Sunday slant: Vikings' difference-makers

If Vikings coaches are asking (they're not), here are some of our suggestions on changes to make coming off the bye, before the season is lost. Some of the opinions are backed by in-depth statistics that show how much more productive the offense is when certain players are in (and it goes beyond the QB position).

The Vikings are 1-3, on bye and likely getting away from it all this weekend. But, on Monday, they will be "back on their heads" looking for ways to improve.

Which, of course, gives us an opportunity for our humble submissions to that process (just in case they were looking for ways to turn it around):

Most valuable: If the coaching staff is looking to maximize what works, they already classify themselves as a run-first offense with Adrian Peterson leading the way. In reality, there are two people that most effectively lead the way for Peterson – fullback Jerome Felton and tight end Rhett Ellison. Good thing for the Vikings that when Felton was serving the first two of his three-game suspension, Ellison was available, and shortly after Ellison was injured, Felton returned from suspension.

Here are some telling statistics to back the importance of those two: With rookie Zach Line in the first three games, the Vikings averaged 2.42 fewer yards per carry than when he was out. With Felton in the game, they average 2.34 yards more per carry than when he was out. Want an even more telling stat? When Ellison was in the game, the Vikings averaged 6.36 yards more per carry than when he was out. Granted, it has been a smaller sample size with Ellison and Felton, but it makes you wonder how much more effective the running game can be when both of them are in the lineup at the same time.

Around the corner: Not to belabor this point too many times in one week, but Josh Robinson will be targeted by quarterbacks until he stands up and consistently makes them pay, or at least bats a few balls away. To date, only three of the 37 passes thrown into Robinson's coverage responsibility have gone incomplete, according to Pro Football Focus. Through three games, he is credited with no passes defensed and it's not because quarterbacks are avoiding him. There is a reason he has twice as many tackles as any other cornerback on the team. No matter if Chris Cook is able to play next Sunday or not because of his groin injury (we're guessing he will be available), it's time to give Xavier Rhodes a try as a starter and see if Robinson can improve in his more familiar surroundings covering the slot receiver in the nickel defense.

Too weak? Granted, the weakside linebacker is on the field less than half the time in the Vikings defense – a product of teams targeting their pass defense as much as anything – but it appears the time is right to work Desmond Bishop into the starting rotation in the base defense.

The Vikings may be feeling the same way. He played a combined two defensive snaps in the first two games, compared to 40 for starter Marvin Mitchell. But in the last two games, Bishop has actually played more – 27 snaps to Mitchell's 20.

Increasing time: In the first game of the season, rookie DT Sharrif Floyd played 42 snaps and looked generally ineffective while filling in for Kevin Williams, who was out with a knee injury. After that game, head coach Leslie Frazier admitted Floyd was sometimes misreading his keys and playing the run on pass plays and vice versa. But it appears Floyd is developing slowly but surely. His mistakes haven't been as noticeable and, despite Williams coming back, actually got more playing time (27 snaps) than Letroy Guion (22) or Fred Evans (21) in last Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Vikings still aren't ready to supplant Williams with Floyd, and they shouldn't … yet. Despite missing the first game, Williams still has almost 20 more snaps than Guion, Evans or Floyd.

Cassel time: Most fans would love to see QB Matt Cassel in the lineup because, well, they are simply tired of the inconsistency they see from Christian Ponder. Cassel may not be the long-term solution at the position, but in his one game the passing game was operating better. They Vikings gained an average of 10.50 yards per pass with him in the game and 6.86 before the Pittsburgh game.


  • If the Vikings were looking for balance on offense, it's interesting to note that they have actually thrown the ball more than they ran the ball on first downs – 53 rushing plays that averaged 5 yards per carry and 55 passing plays that averaged 5.84 yards per pass.

  • Much has been made of the Vikings' efforts to raise money to pay for part of their $477 million share of the new stadium through personal seat licenses that will range anywhere from $500 to $10,000 per seat. The Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal headlined one of their stories on the topic as such: "Vikings fans will pay $100 million for seat licenses." That's the goal of the licensing program, which charges fans the one-time fee for the season tickets, but the market will really decide if the Vikings even come close to the figure. And if they do, keep in mind that fans also have the right to resell their PSLs and in some markets they have reportedly gotten nine times the value they paid. Again, the market will decide.

  • It's amazing the difference one game can make on a betting line in Las Vegas. The Vikings entered last Sunday's game with 250/1 odds to win the Super Bowl, according to, with a record of 0-3 at the time. One week later, their odds moved to 150/1.

  • Adrian Peterson is 25/1 to repeat as the NFL MVP this year, tied with Detroit Lions RB Reggie Bush. Peyton Manning leads the field at 1/3, with quarterbacks occupying the top five spots before Peterson and Bush enter the equation.

    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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