Lately around DN there have been many different opinions on how we should go forward as an offense, such as:
AP has lost a step, Gerhart is a better back.
AP will be just as good as before, Gerhart is a bust.
We should trade AP.
We should trade Toby.
Any touch that Gerhart has is a touch that AP doesn't, and any time AP touches the ball he can house it.
All opinions are debatable and all, I'm sure, are factually based in some way. I used to have one of one of the above opinions, but after much thought about our team I asked myself a question: Why can't the Vikings have an offense that both backs can seemingly be the #1 back, at the same time? I wondered how the Vikings could do this, and remembered my old favorite formation to run when I played Madden 98 as a child. The Pro Formation. Below are different variations that I put together (in paint, sorry for the basic and rudimentry design), because I couldn't find any good pictures to illustrate my points effectively
The more I thought of this old formation, the more I liked it.The Vikings could just swap out the FB position to Toby and have a 2 RB set. When you read up on the Pro Formation, the first thing it says is that it can be highly successful because defenses cannot key on the Full Back as a lead blocker, like they can in the I Formation. That being said I hated earlier in the season when we put Toby in as a FB in the I Formation. When we drafted him we said we would not try to make him a FB, and when he was interviewed pre draft he said he did not want to be a FB. I am suggesting this offensive formation to all the DN faithful as an alternative way to relieve pressure off of AP, and get Toby on the field at the same time so he can get more touches and a bigger part of our offense. Also the Pro Formation can used very effectively to have a very balanced offensive attack. It can be used very effectively for max protection, or can unleash almighty terror on almost every possible position on the field, seemingly at once. The more I mulled about it the more I believed the Vikings should adopt this formation, and make it our base offensive formation.
This formation would open up better running lanes for both backs, because it spreads defenses out to cover all possible running lanes as you can see in this basic dive (no lead blocker) play diagram, while effectively using the other RB as a decoy. This basic diagram is only drawn up with 8 players, which means any of these run plays could be called with the many variations that can be drawn up with this formation (see below).
I realize this is asking a lot of both backs, but we could even call power runs and have them block for one
another, and have power runs with a lead blocker (obviously all runs could be mirrored to the other side as well). The reason I would ask both AP and Toby to do this is because it would make this style offense more productive because it would be even harder to stop the run if we could have both backs be lead blocker or ball carrier, and field more power runs. It would also be harder for defenses to key off of one of the backs if we had a solid way to throw off the defense. Also, with these style runs it would be harder for defenses to drop a safety into the box without fear of being burnt on a run to their weak side.
The other reason I suggest this offense is because it would mainly rely heavily on our running backs and tight ends. With a quick look at our roster we currently have Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart, Jordan Todman and Caleb King as running backs. We could run 2 RB sets all day and always have a fresh running back in at all times. We currently have Kyle Rudolph, Mickey Shuler and Allen Reisner as tight ends, with the possibility of Visanthe Shiancoe back next year(which imo is doubtful, but I wish him all the best because he has been great to our team). Also keep in mind D'Imperio could go fill in as TE or RB on any given play and Percy could fill in as WR or RB. Whereas our WR position the only guaranteed personnel back are Percy Harvin, Stephen Burton, Emmanuel Arceneaux and Michael Jenkins, who looked good for us up until going on the IR.
It's an incredibly versatile formation, allowing 3 WR sets for deep shots down the field;
2 TE sets for short to mid ranges;
Twin TE sets also short to mid ranges;
3 TE sets a possible Goal Line configuration(a place where we have really struggled to punch the ball in with almost all 11 defensive personnel in the box to stop AP);
Twin WR sets for short to long ranges;
and can spread the whole length of the field with 2 WR Sets again for short to long ranges;
I say make it our base offensive formation because essentially it will simplify our offensive philosophy for Ponder, or Webb. It could give them a simpler look at the defense, and would make audibles easier. Imo, we could run the same slow no huddle style playcalling as the Falcons, giving Ponder or Webb more freedom in playcalling and the ability to take advantage with what they see on the field, all the while maximizing both Gerhart and Peterson's abilities as Running backs.
Then to add other wrinkles we have Percy line up as a RB occasionally, as opposed to WR. Percy ran the ball quite effectively all throughout the year, and I would like to see that continue. In early 2010 the Vikings staff was working with AP to get him the ball in more ways and were trying him out as a split out. Either him and Percy could line up in the back field and motion out wide to create bunch WR sets, or just to spread out the D and create mismatches for the run or pass.
Remember the delay reverse that worked so well for Percy early in the year? The same play could be designed to have him running across the D again. Have a fake handoff to AP with Toby leading the way only to have Percy gaining speed going the opposite direction of the whole defense. Take the Twin TE Set listed before and swap Percy in as a slot WR, for the second TE and we have the same magic going again.
There have been times that Bill Musgrave has been downright brilliant as a play caller and in designing plays( we won't talk about the other times though...) and this is what I feel is what could help our offense, and running backs immensely. When he and Leslie Frasier said they would tailor an offense to the strengths of our roster, this is what I had envisioned personally. Assuming we draft a premier LT, invest in our OL heavily in FA and pick up a solid WR in FA our offensive woes and stutters could be solved. Then, you know, we would just have to fix our whole secondary issues and we could be back on top!