I don't want to be like Nero fiddling while Rome burns, but I'm getting pretty fatigued writing about the Vikings shortcomings this season.
Sunday's tie against Green Bay was one of those games where the future of the Vikings was on display. It wasn't by choice, but due to injuries and whatnot, a number of young players played significant roles for the Vikes in the game. Some of these players will be counted on to play significant roles for Minnesota in 2014. Let's look at how these guys did.
PV mentioned it in his post on Sunday, however, it's worth noting again that Rhodes had by ESPN 1500's Andrew Krammer's count, 3 pass deflections against Green Bay (but he might not play this week against Chicago). We should remember Rhodes did this with Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn throwing at him. But let's not get bogged down by those details. Rhodes had 3 pass deflections! 3! He did not passively trail receivers and settle for tackling them afterwards. He took chances and went after the ball. He did what a Vikings cornerback not named Antoine Winfield has not done for as long as I care to remember. And he did it while the Vikings had him playing press coverage - a strength of his, but something Leslie Frazier's love of the Cover Two defense doesn't have him do very much. No matter. Perhaps the new Vikings coaching staff in 2014 will let Rhodes to do what he does best.
When the Vikings made their big splash on the first day of the 2013 NFL draft, Patterson was the player I worried had the most bust potential. Inexperienced guy, and scouts said he didn't understand the game and didn't have great hands. It's taken a while, but it looks to me like he's a keeper and the Vikings are (finally) expanding his role. Patterson's stats are pretty modest, he's 7th among NFL rookie WRs in receptions, and his 8.6 yards per catch average is too low for a guy with his speed and athleticism. Still, he's playing more and the Vikings are throwing to him more. I feel he's got a couple of big games in him over the final 5 games of the season. That'll be fun to watch.
For a guy who was released by the Vikings a few of weeks ago, Cole's stats in his first-ever start as a Viking middle linebacker are noteworthy - 13 tackles, 1 sack, 3 QB hits and 2 tackles for a loss. Much like Rhodes, we have to keep in mind he wasn't playing against Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, and the Packers ran for 196 yards on 36 carries - 5.8 yards a pop. If Cole had played really well, perhaps the Packers wouldn't have had such a big day running the ball (and it sure looked like he missed a lot of tackles in the first half on Eddie Lacy.) But again, Cole made some plays. I liked how he blasted Flynn and forced a bad throw on a 3rd and 9 during the Packers second drive in OT. The Vikings linebackers haven't made many of those kind of impact plays this season. Mostly they've just sort of been there on the field. Cole had an impact. Linebacker is a position Minnesota needs to upgrade. Cole showed he should be part of the conversation when the renovations take place.
Injuries forced the Vikings to play Blanton at slot corner and cover Green Bay's top WR, Jordy Nelson. Blanton's been playing safety since he was drafted in 2012, but he didn't get abused by Nelson - something you figure would have happened if the Vikes normal slot corner Josh Robinson had been playing. I don't know, maybe there's something there with Blanton.
* One young guy I'm not mentioning is defensive tackle Shariff Floyd. He was the Vikings first draft pick in 2012 and he hasn't had that one game yet where you can say he looks like a future star you want your top pick to be. Maybe it's coming. Maybe.