With everything that’s going on outside the sports world, you may not want to think about anything within it. And that makes perfect sense.
However, for some, it may be exactly what you need. So if you’re able, take a break from the madness. The constant sharing of virus facts and figures. The guesses about how long this will last, or how many will be infected.
There’s a fine line between staying educated and worrying too much about something you can’t control.
Lets try to walk that line together with a little talk about the local pro football team.
In a world without live sports, NFL free agency took center stage last week, and it didn’t disappoint.
DeAndre Hopkins was dealt in what some consider to be one of the worst trades in NFL history. Philip Rivers will have a horseshoe on his helmet instead of a lighting bolt, and of course, everyone thought Tom Brady was going to finish his career in Tampa Bay.
For the Vikings, the changes came early and often, and with everything that’s going on, you may have missed some of it.
The biggest move came early last week, when the team dealt receiver Stefon Diggs to Buffalo for a package of picks headlined by the 22nd selection in this year’s draft.
While it may seem like Diggs forced his way out of town one cryptic social media post at a time, it was really Mike Zimmer who drove him away. And he should’ve seen Diggs’ frustration coming.
As the pass attempts mounted during the first half of 2018 under new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, it became clear that Zimmer was unhappy with Rick Spielman’s hand-picked OC.
Things eventually reached a boiling point, and DeFilippo was fired late that season. Then came Kevin Stefanski, who was clearly going to call plays as Zimmer wanted. Under Stefanski’s watch, the offense went from sixth in pass attempts in 2018 to 30th in 2019.
Not a good plan if you’re hoping to please a star receiver.
As for Diggs, this is a massive blow to the Vikings offense. Don’t let anyone tell you he was worth the picks from a talent standpoint.
If you trust the film-watchers, Pro Football Focus and Reception Perception have always given him glowing marks. If you’re more of a stats person, Diggs had 1,132 yards last season on 94 targets, which is good for 12.44 yards per target. That ranked second in the NFL among receivers with at least 80 targets.
That level of efficiency certainly would have declined with more targets, but the fact remains that great things happened when the ball was thrown to Diggs.
Not having the threat of him on the outside will certainly lead to more eight-man boxes, and will bring a lot more attention Adam Thielen’s way.
On the defense, Xavier Rhodes, Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph, Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander, Jayron Kearse and Andrew Sendejo are all gone or appear to be on the way out.
While there are a lot of familiar faces on that list, some of them probably carry more name value than actual value at this point.
Rhodes was actively bad in 2019, while Griffen and Joseph simply weren’t the players they were three years ago. Michael Pierce was signed to replace Joseph at defensive tackle, but that’s been the only major addition.
The team has done nothing to replace Rhodes, Waynes and Alexander, which is a major concern. Mike Hughes and Holton Hill are set to start at cornerback as of now, and both come with huge question marks.
Maybe the defensive changes will bring more addition by subtraction than we think, but the continuity that this group of starters developed playing together for so many years has to count for something.
The Vikings have consistently been a contender during Zimmer’s six seasons as head coach, and he deserves more credit for that than he gets.
He and Spielman built a defense that’s been one of the league’s best, and the offense has become more than serviceable in recent years.
Can Spielman and Zimmer make up for the loss of Diggs and multiple veteran defenders without taking a hit in the win column?
Whether you like them or not, their long-term futures in Minnesota may depend on it.
Kevin Dudley is a Free Press staff writer. Call him at 507-344-6381 or email him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dudley7Kevin.