Another week goes by, and another turnover laden performance goes unpunished by your Minnesota Vikings. The silver lining is…(drum roll please) they played better! The preceding analysis is so insightful, I should probably just pack it in. But still, I keep on.
Silver lining, shmilver lining. Failing to win despite scoring a touchdown on defense and special teams is unforgivable. It is not as if the turnover differential erased these gifts – we were +1 in said department. That differential includes a pretty inconsequential lost fumble by John Carlson, just in case you forgot about the star of Minnesota’s 2012 offseason. Enough about overinvestment though, let’s get to underinvestment.
Chad Greenway. The linebacker is such an institution he can be his own sentence. From the region, Big Ten pedigree, first round pick, came back from adversity i.e. ACL tear, second team All-Pro,family man and community stalwart.When a football player not only has talent but checks all those intangible boxes, they get $20 million guaranteed. Adequate investment I suppose.
The trouble is, Greenway is not performing to his contract, at least not 2 games into this season. Against both division foes, there were numerous examples of the former Iowa Hawkeye getting swallowed up by opposing blockers and his own poor pursuit angles. The Vikings count on Greenway performing to his contract – it is why Rick Spielman & co. felt they could neglect the linebacking unit in the midst of the post-Childress overhaul. From the O-line, to the D-line, to the secondary and the wide receiving corps, the Vikings are not bereft of big contracts and/or first round picks.
If Greenway continues to be left stone footed as shifty ball carriers get into the secondary, who can be the leader of this unit? Journeyman Marvin Mitchell? the man who isn’t there aka Desmond Bishop? Great interviewee Erin Henderson? The latter has flashed playmaking ability, especially in 2011, while a healthy Bishop was definitely productive. Maybe the road less travelled taken by Marvin Mitchell will give him the toughness good NFL linebackers need. Who knows?
Our linebackers did not cost us the game at Soldier Field. Recency bias would blame the nifty route combo that busted our cover 3 on the game winning touchdown. I would blame a red zone offense that on three occasions settled for 3 points. Nevertheless, they weren’t a positive. Just like at Detroit, the lack of resources put in to that unit showed and without sudden improvement, it might be this season’s downfall.
Last week, I may or may not have been singing the praises of one Rhett Ellison. It seems everyone from Pete Bercich to Pro Football Focus cannot stop drooling over his lead block for the MVP on that crucial fourth quarter 4th-and-1 where he obliterated Bears safety Chris Conte. Zach Line? I will not speak to his game on the whole, but on that gruesome drive neutralizing 13 yard loss deep in Chicago territory, Line could be seen following Fusco to the right, blocking no one as Briggs shot into the backfield, that was further crowded by Stephen Paea’s push on Sullivan. Sigh. I wonder if Coach Frazier reads this column…
On six of his seven grabs Martellus Bennett netted either a first down or a touchdown. Both his touchdowns came on third downs. Our D thought it could get off the field…
Hopefully this is not a trend, and Martellus Bennett seems to be taking a step up after languishing in Dallas and a productive year with the Giants. The Browns’ Jordan Cameron is no slouch, so it will be hard to judge if a veritable trend emerges. Speaking of Jordan Cameron, next year the AFC North plays the NFC South, and assumedly we will see Jordan Cameron block Cameron Jordan. So…
(Insert Ponder Pun here)
His middling passer rating of 76.5 won’t impress box score aficionados, but he went 10/16 for roughly 150 yards in the second half. A half that included a gorgeous pass that dropped right into Greg Jennings’ proverbial basket, and a mangled play by Jarius Wright that should have seen Ponder and the offense convert a third down into a touchdown. Indeed, two of the six incompletions were pretty bad drops.
The first half was not as bad as it looked either, with suggestions that Jerome Simpson’s blown route led to the pick six, and Kyle Rudolph getting eaten up by the turf monster instead of making the reception on what could have ben a 25 yard plus third down conversion.
He may or may not be the quarterback of the future, but in the past two weeks he has shown that his ceiling may be higher than Alex Smith’s.