Vikings have work cut out for them
If your head is whirling about Minnesota's prospects for the upcoming NFL football season you would do well to open a window and find the cap for your epoxy glue. The 2012 Vikings have a lot of hard work ahead of them.
The Vikings went into training camp last Friday with 27 rookies on their roster. This is a team in the process of re-inventing itself - not a team you can count on for a playoff berth. All the rah-rah in the world is not going change the fact our Vikings are in for some more bumps. No, a 3-13 record does not seem likely again but a 6-10 or 7-9 season may be the very most the fans should expect from this team.
Christian Ponder took over from Donovan McNabb last year after the veteran quarterback failed to keep the team moving through four quarters. Ponder is the man the Vikings want to run the show but Joe Webb has shown he can also play the position pretty well.
The Vikings need weapons if they are going to win games this year. They just lacked the bullets to gun anyone down last season. The Vikings put 340 points on the board - only Washington and Tampa Bay scored fewer points than Minnesota in the NFC last year. Adrian Peterson can be one of those weapons (if he is healthy) and Percy Harvin can be another (if he is happy) but you have to dig hard to find a third. Rookie receiver Jarius Wright could be the man given enough time and coaching. Wright is reputed to have great quickness and balance and at just 5-10 those two physical gifts will be his biggest assets. New England's Wes Welker is 5-10 and last year he caught 122 passes for 1,569 yards and nine touchdowns last year.
It will also be important to see more production from the tight end spot. Second-year man Kyle Rudolph caught only 26 balls for 249 yards last year, but he has good hands, and this year he will be competing for playing time with former Seattle standout John Carlson. Do Rudolph and Carlson have a good shot at making people forget New England star tight end's Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez? Better check the cap on that epoxy glue - it may need tightening. The New England tandem was frightening last year with 169 receptions, 2,237 yards and 24 touchdowns between them. With a lot of work Rudolph and Carlson may eventually be a tough twosome but Mr. Ponder will need better blocking to make it feasible.
If the Vikings were nothing special on offense last year, they were downright terrible with their defensive secondary coverage. They led the league with 50 quarterback sacks but they also gave up 50 touchdowns and 34 by the pass. The competition ran 1,027 offensive plays against the Vikings and 538 of them were pass attempts. The Vikes gave up a whopping 4,019 yards through the air and were pathetic in the interception department with just eight.
The good news is Frazier and his coaches are working on a better secondary. They brought on Harrison Smith to play safety and Sean Robinson and Chris Carr in to help aging all-pro Antoine Winfield handle a corner spot.
Hall of Famer Bud Grant used to point out that winning division games was crucial and the former Vikings head coach was sure proven right last year. The Vikings were not able to win a single one of their six division games last year and gave up an average of 32.3 points in division games.
It is Minnesota's bad luck that all three NFC Central opponents have strong clubs right now, but this club bottomed out in 2011 and now they are starting back up the ladder.