Hi all -- looking forward to chatting with you for the next hour or so. Let's get started.
We'll get started here, since Latavius Murray is probably on everyone's mind. I think he'll be able to carry the load -- he said this week his ankle still doesn't feel quite the same, but that's probably to be expected after surgery, and he believes he's healthy enough to play. I don't think he'll be as dynamic as Dalvin Cook, though, and that's where the Vikings' offensive line is going to need to be better. They put this group together with the idea that they needed to be better at opening holes for whoever was in the backfield, and before they drafted Cook, Murray was expected to be the main guy. We'll see if it works. They probably need more from their passing game (which means Sam Bradford).
Can I say neither, or perhaps both? I think it's probably somewhere in between. He's a backup quarterback for a reason; you're going to have weeks where he can help you win, and weeks where he needs everything to go right around him to be successful. I firmly believe the thing that separates the great quarterbacks from the good ones (or the merely average ones) is what they're able to do when things aren't working around them. They make plays and win games even when things aren't perfect. You're not going to get that consistently from many starters in the league, let alone backups. Kind of just have to live with it.
Look around the NFC. The Giants (a trendy preseason Super Bowl pick) are a mess. The Falcons got beat by the Bills, the Cowboys are 2-2, and the Packers needed a frantic rally to beat the Bengals. Otherwise, they're 2-2 and right with the Vikings. The QB situation needs to be on solid footing for this team to make a run, but the defense will give them a chance to stay in games as they reorient their offense with Cook out. There are flaws, yes, but I'm not sure how many teams are without them.
"Elite" might be a little strong. To do that, I think they'd need to have enough of a run game to provide a counterpunch, and we don't know what that will look like without Cook. But I certainly think this is the best set of weapons they've had here in a while, as far as receivers go. I think Michael Floyd is going to have a big role in this offense as he comes back, and that certainly gives defenses something else to think about. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen continue to get better, and Kyle Rudolph is a reliable option (especially for Bradford, who seems to click with him better than many QBs). The passing game might have to be a more prominent part of the offense than it's been in a while.
I think part of the issue with Bradford might be that the Vikings don't know exactly when he'll be back. If you take them, and Bradford, at their word, it's a matter of him feeling good enough to move around, take hits, make off-balance throws, etc., and if there truly is no structural issue with his knee, it's hard to know precisely what his timetable will be for a return. It might come down to his pain tolerance and range of motion, and it's hard for anybody to know where those things stand other than him. In my experience, while the Vikings certainly don't like to give out much information (particularly about injuries in recent years), they usually don't lie. We're talking about a knee that's been surgically-repaired twice. There are likely going to be some recurring issues, and the recovery timetable from some of those might be murky.
We're just going to dive into all the hot-button issues in the first 20 minutes of this chat! Let's do it.
From what I've heard on Bridgewater in recent weeks, he's continuing to make solid progress in his rehab, and the people I've talked to sound increasingly confident he'd be able to make a return this season. There are still a few important things to consider here, though: First, for as careful as the Vikings have been in his rehab to this point, they're not just going to rush him out there before they're completely confident he can protect himself. We've heard Mike Zimmer say his biggest priority is protecting his players, and he's certainly not going to do anything to jeopardize that principle, particularly with a young quarterback of whom he's personally very fond. The Vikings, in their careful calculations, would need to be confident Bridgewater isn't putting himself at any risk while playing in a live situation. We also should not forget they have a financial incentive for his contract to toll after this year, and while the letter of the law says that should happen if he begins the year on the PUP list, there's some question about whether that would happen in reality if he gets back into game action this season. The Vikings probably don't want that question in the hands of an arbiter, so unless they need to put Bridgewater out there -- and they're confident he can once again be their guy -- they might stay on the side of caution. Bradford's ongoing injury, though, certainly does provide an escape hatch from the scenario I imagined at the beginning of this season, where Teddy is ready to come back but the Vikings can't pull the plug on their incumbent when he's playing well.
We've got a few Peterson questions, so I'm going to tackle them all here.
We just recorded a new Access Vikings podcast (which should drop later today), and I had a long rant on this topic. In short, there's just no reason for the Vikings to consider that. Peterson is 32, he doesn't do many things well that the Vikings want from their running backs, and if they traded a pick to bring him back, it's not hard to envision a scenario where that means, in his mind, he's here to be the savior again. While he's still in impressive physical shape, we really haven't seen him produce in a game since December 2015. The Vikings were ready to move on from him this spring, and he was ready to move on from them. To do that, you'd have to think there's a big enough upside to handle everything that comes with it. And if the Vikings still thought there was that much in the tank, wouldn't they have kept him in March? If it happens, I'll have to peel my jaw off the floor before covering the press conference.
