Mike Wobschall - Content Manager, Vikings Entertainment Network/Vikings.com
I am host of Wednesday’s 9-to-noon production, an opportunity that excites me greatly and an opportunity I take seriously because regular host PA is renowned in his role and his audience in the Love Covenant is deserving of premium performance from whoever is guiding the ship.
As part of my duties as fill-in host, I thought it would be appropriate to provide a few thoughts to the Paul Allen show page to support what you hear on-air 9-to-noon on Wednesday. With 2014 Verizon Vikings Training Camp around the corner and a new season set to begin, now is a perfect time to share with you five things I've learned about our favorite football team over this past offseason.
1. Mike Zimmer will become more known for his teaching ability than his yelling
HBO’s Hard Knocks has a profound role in new Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer’s reputation as a boisterous coach who is unafraid to yell at his players and use salty language to get his point across. This is not a misperception created by the show. I will say, though, that in watching Zimmer conduct practices the past couple months I feel he will become more known for his teaching ability and passion for the game and for preparing for the game. More times than not, he is teaching after a play, and more times than not he’s teaching while using a regular tone and regular language. Yes, there will be times where the volume is amped up and the language turns a corner, but I’ve been struck much more by Zimmer’s teaching style than by his volume or language.
2. Adrian and the RBs will be involved in the passing game as pass catchers
I remember opening the 2011 season against Norv Turner’s San Diego Chargers. We went into the game thinking we had to contain Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson. The Vikings did a good job of that, but they still couldn’t stop the passing game, and it’s because Turner found a way to use the RBs in the passing attack. While I don’t think the RBs will be the primary targets often in Turner’s passing game here, I do feel the RBs will be an important part of the plan. Expect Adrian to have more receptions, expect rookie Jerick McKinnon to be involved.
3. Robert Blanton is top early candidate for "most improved" player
The competition for the starting safety spot next to Harrison Smith is going to be intense at training camp. Jamarca Sanford comes in as the incumbent starter, but he has plenty of challengers – Robert Blanton, Kurt Coleman, Antone Exum, Andrew Sendejo and Mistral Raymond, to name several. Sanford missed some practice time this offseason, and Blanton stood in for most of the first team reps. Blanton looked like a much-improved player in this role. Last year, I thought he flashed a few times while playing defense, but he also had some missteps. This offseason, the missteps were few and far between and the flash plays were regular. I am excited about his development.
4. Rudy is back (from injury) and better than ever
I had Rudy on a team-record (for tight ends) in terms of touchdown receptions last season. But an injury cut short his campaign and he didn’t have the kind of season anyone envisioned as he came off a Pro Bowl season in 2012. Rudy is back from that injury, and he looked better than ever during the offseason. I don’t care how well the Vikings quarterback is playing and how many times that quarterback is finding Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson, Rudy is still going to be a top target in this offense and he will be the quarterback’s security blanket.
5. Fans are going to love how Captain Munnerlyn, Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith look in this defense
It’s been a while since Vikings fans could be proud of their defense. That is going to change this year. I feel the Vikings could have a Top 12 defense, and I feel the performance of the secondary is key to this prediction. The Vikings defense is going to be different in terms of style under Zimmer. Gone are the days of consistently rushing the front four and dropping seven into zone. That may happen from time-to-time, but more time than not the Vikings are going to be mixing it up. Sometimes they’ll rush four, sometimes six, sometimes more. Many times they’ll play man coverage behind the rush, too. I think this all sets up nicely for three players – Munnerlyn, Rhodes and Smith. Fans will love Munnerlyn’s moxy and attitude, not to mention his ability to blitz from the slot. Fans will love Rhodes physical coverage in man-to-man situations, and fans will love how many different ways Smith can impact the game in this defense – as a rusher, as a run defender in the box, and in coverage.