Will the Vikings find an offense to match their defense?
Chances to succeed and chances to fail come along for all of us every day so why should we exclude Mike Zimmer and his Minnesota Vikings?
Familiar names are leaving the Vikes and new ones are arriving as the team wades into the 2017 season. The question right now is "will we be in the red or the black when the free agency hunting season is over?"
Last week the Vikings signed two offensive tackles from the free agent market - Detroit's Riley Reiff and Carolina's Mike Remmers to replace what could be 17 defections from the 2016 team that went 8-8. Reiff was a first round pick by the Detroit Lions in 2012, the same year the Vikings went after Matt Kalil with their No. 1 selection. Remmers made a brief stop with the Vikes in 2013 before the Carolina Panthers taught him something about blocking.
It was only two years ago that Zimmer took a second-year quarterback and paired him with a young but talented defense with the NFC North and put his team into the NFC playoffs against Seattle, a club that had appeared in three straight Super Bowls. The tipping point for the Vikes in that contest came when Blair Walsh shanked a chip shot field goal that would have put the Vikings in the NFC Divisional playoff round. The Seahawks left the field with a 10-9 victory.
As vexing as it was to see Walsh blow it after kicking three field goals in that game, many believed 2016 promised to be an even greater year for the Vikes. What they found out was January expectations mean nothing if your favorite team is deluged by injuries.
While everyone was wondering how rusty Adrian Peterson would be after missing 16 games the previous season due to a child abuse charge, the Vikings won all four of their pre-season games. It all started going south when quarterback Teddy Bridgewater tore an ACL and dislocated his knee in practice before the regular season even started. In what was called a "non-contact" injury, Bridgewater ended up on the ground with his knee pointing in one direction and his foot in another. With so much riding on their quarterback, the Vikings were suddenly in a lot of trouble.
GM Rick Spielman had to pony up Minnesota's No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft and a conditional No. 4 pick in 2018 for Philadelphia's disgruntled Sam Bradford. It was a huge risk because Bradford has spent most of his career on the bench nursing injuries.
After taking over for the aging reserve quarterback Shaun Hill in Week 2, Bradford quickly had the fans believing the Vikings were unbeatable. Spielman, who has more than his share of critics, looked like a genius.
But Spielman's gamble was not enough to get the Vikes back into the playoffs. As the season progressed the injuries cascaded down and it began to look like someone was sticking pins into the boys in purple. Peterson was lost until in September after making a paltry contribution in the first two games. Matt Kalil, Andre Smith, Jake Long and Michael Harris were all lost from the offensive line leaving Bradford to throw short or play the role of tackling dummy and reducing Minnesota's ground game, which ranked fourth in the NFL in 2015, to dead last in 2016.
It all ended with the Vikings going 8-8 and missing the playoffs by a mile.
It has been no secret the Vikings have to improve their offensive line play in 2017. With Reiff and Remmers aboard maybe their medical staff can catch a breather?
Even if the Vikings end up re-signing Peterson to go along with Jerick McKinnon, they would be smart to spend their second round pick in the NFL draft on a running back.
The top four running threats in the 2017 draft are projected as being Florida State's Dalvin Cook, LSU's Leonard Fournette, Stanford's Christian McCaffrey and Tennessee's Alvin Kamara. The Vikings might have to trade up for these backs but they should be able to grab Oklahoma State's Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine, South Florida's Marlon Mack and Clemson's Wayne Gallman without any fancy footwork. Who knows what kind of back the Vikings may come up with? They have had their share of winners and losers.
Zimmer was right when he concentrated on building a defense in his first years with the Vikings but here is a fact he has apparently missed - the last time the Vikings fought their way to the NFC championship game in 2009 their offense scored 470 points. They have not reached 400 points in a season since that time.
One other tidbit to chew on - those two clubs duking it out in the Super Bowl in February, Atlanta and New England, ranked first and third in the NFL in putting points on the board last year.
As important as defense is to the Vikings, it is time they concentrate on putting together a high-energy offense that will score touchdowns instead of field goals. An offense that ranks 23rd in the league in scoring is not going to cut it.