On Monday, the Green Bay Packers see the division-rival Minnesota Vikings for the second time in 2019. Ted Glover of Daily Norseman kindly volunteered to answer our questions about the Vikings and provide some insight into their strengths and weaknesses.
APC: The Vikings have now gone through nearly a full season with Gary Kubiak as an offensive analyst and Kevin Stefanski as the offensive coordinator. How does the offense compare to last year’s version with John DeFilippo and an interim Stefanski as the play-callers, and what are the unit’s strengths?
It’s a fairly stark contrast. DeFilippo was a guy that was very pass oriented; when he was fired late last season the Vikings pass-run ratio was something like 65-35. Part of that was the Vikings inability to effectively run the ball, but that could also be argued it was a chicken and egg situation. Was the Vikings run game really bad, or was it because DeFilippo would abandon the run too early and not allow it to develop? To defend DeFilippo a bit, the Vikings offensive line was a tire fire, and Dalvin Cook was coming off an ACL injury in 2017 and missed an additional five games last year due to a hamstring injury, so it could be argued the former, and that passing was the only way the Vikes could move the ball.
This year, Minnesota has run the ball more than they have passed. To date, Kirk Cousins has attempted 413 passes while the Vikings have run it 434 times, a 51-49 run pass split. A lot of that has to do with a healthy Cook and a vastly improved offensive line, a unit that seems to have put some early season struggles behind them. Minnesota has gone from the worst rushing attack in the NFL to fourth, and they are just outside of the top 10 in passing yards, at 12th. Stefanski is a dynamic play caller, too. He has a good feel for the flow of the game, understands the strengths of his offense, and has done an excellent job of run-pass balance. Even in week 2, when the Vikings went down 21-0 early to the Packers, they stuck with Cook, didn’t get one dimensional, and fought their way back into the game.
The strength of the Vikings offense is the balance, and for that we have to point to the improved offensive line. This unit underwent an extreme makeover in the off-season, and they struggled early, but over the last 4-5 games they seem to have really come together and become an effective unit. They can open holes for Dalvin Cook, who is among the league leaders in rushing, or give Cousins solid pockets to throw to one of his many receiving options. Cook is banged up and I’m not sure if he’ll play, but his backups are Alexander Mattison, Ameer Abdullah, and Mike Boone, and they’ve all looked good in relief. Adam Thielen is back, Stefon Diggs is over 1,000 yards receiving again, and the Vikings have re-discovered the tight end with both Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith, Jr., making plays in recent games.
We’d like to thank Ted. Be sure to check out the rest of our Q&A session with Daily Norseman over the course of the week as well as our Q&A session over there. As always, keep your internet machines tuned to Acme Packing Company this Monday for our comprehensive game-day coverage of Packers versus Vikings.