VikingsTerritory Breakdown Podcast is Back w/Joe Oberle and Mark Craig

Joe Oberle and Mark Craig talk Vikings

The NFL returns and with it that staple of gridiron analysis that you have come to know and love: the VikingsTerritory Breakdown podcast. As many of you who have listened in the past may know, we return to the airwaves with excitement but certainly with heavy hearts as we mourn the passing and remember the great work of our founder and friend Joe Johnson.

Joe and I (another Joe) have podcasted together for more than half a decade at Vikings Journal on the Three Deep podcast with Skolt, then the Purple Journal podcast with Luke Braun at, later Morning Joes on and finally the VT Breakdown on PurpleTerritory and KDLM radio in Detroit Lakes. It was a great collaboration with Joe J., who worked tirelessly to bring you fans as much Viking content as possible, and we miss him greatly as we pick up the torch and carry it forward (to victory, hopefully) as I know Joe would have wanted us to do.

As the longtime co-host of VT Breakdown, I am joined by Joe’s brother-in-law Mike Woldum (who with Joe’s sister, Stephanie, are carrying on Joe’s broadcast and website legacy) as the show’s producer and our new co-host, Mark Craig, the longtime Vikings scribe from the Star Tribune newspaper and Mark, who had made appearances in the past on the pods with Joe and me, will co-host each week and offer his unique NFL insight as a 19-year vet of covering the Purple, years writing and reporting the NFL in Cleveland and Canton, Ohio, and as an NFL insider who has the only NFL Hall of Fame vote in town.

We will be recording shows each week with a lot of information, some distinctive analysis, and a bit of humor—just as VT Breakdown has long been known for. We will have occasional guests, some from Mark’s long history of associations with members of the NFL, particularly some of those Purple-Helmeted Warriors. We will augment it all with Mark’s insider access at TCO Performance Center, U.S. Bank Stadium, and at NFL locker rooms around the country.

This week we will reboot the VT Breakdown pod with a preview of the 2021 Vikings squad—both on the returning high-scoring offense and the newly revamped defense, plus a look at all those new faces on special teams (Who are those guys?). You can find the pods spread out throughout the week with different segments on the game that was, the game that will be, and a look at the biggest stories in the NFL each week — a perspective that only Craig can bring.

In the first pod, we dial up the offense where there are plenty of things to talk about (Is Kirk Cousins’ plexiglass partition completed yet? Will the money Brian O’Neill just got go to his head or right into his wallet? Is Klint Kubiak the next big deal or just the next Kubiak to call the Vikings offensive plays?) Later, we hit the defense, special teams, and some NFL news stories. Stick around for the prediction segment as we try to divine what the Vikings will do this Sunday in the opener in Cincinnati and this season in the NFC North.

We’ll pull no punches, just like we hope the Purple will do this season and hope you will enjoy the podcast. I had one of the times of my life as a Vikings fan chatting each week with Joe and thank his family for the continued opportunity to talk some Purple. I hope we make him proud. 


Questions Abound for the Rebuilt Vikings Defense

Purple fans’ biggest disappointment from the 2020 season (other than the COVID-19 pandemic, of course) was the Vikings defensive performance. Head coach Mike Zimmer is a former defensive coordinator who always prides himself on a great defense, and last year’s group came up woefully short. But he set out straight away (in free agency) to rectify that and bring some pride and talent back to the unit. So, we will concentrate on the defense in the second installment of VT Breakdown—Season Preview.

Star Tribune Vikings writer and NFL Insider Mark Craig helps us break down (that’s what we do here) the Vikings defense heading into the 2021 season, and it is not a stretch to say that this Vikings team will go as the defense goes.

There are plenty of questions to answer concerning this defense, and it starts upfront with the defensive line. There are four new faces starting along the line as DE Danielle Hunter missed the entire 2020 season with a neck injury, nose tackle Michael Pierce sat out the entire season due to COVID precautions, defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson (who kicks running back butts and takes names—literally, Dalvin Cook and LaDainian Tomlinson, get it?) is the new kid in town, D.J. Wonnum is the new starter at DE and Everson Griffen, for passing downs, is the old new kid on the block. Zim is focused on stopping the run and, if so, that will go a long way toward kick-starting this defense to a return to its former form.

Another question remains at linebacker, where Anthony Barr finally joined his teammates on the field this week after spending most of camp on the sidelines with a knee (we now know) injury. That is not great news for a player who is a focal point of coverage and an occasional cog in the pass rush. He sat out most of last season with a torn pectoral muscle and could have really used a healthy camp to get himself back in football shape. MLB Eric Kendricks is also returning from a late-season, season-ending injury, but he has been back to himself in camp. Heck, when you put these two players together with Pierce and Hunter, that is a lot of quality man-hours gone from this defense in 2020. If their returns are long, healthy, and productive, there is no way that Zim won’t be smiling about his rebuilt defense at some point this season (wait, check that, this is Zimmer we’re talking about).

The secondary has some new faces (and a new Xavier), as well, with the recently re-minted (as in monied) safety Harrison Smith being the only familiar one. We are all anxious to see how CB Patrick Peterson does in a purple uniform and how hungry Mackenzie Alexander is in his return to slot corner. With the rest of the crew, you get the feeling that Zimmer is still going through the process of who his starters will be as he has looked over a number of cornerbacks this offseason. But Mark Craig should be able to sort some of that out on the podcast.

Then there are the special teams. Okay, enough said. Can’t thank you enough for the time . . .  Seriously, the questions that we had hoped would be solved during the offseason have crept into opening weekend and remain for this crew. There are players in the uniforms for the kicking unit, but they have changed so many times in recent weeks, we are not sure exactly who will be lining up on fourth downs this Sunday. Maybe Mark will shed some light. Check it all out on the VikingsTerritory Breakdown podcast.