Norv Turner is out in Minnesota, Pat Shurmur is in, but the bigger concern for the Vikings is that they might need another starting quarterback far sooner than anyone would have expected. That's what happens when you have the NFL's worst run game and teams are teeing off on Sam Bradford.
Teddy Bridgewater's prognosis for returning from severe knee damage is still murky and any firm timetable is a ways off. Bradford is regressing to the reality of what he's been for his entire career, and is on the verge of suffering an injury himself if this offensive line remains as putrid as it has played the past few weeks. Injury risk was always the biggest mitigating factor with the Vikings and now they are already without their first and fourth-round picks in 2017.
It could be a tricky and complicated offseason there -- especially if the defense is not transcendent enough to overcome all of these limitations on offense. And especially if there is no playoff run.
I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but I'd be worried right now. The degree to which this team is getting abused in the trenches is astounding, and it's doing it against defenses in the Eagles and the Bears that aren't exactly going to remind anyone of the '85 Bears. This league is crazy and things can change in an instant and I don't see much hope that the Vikings can reinvent this offensive line on the fly after the trade deadline has already passed.
This is who they are. This is their line. This is their running game -- by far worst in the NFL at just 2.66 yards a carry, a full half-yard behind the next closest team, and just three rushing touchdowns as a whole. This is who Bradford is. And it's not going to change all of a sudden.
"At some point all of these quarterbacks basically are who they are," said one personnel executive after watching Bradford Monday night. "They may get hot here or there, but they eventually, over time, will regress to what they are. I believe that's what we're seeing here."
In the last two weeks, with teams now going blitz-heavy against Bradford and attacking him with abandon, he has struggled mightily. In those two losses to the Eagles and Bears, Bradford is 47-of-78 (60 percent) for 452 yards (5.79 yards/attempt) with two touchdowns, one interception, two fumbles, 11 sacks and a QB rating of just 79.6. The Vikings had a nice run on offense early on, with a little healthier line, but that seems like a long time ago.
On the road, with it being loud and Bradford under more duress and without that crowd behind them, it's been the tale of two quarterbacks. Consider:
|Completion %||YPA||TD||INT||Sacks||QB rating||Fumbles|
|Bradford on the road||61.3||5.88||3||1||13||83.2||5 (2 lost)|
|Bradford at home||72.2||8.44||5||0||6||114.6||0|
"Look at Minnesota the last two weeks, and what a difference it's been for them," said an advance scout who has watched them closely. "That was the only game Philly has won in the last four weeks, and the Bears are a bad football team. Yeah, he's got happy feet. Hey, wouldn't you? They're butchering that offensive line. I don't know what to tell you. That's ugly man. Chicago just bullied them around. And it's not like they have edge rushers. [Pernell] McPhee did some good things, but come on. That doesn't look good. [Offensive coordinator] Norv Turner has to find a way to run the ball."
Make that Shurmur now, but the problems are still the same.
"They don't have a left tackle. [TJ Clemmings] is a converted defensive lineman for Christ sake, and that's what he's looked like. At Pitt, he struggled with the counter move, same as now, and he's very limited in pass pro. But he can be an animal in the run game. Put a blocking tight end over there and beat up those pass rushers a little bit instead of letting them kill your quarterback. I've seen this happen before, where you get a quarterback who can throw it and you stop running the ball and you get into trouble. They've got to start running the football, even if it's not getting much."
Add in the fact that Adrian Peterson will be a year older in 2017 and that he's slowed down drastically already and he'll be coming off injury and, yeah, ain't no way he's getting the $18M he's scheduled to earn next season. You also have a Vikings team that could be facing some probing questions in two months. This feels like a crossroads game with the Lions this weekend to me, with each team's season possibly headed in very different directions.