Offensive Optimism: They might be better than you think...

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Offensive Optimism: They might be better than you think...

Post by mansquatch » Wed May 24, 2017 3:26 pm

I had posited in the thread about Reusse’s pathetic “Zimmer sucks” column that it might be a fun exercise to look at the depth chart and consider levels of improvement and what that might mean for the 2017 season.

So I found some time and did it.

This is all my own work, and probably not complete, but I reached what I think is a provocative conclusion.

First a few assumptions:

1.) IMO the WR / TE group is most likely a push with last year. In most cases they did very well, so expecting 5% or 10% improvement seems like a stretch to me. We had what basically amounted to two 1000 yard receivers and a good TE. IMO, this performance from a yardage basis is not as likely to improve. (10% improvement for Diggs / Theilen would = two 1200 yard seasons. That seems like a stretch goal to me. Feel free to argue. Admittedly, I mostly went with this view to keep the analysis conservative.

2.) This is a big one. Reilly Reiff is a substantial upgrade over Matt Kalil due to his better overall average performance and his established history of proven durability. Kalil MIGHT have a higher ceiling that Reiff, but outside of his rookie campaign he has never been the better player. In the case of 2016 the difference between an even average Reiff and what we got from Clemmings is GIGANTIC. Key stat: Clemmings sabotaged 40% of the Vikings Offensive Drive with sacks, blown blocks and penalties. I would argue that a repeat performance at that level is statistically remote.

3.) Mike Remmers, even if he plays league below average at RT is an ENORMOUS improvement over TJ Clemmings in 2015 and a decent improvement over Sirles in 2016.

4.) Despite points 2 and 3, Remmers and Reiff are coming into a new OL, which typically equals a learning curve as the new guys acclimate to one another. In my view this is offset by the fact that we had so many injuries at tackle last year that this scenario was also present in 2016, but with worse players at the two positions.

So on to the fun stuff.

In 2016 the Vikings Rushing Game yielded a pathetic 1200 yards during the regular season. I took it upon myself to try and project what it would look like in 2017 with two new tackles, but no Adrian Peterson. I settled on looking back to 2014 which was a year where we had better OL play, but no #28. In that season we managed to produce 1800 yards of rushing. Literally a 600 yard improvement over 2017 with backup RBs and what most regarded as a suspect OL. So in keeping things conservative I think a fair estimate would be that we get back to slightly above league average and reap the 600 yards. That is a 37.5 YPG improvement.

More on the yardage. If you extrapolate out McKinnon’s 2017 numbers he would have produced ~575 yards in 16 games. If you do the same thing to 2017 Murray, the figure is 900 yards. That accounts for 325 of the 600 yards. I think we are safe to expect the rest of the roster to make up the 275 yards to get to 600. Again, feel free to opine.

On the scoring side, that 2014 unit managed 12 TDs. The woeful 2017 group produced 9 TDs. Latavius Murray on his own scored 12 TDs in 2016 with the Raiders. So I think we can reasonably expect a 3 TD improvement form the rushing game.

The X-Factor here is Dalvin Cook. If he can get on the field and be NFL ready, he has big play ability that the Vikings lacked from this position in both 2016 and 2104. (Murray is not a big play RB.) So there is potential for this group to over achieve.

Passing Game:

I am going to keep the yardage flat which is VERY conservative considering what should be improvements at OT. I am going to add 3 TD due to additional opportunities afforded by the running game. That would mean going from 20TD to 23TD. A 15% improvement, which is statistically large, but modest in light of the increased rushing yardage.

Kicking Game:
Two major factors at play here. Blair Walsh’s inaccuracy with FG (75% rate) and lack of opportunities due to offensive woes. In this case, I split the different. Walsh hit 75% of his FH, Forbath made 100%. I used a number of 90%. On PAT, sadly, Forbath was as inaccurate as Walsh at 79%. I gave a modest improvement and bumped it to 80%. Attempts are where we see improvement, due to what should be a better rushing game providing more opportunities. In 2016 we had 31 FG attempts. League average was upper 30s. So I increased the expectation to 38 based on increased opportunities from the running game, just as with the passing game. I increased the PAT by the 6 additional TD I added in the Rushing / Passing work above. This nets to 27 points of additional scoring.

