After losing in Washington, a lot of you may be thinking that it’s the end of the Vikings’ early-season run but keep the loss in perspective before jumping ship.
RGIII is good – like, really good. What more can you say? The kid can flat out ball. While I still have some questions going forward with what seems (to this point) to be nothing more than an above-average skillset and really fast set of legs (not to mention a motor that never seems to stop running), the rookie proved to be too much for the Vikings on Sunday. What is puzzling to me is that even with a less talented defense in previous years, the Vikings have proven that they can absolutely dominate mobile quarterbacks like Michael Vick given the proper scheme, and I was surprised to see the lack of aggressiveness from the edge on Sunday. Regardless, I’m not going to take anything away from Griffin. He played a good game and was able to deliver the finishing blow when the Vikings were reeling on defense. While I take issue with the fact that the Vikings never seem to adjust at all throughout the game, it doesn’t help that the Vikings couldn’t score a touchdown in the red zone when it really mattered.
This Vikings offense needs to take advantage of every opportunity. It was obvious that the play-action was working wonders on the Vikings defense which appeared to be completely clueless as to what kind of run, pass, or draw would be next, but we all need to remember, the Vikings offense is really what put the defense into that situation. Had the Vikings scored early, the play-action ability of the Redskins would have been greatly hindered.
With a massively improved offensive line, the best running back in the game, a potential MVP candidate in Percy Harvin, and young – smart – quarterback in Christian Ponder, this offense is no joke. Even with these weapons, they’ve had trouble taking advantage of early touchdown opportunities in the red zone. I don’t know whether or not this is a scheme issue where the offense becomes ultra-conservative when they move down the field (Brad Childress, anyone?), or if it’s just a breakdown in discipline. Either way, the Vikings have to move the ball into the end zone every chance they have simply because the defense is still trying to find its feet under all the young talent.
Christian Ponder is still young. Okay, so maybe we didn’t have to watch this game to remember this, but so far, it’s been pretty easy to forget that Christian Ponder is only in his second year and didn’t even play all of last season. People saw the fact that he had only a handful of interceptions coming into this game and assumed that he just wasn’t going to make any big mistakes like he did to Madieu Williams on Sunday. Believe me Vikings fans, it’s okay. Every – yes, every – young quarterback experiences growing pains like this early in their careers. You’re not going to see any quarterback come in and have a perfect season – especially not a sophomore quarterback like Ponder. Neither you nor I should have come out of last game with a shaken level of confidence in our long-term plans for ponder.
So what needs to happen going forward?
While I don’t think that the defeat this weekend is back-breaking by any means, I do think that it’s important that the Vikings don’t just try to bounce back by doing what they usually do in practice. I think the coaches need to look at their scheme and realize that they need to come up with some creative ways to get more pressure on defense. I wouldn’t say that the amount of pressure on the quarterback has been anemic, but it hasn’t been there when we’ve needed it (and no, I’m not calling Jared Allen a slouch). While pressure is the key in any defensive scheme, it’s even more important with a young secondary that is still trying to find their way in the NFL. While I still think that our secondary is the best it has been in years, there’s no denying that it is a young, inexperienced group with a lot to learn. That doesn’t mean that they’re out there clueless, but it takes a lot of pressure off of them when the front seven are able to get a bigger push to the quarterback.
We also need to make sure that we keep our expectations for Ponder in-check going forward. Like I said above, just like most of this team, he’s young and inexperienced and will show signs of growing pains going forward. Without a doubt, some fans will expect miracles – I just expect progress.
Regardless of what happens in the rest of the season, it should prove to be a fun ride. To me, this season was always about progress and rebuilding after our franchise essentially imploded and any wins/victories are just an added bonus. Sure, I would love to see us win the Super Bowl this season, and I don’t think it’s ever out of the question in the NFL, but I’m not going to be unrealistic and say that we won’t encounter problems on the path to championship immortality. Without making any final predictions about our record or the end of our season, I expect to turn a lot of people’s heads. We’re not the 3-13 Vikings anymore.
Follow Greg Jensen on Twitter @JensenGregory