As we walked into the Vikings training camp, there were some comments on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball in terms of changes, areas of focus, and perhaps some of the different approaches we are likely to see on the field in September, if not somewhat so in pre-games. season.
Let’s take a look at what some of these might be, starting with the new vikings attack.
More aggressive – on our terms
Kevin O’Connell talked about being aggressive – on our terms – on both sides of the ball. Offensively, that doesn’t necessarily mean the Vikings will die more than they did last season. The Rams with O’Connell as offensive coordinator passed 59.31% of their offensive plays last season. The Vikings passed over 58.54% of their ownership. Not much of a difference and I don’t expect that to change much this season.
What I expect is that the Vikings will be more daring in setting terms of engagement when attacking. Let me explain.
More pre-snap action
The Rams’ Attack under O’Connell and Sean McVeigh uses more movement and transformations than the Vikings did last season. Many people think this is to help determine whether the defense plays the role of man covering or area coverage – when a defensive back follows the future of the movement, it means man coverage, and if not, area coverage. Well, that may be true, but there are other foul switches to see if a team is playing a man or a zone, such as swaying inside (man) or outside (area) by outside corner posts on their receivers. The real reason for the move is the potential to create some mismatches in coverage, create better blocking angles, or an advantage trajectory off the line of melee, and create some confusion on the defensive side that could slow down or increase their execution. chance of errors. They can also be used to cheat if you normally play one game with a certain movement, anticipating the same play when they see that movement again, only to turn on another game and catch them off guard. It may or may not dictate some aspects of defensive play’s appeal as well. The bottom line is that the pre-hijack movement is designed to help offenders determine the terms of engagement of the play in their favour.
Last season, the Rams used a pre-snap move/turn in just under half of their offensive plays (47.4%) which were just above the league average (14th). The latest data I was able to find on the Vikings last season made them use a pre-snap move about a third of the time (35.1%) – well below the league average. I would suspect the Vikings would use it more than the Rams did in the later years of this season, simply because it’s plenty to install in the first year of O’Connell’s scheme run. But you never knew.
The downside to using more movement before the hijacker is that it can lead to more penalties if not performed correctly. In addition, players learn a lot, and this can lead to errors in the implementation as well.
More rhythm / no messaging
The Rams’ offense also used more rhythm (no mob) last season than the Vikings – 170 versus the Vikings’ 57 plays. The lack of group messaging, including rushing at the break, is often determined by the game’s setting, but it is also used selectively to exploit a perceived advantage. For example, keeping what are seen as favorable defensive personnel on the field, or enforcing specific coverage that the offense wants to see (often an area) where defenses may choose to go with virtual coverage when they don’t have time to play a particular call. It can also be used when the offender feels they have a conditioning advantage they are trying to exploit by limiting rest time between plays. Offensive coordinator Wes Phillips and Kevin O’Connell have both mentioned the use of rhythm as part of their offensive game plan.
Kirk Cousins said this was the biggest game-changer, in terms of terms and plays, since he first arrived in Minnesota. So, while the Kubiak scheme previously used by the Vikings was a shootout of the Shanahan scheme, as is the case with the Rams scheme that Kevin O’Connell brings, there are still a lot of changes to the gameplay design along with other aspects of the Kubiak scheme.
In the terrestrial game, the Vikings switch to an indoor area operating scheme instead of the outdoor/wide area operating scheme they previously ran. I suspect they’ll continue to run both concepts, and some power/gap schemes as well, but with a predominant interior in between.
In the pass game, new road designs and/or modifications to previous ones, and greater use of 11 people (3WR), including group formations in both run and pass games. The Vikings played 11 more caps last season than the previous two seasons, but they are still near the bottom of the league with 47% of offensive plays. The Rams led the league in 11 caps, with 86% of offensive plays. But while I’m expecting a significant increase of 11, the Vikings have a different set of skill players than the Rams, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Vikings didn’t use the 11 as the Rams did last season.
Finally, the way O’Connell and Company intend to use Justin Jefferson may be different than how he used it last season, but it’s also different from how the Rams used Cooper Kupp last season as well. Below is a good and in-depth analysis of the possibilities.
More power for Kirk’s cousins, but also more guidance
Kevin O’Connell said he wants Kirk Cousins to have the authority in the rally and on the line of scrimmage so that he can be heard and make changes as he sees fit, perhaps even working on the digging out of the script/scramble to make him feel more comfortable in those situations.
But Cousins also said that O’Connell offered some guidance in certain plays, in a certain defensive position, and told Cousins to take a certain path in his progress that he would not otherwise have done. This suggests that O’Connell builds more detail into the rules of the game by defining the choices he wants Cousins to make in a given game and against a particular defensive appearance.
