Minnesota Vikings midseason report card: B

By The Sports Xchange
Seattle Seahawks running back Christne Michael (32) is tackled by Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph (98) during the first quarter of a preseason game at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Washington on August 18, 2016. The Vikings beat the Seahawks 18-11. Photo by Jim Bryant/UPI
1 of 3 | Seattle Seahawks running back Christne Michael (32) is tackled by Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph (98) during the first quarter of a preseason game at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Washington on August 18, 2016. The Vikings beat the Seahawks 18-11. Photo by Jim Bryant/UPI | License Photo


--PASSING OFFENSE: B -- It has fallen on hard times the past two weeks with losses at Philadelphia and at Chicago. But we mustn't overlook what the passing offense was able to do when starter Teddy Bridgewater went down with a season-ending knee injury 12 days before the opener. For the first five weeks, journeyman Shaun Hill and Sam Bradford directed an offense that didn't turn the ball over. Hill threw 33 passes without an interception in the opener and then Bradford posted the first four-game win streak of his career while throwing 125 passes without an interception. The passing offense sputtered since then as the pass protection collapsed. Bradford was sacked 11 times and hit an additional 22 times during the current two-game losing streak. But, overall, the passing game has been as good if not better than anyone could have hoped for through seven games. Now, the second half will be interesting following the stunning resignation Wednesday of offensive coordinator Norv Turner.


--RUSHING OFFENSE: F -- The Vikings don't have a running game. And they didn't have one even before Adrian Peterson was placed on injured reserve after the second game. Peterson was averaging 1.6 yards per carry. The team now ranks last in the league with a 2.66-yard average. Needing two measly inches for a first down at the Eagles 6-yard line in Week 7, the Vikings were stuffed for no gain on third and fourth down. The line gets zero push up front.

--PASS DEFENSE: A-minus -- There were some hiccups in the upset road loss to the 1-6 Bears in prime time. But overall the Vikings have been exceptional against the pass. They rank fourth in pass defense (204.6) and second in interception rate (3.47). The rush and coverage combination has been effective. The Vikings have 20 sacks, 18 by defensive linemen, and rank second in interceptions with nine.

--RUSH DEFENSE: A-minus -- Whenever the Vikings begin to wobble, generally it starts with the run defense. That proved to be the case in the upset loss at Chicago, when Bears rookie Jordan Howard broke free for a 69-yard run off a simple zone-blocking scheme off left guard on the third play of the game. The Vikings went six games without letting an individual run for more than 56 yards. Howard had 153 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries (5.9). The Vikings hadn't allowed a team to rush for more than 103 yards before the Bears got 158. The Vikings dropped from third to eighth (92.6) in run defense after the Bears loss.


--SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- There have been mostly good plays on special teams. Punt returner Marcus Sherels had two returns for touchdowns. He and kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson both rank third in the league in their respective categories. Punter Jeff Locke is having his best season by far in terms of hang time, control of inside-the-20 distance and directional punting. The gunners, which includes Patterson, have been extraordinary in terms of tackling and pinning punts near the goal line. After a shaky start, Blair Walsh has made all his attempts over the past three games. The special teams played a significant role in the Vikings' 5-0 start. No game was more reflective than the win at Carolina. Trailing 10-0, the Vikings used a 62-yard punt to pin the Panthers near their own goal line. That led to a sack of Cam Newton for a safety. Moments later, Sherels returned a punt for a touchdown.

--COACHING: B -- Things are going south quickly after the 20-10 meltdown in Chicago and the way the Eagles outcoached the Vikings to take advantage of their knowledge of Bradford the week before. But the 5-0 start keeps the grade high because of how the Vikings dominated on defense, jump-started games with their special teams and incorporated Bradford into the offense so quickly and so effectively. The pass protection woes are something offensive coordinator Norv Turner is going to have to account for better down the stretch. And the Vikings can't have the defensive letdowns they had against the Bears, particularly on third down.



Most Valuable Player: Quarterback Sam Bradford. Yes, the team's identity is defense. But without Bradford stepping up and learning the offense after arriving via trade eight days before the season opener, the Vikings would have been doomed. And then for him to play extraordinary through his first four starts (4-0) was a big surprise. He didn't turn the ball over through four games and was completing a league-best 70.4 percent of his passes. He has been shaky, at best, since then, but 4-2 as a starter with a team you joined a week before the season isn't bad.

Most Disappointing Player: Wide receiver Laquon Treadwell. Everyone expected the team's first-round draft pick to become an immediate starter and have a significant impact on the team. Well, everyone couldn't have been more wrong. Treadwell hasn't caught a pass, hasn't started a game and hasn't even played in three games. Starter Charles Johnson has been mostly invisible this season, creating a situation that begged for the rookie to step forward. But the team continues to sit him, saying he isn't ready. Treadwell is still learning where to be and when to get there at the NFL level. He also lacks elite speed, which makes it harder to throw him into the mix to take advantage of his athleticism.


Most Surprising Rookie: Tight end David Morgan. The Vikings haven't had a rookie contribute much this season. Seventh-round draft pick Jayron Kearse started against the Bears when strong safety Andrew Sendejo was inactive because of an ankle injury. Kearse didn't play well and his horrible angle on the third play of the game allowed Jordan Howard to turn what should have been about an eight-yard gain into a 69-yarder. So, Morgan kind of wins by default because there aren't many players to choose from this season. Morgan, a sixth-round pick, hasn't caught a pass and has been inactive because of a knee injury in two games. But he is a solid blocking tight end.

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