Redskins Recon: Week 9 at the Minnesota Vikings

Larry French

The Redskins travel to Minnesota to play the Vikings in week 9 of the 2014 season before taking a bye week and some much earned rest. The Redskins and Vikings have played each other every year since 2010 and out of those four games the Vikings have won 3. Will this be a case of 'déjà vu' or can the Redskins win against this familiar opponent?

I don't know about you but when I think of the Minnesota Vikings I think of two things. Firstly I think of Adrian Peterson. Secondly I think of "ELECTRIFYING!".  I suppose those two thoughts are quite apt going into this game as we know we will be facing the future Hall of Fame running back, and going into this season we are also hoping RGIII will be able to re-recreate moments like he did against the Vikings in that memorable 2012 game. Who will come out on top?

What's Changed?

Since last year there have been a few changes in Minnesota. Firstly the Vikings picked up an old friend of Jay Gruden's as their Head Coach. Mike Zimmer left his role as the defensive coordinator of the Bengals over the off season to take the lead role with the Vikings. This has the potential to be a fascinating coaching battle as the former offensive and defensive coaches of the Bengals go up against each other with their new teams.

Even though Zimmer is the Head Coach by name he will naturally focus heavily on the defensive side of the ball, and this should make a huge impact on this unit going forward. Reports suggest that Zimmer will not change their 4-3 front, but what he will do is install a much more aggressive coverage scheme, backed up with more exotic fronts and blitzes to increase the pressure on opposing QBs.

The Vikings also added Norv Turner as their offensive coordinator. Turner is a better coordinator than coach, and is an advocate of the Air Coryell offense, with some tweaks here and there as discussed below:

Norv Turner, former San Diego Chargers head coach and former offensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys, also implemented a version of the Coryell style of offense. The Turner strain of Coryell offenses are still very reliant on a good receiving TE. Norv Turner strains sometimes feature an 'F-Back' (formerly known as an 'H-Back' in the 1980s), a hybrid tight end/wide receiver/fullback/running back. An F-Back is a multi-purpose, unpredictable tool for the offense. On any play he may carry the ball, lead block or pass block, play as a wide receiver, or run a tight end route. He is also part decoy, as his unpredictable role forces defenses to keep an eye on him, thereby opening up other opportunities for the offense.

So this completes a strong coaching lineup that could spark a turnaround in fortunes in Minnesota if the players get on board.

The Vikings also drafted well, and despite the headlines around Bridgewater there was a particular focus on the defense (not surprising with a defensive minded head coach).  SB Nation gave their draft an A- and went on to say:

ANTHONY BARR (OLB, UCLA, 1ST ROUND, 9TH OVERALL)
TEDDY BRIDGEWATER (QB, LOUISVILLE, 1ST ROUND, 32ND OVERALL)
SCOTT CRICHTON (DE, OREGON STATE, 3RD ROUND, 72ND OVERALL)
JERICK MCKINNON (RB, GEORGIA SOUTHERN, 3RD ROUND, 96TH OVERALL)
DAVID YANKEY (OG, STANFORD, 5TH ROUND, 145TH OVERALL)
ANTONE EXUM (CB, VIRGINIA TECH, 6TH ROUND, 182ND OVERALL)
KENDALL JAMES (CB, MAINE, 6TH ROUND, 184TH OVERALL)
SHAMAR STEPHEN (DT, CONNECTICUT, 7TH ROUND, 220TH OVERALL)
BRANDON WATTS (LB, GEORGIA TECH, 7TH ROUND, 223RD OVERALL)
JABARI PRICE (CB, NORTH CAROLINA, 7TH ROUND, 225TH OVERALL)

The Vikings got a premier pass rusher -- always a premium position -- with their early first round pick in OLB Anthony Barr, then traded back up into the first with the Seahawks to select their quarterback of the future in Teddy Bridgewater. Not bad for a day's work. They doubled down on the defensive line with a nice steal in the third round of Oregon State defensive end/defensive tackle Scott Crichton, who provides ample insurance for replacing departed stalwart Jared Allen. They also added uber-athletic running back Jerick McKinnon to pair with Adrian Peterson as well as added a solid Stanford lineman in David Yankey.

One of the most interesting questions coming out of Minnesota this off season is "When will Teddy Bridgewater start?". Currently Matt Cassel is the projected starting QB, but without a doubt, if Cassel stinks it out for a few weeks, there will be a clamouring for Bridgewater to step in. I have always been high on Bridgewater, so would much rather face known quantity Cassel, but either way this will be a fascinating end to the offseason and keep an eye on this potential QB battle brewing when the season gets underway.

In free agency the Vikings notably added Linval Joseph at DT from the Giants, and Captain Munnerlyn (CB) from the Panthers.  They lost Jared Allen however, who takes a lot of experience and quality with him, but probably saw the writing on the wall with Zimmer's defensive scheme not playing to his strengths.

All in all a good offseason for the Vikings and things may be looking up for a team that have only had one winning season in four years.  Of course there is also quite a bit of change here, so it may take time to bed in, and controversy over the QB could easily arise during the season which may prove to be a distraction.

Key Players

Adrian Peterson - RB

Not a spring chicken anymore but at 29, AP is still the best running back in the league, and has carried the Vikings offense for years. How will Turner feature him in both the running and passing game?

Kyle Rudolph - TE

Started to find his feet last year before breaking his foot mid season. Primed for a breakout year in Norv Turner's TE friendly system.

Greg Jennings - WR

The best and most consistent WR threat on the team, but now getting on in years. Could be supplanted as the #1 WR by Patterson this year if the Vikings figure out how to use the young burner. Still don't overlook Jennings who has the experience and skills to play at a high level.

Anthony Barr - LB

The touted rookie linebacker and first round pick will be featured heavily in Zimmer's defense, the only question is around Zimmer's planned role for him. Many point to James Harrison as a good comparison.

Keys to the Game:

Watch out for the following when these two meet in week 9:

  • Can the Redskins pick on the Vikings secondary?  Will it be as weak as it was in 2013?

  • Pressure on the Vikings OL. We are facing Matt Cassel or a rookie QB after all.

  • Obvious point of the day - STOP ADRIAN PETERSON!

  • The defense needs to have a plan for Kyle Rudolph. Turner will target him.

How do you think this game will pan out?
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