Lunchbreak: Stefanski Aims to Give Offense a Boost

The Vikings have made a change at offensive coordinator as Kevin Stefanski has been elevated to the role after Minnesota relieved John DeFilippo of those duties Tuesday morning.

Stefanski, who is in his 13th season with the Vikings, has coached quarterbacks, running backs and tight ends in his time in Minnesota.

The Vikings currently rank 20th in points per game (21.7) and 22nd in third-down percentage (37.7), but Matthew Coller of 1500ESPN.com offered up a few concepts that Stefanski could use to help Minnesota’s offense find more success.

Coller wrote that lining up running back Dalvin Cook as a wide receiver could help throw off opposing defenses.

With two talented running backs and a lack of a true No. 3 wide receiver, it would behoove the Vikings to use Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray on the field at the same time.

Cook has only lined up as a wide receiver 16 times in 350 snaps. One of those plays was a jet sweep in which Stefon Diggs lined up in the backfield. Cook created a solid gain on the play, which was lauded by [Vikings Head Coach Mike] Zimmer multiple times after the Vikings’ win against the Packers. Yet they did not use it again over the last two weeks.

Playing Murray and Cook together would also allow the Vikings to use play-action and throw passes to Cook as a receiver on those plays.

Coller also noted that Minnesota should look to get tight end Kyle Rudolph more involved in the offense, especially on third downs.

The Vikings’ Pro Bowl tight end has been targeted 17 times on third down and has gained a first down 11 times. With defenses focusing so heavily on [Adam] Thielen and Diggs, going in Rudolph’s direction makes sense considering his strong hands, ability to beat smaller defenders one-on-one and gift for finding gaps in the defense.

Rudolph’s red zone production has been surprisingly non-existent this season. Inside the red zone last year he caught 14 of 16 throws in his direction with six touchdowns. This year he’s caught three of 10 passes his way with two TDs (splits via Pro-Football Reference).

Coller also wrote that calling more outside running plays, finding ways to beat double teams of Thielen and Diggs and using fullback C.J. Ham more could also be beneficial to the Vikings offense.

He added that Stefanski will be called upon to spark the offense, but will have just three games to find his voice.

Clearly the brief DeFilippo era was not a success in Minnesota. Had the Vikings been a budding young team, it’s likely he would have gotten far more opportunity to learn from miscues and correct problems. Instead on a win-now team, he’s out of a job. Now Stefanski has an opportunity to take some of the elements of DeFilippo’s offense that worked and combine them with his own ideas and the concepts used by former OC Pat Shurmur. Of course, he’s only got three weeks in the midst of a playoff race to figure it out. That won’t be an easy task.

NFL’s salary cap expected to go up

NFL teams are expected to have more money to spend on player contracts for the 2019 season.

Austin Knoblauch of NFL.com wrote Tuesday that the league announced that projections for the 2019 salary cap are in the range of $187 million to $191.1 million — a decent increase over the 2018 cap of $177.2 million per club.

Knoblauch wrote:

There has been a 40-percent increase in the salary cap since the 2014 season ($133 million), and it would be the sixth consecutive year the cap is projected to climb more than $10 million per club year over year.

According to the league, total projected player costs, including benefits, are projected at more than $7.3 billion in 2019.

The final salary-cap figure will be revealed in the months ahead before free agency officially begins on March 13.

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