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After solid offseason, Vikings are contenders again

August 9th, 2017 at 7:53 AM
Aggregated By Sports Media 101

The Minnesota Vikings have quietly positioned themselves in a favorable spot to contend for a wild card berth. It’s unlikely they contend for a Super Bowl, and they could easily fall short of the playoffs. But this team is closer to the one that started last season 5-0 than the one that finished 3-8.

That calculus starts with quarterback Sam Bradford, who is the spitting image of mediocrity. Bradford is described by a lot of people as a game manager, which is another way of saying that the best thing about him is that he doesn’t throw interceptions. That description is more or less correct รข?? per Cian Fahey’s charting, Bradford threw only 13 interceptable passes last season and ranked fourth in the league with 42.6 attempts per interceptable pass. At the same time, however, Fahey found that Bradford’s average depth of target was only 6.43 yards, which ranked 33rd.

In all fairness, some of that is attributable to the scheme Minnesota ran, rather than Bradford as a player. But the former Heisman winner isn’t exactly going to be tossing 80-yard bombs. Bradford is going to look about as good as the players you put around him, and the Vikings have given him a better supporting cast than you may think.

Last season, the Vikings tried and (probably) failed to draft a star receiver in Laquon Treadwell, had no running game whatsoever once Adrian Peterson went down and suffered a number of injuries that made a bad offensive line even worse. Coming into this season, all of those positions look better.

Wide receiver is the only one Minnesota was able to solve without looking to the draft or free agency. Adam Thielen was the star Treadwell couldn’t be last season, putting up 967 yards on 69 receptions and ranking in the top-10 among receivers in both DYAR and DVOA. Expect Thielen to get more targets this season, as he comes in looking like a clear No. 1. Stefon Diggs is a more than capable second option as well. He finished 25th in DYAR among receivers last season and had 903 receiving yards.

Kyle Rudolph is a capable tight end in the passing game as well, quietly posting 83 receptions for 840 yards last season.

Treadwell is still in the picture, though much further from the center than last season at this time. He figures to get a little more playing time than 2016 when he had just three targets, and the ability that led Minnesota to pick him in the first round is still there. If he fixes some of the issues that hamstrung him last season, Treadwell will be on the field and making an impact.

Perhaps the biggest reason to be confident in this passing game, however, is the running game. The Vikings were 31st in rushing DVOA last season and opposing teams knew …

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Tags: After solid offseason, Brian Robison, Chad Greenway, Florida State Seminoles, Joe Berger, Laquon Treadwell, Mackensie Alexander, Minnesota Vikings, NFL, Ohio State Buckeyes, Terence Newman, Vikings are contenders again

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