Before the 2017 season, I wrote about what it’s going to take for the Vikings to Win a Super Bowl. I look for three things in a Super Bowl caliber roster: solid role players, expensive stars, and young leap players.
Now, two months later our team sits at 6-2. There’s so much to like after 8 weeks, and praise needs to be handed out liberally! Here are my mid-season awards!
Solid Role Player of the Mid-Season: Case Keenum
No need to worry, I promise this article comes free of controversy! Regardless of how you prefer the Vikings QB situation play out in the future, it’s UNDENIABLE that Case Keenum has blown away all expectations in the last seven games. After a rough start in Pittsburgh, Case answered the bell. The shot caller has played with efficiency, throwing for 223 yards per game and seven touchdowns while throwing only three interceptions. Those picks come with asterisks, as two were tipped and one was on a missed pass interference penalty. Case also has delivered a couple of clutch runs, scrambling with unexpected alacrity.
Rated as the 15th QB by Pro Football Focus, Keenum’s performance kept the ship afloat. He’s a beautiful example of a player doing exactly what’s asked of him.
Expensive Star of the Mid-Season: Everson Griffen
The Sack Daddy got a big contract in July. Vikings owner Zygi Wilf now pays him $14.5 million per year and the man has been worth every penny. The disruptor wreaks havoc. He’s collected a sack in every game while forcing two fumbles. His 10 sacks are tied for second in the NFL and give Everson 58 total, good for fifth in Vikings franchise history. Are we about to see the first 20 sack season since JJ Watt in 2014? That would be something special. Remember that Griffen has never collected more than 12 in a single year.
But it’s not all about sacks. Everson has been great in pressure rate and run stopping. He’s even curbed his offside habit a bit. Pro Football Focus ranks him as the 8th best edge defender.
Leap Player of the Mid-Season: Anthony Barr
Bash Brother Barr is baaaaaaack! After a lackluster 2016, Anthony has risen to be Pro Football Focus’ 6th best linebacker at the midway point of 2017. Barr’s increased play coupled with the still dominant performances of other key defenders (the aforementioned Griffen, Xavier Rhodes, Harrison Smith, Linval Joseph, and Eric Kendricks) completes Mike Zimmer’s defense. Anthony’s role as enforcer is felt through the run stopping, eliminating running back screens, and blitzes. The Vikings have been dominant in all three areas. Barr leads the team in tackles for loss and is tied for third in pass deflections. Amazing turnaround.
Am I forgetting something? Yep. While I don’t cheer injury, Barr’s new presence in the Vikings-Packers rivalry is awesome. The hit, the curses, the crotch grab. GB whining on national TV and Barr laying down the truth afterwards. Awesome. I wish it had happened the exact same way, but without Rodger’s collarbone breaking.
So the Vikings now have 2 elite players at every level of their defense