REPORT CARD AFTER 3 GAMES
PASSING OFFENSE: D — After having what he has called the best season of his career in 2009, Brett Favre and his wide receivers have failed to get on the same page in 2010. Favre has thrown only two touchdown passes and his six interceptions are one fewer than he had all of last season. The question is whether Favre, who will turn 41 on Oct. 10, will be able to turn around things. His favorite receiver from a year ago, Sidney Rice, is out for at least half the season after undergoing hip surgery. There was an expectation that Bernard Berrian would be one of Favre's primary targets but so far that hasn't been the case. Berrian was slowed by hamstring injuries for much of last season, but this year he appears to be simply ineffective. He has only five receptions for 38 yards in three games, meaning he's averaging only 7.6 yards per reception. It's not a good sign that running back Adrian Peterson leads the Vikings with 13 receptions.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus — Peterson has been very effective through three games, rushing for 392 yards on 70 carries with three touchdowns. It's also a positive sign for the Vikings that Peterson has not committed a fumble in 83 touches. Peterson has been plagued by fumble issues during his career and that was one area the Vikings needed him to clean up. He also is being used frequently on third down, a role that had been reserved for Chester Taylor before the veteran left for Chicago as a free agent. Peterson's pass protection remains a work in progress, but the fact the Vikings feel comfortable enough to have him on the field is a good thing. Rookie Toby Gerhart has been the backup to Peterson the past two games and has 22 yards on seven carries. He also lost a fumble in the fourth quarter of the Vikings' victory over Detroit in Week 3. It will be interesting to see if the Vikings stick with Gerhart or give Albert Young another chance. Young isn't spectacular but he is probably more reliable on third down and with the ball in his hands.
PASS DEFENSE: B — The Vikings have been inconsistent in this area during Brad Childress' tenure as head coach, but it appears Minnesota could be much improved in limiting the aerial attack of its opponents. The addition of second-round pick Chris Cook, who played his first game in Week 3 against Detroit after missing time because of a knee injury, gives the Vikings a big cornerback (6-2, 212 pounds) who is good in press coverage. The Vikings used a defensive backfield that featured Cook at the left corner and veteran Antoine Winfield inside in passing downs. Cedric Griffin also has returned after tearing his ACL in the NFC title game last season and played against the Lions. Husain Abdullah, meanwhile, has taken over as the starter at strong safety and seems to bring an aggressiveness that was lacking for much of last season when Tyrell Johnson held that job. The Vikings do get consistent pressure on the quarterback so that should set up the pass defense to be a strength.
RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus — The Vikings have been outstanding in this area since Childress became coach in 2006, finishing first or second each year. Defensive tackles Kevin Williams (30 years old) and Pat Williams (turns 38 later this month) aren't getting any younger but this remains an area of strength for the Vikings, thanks in large part to a defensive line that is one of the best in the league. Minnesota has given up fewer than 100 yards on the ground to two of its first three opponents, but there was some disappointment the Saints were able to hold the ball and eat up clock in the second half by running it in the season-opener.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B — The Vikings showed big improvement on special teams in 2009 and continue to be pretty solid. The decision to trade running back Darius Reynaud to the New York Giants before the season cost the Vikings a very capable punt returner and to date they haven't found an adequate replacement. Wide receiver Greg Camarillo appears to be the choice at this point, but that could change. Kicker Ryan Longwell and punter Chris Kluwe remain extremely consistent.
COACHING: C-plus — After guiding his team to a 12-4 record and the NFC title game last season, Brad Childress had the Vikings at 1-2 entering the bye week. There is no real pressure on Childress, who got a contract extension last season, and the reality is that he has plenty of time to turn around things. The biggest piece of the puzzle will be getting the passing game on track with Favre and his wide receivers. If the Vikings can do that, the slow start could be long forgotten. The Vikings have a tough four-game stretch this month (at Jets, Packers and Patriots and vs. Cowboys) that could define how the season is viewed.
Grading the Vikings through 3 weeks
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