Sunday, December 21, 2014

Five Things to Watch for Against the Dolphins

Photo Courtesy of KFAN100.3

The Vikings will travel to hot and steamy Miami for a matchup with the Dolphins. Daniel House analyzes where the Vikings need to perform well to come out on top. 

Updated: December 21st, 2014 9:12am 

By: Daniel House

The Vikings are going to be having fun in the sun as they travel to South Beach in a matchup with the Miami Dolphins. They are looking to get back in the winning column after squandering opportunities, en route to a 16-14 loss to Detroit last week. After being in playoff contention at the midpoint of the season, Miami has lost three of their four contests, which has essentially eliminated them from playoff contention in a packed AFC playoff race. Their coaching staff is on the hot seat and they know the next two games will be critical for their future. Young quarterback Ryan Tannehill has continued to grow and with weapons like Mike Wallace and rookie Jarvis Landry, he has shown developmental progress. However, they have been relatively inconsistent on both sides of the ball, which has led to their struggles down the stretch. As for the Vikings, they are looking to gain confidence down the stretch to build upon what they have already established. The more playing time these young players will receive, the better future we will see going forward. Today is another day to grow as an organization and that is all you can ask for.

Bridgewater needs to a play complete game
Teddy Bridgewater has shown moments where he is throwing the ball perfect, while making the correct reads. In other instances, he has struggled to hit receivers down the field and it has sometimes resulted in giveaways. Last week, two interceptions led to Detroit scoring an extra 10 points, which was the clear difference in the game. Teddy will be making his return back to his home state of Florida and you know he will want to put on a show for the fans. This won't be an easy task against a Dolphins squad that has allowed the third fewest passing yards per game this season. Bridgewater has shown flashes of putting together a complete performance, but we haven't quite gotten one yet. Teddy needs to continue to build confidence heading into next season and putting together two solid outings over the final weeks of the season will be huge for his future. The coaches are pleased with how he has handled the offense and if he can figure out some of the technicalities, he will continue to mature as an NFL quarterback.

Can Patterson see more action?
Cordarrelle Patterson witnessed nine snaps last week and he played more of a role in the offensive game plan. He entered the game following an injury to Jarius Wright and Bridgewater targeted him on three consecutive plays. After having a supposed heart-to-heart with Mike Zimmer, Patterson is starting to feel more comfortable with his role. With just two games to play and the Vikings out of playoff contention, Patterson should see more snaps. The more action he witnesses will be critical to continuing his growth heading into next season. He needs to grow as a route runner and his knowledge of the offense needs to improve before he starts to flourish as a wide receiver in the league.

Will the offensive line hold together?
The Vikings offensive line has been riddled with injuries and it hasn't helped Teddy Bridgewater in certain situations. With three replacements holding down the fort, there is an expectation that struggles will occur. They played better than anticipated and allowed just four sacks last week, but they need to be ready for a quietly pesky Miami defensive line. The Dolphins have accumulated the 12th-most sacks in the league and they have some speed rushers that can get off the edge in a hurry. If the offensive line is going to play poorly, they need to do everything they can to prevent an injury to Teddy Bridgewater.

Keep Jarvis Landry and Mike Wallace under control
The Dolphins wide receivers have quietly been producing well and with the recent emergence of Jarvis Landry, the Miami passing attack continues to grow. Their offense has put up a respectable amount of points, but their defense has been leaky after injuries started to plague their secondary. Jarvis Landry can play in the slot and on the outside, which means Captain Munnerlyn will need to be ready to handle is athletic skill-set. Xavier Rhodes will likely be handling veteran Mike Wallace, but the x-factor of the Miami offense has been Landry as of late. If the Vikings secondary can't corral both of these weapons, Ryan Tannehill will find them up the field and it could be a short day on the beach for the Vikings defense.

Blair Walsh needs to hit on the field goals 
Blair Walsh is 1-for-6 over his last seven field goal tries and he has continued to struggle hitting balls through the goal post. This week, Walsh indicated this was a mental issue that could be easily corrected. The Vikings offense is the type of group that needs to score all their possible points and Walsh hasn't been able to contribute over the last two weeks. However, many of these attempts were 50+ yards or longer and included a blocked try. Nonetheless, he still missed several of these kicks in an indoor environment. I just want to see him attempt multiple kicks and drain them to gain his confidence and P. Diddy swag back.

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