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Lots of great things on the defensive side of the ball. I have been pretty critical of the offensive line, but I have to admit I have seen much improvement. What do you think we need to do to get more points on the board? Those long passes were missing the mark. It seems we work our way down the field and then stop. Great to be on the winning side! -- Mike B. Goodwin, SD
Sustaining drives. That might be a phrase you hear from Vikings offensive players and coaches this week because I feel that's what the Vikings need to do to score more points. The offense is doing a lot of good things, the problem is that they aren't doing them simultaneously or consistently enough. Case and point is the first half on Sunday in Tampa Bay, where the Vikings drove to the plus-37, plus-49 and plus-44 and faced 3rd and short all three times, yet were not able to extend any of those drives. On each of those three drives, the Vikings had driven into opponent's territory and they did a good job of getting themselves into 3rd and manageable, yet they just weren't able to execute well enough to extend the drives and threaten to score points.
Allowing just one sack and paving the way for RB Jerick McKinnon to average 5.2 yards per carry does represent improvement from the Vikings offensive line. You have to give that group credit because they played with their third different starting right guard – Joe Berger on Sunday – so far this season and they were facing a couple of solid linemen on the Buccaneers side in DE Michael Johnson and DT Gerald McCoy. But the Vikings front has been facing the elite fronts of Detroit and Buffalo the past two weeks, so they were ready for the Johnson-McCoy challenge.
I have two questions. In Teddy's first game, if he saw a lane he would tuck it and run. Now he seems to be giving that option up. Is he not trying to run on purpose? Teddy seems to run the up-tempo offense a lot better. If we want to make Teddy more comfortable, wouldn't it be wise to run more of the hurry-up offense? -- Mark A.
Bridgewater has the athleticism and vision to be an effective runner with the ball, but that's not a tactic you want him to use regularly. On Sunday in Tampa Bay, he used that athleticism to escape pressure and extend the play a few times, even picking up one first down on the ground. But if you're expecting that he's going to tuck the ball and run for big yardage regularly, you're going to have to change your expectations. Bridgewater is going to stay in the pocket for as long as he can so he can throw the ball downfield, and when it's time to leave the pocket to buy time then he will use his mobility.
As for the hurry-up offense, I do agree that he looks more comfortable in that setting. That's precisely why he was so effective in two-minute situations on Sunday, driving for field goals at the end of each half. But this is a process with Bridgewater. Over time, the offensive coaching staff wants to develop Bridgewater into a franchise-caliber quarterback who can be productive and lethal in all settings – in a normal operation, in hurry-up situations, in four-minute situations, with a lead or coming from behind, etc. To develop him this way, the Vikings must resist the temptation to go no-huddle too frequently just because he feels more comfortable doing that. Instead, the staff must help Bridgewater learn as he goes and get more comfortable in all situations.
Do you think there is still a chance for us to make a playoff run, even though we are three games behind Detroit with eight games remaining? -- Paul
There is most certainly a chance for the Vikings to make the playoffs. This week was a good one for the Vikings because they notched a victory and saw two division rivals lose. Next week can be similarly productive because the Vikings return home to play the Redskins while the rest of the division is off. Being three games back of a team that is 6-2 seems like too big of a hole to climb out of, but I've seen teams overcome greater deficits to make the playoffs. The key for the team will be to avoid doing what we just did – looking too far ahead. This is a "one game at a time" business.
Has any team had both the defensive and offensive rookie of the year in the same year? LB Anthony Barr looks like a great candidate for defensive rookie of the year and then there's Teddy and McKinnon, who are starting to pile on some nice numbers. -- Thomas A. Pierre, SD
According to my quick research, the defensive and offensive rookies of the year have come from the same team just once since 1967, and it was in 1967 when RB Mel Farr and CB Lem Barney of the Detroit Lions took home the honors. The Vikings have a ways to go to get one of their offensive rookies to rookie of the year status, but I would make Barr the leading candidate for the award at this stage of the season. He does something every week that makes you think he's going to be a special player in this League for a long time.
I recently heard that Tampa Bay is interested in trading WR Vincent Jackson for a second-round draft pick. Do you think it would be wise for the Vikings to add their bid and try to pick him up while Cordarrelle Patterson hones his skills as a wide receiver? -- Myles S.
Jackson is a great player and would improve the wide receiver corps of any team. But I don't know that Tampa Bay is truly trying to trade him away nor do I have any idea what kind of compensation would be required to make a deal. What I do know is the Vikings offense is in its first year under Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner and it's operating with a first-year quarterback. Adding a brand-new piece mid-stride seems more counter-productive than helpful at this stage. With that being said, I'm never against adding talented players and it's also notable that Jackson has already played in Turner's offense (in San Diego).
Do you think the Vikings will make a move in the trade market? What are some trades that could happen? -- Eddie T.
I don't like to rule anything out because you never know how other teams are going to behave. If a sweetheart deal comes along and it's too good to pass up, the Vikings would likely look into and would consider doing it. But short of that, I don't see the Vikings making any significant moves before the trade deadline. The Vikings seem intent on working with the players they currently have under contract and continuing to build Mike Zimmer's program.
I do not have a question, but I want to convey my appreciation and much respect to Coach Zimmer and the entire Vikings organization for providing the game ball to Alex L. (who has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy) and his grandpa. This move is greatly appreciated and I am proud that I am a Vikings Fan. Skol! -- Raj B.
Well said, and thank you for being a great fan!