Okey doke, I missed the game again this week, but thanks to GA Skol, I was able to watch the Jaguars' highlights for the game, and then I followed that with Allen, Henderson and Leber discussing the game on Behind the Lines from our point of view (to paraphrase, "glad it's over," "any win at this point of the season is a good win" and other such enthusiastic responses to the game overall). Those helped me in preparing these notes on Pro Football Focus' updated SEASON grades for each Viking with either offensive or defensive snaps and/or stats (ST only? Forget you!). Once more, let me remind you that without access behind the PFF paywall, all I've got are their overall season grades (so no distinguishing between coverage and tackling) and not their game grades, unless GA or one of the other writers posts some of them. So, here are the PFF Season Grades for the Minnesota Vikings as of Game 13 (Week 13) of the 2020 season, during which we hosted the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars, and I bet there are going to be some surprises for some of you. [cka2nd Edit: I've added the grade games and position rankings for the top five players on offense and defense that GA Skol just posted on his thread. Thanks, GA!]
Cousins, QB1 – 84.6, down considerably from 89.5. A 49.9 game grade, though? Really? My guess is that they blamed Cousins for the INT, the fumble – I'd probably agree on both – and at least one and maybe three of the sacks: 1st one, Kirk pulled the ball back down mid-throwing motion, I wonder why?; 2nd one, the pocket collapsed all around him – I mean, ALL around – so I'm not sure what else he could have done other than turtle up; and maybe he was just too slow to react on the 3rd and 4th ones, although I certainly can't imagine processing things that fast, non-athlete that I am. Still, that seems like a silly game grade to me.
Cook, RB1 – 87.5, up from 86.2. He was more productive as both a runner and a receiver than he was against the Panthers, with higher yards per carry and per catch. I'm biased, probably because I only saw the Jaguars' highlight reel and not the whole game, so I probably saw all eight of Cook's gains of 10 yards or more, four running and four receiving, and a few of the shorter ones on which Cook proved Paul Allen's words: he's tough! I would have loved to have seen him get a break this week, but with Mattison out and with how the game played out, we probably needed him as much as any game. PFF game grade and ranking: 73.0, 9 of 54.
Abdullah, RB3 – 73.9, a nice almost 10 percent bump up from 67.4, after picking up a combined 78 yards on two runs (11), one reception (18, and a key gain on our last drive in regulation) and two KO returns (49, and more please).
Boone, RB4 – 70.4, also almost 10 percent higher than the 64.8 he'd been holding steady at the last couple of games. He's only credited with two offensive snaps, but he might have been in on three of them since his three-yard gain, and the play, was wiped out by O'Neill's holding penalty on the Ham TD drive. All four of our running backs have season grades above 70 now. Ahhhh. Thump, thump, thump. That's the sound of me sitting back, sighing, and patting my big belly in contentment over our four running backs.
Ham, FB1 – 57.7, up from 57.2. His season grade has been on a fairly gentle roller coaster ride all season, up and down but only between 51.4 and 60.1. He's never been a PFF favorite – last year's 62.0 is his highest season-ending grade so far – and the last two weeks, he's had his longest rushing attempt ever, and scored only his third career TD, so I'm guessing all of the commentators here who've mentioned that his blocking has been off this year are probably right.
Thielen, WR1 – 90.2, up a tad from 90.0, and now two-tenths of a point higher than Jefferson. His transformation over the last two seasons into a touchdown machine has been remarkable, it really has been. PFF game grade and ranking: 78.3, 16 of 78.
Jefferson, WR2 – 90.0, down a tick from 90.1. Neither Thielen nor Jefferson had game grades above 80, but that didn't hurt Theilen's season grade at all, or JJ's much. PFF game grade and ranking: 72.5, 28 of 78.
Beebe, WR3 – 61.2, a drop from 64.2 after he got a game grade of 49.1. He's played in 10 games this season, and been within four percentage points, up or down, of 30% of our offensive snaps in six of them, including four of the last five games, the exception being the one Thielen missed last week, of course. Kubiak remains committed to him. Be interesting to see if they try to slap a RFA original round/right-of-first-refusal tender on him after the season; that'd nearly triple the $750,000 he's getting this year.
