Peeling back the Vikings' offense

Short echoed the concerns of some other Minnesota Vikings I've heard from during Tuesday's SportsNation chat:

The Vikings' offense looks eerily similar to the one [Brad] Childress ran his first couple of seasons here: run, run, 2-yard slant pass on third down, close your eyes and hopefully fall forward for the first down. How can they expect fans to endure that again? They simply have no one who can stretch the field. Your observations, please.

The question reminded me of the guys who used to sit at the Metrodome, in full Childress costume, carrying a mock playcard that showed two plays: "Chester Taylor right" and "Chester Taylor left." Anyway, while I'll admit the Vikings offense hasn't been too exciting or productive yet this summer, I would caution about drawing too many conclusions about preseason playcalling. And it's also worth noting that two of their most explosive pass-catchers, receiver Percy Harvin and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, have been sidelined by injuries.

Here are the raw numbers, for the record: The Vikings first-team offense unofficially has run 31 plays over four possessions this summer. It has gained 135 yards, including 81 on its final drive last Saturday against the Seattle Seahawks, along with eight first downs and three points.

Based on everything we've heard from coach Leslie Frazier and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, the Vikings won't attempt to replicate the downfield passing success they achieved in 2009 and tried to carry over to 2010. This offense will revolve around tailback Adrian Peterson. It will look for occasional big plays from Harvin and wisely take advantage of two really skilled pass-catching tight ends in Shiancoe and rookie Kyle Rudolph.

(Worth noting from Mark Craig of the Star Tribune: "No player in camp has looked better" than Rudolph.)

But I would be careful about putting that general philosophy in the same category of what Childress ran in his early years with the Vikings. From a pure football perspective, Musgrave's scheme is inherently different than Childress'.

Musgrave has said often that he'll tailor his playbook to the skills of his players, and we'll delve into that plan soon here on the blog. But for now, it's worth noting that even the basic terminology and concepts have a different origin than Childress' west Coast scheme.

We all like to put titles on offensive and defensive schemes, so here is how Musgrave described his during a summer interview with The Daily Norseman blog:

"Well, our language is based more on the Ron Erhardt system. Of the three different systems that have withstood the test of time in the NFL, you could count Don Coryell's number system, of course Paul Brown and Bill Walsh's West Coast offense system, and Ron Erhardt's system, which has been run for years, with the Pittsburgh Steelers, now with coach [Ken] Whisenhunt in Arizona. Of course it's being run in Atlanta with Mike Mularkey, and portions of it are being implemented in New England, and with the Giants. So our offense will be rooted in that base language."

For perspective, consider that both the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions run a version of Coryell's number system. The Green Bay Packers, of course, use West Coast terminology and concepts. The Vikings, then, will use the same terminology as the Cardinals, Falcons and Steelers, among others.

In the end, I think the 2011 Vikings will feature the run and won't have nearly as many downfield passing plays as they did in 2009 and parts of 2010. But will it be Adrian Peterson left, Adrian Peterson right and a 2-yard pass to a blocking tight end? It's too early to know that.