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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Position-by-position: How the Vikings match up with the Rams

By Matthew Coller

The Minnesota Vikings face off with the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday Night Football. Here’s a closer look at how the team teams’ rosters match up… (all stats per Pro Football Focus and Pro-Football Reference)


Vikings starter: Kirk Cousins

When Cousins led a game-tying drive and two potential game-winning drives at Lambeau Field, he proved that he is capable of out-performing one of the league’s best quarterbacks in a tough environment. The following week, however, showed some of the lows of Cousins as he struggled mightily against Buffalo’s pressure, fumbling twice and finishing the game with just 5.4 yards per attempt.

Through three weeks, Pro Football Focus ranks Cousins as the 11th best QB in the NFL. Overall he has an impressive 98.8 rating and the second most passing yards in the league but one concern is that he’s also been sacked nine times. Last week, outside pressure forced mistakes from the Vikings’ QB. This week he is likely to face more inside pressure from Suh and Donald.

Rams starter: Jared Goff

The third-year quarterback has gotten off to a terrific start to the year, ranking third in yards per attempt with 9.3 yards per throw. He’s completing 70.3 percent and has a 110.0 rating. Goff is most dangerous when working the middle of the field. According to PFF, he’s completed 44 pass on 52 attempts with five touchdowns when throwing over the middle. He executes Sean McVay’s offense effectively, getting the ball into the hands of his playmakers. When throwing the ball to running back Todd Gurley, Goff has a 136.5 rating on 12 attempts.

Last year the Vikings found ways to frustrate Goff, confusing him at times with pre-snap movement. His success or failure will depend on how the Rams adapt this time around.

Advantage: Even

Running back

Vikings starter: Dalvin Cook

The Vikings clearly missed Cook last week when he sat out with a hamstring injury. In the first two weeks he was up against two very strong interior offensive lines and still found his way to positive yards. He was the league leader after two weeks in broken tackles. Cook will have to do the same against the Rams. His receiving ability could play a huge role in the Vikings’ gameplan. On 11 targets, he grabbed nine passes and averaged 11.0 yards per catch. Against the Packers, offensive coordinator John DeFilippo showed he’s not afraid to use Cook as a reciever in key spots.

If Cook is slowed, Latavius Murray and Mike Boone will have to fill the void. Because the Vikings got down early last week, neither back got an opportunity to make a difference, but both are capable of breaking off explosive plays if given the opportunity.

Rams starter: Todd Gurley

The NFL’s leader in yards from scrimmage last season is the centerpiece of the Rams’ offense. He leads the NFL in total touches and touchdowns. McVay finds ways to effectively get big chunks of yards in the passing game to Gurley, who averaged 12.3 yards per catch last season and 11.0 YPR so far this year. The Vikings were able to shut down Gurley last year. He gained just 37 yards rushing and 19 yards through the air.

Advantage: Even

Wide receiver/tight end

Vikings starters: Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Laquon Treadwell, Kyle Rudolph

The Vikings’ receivers have been everything Cousins could have hoped for when he signed in Minnesota. When targeting Stefon Diggs, he has a 126.3 quarterback rating and 146.2 when throwing toward Kyle Rudolph, who has 10 first downs on 13 receptions. Cousins’ top target Adam Thielen has 32 receptions on 44 targets already and 17 first downs. While Treadwell’s production has been short of expectations, Diggs and Thielen’s versatility and big-play ability make them an impossible task to shut down.

Rams starters: Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Gerald Everett

The addition of Cooks has given Goff a legitimate deep threat to add to the bevy of weapons he had in 2017. Through three games, Cooks has averaged 17.7 yards per reception and Goff has worked the ball around with four players catching more than 10 passes thus far. Kupp has become a reliable option, catching 15 of 18 targets and Robert Woods has grown into a top-notch receiver whose smarts and route-running prowess make him a perfect fit for McVay’s offense. He’s the most targeted Rams receiver with 27 in three games.

