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Frankly Speaking 9/3/12

September 3rd, 2012 by

As we all know the NFL regular season is quickly approaching. The first game of the season is this Thursday when the Dallas Cowboys take on the New York Giants. But I’m not going to talk about the whole NFL is this post. I’m just going to focus on one team. The Minnesota Vikings. Full disclaimer, I am and have been a Vikings fan my whole life (don’t hold it against me). How are the Vikings going to fare this year? Can they possibly compete in a division with three potential 4,000+ yard quarterbacks? Will Christian Ponder show progress or regress? Well….

Let’s start this year by talking about last year. The Vikings drafted Florida State QB Christian Ponder with the 12th overall pick. Probably a reach by most people’s standards, but this is the first instance of the Vikings finally drafting a quarterback for the future. Along with drafting Ponder, the Vikings took a flyer on veteran QB Donovan McNabb. This gamble worked in 2009 when the Vikings took a chance on Brett Favre and he led then to the NFC Championship game. This gamble though, did not pay off. The Vikings started the year 0-4 and finally benched McNabb for Ponder after a 1-5 start. McNabb was released before the end of the season. Ponder showed flashes of why the Vikings drafted him, but a late season injury kept him out the last 2 games. The 2011 Vikings finished 3-13.

A young team, an inexperienced coach, a weak secondary, a group of unproven wide receivers and a relatively unproven linebacker core are the focus of this season. Yes, there are A LOT of areas of concern for this 2012 Vikings team. With few explosive players and a lack of depth, this could be a long season for the purple and gold. Position by position, these are my grades for this Vikings team…

OFFENSE

Quarterback Starter: Christian Ponder. Backup: Joe Webb
Ponder showed signs of promise last year. His poise in the pocket and ability to scramble surprised some folks. We all knew he was a smart player and now he needs to adjust to NFL speed. His lack of weapons will hurt him, but the emergence of TE Kyle Rudolph and the additions of Jerome Simpson and John Carlson should help. If Ponder should go down, Joe Webb is waiting. Webb led the Vikings to a victory over the Washington Redskins last year and almost led an upset over the Bears in the season finale. Webb is an extremely athletic QB with a strong arm. I would image Leslie Frazier is going to try to get him in the game in certain situations. Ponder needs to show large strides for Vikings fans to feel that he is the QB of the future. Grade: C-

Running Backs Adrian Peterson & Toby Gerhart
The best and most talented group on this Vikings team. Adrian Peterson, when healthy, is the best running back in the league and Toby has proved that he could be a starting running back in this league. Peterson is a running back that can do it all. He call run over, around or through defenders. Keeping him on the field and providing him with a little bit of space will make this an exciting team to watch. Toby is a downhill style runner and a perfect compliment to AP. If these guys can get a little bit of blocking up front, they can win the Vikes a few games. Grade: A

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: Percy Harvin, Jerome Simpson, Kyle Rudolph.
The Vikings have not had a big time WR since Sindey Rice left after the 2010 season. They have plugged in veterans like Mike Jenkins/Devon Aromashodu and young guys like Stephen Burton/Jarius Wright into the lineup this year behind Percy Harvin and Jerome Simpson. Percy is one of the most explosive WR/RB/Returners in the game of football today, but without a complimentary wide receiver, defenses are working out ways to limit his production. Simpson (most recently with the Bengals) should add a deep threat to the offense. The tight ends could be the strength of the Vikings passing attack. The 6’6 Kyle Rudolph hauled in 3 TD’s last year in a reserve role and now will get the starts. Adding veteran John Carlson will bolster what should be a strong TE core. Without a proven deep threat WR, the Vikings are going to struggle getting the ball deep down the field. Defenses will focus of Percy which should open up lanes for Rudolph and Carlson. Grade: D+

Offensive Line: Kalil, Johnson, Sullivan, Fusco, Loadholt.
With the #3 pick in the 2012 NFL draft, the Vikings selected LT Matt Kalil out of the University of Southern California. Kalil was drafted to anchor an offensive line that is less than stellar. Over the years the Vikings have seen the likes of Matt Birk, Steve Hutchinson and Bryant McKinney leave the team. Center John Sullivan started every game last year and has developed a rapport with young QB, Christian Ponder. RT Phil Loadholt was drafted to be the teams future left tackle, but lack of quickness has led to the Vikings moving him to the right side of the line. At 6’8 343 lbs, Frazier should feel confident running the ball to his side. The guards Johnson and Fusco are new to the Vikings. The line will be charged with protecting a young QB and providing lanes for Peterson and Gerhart. In a division with Peppers, Suh, Vanden Bosch, Raji, and Matthews that could prove to be no small task. Grade: C-

Offensive Grade: C- There are a ton of question marks for this years Vikings offense. How will Ponder progress? Will Simpson provide enough at WR? Will the offensive line hold? These factors will determine how good the Vikings offense will be this year. By all accounts, I believe the Vikings will struggle to put points on the board. Harvin and AP are the only true playmakers on this side of the ball and if the Vikings struggle getting them the rock, it’s going to be a long winter. A relatively easy early season schedule could help the Vikings get some confidence, but tough contents against San Francisco, Seattle, Houston and the NFC north opponents could squash that confidence. With all that being said, the Vikings have the 4th best offense….in the NFC North..

Defensive grades to follow!

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