Thanks to Christopher Gates of the Daily Norseman Vikings website for taking the time to answer our questions. My favorite line has to be: if NFL games were 59 minutes long, the Vikings would be a 4-4 football team.
1.) How would you rate/evaluate the three first round picks so far: Xavier Rhodes, Shariff Floyd, and WR Cordarrelle Patterson?
Patterson has clearly been the best of the three. While he has struggled to get on the field as a receiver, due largely to his lack of route-running refinement, he might already be the National Football League's best kickoff returner. Vikings fans everywhere are pretty excited to see what he can develop into going forward. If he can get better at running routes, he has the physical skills to be an elite wide receiver. Floyd and Rhodes have both been a bit of a mixed bag. Rhodes has been on the field far more than Floyd has, with the Vikings playing so much nickel, and has had plenty of moments where he's looked the part of a potential #1 corner, but has had a few lapses and taken a few bad penalties as well. Floyd hasn't gotten as many snaps in the stead of Kevin Williams as many of us would like, but he should be a much more regular contributor for the rest of this season and into 2014.
With Loadholt set to miss this Thursday's game, the Vikings will have to turn to J'Marcus Webb at right tackle. That alone scares the heck out of us. Loadholt has been pretty solid throughout the season at right tackle, particularly in the run game, and Webb is going to be a serious drop off to him. I have a feeling that Christian Ponder is going to be seeing a lot of pressure from his right side on Thursday night.
3.) Is there any interest in Kirk Cousins for a draft pick? Is the Vikings' 2014 QB currently on the roster?
It would really depend on what level of draft pick we were talking about. For a mid-round pick, it might be intriguing, but given his performance after Robert Griffin III's injury last year, it's possible that the Redskins could extract a higher price. If we're talking about a first or second-round pick, then I don't think the interest would be that high. With the Vikings seemingly destined for a Top 5 pick and the quarterback class of 2014 shaping up to be a pretty strong one, they'd be better off using a higher pick on a quarterback of their own, in my opinion.
4.) The Vikings' defense is ranked last in 3rd down % where opponents are converting 49% of the time. What is not working there?
It has a lot to do with personnel, specifically the loss of Harrison Smith early in the season and the continued awful performance of Josh Robinson. Through the first six or seven weeks of the year, teams had an absolutely absurd rating when they were throwing at Josh Robinson, and he's looked bad in just about every situation. Coaches thought that he could slide into the role of slot cornerback this season to replace Antoine Winfield, and that simply hasn't been the case. It doesn't help that our linebacker play has been absolutely abysmal this season as well, allowing tight ends to kill this team in the middle of the field, like Jason Witten did in last week's game.
5.) The Vikings are 0-3 at home, have a 1-7 records, yet are middle in the pack(ish) in relation to offensive yards and turnover ratio. Are the problems as simple as not having a solid passing game? What can the Vikings do this week to win?
As one of our bloggers stated on Twitter after last week's loss, if NFL games were 59 minutes long, the Vikings would be a 4-4 football team. But, in the losses to Chicago, Cleveland, and Dallas, we saw the same sequence of events. The Vikings fail to convert a first down late with a lead and punt the ball back to the other team. Then, the defense inexplicably goes into a ridiculously soft zone, allows the other team to march down the field, and pick up the game-winning score. When you're a 1-7 football team, it's hard to really pinpoint just one part of the team. . .this year has really been a failure in just about every phase of the game. The offense, the defense, the coaching. . .they've all taken their turns being horrific this season, and what you see to this point is the end result.
Bonus: Any favorite Fred Smoot stories from his time in Minny? Miss him?
Well, there is the "Love Boat," which is basically the Fred Smoot story. Actually, I think that's the only real story about Smoot from his time in Minnesota, but it did introduce the term "double-headed dildo" into the American consciousness.