Fri, 27 Nov 2020

Monday Morning Mailbag: Reaction to Ngakoue Trade & Vikings Focus

Minnesota Vikings
26 Oct 2020, 20:37 GMT+10

Eric Smith

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Do you think it was a good idea to trade Yannick Ngakoue? Although he hasn't produced as expected during this season, I still think we should've kept him. Was the trade fair on both sides?

- Doreon in Minnesota

I think everyone is overreacting to this trade. Although Yannick is a great player, he was not part of the foundation of Mike Zimmer's defense. The Vikings still have a few young D-line players who are [part of that foundation], and will step up for the challenge.

- Peter Westmoreland

The Vikings certainly made some headlines by trading Ngakoue on Thursday morning, a little more than seven weeks after initially acquiring him from the Jaguars.

And with multiple fans emailing in about that topic, let's start off by analyzing that decision.

When the Vikings lost at home to the Falcons in embarrassing fashion in Week 6, the team's already-slim playoff hopes took a big hit. I alluded to this in the last Monday Morning Mailbag, but when you drop to 1-5, there likely needs to be an eye on the future going forward. And in this case, the future means 2021 and beyond.

In trading Ngakoue, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman chose to do just that. To recap, Ngakoue was scheduled to be a free agent at the end of this season, so there was no guarantee he would remain in Minnesota going forward. And he has been the Vikings most productive defensive lineman so far, recording a team-high 5.0 sacks and a pair of forced fumbles.

The initial plan, of course, was to pair Ngakoue with Danielle Hunter and have a formidable pass-rushing duo. Unfortunately, that duo never saw the field together.

So, Spielman chose to trade Ngakoue to Baltimore and get what he could for the defensive end, even if it was a hit in draft compensation that Minnesota originally sent to Jacksonville. Once again, the team is likely looking at things in a different lens than they were a few weeks ago, and certainly from a different perspective than they were at the start of the 2020. That means young players such as D.J. Wonnum will have a larger role going forward, perhaps even in a starting role in Week 8.

And as Spielman himself said Thursday, it's his job to look at what is best for the Vikings in both the short and long-term.

Spielman also said Thursday that no players have come to him to request a trade. But with the trade deadline a week from tomorrow, there's a chance that the Ngakoue trade is the first of many for the Vikings.

If that does indeed in up being the case, then the chance to stock up on draft picks means the franchise has accepted the fact that the 2020 season won't include a playoff berth, and that the focus has indeed turned to the future.

Judging by the season so far, and the events this week regarding Hunter and Ngakoue, I get the impression that the management is basically writing this season off as lost and looking to retool up for next season. Do you think that this may also include looking at both a young and dynamic QB and even a young innovative head coach? At present we seem to look flat and predictable. We can't play well for an entire game and when we have a lead don't seem strong enough or intelligent enough to see out the game. Times and the game are changing, and I feel we as a franchise may well be left behind.

- Andy Turton in Rugby, England

Thanks for the email, Andy, and your support from across the pond. As mentioned above, I think it's clear the Ngakoue trade means the Vikings have at least a little eye on the future, even if we're not halfway through the 2020 season.

Where do the head coach and quarterback stand in that? Well, they are included, of course. Mike Zimmer knows his team needs to be better, and Kirk Cousins knows the turnovers have to stop in order for the team to have a chance to win games.

In regards to the Vikings scheme, it's no secret that the Vikings have a bit of an old-school approach. For as long as Zimmer has been here, he has said he wants a tough, smart and disciplined football team. And the Vikings have shown that approach works, with 50 wins and three playoff appearances in the past five seasons.

However, the team's propensity of playing from behind for most of 2020 has resulted from a less-dominant defense than in previous seasons and reduced the opportunities to run the football and build play-action passes off those runs, which means the team can't stay true to how it would prefer to win.

Let's see how the rest of this season plays out before we rush to judgement on any possible changes going forward.

When's the best chance for the Vikings to win their second game? In two weeks against the Lions? Maybe the Jaguars on Dec. 6? The Falcons may have been our last best chance for win No. 2. Tough schedule ahead.

- Curt Fahsholz in Valdosta, Georgia

We'll end this week's Mailbag with this interesting question from Curtis, which came in shortly after the Vikings lost to the Falcons.

The Vikings have 10 games left, five of which are against NFC North opponents. And those 10 games will feature some tough opponents, as Green Bay, Detroit, Chicago, Tampa Bay and New Orleans are currently at .500 or better.

I'm not in the prediction business, so I won't guess which game win No. 2 will come in. The slate after the bye certainly starts with a tough one on the road in Green Bay, but I'm interested in at that game for a few reasons.

If more young players are on the field, can they show some signs they can contribute for the future?

Can the young cornerbacks (and the defense in general) fare better against the Packers than it did in the season opener?

And can the offense put forth a better effort than it did against Atlanta, when turnovers and poor play doomed the unit for nearly three quarters?

At 1-5, the playoffs might be a longshot for the Vikings at this point. But that doesn't mean there won't be any intrigue over the final 10 games.

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