The future? - via prod.images.vikings.clubs.nflcdn.com
I purposely waited the majority of this week before putting up a fanpost. In general I like to avoid knee-jerking, but the main reason for the extended pause is: I need to take a step back. Even as I write this I'm just appalled at the 2013 season thus far. Three months ago I was planning a trip to London. One month ago I was saddened that a real life conflict got in the way. Now, I'm not really concerned about the London game. I can go to London any time. My team doesn't need to be there to depress me.
A friend of mine (Cowboys fan) also asked me about the Vikings 2013 season a month ago. I told him I was cautiously optimistic. He told me the Vikings would recede into mediocrity, because "teams like that always do." It's hard to argue against now. The 2012 season had overachieving, young players for a franchise that was rebuilding. That rebuilding process still continues in 2013. That is the only positive way to look at it.
2012 was a fluke. While there is still a chance to go on a winning streak, and prove that statement inaccurate, I can't expect any fan to be hopeful of it. This team has feigned wins, and raised our hopes three times this season already. We all know the results. Let's look at the reasons why. By that I mean let's look at what we did right in 2012, that we're not doing in 2013:
Rookie Trust - 2012 had a talented rookie crop. Matt Kalil, Harrison Smith, Josh Robinson, Jarius Wright, Blair Walsh and Rhett Ellison all stepped into prominent roles and became contributors, which made our team significantly better. I can barely remember the names of the veterans which they replaced. In 2013 the Vikings also drafted a talented group: Sharif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Jeff Locke have all had positive impacts over the first three games. The difference here is that their contribution has been limited, by the coaches. All of our rookies have reduced snap counts while we are forced to suffer through Jerome Simpson, Letroy Guion, Marvin Mitchell, and the aforementioned Robinson. The Vikings excelled in 2012 because of their rookie's success. The coaching staff needs to put the same trust in the 2013 rookie class. I find it hilarious that they played Zach Line more than Rhett Ellison, but they won't put Rhodes ahead of Robinson.
Sophomore Slump - While the 2012 rookie class started out great, they have not progressed accordingly. Kalil is just another RT. Robinson has been thrust into a starting corner role. Wright has proven he's a WR4 at best, rather than a Harvin. Smith, Walsh, and Ellison are progressing nicely, but we really needed all 2012 rookies to return to form. The solution here again is on the coaches. They need to correctly assess talent, and put the best players on the field.
Offensive Balance - In 2012, the Vikings features the league's most dynamic rushing attack and smartly combined it with a conservative play-action passing game to keep defense's honest. Several fans complained about the offense's ability to convert deep passing plays. WHY? IT WORKED! Deep passes play to our QB, and team weaknesses. 2012 also featured a 51:49 pass to run ratio. In 2013, despite three close games (games in which we were leading), the offense is nearing a 60:40 split. We are passing more! We are passing down field! Is it working? NOPE. On 1st and 10, we should run the ball. On 2nd and 6, we should run the ball. On 3rd and 2, we should run the ball. Of course, balance should be sought after, but in general the offensive game plan should be to run unless you don't think its going to work. Peterson must again put this offense on his shoulders.
Veteran Trench Play - To compliment the rookie movement in 2012 we had great veteran play, especially in the trenches. Jared Allen, Phil Loadholt, John Sullivan, Kevin Williams, and Chad Greenway all had at least a solid year, if not great ones. This year, every single one has taken a step back. Combine this with the sophomore slump and it means that 6 our our 22 starters, or 25% of the team has taken a step back. The team is designed to power run on offense, and defensively make the opposition one-dimensional. Neither of those strategies work if the trench battle is lost.
Turnovers - It's time to talk about Christian Ponder. While Adrian Peterson deserves some blame, he has deservedly won me over, and I'm convinced he'll fix any problems with his game. Ponder on the other hand still has plenty of trustworthiness to exhibit. Our QB has several positive qualities. Qualities which make me want him to succeed. He's got a team player attitude. He's committed to getting better. He's gutsy and is willing to win the game at all costs. That all said, he's not playing well enough. Low completion percentage, and too many turnovers. The pick six against the bears let them back in the game. The sack-fumble against the Browns was completely deflating. Ponder is a momentum vacuum. He simply must stop turning the ball over. In 2012 we only won when we took care of the ball. The bad side of Ponder is showing in 2013.
That's all I have for now. The saddest part is that if the Vikings fix just one of these five problems, we're most likely 2-1.