2014 Season Preview: Minnesota Vikings

 

2014 Season Preview:

min-vikings-helmet

Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota has one strong thing, RB Adrian Peterson, and, a defense that fell apart to dead last in the NFL. The Vikings allowed 30 points a game, partially due to playing the Lions, Packers and Bears (oh my!) twice a year, but even gave up 31 points to the Browns and 27 to the Redskins.

The Vikings cleaned house, and brought in two very highly respected co-coordinators with Norv Turner and Mike Zimmer. Zimmer won the coin-flip and has his first crack at being the top guy.

 

Offensive Line

The Vikings had a NFL rarity this offseason with all five starters coming back, problem is, this line was very inconsistent.

Left tackle Matt Kalil had a down year, by his standards, and was part of a line that was really hit or miss last year.
Charlie Johnson is back on a cheap deal after getting next to no interest in free agency.
John Sullivan anchors the line in the middle, but he has been battling leg injuries.
Right Guard Brandon Fusco is on his second year as a starter, but a shaky year cost him a lot of confidence from the Vikings coaching staff, who brought in Vladimir Ducasse as competition, if not on the right, then on the left.
And, Right Tackle Phil Loadholt was almost the only starter on the line to have a good year.

QuarterbackTeddy Bridgewater

There is no bigger fan of Teddy Ballgame than I. None. I could not be happier that Norv Turner is his coach. My biggest issue is he went to the wrong team. I don’t feel the great outdoors of lower Canada is the best place for him. Bridgewater shouldn’t have to worry about that until next year, as Matt Cassel is the day 1 starter. He’s playing for a new contract with a new team, and while not the gem he was thought to be under Brady, he did better than Josh Freeman or Ponder, and can’t help but be better under the Norv.

Running Back

Never heard of this guy. But, I’ve heard rumors that he is pretty good.

Lets keep in mind that while “only” 29, Peterson has taken a lot of hits and has been going against 8 man fronts pretty much since 2nd grade, and, he’s going to see them a lot this year. I do wonder if the Vikings might be better served trading him as they rebuild. Imagine if the Colts had given the pick they gave for Trent Richardson, next years number 1 and a pair of 3s for Peterson.

Speaking of third rounders the Vikings used one on Jerick McKinnon, who replaces Toby Gerhart as the backup back, but lets face it, if anyone but ADP gets more than 50 carries, that could either be very bad for Peterson (injury) or a be a great thing (Winning). Peterson has consistently played the good soldier, but I wonder how happy he’s going to be, if he has to go through another first round bust at QB aka losing season.

Wide Receiver

ADPGreg Jennings is still here, after a disappointing year coming over from Green Bay, and, Cordarrelle Patterson has been a stud since day 1. The Vikings have to get the ball into both of these guys hands and do it often. Of course the QBs have to improve a good bit for that to happen.

The Vikings have good depth behind them and for three receiver sets with Jarius Wright, who I like, and Jerome Simpson, who I don’t. Plus, Simpson is also looking at a visit to Mr. Goddell’s office.
Kyle Rudolph is a solid Tight End in the classic mold, meaning he’s not Giant-Sized.
 
Defensive Line
 
Jared Allen is gone, not good. As is Kevin Williams, a hit that might be almost as bad.
Brian Robinson had a career year, something you won’t hear a lot as we go through the defense, with a nine-sack season. If he can repeat that effort then the Vikings are off to a good start. Coming over from the Giants is Linval Joseph. Joseph is a solid run-stuffer and should bloom under Zimmer.
Sharrif Floyd didn’t have the best rookie year, but showed a good first step and should also get better as he learns the game.
The guy with big shoes to fill is Everson Griffen who has to take over for Jared Allen, but he’s been there since 2009, so its time for him to take that step. Griffen had five and a half sacks last year, so he should be ready for the full-time gig on the blindside.
This front four is talented, but its still going to be interesting to see what Zimmer does to get them to produce an to do it effectively.
 

Linebackers

First Round, top 10 pick Anthony Barr is going to be the centerpiece here. He’s going to be given the left side, and off he goes. If he comes off the field for anything, it will be a bad thing.

On the right will be Chad Greenway, who isn’t much of a rusher but does have above average coverage skills.
The problem might be in the middle, where Audie Cole looked really good. However, the Vikings brought back Jasper Brinkley who might get a run there.
This group is not exactly standouts in run support, and if Barr isn’t what the Vikings need him to be, a centerpiece that makes a difference and provides leadership, they will have problems.
 

Secondary

Sharrif FloydNot the best unit on the team. But, that’s OK, since the Vikings have made a lot of changes here. Seriously, the Vikings have a TON of bodies here.

