We’ve made it to week 10 and the Redskins are looking to get to 5-3-1. After a loss to the Lions in Detroit and then pulling a good ol’ fashioned draw against the Bengals in London, the Redskins got a little R&R this past week during the bye. The Vikings come to DC with a very unbalanced 5-3 record after starting the season 5-0 and proceeding to go on a three-game losing streak. The Lions were able to stretch that losing streak to three games last week after an OT victory over the Vikings in Minnesota. We spoke with Christopher Gates of Daily Norseman, SB Nation’s Vikings blog, to get an inside look at this year’s Vikings team.
The Vikings have an excellent defense, especially against the pass. What are the biggest strengths and weaknesses of Minnesota's defense?
Until recently, the biggest strength of Minnesota's defense was the depth that they had at every level. When players started going down with injuries, the Vikings could just plug other players in their spot and not experience a lot of drop off. A lot of that has to do with not just the level of physical talent they have, but their familiarity with Mike Zimmer's defensive scheme. The recent rash of injuries, while not nearly as prevalent on the defensive side of the ball as it has been on the offensive side, is starting to eat into that a little bit. There is still plenty of talent to be had on the defensive side of the ball for Minnesota, but a part of Minnesota's success is their ability to rotate players in to keep them fresh, and they haven't been as able to do that recently.
Jay Gruden and Mike Zimmer were both coordinators under Marvin Jones in Cincy at the same time. At the time, it seemed more Redskins fans would have preferred Zimmer to Gruden as their next HC. How do you think Zimmer has been doing as Minnesota's HC? What are his strengths and weaknesses?
Like many other Vikings fans, I absolutely love Mike Zimmer and the job he's done in his first 2+ seasons on the sideline. In 2013, the final season of the Leslie Frazier era, the Vikings' defense was a disaster. They were allowing 30 points a game and just getting embarrassed every week. Since Zimmer took over in 2014, he and Rick Spielman have worked on getting "their" types of players in here on both sides of the ball, but particularly on defense. His emotion on the sidelines and in press conferences is a big departure from what Frazier brought. Frazier might have been the nicest guy in the league, but if he had been any more laid back, he would have been in a coma. Zimmer, on the other hand, always seems to have the fire burning, and I think his players have really responded to that.
Teddy Bridgewater, Matt Kalil, Adrian Peterson, Andre Smith... The Vikings have been killed by injuries this year. Heading into this week there are questions about Linval Joseph, Marcus Sherels, Captain Munnerlyn, Sharrif Floyd, and Zac Kerin. What's going on on the Vikings injury front?
The Vikings have suffered a ridiculous number of injuries this year, or at least it seems that way. Nearly as bad as the number of injuries is the fact that the specific players that are injured are inhibiting the team's ability to do much about it. Kalil and Peterson have a combined cap figure of around $23 million by themselves. That sort of thing really inhibits the ability of Rick Spielman and the front office to find replacements to fill out the rest of the roster and/or practice squad. The loss of Bridgewater has been offset by the Sam Bradford acquisition, but the rest of the injuries have hit this team pretty hard. It sounds like Joseph has returned to practice, which is a great sign for this defense. He really is one of the more indispensable pieces that the defense has.
After starting the season 5-0, the Vikings are on a three-game losing streak. What gives?
Teams have realized just how awful the Vikings' offensive line is, I think. It was struggling with Kalil and Smith out there, but without them it's gotten worse. T.J. Clemmings, despite his bounceback last week, has been getting beaten like a drum all season, whether he's been at left tackle or right tackle. Jake Long, now that he's knocked the rust off, has been improving every week. Now that Pat Shurmur has replaced Norv Turner as the offensive coordinator, I would expect to see more of what we saw against Detroit last week with the short passing game in an attempt to offset the Vikings' deficiencies on the offensive line.
What's your score prediction for Sunday's game and why?
I think the Vikings are going to be pretty ticked off after last week's game, considering the way they lost. The Vikings' defense that was much praised during the first five weeks of the season, has taken some hits over the last few weeks, and I think that they might be looking to get some of their reputation back in this one. I'm hoping that Everson Griffen can take advantage of the absence of Trent Williams and make life miserable for Kirk Cousins on Sunday afternoon. It's going to be a close one, but I think the Vikings can pull this one out. . .and if they want to save their season, they're probably going to have to. I'll go 20-17, Minnesota.
Thanks again to Chris! Be sure to check out Daily Norseman’s coverage of the upcoming game.