Drew Mahowald’s Skol Scale is a tool to measure the correct amount of optimism Minnesota Vikings fans should feel toward their favorite team. The measurement is calculated on a 1 (WELP THIS SEASON IS OVER. TIME TO TANK.) to 10 (SUPER BOWL HOMEBOY) scale.
We’ve all seen this movie before. And it sucked.
The 2016 Minnesota Vikings got off to a blazing start, winning their first five games and quarterback Sam Bradford was firmly in the running for MVP. All but one of their wins were by more than one possession. The Vikings were steamrolling everyone.
However, as offensive line injuries began to pile up each week, Minnesota’s offensive production deteriorated. Matt Kalil went down. Andre Smith went down. Jake Long was signed off the streets and then immediately went down. Brandon Fusco went down. Mike Harris’s career unfortunately and abruptly ended. Soon, Bradford couldn’t even get enough protection to allow his receivers to get further than 10 yards down the field before getting rid of the ball.
Now, there are many differences between 2016 and 2018. In 2016, a truly devastating and unfathomable series of unfortunate events piled on top of the offensive line injuries and led to the 8-8 record, including the sudden resignation of offensive coordinator Norv Turner and the hundreds of eye surgeries head coach Mike Zimmer had to endure — and these are after franchise quarterback Teddy Bridgewater nearly lost his leg during a late August practice.
Additionally, the Vikings’ roster has been upgraded since that season at critical spots. Kirk Cousins is now the starting quarterback. Dalvin Cook offers slightly more at running back than Matt Asiata and general manager Rick Spielman has added several new offensive linemen via free agency and the draft.
While this year’s Vikings squad is much more equipped to deal with offensive line injuries, the fact that the injury bug is already hitting before preseason games even begin is concerning. And it’s why the Skol Scale took a slight dip from the last measurement.
Reasons for Optimism
- Defensive Backs Shining: Several defensive backs have exceeded expectations in training camp thus far. Most notably is rookie first-round pick Mike Hughes, who has displayed the ability to play both inside and outside and stay with the likes of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. Undrafted free agent Holton Hill, third-year man Mackensie Alexander and safety Anthony Harris are also bringing their A+ games so far.
- The Next Adam Thielen?: It’s the comparison everyone is making, but you can’t really blame them. Brandon Zylstra has made splash play after splash play so far and vaulted himself into the No. 4 wide receiver discussion. The former Concordia-Moorhead standout and CFL receiving leader is nearly a lock to make the roster at this point.
- Third Year’s The Charm: Laquon Treadwell has also stepped up brilliantly in his third training camp, displaying the physicality and hands that was lauded during his time at Ole Miss. Maybe he’s finally past the nagging foot injury that had he sustained in his final year at Ole Miss.
- The No. 1 Defense Is Still No. 1: Well, maybe not. But the No. 1 defense from last season isn’t showing any signs of regression, so by default Zimmer’s squad is the best defense in the NFL until proven otherwise. That’s sound logic, isn’t it?
Reasons for Pessimism
- Offensive Line injuries: Surprise, surprise — offensive line injuries lead the pack of reasons for pessimism. It’s important to remember what a change at quarterback means. Cousins needs to adapt to new receivers, new schemes and new offensive linemen. He has been able to build continuity with his new receivers and new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, but he has gained zero continuity with his offensive line. Pat Elflein has not taken reps with Cousins. Nick Easton got about a week’s worth of reps and Mike Remmers made it a couple of camp practices. The constant shuffling means Cousins will be trying to hit the ground running with his new offensive line when the regular season arrives.
- Also worth noting — Easton’s neck and back injuries sound pretty darn serious and I wouldn’t be surprised if he misses all of 2018.
New Skol Scale Rating: 8
Fans should be drinking roughly 80% of their cup of purple Kool-aid. Obviously, optimism from last season’s success has carried over to this season in addition to the additions of Cousins and Sheldon Richardson. Spielman, Zimmer and Rob Brzezinski have constructed a Super Bowl roster, and there’s not really much of a debate about that.
One worry that can always get in the way of a championship is injuries, and legitimate reason for concern in that department has popped up through the first half of training camp.
Preseason action will give us more information about any real weaknesses the Vikings need to improve before the regular season begins. But for now, the offensive line health is the major concern.
Skol Scale Fan Takes
9. Best roster top-to-bottom since 2009. But it's the Vikings and Cousins is a gunslinger so… pic.twitter.com/lcOcbvmDaN
— BJ Reidell (@RobertReidell) August 8, 2018
8. We are possibly the most talented team top to bottom outside the Eagles. We should be a contender. But that oline…. pic.twitter.com/ZVqvx4tl52
— Kyle P. Slaby (@TheBigHerman) August 8, 2018
7. Our defense is elite. The team synergy is elite. Zimmer is elite. Our offensive skill positions are elite. Our QB could be elite. Our O Line is poo.
— Charlie Ryan (@CharlieRyanMN) August 8, 2018
7- lots of new faces so unknown chemistry drops it one the injuries and lack of debth at oline drop it another and the last point is always reserved because even when we are the best team in the league we still haven't gotten the job done.
— Skols And Bones (@skolsandbones) August 8, 2018
9, cuz of that tweet right there with zim, and kirks coming for blood.
— N’Jadaka Killmonger (@Tredidy_19) August 8, 2018