3 Specific Stats That Help Explain the Vikings’ Season

Oct 31, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) reacts with wide receiver K.J. Osborn (17) after scoring on a 20 yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kirk Cousins (not pictured) as Dallas Cowboys cornerback Anthony Brown (30) looks on during the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

So far, the Minnesota Vikings have played in 5 games. At 4-1, things have gone reasonably well. We still have a long way to go, but we’re now at a point in the season when we can look at Vikings stats to start seeing trends and forming some conclusions.

Since I like to keep things orderly, I’ve assigned a stat discussion to each of the 3 phases of the game. We begin with special teams since it’s an area that can be easily overlooked but ought not to be. From there, we pivot toward the offense and then the defense. Oh, and the different sections include more than just a single stat. I planned on just having one per section but it seems that some more discussion of broader context can be productive.

With that in mind, the stats.

Stat #1: 66.67% and 3 Shutouts

After 5 games, Greg Joseph has an uninspiring 66.67% field goal percentage. Obviously, that’s not going to cut it. Last year, his percentage was nearly 87%. We have good reason to believe he’ll improve on the modest start, but it’s notable nonetheless.

Part of what makes it even more peculiar are the 3 games when the Vikings have been shutout, at least when it comes to kicking field goals. They didn’t score any points other than a lonely touchdown in Week 2. In both Week 3 and Week 5, the Vikings’ 2 field goal attempts didn’t materialize.

In other words, all 8 of Joseph’s field goals have come in 2 games: the Packers in Week 1 and the Saints in Week 4. He was perfect on his field goals on those days. Otherwise, he either hasn’t had a chance to kick a FG (Week 2) or missed all of his opportunities (Week 3 & 5). Moving forward, the team will need their kicker to both get more opportunities and to make them when chances do arise.

Stat#2: 13.7, 9.9, & 9.9

Minnesota’s top 3 wide receivers are Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and K.J. Osborn. All 3 are having a more modest year if we simply isolate their yards-per-reception average. Take a look at the chart below to illustrate my point.

PlayerCareer YPR Average2022 YPR Average
Jefferson, Justin15.113.7
Thielen, Adam12.79.9
Osborn, K.J. 12.39.9

Similar to pretty much every other stat in this piece, there can be some significant changes as the season progresses. Nevertheless, it is fascinating that all 3 have a more modest total in this facet of the game.

If we dig a little deeper, we can see that part of the reason may come from the adjusted scheme. Jefferson’s average depth of target in 2021 was 12.4 yards; it now stands at 8.2 yards. For Thielen it was 9.5 yards but is now 8.6 yards. Osborn’s was at 10.5 yards but is currently at 9.7.

It’s odd that Jefferson has the shortest ADOT of the 3. Perhaps it’s merely the result of Kevin O’Connell needing to find more creative ways to get the ball into his hands.

Regardless, the Vikings may be wise to start targeting their top 3 down the field a little more.

Stat #3: 1 & 4 & 1 & 0

One of the most discouraging parts of the season has been that Minnesota has failed to generate very much pressure. Many of us expected that to be among the team’s strengths given the talent up front.

As a team, the Vikings have 11 sacks. They only blitz 19.1% of the time. Only five teams blitz less.

I looked at their starting two linebackers and starting two safeties to see how many times each has been blitzed. Jordan Hicks has blitzed 1 time and Eric Kendricks has gone 4 times. Harrison Smith has been blitzed 1 time and Camryn Bynum is at 0. I find these totals somewhat confusing. Bynum makes some sense, but Hicks, Kendricks, and Smith have all had some success as blitzers in the past. Why aren’t they being sent more?

The Vikings only have 36 pressures as a team. Only six teams have less pressures.

Editor’s Note: Stats taken from Pro Football Reference.



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