Vikings Live Chat with Ben Goessling at noon

Vikings Live Chat with Ben Goessling at noon

Join Vikings writer Ben Goessling and Vikings fans to chat about Monday night's season-opener and look ahead to Sunday's game against Pittsburgh.

    Thanks for joining our Vikings' Live Chat with Ben Goessling. He'll be here at noon to answer questions and field comments about Monday night's game against the Saints -- and anything else Vikings or NFL-related that you'd like to chat about. You can start posting them now.
    Hey all -- let's get started
    In 100 words or less, what are the differences between Shurmur and Turner from an insider's point of view?
    We'll start here, since I wrote about this a little bit this morning:

    How the Vikings' offense will be more diverse than in the past

    Star TribuneMinnesota Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford (8) greets teammates before an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)The morning after each Vikings game, beat writer Ben Goessling dives in for a deeper look at a key aspect of how the Vikings played, and what it means for the team going forward:
    On their first scoring drive on Monday night, the Vikings used four different personnel groups. They trotted out a four-receiver set — seen on only seven snaps in the 2 1/2 years Norv Turner ran the offense — and followed it with a two-back, three-receiver set on Jerick McKinnon's 10-yard run.
    In the second quarter, the Vikings had an empty backfield, with four receivers and a tight end, and they flexed Jerick McKinnon out to wide receiver to create an empty backfield in the third quarter. A hurry-up offense facilitated Sam Bradford's first touchdown to Stefon Diggs, who was wide open in the end zone behind a frazzled Saints defense.
    Though it's only one game, this doesn't seem to be the Vikings' offense of the past three years, which relied on a relatively static set of personnel groups and often seemed to be a collection of mismatched parts. The Vikings of Week 1 threw jabs early, and haymakers later on, from a variety of angles, using five different receivers, four different running backs and three different tight ends at various points in the game. Dalvin Cook — who broke Adrian Peterson's team record for the most rushing yards in the first game of his career — caught three passes out of the backfield, and McKinnon added three more for 32 yards. The Vikings seemed, at least in Week 1, harder to peg than perhaps they'd been in the past.
    "I thought we were pretty multiple in our looks tonight, going spread, going '22' [personnel, with two running backs and two tight ends], going '21'," Bradford said. "So hopefully that's something we can continue to do."
    It certainly didn't hurt that Bradford had as clean of a pocket as he did, getting pressured on just six of his 34 dropbacks, according to Pro Football Focus. He had a perfect passer rating of 158.3 on throws of 20 yards or more, hitting all five of his attempts for 130 yards and a touchdown.
    The Vikings, though, also got some explosive plays from their running game late in the night, when Cook started the fourth quarter with a 32-yard run and later added another 33-yarder. After the team had just six runs of 20 yards or more all of last season, it's already a third of the way to last year's output.
    The Saints have eight new starters on defense, and the Vikings had the good fortune of feasting on a unit that often looked disheveled on Monday night. But milquetoast defenses didn't always guarantee success for the Vikings last year, and they were able to establish a foundation in their season-opener.
    That foundation, it appears, is going to look markedly different than what the Vikings have done in the past.
    "I know we didn't play great as an offense during the preseason games. We've seen what we're capable of doing," Bradford said. "We talked a lot about playing by rule and making sure we were on the same page. Those guys up front did a good job all week just making sure they were prepared. I think it showed tonight. They played fast, they played confident, we were in and out of the huddle, the tempo was great tonight, we were getting to the line early. I think we put pressure on them."
    You wanted 100 words or less, huh? Here goes:
    Shurmur's offense is based on West Coast principles (zone runs, nimble linemen, quick throws, runs after the catch, etc.). Turner prioritized a power running scheme, deep throws down the field and bigger linemen who could move defenders with more drive blocks than you'll see the Vikings use this year. The other thing to keep in mind -- and we'll get into this later in the week -- is how quarterbacks have more freedom at the line of scrimmage. We saw Bradford make a couple key checks on Monday night; Turner didn't relish the idea of giving his QBs quite as much control at the line.
    What did you think of the linebacker play, specifically Barr?
    I thought Anthony Barr had a really good night. We saw him making the "splash plays" he didn't make last year, specifically on the screen pass he blew up for a six-yard loss. That was one of the things he did best for the Vikings in 2015, and if he can get back to doing it, it helps the Vikings take away one of the ways quarterbacks will try to neutralize their pressure packages. He needs to keep it up over a full season -- we've seen him become prone to lulls from time to time -- but it was a good start for him. Kendricks, I thought, had a strong night as a pass rusher especially. Need to go back and watch a little more to get a better impression of Ben Gedeon, but he didn't make any glaring mistakes that I saw.
    Ben, I know not a Vikings question, but do you believe Adrian stays with the Saints or will be traded by the deadline?
    Boy -- I mean, it's hard to say how quickly the Saints would move on from Peterson, and I think we need to let things play out a little bit to see how much of last night was a hiccup in him finding the right role in their system. He's had a number of bad opening games, especially when he's too fired up, and last night was one of them. But it just didn't seem like there was a great fit for him. He wasn't playing on third downs (same as in Minnesota), and wasn't getting the ball around the goal line. And Adrian can dispute the characterizations of his sideline exchange with Sean Payton, but that looked to me like a guy who is used to getting his way now coming to grips with the fact it might not be that easy for him any more. If he starts quibbling with his lack of carries -- as he's had a tendency to do at times in Minnesota -- I'm not sure how well that will fit in an organization that needs to right the ship quickly and win now. Payton hasn't won much lately, and I can't imagine he'll have a lot of patience this year.
    Now healthy, Treadwell remains a complete non-factor in the offense. With Floyd returning in a few weeks his role will likely diminish further. What is holding him back?
