So current state of the Vikings... I honestly love where we are at! The Vikings had a laundry list of team needs to fill this offseason after trading Diggs, letting go the veterans on the defensive side, and addressing the revolving door that seems to be our O-Line.
Then Michael Pierce opted out, Danielle got shut down for the year, Anthony Barr was placed on the IR. And here is where we are at as a team...
Replacing Diggs: In a world, where Minnesota sports fans are haunted by the players we lost and who they became... we will not have to say that about Diggs because for the pick that we got in the Diggs trade... The Vikings front office turned that into Justin Jefferson.
So, this is a no brainer... but needs to be said. Justin Jefferson was an upgrade from Diggs and we got that upgrade in YEAR 1! That is incredible. His ability to work the slot and the outside is remarkable. And one area I had no dream of Jefferson surpassing Diggs was in his route running, and honestly.... I see no dip in route running efficiency. And when you tack that on to his ability to make contested catches, Jefferson was the perfect find for our offense and also gives us cap relief going forward.
Our New Defense: Now, what the injuries have done on the defensive side is give the Vikings young players the reps to make mistakes, play in close games, and grow into their roles. And that is exactly what we have seen.
We see big plays coming from young guys and rookie mistakes that keep the game closer. This has definitely been a trial by fire, but with this improving defense... when you pair all those reps with the return of Danielle Hunter, Anthony Barr, and the first snap of Michael Pierce... we are going to see a young group led by Jeff Gladney and Cam Dantzler look a lot better out of the gate in 2021 and I am very excited to see it all come together!
The O-Line: Now this is a position group that always seems to come up around draft time as a need that the Vikings HAVE TO address. And as much as Mike Zimmer loves to control the clock and run the ball... I think we have seen him put aside his Defensive Dreams and trade them in for more stock spent on the O-Line on draft day.
And in the last few years, I believe we have found some stability with Garrett Bradbury, Ezra Cleveland, and Brian O'Neill. While we still have to shore up 2 more spots, I think we have a young group that can grow together and build off the glimpses of success that they've had.
Coaching: One thing that has been talked about a lot this year is Mike Zimmer being on the hot seat... And while there are few defensive minded head coaches that have deep playoff runs in this era of the NFL, I think Mike Zimmer still has a lot he can give to this team.
Zimmer transformed the culture of this team, and it is a culture that I believe still resonates with the players on the field. This year we have seen rookie mistakes, sluggish offenses, but for this 6-6 team... I think they still have a fight and want to prove that they can win together.
In the past, the Vikings have had a tendency of trying to build their Offensive Line and address their QB needs in Free Agency... But I think what we have found is that the O-Lineman and Quarterbacks that can transform a franchise are rarely (if ever) available.
With that said, I believe that you have to address those needs in the draft.
This not only gives you cap relief, but also opens the door to pursuing Defensive players in free agency which I believe have a much higher likelihood for upgrading your overall team play.
And bottom line... I want Mike Zimmer to be with the Vikings to find those Defensive Diamonds in Free Agency.
Zimmer knows what he is looking for on the defensive side and with more and more defensive players hitting free agency at a lower cap hit, I think this could be a new era for the Vikings offseason approach.
- Joey Almars