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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zulgad: Vikings fans shouldn’t Flip out if offense takes some time to jell

By Judd Zulgad

There have been plenty of questions about the Vikings offense heading into this season.

How big of a difference will Kirk Cousins make after being signed to an $84 million contract as the top free-agent quarterback on the market? Will running back Dalvin Cook pick up where he left off when he tore his ACL in Week 4 against Detroit? How big of a concern is an offensive line that has spent much of training camp dealing with injuries?

But the one question that hasn’t been broached much is how John DeFilippo will fare in his first season as the Vikings’ offensive coordinator? It’s a fair query considering how effective Pat Shurmur was in the role last season.

Shurmur, who landed the job as the New York Giants head coach because of that success, guided an offense that saw backup quarterback Case Keenum have a career year after Sam Bradford’s season essentially came to an end following a Week 1 victory over New Orleans.

The Vikings finished 10th in points per game, 11th in total offense and saw their touchdown efficiency in the red zone go from 46 percent in 2016 (29th in the NFL) to 55.6 percent in 2017 (13th in the NFL).

Shurmur’s play calling was so on point — and Keenum so consistently seemed to find Stefon Diggs or Adam Thielen — that it became easy to take it for granted. But Vikings fans should have known better than to do that. Think of all the play callers who at times caused us to wonder what on earth they were doing? The recent list includes Brad Childress, Darrell Bevell, Bill Musgrave and Norv Turner.

Now, think back to how many times you questioned Shurmur’s decision-making last season. A handful of times? Less than that?

Shurmur, who replaced Turner as the Vikings’ offensive coordinator during the 2016 season and then was promoted to the job on a permanent basis for 2017, had served in the same job with the St. Louis Rams in 2009-10 and Philadelphia Eagles from 2013-15. He also had a two-year stint as coach of the Cleveland Browns in 2011 and ’12, running that team’s offense.

DeFilippo’s experience as an NFL coordinator is far more limited. He was the Browns’ coordinator in 2015 before serving as the Eagles’ quarterbacks coach the past two seasons. The only other time he served as an offensive coordinator during his coaching career was in 2011 at San Jose State. This doesn’t mean DeFilippo won’t have success in Minnesota, but it might necessary to exercise some patience as he continues to install a system that will be different from what Shurmur ran.

One of the reasons the Eagles were able to cruise past the Vikings in the NFC title game was the success Philadelphia coach and play-caller Doug Pederson had using run-pass option plays. DeFilippo has a deep knowledge of how Pederson worked, but this is also going to be a work in progress as he gets into the rhythm of calling plays for Cousins and Co.

In the Vikings’ preseason opener at Denver, the first-team offense looked sharp in its one series. Cousins completed all four of his passes for 42 yards, including a 28-yarder to Diggs, and ended the drive with a 1-yard touchdown strike to Diggs. But last Saturday against Jacksonville, Cousins was only 3-of-8 for 12 yards in four series.

DeFilippo was tough on himself this week when asked about Cousins bouncing back in the Vikings’ third preseason game on Friday night against Seattle at U.S. Bank Stadium. It’s likely the Vikings’ first-team offense will play into the second half of that game before sitting out the exhibition finale.

“I’m looking forward to myself bouncing back, our whole offense bouncing back,” DeFilippo said. “Personally, I didn’t think it was my best effort. Starting with me in the offense, I think that we all need to do better and we will be this week.”

DeFilippo said it’s nothing new for him to be tough on himself, even if it is for a preseason game.

“You should always judge yourself harshly,” he said. “If you want to get better, you judge yourself harshly. I go back personally and watch the game several times and say, ‘Hey, what calls did I like? What calls did I not like? Did I put the team in harm’s way?’ You go back and you self-evaluate yourself after every game, whether it is the preseason, the regular season, or playoffs. It really doesn’t matter. I think if you don’t do that you’re not getting better, and you’re not putting the football team in the best chance for success.”

DeFilippo’s desire to be successful is admirable, but he also has to realize that getting the Vikings’ offense to where he wants it might take longer than he wants. Minnesota might have to rely on its standout defense to do a little extra early in the season as the offense finds its groove.

Shurmur set a very high bar for this unit in 2017. Reaching it in 2018, even with Cousins at quarterback, isn’t going to be easy for DeFilippo.

The post Zulgad: Vikings fans shouldn’t Flip out if offense takes some time to jell appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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