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Bleacher Report – Vikings

How OC Pat Shurmur can improve the Vikings’ offense in 2017

By Matthew Coller

Pat Shurmur faced quite the uphill battle in 2016.

He took over as Minnesota Vikings’ offensive coordinator after Norv Turner resigned midway through the year and inherited a team that had lost its starting left and right tackles and future Hall of Fame running back.

It appears Shurmur will have a chance with the (presumably) healthy team next year and the offseason to fix some of the issues that caused the Vikings to finish 28th in the NFL in yards. ESPN’s Ben Goessling is reporting that the Vikings will remove the interim tag and make the former Rams and Eagles’ OC their permanent offensive coordinator.

Shurmur will likely stick with the fundamental elements of the West Coast offense i.e. high-percentage passes with a deep option, but he will have to add more of his own touch and creativity to the offense if the Vikings are going to take a major step forward on offense.

Read more about the West Coast offense here:

Can Pat Shurmur and the West Coast offense save the Vikings season?

So, here are some things the Vikings should consider adding to their arsenal?

Creative formations

A few years back, Florida/South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier brought back a formation that had been used in the 1950s in which the tackles spread out as if they were wide receivers. He called it the Emory and Henry formation. Chip Kelly caught the NFL off guard by using it during his first year in Philadelphia and Hue Jackson pulled it off when he was the OC in Cincinnati and this year in Cleveland. The Bengals confused the New York Giants to the tune of a 71-yard touchdown by pulling out a version of the Emory and Henry.

This play has two receiving options on screens and three running streaks. The deep safety has to decide whether he’s going to stay over the top of the far receiver or tight end. Whichever he picks, the quarterback goes to the other receiver.

The Vikings revived the Wildcat and used six-man offensive lines in goal line situations on occasion. Many of those times, however, the Vikings tried to pound the ball up the middle. They could copycat the Oakland Raiders and implement more six-linemen run plays toward the edges like the one below and use them in more situations than just at the goal.

The Raiders used three different running backs and gained nearly 1,800 yards on the ground at 4.8 yards per carry. Of course, they had one of the best offensive line’s in the league, but there is still some things that can be taken away from their schemes.

Getting the most out of playmakers

This next one may depend on whether Cordarrelle Patterson returns, but the Vikings could put a receiver in the backfield more often. That was not part of their attack in 2016 as it had previously been during Patterson’s rookie year or when Percy Harvin was a Viking.

The Chiefs used their insanely-speedy receiver Tyreek Hill similarly to how the Vikings used Patterson, throwing mostly short passes and screens his way. The only difference was that Kansas City used him out of the backfield. He averaged 11.1 yards per carry. In this example, the Chiefs sell either a screen or outside handoff, then Hill takes a designed cut back and goes all the way.

The rise of Green Bay Packers receiver-turned-running back Ty Montgomery should also point the Vikings toward using some of their playmakers out of the backfield, whether it’s in the passing game or giving them handoffs from time to time.

If Adrian Peterson is let go by the Vikings, Shurmur may put more emphasis on screen passes to running backs. In 2015, Jerick McKinnon caught 10 passes behind the line of scrimmage and averaged 7.0 yards per catch on those throws. In 2016, he grabbed 17 and only gained 4.3 yards per reception. The lack of talent and continuity up front limited the Vikings’ ability to get their linemen in space to block for screens, so as they improve via free agency/draft/trade, there should be more opportunities to run plays like this:

The complexity of this play is admirable. There is a fake end around, a fullback blocking right to sell the end around and the center double team blocking then releasing to get out in front of Murray.

Bradford on the move

Nobody knows quarterback Sam Bradford better than Shurmur, so the Vikings’ OC would be well aware that he doesn’t exactly have the next coming of Randall Cunningham under center, but Bradford is a surprisingly great thrower when he is outside the pocket or on the run. On this play against the Cowboys, he escapes the rush, keeps his eyes downfield and throws a flawless pass to Adam Thielen near the sidelines. It might be beneficial to the Vikings’ offense to find ways to get Bradford moving outside the pocket to create time for deep-developing routes.

Red Zone

The area the Vikings most need changes is in the red zone. They scored touchdowns on just 46% of their drives, which ranked 28th in the NFL.

Part of that was on play calling decisions. The Vikings ran either Matt Asiata or Jerick McKinnon 32 times inside their opponent’s 10-yard line and scored on just seven of those runs. Asiata received the seventh most carries in the NFL in those situations. The two times McKinnon was targeted in the passing game, he produced touchdowns on both. In fact, 10 of Bradford’s 17 throws inside the 10 turned into touchdowns.

Here is one of them. An empty backfield and nice route by McKinnon to create separation for the touchdown.

Third downs

The Vikings gained just 4.37 yards per play in third down, the third fewest in the NFL with only the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams averaging less. T

he passing game in particular struggled as Sam Bradford averaged only 5.8 yards per pass attempt on third down, which was only better than Blake Bortles and Ryan Fitzpatrick and on par with Jared Goff. Cleveland’s Cody Kessler, Houston’s Brock Osweiler and L.A.’s Case Keenum were all better on third down.

Things weren’t much better on the ground. Between Asiata and McKinnon, the Vikings ran the ball 21 times on third down and gained a first down on eight of those attempts.

Not everything can be blamed on the offensive line. One of the biggest issues on third down was that opponents discovered ways to bait Bradford into throwing to his first read. As an example, the Lions showed blitz by moving all their linebackers up to the line of scrimmage, then the middle linebacker bails out and makes a B-line for Asiata.

Shurmur and Vikings’ GM Rick Spielman will have their work cut out this offseason finding ways to improve an offense that was sub-par. They must upgrading the offensive line, add a dash of creativity and work to the strengths and weaknesses of the quarterback and playmakers.

The post How OC Pat Shurmur can improve the Vikings’ offense in 2017 appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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