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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Position-by-position: How do the Vikings match up with the Bears?

By Matthew Coller

The Minnesota Vikings (2-2) travel to Chicago on Monday night for a pivitol game with the Bears (1-3). The Vikings are favored on the road, but how does their roster match up? Let’s have a look:

Quarterback

As Mitch Trubisky preps for first career start, a look back at what draft analysts said

At the NFL Draft, the Bears went all-in to get Mitch Trubisky, trading up to the No. 2 spot to select their potential franchise quarterback. After a strong preseason and four games as Mike Glennon’s backup, Trubisky will get his first shot under center. Head coach John Fox certainly didn’t give his rookie the easiest draw to start his career as the Vikings are coming off a six-sack game against Detroit. Trubisky is a terrific athlete and showed a strong, accurate arm in preseason, but most draft analysts said that he would need a lot of development before starting. He may be in over his head against the Vikings.

It’s unclear whether Sam Bradford or Case Keenum is starting for the Vikings on Monday night, but an NFL Network report pointed toward a return for Bradford. If the Vikings’ starter is back under center, he will be playing for the first time since Week 1. Even without Dalvin Cook, Bradford would be stepping into a fairly advantageous situation with Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen among the league’s best receivers this season. The Vikings’ offensive line, which has been completely healthy this year, should do a much better job of protecting Bradford than they did in Chicago last season. The only question is whether he will be sharp after missing the last three weeks, but the Bears’ defense has allowed a 103 quarterback rating. It’s a good team to return against.

If Keenum has to start, the Vikings will feel far less confident in his ability to win without Cook in the backfield.

Advantage: Vikings

Running back

Vikings face another tough running back matchup

Chicago’s strongest position group is in their backfield. Jordan Howard was at the top of the NFL last year in yards per carry with 5.2 per rush. He gained 153 yards against the Vikings last season. Now he is flanked by Tarik Cohen, who is the definition of a scat back. Cohen has 24 receptions already this year and has flashed big-play ability in the run game. The two have combined for 663 yards from scrimmage in four games.

The Vikings were crushed by the loss of their budding star Dalvin Cook. He was among the league leaders in rushing yards and yards per carry and was beginning to show big-play capability as a receiver out of the backfield. Mike Zimmer said that he will miss Cook’s explosive plays the most. He had four runs of over 20 yards in four games. The Vikings’ rooking RB1 was the centerpiece of the offense and forced defenses to pay attention to him in every situation.

Now Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon will step in to fill Cook’s shoes. Neither has had much success so far in short stints, but the Vikings will need them both to return to their past form in order to maintain a solid running game. Murray was a Pro Bowler in 2015 and McKinnon averaged 4.9 yards per carry over his first two seasons.

Advantage: Bears

Wide receiver/tight end

Vikings film review: Rudolph as a downfield threat, Joseph dominates

Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen have been the best receiver tandem in the NFL so far. Diggs leads the NFL in receiving yards and Thielen isn’t far behind. Diggs is averaging an incredible 17.8 yards per catch and has caught 68.8% of throws in his direction, while passes Thielen’s way have been caught 75.0% of the time. In addition to their two stars, the Vikings will now add Michael Floyd to the lineup as he returns from a four-game suspension. Floyd will likely take the spot of Laquon Treadwell, who has only 42 yards on 10 targets this year.

The Bears have few reliable weapons in their receiving corps. Kendall Wright, who once caught 94 passes for the Titans, has 14 receptions this year, tight end Zach Miller has 13 grabs and former Raven Deonte Thompson has 11. They are all NFL-caliber players who would be better with improved quarterback play, but none are a scary matchup for the Vikings’ secondary.

Advantage: Vikings

Offensive line

The success of Chicago’s run game starts with a solid offensive line. Guards Josh Sitton and Kyle Long are proven above average players and sophomore center Cody Whitehair had a very strong rookie season. The two tackles aren’t as impressive, but left tackle Charles Leno Jr. has become a competent starter and and Bobby Massie has turned out to be a good signing for the Bears. Even with a solid unit up front, Chicago will be in for a tough matchup against the Vikings’ dominant defensive line.

Minnesota’s offensive line has been healthy through the first four games, which has made a major impact on their performance. Sam Bradford and Case Keenum have only been sacked a total of five times and haven’t taken many big hits. New tackles Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers have made a world of difference in pass protection and the addition of rookie center Pat Elflein has improved the line’s mobility and screen pass success. The O-line may have to adapt in run blocking to Latavius Murray’s style, which is quite different from that of Dalvin Cook.

Advantage: Draw

Defensive line

Linval Joseph leading Vikings’ impressive run defense

Chicago’s defense has been put in a tough spot by its offense so far this year with short fields and turnovers, so ranking 26th in points allowed is a little misleading. The Bears are giving up 5.2 yards per play against, which ranks 13th. Their defensive line is anchored by Akiem Hicks, a veteran D-lineman who had 7.0 sacks last season. Hicks is a load at 6-foot-5, 320-pounds and could present challenges for a smaller Vikings O-line. Edge rusher Pernell McPhee had four QB hits and a sack in just 25 snaps against the Vikings last year. He’s getting healthier and presents a speed/power combination that can be difficult for tackles to handle.

The Vikings’ defensive line put on an impressive display of power last week against Detroit. Not only did they sack Stafford six times and pressure him repeatedly, but NT Linval Joseph had a monster game inside with nine tackles. Defensive end Everson Griffen has been one of the best at his position in the NFL this year and Danielle Hunter ended his three-game drought with two sacks last week.

Advantage: Vikings

Linebackers

Bears linebacker Willie Young has been a consistent pass rush threat over the past three seasons, picking up 24.0 sacks between 2014 and 2016. He has two already this year, but won’t be playing against the Vikings as he’s out for the year with a triceps injury. That’s a big break for the Vikings. The Bears will need last year’s first-round pick Leonard Floyd to step up. He had seven sacks last year, but just one so far.

The Vikings should be quite pleased with the play of Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks, save for a handful of missed tackles last week. Barr has been much improved in coverage this year and has made several big plays on the outside vs. the run. He also ranks third by PFF grades in pass rush success.

Advantage: Vikings

Defensive backs

Chicago improved its secondary by adding Prince Amukamra in free agency. They have also seen fourth-round pick Eddie Jackson win the starting job at safety. But the Bears have struggled against the pass this year giving up 7.4 yards per attempt and allowing seven touchdowns with zero interceptions. Corner Kyle Fuller is currently rated 106th at his position by Pro Football Focus.

Xavier Rhodes has been everything the Vikings dreamed he would be against Michael Thomas, Antonio Brown, Mike Evans and Marvin Jones. Outside of a couple penalties, Rhodes has been unbeatable. This week’s matchup comes with less fanfare, but Kendall Wright does have some go-up-and-get-it ability. Over the last two weeks, Trae Waynes has shown significant improvement from Week 1 and 2. Terence Newman, 39, is still playing at a high level and the Vikings keep their top three corners fresh by rotating Mackensie Alexander and Tramaine Brock into the mix.

Advantage: Vikings

The post Position-by-position: How do the Vikings match up with the Bears? appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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