|Adrian Peterson, during what were happier times for all of us. New Year's 2012.|
It seems like every time a Minnesota team has gotten a little momentum going in the early season the past few years, a litany of articles spreading positive vibes and dissecting why THIS YEAR'S DIFFERENT! rain down on us from the local and, occasionally, national media. Like this article about last year's Wild written just before their slight post-December downturn. Or this little nugget about the Timberwolves from the Sporting News written last February 28th. Ten days later, Ricky Rubio had one functional ACL. Not to mention this jerk proclaiming the Gophers were back not eight days ago. So I'm going to try something here: A modified approach to a modicum of success.
Stagnant offense, porous defense, sieve-like special teams. For the third consecutive season, the Vikings are disappointing fans throughout the state. After posting nine wins combined in their last two seasons, the Purple Ones have won just three of their first four games in 2012. The failures of the front office and coaching staff have been on full display every week so far, and I intend to point out these numerous misgivings in order to do my small part to get this bunch of losers swept out of here so we can finally field a winning team by the time the Zygi Dome opens around 2016.
An expected loss to the daunting, dominant Indianapolis Colts was sandwiched by embarrassingly tight victories over a recently promoted UFL squad from Jacksonville and a ridiculously overrated San Francisco 49ers team. Last week, I deliberately skipped watching the game out of frustration and went to a delightful brunch instead, but I'm told the Lions special teams set futility records for their inability to let us leave Detroit with another defeat. It's the most disappointed I've ever been with a Vikings team through four weeks. Here's why:
Pitiful offensive performances have become the Vikings' calling card, which is no surprise after the FEMA-grade disasters that have been Rick Spielman's last couple drafts (Sorry, Greg Childs, but I prefer it when my team's wideouts have patellar tendons that WORK). Through four games, we are 15th in the league in total offense, which might mean something if terrible Kansas City wasn’t in 1st and undefeated Arizona wasn’t 31st in that stat right now.
|Christian Ponder, sorrowfully watching the clock wind down to another narrow Vikings near-defeat.|
Christian Ponder, the 12th overall pick in the 2011 Draft (We coulda had Corey Liuget!), has yet to throw an interception through four games and is completing over 68% of his passes. This sounds impressive until you realize that exactly three of his 123 pass attempts have traveled more than one yard past the line of scrimmage. BUBBLE SCREEN CITY, BABY!
Outside of noted malcontent Percy Harvin (3rd in the NFL in catches and 19th in receiving yards), the receiving corps has been completely nondescript so far. Second-year tight end Kyle Rudolph leads the team in TD receptions with three, which is kind of a travesty when you consider the flip side of that, which is the lack of production we’ve received from proven veterans and former emerging stars like Devin Aromashodu and Stephen Burton. And Michael Jenkins gets about as much separation from defensive backs as peanut butter does from the roof of your mouth.
And I haven’t even mentioned the biggest disappointment this year thus far: I hate to say it, folks, but Adrian just doesn't have it. If you're not back to 100 percent capacity by nine months after a horrific and complete knee decimation, that's a clear sign that the explosiveness and stability that we've come to rely on isn't coming back for the Vikes' hundred-million-dollar man. I can only think of a couple backs who wouldn't be able to make that full recovery in nine months (LaRod Stephens-Howling for one...and, uh...is Devin Hester still a running back? He never was? Then why the hell do they still let him wear 23?), and sadly, AP's name is on that short list. It took him FOUR whole games before he finally had a 100-yard rushing game, He’s had a paltry 332 rushing yards in the first four games (a number that roughly equals one Drew Brees passing extravaganza), and he’s behind such immortals as Alfred Morris, Jackie Battle, and Stevan Ridley in yards per attempt. You say "stunning recovery that confirms the power of the human will," I say "potato."
Also, is this where I proclaim myself the driver of the "Get Charlie Johnson Back to His Best and Natural Position of Left Tackle" bandwagon?
