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Monday Morning Mailbag: Keenum, O-Line Rise To The Occasion

Posted Sep 25, 2017

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I have to think that Case Keenum was better prepared mentally -- and with reps -- going into the Tampa Bay game than he was given the last-minute uncertainty of Sam Bradford going into the Steelers game. Do you think that prompted Zim to declare Sam out and Case in sooner this past week?

That’s up to Zim to share or not share why he declared Bradford out on Friday this week after waiting until game time last week. It’s easy for us to overthink this, though, because I do believe there’s a good chance they just knew earlier this week Bradford wouldn’t be able to play. Regardless, Keenum obviously was able to use last week’s experience and a full week of practice to prepare for Sunday’s game. It also helps that he was playing at home. Keenum deserves a lot of credit for the way he played because a lot of people were counting him out before the game even started.

I was very impressed with Case Keenum! I take everything I said back; I apologize. I hope Case keeps it up and I hope Sam and Teddy return 100% healthy.
-- Sahn Tyre

No need for apologies or to take anything back, Sahn. The lesson to learn is to not be so absolute and sudden with judgments of players and teams in this sport. Just as I wasn’t willing to throw Keenum to the wolves after last week’s loss, I am not going to suggest the Pro Football Hall of Fame start preparing a bronze bust for Keenum after Sunday’s impressive showing. Always remember, the NFL is a week-to-week league. Jacksonville looked awful last week losing to Tennessee, and then this week they dominated the undefeated Baltimore Ravens by a scorer of 44-7. The Bills lost an ugly game and didn’t score a touchdown last week in Carolina, but this week they beat the Denver Broncos, who looked like a contender to win the AFC West last week, by 10 points. The NFL is a great league in part because it’s so unpredictable, so just let it be fun and don’t worry about trying to judge everything so quickly. It will be a lot more fun that way.

Not saying our offense has been lethargic, but we looked like a COMPLETELY different team, did we not? This was impressive. Defense. Offense. We looked new.
-- Stefan Sodbinow

We looked like a completely different team compared to last week in Pittsburgh, but we looked like the same team that came out on fire to beat the New Orleans Saints in Week 1. This convincing win over Tampa Bay on Sunday was not an aberration or an anomaly; this is how well the Vikings can play week-in and week-out if they play as a team, execute well and don’t shoot themselves in the foot with penalties and unforced errors.

The offensive line did a complete 360-degree turnaround this year. They are playing extremely well. Pat Elflein is having great control and command, too.
-- Darryl Jones
@Darryl_Jones8

Kudos to the offensive line and everyone who has a responsibility in building it and improving it. No, they are not a perfect or finished product. But they are much improved from a year ago and they’ve achieved that improvement despite four new starters, including the rookie center (Elflein). There are many more quality challenges ahead, so this is by no means a “mission accomplished” moment for the offensive line, but it’s clear they’ve improved significantly from last season and that improvement has played a huge role in each of the team’s first two wins of the season.

Are you surprised Kyle Rudolph didn't get many looks?
-- Pete Winslow
@pwinslow_usa9

Rudy has been such a reliable and productive player for the Vikings during his career that any time he finishes a game with one catch for four yards it’s worth taking a look at why that might be. As of this publishing, I hadn’t gone back to watch the offensive snaps against Tampa Bay, but I’m guessing Rudy’s lack of targets and catches is the product of Tampa Bay doing a good job of covering him up and of Keenum just finding a groove and rhythm with Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. Those two receivers combined to catch 13 passes on 19 targets for 271 yards and two touchdowns, so obviously what Keenum was seeing and the decisions he was making were the right ones. Now, if Rudy had the low number of targets and catches AND no one else in the passing game was producing, then it would be cause for concern. For this week, though, I think it was just a matter of other pass catchers being open more often based on coverage and what the quarterback was seeing.

Great win for our guys! SKOL! Do you have any info about Latavius Murray's lack of carries? Do you think it has to do with him not getting much work this offseason?
-- Nate
Ohio

I’m not in the game planning room on Mondays and Tuesdays, so I can’t say exactly what is behind how the reps and carries are parsed out. But I don’t look at Murray’s lack of touches as an indictment on him. Rather, it’s a testament to how well Cook is playing. He’s averaging 5.6 yards per carry and already has three runs of 20+ yards on the season, so I think the Vikings are doing it right by sticking with the hot hand and continuing to feed Cook the football.

Pittsburgh – loss. Tamba Bay – win. We lost the time of possession against Pittsburg and won the time of possession against Tamba Bay. I really think we will win when we control the clock. What do you think?
-- Gerald Goblirsch

Typically, I don’t feel that time of possession is a critical variable to wins and losses. The best offenses are those that can explode and move the ball down the field with chunk plays, and that leads to quicker scores sometimes. But with how the Vikings are built to win games, I do believe winning the time of possession battle bodes well for success. With how suffocating the defense can be, the Vikings are a hard team to beat when they play well because they are a hard team to score against. So if the Vikings are possessing the ball and playing good defense, then opposing teams are going to be hard-pressed to produce enough points to win many games against them.

Let’s say Keenum gets a couple more starts and continues to produce similar to what he did against Tampa Bay. Then, Sam Bradford comes back around Week 6 and Teddy Bridgewater comes off the PUP list in Week 7. Which two quarterbacks do we keep and how do we handle that situation? This could actually be a good problem to have! SKOL!
-- Jerry Provost

I appreciate the question and I know this kind of topic does catch the interest of a lot of you, but let’s just worry about Week 4 and playing the Detroit Lions, okay? To look ahead three and four weeks to try to predict what roster moves the Vikings might try to make is really a fruitless exercise. Also, I’m not convinced the Vikings will only keep two quarterbacks if all three of the guys Jerry mentioned are healthy. Quarterback is the most important position in the sport, so it stands to reason that using an “extra” roster spot on one you know can lead you to victories is a good idea.