The Vikings (6-9) have one final game to wrap up the 2020 season.
Head Coach Mike Zimmer has emphasized the importance of giving full effort in Detroit on Sunday, despite the fact that playoffs are off the table for both NFC North teams. And following the matchup, Zimmer will begin turning the page to the 2021 campaign.
It's safe to say – in the wake of a rough, roller coaster of a season – the Vikings will look at what needs to change moving forward. With that in mind, Chad Graff of The Athletic put together an “offseason to-do list” for Minnesota.
Graff covered five different areas, topping his list with improving the defensive line. He said it "might be an easy fix," writing the following:
Of course, [Danielle] Hunter is priority No. 1. If he's capable of returning from surgery to the high level of play he's posted in recent seasons, the Vikings defensive line immediately jumps from among the worst in the league to an average unit. That's how good Hunter is. Consider this: Hunter had 14.5 sacks last season (and the season before, in fact). The entire group of Vikings defensive linemen has 11.5 sacks with one game to play this season. In other words, the Vikings can expect to double their sack output from linemen just by getting Hunter back.
He also discussed the return of Michael Pierce who, after signing with the Vikings in free agency, opted out of the season due to health concerns related to COVID-19.
Beyond Hunter, the Vikings can expect that Pierce would be a significant improvement at defensive tackle, but they'll also likely bring in more competition for the three-technique spot, either via a cheap veteran in free agency or a Day 2 draft pick.
Even if the Vikings get Hunter and Pierce to play next season, it's also up in the air who plays at defensive end opposite Hunter. Ifeadi Odenigbo is a restricted free agent, and D.J. Wonnum, who earned his first career start Friday, will compete for one of the defensive end jobs, too.
This position has been in need of an upgrade all season, and that was never more apparent than in Friday's game against the Saints, when they were poor against the pass and even worse against the run.
Graff additionally proposed ways of improving Minnesota's offensive line, discussed possibilities of what the Vikings safety position group will look like and pondered which veterans from the team will be back in 2021.
Finally, he opined that the Vikings need to "improve the schemes" for next year.
This one is a bit more difficult to quantify, but an important part of any offseason is the coaching staff scouting themselves and searching for ways to improve. For the Vikings, it's not that their overall scheme is flawed, but it does need some fixes.
Jefferson remains PFF's highest-graded rookie heading into Week 17
Minnesota may not have met its team goals this season, but receiver Justin Jefferson certainly put an incredible rookie campaign in the books.
Heading into Week 17, Jefferson remains the highest-graded rookie by analytics site Pro Football Focus. Anthony Treash wrote:
Week 16 proved to be yet another productive outing for Jefferson. Against New Orleans on Christmas Day, the 22ndoverall picked up [more than] two yards per route run, produced four first downs and averaged [more than] eight yards after the catch.
Marshon Lattimore did lock him up in press-man coverage a few times, but the rookie wideout managed a strong 76.1 PFF grade for the game. That kept his season mark above 90.0. Jefferson is on pace to be just one of two rookie wide receivers in the past 15 years to produce a season-long PFF grade above 90.0 (Odell Beckham, Jr., in 2014).
It isn't out of the question for Jefferson to beat out Beckham for the rookie record PFF grade, as he sits half a grading point below the former New York Giant's mark. Still, it's going to take a monstrous Week 17.
Coming in behind Jefferson is Washington defensive end Chase Young, who's recorded 6.5 sacks and four forced fumbles in his debut season.
The rest of the list is as follows, from No. 3: T Michael Onwenu (Patriots), T Tristan Wirfs (Buccaneers), RB Antonio Gibson (Washington), WR Brandon Aiyuk (49ers), RB Jonathan Taylor (Colts), QB Justin Herbert (Chargers), LB Mykal Walker (Falcons) and WR Tee Higgins (Bengals).