Early Word: 10 Wins for 2019 Vikings
The Vikings finish spring practices this week and Bob Lurtsema is ready to predict their 2019 regular season total number of wins.
The former Viking defensive lineman remains a close observer of the team. He is known for his accurate predictions about the Purple including a late April projection Minnesota would use its first round draft selection on North Carolina State center Garrett Bradbury.
What does Lurtsema see in his crystal ball for 2019? “Ten (wins) will be easy,” he told Sports Headliners. “Of course, it’s never easy, but you got your second-year with (quarterback Kirk) Cousins coming in there. I am guaranteeing 10.
“I look at it more toward the 11 mark than I do the nine mark because it takes a year for a quarterback to get in sync with his receivers. Not too many quarterbacks…(can get on) the same page like that.”
Lurtsema expects to see a revised Vikings offense featuring plenty of play-action passes to take pressure off Cousins, and also a much improved running game. The Vikings ranked No. 30 in rushing yards among NFL teams last season. “You’ve got to have a running game,” Lurtsema said.
A productive offensive line is part of the formula. Lurtsema approves of adding Bradbury and switching Pat Elflein, last season’s starting center, to guard. Overall, Lurtsema doesn’t see the offensive line unit as a weakness.
“It won’t be below par,” Lurtsema said after being asked to rate the o-line. “It will go up a little bit (from last year). Different coaches are coming in, a little more play action, (and also) how they are going to have their blocking schemes (revised).”
The Vikings disappointed last year, failing to make the playoffs after nearly qualifying for the Super Bowl the prior postseason. The team flopped in the final game, letting a potential win over the Bears get away, when the victory would have sent Minnesota to the postseason.
The Vikings’ effort wasn’t good enough against the Bears. “Had we won the last quarter…of that game we were in the playoffs, and they didn’t pick it up a notch,” Lurtsema said.
Will the Vikings be in the playoffs after the 2019 season? “Of course, I guarantee it because they learned so much from that (Bears game),” Lurtsema answered. “Coach (Mike) Zimmer even said some negative things in the paper about his players not picking it up that notch.”
Lurtsema emphasized that what championship teams do is deliver peak performance at the most meaningful times. Maybe the Vikings can fall in that category in 2019. Observers see a “chip on the shoulder” attitude coming out of spring practices led by a self-described grumpy head coach in Zimmer.
Zimmer has long been known for his defensive coaching IQ, but the Vikings slipped on that side of the ball last season, too. Word was other teams made adjustments to the defense’s way of doing things. Now Zimmer is adjusting in the offseason. “He has to,” said Lurtsema, who from the start has been a Zimmer admirer.
With Mike McCarthy having been replaced by the Packers in the offseason, Zimmer, now in his sixth season with the Vikings, is the senior head coach in the NFC’s North Division. McCarthy lasted 13 seasons with the Packers.
Kevin Warren, the Vikings Chief Operating Officer who will become the sixth commissioner in Big Ten Conference history next year, is licensed to practice law in Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota and the District of Columbia. USA Today reported seven days ago that outgoing commissioner Jim Delaney will receive about $20 million in future bonuses.
Who replaces Warren as the organization’s lead executive for the business side of operations? Speculation about internal candidates could include executive vice presidents Lester Bagley, Steve LaCroix and Steve Poppen. Vikings real estate expert Don Becker doesn’t live in Minnesota but his name could come up in conjecture regarding Warren’s replacement.
It only takes a glance at the 2020 ballot for the College Football Hall of Fame to be reminded that too few of the best prep football players from the state continued their careers at the University of Minnesota. On the ballot are two former Minneapolis area great players—wide receiver Marcus Harris who won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s premier receiver at Wyoming, and James Laurinaitis, three time All-American linebacker at Ohio State.
State legend Joe Mauer speaks to the Twin Cities Dunkers group on July 16. The Dunkers have been hearing from sports and other newsmakers since 1948.
Prep finalists for the Mr. Baseball and Ms. Softball awards have been announced with the winners to be named at a June 23 banquet at Target Field. Baseball finalists are Will Anderson, St. Michael-Albertville; Will Frisch, Stillwater; Drew Gilbert, Stillwater; Adam Mazur, Woodbury; Ben Pedersen, Marshall (Duluth); Trent Schoeberi, White Bear Lake; Evan Shaw, Fridley. Softball finalists are McKayla Armbruster, Faribault; Claire Bakkestuen, Forest Lake; Holly Blaska, Champlin Park; Tori Chute, Stillwater; Ava Dueck, Maple Grove; Olivia Hazelbaker, Farmington; Brianna Olson, Park of Cottage Grove.