A New Test for Ed Donatell & Kevin O’Connell This Sunday

Sep 18, 2022; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Andy Dalton (14) warms up before the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Jameis Winston’s status for Sunday was reported as doubtful. In all likelihood, the Vikings will be facing a backup quarterback against the Saints when they face off in London. That backup QB will be Andy Dalton.

Hearing that a starting QB is ruled out for a game is usually good news for the opposing team. There’s less pressure on the defense to have to worry about the passing attack, and mistakes are prevalent when dueling a backup. But this isn’t how it’s gone for the Vikings in recent years. Dating back to 2019 when playing a backup QB, the Minnesota Vikings have fallen to Matt Moore, Chase Daniel, Cooper Rush, and, most importantly, Andy Dalton.

In 2020, Andy Dalton led the Cowboys past the Vikings in a 31-28 win, where he posted 203 passing yards, 3 touchdowns, no interceptions, and a solid 104.0 passer rating. Looking at the performances of other backup QBs the Vikings have faced, last year in another loss to the Cowboys, Cooper Rush put up 325 yards, 2 touchdowns, and one interception. In 2019 against the Chiefs, Matt Moore had 275 yards, a touchdown, and no interceptions. These are certainly not bad stat-lines, and for a backup QB, it’s rather impressive.

If the Vikings want to convincingly win on Sunday, they’re going to have to make it tough on Andy Dalton. An indictment of Mike Zimmer was being too conservative against backup QBs. Ed Donatell & Kevin O’Connell should learn from that mistake, and instead try to force Dalton to make mistakes. Andy Dalton isn’t just any backup though, the former Pro-Bowler has carved himself out a respectable 12-year career, and while the last few have largely been in backup roles, he’s still seen as one of the top backups in the league.

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Making it tough on a backup QB is generally seen as an easier task. Put pressure on him, make him go beyond his first or second read, force him to make tough throws. The Vikings defense needs to be aggressive against Andy Dalton. If he plays absolutely perfect and beats you, hats off.