Five Questions with The Viking Age

As we put a wrap on 2011, I had the pleasure to sit down with Jon Merckle of The Viking Age to discuss this week’s game.  You can check out my answers to his questions here.  While the game is meaningless, there are some good questions and answers here on both sides…

BGO:  Leslie Frazier is long remembered in Chicago because his talent was unfulfilled as a player, but he was on the ’85 team, so people know about him around here.  What is the take on him up north and will he be there when the Vikings right the ship, so to speak?

TVA:  The take on Frazier is two-fold. We’ve always felt highly of him as a person & he was a fantastic defensive coordinator from 2007 to 2010.  Vikings fans simply didn’t want him to be the next assistant to get away winning a Super Bowl as a head coach elsewhere — things that Brian Billick, Tony Dungy & Mike Tomlin have all done. That being said, he has seemed a bit over his head in his first year as a commander in chief. At the beginning of the year he was telling ownership that this veteran team led by Donovan McNabb had one last Super Bowl run in it, by week 6 he was asking for patience & here we are staring down the barrel at what could be a tie for the worst record in franchise history (the 1984 Vikings finished 3-13). There have also been a number of game management decisions that have been questioned. The Vikings front office has assured Frazier he’ll be back next year, but if there isn’t drastic improvement early on he could be a coach on the hot seat.

Check out the rest of the questions and answers…on the other side…

BGO:  Losing AP is devastating and I forsee a trip to the PUP list for him next season, making him ineligible until week 7.  Do the Vikings have faith in Toby Gerhart to hold down the fort or might the Vikings look to address the RB position early in the 2012 draft?

TVA:  Adrian’s injury was a huge blow, absolutely, and for the next several months we’ll be paying attention to how his recovery is going.  Its way too early in that process to predict how next season will begin. Toby has quietly shown promise in the last several weeks as someone who could be an every down back. He doesn’t have Adrian’s breakaway or his ability to make people miss, but he’s simply a guy who goes out and gets the job done. Toby’s very cognizant of running lanes & almost never has carries for negative yardage. If the Vikings were to address running back in the draft it likely wouldn’t be until the later rounds. It’s Toby’s job until Adrian is healthy again.

BGO:  It looks like Christian Ponder will be good to go on Sunday.  Do you see him as the franchise QB he was drafted as?

TVA:  Like Frazier’s first year of coaching, it’s been a mixed bag with Ponder as well. He has shown promise as a rookie sensing pressure well, being quick with his delivery, developing an understanding of how to read an NFL defense pre-snap & carrying himself like a franchise QB from day one. That being said, he’s occasionally shown ‘happy feet’ in the pocket and has thrown the ball into double or triple coverage far too often. In fairness to Ponder, he is a rookie playing on a bad team with a below average offensive line and a spotty receiving core. Plus it was an atypical offseason without minicamps and OTAs from the lockout. Next year will be very telling as to his development and if he’s to become a “Franchise QB” that we can stick with for a while.

BGO:  Besides Ponder, who are some other lesser-known Vikings that Bears fans might become more familiar with on Sunday?

TVA:  Keep a close eye on tight end Kyle Rudolph.  I’d assume a number of Chicagoans are familiar with him already from his Notre Dame days; still he’s one worth monitoring.  Just lately Rudolph passed tight end Visanthe Shiancoe on receiving more snaps and caught a touchdown last week versus Washington. With Shiancoe set to hit free agency the Vikings have huge plans for Rudolph next year.  Rudolph The Red Zone Tight End (forgive me, guess I’m still in the Christmas spirit) is not someone who’s going to burn you with speed, but he’s very physical listed at 6’5″ & 260 lbs and has oven mitt sized hands.

BGO:  What is on the Vikings wish list for the 2012 draft and free agency?

TVA:  That’s an easy one — Offensive line & Secondary. The Vikings never recovered from having to cut left tackle Bryant McKinnie showing up to camp weighing close to 400 lbs. Current left tackle Charlie Johnson is competent, but best served at guard.  Both of our current guards Steve Hutchinson (out with concussion) & Anthony Herrera (has been dealing with back pains) are aging and probably won’t be back next year.  The only guys set are center John Sullivan & right tackle Phil Loadholt. Getting a left tackle kicking Johnson to guard would really help Ponder and the running game. On secondary the Vikings suffered huge blows when Antoine Winfield was moved to IR and Chris Cook was arrested for felony assault.  Realistically Winfield will be 36 when season begins & Cook could be in jail.  The rest of the guys we have are either projects, at best nickel/dime guys or pulled from the street.  Plus it’s such a passing league now, as I’m sure you’ll attest also having to face Aaron Rodgers & Matthew Stafford twice a year.

Bonus question:  What do you expect the final score on Sunday to be?

TVA:  Since its Week 17 and this is a meaningless game unless you’re a draft wonk, I sentimentally have to go with the home team. Vikes win 13-10 in a sloppy one that has us asking when pitchers & catchers report.

I appreciate Jon’s participation in this little pre-game banter, because we have to have something to do to try to get over the misery of not making the playoffs…I will one comment to Jon’s answer about having to face Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford twice a year and I think he intentionally left off Jay Cutler…let’s hope Cutler can return next year and make him the 3rd QB in the division that is feared.

CAN I GET AN AMEN?!?!?!?!?!

The DeCon has spoken, so let it be written, so let it be done…

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