A few days ago, we put out the call to you, our readers, for some questions about the Minnesota Vikings for our weekly Five Good Questions post. After all, there’s no opponent to ask questions of this week, but we had to do something, so this is the way we went.
We got a lot of comments for this week’s post, and it was difficult to limit things to just five but. . .well, there’s a theme here, folks, and we need to stick with it. So, without any further ado, here is this week’s Five Good Questions segment, courtesy of you. . .the readers of the best damn Vikings’ website on the internet.
1) A common gripe with the Zimmer era is that the culture grew toxic in the later years. Kevin O’Connell appears to have brought a shift in that culture with him. How much of an impact do you think this shift has had, and how do you think it has been affecting performance on the field? (Question courtesy of Blake Donlan.)
I’ve often said that it’s my belief. . .and others may disagree. . .that Mike Zimmer had gotten a bit stale as the team’s head coach. And that’s not to say that Zimmer is a bad football coach, because I don’t believe that he is. But there comes a point in the tenure of a lot of coaches where the message just stops working and a change is needed. I think that Kevin O’Connell has brought a big shift in the culture, as you’ve said, and I think it’s having a huge impact on what we’ve seen on the field.
Think back to the past couple of seasons. How many times were there that it looked like things were rolling along and then one bad thing happened, whether it was a turnover or a penalty in a bad spot or whatever, and everything just went to hell from there? That’s not happening under O’Connell thus far. Last week against Miami, the offense was basically asleep for the first 25 minutes of game time and they managed to get things together enough to generate a victory. Does that happen under Mike Zimmer? I don’t think it does, to be honest.
The Vikings are winning ugly right now, yes, but O’Connell has them believing that they can win that way and win in situations where everything isn’t perfect. That’s huge for a team that’s making a transition on both sides of the ball the way the Vikings are this year. Once they get comfortable, this team could start doing even more great things.
2) What is one player on each side of the ball that to this point has had a very limited impact on the team do you see as possibly “making the leap” in the second half of the season and being a contributor down the stretch? (question from OwlExterminator)
YOU’RE STEALING MY BIT! Ummmm. . .I mean, good question!
On offense, I think we’re going to see a lot of continued improvement from Ed Ingram, who has had his moments but has had plenty of struggles as well. The offensive line for the Vikings has been a real bright spot so far this season for the most part. . .even Garrett Bradbury appears to have gotten it (mostly) together. But Ingram had a really tough time against Miami and he might be looking at the rookie “wall” here before too much longer. But I think that Ingram is going to continue showing improvements as the season continues and get to a point where he’s not a weak link up front for the offensive line anymore.
On defense, I’m going to look at Andrew Booth Jr. as someone that the team needs to have step up. He’s only played in two games this season because of injuries, which was one of his big red flags coming out of college. The Vikings traded back up in the second round of last year’s draft to bring Booth to Minnesota, showing that they clearly believe he has enough talent to be a contributor. If he can stay healthy. . .and, again, that’s a pretty significant “if” for him. . .he’s going to give the Vikings a very good trio of corners with Patrick Peterson’s renaissance this year and the improvement that Cameron Dantzler has shown. Here’s hoping he can stay on the field and out of the blue tent.
3) Now that we’ve had a brief taste of the 2022 draft class in actual NFL action, if you could hop in a time machine, which pick would you want to take a mulligan on, and for which other player? (question from Fan Since Fran)
The obvious answer here would be the Lewis Cine pick. I know that you can’t project for injuries, particularly those that might end a player’s career before it even really gets off the ground, but it’s always going to hurt for a team to not get any contribution from their first-round pick. Those are the guys that are supposed to be automatic, and Cine won’t be at this point. . .again, not through any real fault of his own. I think that he can come back and be an impact player for this team at some point, but it isn’t going to be this season and it might not even be next season.
As far as which other player, I suppose it depends on whether or not you’re looking at a scenario where the Vikings still traded down from #12. Staying at 12 would have given them an opportunity at guys like Jordan Davis (who wound up in Philadelphia) or even Tyler Linderbaum, who is performing well for Baltimore but didn’t go until #25. Devin Lloyd might have been a nice get for the Vikings as well, and he went to Jacksonville at #27.
If you think the Vikings are still trading down to #32 and looking at who might have been available at that point, the name that stands out to me is Jalen Pitre. If the Vikings were going to go for a safety anyway, Pitre would have been a nice player to grab at #32 if they weren’t going to go with Cine. If they were willing to take a player for a redshirt year, David Ojabo would have been acceptable, but I don’t think this regime was going to make that sort of play.
4) How do you see the 6 games after the Bye week playing out? (question from Damin Wolfblade)
I have them at 4-2. Here’s how:
Cardinals - Yes, they got DeAndre Hopkins back and traded for Robbie Anderson, but they also lost Hollywood Brown. Also, something isn’t quite right with that defense. I think the Vikings come out firing after the bye and get a win. (1-0)
Commanders - The Commanders are bad, folks. Just bad. They’re going to be shifting to Taylor Heinicke for at least the next few weeks, to include this game, but I’m not sure he’s going to have enough of an impact to make them not bad. This should be a win. (2-0)
Bills - The Vikings could be 7-1 heading into this one, and this will certainly be their biggest test of the season. The Bills might be the best team in the National Football League, Josh Allen is going to do Josh Allen stuff, and while I think the Vikings can keep it close, I can’t see a win here. (2-1)
Cowboys - Yes, it’s at home. The Cowboys’ defense is pretty spectacular, though, and we’ll have to see what Kevin O’Connell can put together to give the Vikings a chance to win. I don’t think this is going to be a very high-scoring game, but I think the Cowboys will do just enough. (2-2)
Patriots - No more Tom Brady. . .yay! But now we have to see whether the Patriots will be starting Mac Jones or Bailey Zappe on Thanksgiving in front of what should be a raucous crowd at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings haven’t beaten the Patriots since the year 2000, but I think that changes this season. (3-2)
Jets - The Jets are one of the best stories of the early part of the season, and the Justin Jefferson/Sauce Gardner matchup is going to be appointment television. But overall, I think the Vikings are just a better team than the Jets and should be able to do what the Packers couldn’t a couple of weeks ago. . .beat the Jets at home. (4-2)
As always, your mileage may vary.
5) With a 5-1 start it’s likely we would be buyers, not sellers, at the trade deadline if our cap allowed. Can we make a move? Who are we targeting? (question from pikestabber)
Honestly, I’m not sure how active the Vikings would be at the trade deadline even if they did have an abundance of cap space. I think that Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and company made some deals after the final cuts to fill some roster spots with guys that they thought could make an impact, but now that we’re six weeks into the season I’m not sure if they’d be willing or able to do the same thing.
If this team were to make some sort of a deal before the trade deadline in a couple of weeks, I think it would have to be similar to those that we saw before the start of the season. Guys like Ross Blacklock and Jalen Reagor are still on their rookie contracts, which means they’re relatively cheap and the Vikings could have some degree of control over them going forward. I don’t think you’re going to see any sort of blockbusters from this team over the next couple of weeks or anything like that. They seem to be happy with what they have at the moment and, at 5-1, it’s hard to argue that they shouldn’t be.
Thank you to everyone that sent in questions for this week’s segment! We might start looking into doing more of a regular mailbag as we’ve done in the past, and if we do we’ll make sure to let you know so that the questions can keep on coming.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.