If you thought the Vikings‘ offense looked pathetic especially from a taking-shots-down-the-field perspective on Sunday against San Diego, you weren’t alone. Bill Musgrave also thinks the offense didn’t live up to expectations, especially when it came to pushing the ball downfield and overall just getting into a rhythm in the passing game.
Musgrave promises this sad situation will not repeat itself this Sunday against Tampa Bay. “It is important [to take more deep shots],” Musgrave told the media on Thursday. “That’s what we’re based on is running the ball, featuring Adrian [Peterson] but at the same time getting our quarterback in a rhythm, both down the field and also possession and control-type passes. That’s what we want to be and that’s what we will be.”
Musgrave said he has “left no stone unturned” this week in trying to figure out what went wrong against San Diego, specifically in the second half when the Vikings offense went from plodding to nonexistent. The Vikings and particularly quarterback Donovan McNabb have been the butt of many jokes since Sunday for mounting a popgun offense while most of the rest of the NFL was shooting off Howitzers like it was the Battle of Okinawa.
As indicated by Musgrave in his comments, at least part of the offensive let-down resulted from McNabb having to check out of deep passes, partly due to San Diego’s coverage. “There may have been one [deep pass called to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe] in the first quarter that the safety came down and covered him a little bit and Donovan did a good job of moving on in the progression.”
Musgrave however refuses to place any blame at the feet of the offensive line which by most measures was atrocious when it came to giving McNabb time to throw. “I think our pass protection is quite good,” Musgrave said. “Our guys have done a good job bonding together. We’re happy with Charlie [Johnson] at left tackle.”
Well that is a bald-faced lie. There is no way Mr. Twitch and Leslie Frazier are happy with Charlie Johnson at left tackle. Right now they’re wishing they could jump in a time machine, go back and put Bryant McKinnie on Weight-Watchers instead of cutting him.
The whole offensive line is basically a disaster, a situation the team began addressing this week in a small way by dumping the useless Jon Cooper and replacing him with the potentially-useful Joe Berger. If Anthony Herrera continues limping around like the broken-down old man he is, look for Berger to get a shot at right guard.
Bottom line is, it’s all fine and good to talk about taking more deep shots, but you won’t get to actually do it unless the line blocks and the receivers get open. Otherwise McNabb will just be forcing passes up and getting picked off, and making a bad situation even worse.
Personally I’d like to see the Vikings work on a nice crisp underneath passing game, utilizing the talents of Michael Jenkins, Percy Harvin and their tight ends. I realize the way teams stack the box against Adrian sort of clogs things up in that area of the field, making it difficult to find receivers, but at the same time I don’t see the deep pass really being a viable option right now with the line the way it is, so the quick short passes might be your only recourse.
At any rate they need to change things up on first and second down a little, and not rely so heavily on Peterson. What’s wrong with being more aggressive early, getting a lead and then running it down their throats? Obviously that depends on getting a lead. And even when they had a lead on Sunday the grinding approach didn’t really work. Of course the grinding approach never works without first downs, and that was the big problem in the second half. That’s Bill Musgrave’s real task: Figuring out a way to convert those third downs. That’s where guys like Percy and Shank, and perhaps Lorenzo Booker, could prove the most valuable.