Now that the NFL season is here, I'm putting a twist on my weekly Blogger on Blogger series. Each week, I will enlist a blogger who regularly writes about the Ravens' opponent to help me break down the game. This week, I exchanged emails with Christopher Gates, who blogs about the Vikings for The Daily Norseman.
MV: Last season, the Vikings were one of the NFL's surprise teams, going from last place in the NFC North to the playoffs. This season, they are back in the basement. What has happened to this team?
CG: Simply put, the quarterback position didn't develop the way Leslie Frazier and company had hoped, and the defense has had a lot of collapses late. The Vikings had the lead in the final minute against Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, and Green Bay, and came out with three losses and a tie in those four games. It's been a team-wide collapse, to be honest.
MV: Christian Ponder was knocked out midway through Sunday's win over the Chicago Bears and Matt Cassel came in and sparked the offense. Who do you think should start at quarterback against the Ravens this weekend and are any of these guys -- Josh Freeman is also on the roster -- the answer heading into 2014?
CG: It appears that Matt Cassel is going to get the start, because he's probably the "least bad" option at this point. I think most people have come to the conclusion that the best option for the Vikings at quarterback in 2014 is not on the current roster, whether it's a free agent or a high draft pick. I'm guessing one of their first two picks in 2014 goes to the quarterback position.
MV: The Vikings were one of the most aggressive teams in terms of the draft last April and ended up with a trio of first-round picks in Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and Cordarrelle Patterson. They are all playing significant snaps for the Vikings now. What have you seen from each of them and who are they comparable to?
CG: You hate to compare Patterson to Percy Harvin, but he's really the closest comparison at this point. Raw, but amazingly athletically gifted. Rhodes has come on pretty strong lately, and with his physical nature reminds me a bit of a young Charles Tillman. Floyd has gotten lost in the shuffle a bit at times this year. He was drafted to, ultimately, replace Kevin Williams, and he certainly has the skills to do that.
MV: Adrian Peterson rushed for 211 yards on 35 carries against the Bears and leads the NFL in rushing with 1,208 yards. How fun is it watching this guy every week?
CG: I've been watching the Vikings for nearly three decades, and Peterson is the best player that I've ever seen in purple and gold. He certainly has more drive and desire than any Viking I've ever seen, and that's what makes him such a joy to watch. This team could have packed it in for the season weeks ago, but No. 28 isn't going to let that happen.
MV: Even if the Vikings pull off an upset Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, the season is already lost for them and I'm sure you are already looking ahead to the offseason. There will be a lot of question marks for the Vikings, such as who will be their quarterback and whether Jared Allen will return. What needs to happen this spring for the Vikings to get back into playoff contention in 2014?
CG: I think the Vikings are going to be looking for a new coaching staff, and after that gets put in place, they have to find the answer at quarterback. There is too much talent on this offense to not have a competent triggerman in 2014, and it should be set with the right quarterback. The defense, on the other hand, needs a serious overhaul. After the quarterback position, I think that's where most of the Vikings' offseason attention will be focused.