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27 Nov 2007

Any Given Sunday: Vikings over Giants

by Ned Macey

Analysis of an NFL upset usually involves multiple dimensions. In the Meadowlands last Sunday, the Giants fell 41-17 almost exclusively because of their inept passing attack. The Vikings scored three touchdowns off of Eli Manning passes and brought another interception back within the ten-yard line. The game was an unmitigated disaster for the Giants quarterback and exposed New York as a team that built an impressive record by feasting on mediocre competition.

As a former number one pick with the last name "Manning," Eli has been subjected to a great deal of unfair scrutiny. He is in no way as good as his brother, but he has established himself as an average quarterback in this league. This year, however, he has struggled mightily at times, and his lack of accuracy down the field has proved to be his undoing.

Before we get to the negative, perspective on Manning's ability is necessary. His status as the first overall pick hardly guaranteed success. Nine quarterbacks were drafted first overall between 1990 and 2005. Of those nine, the only two who are clearly better players than Eli are his brother Peyton and Carson Palmer. Arguments on behalf of Drew Bledsoe or Michael Vick are reasonable, but Manning appears clearly a step ahead of Alex Smith, David Carr, Tim Couch, or even Jeff George. He is, in fact, average for what a first overall quarterback has come to be.

Had Manning been drafted at the top of the third round, he would be a steal. If he had come out of nowhere, like Carolina's Jake Delhomme, we would appreciate his moxie and rarely lament his shortcomings. Instead, his background has made him a convenient target for criticism.

All that being said, Manning should not be above reproach, and his performance on Sunday is certainly worthy of criticism. The Giants offense was short its top two running backs and playing a Minnesota defense that excels against the run. Their fate was therefore placed in the right hand of their franchise quarterback.

Manning actually came out sharp, orchestrating a scoring drive on the Giants' first possession. From that point forward, he floundered. He was 3-17 the rest of the first half with two interceptions. That level of play goes beyond embarrassing to a world of incompetence known only to rare talents like Ryan Leaf or Doug Pederson.

The Vikings' game plan highlighted a strong reason for Manning's decline this season. The Vikings attacked Manning the same way they did Philip Rivers a few weeks ago: heavy blitzing. This blitz attack dialed up by defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier was more diverse than the game plan against San Diego. The Vikings came from all angles with linebackers and safeties.

With a heavy blitz coming, the most elementary counter is the screen pass. The Giants have been one of the great screen teams of recent seasons with Tiki Barber at running back. Without him, the screen game hardly appeared, and the end result was Manning forcing wild throws down the field.

Just three weeks ago, the retirement of Barber was being treated as a non-issue. Brandon Jacobs stepped in admirably for Barber on running plays and was among the most productive runners in football. The Giants were 7-2 and widely considered one of the best three teams in the NFC. The loss of Barber was almost being treated as addition by subtraction.

Barber, however, was not just a great runner but also a real weapon out of the backfield in pass patterns. Manning threw frequently to Tiki on both designed passes and dumpoffs to great effect. Last year, Manning had a DVOA of 12.4% when he threw to running backs. This year, it is an abysmal -21.0%. For those more interested in traditional numbers, Manning has ranked ninth in pass attempts to running backs each of the past two seasons. Last year, he was eighth in yards, while this year he is 15th.

Barber's retirement is obviously not the sole reason for Manning's struggles this season. Plaxico Burress has battled an ankle injury and practiced only rarely. The offensive line has been adequate but rarely provided outstanding protection. Still, Barber provided stability and identity to the offense that also served to open up opportunities for other receivers.

The truth is that the Giants were not 6-2 because of the retirement of Tiki Barber, Clubhouse Lawyer. The Giants were 6-2 because they are a pretty good team that was beating up on inferior competition. Not one of the first six teams they beat currently sports a winning record. Even including their most recent win against 6-5 Detroit, the Giants have not beaten a team in the top 10 of Football Outsiders' DVOA rankings. Their best win came over a 12th-ranked Eagles team that was banged-up that week, featuring Donovan McNabb and two dozen extras from Invincible who were still hanging around Philadelphia begging for a tryout.

The good news for Giants fans was that before Sunday, they had only lost to exceptional teams in Dallas and Green Bay. That obviously changed against Minnesota, a flawed team with some exceptional parts that is sitting on the outskirts of the playoff race. The flaws are a horrendous pass attack and a suspect pass defense. Just last week, that pass defense allowed 344 yards passing to the hapless Oakland Raiders. Not once this season has the Vikings primary quarterback thrown for more yards than the opponents.