Defense:
IMO, if we are seeing the return to normalcy for our rushing attack, then we should see our opponents afforded less opportunities with the ball. However, our defense is already great. Our Points Against in 2016 was 19.2. Given the above, I will lower by 1 point to 18.2, due to greater offensive TOP as a result of improved rushing efficacy and more pressured on opponents to be 1 dimensional to our having more points on the board. (+6TD, +7 more FG opportunities)

Summary:

Rushing:
600 yard improvement on the season or 37.5 YPG
+ 3 TD

Passing:
Flat Yardage
+3 TD

Kicking:
6 More PAT attempts
7 More FG Attempts
Net 27 additional Points based on accuracy and total attempts.
In 2016 we scored 327 points. If I add the above I increase by 63 points to a new offensive production of 390 PF. As reasonability test, that would make us a top 15 offense, or slightly better than average. Note this is built in part on the performance of the passing game last year. Bradford had a very good season despite the OL mess.

Our defense gave up 307 points. If I reduce by 16 points for the improvement above that equals 293 PF.


So let’s wrap it up:
In 2016 our point differential was 1.25 points per game. For 2017, based on my estimates, the point differential would be 6.1875! (390-291) / 16

This assumed only a return to league average for the rushing game. If the passing game benefits and improves over 2016, which it likely should, then my PF estimate is probably too conservative, which is very significant. If it gets much higher, that means we are averaging wins by over 7 points. That likely would drive our PA number down further since teams would then be truly one dimensional. In this respect, I think you reach a point where scoring numbers stop being incremental to players and more incremental to the team as a whole.

My major reason to bring this up is that I wanted to articulate how little I think it will take, performance wise to balance this team out given the greatness of the defense. It also points to just how bad the 2016 offense was and thus the tremendous upside even being average could produce. Given the 2014 results it probably also shows, at least to me, just how much impact the tackle play had on the 2016 season. We had a better QB and better WR in 2016 than we had in 2014, yet we rushed for 600 fewer yards with same RB as we had in 2014.

Anyways, feel free to comment. I’ve been wanting to have a talk about the smaller pieces vs. just focusing on the W/L record. My view remains that this team is a lot closer to 13-3 than it is 7-9, assuming it stays healthy. SKOL!
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Re: Offensive Optimism: They might be better than you think

Post by S197 » Wed May 24, 2017 4:44 pm

If the defense can maintain that #5 ranking or thereabouts then I definitely agree that an average offense is sufficient to put this team in the top tier. I mean, the offense was downright awful and they managed a .500 season.

The biggest keys as you mention are going to be can the line stay healthy, get cohesive, and also can SB stay healthy. I think the addition of Floyd and hopefully production from Treadwell will help the receiving corp. Maybe not on an absolute basis but provide better depth as Diggs while good, has had his share of missed games. I think Wright may be the odd man out but it's early.

I'm a bit worried about TE. Rudolph can produce when he's on the field but depth gets very suspect afterwards. I like Hodges potential but I doubt that can be realized right away.

I think RB should be fine with the Cook/Murray/McKinnon combo.
I’ve been wanting to have a talk about the smaller pieces vs. just focusing on the W/L record. My view remains that this team is a lot closer to 13-3 than it is 7-9, assuming it stays healthy. SKOL!
I agree, I'm rather optimistic about this season.

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Re: Offensive Optimism: They might be better than you think

Post by Nunin » Wed May 24, 2017 6:40 pm

Nice work, Squatch.
I agree, given relative good health, that the Vikes have enough talent in place to win the North and would hedge toward their record reflecting that than, say 8-8.
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We'll see how big a loss Munnerlyn is. That guy was playing well IMO. But aside from that, I think the D is stout.
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I'm not a fan of letting CP go, perhaps Floyd or Treadwell can assert himself?
Either way, as you stated, this offense will only go if they can run the ball. In fact when you really examine what made them so awful last season, it was their inability to run the ball at all. In spite of the poor O-line situation they still managed a decent pass attack. This is where I beliee Remmers and Rieff will pay big dividends. They are not known to be top tier pass protectors, but they don't need to be IMO. They just need to create some running room and stay somewhat healthy. If those 2 things happen then your improvemnet numbers will look over conservative IMO.

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Re: Offensive Optimism: They might be better than you think

Post by SidestreamFB Pete » Wed May 24, 2017 7:41 pm

Nice homework. I agree for the most part.

I think the total passing yards/TDs are going to stay similar, but we should expect less passes. I say this because I honestly think we have the tools to put together a top-10 rushing attack. This would severely reduce the amount of pass-protection/pass-rushing packages from opposing teams and would open up the play-action.

