Lets face it. The team is 0-2 right now. The optimist would say that it’s too soon to give up on the season, we beat Detroit and then beat depleted Kansas City and we’re right back in the mix at 2-2. Don’t you know Donovan McNabb has been to the playoffs 7 times in his career before and including a year he started 0-2? The pessimist would say that at even at 0-2 the probability of making the playoffs are about 1 in 8, Detroit is favored at the Metrodome this weekend, Detroit’s new and young high flying offense will roll on us, we aren’t going to win more than two games in the division this year and we might as well forget about even considering the playoffs. Playoffs?
At any rate, lets say the Vikings do lose this weekend to Detroit. Here are four moves that should be made immediately thereafter and why…
Open Up Competition At Left Tackle
Charlie Johnson is clearly not the answer. He was abused by Jared Allen and Everson Griffen in camp, he was a main culprit for McNabb’s 39 yard performance, he struggled again versus Tampa Bay and any Colts fan will tell you he has no business playing the left tackle position. Fine at guard, can even play a little center, but left tackle is only good if you really don’t like your quarterback. By either trying out Phil Loadholt or DeMarcus Love at left tackle – both of which played that position for major college programs – maybe by chance you find the long term answer. Some match-ups additional blocking would have be incorporated into certain plays – case in point adding a chip block by a running back when either Julius Peppers or Clay Matthews lines up adjacent the offense – but at the very least you see what you have with the current guys on the roster. Oh and by the way… Loadholt is 25 and Love is 23. Don’t think there’s upside there?
Make Kyle Rudolph Teams Top Tight End
Visanthe Shiancoe has been an absolutely wonderful Minnesota Viking over his 4 years here. That being said, we’ve also gotten to the point where he’s on the wrong side of 30 and are already seeing the law of diminishing returns kick in. Case in point, in 2009 he caught in 11 TDs and in 2010 a measly 2. Throw in the fact that Shank is in a contract year and it’s time to give Kyle Rudolph more reps. Rudolph has soft hands, can go over the middle and is a solid blocker. He also was the top rated tight end coming in the draft and we were so fortunate to find him available in the second round. He also was compared to the Patriots Rob Gronkowski whom is already considered one of the NFL’s premier tight ends. Now yes, Bill Musgrave likes to run a lot of 2 TE sets where both would see the field, however Shank saw 60 snaps and 7 targets whereas Krudy saw 40 snaps and only 1 target. Rudolph needs more action to learn on the job.
Promote Emmanuel Arceneaux From Practice Squad & Cut Bernard Berrian
Bernard Berrian brings absolutely nothing to the table anymore. He constantly lines up at split end, can’t separate from defensive backs, has never had great hands, struggles to run more than a go route and McNabb is starting to zone him out of the offense a lot like Brett Favre did towards the end of last year. Not once in the past week did McNabb throw to him longer than 15-yards. Berrian is so bad of a wide receiver that he has currently has caught only 20% of his targets. Meanwhile Michael Jenkins (who is also an asset in blocking) has caught every one. By getting rid of Berrian it gives another wide receiver in Arceneaux a chance. Arceneaux was a star in the CFL, can play both outside as well as the slot position, adapted fairly quickly in the preseason to the NFL and developed some chemistry with a certain someone over that time. Which leads us to one more…
Move Christian Ponder To Starting Quarterback
With rookie Blaine Gabbert being named the starting QB in Jacksonville, as well as Cam Newton & Andy Dalton showing promise thus far for their respected the teams it’s fair to wonder when Ponder will get his shot. Lets make it sooner rather than later if our backs are against the ropes by late September. It’s simply going to take a year of hardship for Ponder to learn on the job. Aaron Rodgers first year with Green Bay they finished 6-10. Yes he sat for 3 years, but so did so did Brady Quinn and JP Losman. Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, Mark Sanchez and Matthew Stafford. All started as rookies, may each see the playoffs and now have an average current age of about 25. Head coach Leslie Frazier petitioned in April for Christian Ponder to start the year as the QB and then was the catalyst for acquiring McNabb. But Frazier may also have to swallow his pride, be more consistent with his message (like saying a Super Bowl is not far away over the summer and then telling fans to be patient after an 0-2 start) and start building for the future. And say Ponder falls flat on his face and we finish with the league’s worst record a certain someone named Andrew Luck is a heck of a consolation prize.
The fact is the Vikings window for winning a Super Bowl was really the 2008 and 2009 season. Only in 2008 we didn’t have an above average quarterback and its still haunting looking back on the end result of 2009. A new Super Bowl window has to be created while Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Antoine Winfield and Percy Harvin (if we’re smart enough to put him on the field) are still near the top of their game. That may take some growing pains with our youth, but you have to learn to crawl if running with the best of them is ever an option.
Jon Merckle may be followed on Twitter @thevikingpig