Tale Of The Tape: Minnesota Vikings At St. Louis Rams
- QuarterbackThe Vikings may not be among the elite teams in the NFL, but the attitude on the team should be much improved under demanding rookie head coach Mike Zimmer. His first major decision was to name Matt Cassel as his starting quarterback and let rookie Teddy Bridgewater have some time to prepare for the job. Expect Bridgewater to take over as the starter prior to midseason.The Rams suffered the most painful blow of the preseason when quarterback Sam Bradford went down with a season-ending knee injury. Former Lion Shaun Hill has to step in and run the offense, and while he has plenty of know-how and appears to be an accurate passer, he may not have the dynamic ability to create big plays when the game is on the line.
- OffenseThe Vikings are going to establish a consistent and powerful running attack with Adrian Peterson overpowering most defensive teams. If Peterson can get just a bit of help from Cassel and receivers Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson, the Vikings offense may be quite respectable. Tight end Kyle Rudolph is a big body who can screen defenders from the ball.The Rams want to attack opponents with their speed on the outside. It will be very difficult for most opponents to stay with wide receivers Tavon Austin and Kenny Britt, who can fly up the field and get open. If the Rams are going to take advantage of their game-breaking speed, the offensive line must give Hill superior protection.
- DefenseZimmer’s presence should help the Vikings put a strong defensive team on the field. He is a technician who makes sure that all his players are in the best possible position to succeed. Defensive end Brian Robison had 9.0 sacks last year and can get after the quarterback. Outside linebacker Chad Greenway had 134 tackles last year, while free safety Homer Smith is an underrated performer.The Rams have two of the best defensive ends in the league in Robert Quinn and Chris Long. Quinn is coming off a dominant season in which he had 19.5 sacks, while Long is solid against the run and had 8.5 sacks. Middle linebacker James Laurinaitis is smart and well-positioned, while athletic outside linebacker Alec Ogletree can go sideline to sideline to make plays.
- Special TeamsThe Vikings rank among the best special teams in the league, and they will have to be at their best because the offense is somewhat limited. Patterson is an electrifying returner who can turn any game around. PK Blair Walsh was better as a rookie than he was in 2013, but he has a strong leg.The Rams appear to have the best special teams of any team at the start of the season. Austin has the quick moves needed to cause havoc in the return game. Johnny Hekker averaged 46.2 yards per punt last season, while PK Greg Zuerlein is a threat to score from 60 yards and in.
Don’t undersell the presence of Zimmer on the Vikings sidelines as he gets a chance to perform as a head coach for the first time in his career. If the Rams rally around Hill, they should have just enough to win a close game. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports