The 2015 regular season is almost here, and the San Francisco 49ers, coming off one of the most wretched offseasons in NFL history, will be under the bright lights of Monday Night Football when they take on the Minnesota Vikings.
As far as the actual matchup goes, I'm fairly conflicted, but that probably has a lot to do with the fact that I actual like the Vikings a lot as an organization. I might be a little more positive about them than some other people, but I just think Teddy Bridgewater is the real deal, and if the Vikings can put him in the right positions (keep him protected, give him useful weapons to work with), then the team as a whole will find success.
So I was discussing the game with my buddy, who happens to be a Vikings fan and he was talking about how the team would probably use running back Adrian Peterson early and often, which totally makes sense. Peterson may be a year removed from football, but he was inarguably the top running back in the league not so long ago. Putting the ball in his hands is probably the primary goal of the entire season for the Vikings.
That said, they're not an organization lacking for confidence in its quarterback. I get the strong sense that the Vikings feel like Bridgewater can carry a game is he needs to, and I tend to think that if their first opponent is the 49ers, they should showcase that.
In other words, if I were Minnesota, I'd be trying to attack the 49ers' secondary, specifically the intermediate level of the field. If I'm the Vikings, I'm rolling Bridgewater out of the pocket (always keeping an eye on where NaVorro Bowman is at all times) and trying to exploit the potential lack of coverage ability of the cornerbacks and, more importantly, the linebackers.
San Francisco's defensive line may have underwent plenty of changes this offseason, but I still think it can wind up being a strength of the team. If the 49ers manage reps properly (in this case, allow the guys who are playing well to get into a groove rather than rely too heavily on a rotation, with so many young guys) I expect them to perform quite well.
Earlier today, Fooch wrote a post on what we can expect from Peterson, and while I think the Vikings will use him a lot, I keep going back to thinking they'd be better off passing. Michael Wilhoite has limited range, Bowman will still probably be rusty -- until he proves someone wrong, he's a player to be attacked as well -- Aaron Lynch, Eli Harold and all the other outside linebackers not named Ahmad Brooks are unproven commodities when it comes to their coverage ability.
On top of that, the 49ers will likely put a lot of Keith Reaser and Kenneth Acker on the field, two unproven cornerbacks. Couple that with the fact that San Francisco's defensive line is built far more for run stuffing than it is pass-rushing, and Bridgewater may be looking at a lot of time to make a decision on Monday.
So yes, if I were the Vikings' coach, I'm throwing early and often. What would you do to attack the 49ers' defense, good readers?