For the Vikings’ final road trip this season to Miami, we reached out to Chris Perkins, who covers the Dolphins for The Sun Sentinel, in this week’s edition of “Behind Enemy Lines.” Here are five questions we asked Perkins about the Week 16 matchup at Sun Life Stadium.
1. How would you evaluate the Dolphins’ play in December?
CP: The Dolphins have been bad in December. There’s no other way to tell the story. They’re 1-2, which means they’re struggling at the most important time of the season. In the last two games, losses to Baltimore and New England, they’ve been outscored, 48-3, in the second half. They’ve allowed 568 yards rushing in their last three games, produced three sacks, and only scored three touchdowns. The list goes on, but you get the idea.
2. What do you think will happen to head coach Joe Philbin at the end of the season?
CP: Philbin is probably done. You can’t say for sure, but it appears he won’t return. Philbin, in his third season, has a 22-24 record and will most likely miss the playoffs once again. It’s tough to say you’ve seen progress. Miami was 7-9 in Philbin’s first season, 8-8 last year, and might show one-game improvement this year. That’s after getting arguably the top free agent on the market the last two years (wide receiver Mike Wallace in 2013, and left tackle Branden Albert in 2014), changing offensive coordinators, and revamping the offensive line. The Dolphins have probably performed to their talent level, but Philbin never made them better. That’s a problem.
3. In what areas has quarterback Ryan Tannehill improved and regressed this season?
CP: Tannehill, now in his third season, has been better at decision-making, footwork and accuracy. But Tannehill, such as Philbin, never made anyone better. That’s a problem. Tannehill has career bests in completion percent (66.3; 6th in NFL), passer rating (90.8; 15th in NFL) and rushing yards (316). But his 22 touchdowns and 11 interceptions are on the border of the minimally-desired 2:1 ratio. He’s near the bottom of the NFL in third-down passing (25th) and fourth-quarter passing (32nd), and he struggles with accuracy when throwing the deep ball so it’s almost been eliminated from the offense, making his completions mostly on short and intermediate passes and turning the Dolphins’ passing offense into a pedestrian way of moving the ball.
4. What’s the reason for the Dolphins’ success defensively?
CP: When the defense was successful it was because of the defensive line. But they’ve slumped severely in the last four games. So has the defense. Miami is seventh in total defense because of its early-season success. Defensive end Cameron Wake (9.5 sack) is a perfect metaphor. He has one sack in the last five games. In the last four games the Dolphins have allowed 121 points (30.3 per game). Granted, one touchdown came via a blocked field goal, but it’s still a bad four-game performance. The defense is no longer disruptive. They used to stop the run, get sacks and force turnovers. Those skills have evaporated. Miami’s defense isn’t to be feared the way it was earlier in the season.
5. What will the Dolphins need to do to beat the Vikings?
CP: The Dolphins need to do anything and everything possible to beat the Vikings. Their formula for winning – strong defense, a good running game, a decent passing game – is out the window. They need to find a Vikings weakness and exploit the heck out of it. The Dolphins (7-7) haven’t had a winning season since 2008. They badly need to win these final two games even though realistic playoff hopes are gone. Whatever it takes to win – special teams, interceptions, rushing, passing, good fortune – is what the Dolphins need.
Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner took his weekly turn at the podium to address the media on Thursday. Normally, coaches give a brief opening statement and then open things up for questions.
Turner, though, made it quite clear that he had an agenda — not in a bad way, but still in a clear way. Unprompted by any questions that day, but surely prompted by those who have questioned rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater and picked apart his performance this season (present company included, we imagine), Turner launched into what could be considered a speech about all the positives he sees in Teddy.
It measured in at 545 words, making it twice as long, plus one word, as the 272-word Gettysburg Address. (Seven years ago, by the way, the Vikings pinned their hopes for four scores every game on the likes of Tarvaris Jackson, Kelly Holcomb and Brooks Bollinger, all of whom started games at QB for the Vikings).
