On this week’s edition of Interview with the Enemy, Christopher Gates of Daily Norseman joins us to talk the Vikings new quarterback, Danielle Hunter and more.
LH: We have to talk about Josh Dobbs’ performance last Sunday. How did you feel when the team made the trade for him and how/did your feelings change after watching the comeback on Sunday?
CG: I was pretty happy with the deal because it gave the Vikings, at the very least, a backup quarterback with some experience under his belt. I like Jaren Hall but prior to the Dobbs trade the Vikings didn’t have a whole lot behind him on the depth chart other than Sean Mannion, who is awful. In Dobbs, the Vikings got someone that had been starting for the Cardinals all season (and had scored three touchdowns the previous week for Arizona) and someone that gives you at least a puncher’s chance if something were to happen to Hall. Unfortunately for Hall, after looking solid on the first couple of drives, he got concussed and the Vikings had to turn it over to Dobbs with no practice time and the rest is history. Seeing Dobbs lead the comeback on Sunday just solidified my belief that the Vikings had done the right thing and now it’s Dobbs’ show, at least for now.
LH: With Justin Jefferson out, Jordan Addison has emerged as a big threat for opposing defenses. What have you seen from him so far and how do you think he’ll fare against Marshon Lattimore and Paulson Adebo?
CG: Addison is already a top-tier route runner and has done a great job of getting open even without Jefferson on the other side. He’s had a couple of issues with making catches in traffic, owing at least in part to his lack of size, but he’s been everything you could hope for in a rookie wide receiver so far. He’s going to benefit greatly from being the #1 receiver over these past few weeks with Jefferson out, and when Jefferson returns opposing defenses are going to have a hell of a time trying to cover both of them. As far as this week, Lattimore and Adebo will present a significant challenge, but Addison will be up for it, I think. A couple of weeks ago he was roasting Jaire Alexander all over Lambeau Field, so he’s got experience going against top corners and he should make plenty of opportunities for himself on Sunday.
LH: Danielle Hunter is having a career year with 10 sacks through nine weeks. What has allowed him to make such a big jump in year eight and how do you think he’ll perform against a Saints offensive line that hasn’t been amazing in pass protection this season?
CG: The Vikings have a lot of solid athletes on their team, but Hunter might be the most ridiculous of them all because of the things he’s able to do at his size. His ability to change direction when needed is incredible, and he also has the ability to overwhelm opposing blockers with an array of moves or with just sheer strength. Last season, the Vikings played a very passive defensive scheme under Ed Donatell that saw Hunter drop back in coverage a lot more than someone with his pass rush skills probably should, but Brian Flores has had no problems with letting him (and every other Vikings’ defender) get after quarterbacks on a full-time basis this season, and that’s played a significant role in his sack numbers going up as well. With the Saints struggling on the offensive line, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them try to give their tackles some help against Hunter, which will have the effect of (hopefully) opening things up for some of the Vikings’ other pass rushers to get after Derek Carr.
LH: At the beginning of the year, I think many people didn’t expect the Vikings defense to be as good as it has been. How has the defense been able to be successful so far, and do you attribute that to Brian Flores, the players or both?
CG: I think that Flores is absolutely the catalyst behind the defensive improvement. The Vikings have some solid leaders on defense like Harrison Smith, Jordan Hicks, and Danielle Hunter, but for the most part they’re relying on a lot of young and inexperienced players. By using the blitz significantly more than any other defensive coordinator in the league, he’s attempting to lessen the burden on some of those young players, particularly guys in the secondary like Camryn Bynum and Mekhi Blackmon, and trying to make it so they can just play instinctively. I think a lot of us were hoping that the Vikings’ defense would “get it” at some point during the second half of the season, but they’re already coming around in the new scheme and that’s another testament to Flores’ ability to get the players ready to play. I think that Vikings fans need to enjoy having Brian Flores around while he’s here, because his next opportunity to become a head coach is going to come around sooner rather than later unless his lawsuit against the league stands in the way of that, which would be ridiculous.
LH: The Vikings are 2.5-point dogs at home against the Saints. Do you think they can cover? And do you think the game will go over or under the 41-point total?
CG: I definitely think that the Vikings can cover in this one, but I’m not expecting an offensive shootout or anything. Both the Saints and the Vikings are playing very solid defense so far this year, so I don’t think either team is going to go out and light up the scoreboard. Of course, I thought that last week, too, and then the Vikings and Falcons went out and went way over the number. But I think the smart lean would be towards the under in this one with the Vikings winning a fairly close game, something along the lines of 20-17.
Thanks for joining us Christopher, you can see the rest of his work here.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.