Teddy Bridgewater is the biggest story at Minnesota Vikings training camp. At least, he’s the biggest story if you operate a national radio or TV show and it’s unlikely you know much of anything about the Vikings.
It actually gets comical after awhile. Turn on Fox Sports or NBC Sports or ESPN and you invariably get, right off the top of an interview, “So, Bobby, who’s the Vikings starting quarterback?’ or “When will Teddy Bridgewater get the starting job?”
There is this assumption that the Vikings biggest problem is at quarterback and everyone wants to know if the rookie, a kid whose biggest enemy at training camp is the playbook, is going to lead the Purple out of the wilderness.
Well, despite what a lot of people around the country think, the quarterback position was not the biggest problem the Vikings, a team that was 5-10-1, faced last season. As bad as Christian Ponder turned out to be and as mediocre as Matt Cassel is, the offense didn’t kill the Vikings in 2013.
The Vikings were 13th in the entire NFL in total offense. They were tied with Indianapolis for 14th in total points with 24.4 per game. They scored enough to win more than their share of football games.
However, no team gave up more points – 480 or 30.0 points per game – than the Vikings. Only the Dallas Cowboys allowed more yards per game – 397.6. The Vikings allowed 4,595 yards passing, 31st in the league.
It’s great for the national media to blame Ponder and Cassel and suggest that Bridgewater is the saviour, but unless the Vikings’ new head coach Mike Zimmer does something about the defense, it isn’t going to matter what revered offensive mind Norv Turner does on offense. If the Vikings continue to bring up the bottom end of the league on defense, they aren’t going to be any better than last place in the NFC North.
On offence, the Vikings have tools. Cassel — who will start the opening game unless Bridgewater tears it up in the pre-season – has Adrian Peterson to carry the ball and Greg Jennings, Cordarelle Patterson, Jerome Simpson, Jarius Wright and Kyle Rudolph to catch it. The offensive line is passable. Offense isn’t the issue.
On defense, however, the Vikings were atrocious in 2013 and if they don’t get better this coming season, they might not win five games with a schedule that includes Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Stafford over a five week period between Sept. 14 and Oct. 12.
So in the off-season, while everyone was focused on Bridgewater, the Vikings brought in Captain Munnerlyn to play cornerback, Linval Joseph to put 300 more pounds on the defensive line and also drafted Anthony Barr (before Bridgewater, by the way) out of UCLA to add speed and athleticism at linebacker. Of their 10 draft picks, seven were defensive players. And defensive-genius-turned-head-coach Mike Zimmer also has a handful of young players who should improve (or, hopefully, stay healthy) in 2014.
Offense is sexy so the national media is going to focus on offense, but if the Vikings do absolutely nothing different on offense in 2014 they’ll win more games automatically — providing the defense is better.
After all, this is a team that lost four games last year by less than five points each. And in every instance, the defense gave up 27 points or more. Take those four wins, become 9-6-1 and the Vikings win the NFC North, Leslie Frazier is still the head coach, Christian Ponder is the quarterback and Teddy Bridgewater would never have been a Vikings draft pick.
It’s the deee-fense, stupid.