Analysis

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. 

The first installment features Alex Kozora, writer for Steeler’s DepotThe Vikings play Pittsburgh in Week Two. 

 

VTTop 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.


Takeaways

  • 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.

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Sam Neumann

Sam Neumann is a freelance writer and lifelong Vikings apologist. He has seen his share of Vikings-related heartbreak, but believes we are united by the hope that one day that norse ship will come in. Sam is the author of three books, including the New York Times Bestseller Memoirs of a Gas Station. He lives in Denver, Colorado, and has had it with Broncos fans. You can follow him on twitter @NeumSamN.

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12 Comments

  1. I think a set of reasonable assumptions points to a 10-6 or even 11-5 record. I think it is reasonable to assume that:

    1. The running game should be much improved in every phase of the game, rushing, receiving and blocking.

    2. The offensive line should be better, especially in run blocking but at pass blocking, too.

    3. Even if Adam Thielen plateaus or regresses, Treadwell, Floyd and Wright should be at least as good as Patterson, Johnson and Wright were as pass catchers last season, and probably better.

    4. The depth at QB is better.

    5. The DL should be at least as good as last year, and probably better, with Hunter getting more snaps than Robison, Sutton finally giving us a legitimate back-up for Joseph, and some combination of Jones, T. Johnson, J. Johnson and Stephen, if the last even makes the team, filling the three-technique role at DT adequately.

    6. Barr bounces back. I think this is a reasonable assumption if not a sure bet, and it is almost certainly the most important one if the defense is to be a truly elite unit. Kendricks should continue developing into a solid starter, and the play at WLB really shouldn’t be any worse than Greenway’s of the last few years.

    7. Alexander adequately replaces Munnerlyn and either Newman or Waynes play well enough, even if not as extraordinarily well as Newman did last year.

    8. The special teams should be solid, with perhaps fewer highs – KO and Punt returns for TD’s – and lows – a placekicker having a meltdown.

    If the rest of the league has not figured out Thielen and Treadwell is the real deal, if the OL becomes a better than average unit, if Jones plays up to his potential in a defensive system that suits him better than the one in Green Bay did, and if either Alexander or Waynes really takes the bull by the horn – none of which are beyond the realm of imagining – we could be looking at a division winner and maybe even a Super Bowl contender, although that last would require Bradford to take a mighty step forward as a clutch player.

    1. I like your takes on these subjects. What about the full back dilemma? No replacement for Zach Line as yet. Jeff Dugan is available once he finishes giving the Dalai Lama humility lessons.

  2. I don’t think defenses need to be that complex, I think complexity is overrated by fans in general. I much more value solid scheme, the ability to not tip the play off pre-snap, and most importantly excellent execution.

    We seem to have those aspects pretty well in hand, so not being known as super complex doesn’t bother me tbh.

    1. I remember Joe Gibbs putting down Buddy Ryan’s defense as simple, but Ryan’s had success on defense wherever he went as DL coach (Jets & Vikings), defensive coordinator (Bears & Oilers) or head coach (Eagles & Cardinals), coaching and developing a host of defensive stars.

  3. I’m always blown away by the lack of respect Sam Bradford gets. Sam (NEUMANN (I said that in my best Seinfeld impression)) said; “Alex’s analysis of Bradford was very fair” Then you quote him as; “competent but not someone who is going to outduel Stafford/Rodgers in the North.” But he went on to say; Competent but not going to lead the Vikings far into the playoffs.”
    You guys are nuts. Bradford is going to tear it up this year. Maybe MVP of the league. You heard it here first.

    1. I agree with Fran here. With Peterson gone, SpeilMullen should have re-signed Zach Line. Bradford and Line would strike more fear into opponents hearts than Bob Lurtsema riding a unicycle in a bank commercial

    2. So I wholeheartedly agree with the first part of his analysis, but I think the second can be taken two ways. If it means the Vikings can’t go far in the playoffs with Bradford, I would disagree. But if Alex meant (and perhaps I should have asked him to expand) Bradford ALONE is not going to LEAD the team to an NFC Championship game (the way Rodgers essentially can), that makes sense to me.

      Bradford won’t win you many games on his own, but with the right team around him, I think he can shine.

        1. i agree, fran. bradford has a chance now to play with some continuity that he hasn’t had before in the nfl. i’m still really anxious to see the o-line improve

          just glad we’re back at camp. zimmer says he’s looking at this team like they’re the 11-5 team from two seasons ago. wanna see us build on that

          1. It’s going to be an interesting season Cal. A lot of folks are going to have to eat some crow this year after Bradford tears it up, clear to the Super Bowl.

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