The Minnesota Vikings enter the 2012 season coming off of their worst campaign in the teams 51-year history. Led by head coach Lesley Frazier, this is a team that has something to prove. How they will do it though remains to be seen. Their star running back, Adrian Peterson, tore his ACL and MCL in his left knee, when he finally does return will he even be the same person? He plays the game with a violent, intense streak that was really something to watch, on a personal level I hope he makes a full recovery, but we all know that’s unlikely. The quarterback position is a big question mark as well, second year man Christian Ponder has the physical talent to make it work, but he didn’t instill much confidence in those who saw him play last year. The Vikings have a tough road ahead of them.
When we look at the situation objectively, it’s hard not to give Ponder a pass; rookie quarterback coming in to the league during the lockout-shortened offseason for a bad team. Doesn’t exactly sound like the ideal place to let your talent shine. Then midway through the season, your star running back, arguably the best in the league, goes down with a bad injury. Out of the frying pan and into the fire. However, the team has attempted to try and put some pieces around him in the offseason. They solidified the left tackle position with Matt Kalil and brought in WR Jerome Simpson and TE John Carlson. Although those players aren’t considered household names, they are underrated veterans who will make a contribution. In the absence of Adrian Peterson the running backs are nothing special. Toby Gerhart, the man who is likely to receive the majority of carries in Peterson’s absence, will do alright. He’s a solid player who can produce, but is not special in any one area. The wideouts on the team could also use a little bit of work. They brought in Jerome Simpson from the Bengals to add a vertical threat to the unit. He’s acrobatic and fast and, after he serves his three game suspension, should be able to help the team stretch the field. Percy Harvin hopes to benefit from the addition of Simpson. He will look to line up and stop drawing so much attention from opposing defenses. He’s not a number 1 receiver but can produce in the right circumstances. He is strong and knows how to move in space and can build on his performance from prior seasons.
On the defensive side of the ball new coordinator Alan Williams is more philosophically in tune with Frazier than his predecessor was. They both believe in a zone-heavy scheme that relies on pressure from the front four with only occasional blitzing. The defensive success of the Vikings starts up front with their defensive line. Jared Allen is the star of this unit and is coming off of a tremendous season. He constantly plays hard with a non-stop motor and inspires others to do the same. DT Kevin Williams is not quite as dominant as he once was, but he still plays the game at a high level. He can still get into the backfield by collapsing the middle of the pocket. He’ll continue to break up blocking schemes and disrupt plays. The line backers need to show improvement in the new system or there will be some changes in Minnesota. The most productive player on the unit is Erin Henderson. He lines up on the weak side and although he has good instincts, he gets out of position too often. SLB Chad Greenway was expected to be a stud coming out of Iowa, but has never quite lived up to the hype. He is not very strong at the point of attack and instead prefers to flow with the play and then attack. The change of defensive schemes will hopefully benefit him. The defensive backfield doesn’t fare much better than the linebackers and is just another example of changes that may be destined for the offseason. One bright spot is CB Chris Cook. He has a long frame and fluid hips which allow him good change of direction ability. He will likely be defending the elite receivers in the division in Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall.
In all likelihood, this won’t be a good season for the Vikings. Every other team in the competitive NFC North has improved and last years division winner, Green Bay, looms large at 15-1. Personnel changes may be in the offseason plans for the Vikings if things don’t get better this season. Last years record of 3-13 will not be tolerated again. The good news is the offense is going to be better as Ponder and his teammates have had more time to grow together. This season may prove to be a great test to see who can be a part of a foundation to build upon.