Opposing View: Q&A With Steelers Writer Alex Kozora
This is the first installment of our Opposing View series, in which we gauge the league-wide perception of the Vikings by talking to bloggers from around the NFL. For each post, I’ll seek out a writer for a team on the 2017 Vikings schedule, and ask them a few short questions about the way they view our squad from afar.
VT: Top of your head, give me the first things you think of with the Minnesota Vikings going into 2017.
Alex Kozora: Think of an offensive line that has improved but still needs to get better. An uneasy quarterback situation. Teddy Bridgewater’s future is still a complete unknown. Sam Bradford, to be general in my description, is competent but not someone who is going to outduel Stafford/Rodgers in the North. A run game that should, and desperately needs to be, better this year. Defensive ends who can get after the QB and a solid secondary.
VT: As it stands, what do you think is their biggest strength? How about weakness?
AK: Strong secondary with Harrison Smith and Rhodes. A run game that should improve but was one of the worst in the league last year. Line didn’t help. Know Kyle Rudolph isn’t regarded as a great blocker either.
VT: What’s your opinion of Mike Zimmer as a head coach?
AK: Like him. As a Steelers’ fan, know him well from his DC days in Cincinnati. No-nonsense coach. Commands respect. Defenses aren’t the most complex but technically sound. Has control over the locker room.
VT: There is a lot of disagreement about Sam Bradford in the Vikings community. What are your thoughts on him as a starting quarterback?
AK: As I mentioned earlier. Competent but not going to lead the Vikings far into the playoffs.
VT: Based on what you know about the Vikings at this point, what would you predict their 2017 record to be?
AK: Somewhere around 9-7. NFC North is still tough. Offense should be improved. 10-6 not impossible. Will compete for Wild Card spot.
- I thought Alex’s analysis of Bradford was very fair: “competent but not someone who is going to outduel Stafford/Rodgers in the North.” It’s not a criticism, necessarily, but an honest evaluation of what Bradford is. And that’s okay; if the defense reaches its potential, the Vikings won’t need a gunslinger at quarterback. They’ll need competence and measured playmaking.
- He also mentioned Mike Zimmer’s defenses “aren’t the most complex.” An interesting observation that doesn’t get discussed much in Minnesota. While I, like most of us, respect Zimmer’s defensive prowess a great deal, I wonder if opposing coaches figured it out a little in last season, leading to it becoming mediocre down the stretch. No matter how ineffective the Double-A-Gap blitz became, for example, the team kept hammering away at it. The ceiling of this defense may hinge on Zimmer’s ability and willingness to adapt.
- While 9-7 would be an improvement on last year, it would still be a disappointment for most fans. That said, it’s hard to set your expectations above 10-6 right now. “Wild Card challengers” is a fitting moniker.
Thanks to Alex for participating. You can follow him on Twitter at @Alex_Kozora.