The first half of it went like this from Turner:
Over the last period of time since Teddy [Bridgewater] has been playing there have been a lot of people that weighed in in terms of their evaluation and where he is and what type of player he is and where we are at. Sometimes I see some of that stuff and I’m not sure who it is that’s evaluating or what their background is, what their qualifications or even what their experience is. So, I thought I’d weigh in because I know my background, I know my qualifications and I do have a little bit of experience with this. I think this is, for a young guy and for a rookie put in the situation he’s been put in in terms of we’ve started eight different offensive linemen, we’ve obviously started three different tight ends, we’ve started three different running backs, played five different running backs, over the last five weeks our leading wide receiver is a guy we signed in late September/early October off the Cleveland Browns practice squad and you throw a rookie quarterback into that, I’ve seen a bunch of guys really, really have a tough time with that and a bunch of guys that are good players. It’s pretty incredible to me what he’s done, how he’s handled it, the things he’s gotten done and what he’s really done is made everyone around him better and that’s a quality that you’re looking for.
We weren’t there, in person, to hear it. But the tone and timing seemed spot-on. While we don’t think a person has to have played in the NFL or have coached a number of years to recognize there are throws Bridgewater struggles to make, it is Turner’s right — and maybe even part of his job description — to not only defend his QB but remind everyone that there is a lot of good that has happened in his rookie season.
Words won’t ultimately define what Bridgewater becomes, but we also doubt Turner would have gone on the record in such a clear way if he didn’t believe fully in his young QB.
Vikings rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has carried an offense that is lacking stability at, well, every position, according to offensive coordinator Norv Turner.
The Vikings have used eight different offensive linemen, started three different tight ends and running backs while their most consistent receiver was a guy that started the season on the Browns practice squad — Charles Johnson.
Turner prefers not to throw a rookie quarterback into this environment, but he feels Bridgewater has thrived even with the heavy burden.
“It’s pretty incredible to me what he’s done, how he’s handled it,” Turner said. “What he’s really done is made everyone around him better and that’s a quality you’re looking for.
“We’re asking him to carry this group, which I’ve never had to do that with a young guy. When I had [Troy] Aikman in his third year, he had [running back] Emmitt Smith. I had Alex Smith in his second eyar, and he had [running back] Frank Gore. I had Phillip Rivers in his fourth year, second season starting, and he had [running back LaDainian Tomlinson.”
Bridgewater would’ve had running back Adrian Peterson, but he’s suspended for the remainder of the season. Instead, Bridgewater has had to rely on Matt Asiata, Ben Tate and Joe Banyard to help ease the load, which hasn’t been as effective as one of the best running backs in the NFL.
Still, the Vikings threw the ball 41 times against one of the top defenses in the NFL and completed a season high 75.6 percent of his passes. His start was marked by two interceptions on consecutive drives that helped the Lions climb out of a 14-0 deficit, but Turner defended the performance despite the turnovers.
“We’ve kind of had an interesting group and the people we’ve played on offense has been wide-ranging,” Turner said. “To do the things he’s done, it just tells you about the type of person he is, the type of player he is. The thing that excites me is he can make any throw you need him to make.”
Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph was one of five starters to missed practice in consecutive days due to injury on Thursday.
Rudolph has been sidelined with an ankle/knee injury. Left guard Charlie Johnson (ankle), nose tackle Linval Joseph (illness), rookie linebacker Anthony Barr (knee) and safety Robert Blanton (ankle/knee) also missed another practice this week. Blanton was conditioning on the side at the start of practice.
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer wouldn’t specify but expected most of these guys to participate in Friday’s practice.
Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (knee), wide receiver Greg Jennings (hamstring) and running back Matt Asiata (foot) were all limited once again.
Injuries to Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic might have pushed the Wolves into a full-scale rebuild more quickly than Flip Saunders might have liked, but now that they are there it appears Saunders is fully committed. Not only have the youngsters been logging heavy minutes lately, but also now we have an ESPN report that says Corey Brewer is once again being dangled in trade talks.
Per the report:
Sources told ESPN.com that the Timberwolves, beset with injuries and mired at the foot of the Western Conference with a record of 5-19, are again engaging contending teams in trade discussions for Brewer after making him available in mid-November and then abruptly pulling him off the market. The Houston Rockets and Cleveland Cavaliers, sources said, remain the most interested suitors for Brewer, but have also been joined by the Los Angeles Clippers.
