The week of practice is over and the Vikings are set for their game this Sunday against the New York Jets. Here's what we learned this week about the Vikings as they prepared for Week 13.
Rex Ryan's defense poses more challenges than mostVikings Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner kicked off his press conference on Thursday by explaining that every week in the NFL presents a different set of challenges, but that this week brought about more than usual. This week, Turner and the Vikings offense have prepared to face a Rex Ryan defense.
Say what you want about the Jets 2-10 record, at the end of the day the Vikings opponent on Sunday has a talented defense designed by an experienced and talented coach in Ryan.
"The whole thing with Rex (Ryan), is they're always very sound, and then they are very multiple, so they give you a lot of different looks," Turner explained. "I say they're a very complete defense and they're going to adjust their defense to what they feel you have the toughest time handling.
"I've got great respect for Rex Ryan and what he does defensively, what they do as a defensive staff. They create a lot of different looks for offensive players, so this is a big week for us in terms of our preparation and it does create more challenges than we may have had over the last few weeks."
Vikings run defense is not where Zimmer wants it to beThe Jets boast the NFL's No. 2-ranked rushing offense and last week they ran for 277 yards on 49 rushing attempts against Miami. With that in mind, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer made no bones about it during his Wednesday press conference – his run defense needs to improve.
"It's not where I want it to be," Zimmer said. "Sometimes the situations in the game dictate that, the coverages dictate that, you're taking away other areas but still it should be better than that. I don't think we do a good enough job of stopping the backs when we hit them and not falling for three after contact and things like that. I think we've got to do a better job in those areas."
The Vikings certainly worked on their run defense this week, and the work they did this week will be put to the test on Sunday when the Jets physical offensive line tries to open up running lanes for talented runners such as Percy Harvin, Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson.
Consistency, not flashes of greatness, key to Griffen's success this seasonBeing an effective pass rusher may be one of the hardest jobs in football. It might be one of the hardest jobs in sports. Think of it this way: a pass rusher may have 35-40 rushes in a game, and if he collects three-to-four pressures and one sack, he's had a good day. That's three-to-five impact plays out of 40 – under a 10% success rate. Extrapolate that over a season, where a pass rusher registers 60 pressures and seven-to-10 sacks out of 800 or so snaps, and you can see just how difficult it is on a play-to-play and game-to-game basis for a pass rusher to do his job and to do it well.
Perhaps that why, when Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards was asked what's stood out to him about Everson Griffen, who leads all NFC defensive ends with 11.0 sacks this season, he didn't point to some of the sensational plays. Instead, he pointed to consistency and playing hard on every snap.
"I think the one thing we saw with Griff coming in was a guy that played hard when he played," Edwards said. "I think the biggest thing we've tried to press upon him, if we can get that consistently throughout the season, then the work that he puts in is going to pay off and I think that's what you see with him."
With a position whose job – rushing the quarterback – is so difficult and is accomplished so rarely, focusing on a micro level (effort on every play) rather than the macro level (how many sacks did he have?) makes sense.
"Griff has really paid attention to the detail of the things that we've asked him to do," Edwards continued. "He comes to work every day, works hard, he takes it to the game on Sunday and he's able to go out there and perform at that high level and he's just been consistent throughout the whole season as far as that aspect of it, as far as coming and performing each Sunday at that level. It just carries over from week to week."
Barr (knee) doubtful, Jets DT Wilkerson (toe) outRookie LB Anthony Barr (knee) did not practice on Friday and finishes the week having not participated in one practice, leading the Vikings to list him as doubtful for Sunday's game. Zimmer said during his Friday press conference that if Barr doesn't play it may be Gerald Hodges who steps into the starting lineup.
RB Jerick McKinnon (back) was ruled out for Sunday's game, CB Jabari Price (hamstring) was listed as doubtful and all others are probable.
One notable injury for the Jets is DT Muhammed Wilkerson (toe), who has been ruled out.
Turner is in Patterson's corner, tooEarlier in the week, Zimmer explained once again his stance on Cordarrelle Patterson – that he feels Patterson is a good player, that he's in the receiver's corner and that he believes the second-year playmaker will be an important part of the team moving forward. The comments from Zimmer were notable because the Vikings head coach is not afraid to speak candidly about his players, positively or negatively.
Another Vikings coach – Turner – reiterated his support of, and confidence in, Patterson.
"He's had some bad luck," Turner said. "He's had some situations where he's been open and Teddy threw it somewhere else and he could have big plays. He's obviously had some situation where he's been open and we've missed him. Sometimes that the way it goes. He's doing the things we need him to do and he had an outstanding day at practice yesterday. I see him being a big-time player in this offense as we go forward."