    Laquon Treadwell got more snaps (36) than any Vikings receiver beyond Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen last night, so the Vikings were trying to give him chances to work his way into the offense. He still isn't great at separating from defensive backs, though, which is what he's going to need to do before Michael Floyd gets back. The thing that impressed me most about Floyd, during training camp, especially, was his ability to get a step or two on DBs on intermediate routes. He's known as a deep speed guy, but he looked great on sideline throws and crossers over the middle. Can Treadwell do that? If he doesn't show it in the next three weeks, I'm not sure how many opportunities he's going to get beyond that. Diggs and Thielen are coming into their own as one of the best WR duos in the division, and the Vikings seem like they have high hopes for Floyd. Treadwell is going to need to show something soon.
    On that front, did anybody else detect a Bronx cheer vibe from fans at U.S. Bank Stadium when Treadwell caught that pass last night? Seemed that way to me.
    Bronx cheers at the bars, for sure.
    Saints that bad or Vikings that good?
    I think the former certainly had a lot to do with it, especially on defense. The Saints appeared discombobulated for much of the night. I couldn't believe how much open space Thielen had to run in the middle of their defense on a couple occasions. But it's still a NFL game, and the Vikings had plenty of times last year where they faced mediocre defenses and still weren't able to produce. Give them credit for doing what they should have done against that defense last night.
    Can the Vikes win vs Pittsburgh? If so what needs to happen?
    To me, the biggest thing is handling all the weapons the Steelers will be able to throw at the Vikings. Ben Roethlisberger is as good on broken plays as any quarterback in the NFL, and the Vikings will have to contend with Antonio Brown, Le'Veon Bell and the like. On defense, the Steelers have a lot of younger players, but it'll be the same 3-4 zone blitz scheme we've seen them use forever. The Steelers can open things up and score plenty of points, so the Vikings will have to cover well in the open field and be able to respond if they get behind.
    Pat Elflein was very impressive last night. He reminded of other Vikings centers that ran down field for blocks such as Jeff Christy and Matt Birk.
    I agree. He's a good fit for what the Vikings want to do on offense now; his mobility and balance are great fits for their zone scheme, and he seems like a smart guy. Mark Craig will have more on him later this week, but if the Vikings have found something there, they could be set in the middle of the line for years to come. They've enjoyed plenty of stability there, with Matt Birk and John Sullivan in recent years. Perhaps Elflein will be next.
    What's the over/under on missed PATs that Zim will accept?
    I can't imagine the Vikings will have a ton of patience with missed extra points. Their kicking competition was neck-and-neck between Kai Forbath and Marshall Koehn until Koehn's missed extra point in the final regular season game. And after Blair Walsh got the Vikings in so much trouble last year with missed kicks, they likely won't want it to become an issue again. They're looking for consistency, and that's why Forbath got the job. If one miss becomes three or four, things could change.
    Chad Greenway said that G Alex Boone was possibly cut because he was a little out of shape? Zimmer of course ignored this assertion. Based on your talks with Vikes insiders, was that the major reason? And did was the o-line's dominance a case of addition by subtraction, or nah?
    I wouldn't say Boone was out of shape, in the sense that most of us would use the word, but it seemed like he was a bit banged up in training camp, and didn't seem quite as sharp as the Vikings would want. I don't doubt what Greenway said -- players talk, and he still knows enough people in that locker room to get the straight dope on what's going on -- but I think the lack of scheme fit was as much a reason for Boone being let go as his physical condition. He didn't exactly suit what the Vikings are trying to do on offense, and I'm not sure how he would have taken the idea of sitting on the bench behind a young player, given the fact he was the free agent prize a year ago. Probably the best outcome for all parties.
    Real concerns if Rhodes goes out. Newman was over matched. Any other alternatives?
    We'll see Tramaine Brock at some point here; he didn't play last night because of a groin injury, but I expect the Vikings will try to get him involved soon. He's been a strong cover corner in the past. Newman has kept himself in impeccable shape over the years, but he did get beat a couple times last night. Asking a 39-year-old to consistently cover players in their early 20s could lead to some tenuous moments from time to time. The nickel corner situation is going to be interesting this week, as the Steelers figure to stick Antonio Brown in the slot and dare whoever's playing there to cover him.
    Will Sharif Floyd ever play again? And if he does, how effective can he be?
    I'm not sure; he's continued to rehab, and he's been able to move around a little more in the times that we've seen him. But unless his nerve issues subside, I'm not sure how much the Vikings -- or any team -- can count on him. It's too bad, too, because he's shown he can be a force when he's healthy. Unfortunately for him, he hasn't been healthy very often.
    Why are the Vikings 7 point underdogs vs Pittsburgh? We played well against the Saints and the Steelers barely got by the Browns. I could see maybe four points underdogs but not seven.
    Steelers at home, with more equity built up after a trip to the conference title game. If you're confident that the Vikings are getting too many points, take 'em to cover and make some money.
    The Vikings seem loaded at WR. Who do you think goes when Michael Floyd returns?
    I was surprised how little we saw Rodney Adams last night; I'd be a little surprised to see him go this early, but it's worth noting that Stacy Coley got in the game while Adams was deactivated. I'm less of a believer, at this point, that Jarius Wright would be the odd man out; he got 15 snaps last night, and he provided a couple reminders why he's still a solid receiver.
    Would you say the luck of the Irish was still in the building after U2 left on Friday?
    I mean, Kyle Rudolph did score a touchdown...
    Great show on Friday night; enjoyed it from my nosebleed seats on the east side of the stadium. Not my favorite U2 show I've ever seen, but the stage was fantastic, and it was fun to hear some of the Side 2 tracks from The Joshua Tree that don't get much play.
    Thielen grabs 157 yards and not much talk about him on the national level. Can we give him a shout out!
    Thielen came up a little bit earlier in this chat, but sure. He's getting harder and harder to ignore, especially with the confidence Bradford seems to have in him. He's become the Vikings' best downfield threat; he's smart, faster than people realize and catches just about everything.
    Hi Ben,