Some of that, of course, has to do with the Vikings' outstanding run defense and very good run offense. Opponents go to the air early and often, while the Vikings are content to grind it out on the ground. In all but two games, the Vikings have had the leading rusher among running backs.

Defensively, the Vikings are finally hinting at changing their strategy after nearly two years of exposing the same liabilities. In recent weeks, they have sacrificed run defense to help improve the pass defense. These tweaks have not all been successful -- the embarrassing 34-0 loss to Green Bay comes to mind -- but the net gain has been a positive. The Vikings have won three of their last four games and effectively embarrassed Rivers and Manning.

The blitz-heavy approach featured in those two contests may return in the next three weeks against a series of easily rattled quarterbacks: Jon Kitna, Alex Smith, and Rex Grossman. In fact, the Vikings can seriously start thinking about playoff possibilities in the woeful NFC. The only somewhat difficult road game remaining is at Denver, and the only opponent with a winning record is the somewhat fraudulent Lions. At 5-6, the Vikings have a solid chance of finishing at least 8-8, which could get them into the tournament if the tiebreakers go their way.

One other key from Sunday's game that will be imperative for a Minnesota run is the mistake-free play of Tarvaris Jackson. Jackson is exhibiting very mild growth as a quarterback. His 60-yard touchdown pass to the emerging Sidney Rice on the second play of the game was an outstanding throw. He also had several nice scrambles. Most importantly, in a game the Vikings defense was dominating, he did not make a crucial mistake (although he did fumble in the first half, only to luckily see the Vikings recover for a first down).

The Vikings' lack of faith in Jackson was apparent by the constant slamming of Chester Taylor into a defense stacked to defend against the run. Taylor carried 31 times for only 77 yards. Adrian Peterson may return from injury this upcoming weekend, but even he would have struggled for yards given the lack of holes Taylor was provided.

For the Vikings, it is too soon to tell both if the Jackson-Rice combo will provide a legitimate passing attack or if their pass defense can consistently harass opposing quarterbacks. The season-long performance says assuredly not, but recent hints of competence can surely encourage Vikings fans. The truth is, the Vikings currently rank 10th overall in DVOA rankings, ahead of the Giants. They should not have to be hoping for lucky bounces going forward, but lamenting unlucky bounces that cost them games against inferior teams in Detroit and Kansas City earlier this season.

For New York, the headlines have already been written. They will limp into the playoffs and be exposed, with the story spun as another late-season collapse. The difference this year is that the Giants were never very good. Tom Coughlin may lose his job over the perceived fade, but he has performed admirably given the team's talent. Nonetheless, his ouster may be deserved for having forced his franchise quarterback's security blanket into early retirement before the season.

Each Tuesday in Any Given Sunday, Ned Macey looks at the most surprising result of the previous weekend. The NFL sells itself on the idea that any team can win any given game, but we use these surprises as a tool to explore what trends and subtle aspects of each team are revealed in a single game.

Posted by: Ned Macey on 27 Nov 2007

54 comments, Last at 28 Nov 2007, 9:49pm by Jin

Comments

1
by Insancipitory (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 2:16pm

So what's the over/under on the Giants returning (again) to the familiar Qwest field? :) I just want to know so I have enough time to buy glue and glitter for my "QUIET! Eli can't think!" sign.

2
by Lee Gibbons (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 2:41pm

The Giants have beat the Redskins as well who are ranked one slot ahead of the Eagles at 11th.

3
by Huh? (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 2:41pm

Geez, did you even watch the game? Some of his int's were off of tipped balls and miscommunication with his receivers. Giants gameplan stunk with no execution from the other players. On top of that, their offensive line has not played all that well the last 3 games.

4
by SuperBears (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 3:09pm

How were the Vikings in the dropped passes department? Against the Bears it was the worst performance by WR's I had ever seen (and I watch the Lions regularly).

5
by Zak (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 3:09pm

It was a tough day for Eli, but some of the blame needs to be put on the receivers. Some of the mistakes seemed to be Eli expecting receivers to adjust their routes because of the blitz with the adjustments not happening. Other mistakes seemed to be expecting Burress to run proper routes even though his ankle didn't allow him to make cuts.

One of the reasons he gets so much scrutiny is the way he orchestrated his trade out of San Diego. If you are going to pull that kind of stuff, you'd better be John Elway.