O. Johnson, WR4 – 67.8, down a bit from 68.3. Michael Irvin and the other proponents of a "get the ball to your stars" approach – which seems to include 90's era Cowboys DB coach Mike Zimmer and current OC Gary Kubiak – would disagree with those of us who wish the team would spread the ball around more.
Sharpe and Olson – holding steady at 46.3 (inactive) and with no season grade visible at all (I bet it's just horrid behind the wall), respectively. Osborn did return multiple punts for the first time this season, and matched or exceeded his previous high of six yards gained on all three of them. Woo Hoo!
Rudolph, TE1 – 67.6, a substantial drop from 72.5, which isn't surprising given the brutal game grade of 38.9. I expect he'll put this game behind him and show up in Tampa ready to give Brady (89.0, up from 80.5 last year) and Gronk (71.8 season grade) an idea of what they could have seen him do in New England last year if all of those trade rumors had actually panned out. I doubt Rudy's thinking of this, but I'd love to see him put a couple of TD's on them.
Conklin, TE3 – 45.4, down from 46.1. That was a decent catch he had on the 10-yard gain for a first down on the game-winning drive. He was the target on the preceding play, too, but an offsides penalty by Jefferson wiped the play out. I imagine the grade fell mainly due to Conklin's false start.
Reiff, LT1 – 71.8, up from 68.5, and for the second week in a row. I'm with GA Skol, not that Reiff is our best O lineman, but that he may very well be back next year. Maybe on another restructuring, but maybe even on an extension, just as long as it cuts his salary cap hit next year. PFF game grade and ranking: 81.4, 4 of 52.
Dozier, LG1 – 49.7, down from 54.3, and his new season low. In the 11 games since the season opener, the season grades for Reiff and Dozier have been in lockstep after eight of those games, going up or going down together. There's still consistently been a gap of between 12.2 and 19.7 points between them, both while moving in the same direction and even after the two times Reiff's season grade went down and Dozier's went up. This game was the first time their paths not only diverged, but that Reiff's season grade went up – not surprising on a game graded 81.4 – while Dozier's fell after one scored 30.6. The gap between them is now 21.9 percentage points. Could this be the game after which the coaches finally say enough is enough, and they bench Dozier for Jones? As I noted last week, there are precedents for this late in the 2016 season and in the 2017 post-season. Or will they give Dozier, who's been on a see-saw the last four games, one more shot against the Bucs in the hope his see-saw sees him go back up again? I'd personally really like to see Jones get the start against the Bucs, with the intention of going the rest of the way with him.
Bradbury, C1 – 65.6, up two ticks from 65.4, believe it or not, Mr. Ripley says. I couldn't tell much from the Jags' highlight reel beyond that on Cousins second sack, when the entire OL collapsed, he and Dozier both ended up on the ground. Still, in PFF terms, at least he's arrested the two-week slide he was on.
Cleveland, RG1 – 61.5, a nice bounce back from 56.5.
O'Neill, RT1 – 77.1, up from 75.2 after a game graded 76.9, and our FOURTH starting offensive lineman to see his season grade increase this week, even if none of them were great. Maybe I'll rewatch the highlights to try to see if our outside running game was particularly successful thanks to our two starting offensive tackles. PFF game grade and ranking: 76.9, 11 of 52.
Reasons for cautious optimism on the offense this week – Dare I say, because they are finding ways to win now, instead of finding ways to lose? Thielen and Cleveland both being back in the starting line-up. Reiff and O'Neill. Our running back bench. That the coaches may finally see their way to playing Jones over Dozier.
Reasons for continued pessimism on the offense – That the coaches may still not see their way to playing Jones over Dozier. The WR and TE bench is too young and too under-talented to have an impact when AT and JJ are both on the field. Irv Smith's health. Longer term, I'm not one to buy into the cliché that once a player gets a big raise, he no longer works as hard, but we've got three years left on C.J. Ham's contract, with a progressively rising cap hit from $3 mil to $3.8 mil. Is it time for his future with the team to be put into question?