    What are your thoughts on MacKenzie Alexander's game last night?
    I thought Alexander was fine when he was on the field (which was only for 27 snaps) but the Vikings clearly aren't going to just hand him that job. Zimmer trusts Terence Newman as much as he trusts anybody, and Alexander probably has to earn the benefit of the doubt, especially after that taunting penalty at the end of the preseason.
    How did Bradford's play impact what could happen with bridgewater down the road?:
    Ahh, the elephant in the room ... I don't think the Vikings are going to make this decision on a week-to-week basis, so it's probably not worth reading the tea leaves every week. I will say, however, that if Bradford keeps doing what he did last night, it's going to be awfully hard to go in a different direction. He works well with Pat Shurmur, he's got a good feel for the offense and when he's kept clean (that being the important condition here), he's able to make some big throws. He's the incumbent now, and incumbents who do their job well typically get to keep their jobs. This will play out over the next 15 games, but he certainly provided some support for the idea he can handle the job.
    Last throw from a Vikings QB as good as the sick one Bradford threw to Wright last night?
    We'll take a couple more questions before we wrap things up for the week, so get any last thoughts in the queue.
    Last throw as good as that one? Maybe the one Bradford made against the Packers to Stefon Diggs last year. Norv Turner raved about that throw -- he called it one of the best he's ever seen by a QB -- but the throw to Wright might have been even better. To fit that in between two defenders, from an odd arm angle, with a defender in his face ... pretty impressive.
    What do you think the Vikings may have learned from last year's hit start and cold finish?
    A lot of this will play out over time, but I do think Mike Zimmer learned some things about how to manage the emotions of a season when he's a head coach. There were some things he did that puzzled players, and I think he's got a better sense now of how much relationships matter in ending a skid, not just schemes. When I sat down with him last week, he repeated an oft-used phrase that I haven't heard come out of his mouth before, "It's not the Xs and Os, it's the Jimmys and the Joes." In other words, the players on the field are what really matters, not the designs on a whiteboard. If the Vikings hit a rough patch this year, it'll be interesting to see if Zimmer handles things differently. It's hard to believe them going through a season as tumultuous as 2016, but then again ... these are the Vikings.
    I wonder, do you think that Sam Bradford's lack of playing time with the OL last year hurt the OL performance or where they that bad?
    They were that bad. Injuries played a part in it, but they weren't playing well when everyone was healthy, either. Andre Smith wasn't a solution at right tackle, Boone got off to a rough start and Kalil was never the same guy as he was as a rookie. It was hard to trust anybody other than Joe Berger on a consistent basis.
    How good is Cook? He had a nice game. Blocked well and had a nice big run. Hope he can get in the end zone this week.
    Will the Vikes every use draws and screens?
    We'll wrap it up after those two, which kind of go together. I think Dalvin Cook has the chance to be a pretty special back in the Vikings' scheme; we saw him handle a bigger workload than I expected he'd get, while pass protecting well, hanging onto the ball and helping the Vikings close the game late. He didn't find a ton of room to run early, but as the Vikings kept going to the run, things opened up, and Cook showed some of the big-play ability the Vikings have been looking for. They flexed him out to wide receiver a few times, and I'd expect we'll see more of that as the year goes on (and yes, Daryl, the Vikings will use some screens with him; we saw some of that in the preseason). He's a perfect fit for what the Vikings want to do on offense now. I'll have more on Cook in tomorrow's paper.
    We'll close things there, before Dwight Schrute gets on my case about aiding and abetting time theft. Thanks for spending your lunch hour with me; we'll do it again early next week after the Vikings-Steelers game. Enjoy your afternoon!
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