6
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 3:13pm

One int was tipped, and another potential int was merely postponed, when Cedric Griffin dropped the ball. Every time a receiver and qb aren't on the same page, it does not mean it was the receiver's fault. Manning stared down his receivers, which made ints much more likely. He stunk.

Manning is very similar to Vick in some ways actually; his primary shortcoming is that his team's management sacrificed way too much to acquire him, and has devoted too much cap space to retain his services. Woe be to those who draft at the top of the first round, and yes, that includes you, Al Davis. Although Manning should certainly be ripped when he plays like he did Sunday, the fact that he is paid too much and too much was given up to acquire him is not his responsibility. Go scream at the comfortablyt retired Arcosi, Giants fans.

As to the Vikings, I don't care where their offensive DVOA rank ends up this week. They remain a poor team offensively until they can exact a heavy price through the air from teams which sell out completely to stop the run. Yes, they could win four of their remaining five. Unfortunately, they could also nearly just as easily lose four of their remaining five, given how simple they are to scheme for by opposing defensive coordinators.

7
by croxall (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 3:21pm

I think this semi-emergence of the Vikings is possibly a bad thing for the franchise long term, as much as that might seem a strange thing to say.

I say that because at best they can hope to limp into the playoffs this year, where they would surely lose early, (and I’m not sold on them being a consistent enough team to get to 8-8, their schedule notwithstanding), while Wilf has already committed to Childress for 2008, and I simply am not convinced that he is ever going to make it as an above average NFL head coach.

With the way the business model is set up in Minnesota, the team needs to be winning and playing well very soon. And I don’t buy that this apparent emergence is for real.

As was commented on this page after the San Diego game, that game was more or less a dream matchup for Minnesota – an offense based on power running and a defense that has worn down horribly in the second half of games this year. The Raiders are, well, the Raiders, and the story here is not that Minnesota were fantastic but that they were solid and New York collapsed and made enough mistakes to hand them the game.

On the other hand, the game they lost to Green Bay was a total ass-kicking. Do you see what I’m getting at here? This to me, along with Minnesota’s inconsistency this year, has false dawn written all over it.

Similarly I don’t buy into Tavaris Jackson’s apparent improvement. Yeah, it’s good for him to build his confidence and all, and yes, it could be the start of more substantial improvement, but for Christ’s sake, he only threw 12 passes on Sunday. Against San Diego I saw him hit Marlon McCree right in the hands on a quick slant! Again, this just has false dawn plastered all over it. And if it dissuades Minnesota from doing some serious quarterback shopping this offseason then I think that’s a major mistake.

There is some talent in Minnesota, it’s not a team in a really horrible mess by any means. I just think that it’s going to miss out on an opportunity to be more than an average team if they don’t make some moves soon, canning Childress and doing what it takes to get a decent starting quarterback. If both Childress and Jackson show enough to merit being kept around, but ultimately not enough to get the team to 11, 12 wins at least then they’re treading water.

8
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 3:29pm

Also, while the Vikings did sacrifice some run stopping to try to defend against Favre's passing a couple of weeks ago, it certainly didn't entail the blitzing that Frazier employed against Rivers and Eli Manning. If Frazier had been that unwise, the Packers likely would have scored 34 points in the first half.

Frazier, I think, is a future head coach. He is very good at recognition of the strenghts and weaknesses of his personnel, and adjusting scheme, according to opponent. His scheme against Favre was sound; make the Packers drive the length of the field with shorter passes and runs, and then try to make them kick field goals, and if the Vikings offense had not been so completely inept, the results defensively may have been much better. The Vikings simply don't have the personnel on defense to match up well with an outstanding, experienced, quarterback and receiver corps, by being very aggressive with blitzes and jamming the recievers. Especially when their best cornerback, Winfield, is inactive due to injury, as he has been the past three weeks. Fortunately, the Vikings have played the Raiders and Giants for the past two.

9
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 3:34pm

The positive for the Vikings is that the issues that require attention are incredibly obvious which provides.

The negative is that most of these existed at the end of LAST season and Brad Childress and cohorts did little to address said issues. Barring the owner or a crazed fan (not to give Will any ideas) grabbing him by the shirt collar and screaming "FIND A QUARTERBACK!!! FIND SOME PASS DEFENDERS!!!" I have my doubts anytihng will get accomplished before Pat Williams knees finally collapse.

Though Viking fans can anticipate watching The Purple Jesus keep them around .500 and sprining the upset every so often.

So there's that......

