Editor's Note: As the Vikings enjoy a well-deserved bye week sitting atop the NFC North with a 7-1 record, we thought it was a good time to hand out mid-season report cards. In the first of the two-part series today, we grade the offense and coaching. Sunday we will grade the defense and special teams.
QUARTERBACK – It's impossible to predict how the Vikings would have fared without the signing of Brett Favre, but it's safe to say they wouldn't be 7-1. Favre has been nothing short of magnificent. Not only has provided a leadership presence, he has been nearly flawless in the field – throwing just two interceptions in eight games. He has found a way to manage games, get all of his receivers involved on game days and spread the ball around effectively. He has lived up to every bit of his hype and, in the process, has made backups Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels better by leading by example. GRADE: A
RUNNING BACK – When your lead back is averaging 100 yards a game and leads the NFC in touchdowns, it's hard to complain. Yet, Adrian Peterson has lacked some of the explosiveness that fans have seen the first two seasons. Teams have committed eight to the box regularly with the expressed purpose of stopping A.D. and have done a solid job at containing him. He's still good for one or two breakout plays a game, but fans have been spoiled by his incredible ability. Anywhere else, the kind of numbers Peterson has produced would be a Godsend, but in Minnesota they're asking for more. Chester Taylor remains one of the best backup RBs in the league and has developed a rapport with Favre coming out of the backfield and on third downs. The fullback position has been pretty negligible, as the biggest news Naufahu Tahi made has been as a locker-room wrestling victim. GRADE: A-minus.
WIDE RECEIVER – The Vikings knew they had talent, but Favre has found a way to take advantage of all their skills. Bernard Berrian has suffered through his annual injury, this time a hamstring, but remains a deep threat that no longer is required to get double coverage, which could open up big-play opportunities in the second half. Sidney Rice has blossomed with Favre as his trigger man and has transformed into a go-to receiver in his own right. Percy Harvin has made most of his headlines as a return man, but his third-down numbers are impressive. He has become a Favre favorite on plays where, if he doesn't catch the ball, the Vikings give it up to the other team. The three are all starting to get recognized and, while he isn't used much, Greg Lewis showed his value with his circus catch against the 49ers to win that game and keep the Vikings' closest bid to an upset loss not materialize. If the Big Three can stay healthy, there's no reason to believe they won't post as good or better numbers in the second half of the season. GRADE: B-plus.
TIGHT END – Visanthe Shiancoe for the first year he spent with the Vikings was viewed by and large as a bust and a waste of free agent dollars, at least by those who saw him only in game action. But in his last 12 games, he has scored nine touchdowns and has become one of Favre's favorite targets in the red zone. Jim Kleinsasser and Jeff Dugan have done an unheralded job of protecting Favre in max-protect formations and kept him from getting sacked after a rough start the first two or three games. The position doesn't have a Tony Gonzalez type of field-stretcher, but Shiancoe has developed into a solid offensive threat that, by his admission, opposing coordinators have to game plan for. GRADE: B.
OFFENSIVE LINE – There were a lot of concerns about this area, given that Matt Birk was allowed to leave via free agency and Ryan Cook was pulled from his position at right tackle. However, John Sullivan and Phil Loadholt have done a solid job in replacing them and both should only get better over time. There are some concerns about the condition of Steve Hutchinson's back, which still appear to bother him at times. Bryant McKinnie and Anthony Herrera have both done a solid job and have rarely been beaten. Artis Hicks remains a valued member of the line because of his versatility and ability to play four line positions. There is room for improvement in the run blocking aspect, but there is little to complain about here. GRADE: B
COACHING – Brad Childress rolled the dice in his pursuit of Favre. He risked losing his team, which had gone through minicamps, OTAs and training camp without Favre and felt somewhat betrayed by his signing. His mantra remained the same – that the team is always looking for players at any position that can make it better. Nobody is arguing his decision now. He gambled his coaching future by not letting Favre get away and everyone is happy about it. The offense has played with more fire and the defense has remained solid under Darrell Bevell and Leslie Frazier. With the occasional bump in the road here and there, the coaches have made good halftime adjustments that have allowed the Vikings to come back from deficits and put away teams in the fourth quarter. GRADE: A-minus.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Grading the team: Offense, coaching
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