How far away are the Vikings from being successful in the league? Daniel House answers this question and provides five areas where the Vikings must improve, in order to be successful in 2014.
Updated: September 2nd, 2014 7:00pm
By: Daniel House
Regular season football is on the horizon and the Vikings are just four days removed from kicking off the regular season in St. Louis. I took the time to analyze areas the Vikings must improve upon in order to win football games and be successful this season.
Winning on the Road
The Vikings couldn't win on the road last season and finished 0-7-1 during games played outside of Minnesota. Mike Zimmer has been developing ways for the team to adjust to the rigors of playing on the road and wants to solve this issue. It is almost impossible to be successful in the league if you can't win a few games away from your state. That situation has been one of the main problems for the Vikings over the last two seasons. Winning on the road involves a different mindset and this coaching staff has been openly working to make players more comfortable in this situation. By communicating well, preparing for the game in a timely manner, and keeping everyone disciplined, this problem can be resolved in a timely fashion.
Consistent QB Play
With Christian Ponder playing part of the season and Matt Cassel entering for brief stints, there was no consistency at the quarterback position. The Vikings finally added an offensive coordinator who can provide a player like Matt Cassel with a system he can play well within. Norv Turner has been developing plays to fully utilize the skill-sets of every player on the field. You could definitely see in training camp and the preseason how comfortable Cassel seemed with the new offense. With the weapons the team has, Turner can become creative and develop the plays to the abilities of the receivers and the quarterback. Matt Cassel played well when he was awarded the opportunity last year, but was rather inconsistent at times. He needs to show that a plethora of weapons, along with a new offensive scheme can be enough to make the strides necessary to win games at the quarterback position.
The Vikings defense was only able to register 20 turnovers last season and much of this can be attributed to the scheme. Mike Zimmer and the new coaching staff is implementing a tougher defensive philosophy that is aggressive and more physical at the line of scrimmage. The defensive backs are playing more man coverage and are heavily pressing wide receivers at the point of attack. In addition, there is more blitzing and exotic looks that will be used in an effort to pressure the quarterback. The goal is to trouble the quarterback, play more aggressive in the secondary, and ultimately create turnovers. If those goals can be executed well, the team can win the critical take-give statistic and improve as a defense.
Adjusting to Playing Outdoors
Mike Zimmer has stressed his team will be ready to play outdoors when the wind is howling in December, but it certainly will be an adjustment for this football team. The Vikings will spend their first full-season outdoors since 1981. The University of Minnesota added seating on the open end of the stadium to push the capacity to 52,525 and season ticket sales remain high. The elements haven't been the team's friend the past three seasons and with a combined record of 2-15-1 during that span, Mike Zimmer will have his work cut out for him to prepare the Vikings for the elements this season. The Vikings have always been a dominating force at home and this advantage will need to translate to TCF Bank Stadium, in order for the team to have a chance in the NFC North.
The Vikings lost five games in the final minute last year and by doing so, seemingly eliminated themselves from the playoff race. The defense would drop back in a deep zone and be conservative, while allowing the opposing team to put together a long touchdown drive to win the game. By not being conservative on offense and defense, this issue can quickly be resolved. Also, having a disciplinary defensive coach like Mike Zimmer will simply cause this task to not become a frequent occurrence. Furthermore, with a more aggressive defensive scheme that preaches fundamentals, there shouldn't be a passive approach in the final moments of the game. This coaching staff won't take the foot off the gas pedal and it should help alleviate the pain of agonizing defeats for Vikings fans.
With some coaching and the correct personnel being placed on the field, many of these issues can be resolved. The Vikings have a core group of young players with some question marks specifically at the middle linebacker and safety position. To ease these worries, the coaching staff has ensured they will find the correct mix and won't allow players to continue making repetitive mistakes. If all of these issues can be solved quickly, the Vikings can be a rather formidable foe in the league this season.