10
by Kurt (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 3:36pm

The two big problems the Giants have right now on offense, apart from Bad Eli appearances, are the injuries to Jacobs and Burress. With Jacobs out the Vikings didn't have to play the run, and with Burress hobbled there was no deep threat. So the Vikings could just sit on the intermediate routes.

I thought Tarvaris looked pretty good. He hit the bomb, he escaped from pressure well, he didn't turn the ball over and the quick slant on 3rd and 4 during the long drive in the third quarter was impossible for the Giants to stop.

11
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 3:37pm

Should have been "provides focus"

It's interesting how among some Viking fans Brad Childress went from complete bum to doing a good job on the basis of two wins.

12
by Jesse (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 3:49pm

Unstoppable. Eli Manning is. So is his Citizen Ecodrive watch. Fueled by the sun, it never needs a battery. It's unstoppable, just like the people who wear it.

13
by JasonK (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 4:01pm

#10: True. I'll add that, without a dangerous RB (Bradshaw looked good, but he's still a big pass protection liability), Eli was without his best passing weapon-- an excellent play-action fake.

14
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 4:01pm

Jackson has made enough improvement from the beginning of the year to say that it wouldn't be a miracle for him to eventually be an above average starter in the NFL. I sure hope he doesn't lose any more time to injury this year, because the Vikings need every quarter available to get more data with which to evaluate him. They really need Rice healthy too, since he is the only wide receiver with enough skill to give a fair opportunity for a qb to demonstrate progress.

If they don't try to bring in McNabb this off-season, which they would be crazy to not attempt, they still need to replace Bollinger and Holcomb, still need to add at least two receivers, and still need help at corner and safety, unless Griffin and McCauley start showing significant progress at corner. Gosh, if they could sign some talent at corner (too bad they let Brian Williams go to the Jaguars, so they could sign Fred Smoot, yachting enhtusiast), in anticipation of moving Winfield to safety some day, that would be nice. I actually think there may be some significant pass rushing talent at defensive end now.

15
by DCD12 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 4:09pm

I'm still utterly perplexed that the Giants have taken the deep pass completely out of the playbook. Is Sinorice Moss so bad that he can't be counted on to run a go pattern once in a while?

16
by jd (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 4:15pm

Sorry, but this article is not very insightful. The Giants didn't miss tiki, they missed Brandon Jacobs. Droughns is done and Bradshaw is a nice runner who hasn't learned to pick up the blitz - he almost got Eli killed. Ward would have helped too. This team is not worse without tiki; Jacobs can catch a screen pass just as well as tiki could, plus he's not a little bitch.

17
by Jon (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 4:21pm

16 - agreed, except that Barber was a true Giant. I will never understand how anyone can criticize him or Parcells after what they gave the franchise. Anyway, pass protection was a big issue too. Diehl was great at the beginning of the year, but I think he's starting to wear down. It's amazing that he's played as well as he has to this point. We will probably be looking for a top left tackle soon, and possibly a WR too if Steve Smith can't stay healthy. This all in addition to our myriad problems at CB.

18
by mshray (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 4:25pm

#12 - ROTFL!

19
by Black Squirrel (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 4:28pm

As a Giants fan, I think this piece is fair for the most part. I'm an Eli supporter, but calling this game an unmitigated disaster is fair. Sure, Burress is playing hurt and Jacobs was out, but the Vikings pass defense is poor, and Eli should have had at least a decent game even without his full arsenal.

The conclusion is a little too pessimistic, IMO, because Eli, as well as most NFL QBs, have these "sh*t happens" kind of games. Romo was horrible against Buffalo. Peyton was horrible against the Chargers. Rivers was horrible against the Vikings. If Eli is his normal self, the Giants' best game still beats every other team in the NFC besides those of Green Bay and Dallas.

20
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 4:28pm

Any Giants fans with regrets about Ryan Grant?

The guy isn't a gamebreaker but boy does he run HARD. I don't know if anyone noticed but he sent a Lions db to the sidelines after a punishing finish to one of his few runs and he did the same thing in several other games. Grant has also gotten progressively better on catching the ball out of the backfield.

Not trying to play "gotcha". Just curious if any Giants fans can tell me what management wanted from the guy.

And no, this isn't just playing with Favre. The Packers tried several guys who were pretty sad in various phases of the game......

21
by DC (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 4:40pm

croxall:

Agreed that Jackson has a long way to go to prove he can be the kind of quarterback the Vikings have been looking for since Culpepper's knee was shredded in Carolina.

