With the NFL draft behind us and a lockout raging on, the opportunities to talk about real football are becoming fewer and fewer. That being the case, I have sought out bloggers that cover teams that the Lions will play in the 2011 season to get a glimpse into what is going on with those teams.
Granted, this exercise presumes that no games will be lost due to the lockout. That might be a big step of faith, especially in regards to the preseason games, but I have a hard time operating under any other assumption. I know what happens when one assumes, let’s hope the labor situation doesn’t prove the old saying true. These Q&As aren’t meant to be any sort of game preview, it is obviously way too early for that. The subject teams may end up looking much different when the Lions play them compared to how they look now, but I anticipate this being a good introduction to each teams’ hopes, fears, needs, expectations, etc.
The Lions will open up NFC North play with a game against the Minnesota Vikings in week three. I was able to send some questions to Dan Zinski, the editor at The Viking Age, and he was kind enough to provide responses. Here we go…
Zac Snyder: With the benefit of hindsight, was the Brett Favre era in Minnesota a good or bad thing?
Dan Zinski: I don’t think you can say it was bad. They did almost make it to the Super Bowl. In hindsight, they should’ve been content with that one good season and moved on without Favre. Unfortunately they didn’t really have anyone to move on with. The quarterback position on the whole was handled badly during Brad Childress’ tenure. Had there been a young promising player to plug in for 2010, maybe they wouldn’t have tried running Favre’s carcass out there again. For entertainment value I’d have to say the Favre era was unquestionably a success. Even the disasters were highly amusing.
ZS: What was the fan reaction to the Vikings selection of Christian Ponder and was there any heartburn in that pick allowing a top-ten talent in Nick Fairley to fall to the Lions?
DZ: Apparently there were some very angry fans at the draft party. I don’t know if they wanted Fairley or if they were mad that Jake Locker got away. Probably both. I’m sure there were plenty of fans who would’ve preferred drafting Fairley but I just think there were too many character red-flags on the guy. This draft was very important for the Vikings and they couldn’t afford to take a chance. That’s the same reason they didn’t consider Ryan Mallett. Ponder may ultimately not be the guy, but it won’t be because of character concerns. Obviously, when you see a guy like Fairley drop to the Lions, knowing what they already have along the defensive line, and knowing that the Vikings’ offensive line is not exactly good…it’s kind of an ominous combination.
ZS: How likely is it that Christian Ponder is the starting quarterback when the regular season begins?
DZ: Right now I’d say it’s very likely. His only competition is Joe Webb and Rhett Bomar. There have been rumors about a Kyle Orton trade, which obviously would change everything, but until that happens Ponder is the best QB on their roster. I like what I’ve seen so far from Ponder on the leadership front, and he seems very smart and actually has a nice smart-aleck sense of humor which I enjoy. But obviously until he plays you don’t know. His front-runner status right now is more a reflection on what a mess the QB position is for the Vikings than anything else.
ZS: The Lions game with the Vikings is still a long way off so what is something you want to see change with the Vikings before that game?
DZ: The lockout makes it tricky. You’d like to see them get better on the offensive line and in the secondary but what can really be done? Maybe if the mess gets settled soon enough some players will be able to move around. It would make me very happy not to go into the season with John Sullivan and Phil Loadholt starting. They did draft a promising lineman in Demarcus Love who might be able to win a job either at right guard or tackle. I’m also intrigued by D’Aundre Reed, a defensive end who got caught in a depth chart situation in Arizona and didn’t get the reps. I’d love to see the Vikings move on from Ray Edwards, and have Reed or maybe Everson Griffen – who claims his life is straightened out after getting arrested twice in a 72-hour period earlier this offseason – take over that spot.
ZS: What are your expectations for the Vikings in 2011?
DZ: My expectations are low. I feel like, if they can swing a trade for Kyle Orton and get their O-line straightened out, maybe they can manage 9 wins. It’s such a tough division, is the problem. You can’t count on two automatic wins against the Lions anymore, and I doubt the Packers and Bears are going to just disappear (though I think the Bears are in for a drop-off). With Ponder or Webb playing QB, I see them struggling. I think a total meltdown 3-13 season is an actual possibility. Once stuff starts going wrong it just snowballs. Hopefully this year at least our stadium will remain standing until the end. That would be nice.