Offensive MVP so far: John Carlson, TE. His -1 yards on 1 catch so far puts him in the top 366 in the NFL in receiving yards, making him, I believe, the only Viking in the top 366 in any relevant statistical category through four games.
|I would rather have a couple Keystone Cops in at safety than these two bozos, seen breaking up a Megatron TD catch.|
This defensive unit has once again been (TERRIBLE PUN ALERT) quite offensive to watch so far this year, giving up over 17.9 points per game and the 24th-most yards per game at 313.5. With additions to the secondary like noted philanthropist Chris Cook (only played 6 games in each of his first 2 seasons) and rookies Harrison Smith and Josh Robinson, we thought our back line would be more formidable than last year’s awful unit. But the Vikings have only improved by 16 positions so far in overall pass defense, from 26th last year to 10th in pass yards given up per game this year.
The front four have also been a huge disappointment so far. In our Cover 2, the Vikes rely on the defensive line to bring most of the pressure on the quarterback so our linebackers can focus on running away from the line of scrimmage and covering nobody 25 yards away from the pocket. But through four games, the defense has accumulated just 12 sacks, which puts us at a pace to be two sacks behind our league-leading total of 50 from last year. Meanwhile, our once-impregnable rushing defense has been a shell of its former self, as the Vikings are all the way back in 7th place in rush yards given up per game. Where have you gone, first-place rushing unit of 2006-2008? Pat Williams might be able to tell us if we could understand his garbled English.
And what's up with Jared Allen this year? After missing out on the single-season sack record by a half-sack last season, he only has two through the double- and triple-teams he has faced in the first quarter of the season. Jared's on pace to come up 14 sacks short of last year's total. And we all saw how Jared's success correlated to basically possessing a stonewall defense last year, so a dip in his sack total is particularly concerning.
In trying to cover for #69's obviously declining skills, the sack onus has fallen on our linebackers to actually find success in their seven or eight blitzing opportunities per game. Chad Greenway's drop-off has been particularly troubling this season, as he has needed assistance in making 14 of his 44 tackles this year (a total that puts him all the way back in 3rd place league-wide) and keeps falling in front of thrown balls before receivers can catch them. Some call them "passes defended," I call them "embarrassing reminders of the perils of drafting uncoordinated linebackers from South Dakota in the first round of the Draft."
Defensive MVP so far: A.J. Jefferson, CB. We picked up A.J. from Arizona in a trade one week before the season started, and from his performance as the dime back, it is clear that he hasn't picked up that distinct terrible-team stank in his play yet.
|Marcus Sherels, probably running the wrong way on a punt return.|
I can hardly stand to watch the game when our special teams is out on the field this year. Kluwe is a punk with a punk haircut who has only won us one game with his ability to make a football screech to a halt on the 2-yard line when the opponents have all of two minutes to score a game-tying touchdown against us. And that jackwagon Blair Walsh just makes me want to scream unintelligible syllables of disgust every time they trot him out for another 50-plus yard field goal that he'll either shank or, more usually, make. I would take one Ryan Longwell over ten Blair Walshes any day of the week. And for the record, I would take one Fuad Reveiz over ten Ryan Longwells, so I would literally take one Fuad Reveiz over one hundred Blair Walshes right now.
Also, our kick and punt return units single-handedly kept our offense from taking over the Lions game last week. They showed Ponder on the sidelines after both Harvin's 105-yard kickoff return TD and Marcus Sherels' 77-yard punt return TD last week, and through his wild cheering and congratulating of his teammates, I could tell how upset he was that his arm and Adrian's legs would not get the chance to rack up 182 more offensive yards on that particular day. That seems to be all Percy does these days: sow the seeds of discontent on and off the field.
Special Teams MVP so far: Larry Dean, LB. I think I saw him make a tackle on a kick-off once, and his name makes me think of delicious breakfast sausage. That's two thumbs up in my book.
PREDICTION: I've got us pounding the lowly Texans down in Houston in late December, but I just don't see any other wins on the schedule. Put me down for 4-12.