32 Teams in 32 Days: Minnesota Vikings
August 16, 2012Eastern Indiana Sports
When you “earn” the third overall pick in any draft you know the season just didn’t go to plan. That’s how it was for the Minnesota Vikings who couldn’t catch a break in 2011. Leads were blown, injuries piled up, and defeats were commonplace as the Vikings became the poor relation inthe ultra-competitive NFC North.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t any talent on this roster.
It may be too soon to talk of being competitive when the Packers, Lions and Bears are who they are, but all hope is not lost for Minnesota. It’s now time to break that down, while also remembering just why they finished where they did.
Five Reasons to be Confident
1) They Will Hurt Some Quarterbacks
If you have a defensive line that features Jared Allen, you’re going to get to the quarterback a lot. That’s not hyperbole; that’s just the way it is. In fact, no other defender (in addition to picking up more sacks) knocked the quarterback to the ground more in the 2011 regular season. He managed a massive 32, practically guaranteeing a painful Monday morning for quarterbacks. Throw in working on a line that also features Kevin Williams (12 sacks and hits) and Brian Robison (14) and you’re looking at a unit that is ready to inflict a lot of pain on passers. That’s going to be critical in the NFC North.
2) That Line Wasn’t as Bad as You Thought and It Just Got Better
When your team gives up a number of sacks, or your quarterbacks appear to be running for their life all too often, the offensive line always takes the blame. Traditionally a weak spot for a Vikings team that has relied on Adrian Peterson to mask their deficiencies, 2011 was something of a turning point for the guys up front. Sure, Charlie Johnson had some struggles, but he was never as bad as some made him out to be. Indeed, most of the protection problems came from the quarterbacks themselves, with the player charged responsibility on most sacks being Christian Ponder (11). As a matter of fact, the line itself, led by John Sullivan (+22.5) ended the year our seventh ranked offensive line. Losing Steve Hutchinson hurt, but the possible addition of a franchise left tackle makes this a line trending upwards.
3) A Big Year for Erin Henderson?
We didn’t make any secret of our love of the play of Erin Henderson last year. He rarely found himself playing every down (a crying shame) but he was still able to turn 590 snaps in to a +21.8 grade. Only three 4-3 outside linebackers better this grade. Our own Sam Monson broke down the linebacker here and if you’ve got a second, read that to see what an impact he can make. It remains to be seen who rounds out the trio, but we do like the look of a linebacker group that contains Henderson and Chad Greenway.