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Bleacher Report – Vikings

What the Vikings can learn from the final four

By Matthew Coller

The Minnesota Vikings and 28 other teams will be watching championship Sunday next week and looking for things they can take away from this year’s group of successful clubs. At the top of the list will be: Offense wins. The top four scoring offenses in the regular season are still alive. But the lessons the Vikings can learn about achieving offensive (and defensive) success are buried in the details of each team. Let’s have a look at lessons from each winning squad and what they teach us about winning and how that applies to the Vikings…

Los Angeles Rams

Lessons:

  • Play-action wins
  • 11 personnel wins in the run game
  • Health matters
  • Nickel corner is worth investing in
  • Linebacker might not be worth spending top dollar

Key stats:

  • Jared Goff used play-action on 34.6 percent of drop backs, No. 1 in the NFL
  • Todd Gurley faced 8-man boxes on 8.2 percent of runs
  • All five staring OL played all 16 games
  • Nickell Robey-Coleman was the third highest rated Ram on defense
  • Highest paid Ram linebacker Mark Barron ranked as PFF’s worst Rams defender

Takeaways:

– New offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski is sure to follow Mike Zimmer’s wishes and run more play-action than the 19.9 percent of drop backs in 2018. Kirk Cousins has been one of the NFL’s best QBs when using play-action.

– There isn’t one perfect way to handle personnel. Kyle Shannahan uses a fullback all the time and he got 8.4 yards per attempt out of Nick Mullens. But clearly running the ball out of three-WR sets has given the Rams a distinct advantage, allowing Gurley to never face eight-man boxes. Dalvin Cook saw them on 18 percent and Latavius Murray 28 percent.

– The Rams spending on DBs is reflective of the Vikings’ spending on DBs, which has been worth it as they have consistently had elite passing defenses under Mike Zimmer and have found a new nickel corner in Mackensie Alexander.

– The Rams spent a lot of cash,

Kansas City Chiefs

Lessons:

  • Throwing to running backs is good
  • Spending on one extra receiving weapon can be worth it
  • Good scheme can make up for underwhelming guard play
  • Pressure can mask some issues on defense
  • Pass efficiency is everything

Key stat:

  • 82 receptions by RBs this season
  • Sammy Watkins only had 40 catches, but averaged 9.4 yards per target, nearly four yards per target more than the Vikings’ No. 3 WR
  • Guard Cam Erving ranked last among all KC offensive players by PFF
  • Chris Jones had 73 pressures, Dee Ford 78
  • No. 1 in the NFL in Adjusted Yards per Attempt (8.8/pass, next best 8.1)

Takeaways

– Every team has an impressive group of skill players on offense, but the Chiefs lost their No. 1 running back and still found ways to use RBs in the passing game. Damien Williams and Spencer Ware combined for 43 receptions out of the backfield. The lesson here is the Vikings should have been continuing to work the ball to RBs in the passing game even when Dalvin Cook was hurt. And when he was healthy, should have thrown it to him more.

– Everyone in Vikings land wants to find the next Will Shields, but a more savvy scheme could have helped cover up some of their weaknesses. Of course Patrick Mahomes is more mobile than Kirk Cousins, but Erving gave up 30 pressures and the Chiefs worked around his shortcomings by using a highly effective short passing game. Mahomes had a 128.3 rating when throwing under 2.5 seconds after taking the snap.

– If the Vikings are considering making trades with defensive backs, they might be able to justify it with the Chiefs dealing Peters and still finding ways to win in the playoffs using pressure from the front four.

– Kevin Stefanski’s No. 1 task is making the Vikings’ offense more efficient. They ranked last in yards per completion and 14th in ANY/A.

New England Patriots

Lessons:

  • Deep group of weapons in pass game
  • Multiple rushing contributors
  • Offensive line development
  • Deep group of pass rushers
  • When it isn’t there, throw it away

Key stats:

  • Nine players with double-digit catches, six with 30-plus receptions
  • Five rushers over 100 yards
  • 29th in payroll on offensive line
  • 10 players with more than 100 pass rushing snaps
  • Brady ranked third in throwaways

Takeaways

– Fantasy owners were pleased to see Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen clear 100 catches, but receiving options were limited beyond the two stars. While Laquon Treadwell grabbed 35 passes, he was inefficient in doing so, averaging less than six yards per target. Adding to the supporting cast for Kirk Cousins is key this offseason.

– Patriots top rated pass blocking O-linemen by PFF was a third-round pick in 2016, starting LT was a seventh-round pick by the 49ers who signed for under $2 million, starting RT was a 2011 fifth-round pick, starting RG was a fourth-round pick. The Vikings have several young OL in Pat Elflein, Brian O’Neill, Aviante Collins and Danny Isidora who they should continue to develop. And they should not overpay for OL just as the Patriots let Nate Solder walk.

– When it comes to a decision on Everson Griffen, the Vikings should keep in mind that teams have had success with deep groups of rushers. Mike Zimmer has said “you can never have too many” about DBs, but it appears you can say the same for rushers.

– Kirk Cousins dropped back 669 times and only threw the ball away 17 times despite routinely being pressured. At times, it could have helped him avoid a key turnover.

New Orleans Saints

Lessons:

  • Get the ball out quick
  • Field position is helpful
  • Situational offense is key
  • Run stuffing doesn’t hurt

Key stats

  • Brees fourth highest percentage of drop backs under 2.5 seconds
  • Saints ranked No. 1 in average drive start
  • Seventh in third down percentage, second in fourth down success (13-for-16), fourth in red zone
  • Second in yards per attempt allowed

Takeaways

– Cousins ranked 17th in time to release and 15th in DB% under 2.5 seconds. Unless the Vikings pick up Orlando Pace in free agency, they will still have some protection issues and need Cousins to get the ball out faster.

– Vikings were seventh in average drive start, which is likely due to having the fourth ranked defense and solid coverage units on special teams. They will need to repeat their field position success next year.

– The Vikings ranked 26th on third down, 28th on fourth down and 21st in the red zone. They need severe upgrades in those areas to compete.

– While the Vikings performed well against the run, Sheldon Richardson was 50th in Run Stop Percentage via Pro Football Focus and was graded 38th vs. the run by PFF.

The post What the Vikings can learn from the final four appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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