I did see improvements from him against the Giants, however. He was decisive and accurate in where he was throwing the ball (even if it was only 12 times) and in the second half he seemed to catch on that if no receiver is open, it's not a bad thing to try to run for a first down. Maybe all is not lost.

Still, whomever coaches the Vikings next year needs to bring in a veteran quarterback to push Jackson and take over for him. Jackson still needs another year or two as an understudy. And to do that, the Vikings will have to trade for a quarterback because the free agency cupboard at that position is looking pretty bare.

Bringing in another competent wide receiver to assist that QB and Sidney Rice is also a must.

22
by Blackthunder (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 4:41pm

re: 20

Ryan Grant is a "hindsight is 20/20" kind of thing.

Jacobs was the starter all along, and Ward was the backup all along. The front office figured "We could let Grant rot on the bench or get a draft pick for him" and went with the draft pick.

Can't really fault them for not envisioning both Jacobs and Ward getting hurt.

23
by Xian (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 4:51pm

#11 - It’s interesting how among some Viking fans Brad Childress went from complete bum to doing a good job on the basis of two wins.

In my experience, that's the Average Joe Vikings fan for you.

Then again, that fan doesn't bother me quite as much as the mid-late-90s fair-weather Packers fans did. I really shouldn't harbor that sort of grudge for so long, but they gave the rest of us a bad name.

Not a Giants fan, but it's certainly possible that Grant is a good fit for the new zone-blocking scheme the Packers are attempting to run, and not as good a fit for whatever scheme the Giants run.

24
by JasonK (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 4:55pm

#20:

Grant has looked impressive, I'll give you that. But, IMO, it's tough to criticize management for deciding to keep the 5 guys they did. Jacobs is the starter, Ward is a backup with more experience than Grant (and who played very well as a starter when healthy), Droughns is for short yardage and veteran depth, and Bradshaw won the "young guy to develop" spot on the roster. Maybe they should've hung onto Grant instead of Bradshaw, but it's too early to judge that one (plus, Bradshaw is younger and under contract for longer). In hindsight, they should've kept him in place of Droughns, but I can understand them wanting one RB with a couple of seasons of starting experience under his belt.

For now, getting a 6th-rounder for a former UDFA you were going to cut anyway is always a good move. (Although, if the rumors that GB had first offered Mason Crosby instead of the draft pick are true, that might've been a better way to go.)

25
by croxall (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 5:04pm

DC:

I'm not saying he's not making some progress, all I think is that it's all too easy to get way too carried away here based on a very small sample size in a game where some unrepeatable things happened (I'm thinking of the interception returns). Just because he goes 25 throws without making an 'Oh my God I can't believe he just did that' throw (like the one McCree dropped that I mentioned), it doesn't mean he's arrived. But clearly you're not in that camp.

I think the Vikings should keep Jackson, pick up the best available free agent/trade AND look to pick one up early in the draft if there's someone there they remotely like. Anything less shows to me that Childress et al haven't learned their lesson about the value of the quarterback position.

As Badger rightly points out, the weaknesses on the Vikings roster are basically what everyone said they were going to be at the start of the year - and they had a chance to do something about it, they had choices. Compare and contrast with the way the Bucs managed the position this past offseason (I don't just mean Garcia).

What's the story with McNabb reportedly not liking Childress? Anyone got any insight there, would that be a barrier to getting him to Minnesota? If I was the Eagles I wouldn't trade him anyway, but that's another matter.

26
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 5:04pm

Again, not trying to be cute. Just honestly curious.

As to Grant being a better fit for the Packers running scheme I wonder how much that matters since the interior line of the Packers has stunk all season. So any running back able to generate positive yardage with such inept guard play would almost certainly be solid in ANY scheme.

I know some think I am being unduly harsh as the "stats" don't really support my contention (adjusted sack rate, etc.) But if you watch the film you regularly see guys like Colledge, Spitz and Moll getting shoved around, shoved back and generally manhandled. Only superior tackles, a scrappy center playing over his head and qb with Spidey sense has kept the offense from drowning in a sea of sacks and busted plays.

27
by croxall (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 5:19pm

Badger

I've seen all the GB games this year, I certainly think there's a weakness there that isn't apparent in the stats, but equally I have seen some signs of progress from the interior in recent weeks.

Colledge had a particularly rough day at the office in Kansas City, but to be fair it's not an easy place for a visiting O lineman to play. Yeah, he needs to add strength I agree but I am encouraged by both Spitz and Colledge as the season goes on. I do feel that you tend to mildly overstate the weakness in the middle of Green Bay's line.