Holmes, LDE1 – 53.9, a big drop of just over 10 percent [
age points] from 60.4. His stat line last week was a lot fuller than this week. However, I want to repeat something I noted in the comments on GA Skol's post earlier today: "BTW, one thing I think both PFF and most fans miss: when guys like Stephen and Holmes occupy two interior offensive linemen while rushing the passer, that's a win for the team, because that means our other pass rushers - our better pas rushers - are only dealing with one guy, or with an O lineman and a TE or RB, not two OL. That's probably much more of a scheme thing on the part of Zimmer and the coaches than the other side being worried about the two of them as pass rushers, but the fact that I've noticed it over the years tells me that that's one of those little things that they do well that's keeping them both in the starting line-up this year, and has Holmes moving inside on passing downs." tebe_1 replied that PFF supposedly accounts for this in their grading, "and calls occupying two blockers at least a neutral play for the DL in question," but tebe_1 and Damin Wolfblade both expressed some...skepticism...over this point.
Mata'afa, LDE2 – 60.2, up from 58.9. Half a sack, three combined tackles and a QB hit sure looks like a more active stat line than the one assisted tackle he had last week. Better, better. Keep it up. I can't be sure, not having seen the game, but given that Jame Lynch was benched and that the nose tackles saw a smaller percentage of the defensive snaps than they did against Carolina – not surprising, given how much more the Jags passed than the Panthers did – and with Wonnum out and Brailford and Yarborugh in, I'd guess that Hercules played more snaps at DT than he's played in a while. The good thing about this is that he held up relatively well and could be a legit swing back-up moving forward.
Brailford, LDE3 – Hello, Gorgeous! 98.6 in his career debut. He's an edge player, a DE in a 4-3 defense or a pass-rushing LB in a 3-4 (thanks, Damin), and he only got the promotion from the practice squad this week (after we poached him off of Washington's PS seven weeks ago) because Wonnum was going to be out. From the highlights I saw, he replaced Wonnum in our pass rushing package, although I think, unlike Wonnum, he might have stayed outside for all of the snaps, where Wonnum and Mata'afa will trade off rushing inside or out. Also from the highlights, he seemed to get good pressure and have some moves, including a spin move, when rushing the passer. But how was his game grade not among the top five on the team's defense?
Stephen, NT1 – 65.3, down from 68.4. For all the talk about how much the Jags ran on us, we did hold James Robinson, Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate, to only 4.33 yards per carry, just over 0.2 yards off his season average of 4.57 ypc. Where the Jags really picked up their yardage was on the two end runs by Shenault.
J. Johnson, DT1 – 41.4, down from 44.0, and for the FIFTH week in a row. He is the Dakota Dozier of the defensive line, but worse! At this point, I am almost desperate for Watts to replace him on running downs. Unfortunately saw his snap count go up this week, probably because of Lynch being reacquainted with the pine.
Lynch, DT2 – Holding steady at 42.6, because though he was neither injured nor inactive, he was just stuck on the sidelines the entire game. I don't think he's been on the PS all year, which means they're afraid he'll be snapped up off of waivers or poached off of the PS. Okay, I get that. But maybe when Wonnum comes back, we could exchange Yarbrough for fellow practice squader Abdullah Anderson, just to give us another option at DT? Please?
Odenigbo, RDE1 – 64.0, a nice bump from 59.7, finally reversing a four-game slide. And good against both the run and rushing the QB. Excellent. More games like this, please. PFF game grade and ranking: 85.8, 4 of 79...edge defenders? DE's?
Wonnum, RDE3 – Holding steady at 53.9, given that he's injured and was inactive. It's nice that we were able to replace him with Brailford (pass) and Yarbrough (run) this week. It'll be interesting to see which of them goes back down to the PS when D.J. comes back.
Yarbrough, RDE2 – 48.2, waaaaay up from 30.3, thanks to a game grade of 70.8, 22nd of 79.
Todd Davis, MLB2 – 64.2, down from 70.2, after he was pressed into the starting job literally minutes before the game, or was it really the 10 seconds that the Behind the Lines crew said it was? Anyway, I've got a bone to pick with you, GA Skol. Here's what you wrote about yesterday's two starting linebackers:
"Eric Wilson - 71 snaps (100%) Wilson was all over the place making tackles. He was in on a pass defense and also helped get that 3 and out with Odenigbo at the end of the first half. Eric was solid this week. Nothing huge, just reliable on a young defense that was a mess around him."