If the run-game comes together the defense is locked in a top-5 spot. They were top-5 on zero rest last year.
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Re: Offensive Optimism: They might be better than you think

Post by dead_poet » Wed May 24, 2017 8:13 pm

Nice analysis! I'd like to believe the running game improves by 600 yards, but given how terrible it was last year that could be optimistic (certainly not out of the realm of possibility, though). Of course a lot of this assumes the O-line is actually better. I was pretty bullish on them last year before the nightmare began and am a bit more hesitant because of it. The biggest thing is they need their presumed starters to stay healthy. The question mark remains who is the starting center and right guard? Will Elfein be better than Berger? Probably not, but Berger at RG will probably be better than Berger at center and Fusco/Sirles. But that's just an assumption. The sad part is that the additions of Reiff and Remmers aren't great and we'll probably still field a sub-average line but their additions still represent a potential noticeable upgrade. So the question is, how much better on the bad scale will they be and how much of a difference will that make? For example, instead of being pressured on 50% of his dropbacks, will Sam now be pressured on 40% of his dropbacks? That's still terrible and a large hurdle for any offense to overcome in both phases.

What about losing Patterson in the return game? We've had the luxury of having excellent field position the last 4-6 years, really, with Harvin and Patterson being among the league leaders in return average and, thus, starting field position. There were games where we literally probably won because of the play of our special teams. I expect a regression here, which factors into the offensive production as well.

Also, how likely do you think that Sam's 2016 was an anomaly (both in playing 16 games and his effectiveness)? Is it a precursor of things to come or an outlier? I'd be surprised if he didn't toss a few more interceptions this year, but I agree that his yardage should remain more-or-less around the same.
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Re: Offensive Optimism: They might be better than you think

Post by J. Kapp 11 » Wed May 24, 2017 10:08 pm

Nice work, Mansquatch. FWIW, I agree with pretty much all of it.

My only change is that I would estimate Bradford's yards will increase. Not hugely, but up. He threw for just under 3,900 yards last year in 15 games. That's 258 yards per game. I believe Bradford should have a modest improvement in yardage to 275 ypg. That's a 6.6% increase and works out to 4,400 yards.

I see this happening for a couple of reasons. With an improved offensive line, Bradford should have more chances to throw deeper routes than the dump-it-before-I-get-killed passes he was forced to throw so much last year. He's one of the most accurate deep-ball passers in the league, so I could see more yardage via these completions. Mansquatch, you alluded to this very thing in your analysis.

Also, I believe Dalvin Cook could make a huge difference in the passing game. For one thing, he's a dynamic receiver out of the backfield, capable of turning short passes into chunk plays. For another reason, if he's the runner many believe he is, it will open up the play-action game, which was practically non-existent last year because of our complete inability to run the ball.

Finally, Latavius Murray is not only a quality receiver out of the backfield, he's also one of the better pass-blocking running backs in the league.

Sum it all up, and I don't think a 6.6% improvement in passing yardage is out of the question.

Interesting about Kai Forbath. With his missed extra points and lack of distance on kickoffs, It's not a foregone conclusion that he'll be the Vikings' kicker. He still has to beat out Marshall Koehn, who has a pretty big leg. I miss Good Blair Walsh.
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Re: Offensive Optimism: They might be better than you think

Post by 808vikingsfan » Wed May 24, 2017 10:35 pm

SidestreamFB Pete wrote:If the run-game comes together the defense is locked in a top-5 spot. They were top-5 on zero rest last year.

Good point.

I think the Vikings improved the running game and also stopping the run. Both will improve this team a thousand fold.
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Re: Offensive Optimism: They might be better than you think

Post by PurpleMustReign » Thu May 25, 2017 5:37 am

The biggest key for me is everyone staying healthy. The talent is there but not if they can't stay on the field.

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Re: Offensive Optimism: They might be better than you think

Post by mansquatch » Thu May 25, 2017 8:56 am

Thanks for all the tips and details. I agree on the return and coverage games likely taking a step back this year.

My big take away on the 600 yards was how we did in 2014 without #28. That year we had an injury riddled Kalil at LT, Loadholt in his last full season as a Viking and aslo, IIRMC Fusco was out the whole season at RG with a torn pec. Sullivan was the C, and I think Charlie Johnson was LG. Not exactly a world beater group. Yet they still managed 1800 yards on the ground.

