After an enormous let down this past Sunday in San Francisco, most Viking fans are expecting a major bounce-back week tomorrow at home against Detroit. To help preview this game, I asked Pride of Detroit's (SB Nation's Detroit Lions fan site) Alex Reno a few questions about our familiar opponent. Here's how the Q&A went:
1. How excited is the Lions fan base for Ameer Abdullah? Is he really "The next Barry Sanders"?
Reno: Lions fans are BEYOND excited for Ameer Abdullah. Casual football fans will tell you that Reggie Bush's departure was a loss for Detroit in the offseason, but most fans couldn't have been happier to see him go. It was an addition by subtraction even before the Lions drafted Abdullah. I will admit that AA wasn't my first choice during the draft, but he's done all he can to turn heads and earn everyone's affection. I would pump the brakes a little on calling him "The next Barry Sanders," but he's definitely an extremely shifty back, reminiscent of Sanders, and I'd say he has a bright future ahead of him as a Lion.
2. Surprisingly, Joique Bell remains the starting running back. Does this sit well with Lions fans? How long before Abdullah takes over as the starter?
Reno: It's only a matter of time before Abdullah is considered the starter, if you ask me. As it stands, Abdullah is actually listed as the third-string RB on the roster behind Bell and Theo Riddick. This just tells you how meaningless the depth chart is to Jim Caldwell because Riddick didn't even touch the ball until garbage time last week. Fans were a bit frustrated that Abdullah only touched the ball 11 times last week, but considering the fact that the entire offense was on the field for only 47 snaps, I don't think it's as big of a concern as it's been made out to be.
Joique Bell is still a fan-favorite in Detroit and has done all of the right things off the field, but I just don't see him as a short- or long-term solution as a starting RB. Abdullah will continue to get an increased workload heading into Week 2.
3. After years of solid-but-unspectacular play from Stafford, does he appear to have finally taken the next step? Or is he the same old Matthew Stafford?
Reno: If you would have asked me this question about 3 weeks ago, I would have said yes. Stafford had a spectacular camp/preseason and it appeared as though he was ready to take the next step to perhaps be a great, or even "elite" QB. That was not the same Stafford I watched take on the Chargers last week. After a sizzling start from Detroit's offense, John Pagano cooked up some nasty blitzes to stall Stafford and the offensive line, which lead to a couple of turnovers and some numbness in Stafford's throwing arm after taking a big hit.
I can guarantee that Mike Zimmer has already seen the tape and is looking to run similar blitz packages to put Stafford under duress and make poor decisions. The biggest thing for Stafford will be the possibility of having right guard Larry Warford and right tackle LaAdrian Waddle return for Sunday's matchup. I'm still waiting to see if this year's Stafford is the same one we've seen since 2012.
4. After losing Suh and Fairley and getting shredded for over 400 passing yards by Phillip Rivers, has this defense declined by as much as it seems to an outsider? Can they still be a top 5 defense?
Reno: Top-5? I doubt it. Top-10? Maybe. Suh was a huge loss for the Lions and general manager Martin Mayhew did the best that he could to replace him by adding Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker. I wouldn't really consider Fairley to be much of a loss due to the fact that he was constantly injured and extremely inconsistent on the field.
The defense had no answer to Phillip Rivers' surgical performance, but the Lions were just out-coached, plain and simple. Defensive coordinator, Teryl Austin, made a few questionable blitz calls that we're not prone to see him making and there were absolutely no adjustments made to stop Keenan Allen from shredding the secondary. I expect the linebackers and secondary to look a little better once DeAndre Levy returns from his mysterious hip injury, but for now, the defense looks abysmal in pass coverage.
5. In week 1, Megatron only had 2 catches. Was this an anomaly or does it appear that his age caught up with him?
Reno: Definitely an anomaly. Megatron's two catches has nothing to do with his age or where his skill level is at right now. He's proven that he has a ton of gas left in the tank after making several spectacular catches throughout training camp. His less than stellar performance against the Chargers simply had to do with the offense barely seeing the field, combined with the constant double-/triple-teams he had to face all game long. Still, if you're the Lions, you absolutely have to get your best player involved on offense. I expect to see Megatron's name called more than twice against the Vikings this Sunday.
So there you have it. If the Vikings are to even up their record at 1-1, it will come down to containing Ameer Abdullah as both a runner and receiver, not allowing Megatron to get back on track and keeping Matthew Stafford under constant pressure. Oh, and that's just on the defensive side of the ball. On offense, Adrian Peterson needs to get things going, Teddy needs to get into a rhythm, the O-line needs to step up and the receivers need to get open. Yeah, that's a lot of stuff, but they are all facets of the game that the Vikings struggled in last Monday. It is safe to say that the Vikings will have their hands full tomorrow.
Thank you all for reading! For those of you who may be interested I have included the questions answered by yours truly about the Vikings below. Don't forget to comment below and follow me on twitter @JMcIntireNFL.
1. How much of the Vikings' offensive struggles in Week 1 can be attributed to the loss of John Sullivan?
Me: The loss of John Sullivan certainly had a huge effect on the Vikings' offensive struggles in week 1. Sullivan excels at pre-snap reads and diagnosing where the blitz will be coming from. With Joe Berger at center there was a clear downgrade in this aspect as well as a downgrade from a blocking standpoint as Teddy was under constant pressure throughout the night.
2. How big of a disappointment was the Vikings run defense in Week 1? Was it an aberration or did the 49ers expose a flaw in Minnesota's defense?
Me: The run defense in week 1 was an embarrassment. However, I do think it can be fixed. The main issue was defensive ends and linebackers not setting the edge and allowing cutbacks for Hyde. I think the defense will be motivated to offset last week's struggles and will turn in a solid effort this Sunday against the Lions.
3. How has Mike Wallace adapted to his new team?
Me: Despite a slow start to the preseason for Wallace, he looked good throughout the offseason program and came out in week 1 with a solid effort despite the offense's struggles. There was a blatant pass interference on a beautifully thrown deep ball to Wallace in the end zone on Monday that dubiously did not result in a flag being thrown. In time, I am confident that the deep ball to Wallace will become a staple of our offense.
4. What was the biggest silver lining from Monday night's game against the 49ers?
Me: Despite the lopsided score, there were a few silver linings to take away from Monday night's game, perhaps none bigger than the solid play of maligned left tackle Matt Kalil. The former top 5 pick's play fell off a cliff the last two years after making the Pro Bowl as a rookie, and after finishing the offseason on a good note, his performance in week 1 has provided some optimism for the Viking fan base. Another silver lining was the great play of linebacker Anthony Barr. While he didn't record a sack he was chasing Kaepernick around all night and made 12 tackles.
5. What is it going to take for Blair Walsh to lose his job? Do the Vikings have a backup plan ready
Me: The tricky thing here is that Walsh just signed a big money deal (For a kicker) this offseason with guaranteed money. Ever since signing this deal, he has looked absolutely awful. The Vikings currently do not have a backup plan ready which is very worrisome to this fan base. For Walsh to officially lose his job, I think it will take something big. For example, Vikings down 7 with a minute left and score a touchdown only to have Walsh miss the extra point. Or, if he is still missing roughly a field goal a game come mid-season, something could and should be done about it.