Know Your Enemy: A Minnesota Vikings Scouting Report

CHICAGO - NOVEMBER 14: Percey Harvin  of the Minnesota Vikings celebrates a touchdown catch against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on November 14, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Vikings 27-13. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

This is a series I am bringing to Redskins Hog Heaven for the rest of the season.  I’ve done extensive film analysis on at least a couple of games for each team in the NFC (exceptions: the dreadful Panthers and Cardinals), and figured while you need a lot more than a hundred or so total plays to be an “expert” on any one team, you also don’t need to be an expert on any topic to provide some valuable insight.

Remember, I am no expert about teams that aren’t the Redskins, and this series specifically steps outside my level of expertise.  If I can provide just a couple of nuggets of knowledge to readers in advance of the upcoming game, this endeveaor can be considered a success. 

The following is the Redskins Hog Heaven Scouting Report on the Minnesota Vikings.

Offensive Backfield

The strength of the Vikings here is obscured by their inability to provide great opportunities in either the passing game or the running game.  Adrian Peterson was never a complete, feature back prior this year, usually providing highlight reel runs when he got on the edge and only a moderate amount of ability to run between the tackles and move the chains prior to this season.  In addition to that, Peterson fumbled on more than 3% of his carries for the season.  This year, Peterson is a different, far more effective player who has had fewer highlight reel moments because the blocking hasn’t allowed Peterson to get free much this year.  Peterson is second in the league behind only Chris Johnson in carries, and has done more with those carries than Johnson.  Peterson isn’t in the elite class with Arian Foster and Jamaal Charles (and this year, BenJarvus Green-Ellis), but he is very much in the next tier below those guys as a runner.  His numbers this year compare favorably to Michael Turner, and Turner plays behind an offensive line full of maulers.

The Vikings are a much better team when they are running than when they are passing, in spite of a line than can neither block for Peterson, nor Brett Favre.  Their run-centric gameplans have tended to yield a competitive team, where their pass-centric gameplans have tended to led to struggles by Brett Favre.

Favre still plays at a high level in the pocket, avoiding sacks and pressures and helping the receivers learn the timing mechanisms in a complicated offense.  Favre’s level of play is less effective downfield, in no small part because his injuries and declining arm strength are working in tandem to create a monster of sorts: Favre plays like a guy who can make all the throws.  Favre does not actually still have the ability to make all the throws.  He still throws up the seams really well, but he’s not getting it outside the numbers with any sort of velocity.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Too much of the Vikings offensive decline has come because this group has underachieved.  TE Visanthe Shiancoe is enemy number one in terms of “where have you gone” players from last seasons top passing offense.  More understandable is the loss of Sidney Rice to injury, and Randy Moss’ temporary inability to fill those shoes.  This is a team that managed to play Bernard Berrian all season, and managed to actually target Bernard Berrian and Greg Lewis in a professional offense 61 times.

Percy Harvin might be the offenses best player, if it isn’t Peterson.  He’s the class of this receiving corps.  Sidney Rice is just coming back from hip surgery and is somewhat of an unknown quantity.  He could be a match-up nightmare for the Redskins given his rapport with his quarterback from last season, but he didn’t exactly set the world on fire last week in his return: 3 catches on 10 targets.  A healthy Harvin and Rice may be an elite receiving duo for the Vikings many years into the future, but neither is 100% right now — and Harvin may never truly be at 100% the rest of his career.

Greg Camarillo was a valuable pickup for Miami who is underutilized because the Brad Childress Vikings were trying to justify both Bernard Berrian’s contract, and Greg Lewis being on the roster.

Offensive Line

While ‘underachiving’ is a word that fits Brett Favre’s receivers, something like “bad” might best describe this group.  When C John Sullivan is playing and playing well, he gives the rest of the group a chance to be successful.  It’s LG Steve Hutchinson who has declined the most from his all-world peak in the middle of the decade.  RG Anthony Herrera may be the group’s most consistent performer, which isn’t meant as a complement.  The tackle duo, Bryant McKinnie and Phil Loadholt, could be among the worst pass protecting duos in the league this year, and neither was drafted to get much push in the running game.

This is the group that continues to allow Favre to get hit and hurt, and the group that can’t create rushing lanes for Peterson to gallop through.  They are a dead weight around the neck of the entire offense.

Defensive Front 

This unit has underachieved as badly as the pass catches have, because the Vikings’ front is super talented.  DT Kevin Williams is having a good year, but is getting little help from the other starters: DT Pat Williams, DE Jared Allen, and DE Ray Edwards.  Allen, in particular, is having a dreadful pass rushing year, while Pat Williams might simply be too old to be a consistent performer.  Edwards has simply been disappointing, since many were expecting a breakout year.  Some of the best performers here have been backups, such as Brian Robison and LeRoy Guidon.

The linebacking corps have struggled through injury and underperformance as well.  E.J. Henderson has played the whole season with a metal rod in his reconstructed leg, with Ben Leber starting to show signs of age.  The third linebacker, Chad Greenway, has been fantastic for them against the run and the pass.  He’s the strong side backer responsible for covering the tight end, and the Vikings have really done a number on opposing TEs this year.  This isn’t much of a blitzing group under Leslie Frazier, so they’ve just taken the underperformance hit in terms of their pass rush rather than bringing LBs in order to generate pressure.

Defensive Backfield

It’s a weakness.  Antoine Winfield level of play hasn’t matched his own level of play from last season, which is a problem, but the rest of this secondary hasn’t even matched Winfield’s current level of play, which is the bigger problem.

Donovan McNabb should have a field day down field which should help to counter-act the fact that the Redskins are going to struggle to run the football against this unit. 

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