Vikings

Minnesota’s Loss In Philly Highlighted Longstanding Roster Construction Issues

Photo Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings fell to 0-2 after losing 34-28 to the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Stadium on Thursday Night Football. The offense picked up right where they left off last week by falling all over itself with yet another first half of football that included three costly turnovers. And for the second-straight week, the offense turned the ball over at the goal line while operating the two-minute drill. This week’s edition featured an unlucky fumble by Justin Jefferson. He dropped the ball out of bounds and over the pylon while extending for the touchdown, resulting in a touchback. And no, the NFL doesn’t need to change the rule.

Brian Flores’ defense was nothing short of spectacular in the first quarter by holding the Eagles to three points. Despite having one of the league’s better running games behind arguably the game’s best offensive line, first-year Philadelphia offensive coordinator Brian Johnson appeared hellbent on beating the Vikings with Jalen Hurts and the passing game. And Flores answered the call. The Eagles offense called nine passes on 12 plays over their first two drives. And when Vikings safety Theo Jackson intercepted Hurts on Philadelphia’s following drive, Nick Sirianni and Johnson stopped getting cute and unapologetically leaned into their biggest strength by unleashing its overpowering offensive line in the run game.

Herein lies the Minnesota Vikings’ ever-present problem. Year after year, this franchise has failed to assemble sustainable play out of its offensive and defensive lines.

Let’s start with the offense.

Yes, the NFL has morphed into a passing league, and the Vikings are following suit (and then some) with this new regime. But when going against defenses that properly invest in their defensive lines — like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week with Vita Vea and the Eagles with their surplus of first-rounders — this Vikings offense has no choice but to waive the white flag in the running game.

Against Philadelphia, Minnesota and Kevin O’Connell called 46 passes on 55 total offensive plays for an absolutely absurd 83.6% pass rate. The thing is, it’s hard to argue with the process behind those decisions. Year after year, Minnesota’s offensive line turns into a glaring weakness when going against dominant defensive fronts. And last night was no different. From the jump, Philadelphia’s front completely eliminated Minnesota’s hopes of running on them. Thus, O’Connell had no choice but to be one-dimensional with his passing game.

Give credit to Kirk Cousins. Despite Philadelphia’s Game Wrecker of the Week Josh Sweat forcing a strip sack on Minnesota’s opening possession of the second half after beating Oli Udoh badly, Cousins was simply terrific with 364 yards and four touchdowns on a 70.5 completion percentage. And a handful of those incompletions were a result of K.J. Osborn and Alexander Mattison‘s drops. You won’t catch me casting an ounce of blame onto Cousins and the passing game in this one. The fact that Minnesota’s offense scored 28 points with four turnovers while possessing the ball for just over 20 minutes on Thursday night is a borderline miracle.

In last season’s Week 2 loss at Philadelphia, the Vikings defense surrendered 163 rushing yards — their third-most rushing yards allowed in 2022. And one would think that since the matchup between Philadelphia’s offensive line and Minnesota’s defensive front is such an overwhelming advantage for the Eagles, Johnson would establish his running game from the get-go, as opposed to waiting until the second quarter to finally take his dogs off the leash by asserting their will in the ground game. Once Johnson and the Eagles’ offense came to their senses, they obliterated the line of scrimmage. The Eagles kept Minnesota’s offense on the sidelines and played ball control by possessing the rock for nearly 40 minutes after running 48 times for 259 yards.

The easiest way to beat an opponent in this game is by ripping the defense’s heart out in the run game and forcing them to watch you eat it. That’s exactly what the Eagles hang their hat on with All-Pros Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson, and Pro Bowler Landon Dickerson — as long as Siranni and Johnson don’t get in their way by getting too cute with the passing game. And when going against a defense in Minnesota that can’t stop a nosebleed in the run game with its front for the fourth-straight season, it highlights the catastrophic decision-making that has gone into Minnesota’s roster construction over the past decade-plus.

What good are all six of those defensive backs the Vikings have drafted in the first round since 2012 if you can’t buck up and stop the run? Let’s not forget, the Vikings and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said thanks, but no thanks to defensive tackle Jordan Davis at 12th overall in the 2022 NFL Draft. Instead, they opted for yet another defensive back at the tail end of the first round, and one who doesn’t sniff the field in Year 2. Who was the general manager that immediately made the call to trade up for the former Georgia Bulldog once the Vikings and Detroit Lions passed on the interior defensive anchor? Philadelphia’s Howie Roseman.

 

Speaking of defensive backs selected in the first round. Take a wild guess as to how many first-round picks Roseman has used on defensive backs since stepping into the VP of Player Personnel role in 2008 and eventually the GM chair in 2010 with the Eagles.

None.

Is it a coincidence that Roseman has a Lombardi trophy and NFC Championship trophy over the past six years by making both his offensive and defensive lines the priority with everything else coming a distant second? Last night certainly doesn’t think so.

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