I think you start with Bronson Hill, the running back on their practice squad. Ryan Matthews was with Pat Shurmur in Philadelphia, so he'd know the system, but he's coming off neck surgery. There's always Matt Asiata!
I should also mentioned the Vikings worked out former Patriots running back Jonas Gray last year, so they've got a recent evaluation of him if they'd like to go down that road again.
I think he does. Mike Zimmer seemed really impressed with him in the preseason, and the Vikings seemed to have a role in mind for him. He's been around the team, and has been working out the past four weeks. Even if it's not right away on Monday night, I think he gets a good chunk of playing time as the season goes on. A three-receiver set of Diggs, Thielen and Floyd would create some matchup problems.
It certainly doesn't help his case, particularly at a time where Floyd is about to come back. He said he got pulled down on the first jump ball on Sunday, but it looked to me like Treadwell might have mistimed his jump. He hasn't been able to separate from defenders, and with Floyd returning, I don't think his playing time is going to be as automatic any more. The burden of proof, in some ways, is now on Treadwell to justify more playing time.
Michael Rand mentioned the Thielen and Treadwell reactions on our podcast today. It was a puzzling call, and it certainly changed the momentum of that game. The Vikings were up 7-3, had the ball to start the half, and that play changed everything. And then the Cook injury came on the next series. Seemed like the air came out of the balloon at that point.
I think they'll add another back, especially with McKinnon injuring his ankle on Sunday, but I do think C.J. Ham could find a few more touches coming his way. He had plenty of carries in college, of course, and seems like he could be an option as a receiver out of the backfield every once in a while. He's done a nice job so far, and there could be a more for him.
It's become a concern, once again. The first Lions game last year was kind of Blair Walsh's undoing; the Vikings brought in six kickers (Forbath included) for tryouts the next week, and cut Walsh a week later. The reason Forbath got the job over Marshall Koehn (who has a bigger leg) was because the Vikings believed he'd be more consistent. If he's not, it opens up the possibility they could look for help elsewhere again.
I agree. McKinnon is a free agent after this year, and unless Latavius Murray has a big finish to the season, the Vikings might decide not to bring him back at a price north of $5 million next year. They likely won't go into the year with a rehabbing Cook as their only RB option, so that position could get addressed in the draft again.
The word when the Vikings drafted him was that they were looking for their version of Michael Irvin. Now, that was in an offense where they'd try to run more post routes (a la Norv Turner in Dallas), but overall, Treadwell's size was thought to be his best asset. It hasn't worked out that way so far.
We'll take a couple more questions and wrap things up for the day.
At this point, I'd say Bradford, but that's based on the idea that his knee issues will get resolved eventually. Otherwise, I'd say Keenum; there's still too much we don't know about Bridgewater for me to say he's going to be in there.
Artificial surfaces, like the one the Vikings play on at U.S. Bank Stadium, have been shown to contribute to more knee injuries than natural grass. Now, there's not much the Vikings can do about that indoors, but it is worth noting. It's not just at U.S. Bank Stadium, either.
I loved my time there -- lots of great people to work with, from the folks at NFL Nation to some of the experts we worked with. Matt Bowen, in particular, was fantastic; I learned so much doing film breakdowns with him every week, and I'd highly recommend his work if you're not reading it already. But I always wanted to get back to the Strib at some point, and the team we have here on the Vikings -- from Mark and Andrew to our columnists and everybody else working in behind-the-scenes roles -- is as good as it gets. That, more than anything else, was the big draw for me.
We'll wrap up after this one.
Yeah, I think that's fair. Even with all their problems in Soldier Field, they have to rattle Trubisky and win that game. Whether the game is in London, Luxembourg or anywhere else, they need to beat the Browns. Split the two home games, and you're 5-3, with a bye week before a trip to Washington. The NFC is enough of a muddle that I think that scenario is definitely possible.
That'll do it for today. Thanks for all the great questions, everyone. We're here at noon every Tuesday, and we'll have plenty more throughout the week as the Vikings get ready for Monday night's game in Chicago. Thanks for spending your lunch hour with us!