I think to an extent we were all just spoiled by the line play when Ahman Green was at his peak.

28
by Jin (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 5:50pm

Will you and I are on the same wavelength, I was thinking the Vikings should go after Asante Samuel and move Winfield to FS to take Dwight Smith's spot. Another target of mine would be Jared Allen if the Chiefs let him go. Yeah I know all about his character issues but its just too tempting to put him on the same line as the Williams Wall.

And in case anyone was wondering, the Vikings have more cap room than anybody.

29
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 5:54pm

croxall:

Folks keep talking about the GB corners against the Dallas receivers but I think the more telling matchup is the Dallas front seven against the Green Bay O-line. Dallas knows their secondary is challenged. They obviously can tell Favre is the fulcrum of the Packer offense. That five wide setup may work against a mediocre line or against a defense reluctant to blitz. But I suspect Dallas has no reservations.

Folks can think I am poormouthing but the only guard on the roster playing quality football is Coston and the guy can't stay healthy. And if Moll has to take over for Tauscher should Mark's ankle flare up that means the whole right side could be exposed.

If Number 4 gets out of Dallas with all four limbs in tact I will be greatly pleased.

30
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 6:01pm

There is no way the Chiefs will let Jared Allen go, short of behavior which results in a one year suspension anyways. It's great to have plenty of cap room, but that won't replace wisdom. It's not always simple to seperate the Winfields and Hutchinsons from the Smoots.

31
by Tundrapat (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 6:08pm

Not much to add at this point in the conversation; as a Vikings fan, (and apparently not your 'Average Joe Vikings Fan'), I still think Childress will be, at best, a decent or good HC. For what it's worth, I am glad that the Vikings have found their backup QB of the future. Now we (they) just need to find the starter.

What really troubles me about the franchise is the scouting and management. As good as Sidney Rice sometimes looks...another high-pick WR? Did the GM look around at the NFC North and say, 'we need to adapt our competition's strategy' prior to drafting Williamson and Rice? Has anyone (being lazy now) gone through to see how well the Vikes are building through the draft (i.e., how many players from the past 8 or so years are still on their roster)? Because I just can't trust the guys who take 'speed-only' WRs in the early part of the draft, and who pick a 4th-round QB in the 2nd round.

32
by Tundrapat (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 6:09pm

As much as I'd like some serious pass-rushing ability on the line, I'd go after Haynesworth before Jared Allen. The Williams Wall can't hold up much longer...

33
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 6:11pm

Badger, I like Favre's chances of finding open hot receivers against a blitz-happy Cowboys defense. Maybe I was insufficently impressed by the way the Cowboys needed to return a blocked field goal against the Vikings to pull away in Irving, but Romo's typical effectiveness while pressured aside (which is no small thing, to be sure), the Cowboys have appeared to me to be a little less dominant than is indicated by the w-l record or even the advanced stats.

34
by Jon (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 6:15pm

I'd prefer Grant to Droughns, but that's not saying much. Grant has had fumbling issues in the past. He is a good fit for the zone blocking scheme, but there's little evidence to this point that he's anything more than that. Bradshaw is going to be a good one after he nails down the secondary aspects of the position.

35
by andrew (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 6:16pm

Well Zygi has declared Childress "safe" Thru 2008 at least.

I've generally thought him (Childress) a good play schemer, his main problems seeming to lie in the inability to admit errors (and correct them if a meant implying fault) along w/ some communications Problems... but he has improved in these regards. I still Think he might Turn The Corner.

36
by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 6:19pm

Regarding the GB game lets get some perspective. Yes the score was 34-0 but everything went GB's way. GB averaged 6.1 to Minnesota's 5.5 per play. Minnesota was 0-11 on third and 4th down and GB was 13-19. There was a two touchdown swing on tipped passes (one an easy int Sharper botched and another Mewelde Moore botched).

Yes GB is a better team but the 34-0 is no more indicative of the difference in these teams than is the 41-17 score in the Giants game.

37
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 6:24pm

tundrapat, the people making final draft decisions prior to 2006 are no longer with the Vikings, and the '06 and '07 drafts look very strong right now. In contrast, the '05 draft might have been the worst in team history, and as Denny Green gained near total final draft authority, the selections became more and more questionable, with the notable exception of Moss.

The Vikings would have been inexcusably incompetent if they had not drafted at least two wrs last spring. They had enjoyed zero success in trading for one or signing a free agent, no doubt in part due to their qb position being so unsettled. Someone has to play the position, and since the guys on the roster last year sucked, they had no choice to draft some, including on the first day.

