offense a Priority for Vikings
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has two new potential targets in German wide receiver Möritz Boehringer and UTSA tight end David Morgan II. General manager Rick Spielman focused on offense late in the draft, picking players with very unique skill sets and potential fits in Minnesota.

Boehringer is 6’4,” 229 pounds, and compares athletically to players like Andre Johnson and Cordarrelle Patterson. When asked which receivers he hopes to mold his game after, Boehringer didn’t hesitate to pick two of the NFL’s best.

“A.J. Green and Julio Jones”

Morgan, the first player every drafted from the University of Texas San Antonio, is excited to join a tight ends group that includes Kyle Rudolph, MyCole Pruitt, and Rhett Ellison. “Being able to play in a tight-end heavy offense, how they move a bunch of guys around, it’s going to be awesome,” he said. “I can bring a lot to the table for them.”

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Poll of the Week

Vikings Veterans Have Something to Prove
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

The Minnesota Vikings are a relatively young team, buoyed by first and second-year players at multiple positions on both sides of the ball. From Teddy Bridgewater to Eric Kendricks, the roster is stacked with up-and-coming contributors who should remain in purple and gold for years to come. Minnesota’s success hinges on their long-term future with the team, but they’re not the only cogs in the winning machine.

Veterans like Adrian Peterson, Terence Newman, and Phil Loadholt are just as, if not more important to the Vikings’ short-term outlook than the team’s young stars. Chad Greenway, set to play his last season with the Vikings in 2016, recently commented on Mike Zimmer’s unbiased, win-first approach coaching.

“He’s just in your face, and you always know where you stand – good or bad,” Greenway said, per Lindsey Young. “Whether you’re 32 years old or 22 years old, he’s going to have you playing your best football every week. He’s going to continue to get you better no matter where you’re at in your career.”

To Zimmer, age is nothing but a number. Newman led the team with three interceptions last season, Peterson won his third rushing title, and Joe Berger was arguably Minnesota’s best offensive lineman. Father Time hasn’t caught up to many of the Vikings’ veterans yet, and they’ll look to stay ahead of the curve in 2016.

Which veteran — any player over 30 years old — is most important to Minnesota’s winning chances this season?

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