Everyone knows that the mid-term exam for a 2-6 team will likely not be a stellar one. After all, there should be plenty of blame to go around – - but in this case, I am willing to give many units on this team the benefit of the doubt, as reflected in the marks below.
Here are our mid-season ratings, unit by unit, for the Minnesota Vikings’ 2011 Season:
I know many of you are clamoring for a lower grade than that, but the reality is that this grade both reflects Donovan McNabb’s ineffectiveness (1-5 as a starter this season), while also highlighting Christian Ponder’s moderate success in the early goings of his career. Neither one of these guys has come out and taken over a game yet, but at the same time, neither one has been an abject failure. When you sputter around right below “average”, you get a C-.
Running Back: A
Adrian Peterson already has 798 yards and 9 TDs, putting him on track for one of his best seasons. What’s more, injuries have not been a concern for AP, and he’s answering questions about his durability by being absolutely as durable as possible. Percy Harvin also has a handful of rushes, mostly out of gimmick formations and reverses, but it will surprise no one to see this grade attached to this group strictly because All Day has been going strong All Year.
Percy Harvin and Michael Jenkins should both catch 60-70 balls this year. That’s fine, except for the fact that there’s no one to take the pressure off of them! Guys like Bernard Berrian (now released) have gone missing in action, the tight ends have been nearly invisible with a few exceptions, and the bench has provided little in the way of support. When you’re 29th in passing yardage, you likely do not have many elite targets, and that is definitely the case here.
Offensive Line: B
Really Jekyll and Hyde rating here, because this group protects for a dismal passing attack (29th), as well as a stellar running attack (3rd). Give Hutchinson and Co. credit – they’ve not committed an egregious number of penalties, nor have they given up a huge pile of sacks, and they’ve also paved the way for a great runner yet again. I think that their numbers average out nicely to give them a very fair ‘B’ overall.
Defensive Line: B+
This group overcame the early season loss of DT Kevin Williams to suspension, and Jared Allen has been showing all year why he was and is among the premier DE’s in the game. There’s a reason why the Vikings are 5th in the NFL in stopping the run, and a lot of it has to do with the bulk up front. A sometimes inconsistent pass rush is the only thing that keeps me from giving this group an ‘A’.
Look, they’ve been very very average. They’re part of the run-stopping, I know, but they’re also a part of the problem against the pass, particularly when the Vikings play zone coverage. The Henderson brothers and Chad Greenway are certainly talented, but their inconsistency lands them with a mediocre grade thus far.
Defensive Backs: F
Without a question this was the easiest grade to give. An already-bad secondary has been riddled with injuries and arrests, and it’s to the point now where even WR Steve Smith (the old one from Carolina) is running amuck through the lanes provided by this crew. The Vikings are 29th in the league in stopping the pass, but they’d be 32nd by far if this group wasn’t being bailed out by a solid front 7 on a regular basis.
Special Teams: B
Longwell and Kluwe have been good with their legs. Percy Harvin opened the season with a great return TD, but since then the return game has been just so-so. This grade is fair for an efficient, positive group, which is what the Vikings have.
This is still the most fair that I can give to Leslie Frazier. Remember, he came into this situation replacing Brad Childress and inheriting a mess of a locker room, then with the NFL lockout, he was basically in the same position as every other rookie head coach. I do realize that some of them have outperformed expectations (see Jim Harbaugh), but then again, Jim Caldwell is 0-8 and few are calling for his head, so I think that 2-6 under these circumstances is a fair spot to take the “wait and see” approach. Frazier has this group playing well of late, the second half will say much about his ability to motivate.
Enjoy the Bye Week, and get your grills, TVs, and coolers ready for Week 9!
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