The Vikings are back from the bye and have 10 games remaining in the 2020 season.
Minnesota has a disappointing 1-5 record, but that doesn't mean there will be a shortage of storylines over the final two months of the season.
With that in mind, Chad Graff of The Athletic recently identified goals for the Vikings final 10 games.
Graff noted that "if these things happen, there will at least be some optimism entering a difficult offseason."
Graff listed seven total goals, including personal yardage totals for the likes of Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook and Irv Smith, Jr. He also wrote that Kirk Cousins' focus should be on the reduction of turnovers.
But he also noted the Vikings should be watching the progress of second-year center Garrett Bradbury.
One of the few positive surprises from this season has been Bradbury's play. No one is going to confuse him for an All-Pro based on the first six games, but it has been a noticeable improvement after a difficult rookie season.
After 2019, there was some deserved fear that Bradbury may be a first-round bust. Unlike Ezra Cleveland, the team drafted Bradbury because they thought he'd be ready to play from Day 1. Yet he was overwhelmed in several games.
But this season, that's changed. Bradbury is showing why the Vikings thought he'd be a perfect fit for a zone rushing scheme, and a full year in the system is clearly paying dividends. If Bradbury can keep up this play (remember, he fell off significantly at the end of last season), then the Vikings will at least know they've got keepers at two spots on the offensive line.
Analytics website Pro Football Focus has Bradbury with an overall grade of 66.6 so far in 2020. As a rookie, Bradbury's overall grade was 57.8.
Defensively, Graff wrote that an attainable goal should be 3.0 sacks from D.J. Wonnum, a rookie defensive end who has a sack this year and should be in line for more playing time the rest of the way.
But on a big-picture scale, Graff said that Minnesota's secondary — particularly the young cornerbacks — should be focused on tangible improvement.
View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of January 4, 2021.
Even given the low expectations the Vikings defense had to start the season, the first six games have been rough. While the pass defense was bad last season, this is a new low.
The Vikings will enter Lambeau Field allowing 7.7 net yards per pass attempt, tied for third-worst in the NFL. Only the Jaguars and Falcons have been worse.
Perhaps just as bad is the fact that the Vikings still have a long way to go just to become average in the stat. They'd have to shave off a full yard just to rank around 16th in the league.
So maybe this one is a big ask, hoping that they can allow around 6.7 net yards per attempt the final 10 games. But I think it's possible for two reasons.
The first is the schedule eases up after Sunday's game. Through the first seven contests, the Vikings will have played Aaron Rodgers twice and also faced Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan, Ryan Tannehill and Deshaun Watson.
The second reason for potential improvement is because the rookies, who didn't have offseason practices or a preseason, should start getting more comfortable. They've shown flashes even if their mistakes (like Cameron Dantzler's in Seattle) have overshadowed the positives.
But if they can just get to playing like an average secondary the final 10 games, that could inspire confidence for growth next season.
The Vikings currently rank 29th in the league with 286.7 passing yards allowed per game.
Graff's full list of post-bye goals can be found here.
Trio of Vikings Legends announced as finalists for 2021 Black College Football Hall of Fame
A trio of Vikings Legends have been announced as finalists for the 2021 Black College Football Hall of Fame.
Greg Coleman, Jake Reed and Sammy White are among 25 finalists for the 2021 class, a group that includes 22 players and three coaches.
Coleman was a punter for Florida A&M University from 1972-1975. He then played 10 of his 12 NFL seasons with the Vikings, playing 138 games in Purple from 1978 to 1987.
Coleman is now a sideline analyst for KFAN 100.3-FM and Vikings Entertainment Network.
White was a wide receiver for Grambling State University from 1972-1975. Reed followed in his footsteps as a wide out at Grambling State from 1987-1990.
White played his entire 10-year career in Minnesota, catching 393 passes for 6,400 yards and 50 career touchdowns.
Reed wore Purple for 10 of his 12 pro seasons. He finished his NFL career with 450 receptions for 6,999 yards and 36 touchdowns.
The Class of 2021 will be announced on Nov. 19. The induction ceremony is scheduled for Feb. 20, 2021, in Atlanta, Georgia.
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