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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Who will save the Minnesota Vikings’ offense?

By Matthew Coller

Heading into Sunday’s matchup with the Detroit Lions, the Minnesota Vikings couldn’t have been more excited about their offense.

They ranked No. 2 in the NFL in total yards after three weeks and sported two receivers in the top five and the second most productive running back. But after Dalvin Cook suffered a season-ending injury and backup quarterback Case Keenum struggled, the Vikings’ offense appears much more shaky.

Since Cook was the team’s leader in yards from scrimmage, replacing him is nearly impossible. Few running backs in the NFL have his big-play capability and versatility. That doesn’t mean the Vikings’ offense has to sink to the bottom half of the league, where they have lived since Mike Zimmer took over in 2014, but it does mean the offense will need a hero.

Who could step up and save the offense? Let’s have a look…

QB, Sam Bradford

Zimmer said Monday that Bradford remains “day-to-day” with a knee injury that has kept him out since Week 1. There has been no clear indication when he will be back under center.

If the Vikings’ starting quarterback can return at 100%, he is still set up well to lead an effective offense.

Bradford might not be able to repeat his 346-yard, three-touchdown performance against the Saints on a weekly basis, but his ability to throw the ball downfield to Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen can give defenses nightmares if he gets proper protection. Thus far, Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers have been a revelation for the Vikings’ offense, keeping both QBs from getting sacked or taking big hits.

QB, Teddy Bridgewater

We are closing in on the date in which Bridgewater can come off the PUP list. Multiple reports have indicated that he will be ready to get back to practice as soon as he’s activated.

The biggest question would be: How long until Bridgewater would actually be able to play in a real game? He would be stepping into a new offense on a fully repaired knee. By the time the Vikings’ QB is ready to play, it might be too late for him to save the offense. But if he is back to 100% chance, there is always the possibility of Bridgewater writing the next great Disney movie script.

RB, Latavius Murray

It’s a testament to Cook’s excellence that there’s serious disappointment in turning to Murray. He made the Pro Bowl in 2015 and put together a solid season as part of a running back trio in Oakland last year with 788 yards rushing, 12 touchdowns and 33 receptions. Murray is one of the league’s best pass blockers and has decent hands. He isn’t as elusive as Cook nor does he have the vision/patience of the Vikings’ second-round pick, but Murray has proven he can carry a load in a passing offense.

RB, Jerick McKinnon

For a player who showed so much promise in his first two seasons, McKinnon’s results over the last year and four games have been disappointing. He has just 26 yards on 10 carries this season and eight receptions for 40 yards. The Vikings haven’t had to get creative with McKinnon yet (outside of one ill-advised Wildcat run), but Pat Shurmur may have to find ways to get him in space, whether it’s running outside or lining up as a receiver.

WR, Michael Floyd

Floyd is ready to debut for the Vikings following a suspension and a down 2016 season. He caught just 37 passes between Arizona and New England and was inactive for the Super Bowl. In 2014 and 2015, however, Floyd was one of the league’s premier deep threats. He averaged 17.9 and 16.3 yards per catch in those two years and could add another dimension to the Vikings’ offense that they have not had in the Diggs-Thielen era. Floyd’ presence alone should draw attention, but if he catches a few over-the-top throws, opposing defenses will scramble to cover all three receivers.

TE, Kyle Rudolph

While Rudolph’s fantasy numbers may have some disappointed in his production so far, he’s actually been more effective than last year. His 109 yards have come on just 15 targets, bumping his yards per target mark up by nearly a yard from last year at 7.2 yards per throw in his direction. Against the Lions, Case Keenum missed several chances to hit Rudolph on intermediate throws down the field. If the Vikings can turn him into more of a vertical threat, defenses might have to account for the tight end more than last year. Rudolph alone won’t give the same type of boost that Floyd’s presence can, but it could offer something that Vikings’ opponents haven’t seen.

Mystery running back X

Zimmer said on Monday the Vikings will likely sign a running back. The chances of a free agent coming in and saving the offense are pretty low, but running backs are a historically fickle group and there remains a handful of proven backs on the free agent market. Maybe adding one more runner could give the Vikings an extra weapon either in the run or pass game. Still, there’s no way to make up for a back of Cook’s caliber – even with three solid players.

The post Who will save the Minnesota Vikings’ offense? appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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