The Minnesota Vikings acquired Sam Bradford eight days before the 2016 season started. After sitting in Week 1 win, the 29-year-old started the final 15 games of the season. Bradford set career highs in yards (3,877), completions (395), threw 20 TDs to five INTs and set an NFL record with a 71.6 completion percentage.
Despite the numbers, no one watching the Vikings’ offense would describe it as explosive or even efficient. Behind a debilitating offensive line, Bradford had the NFL’s shortest average target last season. He maddeningly threw short of the sticks on third down with regularity. The porous blocking and no run game to speak of relegated the Vikings offense to dink-and-dunk, and led a risk-averse Bradford to get rid of the ball instead of stretching the field.
Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, who took over the duties midway through the season, believes a full offseason in the program will help the rapport between Bradford and his receivers, allowing the passing attack to make a leap forward.
“When he comes back [for the Vikings’ offseason program in April], him having the ability to sit down with the players he’s going to play with through the offseason, we’ll do things that fit his eye, that fit with what we do,” Shurmur said last week, via ESPN.com.
“We’ll be able to practice that more. When he came in this year, everything was running parallel and real fast. He had to get up to speed with what we were doing, he had to quickly learn the players he was playing with. That connection between the quarterback and the skill players is extremely important, and that chemistry is built really in the offseason, when you get the chance to slow it down and run the individual routes that are within the concept, so he gets a feel for their body language and vice versa. That’s where you’re hopeful that you’re going to see a big jump in efficiency in terms of the passing game.”
Shurmur added that the Vikings were already installing some of his concepts before he took over at OC, so this offseason will be more about “additions” than big scheme changes in his first full season in the gig.
The additions Minnesota really needs are along the offensive line. Yet with little salary-cap space, the prospect of adding good veteran blockers remains a faint hope for Vikings fans.
In the meantime, Shurmur will hope that rapport between Bradford, Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Kyle Rudolph, etc. continues to grow. Of course, if he’s on his back on every drop back again in 2017, all the chemistry in the world won’t save Minnesota’s offense.