The Vikings went on the offensive this offseason in an effort to improve their running game. They hired a new offensive line coach (Rick Dennison), they signed a starting right guard (Josh Kline), they drafted a starting center (Garrett Bradbury) and they drafted a No. 2 running back (Alexander Mattison). Then, schemed, drilled and practiced all spring and summer to generate improvement on the field.
The fruits of that labor to this point look pretty good. Dalvin Cook enters Week 6 as the NFL's second-leading rusher with 542 yards and the Vikings as a team rank No. 3 in rushing at 166.4 yards per game.
Well, the Eagles defense is also actually quite offensive when it comes to the defending the running game. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has an excellent reputation in the NFL and is known for his aggressive scheme and play calling.
"Great combination of scheme and players," Vikings Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski said earlier this week. "It's an attacking style. They get off the ball. They tackle well.
"There's some teams that are playing into blocks and reading off your blocks. These guys are coming off the ball. They're attacking gaps and they're trying to disrupt. We know that. We've looked at the film and we have to be ready to match their intensity."
Philadelphia boasts the NFL's No. 1 rushing defense so far in 2019, permitting only 63.0 yards per game on the ground. It's also notable that the Eagles have faced the fifth fewest rushing attempts this season – only 19.4 per game. The Vikings have rushed fewer than 20 times in a game just once this season – at Chicago. Their total rushing attempts in games this season has gone like this: 38-27-38-16-34.
Sunday's game features the convergence of two units who've gone on the offensive with the running game – the Vikings offense versus the Eagles defense. It's one of the games within the game worth watching.
The Vikings will be down a pair of starters on Sunday, with linebacker Ben Gedeon and right guard Josh Kline listed as out on Friday's injury report. Expect Dakota Dozier to fill in for Klein at right guard, though rookie Dru Sami or interior lineman Brett Jones could also be options. At linebacker, Eric Wilson is a candidate to see more time with Gedeon out plus safety Jayron Kearse could see an expanded role in some situations.
The Eagles will also be without regular contributors. On offense, receiver DeSean Jackson and running backs Corey Clement and Darren Sproles have been ruled out. Also ruled out on defense are tackle Tim Jernigan and defensive backs Ronald Darby and Avonte Maddox. The good news for Philadelphia is it appears cornerback Sidney Jones will return to action this week after not playing last week.
View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster for the 2019 season.
I think we can put to rest the idea that Anthony Barr is overrated. He did a lot in last week's game and even had a sack taken away by a penalty in the secondary. Skol!
-- Jeff Kilty
I've never had the idea that Barr was overrated and anyone who has had that idea was not looking at the full picture. No one in the Vikings building has had concerns about Barr being overrated, either. He does so many things the right way that helps the Vikings defense. Barr can cover, he can rush the passer, he can stop the run and he's a smart player. Some of Barr's contributions are easily noticeable, such as when he tips passes or blitzes and pressures the quarterback. But some things Barr does are little things you may not notice but that make a big difference, such as wearing the green dot and calling the defense or the way he can disguise what he's doing. Barr is a key cog in the Vikings defense and he has been ever since he was drafted in 2014.
"I think he kind of had some welcome to the NFL moments, but then last week, I think, was his best game. Hopefully, that trend continues." – Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer on center Garrett Bradbury
Stat of the Week – 28 points allowed in the second half
The Vikings have allowed 28 second half points in 2019, the second fewest in the NFL behind the New England Patriots (24).
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National Television: FOX
Play-by-play: Kenny Albert
Analyst: Charles Davis
Sideline: Sam Oliver
Local Radio: KFAN-FM 100.3/KTLK-AM 1130
Play-by-play: Paul Allen
Analyst: Pete Bercich
Sideline: Greg Coleman and Ben Leber
Pre-game show: Mike Mussman – 10:00 a.m. CT