Which Minnesota Vikings players saw their stock rise, and who watched their stock drop in the week 3 game against the Carolina Panthers?
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Sep 25, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) makes a one handed catch over Carolina Panthers defensive back Robert McClain (27) during the second half at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
The Minnesota Vikings traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina to do battle against the reigning NFC champions. The Panthers are led by Cam Newton, the 2015 NFL MVP and averaged 34.4 points per game at home in 2015 (including the playoffs). On this day, however, it was the Vikings that stepped up to the challenge, winning by a final score of 22-10.
Playing without their starting quarterback, running back and left tackle, nearly every “expert” picked the Vikings to lose this week. Every analyst wanted to talk about how many key pieces the Vikings had lost to injury, yet nobody was talking about this defense, which was great last year and seems to have only improved this offseason. Knowing they were the underdogs, the Vikings came into the game with something to prove.
Who raised their stock in the game against the Panthers? Who saw their stock drop? Continue reading to find out!
Sep 25, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) is sacked by Minnesota Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen (97) in the fourth quarter. The Vikings defeated the Panthers 22-10 at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
The Vikings were able to hold the Panthers to only 10 points, and the biggest reason was because of their ability to make Cam Newton uncomfortable in the pocket. The Panthers only allowed 2.1 sacks per game in 2015, but the Vikings were able to rack up 8 sacks on the day to go along with 12 quarterback hits.
Everson Griffen led the Vikings with three sacks, which was even more impressive when you consider he needed to go into the locker room during the game to get an IV because he was sick. Griffen was the biggest disruption, but five other Vikings players registered sacks on the day. Fellow defensive linemen Linval Joseph, Brian Robison and Danielle Hunter were able to bring Newton down, with Hunter’s sack having extra importance because it was for a safety. Not wanting to be outdone by the defensive line, Anthony Barr and Harrison Smith also got into the action.
All in all, it was a very impressive day for every level of the Vikings’ defense. If the defense is able to keep up this level of play, the Vikings will be very difficult to beat.
Dec 10, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Charles Johnson (12) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Vikings 23-20. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Charles Johnson was a breakout candidate after the 2014 NFL season. Last year, Johnson was injured for most of the year, so he was given a pass by most fans. Throughout the first three games of 2016, however, Johnson has been severely underwhelming and this time there is no excuse.
So far this season, Johnson has been thrown to ten times, but has only hauled in three of those catches for 20 yards. To put that another way, the Vikings have 693 passing yards and Charles Johnson has only contributed on 2.9% of them. That’s unacceptable for a player who is listed as a “starter”. Now, with Adrian Peterson injured and teams starting to pay attention to Diggs, it’s more important than ever for the 2nd receiver to be productive.
There are plenty of young, promising players who are currently riding the bench because the Vikings insist on playing Johnson. The same thing happened last year, and it took an injury for the Vikings to finally sit him and play some guy named Stefon Diggs. With Adam Thielen, Laquon Treadwell and Jarius Wright waiting in the wings, let’s hope it doesn’t take another injury before the Vikings realize they need to make a change.
Sep 25, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Marcus Sherels (35) returns a punt for a touchdown in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
They say football is a game of three parts: offense, defense and special teams. The Minnesota Vikings may not have a great offense, especially with Adrian Peterson out, but they are still undefeated. The biggest reason for the 3-0 start to the season is the defense, but another significant reason is because of special teams.
Jeff Locke had an impressive day. He was called upon seven times to punt, and he averaged 48.4 yards per attempt. Locke also pinned the ball inside the 20-yard line three times and only had one touchback. This was one of the best performances of Locke’s career, and I hope he can continue this production.
Cordarrelle Patterson was able to make some electric plays on special teams, but it wasn’t because of his return abilities. For the first time (that I can think of), the Vikings played Patterson as a gunner on the punt team. Patterson seems to have really taken to the gunner position, as he made multiple plays, including downing a Jeff Locke punt at the two-yard line. Patterson may never develop into a starting-caliber wide receiver, but if he continues to play this well on special teams, he will carve out a nice roll for himself in the NFL.
Marcus Sherels had the best game of anyone on the Vikings’ special teams. Sherels’ punt return for a touchdown really helped turn the tide of the game. When Captain Munnerlyn went down with an injury, the Vikings surprisingly turned to Sherels instead of Mackensie Alexander, and Marcus was able to provide excellent coverage and even had a pass deflection.
Sep 18, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh (3) against the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings defeated the Packers 17-14. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
By now, it should be common knowledge that Blair Walsh is not an elite kicker in the NFL. His misses, especially on extra points, have become so regular that most Vikings fans don’t even bat an eye anymore. That’s not good.
So far this year, Walsh has attempted five extra points. He has missed two of them. Last season, 33 kickers had a higher percentage than Walsh’s 89% on extra points. This year, Walsh’s percentage has dropped down to 60%. That’s flat-out unacceptable.
I’m not sure if Walsh is still stuck about the miss in the playoffs, but whatever is ailing him, he needs to move past it asap. There will be plenty of games this year when the score will be close and it will come down to special teams. For a team that relies on defense and special teams to win games, the Vikings need more from their kicker.
Walsh will need to play better, or else the Vikings just need to go for two points after every score. I’m not sure which I prefer at this point.
Sep 25, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers outside linebacker Thomas Davis (58) dives for the tackle on Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph (82) during the second half at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
There are some games when a player makes you realize why a team is high on them. This game was like that for Kyle Rudolph. With Adrian out, the Panthers were game-planning against Stefon Diggs, and Kyle was able to make them pay. Rudy caught seven passes for 70 yards, leading the Vikings in receiving, and also caught the Vikings’ only offense touchdown.
Kyle Rudolph was listed as a “stock down” last week, but after his performance against the Panthers, he has become the buy of the week.
The biggest different for Rudolph was his concentration. There weren’t any drops, and he also seemed to be engaged on every play of the game, not only the ones where he was the primary target. There is no doubt that he has the ability to become one of the better tight ends in the NFL. The problem has always been his consistency. However, when he puts it all together, he can take over a game, just like he did today.