Buffalo Bills vs. Minnesota Vikings Q&A With Arif Hasan

On Sunday, the Buffalo Bills will host the Minnesota Vikings, a team they only see about once every four seasons. Arif Hasan of SBNation’s The Daily Norseman, is one of my favorite football follows on Twitter and he was kind enough to answer a few questions about the Vikings, along with his thoughts on the game.

The Vikings came into the season looking, on paper, like a “sleeper” stocked with young talent throughout the roster. In your opinion, what’s been the biggest reason for Minnesota’s struggles thus far?

That’s tough—Adrian is gone, the starting QB isn’t playing, the offensive line is the worst it’s been in a decade, and the linebackers are injured and bad. The biggest reason is probably the line struggles, but man has a lot gone wrong.

 LT Matt Kalil was a top 5 pick just 3 years ago, but from all accounts, he’s had a rough season. What are is issues in pass protection, and how do you think Jerry Hughes, an undersized, but athletic and relentless pass rusher will fare against him?

There are moments when he looks like the player he was drafted to be, but like any offensive lineman, his mistakes define him. He’s prone to 6-8 mistakes in pass protection a game, more than almost anyone at his position. There’s a very good reddit thread that discusses his issues, but the diagnosis is only one thing: that he doesn’t have punch.

It’s true that on his missteps, he is often missing punch, but his footwork is very bad at times, too. He also has handwork problems and he can’t keep blockers inside. None of those are problems he had his rookie year, though one he did have is exacerbating his problems currently, which is a susceptibility to well-setup counter moves.

Many draftniks envisioned rookie LB Anthony Barr as an edge rusher, but he’s been used more as an off-ball player with the Vikings. What are some things that he brings to the table, and how have the Vikings used him this year?

It really is his best use, which surprises me. He’s fluid, rangy and quick. He’s instinctive and plays with length, too. He still has issues with gap alignment and assignment at times, but he’s been fantastic the past few weeks. They use him in traditional linebacker roles often, but as you’d expect, he rushes the passer more than most 4-3 linebackers, usually through the A gap. He sometimes lines up as a three-point defensive end on rush downs, with Robison or Griffen kicking inside as a 3-tech DT.

If you were the Bills’ offensive coordinator, how would you attack the Vikings’ defense?

In coverage, I’d test Captain Munnerlyn more than Rhodes or Robinson, as weird as that feels to say. In particular, I’d attempt to play Watkins on short routes instead of the streaks I see him go on, and have someone else stretch the field, like Goodwin. I like Chandler, too and I think despite the talent of Robert Woods, your best bet is to test the inside of plays by putting Chandler up against any of the linebackers in coverage.
For all the praise I have of Barr, that is one of his weaknesses (at least for now). Hodges (or Greenway if healthy) are also not great in coverage. I don’t know what to tell you about running the ball. I guess away from Seantrel. It will probably work.

 

If you were the Bills’ defensive coordinator, how would you attack the Vikings’ offense?

Attack Kalil and the guards. I know Schwartz doesn’t blitz as often as Pettine did or most of the NFL, but it’s still worth moving the DL around postsnap even if it’s not a blitz; twists should do a good job against a line that can’t remain assignment sound.

Lining up wide is perfect because the Vikings are far better on perimeter runs than they are on the inside (that is, McKinnon is better at his job than Asiata is at his), so Schwartz’ alignment du jour should be fine. Further, lining up wide should set Hughes up for good counters inside. If I were Schwartz, I would prefer man coverage over zone, as Teddy is more likely to hold on to the ball longer that way.