Berger was an upgrade over Sullivan, that in part is why Sullivan got cut. Boone is an upgrade over Charlie Johnson. In the case of last season, I find it hard to believer that Remmers and Reiff will not be superior to Clemmings/Sirles even if the former end up being below average league wide. (More that the latter was that terrible.) RG is still a question, but we had a back up in at that position in 2014 and still made 1800 yards. So for me, the 600 yard thing seems reasonable.

Murray's nose for the end zone is also a net positive.

Kapp, I agree with you on the potential for a better passing game, especially in terms of yardage if only due to extra time to throw. If I add in your 6.6% increase I probably also need to add 2-3 TDs. The really blows up the offense, to the point where they are a top 10 unit.

My sense is that the return game, which we greatly relied on for scores last season will probably take a step back. That stuff is part luck, so I was inclined to let them offset in my analysis and show the passing game as a push in terms of total Scoring. This would also follow that if the offense is better the defense should be on the field less. Then again, if they are better they'll face teams taking more risk, so we could get more Turnovers. Very hard to predict this stuff.

The big thing for me is I feel like I'm being conservative. If they over achieve even a little this could quickly run away and turn into a special season.
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Re: Offensive Optimism: They might be better than you think

Post by CbusVikesFan » Thu May 25, 2017 5:04 pm

In depth analysis, great work. If Shurmur can find some inventive ways to move the ball with all the changes to the offense there will be a high ceiling for this year's squad. Key being O-line play.
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Re: Offensive Optimism: They might be better than you think

Post by PacificNorseWest » Fri May 26, 2017 6:45 pm

CbusVikesFan wrote:In depth analysis, great work. If Shurmur can find some inventive ways to move the ball with all the changes to the offense there will be a high ceiling for this year's squad. Key being O-line play.
I don't think it's inventiveness as much is it the Vikings needing to make some plays. Invention is required when you have Asiata in the backfield and no proven WR's. The Vikings have a nice nucleus of players with the playmaking ability now, so it's all about showing out at this point.

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Re: Offensive Optimism: They might be better than you think

Post by CbusVikesFan » Sat May 27, 2017 8:34 am

PacificNorseWest wrote: I don't think it's inventiveness as much is it the Vikings needing to make some plays. Invention is required when you have Asiata in the backfield and no proven WR's. The Vikings have a nice nucleus of players with the playmaking ability now, so it's all about showing out at this point.
I agree. But I was speaking mostly about being less predictable. Hopefully there will be wrinkles from last year and some new plays. With a new look offense I am hoping it will take a few games for defenses figure out tendencies.
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Re: Offensive Optimism: They might be better than you think

Post by Demi » Sat May 27, 2017 4:48 pm

CbusVikesFan wrote:In depth analysis, great work. If Shurmur can find some inventive ways to move the ball with all the changes to the offense there will be a high ceiling for this year's squad. Key being O-line play.
Shurmur should be the biggest concern. The only time an offense he was coaching had even a top 10 rushing offense was when Chip Kelly was calling the plays and running the show.

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Re: Offensive Optimism: They might be better than you think

Post by CbusVikesFan » Sun May 28, 2017 8:54 am

Demi wrote: Shurmur should be the biggest concern. The only time an offense he was coaching had even a top 10 rushing offense was when Chip Kelly was calling the plays and running the show.
I miss the days of Billick. Most of the time you really didn't know where the ball was going. We shall see what Shurmur has learned in the past few years if anything.
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Re: Offensive Optimism: They might be better than you think

Post by Mothman » Sun May 28, 2017 9:55 am

CbusVikesFan wrote: I miss the days of Billick. Most of the time you really didn't know where the ball was going. We shall see what Shurmur has learned in the past few years if anything.
Hopefully, he's learned plenty. There's genuine potential for an improved offense if they can stay healthy. I'm curious to see what kind of offense Shurmur will actually run. Ultimately, what I hope to see is a more efficient and aggressive offense that attacks the end zone, finishes drives with TDs and does a better job of converting 3rd downs (particularly on the road, where that's been a weakness). Improvements in passing yards or rushing yards should help with those goals but the yardage is less important than the points.

I'm equally curious to see how the defense will perform. The default assumption seems to be they're "great" and their post-bye performance was due to a lack of rest. Personally, that doesn't add up for me. The Vikings were average in terms of time of possession so does lack of rest due to the offense's performance really explain the difference between a hot start in which the defense allowed an average of about 12.5 points in 5 games (which actually IS great) and an average of about 22 points per game allowed after the bye? I doubt it's that simple.

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