At 3-13, the changes that need to be implemented in order to alter the culture surrounding the Minnesota Vikings are plenty.
This team went from the NFC Championship game in the 2009 season to the third-worst team in the league by the end of 2011. Change is needed. And the change that is needed has to be from the ground up. No more quick fixes.
Here, we’ll take a look at where Minnesota has holes to fill for the 2012 season.
Eight interceptions, 4,019 passing yards allowed and 34 receiving touchdowns allowed. Those were the credentials of the 2011 Minnesota Vikings pass defense.
The eight interceptions were tied for fewest in the NFL. The 4,019 passing yards were seventh most allowed. The 34 touchdowns allowed were most in the NFL.
Yes, there were injuries to the defensive backfield. Yes, there were off-the-field issues. But those numbers combined are inexcusable.
Starting cornerback Cedric Griffin’s career in Minnesota should be over. His performance was terrible this year, regardless of whether he was 100 percent or not, and inexcusable.
The other opening day starter, Antoine Winfield, is 34 years old and will be 35 when the 2012 season begins. He is a 13-year veteran who has been injury-plagued for the previous two seasons.
Winfield can start in 2012, but there will be an opening across from him. That spot would ideally be filled by Chris Cook, but no one knows how his legal issues will finalize; he is unavailable until the issue is resolved.
At safety, Jamarca Sanford can play on a successful defensive unit. He’s not great in pass coverage but does well to stop the run. Minnesota needs a new safety next to Sanford.
So Minnesota, at the very minimum, needs one safety and a new starting cornerback.
Minnesota quarterbacks were sacked 49 times this season. On the other side of the ball, the defense led the NFL with 50 sacks this season.
Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart struggled to run the ball without getting hit immediately at the line of scrimmage.
Joe Webb was able to make himself a fan favorite during the Detroit game, in part because the offensive line forced him to get out of the pocket and make plays with his feet.
The offensive line is the No. 2 mess on this team.
If things go accordingly, Minnesota should have three new starters in 2012.
John Sullivan will be the starting center given the five-year extension he signed midseason.
Charlie Johnson is expected to shift from left tackle to a guard position.
And right tackle Phil Loadholt has three years of NFL experience and is still finding his way in the league. He has one or two more years to get his act together, or he’ll be on his way out of Minnesota too.
Steve Hutchinson probably won't be back, nor will right guard Anthony Herrera.
Change needs to happen at the offensive line.
Beyond Percy Harvin, the Vikings have very few, if any, playmakers at this position. And Harvin is an unreliable source.
Migraines, other injuries and his physical style of play have kept Harvin from developing into the player he is very capable of becoming.
As far as we know, all of Minnesota’s wide receivers, minus Harvin and Michael Jenkins, could be elsewhere in 2012. The team needs to remodel its core of wide receivers, either through the draft or free agency, so Christian Ponder has the targets necessary to succeed.
Chad Greenway is the only linebacker that deserves to keep his linebacker position next season. With 154 tackles, Greenway was third in the league this season. He doesn’t seem to make too many spectacular plays, but he makes the most basic ones.
E.J. Henderson, at 31 years old, appears past his prime and looked very out of place this season. During the 2010 season and 12 games in the 2009 season, Henderson played at a Pro Bowl level and was a Pro Bowl member during the 2010 season. But this season was a massive step backwards for E.J., and he should be gone.
His brother, Erin, underwhelmed in his one-year audition at outside linebacker. He never appeared like a starting outside linebacker in the NFL and made very few plays.
Best-case scenario: Both Hendersons are gone in 2012. Either way, Minnesota needs serious linebacker help.
Kevin Williams is an aging defensive tackle. At 31 years old, he isn’t the same player he was at the beginning of his career.
Prior to this season, his sack numbers declined in the previous two seasons. He doesn’t make plays behind the line of scrimmage like he once did and doesn’t clog the middle like he once did.
And Remi Ayodele is not a long-term solution at the position. He was slow, which was to be expected, and didn’t clog the middle like a 318-pound man should.
Given the needs at defensive back, offensive line, wide receiver and linebacker, this position will go less noticed.
This is a need just because of injury. The Vikings have two very talented running backs in Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart.
But Peterson has a torn ACL and MCL. His availability for the 2012 season opener is in jeopardy.
Gerhart has a torn MCL, which may limit what he can do in the offseason, but he should be ready to go come the season opener.
Regardless, Minnesota is hurting at running back and will probably be down another one when it lets go of Lorenzo Booker.
The position is very top heavy, but lacks depth due to injury. What Minnesota does with regards to this position will be interesting to follow.