Why you should be taking the Vikings seriously
Mike Zimmer has been talking up Linval Joseph all season long, and we saw a pretty good representation of why against the Rams this week. Joseph was a one-man trail of destruction, and by far the best defensive tackle in the game—one that also featured Aaron Donald.
He notched a sack and a hit as a pass-rusher, but it was his work in the run game that really stood out. From nose tackle, he led the team in tackles (eight combined) and defensive stops (seven, two more than any other Viking), and was a constant force against the Rams’ blockers.
Coming into this game, Todd Gurley was averaging 6.1 yards per carry, 3.1 of which were coming after contact. In this game, he averaged just 3.7 yards per carry and 2.2 yards after contact, despite breaking five tackles in his 24 carries. Tre Mason gained just three yards on three carries.
Joseph’s performance now sees him ranked second overall in our interior defender list, with a score of 93.8, behind only J.J. Watt and ahead of Aaron Donald for the year.
The Vikings are trying to talk up his Pro-Bowl candidacy, but performances like this deserve All-Pro talk.
Joseph and Zimmer now have the Vikings at 6-2, level on wins with the Green Bay Packers, who just two weeks ago were undefeated and seemingly wrapping the division up.
The defense is quickly becoming a very impressive unit. Joseph leads a group that, along with players like Sharrif Floyd, Everson Griffen, and Anthony Barr, can terrorize most offensive lines, while on the back end, Harrison Smith has been the second-best safety in the game over the first half of the year. Xavier Rhodes has seen his play drop from a year ago, but did perform yesterday against the Rams, and this unit overall looks formidable.
On offense, the team continues to win, despite Teddy Bridgewater not taking the steps forward we thought he might this season. The offensive line remains an issue, with LG Brandon Fusco, in particular, disappointing, but there are bright spots with Michael Harris now stringing together a succession of impressive games at the other guard spot.
Stefon Diggs is by some distance our best-graded rookie receiver in a class that contains Amari Cooper, and Adrian Peterson remains capable of busting a big play at any time. While the Vikings’ defense looks like a unit ready to take this team wherever it needs to go, the offense seems a unit with room to grow. This is a good thing for a team that finds itself in a tie for the division lead, with their destiny in their own hands.
If the Vikings can work on the areas that are struggling, and if a player like Fusco, who has shown high levels of play in the past, can right his game, then the Vikings are a team to be taken seriously for anybody.