- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Washington Redskins don’t know which Minnesota Vikings squad they’ll face Sunday at FedEx Field: The defensive-minded team that started the season 5-0 by holding opponents to an average of less than 13 points per game? Or the bumblers who have gone 0-3 since coming off their bye week, losing their offensive coordinator and dropping two straight to division rivals?

The Vikings entertained Super Bowl dreams prior in the offseason, only to see starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater obliterate his knee in practice, tearing his ACL and suffering severe structural damage. In hopes of saving its season, Minnesota made a last-minute deal for Sam Bradford, who struggled in his single season with the Philadelphia Eagles.

At first, it looked like the Vikings hit the jackpot: After missing the season-opener, Bradford took over the controls, leading the team to four wins, throwing for 990 yards and six touchdowns. The Vikings went into their Week 6 bye riding high at 5-0.

Since then, the wheels have come off. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner resigned Nov. 2, just days after a loss to the Chicago Bears. Tight ends coach Pat Shurmur took over the offensive reins Sunday, but the Vikings still fell to the Detroit Lions.

With another full week under his belt, Shurmur will have more of an opportunity to put his own stamp on the offense, but Redskins‘ linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said he’d be surprised if the Vikings roll out wholesale changes.

“I can’t imagine it’ll be too many big changes,” Kerrigan said. “I mean, they’re midseason and they’ve already had their bye week, so I can’t imagine, even with the change, that there’d be anything too big schematically.”

There’s little doubt this Vikings offense needs change.

The unit is ranked dead-last in the NFL, averaging just 298.8 yards per game. The offense also ranks 22nd with just nine passing touchdowns and 24th in rushing touchdowns with four. The Vikes average just 19.4 points per game, good for 25th in the NFL.

Kerrigan said he knows better than to underestimate a player like Bradford, a former No. 1 pick, and the Vikes’ two underrated playmakers, running back Jerick McKinnon and tight end Kyle Rudolph.

“They got a number of good skill players,” Kerrigan said. “Sam Bradford can spread the ball around a little. They got a big tight end in Rudolph. McKinnon’s a very underrated running back, so he’s a guy that, you know, we got to do a good job of keeping corralled.”

The Vikings offense has had problems with productivity and scoring, but Bradford has been careful with the ball, throwing just one interception this season.

Interceptions, or the lack therof, are a focus for the Redskins in the second half of the season, according to safety Will Blackmon, who is expected to play despite a broken thumb. So far this year, the Redskins have just five interceptions, tied for the 19th in the league.

Bradford won’t offer too many opportunities, so when he does, Blackmon said, the Redskins have to take advantage.

“When we get our hands on the football, catch it and hold on to it,” Blackmon said. “It’s important for us to get the ball, get turnovers.”

Blackmon is by no means pointing fingers, but one player who is beating himself up over not grabbing interceptions is cornerback Josh Norman. Against the Cincinnati Bengals in London, Norman got his hands on several errant Andy Dalton passes, but was unable to hang on.

“Oh my gosh, it was ugly to watch,” Norman said after watching the game tape of his drops. “I’ve been thinking about it all week, and I still am. I’ll try to make up for that.”

Norman’s teammates on the Redskins‘ offense would love to see the cornerback make good on that promise Sunday. They’ll be facing a Minnestoa defensive unit that ranks near the top of the NFl in virtually every category — a turnover or two could only help.

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