Monday, September 17, 2012

Coming off the ledge: Part two (the secondary)

It's hard to argue with Pacifist Viking that the Vikings biggest weakness isn't at wide receiver.

But if the wide receivers and lack of a downfield passing threat is Achilles heel #1, the secondary is definitely Achilles heel #1(b).

We knew this reworked secondary was going to go through growing pains. And it has. Last week the unit allowed Blaine Gabbert to throw for 260 yards and two touchdowns (and he missed a surefire third TD when he overthrew Justin Blackmon). Sunday against the Houston Texans, he threw for just 53. But at least the Vikings secondary made some plays on the ball in that game - along with giving up some big ones. It was an encouraging start after what we watched last year.

Sunday's performance was a step back for the Vikings secondary. Colts rookie Andrew Luck was only sacked twice, but he rarely had a clean pocket to throw from. He was often under duress – despite what some Vikings fans will say. Yet he threw for 224 yards and converted third down after third down, often on the run. And he was able to do that because the Vikings secondary just can't cover guys well enough. Donnie Avery (Donnie Avery!) caught nine passes for 111 yards. 43 year-old Reggie Wayne (he's only 33, but he seems like he should be 43) caught a 30 yard touchdown pass.

We always hear how pressuring the quarterback, getting him off his spot and forcing him to throw before he wants to should make life miserable for that offense. Minnesota Vikings secondaries of recent vintage have turned that conventional wisdom into foolishness.

Is there hope the unit can improve? Yes. Chris Cook is talented, but also erratic and inexperienced. He's in his third season but has only appeared in 14 games. Josh Robinson is fast and a better tackler than I expected. But he's a rookie who needs to hone his craft. Harrison Smith seems like a solid, smart guy who could turn into one of those dependable starters you never have to worry about. He appears to be no Ed Reed, I don't know what to think about Mistral Raymond, frankly. He's rangy, is in his second year and isn't Jamarca Sanford. Now is the time for the Vikings to find out what they have in him.

Still, when you've been watching this shit for what seems like forever, it's hard to be patient. Today's Vikings secondary is not very good. Five games, or a year or two from now, it might be different. But it seems like I've been hoping for better days from the secondary since Robert Tate and Wasswa Serwanga were the starting cornerback tandem (briefly) for the Vikes. Sunday's performance against the Colts didn't feel a whole lot different than watching Kerry Collins look like a Hall of Famer in the 2000 NFC Championship game.


  1. I was hoping for mixed results at best in the first few weeks of the season, and that's exactly what we've seen so far. The group could mature and improve as the year goes on, or it may need a replacement part or two at somepoint in the next 11 months. I'm OK with where the secondary is at this point, even if it's not ideal. Although I will say that Cook was in position to bat Luck's second to last pass down, which would've made OT much more likely. Luck escaped pressure and rolled left, throwing on the run. Watch the replay and you can see ol' number 20 looking either lazy or caught off guard on that one.

    Pining for a better secondary for years reminds me of the pre-Allen days when it felt like Minnesota hadn't had a good pass rush in FOREVER. I guess we all take some things for granted while the team has them and we feel like their current weaknesses go back as far as we can remember.

    Note for PV (although interesting for all): Yahoo! is doing something cool and new with their fantasy football engine this year. There's a "recap" option below the final matchup score each week that writes up a form-letter style summary of each game. My favorite part is that it says what each team's record would be if it had played every other team in the league each week (cumulative). So while I'm 2-0, 1-1 and 1-1 in my three leagues so far, I can easily see that I would be 10-4, 12-6 and 15-7 (respectively) with PV's favorite type of scoring/standings.

    Just for fun: I subscribe to footballguys(dot)com and they had some interesting insight on Ponder. A couple of snippets:

    "Ponder still looks a bit nervous in the pocket and tends to pull down the ball too quickly, instead of reading through his progressions. He leaves a lot of potential plays on the field because of this."

    Seems like the lack of deep threat and the secondary may not be the only problems. I'll be interested to see if Ponder can learn to leave fewer plays on the field as the year goes on.

    And from a fantasy perspective:

    "Minnesota Vikings QB Christian Ponder was 27-of-35 passing (77.1 percent) for 245 yards, two touchdowns and a 114.6 passer rating in Week 2 against the Indianapolis Colts. However, none of the completions were longer than 20 yards. Last week, Ponder completed 20-of-27 passes for 270 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was highly efficient against a very tough defense and considering that he has been this efficient for two weeks despite the fact that deep threat Jerome Simpson is suspended for the first three weeks of the season and Adrian Peterson is still not quite at 100 percent is good enough reason to take a chance on the Vikings starter. Ponder is a solid, matchup QB2 with the potential to build on his performances between weeks 4-8 when Minnesota faces the Lions, Titans, Redskins, Cardinals, and Buccaneers. Ponder will likely have bad outing against the 49ers in Week 3... ...because of his weapons, he's still potentially an upgrade to the likes of Sam Bradford and Russell Wilson and perhaps has better matchups than solid QB2s like Matt Schaub, Jake Locker, or even Josh Freeman."

    I know that's fantasy-speak, but I took it as encouragement nonetheless. Unfortunately Ponder is already rostered in all of my FF leagues, so I can't stash him on the bench as a homer move.

    1. Wow, that was a long comment. Thanks, Peter. Improving the secondary will be a process. But when this season ends, I would like to point to at least one DB on this roster who we can say looks like a player. Cook showed flashes last year until the arrest. We'll see what comes out of the wash.

    2. I don't comment for the sake of anything except to write what I'm interested about concerning the Vikings & football in general. You guys post great stuff I enjoy reading, and I want to put what I find interesting out here too for anyone who cares to read it - you guys included.

      Plus it's a great outlet for all my typos.

      Hilarious that MN is #4 at FO right now!