Haynesworth looks like a classic contract-driven player to me this year, who will likely return to his inconsistent ways after he gets a huge bonus.

38
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 6:28pm

jimm:

Other than the colossal gap at the quarterback position and GB being able to rush the passer.

C'mon. GB beat'em square up two years running. And in 2 of the last three the Vikings offense has been the very definition of "inept". Or have you forgotten that stellar 104 yards of total offense in Lambeau in December of last season?

When Childress finds someone who can consistently handle a forward pass I think the Vikes will be serious players in the NFC. 'Til then, it's wishful thinking......

39
by kevinNYC (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 6:31pm

#22... EXACTLY. Ward was a top 10 DVOA RB before getting injured. Jacobs was a top 5 DVOA RB before getting hurt for the second time. Droughns had the 2nd best DVOA for all RBs with a small number of carries. He's been VERY good in his role as short yardage back. Bradshaw looked the best of all the RBs (Grant included) in the preseason and has been a good kick returner when he holds onto the ball. He also looked very good in limited play on Sunday. Trading Grant, as opposed to having him signed off the practice squad, was NOT a bad move.

Ned, use your brain for half a second. The Giants finally lose a game to a team that wasn't top 4 in DVOA and now they were "never that good in the first place"? Without the Miami game, the Vikings wouldn't even be ahead of the Giants overall.

40
by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 6:39pm

"The Vikings are 10th in DVOA."

Two years ago the Vikings had a very old 8-8 team with no offensive talent. Tice had a little run at the end of the year because the schedule was so weak which led people to believe that Childress took over a semi-talented roster.

In a year and half Childress has taken that team to 10th in DVOA. He's done it with a 24 year old QB, 22 Year old Superstar running back and 21 year old receiver. He also added 3 young CB's and one LB into the mix and has solidified the offensive line. In short, he's made the team a lot better at the same time he's made it a lot younger. That is a significant accomplishment in my mind.

41
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 6:42pm

Will:

The Packers have a guy like that only clearly not playing at Albert's level. Corey Williams has been really good all season holding his gaps and generating an inside rush. But the Packers have been down this road before most recently with Cletidus Hunt who was just a guy until his contract year and then had a stellar season. Only to tank the following year and was soon out of the league.

Beware the defensive tackle suddenly showing effort!

42
by Tundrapat (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 6:49pm

Will - I understand that the Vikes needed WRs, although had they not traded away Burleson they would be in (slightly) better position. I just can't understand why, after pursuing a smallish guy whose college game consisted of 'go route and beat the DB with speed' in the first round, would basically do the same thing again the next year. These kinds of guys can be had in the mid-rounds of the draft.

And I'd also like to point out that, as paid professionals, the Minnesota brain trust should realize that very good WRs can be found late in the draft, from smaller schools. TO went to UT-Chattanooga, Colston was at - Hofstra, I think?...even Jerry Rice came out of Middle Tennessee. Point being, the early picks should be spent on a franchise QB (and ONLY if he really looks seasoned and polished), the O-line, RB, and the defense.

43
by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 6:50pm

38. BadgerT1000 - I'm not arguing GB isn't a better team, they are, but the 34-0 score had a lot to do with good fortune as opposed to a huge difference in ability. Further, GB is likely the 2nd or 3rd best team in the league. Childress's accomplishments should not be lessened because GB's brain-trust has been nothing short of brilliant in what they've accomplished over the past two seasons.

44
by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 6:54pm

Viking draft picks past two years - rounds 1-4.

2006

Greenway LB (starter)
Griffin CB (starter)
Cook RT (starter)
Jackson QB (starter)
Edwards DE (starter)

2007

Peterson RB (starter)
Rice WR (starter)
McCauley CB (starter or nickel)
Robison DE (situational - leads team in sacks)

That's 9 contributors in two drafts on the 10th best team in the league. Do you see why I'm getting excited about this team?

45
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 7:29pm

Tundrapat, the old regime didn't trade away Burleson. They made, iirc, a third round tender for him, and then declined to match the Seahawks poison pill offer. Given their weakness at the position, they might have considered making a higher offer for Burleson, but that was the same crew that thought Troy Williamson was a good choice. Equating Sideney Rice with Williamson is entirely inaccurate, for reasons of college system and production, if nothing else. Rice actually demonstrated that he had skills beyond speed while in college.

