Improving the Vikings Offense
Improve Offensive Line Play
It’s been while since the Vikings have had a balanced, above average offensive line. In previous years when the Vikings were built around Adrian Peterson, we often fielded a strong run blocking offensive line that was below average in pass protection. While it’s fair to lament the thought of running one’s modern day NFL offense through a running back, even one of AP’s caliber, this was the formula during most the AP era and the results were less than ideal. During this time period, the Vikings often targeted quarterbacks who could escape pressure and attempt to make plays outside of the pocket.
Fast forward to the 2016 version of the Minnesota offensive line. It’s a group beset by injuries who can’t block in the run game, can’t pass protect, and our mobile, young QB with a knack for buying time blew up his knee weeks before the season. Sam Bradford was thrust into an awful situation in 2016 and had arguably his best season.
In order to build on his successes in 2017, fielding an improved offensive line will be the key. Our friend Eric Eager said it best,
Yep, a long way from where they were last year to slightly below average (where they are now) on the OL.
— Eric Eager (@PFF_EricEager) March 18, 2017
“slightly below average”? I’ll take it.
Improve in the Running Game
Not sure if you’ve heard but the Vikings won the NFL Draft. As is our yearly custom, Rick Spielman and Co were able to extract maximum value. Don’t believe me? Ask Arif or just read his articlewhich explains our “victory.”
Dalvin prospect comps provides more than enough reasons for optimism and my review of Football Outsiders Offensive Line stats over the past five seasons showed that bottom quartile offensive line groups saw an average improvement of 10 spots the following season.
Improve on Third Down
In 2014, Minnesota’s defense ranked 18th(1.92) and improved steadily during Zimmer tenure posting finishes of 12th in 2015 (1.77) and 7th in 2016 (1.72). Football Outsiders Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) metric shows a similar trend with Minnesota going from 23rd to 14th to 9th across the past three seasons.
A closer look at last year’s number however show a defense that wore down as the season went on. While the Vikings ranked 9th in defensive DVOA for the season, Minnesota’s weighted DVOA, which “better reflects how the team was playing at the end of the season,” had them ranked 18th. One of the key way in which the Vikings offense can contribute to the team’s overall success (other than scoring more points) is to do a better job of extending drives.
Sam Bradford averaged only 5.8 yards per pass attempt on third down, which was only better than Blake Bortles and Ryan Fitzpatrick and on par with Jared Goff. Cleveland’s Cody Kessler, Houston’s Brock Osweiler and L.A.’s Case Keenum were all better on third down.
Create More Big Plays
Finished Sam Bradford’s 2016 deep passing. Sensational accuracy and placement.
FINAL GRADE: A pic.twitter.com/Uim57DJN6j
— Jonathan Kinsley (@Brickwallblitz) January 2, 2017
Sam Bradford’s deep ball accuracy is really good. Understands how to put touch on it and can consistently drop it right in the bucket. pic.twitter.com/HYq8AR1sSV
— J.R. (@JReidDraftScout) June 7, 2017
|h/t Eric Eager for these stats|
In 2016, only Jared Goff (8.64%) attempted a lower percentage of pass travelling 20 yards or more downfield than Sam Bradford (8.78%). While the awfulness of the Vikings offensive line in 2016 undoubtedly played a role in this approach, Sam Bradford has consistently ranked in the bottom half the league for average depth of target (aDOT) throughout his career.
2016 – 36 (6.6)
2015 – 34 (7.4)
2014 – n/a
2013 – 39 (7.1)
2012 – 19 (8.8)
2011 – 12 (9.4)
2010 – 36 (6.8)
— Jayson Brown (@brownjayson) May 5, 2017
Improve in the Red Zone
Kyle Rudolph 8 yard Touchdown pass from Sam Bradford. #GBvsMIN #Vikings #SNF pic.twitter.com/je3XY4OEth
— NFL (@NFLonLive) September 19, 2016
Vikings Secret Weapon
Bucky Hodges holds the key to supercharging the Vikings offense. My next post will delve deeper into this hot take. Until then, please enjoy these Hodges Highlights.