Head Coach: Mike Zimmer (8-10, 2nd year)
Offensive Coordinator: Norval Eugene Turner
Defensive Coordinator: George Edwards
2015 marks the second season with Mike Zimmer running the show up in Minnesota. In his rookie season, Zimmer guided the Vikings to a 7-9 record, a game and a half improvement from 2013's 5-10-1 mark in Leslie Frasier's final year on the job. Previously, Zimmer served as defensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals from 2008-2013.
It says here that one Norval "Norv" Turner previously worked as the offensive coordinator for the Browns in 2013 before joining Zimmer's staff last season. He's widely regarded as one of the top offensive minds in football, having served as the offensive coordinator for the 49ers, Dolphins, and Cowboys throughout his coaching career. He even has head coaching experience, as he was the top guy in Washington from 1994-2000 (49-59-1) and in Oakland for two seasons (9-23). Neat!
George Edwards has worked as either a defensive coordinator or linebackers coach for the past 17 years. Prior to joining Zimmer's staff in 2014, he held the same position with the Buffalo Bills (2010-2011), Florida Gators (2010), and Washington Redskins (2003).
Last Week's Recap: Defeated the Lions 26-16
Following a monumental letdown in the final game of Week One, the Vikings rebounded with a strong performance in their home opener against the Detroit Lions. After rushing the ball just 10 times for 31 yards against the 49ers, running back Adrian Peterson assuaged concerns about his production with a 29 carry, 134-yard outing. While Peterson didn't get in the end zone, the Vikings did get him involved in the passing game as he hauled in two receptions for 58 yards. However, Peterson did cough up the ball twice last Sunday, with the Lions recovering one of them.
Second-year signal caller Teddy Bridgewater therefore, didn't have to do too much and was highly efficient in completing 14 of 18 passes for 153 yards and a score. While those numbers in and of themselves won't blow anyone away, they are indicative of the type of play Bridgewater is capable of. He didn't make any boneheaded mistakes, took just one sack, and also carried the ball six times for 21 yards and a score. Five different Vikings caught a pass, with tight end Kyle Rudolph leading the way with five receptions on seven targets for 30 yards and was the recipient of Bridgewater's lone touchdown pass.
On the defensive side of the ball, Edwards' guys held the Lions to just 38 yards rushing and a 2.4 team average after getting run over by Carlos Hyde and the 49ers a couple of days prior. Matthew Stafford was also fairly pedestrian, completing 32 of his 53 passes for just 286 yards and two scores, with defensive end Justin Trattou of all people picking off the Lions quarterback. Minnesota's defense brought Stafford down just once for a sack but hit him eight times throughout the contest, and did an excellent job of preventing the big play. The Lions longest pass went for just 19 yards while their biggest rush of the contest was nine-yard pickup by Stafford.
Key Players: Offense
QB Teddy Bridgewater, RB Adrian Peterson, TE Kyle Rudolph, LT Matt Kalil, RT T.J. Clemmings
Bridgewater was arguably the head of last year's rookie class of quarterbacks after he completed 64.4 percent of his passes and tossed 14 touchdowns to 12 interceptions. Though a bit undersized with a slight build (6'2, 215 pounds) Bridgewater has thus far shown himself capable of being a good NFL quarterback. He's completed 37 of his 50 passes on the season for 384 yards and a score. Again, not terrific numbers, but in a way that's a good thing. Bridgewater is a poised and accurate quarterback who just doesn't screw up a lot. Not much more you can ask out of a young QB.
Bridgewater's options aren't exactly the creme de la creme. You might recognize Charles Johnson as that sleeper prospect every fantasy expert was yelling at you about. While Johnson may improve upon his 31-475-2 numbers from a year ago, he has just five receptions for 37 yards so far in 2015. More than that, he's been targeted just six times. Steelers and Dolphins cast off Mike Wallace (remember him?!?) remains the de facto deep threat and leads the group with 10 targets. 2013 first rounder Cordarelle Patterson appears to be little more than a return specialist at this point, albeit a pretty good one. Which leaves tight end Kyle Rudolph as the Vikings top receiver. The fifth-year player out of Notre Dame leads the team with 10 receptions on 13 targets and hauled in Minnesota's lone passing touchdown. Rudolph is a capable receiver with excellent size - 6'6, 265-pounds - but has been slowed by injuries throughout his career.
The Vikings lost right tackle Phil Loadholt to an Achilles tear during the preseason which leaves fifth round pick T.J. Clemmings starting in his place. Played two seasons at tackle at Pittsburgh after converting from defensive end so he is still very much a raw prospect. Matt Kalil, meanwhile, protects Bridgewater's blindside. To this point in his career, the fourth overall pick of the 2012 draft has been something of a disappointment. While he hasn't missed a game in his career, Kalil has battled knee problems throughout his tenure with the Vikings and underwent surgery on both of his knees during the offseason.
Adrian Peterson, is of course, the focal point of the Vikings attack and is - as the Chargers well know - quite capable of taking over and dominating a game. In two appearances against San Diego, Peterson has totaled 394 rushing yards and three scores on 46 carries. The Vikings picked up 12 of their 19 first downs against the Lions by running the ball and converted half of their third down attempts, due in large part to the efficacy of Peterson. So stopping him might be something to focus on.
Key Players: Defense
DE Brian Robison, DT Linval Joseph, LB Chad Greenway, LB Eric Kendricks S Harrison Smith, CB Xavier Rhodes
Robison was very active against the Lions, totaling one hit on Stafford and four hurries. Fellow end Everson Griffen is likelier the greater pass rush threat of the two (1.5 sacks on the year) but Robison performs well in both pass and run situations. Joseph meanwhile, is an absolute load in the middle of the defense, and at 330-pounds is quite capable of clogging up the middle and collapsing the pocket.
While strong side linebacker Anthony Barr is probably the most physically gifted of the Vikings linebackers, Greenway is the elder statesman of the group and has proven to be a steady force in the second level of Minnesota's defense for the past decade. However, he didn't play much against Detroit (14 snaps) and ceded snaps to rookie linebacker Eric Kendricks when the Vikings went into their nickel package (which was often). Kendricks is a very capable nickel linebacker. He excels in coverage, can run sideline to sideline and is fundamentally sound. What's more is that he was a tackling machine in college, where he became UCLA's all-time leading tackler with 476.
Melvin Gordon's bestie and first round pick Trae Waynes has yet to crack the field yet this season for the Vikings, which has to be a tad bit concerning for Vikings fans. Still, the Vikings have a couple of pretty good players in the secondary in cornerback Xavier Rhodes and safety Harrison Smith. At 6'1, 218-pounds, Rhodes has excellent size at corner and is coming off a strong performance against Calvin Johnson. Smith is arguably the most underrated safety in the game and does pretty much everything. He's a ball hawk (five interceptions last year) who has great size (6'2, 214 pounds) and plays the run very well.
Key Players: Special Teams
Kicker Blair Walsh and punter Jeff Locke are both two of the best at their position, but I don't want to bore you by talking about kickers and punters.
While Patterson has by and large failed to produce as a receiver for the Vikings, he is a dangerous kick returner, having brought two back in his three-year career. Considering how bad Chargers special teams have looked thus far, Josh Lambo better be booming kicks on Sunday.