Regarding which rounds certain positions should be reserved for, I must disagree. Heck, I can find Hall of Famers taken in low rounds at every position. Don't overthink it. Take whomever you think is most likely to be a productive player, while not completely ignoring need. The last two drafts seem to be a good example of following this path.

46
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 7:35pm

Jimm:

Understood. Though GB has been lucky. Nobody anticipated Kampman becoming a premiere DE. That Charles Woodson would not ONLY show consistent effort at a fairly high level but ALSO play tough, that Greg Jennings would evolve from collegiate possession receiver to pro deep threat, and Donald Lee going from fumble-prone tease to solid TE. Ted Thompson HOPED for ONE of these things (Woodson). To have ALL of them happen at once is luck.

47
by Tundrapat (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 8:18pm

Will and Jimm -

I stand corrected, then. As you pointed out, the past 2 drafts have produced some quality material, and they are building from a new, younger core. I can live with that. And you're right about the Burleson loss - which ticked me off (in my other role as a Seahawks fan) because of the obvious 'retributive strike' quality after the 'Hawks completely pooched the Hutchinson deal.

For now, though, I will continue to think of Jackson as their 'backup QB of the future'.

48
by Duff Soviet Union (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 9:53pm

Hey, where's Chris? In an article where it is suggested that Michael Vick might be better than Eli Manning, the Giants miss Tiki Barber and that Tavaris Jackson might not be completely useless (gotta disagree there), I was expecting a crazed 2000 word rant by now.

49
by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 11:29pm

Tundrapat - Regarding Burleson, I think the Vikings gaged the market correctly for tendering Burleson with a 3rd rounder, but once they pulled the poison pill stunt with Hutchinson Seattle signed Burleson out of spite. In effect it worked out to Burleson for Hutchinson - I'll take that deal any day as a Viking fan.

50
by Jin (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 12:36am

Tundrapat, comparing Williamson and Rice is like comparing polar opposites, the only thing they have in common is that they went to the same college.

Troy Williamson's only real skill is that he can run fast in a straight line. He has poor hands and terrible ball skills on the deep ball and is not a good route runner.

As for Rice, I don't even know where you get the idea that he's a speed WR, his speed is merely above average. Nowhere in his scouting report was speed as a plus, his strengths are his superior hands and ball skills, his 6'4 frame plus a 40 vertical that make a red zone target (see the TD catch he made against the Packers). He is quick in getting in and out of routes plus he had 24 TDs in only 2 yrs of college ball (he's 21 now, 20 when he was drafted) so you can see how much potential he has. I was ecstatic when the Vikes took him as he was my fav WR in the draft other than Calvin Johnson.

51
by DG (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 2:52am

As a Giant fan who's gone to school in Madison and Austin, I've watched lots of Packers and Cowboys games over the years. I believe the Packers will show that they are substantially better than the Cowboys on Thursday night. The Cowboys pass defense is vulnerable. The key will be how well the Packers OL protects Favre from Roy Williams, Greg Ellis and DeMarcus Ware. I really wanted the Giants to draft Jennings instead of Sinorice Moss in 2006. If I were Jerry Reese, I would have kept Grant over Droughns, but I understand the situation. I'm happy with what the Giants have; they just need Jacobs badly.

52
by Jimmy (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 7:04pm

I think Grant was an upgrade on the scrubs the Pack had on the roster (and has played like it). I think his style (fast, hits the gaps quickly and a bit of a slasher) suits a team with a great passing attack like the Packers. Playing the player comparison game can be flawed, but he does remind me strongly of Charlie Garner for the John Gruden Raiders. The comparisons run quite deep in terms of scheme; West Coast passing team, deep set of receivers, veteran QB playing out of his skin. As both players run so vertically it helps linemen as they don't have to hold their blocks as long, the same is true for receivers blocking downfield.

53
by Jimmy (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 7:05pm

#28, Jin

Where do you get your projected cap figures from?

Do you have a link?

54
by Jin (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 9:49pm

Jimmy, I didn't get the projected cap figures from anywhere, it was when the details of Pat Williams extension came out and people saw the likely to be earned incentives for this year (teams use that "trick" in contracts to move money from this year's cap to next years) and they moved a nice chunk, and it was reported that it put the Vikings at the expected top of the heap.

It's not hard to believe, the Vikings were around the top in terms of cap room but no really good players (other than Jeff Garcia) in the positions that they needed (pass rushing DE, WR, DB).

This time around there should be at least one big time player that they could use (Asante Samuel).