Lets start with the 10 corners coming to camp.
Josh Robinson was thought to be the guy to take over the top job but failed badly, and now Captain Munnerlyn has the shot. As a Carolina fan, I can tell you this is a bad move. I love the Captain, but lets just say I don’t want him on an island 20 plays a game. He will make plays you don’t see coming.
Xavier Rhodes should be the other corner, but Robinson is still here.
Derek Cox was one of the few Jaguars that looked good a few years ago is also in the mix.
The last line of defense is also a clutter with 8 guys in camp, including Harrison Smith as the on paper Free Safety. Strong Safety is going to be a battle with ex-Eagle Kurt Coleman and holdover Jamarca Sanford going at it. I think Coleman might be the guy the Vikings are wanting to end up on top. Keep in mind Minny also dropped 3 picks on this position as well, so a starter might come out of the draft.

 

Special Teams

Brian Walsh had a shaky second year, but the coaching staff is more than willing to give him another shot.

Jeff Locke also had an up and down year but again, the Staff didn’t bring in much competition.
Cordarrelle Patterson was a monster in the kickoff return game and Marcus Sherels was a stunner at punt returns. The coverage units were very good as well. If the Kicker and Punter return, the Vikings have faith in them. This might be one of the best units in the league, not just on the team.
 

DraftAnthony Barr

Full Review Here

Outlook

If I’m the Vikings, I have a list of problems.
My offense has a QB that we can’t play out of the gate, and a guy playing for a contract. I have weapons a plenty and the best running back in the game by a wide margin. My line can be very good, but has a tendency to let my QB get hit way too often. If, I could freeze Peterson for a year, and have him at 29 next year, or better yet, the year after that – I would in a heartbeat.

My defense stinks on ice. I have talented players and quite a few guys that can play in the NFL. These are not the Canadian Jaguars, full of guys that don’t belong, these guys do, they just don’t show it. IF Barr is the guy they need him to be, then Zimmer’s job just got easier, if not, then its going to be a long year. The final issue is they play in a division just like them. Offensive Weapons-a-Plenty, and shaky front-seven play.

I have faith in Norv Turner, as long as he’s the OC and not the HC. I want Zimmer to do well, but the track record for guys that have been top-rated DCs forever and finally getting that shot is not good. They also get the NFC South, where look! More Good QBs! Only those teams have good defenses. Plus the AFC East where – ok, they play Brady. I’m looking at a 4-12 record, but to be honest with you, I’m perfectly fine with that if I’m a Viking Fan. Get me another top 7 pick, and take the best defensive player out there and then look to make an assault on the Packers/Lions at the top of the heap.

2nd Look

EJ: I won’t sugar coat this. I do not like the Minnesota Vikings, but I have a sneaky suspicion that they can be better than what most people think. They have Adrian Peterson, still one of the best running backs in the game, they have an emerging talent in Cordarelle Patterson at wide receiver, and they still have a decent vet at that position in Greg Jennings. Minnesota’s problem is at quarterback, but I think that would be rectified if they roll the dice on rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

Bridgewater had a disappointing audition process for the NFL. He had a horiffic pro day, and he wasn’t all that impressive in his interviews, but look at his stats at Louisville. You can’t fake success. You look at his film, and you see a ready made NFL quarterback. He didn’t show the strongest arm, but his accuracy was impressive. Instead of going with the placeholder Matt Cassel, new head coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner just need to hand the starting job to Bridgewater and let him take his lumps.

The Vikings defense? One big question mark. There are some interesting players at defensive tackle in Linval Joseph, and Sharrif Floyd. Now, Linval was recently shot by a stray bullet in the leg in a club incident in Minneapolis, so he might not start the season at full strength, and Floyd was a bit of a disappointment as a rookie, but both tackles have the potential to stuff the run. Losing Jared Allen hurts the defensive line, but it’ll be up to some young defensive ends to fill his spots.

Linebacker and the secondary are also question marks. Chad Greenway is probably the biggest name on the team, and while he puts up numbers, he doesn’t do anything at all impressive. In the secondary look for a bunch of players to rotate in and out for the four spots. Both corner and safety spots are in flux. It would be telling of the Vikings season, if the four players who seize their spots actually have good seasons. I’m fairly doubtful as to their impact.

After reading this, you’re thinking I’m going to say the Vikings finish 2-14 or 3-13. No. I will not go that low on the Vikes. Why? This is a bad team, and their defense will be challenged all season by some very good offenses, but I look at the Vikings offense and I see an offense that should be better than advertised. Especially if they go with Bridgewater. So, I have the Vikings last in the NFC North with a 6-10 record.

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