Saturday, December 10, 2016

Vikings vs. Jaguars Preview


The Minnesota Vikings will travel to Jacksonville for a matchup with the Jaguars as they try to keep their playoff hopes alive. Daniel House previews the game and provides his analysis of a young Jacksonville team.

Updated: December 10th, 2016 11:21am

By: Daniel House

The Minnesota Vikings will travel to Jacksonville for a matchup with the Jaguars as they try to keep their playoff hopes alive. Their record won’t indicate it, but Jacksonville has a young and promising defense with some very talented players. Their secondary has allowed the second-fewest passing yards per game and their pass rush has been gradually improving as the year has progressed. This game has the chance to be low scoring and the Minnesota defense must take advantage of Jags quarterback Blake Bortles and his poor decision making. He has thrown an interception in four of his last five games and the Vikings will need their defense to score some points in this game. In fact, the total margin for error for this team is slim and they need to limit their mistakes, while playing complementary football in all three phases.

For more, take a dive inside my Vikings vs. Jaguars preview:

Bortles’ Scrambling Ability
Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles has some scrambling ability and can extend plays, but when he does, all of his mechanics go out the window. He has struggled taking care of the football and has thrown interceptions in four of the last five games. Not to mention, he has thrown 11 career pick-sixes, which is one more than his career win total (10). The Minnesota pass rush has been catching stride recently and needs to get after Bortles early and often. When Bortles is forced to make a quick decision, he forces the football and gets into trouble. He has the tendency to throw off of his back foot and loft the ball into tight spaces. Xavier Rhodes will need to cover Allen Robinson well because he is a solid vertical threat in their offense. Bortles has the ability to extend plays and the defensive line must keep contain and collapse the pocket to force him into mistakes.

The Jags’ D-Line is underrated
With rookie Yannick Ngakoue already contributing six sacks, the Jaguars defensive line has been flashing some depth. Second-year defensive end Dante Fowler has been struggling, but Ngakoue has provided a nice depth at the defensive end position. What’s more, Malik Jackson has really flashed his ability to create interior pressure. The Minnesota offensive line will have their hands full with many young and talented pass rushers lining up against them. The Vikings might be without Joe Berger again, which means Nick Easton will be tasked with keeping the interior pressure at a minimum. The tackles will be tested off the edge with a variety of stunts and pressures that Gus Bradley will deploy in his defense. Many of the concepts you will see from the Jags defense are similar to the Seattle defensive system. Jacksonville has been averaging over three sacks per game over the last four weeks and this will be a nice test for the Vikings’ make-shift offensive line.

Stopping the run
TJ Yeldon is a player the Vikings should pay close attention to. The Jags are averaging 101 yards per game on the ground, which is respectable. Yeldon is averaging 3.6 yards per carry and both he and he is also valuable in the receiving game. If the Vikings want to win this game, they will need to stop the run because they cannot allow Jacksonville to dictate the flow of the game. If they run the ball well, it will open play-action passing, leading to Bortles creating more plays with his legs.

Passing against Jacksonville’s secondary
The biggest difficulty for the Vikings’ offense will be passing against the Jacksonville secondary. They have a very talented nucleus of defensive backs, spear-headed by Jalen Ramsey and Prince Amukamara. Ramsey, a rookie, has flashed his coverage abilities this season and his blend of speed and physicality are tough for opposing wide receivers to handle. There have been moments where he is out of position, but he has gone toe-to-toe with the likes of Demaryius Thomas and Steve Smith Sr. already. The Jags’ secondary is allowing the second-fewest passing yards per game (195.8) and their linebackers have done an excellent job of covering underneath passing plays too. The Vikings will need to run the ball in this game in order to set up play-action passes. This is something that hasn’t happened all year and it has placed a heavy constraint on the Minnesota offense.

Finishing drives
The Vikings’ offense has been terrible at finishing drives in the red zone. They have the fourth-lowest red zone scoring percentage (45%) and are unable to get creative inside the 20-yard-line. Oftentimes, a negative play occurs or a penalty stalls the offensive momentum. The offense hasn’t been disciplined and they need to eliminate the mistakes if they want to start scoring touchdowns, instead of kicking field goals. In addition, they have to start attacking the end zone. The play-calling has the tendency to favor quick passing, which allows defensive units to clamp down. If they are presented with opportunities within 20 yards of the end zone, they need to be more aggressive. Right now, short runs and 5-yard passes aren’t working. Attacking the end zone and coming away with touchdowns is necessary to put the game out of reach.

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