Houston and Cleveland remain the best positioned to make a deal because both teams possess an active trade exception large enough to absorb Brewer’s $4.7 million salary. But sources say that the Wolves are seeking a future first-round pick in exchange for Brewer, something the Cavaliers are reluctant to surrender. The Rockets, sources say, hope to sell Minnesota on going through with the swap in exchange for a 2015 second-rounder via New York that the Rockets possess. It’s a pick with the potential to be attractive come June given the Knicks’ ongoing struggles.
Can’t say we blame the Wolves since they came into the season with plenty of depth at shooting guard/small forward. If they can gain an asset while letting Brewer play for a contender, it’s win-win.
The only downside is that we haven’t yet had a chance to golf with Brewer in his second go-round with the Wolves.
@MasterStrib How involved will Patterson be in the offense Sunday? Were his late snaps in DET a sign of things to come? #VikingsST
— Eric Thompson (@eric_j_thompson) December 18, 2014
I’d give him a shot. He showed some flashes on the second to last drive filling in for wide receiver Jarius Wright. Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater targeted Patterson three times on that drive and Patterson finished with two catches for 16 yards.
Granted, it was during a time in the game when the Lions defense didn’t want to get beat deep, but I’d like to see more of Patterson against a good Dolphins secondary. It’d be a good test to see how much Patterson has actually improved since he was demoted. I’d still start wide receiver Charles Johnson but depending on the game flow, it’d benefit Patterson and the Vikings to give him more than eight snaps with two games remaining.
The best way to describe Patterson is he’s under renovation from a niche offensive player to an every down wide receiver. The Vikings coaching staff has had its hard hat on trying to transition Patterson into that type of receiver, but it’s to be determined whether Patterson will figure it all out.
@MasterStrib #VikingsST Is Zimmer comfortable moving forward with current corners? (Rhodes, jrob, captain) or will he improve in offseason?
— Alex Phillips (@Papa_phil) December 18, 2014
I think Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer would be comfortable with a ball of yarn and a paperclip at cornerback. He’s very confident in his technique at cornerback that Zimmer feels he can turn anyone with a speck of talent into a serviceable player at that position. It’s similar to how Eagles head coach Chip Kelly feels about his offensive system rotating through mediocre quarterbacks during his tenure.
But the Vikings actually have three talented cornerbacks in Xavier Rhodes, Captain Munnerlyn and Josh Robinson. Rhodes and Munnerlyn will remain as the two cornerbacks in the base defense next year. Robinson started strong but has been inconsistent as of late. Zimmer said he’d like to see more toughness from Robinson when faced with adversity. We’ll see how the Vikings feel about Robinson, 23, in the offseason when he enters the final year of his rookie contract. Personally, I wouldn’t give him an extension this offseason and give Robinson another year to prove himself.
@MasterStrib How should Robert Blanton be viewed? As a weak spot, or penciled in as a starter in 2015? #VikingsST
— Andrew Lowell (@alrmpls) December 18, 2014
I wouldn’t pencil him in as a starter. Considering that he won the job by the default out of training camp after missing time with a hamstring, and there wasn’t a significant dropoff when Adnrew Sendejo started against the Lions, the Vikings will probably view strong safety as a place they can upgrade in the offseason. Sendejo actually made a few good plays in both the run and pass in what was a good performance by the secondary in general.
Someone to keep an eye on is rookie defensive back Ahmad Dixon. He’s someone that was known as an aggressive safety at Baylor, but the seventh round pick was cut by the Cowboys. He doesn’t look someone that will be ready to play during the final two games, but if he sticks around for training camp, I’m very interested to see how he’ll look after an offseason with Zimmer.
@MasterStrib How stupid am I for replacing Cutler w/ Teddy for all the fantasy marbles this week? #VikingsST
— Matt Kalina (@kali0116) December 18, 2014
I question anyone that would want Jay Cutler as their quarterback, fantasy or reality.
As I’m typing this, Cutler threw another interception.