For example, the direction might be if Justin Jefferson drew solo cover in this play and this track, and threw that way and didn’t progress. Jefferson had the second highest score in the PFF for men’s coverage last season after Cooper Kupp. Or it could be that if that path draws a linebacker in coverage, throw it in there. The idea is that O’Connell wants his cousins to implement what he sees as favorable matches, which can lead to the cousins appearing to be more aggressive in their decision-making. This trend can be further refined in weekly game plans, as O’Connell looks to exploit player-specific encounters.
Building those more specific trends into the game’s rules, rather than a more general directive to focus on preferred matches, is a smart way to make more of an attack advantage in a way that also works on Cousins’ strengths as a subtle, but usually more conservative, quarterback in decision-making. For example, if Cousins’ first reading appears to have been covered, he might advance to his next reading without looking to match, and look for/prefer a more open future instead. There are pros/cons to each, but by giving specific guidance to Cousins, he can execute the script faster – which is his strength – while being an extension of the head coach in his decision making.
More combination play/pass on each bottom
Both the Rams and the Vikings had a roughly 50/50 mix of run/pass games on their first descent last season, but the Rams passed more in second (62%) than the Vikings (54%), while the Vikings passed more on third down (83%) vs. rams (76%). Clearly, pass rates (and penalties) in early relegation dictates to some extent the choice of run/pass in later relegation, but the Vikings had the third-lowest success rate as a runner-up in the league last year, and were ranked 27th overall in second place. success rate, resulting in a lower success rate (83%) even further. This, in turn, lowered the success rate of the Vikings as well (ranked 27 overall) in third place as well.
By contrast, the Rams had the third highest success rate in second place, resulting in them having the fifth highest success rate in third place, by having easier diversion attempts.
Overall, the Rams had the sixth highest successful play rate (success was defined as gaining at least 40% yards on the first descent, 60% of yards on the second down and 100% yards to go third or fourth) in the league last season with 50%, while the Vikings ranked 25th with 45%. A large part of the reason for the Vikings’ poor success rate was that they had the longest distance to go, on average, for a play to succeed in the league at 8.8 yards. Penalties (the Vikings had the ninth highest offensive team last season by penalty yards) and poor execution (perhaps in part due to poor play design/selection), were the main reasons behind this and its associated incompetence.
The Vikings relied a lot on explosive plays (passing plays over 20 yards, running plays over 10 yards) for their success, and they had those that ranked fifth highest in the league last season (the Rams was ninth). But the Vikings were not as effective in their bread and butter plays as moving sticks, as poor execution/contact design/play and penalties put them in bad situations for turning 3 times.
Still players, not plays
While good, planned training and gameplay design can help put players in good positions for success, it is still up to players to implement – usually against some good opponents. Mistakes can be costly, while exceptional performance can turn bad plays into good or make them better. Hopefully the coaching staff will do a good job of keeping everyone up to date with the new plan, so bugs will be limited.
The Vikings continue to have one of the best offensive lineups in the league, but the offensive line was their Achilles heel. There is a reasonable basis for modest improvement up front—the year two Darrisaw will probably be better than the rookie general Rashod Hill/Darrisaw on the left tackle, and there is a reasonable chance that Jesse Davis will be better than Oli Udoh in the right guard, or at least produce fewer penalties. What improvement we can expect from Ezra Cleveland and Garrett Bradbury is uncertain at this point, while it is reasonable to expect Brian O’Neal to maintain his level of performance over the past two years while still in his prime. Irv Smith Jr’s comeback should have been positive over the past season as well. We’ll still have to see how much these changes turn out to be in better offensive performance, but the Vikings attack ranked 14th last year in points and 12 in yards, so it wouldn’t take much improvement to raise them to at least the top ten this season.
Some question how well Kevin O’Connell will perform as a theater communicator – it’s his first play called a full season – but I don’t see a drop from last season’s Klint Kubiak – who was also in his first season in play.
Kevin O’Connell, Wes Phillips, and Company seem to go one step further in the level of detail, and thus complexity, in their offensive playbook while bringing the Rams scheme with them from LA-but adapted to Minnesota. At least compared to the Kubiak scheme run by the Vikings in recent years. The idea behind it all is to be more proactive in trying to gain the few advantages needed for greater success, whether it’s a better blocking angle, a road running advantage, a better match, or simply creating some additional confusion for the defense before being drawn into giving an advantage to the offense in execution. .
All of this feeds into O’Connell’s philosophy of being aggressive—on our own terms. All those nuances of the scheme are intended to establish favorable conditions of engagement for the offense to exploit – giving the offense some edge in its execution while placing the opponent’s defense in less defensible situations.
The core of the scheme, like many other programs, is to create uncertainty for the defense by running different plays of the same formations – but often using pre-blitz movement and rhythm to distract and confuse the defense and impede their own play execution. While the pre-snap movement can sometimes amount to simply decorating the windows, most of the time it is aimed at creating those little advantages here and there to increase the chance of success. Furthermore, Kirk’s more specific guidance may help Cousins exploit offensive situations that O’Connell feels are the advantages of matchmaking in a passing game, while at the same time giving Cousins more freedom to get the team into the right play in the line of scrimmage. .