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Zulgad: Vikings followers should know better than to take these things for granted

The Vikings’ 9-2 record and stronghold on the NFC North makes it easy to begin taking certain things for granted.

That, of course, would be a mistake given the previous struggles we have seen when it comes to this franchise and certain areas of need that often haven’t been adequately addressed.

Here are three things the Vikings are doing well in 2017 that shouldn’t be overlooked. The offensive line’s play is not included because no one should take the success of that unit for granted considering the atrocious play we saw only a year ago. (Feel free to kick in any other suggestions in the comments section.)

Throwing on the move

Christian Ponder had the mobility to move out of the pocket and keep plays alive. The issue was he didn’t have the ability to keep his eyes down-the-field while doing this, meaning he couldn’t utilize what should have been one of his biggest strengths.

One thing that has made Case Keenum so successful in 10 games, and nine starts, is that the veteran not only has proven adept at scrambling but he also continues to look for potential receivers as he attempts to evade defenders.

While the offensive line has played very well, one reason Keenum has been sacked only seven times is because he can extend plays and throw on the move. Remember, Keenum was sacked twice in his first start against Pittsburgh when it was clear he wasn’t on the same page with his linemen. He has been sacked only five times since.

Just because Keenum makes it look easy to keep plays alive doesn’t mean it is.

Making the right call

How long have Vikings followers wondered what is going through the mind of the offensive play caller? Brad Childress and Darrell Bevell thrived with Brett Favre in 2009, but otherwise there were head-scratching moments from both the former Vikings coach and coordinator. Same with Bill Musgrave and Norv Turner.

Now, think about this. How many times have you been left screaming at your television this season after watching a series called by coordinator Pat Shurmur?

Those who have criticized the Vikings’ offensive play callers – like me – don’t necessarily think we could make the right calls, but we know when things don’t make sense and we also know when it’s clear a coach or coordinator has decided his way is the only way and adapting to the personnel would be a sign of weakness.

This is foolish but we’ve all seen it.

Shurmur’s play-calling makes sense because he marries his philosophy with what players do well. Keenum is having a very good season and deserves credit for that, but Shurmur also has put him in position to succeed on numerous occasions.

There’s a very good chance Shurmur could get a head coaching opportunity after this season, so enjoy play-calling that makes perfect sense while it exists in these parts.

Constant coverage

What’s wrong with Xavier Rhodes?

That was a question asked by a few Thursday after Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford went at the Vikings cornerback a few times, including a 43-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Jones Jr., in the final quarter. Rhodes also was called for a pass interference penalty late in the second quarter.

So what was going on?

First, Rhodes had injured his calf in the Vikings’ win over the Rams on Sunday. Second, we just aren’t used to anyone throwing at Rhodes and, thus, when it happens and he gives up a reception, we are reminded of the fact he’s human.

Rhodes, a first-round pick by the Vikings in 2013, has turned into one of the top corners in the NFL and considering some of the feeble play we’ve seen from cornerbacks in the past (remember Asher Allen, Josh Robinson and Marcus McCauley?) we should appreciate great corner play when we see it.

Even playing with an injury, Rhodes finished Thursday’s win at Detroit by picking off Stafford on fourth-and-10 with three minutes remaining.

That was the Xavier Rhodes we have come to expect. Just don’t take his play for granted.





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