Advantage: Very slight edge to Rams

Offensive line

Vikings starters: Riley Reiff (?) – Tom Compton – Pat Elflein – Mike Remmers – Rashod Hill

Through three games, the Vikings’ offensive line ranks 15th in pass blocking and 19th in run blocking by PFF grades. Reiff and Remmers are both ranked in the top 10 in pressures allowed and Reiff is either going to play hobbled or will be out of the lineup. The Vikings’ left tackle was solid through two weeks but struggled mightily against the Bills while battling a foot injury. If he can’t play, the Vikings will have to shuffled the O-line and either start rookie Brian O’Neill or move Remmers to tackle. The one positive for the Vikings’ line is that Elflein will return to the starting lineup. That should improve the team’s rushing and screen game significantly.

Rams: Andrew Whitworth – Rodger Staffold – John Sullivan – Austin Blythe – Rob Havenstein

The Rams’ acquisition of Whitworth in free agency last year was a game changer. He has consistently rated as one of the elite left tackles in the league. So far in three contests, he’s allowed just one hurry, zero QB hits and zero sacks. As a team the Rams are rated the best pass blocking team so far this year. Blythe has emerged as a solid right guard and Sullivan continues to play well into his late 30s — though he may not be the run blocker he once was. As a whole the Rams’ ability to slow down the likes of Sheldon Richardson and Linval Joseph may dictate the results of Thursday night’s game.

Advantage: Rams

Defensive line

Vikings starters: Stephen Weatherly – Sheldon Richardson – Linval Joseph – Danielle Hunter

Without Everson Griffen in the lineup, the Vikings’ defense is still very good, but it’s impossible to replace a top 10 player at the position. Weatherly has gotten off to a start start as a rotational player and was effective in his first career start. He has developed over the last three years for a situation such as this one. Richardson was not the same in Week 3 as the previous two weeks in which he mauled the 49ers and Packers’ offensive lines.

Rams starters: Aaron Donald – Ndamukong Suh – Michael Brockers

Donald and Suh have been as advertised in the first three weeks, racking up a total of 25 QB pressures thus far. Donald is one of the truly elite players in the NFL, routinely anhialating interior offensive lines. Last year he was No. 1 in the NFL in pressures with 102 — keep in mind that Griffen’s career high is 78. Brockers offers a size disadvantage for offensive linemen weighing in at 305 pounds. He has 23 career sacks in six-plus seasons and has been a well above average run stopper over the last two years.

Advantage: Even


Vikings starters: Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Ben Gedeon

Over the past three years, the Vikings’ linebackers have been a major part of the team’s defensive dominance. Things haven’t been the same over the first three weeks of this year as opposing running backs and tight ends have broken out for a number of big plays. PFF credits Kendricks with giving up 180 yards passing against. Barr has not been called upon to rush the passer as much as expected but does have five hurries in just 26 pass rushing snaps.

Rams starters: Matt Longacre, Samson Ebukam, Cory Littleton, Ramik Wilson

The Rams’ linebackers are short on big names with Mark Barron injured, but Ebukam has rushed the passer off the edge and created six pressures in the first three games. John Franklin-Myers also gets opportunities to rush off the edge. Littleton and Wilson might be players the Vikings can take advantage of in the short passing game over the middle, but defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is savvy in his front-seven looks.

Advantage: Vikings


Vikings starters: Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander, Harrison Smith, Andrew Sendejo

The Vikings’ starting outside corners and safeties have been about the same as you’d expect, but there has been some significant issues at nickel corner. Miscommunications have marred the first three games and opponents have completed every pass so far in Alexander’s direction. Opponents have also completed nine passes on 11 attempts toward Trae Waynes, though one of the incompletions was a pass breakup on a potential touchdown pass. The Vikings will have to improve communication against a team that throws many different looks. It will be interesting to see whether Xavier Rhodes tracks Robert Woods or Brandin Cooks.

Rams starters: Sam Shields, Troy Hill, Nickell Robey-Coleman, John Johnson, Lamarcus Joyner

Marcus Peters is questionable and Aquib Talib out against the Vikings, which changes the dynamic in the Rams’ secondary. They will now have to rely on their solid pair of safeties Johnson and Joyner, who have yet to give up a touchdown pass thus far and Johnson has a 54.0 rating on 11 throws in his direction.

Advantage: Vikings

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

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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