As we get closer to the start of Training Camp and the 2017 NFL regular season, we’re still finding things from last season that we can attempt to look at to give us a small glimpse into what we might be able to expect this year.
Such is the case behind the great E$PN paywall once again, as the folks from Football Outsiders have found a “sneaky” strength for each NFL team on offense and defense. Of the two strengths that FO found for our favorite football team, one is a pretty surprising one, while the other is decidedly less so.
We’ll start with the one that isn’t very surprising, which comes from the defensive side of the ball. It turns out that when the Vikings bring a blitz on defense, they’re really quite effective.
The Vikings were fantastic when they brought a blitz. They allowed 6.3 yards per pass with three or four pass-rushers, but that dropped to 5.7 with five and 3.2 with six or more.
Sure, the credit will probably go to the defensive front for this, and so it should. Guys like Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter, and Brian Robison are enough to handle without bringing guys like Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr after the quarterback as well. However, the secondary probably deserves just as much credit for this, taking away the opposing quarterback’s ability to get the ball out quickly. I’m not sure if this is a “sneaky” strength or anything like that. . .I’m sure that if we dug through the right metrics, we’d find that the Vikings are one of the top blitzing teams in the NFL.
The hidden strength of the offense, on the other hand, is incredibly surprising given what the Vikings’ offense looked like last year. Apparently the Vikings are very good at the play-action passing game.
It's a somewhat shocking fact, but there's no correlation whatsoever between how well an offense runs the ball and how effective that offense is on play-action passing. A good example from last year would be Minnesota. Despite having a horrific running game, the Vikings gained 9.2 yards per play with play-action compared to just 6.0 yards per play otherwise, the largest gap in the league.
The Vikings had the worst rushing attack in football last year. I’m not exaggerating. . .they were #32 in the NFL in rushing and may have had the worst run game the team has fielded since the advent of the 16-game schedule. Throw in the fact that it wasn’t Adrian Peterson lining up behind Sam Bradford for most of the season, but guys like Matt Asiata, Jerick McKinnon, and Ronnie Hillman. With all due respect to those guys, they’re not exactly striking fear into the heart of the defense.
Yet, despite all that, the Vikings averaged over three yards more per play with the play-action pass than they did on their other offensive plays. I would have thought the correlation between a quality running game and the ability to run play-action would have been higher, but apparently it is not.
Does this mean anything for the 2017 Vikings? I’m not sure if it will one way or another. But I thought it was surprising enough to merit a mention.