Back in the day when I was a helicopter pilot in the Army and Air Force (Oh boy, here we go) we had two cardinal rules concerning weather:
1) Never fly into a thunderstorm. Only bad things can happen.
2) If you violate rule number 1, you're an idiot. Be that as it may, never turn around once in it. Just fly straight and get out of it as soon as you can.
If you live, you come out on the other side to rainbows and sunshine. Or a monochromatic green landscape if you're flying with night vision goggles. And unicorns. And poopy pants. And hysterical laughter that you actually lived. I got into some bad weather once while flying a mission with NVG's, and it was quite the memorable experience. Came up out of nowhere, and before I knew it, I was a bona fide idiot.
The Vikings have flown right into a thunderstorm, and the only way out is to fly right through it. One of the things that will help them get to the rainbows and unicorns on the other side is talent, and the only way to figure out what kind of talent they have behind the veterans that might not be back next year is to start playing the reserves.
So, after the jump, let's look at some starting lineups I'd like to see moving forward for the rest of the season.
For the backfield, if Adrian Peterson is healthy, obviously he plays. He takes the most pressure off of Christian Ponder and the passing game, so that's a no brainer. Speaking of Ponder, duh, he plays. It was the right call going with him, and we're going to have to live with the trials and tribulations of a rookie starting in the NFL. It will pay dividends in the long run.
Now, let's talk receivers. Percy Harvin, no brainer. After Harvin, Michael Jenkins has been okay, but we know we have a decent to good player in him. Devin Aromashodu has been inconsistent, but seems to have some big play ability, but what do we know about Stephen Burton? That's right, virtually nothing. Get him in the mix. Put him and Aromashodu on the field at the same time, see what we have.
At tight end, start Rudolph. No disrespect to Visanthe Shiancoe, but I doubt he'll be here next year. Make Rudolph the starter and don't look back.
Now, the toxic waste dump that is the offensive line. Unless it would mean the on field death of a member of the backfield, let's start making some changes. Start Patrick Brown over Charlie Johnson. Johnson has been a gamer, but he's just not any good. Steve Hutchinson is getting by on reputation at this point, but he's still the best option at LG. John Sullivan has been okay at center, and I think Joe Berger has been okay at RG, but he might give Sullivan a run for his money. If you move Berger to C, throw Fusco in at RG--I thought he's played well in what limited action I can remember. At RT, start DeMarcus Love. Or start him at LT and flop Brown over to the right. So, your new offense:
TE: Rudolph/The People's Champion
What, like it couldn't be any worse than we've been watching?
On defense, it's time to end the Remi Ayodele era, and I think the Vikings have pretty much done that. He was listed as a starter yesterday, but it seemed to me that Christian Ballard was on the field more than Ayodele was. Maybe it was a situational thing, maybe not. So I roll with Kevin Williams and Ballard at tackle, with Letroy Guion and Fred Evans rotating in. At end, has anyone seen Brian Robison in the last four or five games? I know he recovered a fumble yesterday, but after a strong start, what's happened? I'm almost ready to see what Everson Griffen can do as a starter...but I think I might like him better at linebacker.
Speaking of linebacker, I thought Kenny Onatolu did okay yesterday, but I like Erin Henderson. With Jaspar Brinkley going on IR at the beginning of the season, there's really not a lot of wiggle room, and as inconsistent as Chad Greenway has been in pass coverage, he's a good tackler and better than Larry Dean. But how about putting Griffen at LB, in place of Erin Henderson? He's fast enough to be a gunner on special teams, and he's a solid tackler. Line him up on the outside, and let him cover the TE and RB's coming out of the backfield--it seems that he has the size and speed to do so. I love E.J. Henderson, love him. The guy is just a sports warrior, and the fact that he came back from that broken leg speaks volumes about his heart and his will. But...E.J has lost a step, and has been dogged by a knee injury all year. I don't know if he is in the plans for the VIkings next year, and if he does leave the only MLB on the roster is Jasper Brinkley, who's on IR. Is it worth mixing in Erin Henderson and/or Onatolu in the middle to see if they might make a decent backup? It's right about now I'm really wishing the VIkings hadn't cut Ross Homan.
Oh, Vikings secondary, how you vex me. With Antoine Winfield done for the year, it's time to full on rebuild. Get rid of Asher Allen, or at least demote him as a starter. Replace him with Marcus Sherels, and replace Cedric Griffin with Benny Sapp. Move Allen back to the dime, and give the other Burton, Brandon, a shot at nickel back. If he's as bad as Allen, really, what have we lost? That's right, nothing.
For safeties, take Cedric Griffin and move him to free safety. He just struggles in man on man coverage, but he might be decent to good in over the top cover-2 support and run support. For strong safety, all things considered, Jamarca Sanford has been serviceable. But I wouldn't mind seeing more Mistral Raymond there as opposed to FS. So, our new defense:
RE: Jared Allen
DT: Christian Ballard
DT: Kevin WIlliams
DE: Brian Robison
OLB: Chad Greenway
MLB: EJ, with healthy doses of Onatolu and Erin Henderson
OLB: Everson Griffen
CB: Marcus Sherels
CB: Benny Sapp
FS: Cedric Griffin
SS: Jamarca Sanford
This is not meant to be a cure all, and a magical elixir to 8-8. You know that's probably not going to happen, and I know that, too. But the Vikings have an opportunity to start some advanced roster scouting now, let these guys 'put it on tape', as they say, and get a good idea of what some of these deep roster guys might be able to do or not do.
Hopefully, it will make the rebuilding process faster, and will go a long way in determining who the Vikings need to target in free agaency and the draft. There are about a dozen different directions and strategies they could employ, because team needs cut across both sides of the ball at almost every position.
Heck, at this point I wouldn't even be opposed to bring up some guys from the practice squad to see what they could do.