Thursday, July 10, 2008

meet the starting offense

While reading Defensive Indifference, where there's an excellent piece about the Top 20 Minnesota Vikings, earlier this afternoon, a thought occurred to me.

Which five offensive skill players make up the most versatile set?  That is, who should start?

Here's my list: Adrian Peterson, Bernard Berrian, Sidney Rice, Bobby Wade, and Garrett Mills. 

Purple Jesus at RB is an obvious choice, with all due respect to The President, Chester Taylor.  Berrian, too.  Rice is a prototypical #2, possession sort of receiver, who's got great leaping ability and hands, but not fantastic speed.  Wade, who was the Vikes' top receiver last year, fits best in the slot, where he can find holes in zone coverage and crack-block linebackers.

But Garrett Mills?

Here's why.  This guy, though he's a 'tweener (too small f
or an end, kinda tall for a fullback, and a little too squat to play wide-out), has great instincts and experience all over the field in college, where he was his team's top playmaker.  He's played in only one NFL game, in the 2007 finale loss to Denver, where he caught two passes for twenty-six yards.  But, he's very versatile.  Read on.

If the Purple come out in a three-receiver set, how does the opposing defense come out?  Most defenses defend this increasingly popular personnel-package with a nickel back, and six defenders in the box.  

Imagine what Adrian Peterson would do to six defenders in the box.

Wasn't that fun?  It wasn't if you were trying to stop Purple Jesus with only two linebackers.  So, if you're a defensive coordinator facing that personnel set, you almost have to leave your base 4-3 or 3-4 on the field, which means that either a safety or a linebacker draws Bobby Wade in coverage.  That's not good for you, either, Mr. Sanders.  

In this scenario, where the Vikes come out with these folks in of the huddle, Tarvaris Jackson starts salivating.  Bobby Wade has a favourable matchup in the slot.  Berrian's probably not double-covered.  Sidney Rice is out on an island with a shorter defensive back.  Peterson has less than eight defenders with which to condend between the tackles.

And then, there's this guy, the new guy picked up off the waiver wire last September.

Jackson can move Mills into the backfield, where he's a threat to take a quick fullback dive or trap as much as he could lead block for AD.  He can stay at end, or get motioned into the slot (spreading the field with a four-receiver set) where his quickness really stands out against a linebacker.  Simply moving him around before the snap will give Jackson information about the sort of coverage he'll be facing.

Gone are the days of Brad Childress lining up in a two tight, I-formation and running off-tackle against nine defenders in the box.  The Vikings have the personnel and the experience to spread the defense, create favourable matchups, and chuck the ball downfield.


Peter said...

This is an excellent post. Great analysis. I've been yearning for a play-making TE on the Vikings since Wiggins started his long, arduous downhill slide. I hope Mills can be the guy.

Just so you know, you've posted a picture of Chester Taylor right below the text asking us readers to imagine AP vs. 6 in the box.

Virginia Viking said...

I totally did! Wow, that's what happens when one blindly relies on Google images to get you a good photo of Adrian Peterson. I didn't even notice that it was a 29 on his jersey and not 28. Well, even if he's not starting, Chester Taylor will destroy six in the box, too. Thanks for pointing that out! It should be fixed by the time you read this.

Peter said...

It is! And you're right, Taylor would have fun against 6 too.

Colorado Viking fan here. I know the pains of being displaced well.