The Washington Redskins(3-5) visit the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday(3-5). This will be the 4th year in a row that these non-divisional NFC teams have faced each other, with the Vikings winning 3 out of 4 games. The Redskins win in 2012 will obviously be remembered for Robert Griffin III's electrifying 76 yard TD run. We asked Christopher Gates from the Daily Norseman five questions about the 2014 version of the Minnesota Vikings. The team also entered this year with a new head coach who was a coordinator with the Cincinnati Bengals last year.
Thanks to Christopher and the Daily Norseman for their questions and answers.
1) The Vikings have been looking for long-term stability at QB for almost as long as the Redskins have. Is Teddy Bridgewater the answer at QB?
DN: I think that Teddy Bridgewater is the long-term answer for the Minnesota Vikings at quarterback. While he's had his ups and downs during his first few starts, and has taken a beating from opposing defenses, he has kept his composure and has been very good at keeping his eyes downfield rather than just taking off and running like you might expect from a young quarterback. Surprisingly, he seems to fare better against blitzes than he does when opponents only rush three or four guys. He's a guy that's very in control of his emotions, and already appears to have poise beyond his years. If he can get an offensive line that can protect him for more than 1.5 seconds or so, he's going to develop into something special, in my opinion.
2) Linval Joseph and Captain Munnerlyn were two free agents that a lot of Redskins fans were talking about this year. How have they played so far for the Vikings?
DN: Joseph has been a very solid addition for the Vikings' defensive front so far. The hope has been that he would fill the role that big Pat Williams used to as a nose tackle that can absorb double teams and be a force against the run. He has provided that, and has also provided a decent amount of pass rushing as well, which has been a nice bonus so far.
Munnerlyn, on the other hand, got off to a bit of a slow start, but has come around as of late. He's had a few cringe-worthy plays, but has been very good in run support thus far, and his coverage has gotten better. He got his first interception last weekend against Tampa Bay, and the hope is that he will continue to improve as the Vikings find themselves facing more dangerous offenses down the track.
3) Mike Zimmer was one of my personal favorite candidates for the Redskins when the coaching search was on this year. What was your initial reaction to the hire, how do you feel about him now, and what do you expect from him going forward?
DN: We love Mike Zimmer here in Minnesota. He's been a real breath of fresh air after the Leslie Frazier era. Frazier basically gave the same post-game press conference for three-plus years, and hearing Zimmer actually express some level of disappointment when things aren't going well is a very welcome change. Plus the guy has already dealt with a lot in his first season as a head coach (the Adrian Peterson fiasco, Jerome Simpson being Jerome Simpson, etc.) and doesn't appear to be even close to cracking. I'd love to see what the guy could do if he didn't have to put up with all sorts of stupid distractions. Of course, this being Minnesota, I know that that's (seemingly) never going to be the case.
4) Cordarelle Patterson had a lot of hype coming into this year, but he has only had flashes of that potential so far. Is that due to being used wrong or is he just not playing at the right level yet?
DN: Speaking of expressing disappointment, Patterson has actually been the target of some of that so far. Zimmer has said that "if Patterson wants the ball more, he has to get open." We may have jumped the gun a little bit on Patterson. . .he might still be the NFL's most dangerous player with the ball in his hands in the open field, but his route running is still pretty rough at times, and he isn't getting open as frequently as someone with his ability should. Plus, the loss of Peterson has allowed teams to focus that much more on Patterson when the Vikings' offense takes the field. The second half of last season was when Patterson really took off, and as Teddy Bridgewater continues to get more comfortable, hopefully a rapport will develop between him and Patterson.
5) The Vikings have struggled to score points this year, only topping 20 twice this season. Are the offensive struggles due more to AD's absence, instability / inexperience at the quarterback position, Norv Turner, or something else?
DN: Peterson's absence is part of it, to be sure. Whenever you lose an all-time great and a guy that was still at the top of his game, it's going to sting. But the bigger part of it has been the troubling drop-off on the Minnesota offensive line, and in particular left tackle Matt Kalil. There was a point this year where Kalil had the lowest Pro Football Focus grade of any offensive player in the league, and has spent an alarming amount of time getting beaten. In fact, two different players (New England's Chandler Jones and Detroit's Ziggy Ansah) won Defensive Player of the Week Awards after games where they lined up against Kalil. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 2012, and we've seen him play at a high level, which makes his decline that much more troubling. If the Vikings could figure out what's wrong with Matt Kalil, it would go a long way towards fixing the rest of the offense.