The week of practice is over and the Vikings are nearly set for their contest against the Detroit Lions on Sunday. Here are three things we learned this week about the Vikings-Lions matchup in Week 7.
1. Walsh may be getting his confidence back
After some preseason and early-season misses, K Blair Walsh has turned things around. For the season, Walsh is 9 of 11 on FG tries and 9 of 10 PAT attempts, giving him an overall mark of 18-21 on his kicks. He’s also coming off his best game of the season, nailing all 3 of his FG tries and his lone PAT try against the Chiefs. Walsh also had 3 touchbacks in the game and Kansas City’s offense didn’t score on any possessions that began after a Walsh kickoff.
Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer said on Thursday that Walsh is “getting his confidence back.” That’s good news for the Vikings.
“He’s hitting the ball well. He had a good two weeks of practice. He had a good two days of practice during the bye week and he had a good week of practice last week,” Priefer explained “He’s starting to get his confidence back, I think he felt really good about the game and obviously he kicked well, he kicked off well and he was a huge factor in that win.”
2. Fumbling trend favors Vikings
Since the start of last season, no team has fewer lost fumbles (4) than the Vikings. Asked what has led to such solid ball security for the Vikings, offensive coordinator Norv Turner credited the players as well as a couple of coaches.
“I think when you have a stat like that, it’s a combination of a number of things and to me it always starts with the players,” Turner said. “They do a great job, they understand the importance of taking care of the ball. I think [running backs coach] Kirby Wilson teaches it and emphasizes it and coaches it as hard as anyone I’ve been around. Obviously we understand the importance for our entire team of ball security, so I think it’s a combination of the approach, the importance Coach Zimmer puts on it and then the way we coach it and then our players understanding the importance.”
By contrast, the Lions have lost 16 fumbles in that same span, including a League-high 8 this season. Detroit has turned the ball over 18 times, a trend they’ll look to reverse beginning this week.
3. Vikings DL is banged up
The defensive line is a strength of the Vikings roster. The group is loaded with talent and depth. And that’s a very good thing, because both the talent and depth will be tested this week.
Only the Houston Texans have attempted more passes than Detroit, meaning Vikings pass rushers will have plenty of work to do on Sunday. On top of that, injuries are impacting the way the Vikings do business up front on defense. Everson Griffen missed last week’s game, giving Danielle Hunter his first chance to start and play significant snaps. This week, Griffen is back but Sharrif Floyd will be unable to play. Also, DT Shamar Stephen was placed on the Reserve/Injured list earlier in the week.
With Floyd unable to go, it will be Johnson who is asked to step in and shoulder most of the load. To help fortify the depth with Stephen gone to IR, the Vikings signed DT Kenrick Ellis.
That the Vikings defensive front played as well as it did last week without Griffen is a good sign that the team’s talent and depth is as good as has been advertised. But the NFL is a “What have you done for me lately?” business, so that DL talent and depth will have to prove itself once again this Sunday.