"Todd Davis - 71 snaps (100%) Davis had 11 total tackles they were 9, 4, 13, 4, 3, 3, 6, 6, 10, 9 and 15 yards downfield. If it seemed like they were getting first downs at ease, it is because they were. Their TEs had 10 catches for 86 yards on 12 targets. We were struggling to cover the TEs all day without Kendricks."
You could very well have reversed what you wrote about them, as Wilson's 11 total tackles were made even farther downfield, cumulatively, than Davis', 105 yards to 82. The big difference between them was that seven of Davis' tackles were on running plays, while eight of Wilson's tackles were on passing plays, which matches their established specialties. Even so, both Davis and Wilson saw their running play tackles end 7.3 yards down the field (Ugh!). On the other hand, where Wilson's tackles after receptions were, on average, 10.4 yards down the field, Davis' tackles after the catch were only 7.75 yards down the field. As for first downs, four of Davis' tackles ended with an offensive first down, while seven of Wilson's did. And Boyd and Davis combined on a tackle that caused a three-and-out, too, theirs in the 4th quarter. Davis' season grade fell pretty significantly today, while Wilson's edged up just a smidge, but Davis still has a PFF season grade higher than Wilson's, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if their game grades were pretty darn close.
Wilson, WLB1 – 55.7, up two ticks from 55.5, down just a bit from 56.0, the second small'ish dip in a row, and judging by the production of the Jaguars' tight ends, I'd guess that Wilson, like Davis, struggled covering them. And outside rushing was reportedly again a problem today, which at least some analysts have identified as a perennial issue with Wilson's game.
Dye, WLB2 – 29.2, down from 29.4, and for the fifth week in a row. With Hardy Nickerson waived and not re-signed to the practice squad, Dye's season grade is now the lowest on the team. When Kendricks returns, I'd really like to see Davis replace Dye on running downs and, if they need a coverage specialist LB, how about giving Ryan Connelly a try over Dye? This is the second game out of the last three where Dye has had under 20 defensive snaps, and no more than 25% of them, so there might just be some hope that the Dye at LB3 experiment will end for the season sooner than later.
Connelly, WLB3 – Held steady at 30.3, limited as he was to 22 special teams snaps.
Boyd, CB2 – 55.8, actually up two ticks from 55.6. Don't shoot the messenger, especially when I haven't actually seen most of the game! Gave up 67 yards on his four catches allowed (out of five targets). As for the INT, my guess is that PFF didn't debit Boyd for it, where Jay Feely and GA Skol did. I'm with PFF. The throw was behind Boyd, and he would have had to twist his body back to make what would have had to be a spectacular catch.
Jones, CB4 – 53.8, down a couple of points from 55.9. Judging by the play-by-play, he was the CB4 all game, where Hand was brought in perhaps only after Gladney's injury. Sounds like the way the offense usually handles Abdullah and Boone (Mike and HH generally only being brought off the shelf as injury fill-ins), and somewhat like the way Sean Payton says he handles Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston, the latter being the injury fill-in, but only for partial games.
Hand, CB5 – 64.1, up from 62.2, and for the second straight week. Sounds like he's another strong tackler, and another rookie draft pick – the sixth of our top eight this year – showing promise and developing, overall, nicely.
Harris, FS1 – 68.9, up from 63.7, and like the Hitman, recaptured all the ground he lost the week before, and then some. Loved seeing them both have excellent game grades, both above 80. PFF game grade and ranking: 85.6, 2 of 64.
Reasons for cautious optimism on the defense – Dantzler and the continuing development of the young CB's. The back-up defensive ends. Smith and Harris bouncing back after a couple of down games, and Odenigbo after three of them. The fact that the D was exclusively responsible for only nine Jacksonville points.
Reasons for continued pessimism on the defense – Kendricks' calf. The fact that they still gave up over 400 yards, keep getting ripped by end-arounds and wide receiver sweeps, and benefited from a Jaguars offense shooting themselves in the foot even more than ours did. The fact that weakest links Jaleel Johnson and Troy Dye are still getting way too many snaps.
OK, time to watch some of those Laurel & Hardy shorts I DVR'd off of Turner Classic Movies today.