The Redskins face another division fourth-place finisher in the Minnesota Vikings, again. Didn't we see the Vikings last season, and the season before that? When you are a repeat offender as division last place, you face your fellow inmates, like the Vikings and Rams.
Both those woebegone teams have given the Redskins fits of late, and both are challenging for their division crown. And heck, even the Redskins trail in the Beast by one game. The 4-1 Vikings are where we want to be, though. How the bleep did that happen? We turn to our Bloguin colleague at Purple Jesus Diaries blog to explain the barbarians of the North.
Redskins Hog Heaven - Why are Madieu Williams and Cedric Griffin on my team instead of yours? How will the Vikings expose them during this game. I have a pipeline to Jim Haslett and we'd really like to know.
Purple Jesus Diaries - Holy hog nose, they are?! I am so, so sorry. Is Madieu starting? How is he starting?! I honestly would put Gomes in before him. Uh, two things here, I guess. First, Madieu is horrendous in coverage. He's slow, reads plays wrong, takes wrong angles, and won't wrap up when tackling. Being that the Vikings played a base Cover-2 most of the time, all he had to do was sit back there and make sure receivers never streaked down field. He couldn't do that. He's a real nice guy though, nicer than Forrest Gump, so I'll give him that.
It's tricky with Cedric. Most Vikings fans had really positive memories of him. We haven't ever been known for stellar cornerbacks that have been home grown. We pick up people like Antoine Winfield or Fred Smoot (Hahaha! Just kidding!) in free agency, but any CBs we draft and try to develop never work out or stick around. Think Brian Williams before heading to Jacksonville several years ago. Griffin had that potential though, and he turned awesome. He was a critical part to our defense in our great 2009 season run with Favre ... before he tore both his ACLs in different knees. We tried him out last season after he came back and it just never worked. He never got his speed back and was lacking. Too bad though, because he had a lot of potential. If he can ever heal up, he may still be serviceable, but never again as a shut down corner.
Probably should just tell Jim Haslett not to start any defense against the Vikings ... Resting players and all ...
RHH - The 4-1 Vikings. Does this team evoke memories of Grant and Green, or is this a mirage? Be honest.
PJD - It's honestly a bit of both. And I say that not because I'm being self defeatist or not trying to jinx my team or anything, or because I'm wearing ugly purple glasses. The truth of the matter is their record stands alone as what it is. I won't fault an NFL team for being 4-1, even if they squeaked out wins against a bad Jaguars team. Because on the flip side of that, they also lost to a fairly poor Colts team. BUUUTTT ... They did beat the 49ers (good!), the Lions (Don't know!) and the Titans (Pretty bad!), so you have to give them credit for what they've done to begin the season.
Truth of the matter is though that their schedule is going to get world's tougher. The Vikings last six games or so include the Texans, the Bears twice, the Packers twice, and the Rams. That's no easy stretch. On the plus side, that's right after their bye week, and they'll have had plenty of time to identify themselves as a team. But things we're seeing early on this season (a great showing by Christian Ponder, Adrian Peterson returning fairly well from a knee injury, defensive rookies paying off, Percy Harvin in MVP consideration) aren't really flukes either, if that makes sense. I don't care who you play in the NFL, if the Vikings are doing what they're doing against bad or good teams right now, they may be legit. But as always, I remain skeptical until they "win the big one" and prove it to me. That might be sweeping the Packers, Bears, or beating the Texans. Then we'll know how real this team is this year.
RHH - Tell me about Christian Ponder this year vs. last year.
PJD - It's been a much better progression than I think any Vikings fan was expecting. Ponder was thrust into his starting role last season after all of our favorite Donovan McNabb skipped some footballs across the field. With no offseason prep thanks to the lockout, and limited practice with the first teamers, Ponder stepped in and showed promise, but also lot's of areas he needed to work in last year. I think he ended with a 1:1 TD/INT ratio, and was the starter for only one or two of our three wins.
This year is significantly different. He was ridiculously dedicated this off season, both to develop his own game and work with his teammates. This team is actually kind of FUN now because Ponder has grabbed that leadership role and developed great chemistry across the board. On the field, he didn't throw an interception until last week (last starting QB in the NFL to throw one), has helped Percy Harvin look like an MVP, lead game winning drives, and made smart, timely decisions. The smart decisions is really what Vikings fans were hoping to get out of him this year, but he's exceeded that and shown the team can actually lean on him to make plays, too. Which is kind of amazing, since he hasn't even started a full year's worth of NFL games yet. He's got solid potential.
