Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer still can’t see out of his right eye, but an offseason surgery should fix his ailing vision. Despite the impairment, Zimmer missed just one game during the regular season and coached the Vikings to an 8-8 record.
While he recovers from the impending surgery, general manager Rick Spielman will have his hands full with another arduous task; mending a depleted offensive line and restocking a talented, if underperforming 2016 roster.
Difficult as it may be, Spielman has the salary cap flexibility to make wholesale changes in free agency and the proven craftiness to recoup draft picks lost in the Sam Bradford trade. How he does that, though, remains to be seen. And how he implements those changes in 2017 is a question no one can answer until at least August.
To attempt an answer, I’ve asked some of the writers at Vikings Territory to keep an eye (or two) on the future of the Vikings and share which changes they’d like to see from the organization next season.
What’s one change you’d like to see the Vikings make next season?
Implement a full-throttle offense
I would like to see the Vikings feature a full-throttle offense. I know the offensive line is clearly a key component here, and I don’t have intentions of getting into *how* they can make this happen, but rather the *why*.
Over the last decade, only 2009 produced an offense that was fun to watch. Every other year I held my breath when the below-average quarterback was tasked with actually throwing, or the line was a constant liability, or the receivers were only proficient at run blocking.
I’m jonesing for the total package offense to be a thing in Minnesota once again. I want to see comparisons to 1998 during pregame commentaries. I want to see an offense capable of matching the intensity the Vikings possess on defense.
I honestly believe they are close to making that a reality, perhaps just some decent blocking and improved play calling away, and that’s what I want to see — an offense that can suck the life out of their opponents in mere seconds.
Retain Matt Kalil
Not sure if this is a “change,” per se, because Kalil was on the roster last season, but the fanbase seems split on retaining him. I think his struggles are overblown; sure, he’s inconsistent, but the Kalil bashing is more a product of high expectations and groupthink than his actual play on the field. Has he lived up to his draft status? No, but Kalil is – at the least – a solid player on the offensive line, where the Vikings need all the help they can get.
They’ll have to overpay, but they would have to overpay for any above average offensive lineman in free agency. And beyond that, no other solution could reasonably be expected to solve the situation at left tackle. Letting Kalil walk would be a step backward, not forward.
Block defensive players
It’s the middle of January, the 2016 NFL season hasn’t even officially concluded, and we’re busy looking toward the 2017 campaign already. Well, given that I can’t be too sure what the offensive direction will look like next season with probably around 50 percent of Pat Shurmur’s offense yet to be installed and Adrian Peterson in the midst of walking the plank, I’ll just keep this very, very simple.
The one change – and this can be the only one, honestly – I’d like to see the Minnesota Vikings make next season is to block defensive players. I have spent far too much time reviewing the 2016 season, and I feel very confident in stating this Vikings team was the absolute worst in franchise history at blocking.
I’m not only talking about the offensive line either. Jerick McKinnon was atrocious in blitz pick-up, Adrian Peterson probably went the entire year without attempting a block, and Matt Asiata was exposed athletically on occasion. Even the wide receivers were average at very best at blocking downfield, and Laquon Treadwell couldn’t run routes well enough consistently to give the unit a lift.
Honestly, if not for Rashod Hill’s sent-from-the-Heavens effort against the Chicago Bears during Week 17, the best blocking snaps of the season would likely be attributed to two unexpected units or players. Mike Priefer’s special teams groups were consistently reliable, opening huge lanes for Cordarrelle Patterson throughout the year. And possibly, Linval Joseph should receive the honor for striking an offensive lineman hard enough during Chad Greenway’s interception return in Week 9 to open up a running lane (which the veteran linebacker decided to pass on for some good old fashion contact).
I don’t think I’m too harsh; the Vikings were not capable of blocking a pop-up window this past season. I do not care how the Vikings address this issue – drafting exclusively offensive linemen, spending $90 million during free agency on bookends, trading a future first-round pick for Joe Thomas (and Joel Bitonio because Ricky knows how to swindle Cleveland), etc. – but this complete incompetence absolutely needs immediate and dramatic improvement. Fix it; that’s all I want. Period.
Part ways with Adrian Peterson
In the midst of playing Madden with Brett last night, he reminded me of a simple fact — the Atlanta Falcons’ top-two running backs combined for $1.67 million against the salary cap in 2016. Adrian Peterson, who appeared in just three games, cost the Vikings $18 million. The time has come to move on from Peterson, a once-invaluable piece to the puzzle who’s holding the Vikings back from reaching their true potential.