Vikings Offense vs The Eagles
It will be interesting to see how committed the Vikings are to running the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles this Sunday.
Dalvin Cook has been absolutely dominant carrying the rock, which illustrates both his own amazing abilities as a running back as well as how well the Vikings offensive line has improved within the zone blocking scheme. While it is fair to criticize the line’s pass protection, there is no denying they’ve improved from last year in the run game.
This will be a great test of the Vikings run blocking, which to date has been generally superb with the exception of the Bears game. The only question is whether or not the Vikings decide to forego that test.
Philadelphia is currently the top run-stopping team in the league, according to Team Rankings, giving up an average of only 63 yards per game. The Eagles are allowing only 3.2 yards per carry.
So, rather than attacking the strength of Philly’s defense, the Vikings are much more likely to use play-action passes and the screens that were so effective against New York.
The Athletic‘s Arif Hasan points out:
Outside of the Jets game, the Eagles have allowed a passer rating of 133.8 on play-action passes and, per SportRadar, are a bottom-third team in defending screen passes. Given that the Vikings heavily employ play-action and the screen game, their playcalling strategy matches up perfectly with what the Eagles have struggled with.Vikings Film Room: Why the offense is well-positioned to take on the Eagles’ D
While the Vikings screen game appears to have gotten on track and play-action plays appear to be a work in progress, we’ve yet to see the team use many quick passing plays such as quick slants that require a two-step drop and Kirk Cousins firing the ball right away.
Pete Bercich illustrates the importance of Cousins making quick reads against the Eagles. (I’ve started where Bercich pick up so you don’t have to listen to the insufferable Paul Allen.)
One of the frustrations of watching Cousins during his Vikings tenure, though, has been how long he holds onto the ball in the pocket. It betrays a lack of confidence in what he’s seeing and suggests he has not developed the “muscle memory” that allows veteran quarterbacks to quickly react to patterns on the field rather than thinking about how a play develops.
The Athletic‘s Emory Hunt nails the consequences of Cousins’ hesitancy:
Because he [Cousins] is hesitant to make tough throws consistently, it forces him to not read the complete field, and therefore, he seems to only distribute the ball to the first similar jersey he sees. This isn’t to say that other receivers aren’t open on the play, or that the guy he decides to throw the ball to wasn’t open. It basically shows that Cousins is not always giving the play time to develop, or isn’t scanning to find a better option than the easily available option.A scout’s take: The curious case of Stefon Diggs
With the Eagles struggling secondary, it would seem this is the perfect matchup for the Vikings to have an outstanding passing performance (and maybe make one Stefon Diggs much happier).
We shall see.
Vikings Defense vs The Eagles
The Vikings will need to first prevent the Eagles from establishing the run in order to force Carson Wentz to beat the Vikings through the air.
It appears the Eagles will be without deep threat DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery is recovering from a calf injury, and Nelson Agholor has not been a factor this season.
That could force Wentz to rely on tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert out of 12 personnel. And that’s not likely to generate many explosive plays.
The Athletic‘s Arif Hasan broke down Everson Griffen‘s return to dominance and illustrated what that means to the Vikings overall defense with this telling statistic:
…the Vikings rank 27th defensively in average depth of target, with opposing passers only going 7.5 yards downfield on average on their passes. The most aggressively targeted defenses, like the Lions, deal with passers averaging a depth of 11 yards an attempt.Vikings Film Room: A look at the resurgence of Everson Griffen
That performance will likely continue on Sunday.
4-0 vs Bird Teams
Nice observsation, b.!
I don’t know if the Vikings home pyrotechnics show will return on Sunday, but just in case you need a fix: