Wednesday morning I tossed out a question on Twitter to see if I could get any sort of consensus on which injured Minnesota Vikings player the public is missing most at the moment.
Fascinatingly, the results were mixed – not just between two, but between three players.
Here’s my original prompt:
If you could have one of the following four players back healthy and off IR tomorrow, who would it be?
— Sam Ekstrom (@SamEkstrom) October 19, 2016
The one constant is that nobody misses right tackle Andre Smith. The free-agent pick up didn’t solidify his spot in any meaningful way. In fact, it may have been strengthened by Jeremiah Sirles when Smith hurt his arm in the team’s Week 4 game. Some people even forgot who Smith was.
@SamEkstrom kalil. Somehow blanking on who smith is…
— California Lion (@californialion) October 19, 2016
The rest of the responses were split between Teddy Bridgewater, Matt Kalil and Adrian Peterson, though one of them got significantly less support than the other two. Allow me to make a case for each.
In one sense, the Vikings could probably use some sort of lightning rod in the run game to bolster their pitiful 2.5 yards per carry average. Peterson, at least in his prime, was able to make something out of nothing and absolve the offensive line of its poor blocking simply through sheer strength and willpower. That being said, the first two games of the season seemed to show a more timid and less explosive Peterson who found himself getting tackled in the backfield more often than not. But then again, the line seemed to be reaching new lows in its run blocking scheme at that point.
Peterson received a small amount of support in this non-scientific study, but not nearly as much as our next two candidates.
@SamEkstrom Peterson, but trying to keep the offense as it is right now.
— C.D. Minnesota (@CDMinnesota) October 19, 2016
— Jesse Melna (@melnavikes) October 19, 2016
AD if he was effective again. https://t.co/lEUvkNNy4d
— Brian Cunningham (@Towdogg) October 19, 2016
The general feeling is that Peterson was holding back the offense with his inability to pass block or pass receive. Those flaws in Peterson’s game have always been present, but they are magnified more with an offensive line that struggles to block on between-the-tackles runs, and Peterson isn’t great at going with the flow of a more creative and unpredictable offense. “We’ve been in this situation a couple of years ago,” said Turner after Peterson’s injury, “and Matt (Asiata) and Jerick (McKinnon) before he was injured, did a lot of good things. They’re two years older and we’re just going to approach it that way.”
Minnesota has been winning primarily with the pass, and McKinnon and Asiata are more valuable in that phase of the game. All things consider, the level of excitement over a potential Peterson return – in this exercise or in real life – is rather tepid.
In case you forgot, Bridgewater was the team’s franchise quarterback as early as two months ago. That all changed when a severe knee dislocation set into motion the chain of events that brought Sam Bradford to Minnesota via trade and turned him into a hybrid of Bridgewater who makes great decisions, protects the football, has durability and is able to push the ball downfield. And I was being literal when I said hybrid.
It doesn’t seem like fans have given up on the Teddy dream, however. At minimum, his return from injury would mean exactly that: A return from a devastating, potentially career-altering injury. The Vikings are still as thin as they were two months ago at backup with Shaun Hill running the second team, though third stringer Taylor Heinicke is working his way back into practice after an ankle injury, so at least the Vikings are unlikely to call upon Joel Stave anytime soon.
But Teddy being back would represent a successful rehab for a player who’s endeared himself to the fan base.
@SamEkstrom Bridgewater in case of Bradford injury
— Lonnie Callies (@LonnieCallies) October 19, 2016
@SamEkstrom Teddy2Gloves, and it’s not close
— Michael (@call_me_kelso) October 19, 2016
@SamEkstrom Teddy. Bradford is due to break at any moment
— Matt Nelson (@nmatt71) October 19, 2016
@SamEkstrom teddy, only one that doesn’t make us rip out our hair
— Haywood Jabloughmei (@ARodgersizabitc) October 19, 2016
@SamEkstrom Teddy, just to make me feel better about his health. Not sure any of them offer real improvement
— Rocky Smith (@r0ckdiddy) October 19, 2016
While Vikings Country has embraced Bradford, there’s still a great love for the guy they call “Teddy Two Gloves.” And if he takes the field again someday, there will be plenty of “Ted-dy” chants to go around. “I never thought that I’d have another quarterback throughout my career other than [Bridgewater],” Zimmer said after the injury. “You go through those things, you get over it and you go on.”
As maligned as he’s been by the fan base, Kalil was very popular in this survey. It makes sense, though. With Bradford in tow, the dropoff from Bridgewater is no longer as steep. Same goes with Peterson into McKinnon. But in Kalil’s absence, T.J. Clemmings at left tackle has been so roughshod that the Vikings brought in the fledgling former No. 1 pick Jake Long to compete with him.
Kalil. OL needs more depth. We are fine at QB and RB. https://t.co/1dvUqv2iEX
— Skip Newton (@swnewton31) October 19, 2016
Kalil received roughly the same level of support as Bridgewater, but while the quarterback would only be returning in a backup capacity, these Twitterers ostensibly would want Kalil plugged in immediately at left tackle.
@SamEkstrom I love Teddy and I believe he is the future, however right now I’d take Kalil. This O Line needs improvement badly
— Clayton C. (@1AllDayClay) October 19, 2016
@SamEkstrom Kalil without a question
— Christoph Coenen (@chrisvikings) October 19, 2016
@SamEkstrom Kalil. but only if 100% healthy everywhere, like wolverine style.
— Ed Brodzy (@Nemock7) October 19, 2016
Kalil no-brainer https://t.co/jDjeOCWJG6
— Ryan Boser (@Ryan_Boser) October 19, 2016
It seems like there’s still a part of every Vikings supporter that believes Kalil can play like he did in his rookie year of 2012. Even though we’re now four years removed from that Pro Bowl season, Kalil established at a young age that he has a high ceiling, and that’s the standard to which he’ll always be held.
On the optimistic side, if folks believe Kalil is/was redeemable, they can believe the same about Long, whose signing depends entirely on him being able to capture his high level of play from bygone years. The day Kalil’s surgery was announced, Zimmer conceded how tough it was to get offensive line help. “I think it’s hard to find left tackles that are on the street,” he said. But the Vikings have resorted to exactly that as they try to integrate Long before this Sunday’s game at Philadelphia.