RHH - Brad Childress or Leslie Frazier?
PJD - PFFFFTT!! That's a tough one. I'd want to default and say Big Leslie, but his sorry showing (3-13?!) last year has given people pause. On the plus side, he's turned it around this year so far, so we'll see.
The biggest knock on Childress was that he was smart as hell, but also way too stubborn. He never seemed to give players or even coaches freedom to call plays or deviate from his game plan, which sometimes worked but would often bite him in the rump. When things clicked though, you can't deny that some of it worked. But the greatest display of this was in 2009, when a motivated Favre came in. We're always left asking if that success was because of Favre or Childress? I'm inclined to say the former.
Regardless, Childress had to go, and Frazier is a decent choice. When Childress was around, there was a weird power structure that really hurt other areas, too. Since letting him go, our GM, Rick Spielman, has been in charge of all personnel decisions (at least final word), and has since produced two pretty nice drafts to help turn us around quick. Childress never really did that, because he had more say in personnel decisions. As is, Big Leslie now just gets the players, coaches them, and teaches defense. He's not perfect right now, but he is learning, so I'm glad we have him. I'd hate to see him leave and turn into another Mike Tomlin. *cries*
RHH - How does Washington's offense attack the Minnesota defense?
PJD - Your best bet would be exploit the Vikings middle of the field. If you can get enough time for a receiver to get 10-15 yards into the soft spot of our zones in the middle of the field, you can dink and dunk down to the red zone, keep our offense off the field. Our linebackers have shown SOME potential, but it's mostly been in run support. In coverage? No beuno. And while we have Harrison Smith, rookie safety from Notre Dame, who could drop down and help hit in that area, he is still a rookie. You should be able to take advantage of that. I'd also look at receivers or running backs in the flat, especially speedy ones if they are lined up against Chad Greenway. Chad will get his tackles, but he just doesn't have the speed to compete with some of those guys. Likewise, our corner backs have potential, but outside of Antoine Winfield, several of them still need to prove their worth. I'm foreseeing a couple of big pass plays deep to Pierre Garcon as leading to a Redskins win.
RHH - How does Washington's defense stop Minnesota's offense?
PJD - You focus everything you have on Percy Harvin and hope our other receivers have a case of the dropsies. Outside of Harvin, I wouldn't say I trust any of the other guys out there right now. Jerome Simpson is coming back from a recent suspension, but he's had leg issues this week and is questionable to play. Michael Jenkins is ... Michael Jenkins. Whatever. And then I wouldn't worry about anyone else there. Kyle Rudolph, our second year tight end, is tied for the league lead in TDs for tight ends, so he has potential. You'd want a good linebacker blanketing him. Beyond that, keep the running game bottled up inside. We've been able to sustain a lot of good drives this season by mixing run and pass well, but we'll get into some third downs that, so far, we've been able to convert. We're not a quick strike offense right now, so if you get us off the field, and put some points up yourself, it'll be hard for us to come back.
Thanks, PJD. Do you follow the Vikings? Purple Jesus Diaries has an always readable, totally unique, profanely funny take on Minnesota's team. (Twin Cities papers refuse to print "Redskins," by the way. Yet, "Vikings" is a Scandinavian slur. How did I forget to ask about that?)
Redskins Hog Heaven answered questions about the Team That Shall Not Be Named In MN for Purple Jesus. Click here for the link. Go take a look. We'll be here when you get back.
Images: Redskins - Vikings found at Redskins.com, Purple Jesus Diaries masthead via Bloguin.com, Christian Ponder - September 15, 2012, Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America via zimbio.com, Percy Harvin - September 8, 2012, Hannah Foslien/Getty Images North America via zimbio.com.
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More good stuff peeps, well done.
Like I said on PJD... I think the Vikings can take this game. Although, I think it will be pretty closely contested and hard fought. Especially with RG3 playing, it changes the entire dynamics of the Redskins offense. Plus our defense might not actually be this good, although it's hard to tell because we've played some bad teams. We're certainly better than last year though, and infinity better without Madieu Williams and Ced.