9 Players Responsible for the Minnesota Vikings' Success or Failure in 2012

Brian Dezelske@@BrianDezelskeCorrespondent IIIMay 18, 2012

9 Players Responsible for the Minnesota Vikings' Success or Failure in 2012

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    Much of the Minnesota Vikings’ 2011 season was a failure—so much so, that even their Dec. 24th win turned out to be the best Christmas present any NFL franchise could possibly imagine.

    St. Louis Rams, you’re welcome.

    However, while the Vikes did gift-wrap the proverbial driver’s seat of the draft to the Rams, they did put together a very nice draft (we’ll know in three years for sure), which has given the die-hard purple bleeders a reason to relax.

    A couple of these draft picks will no doubt play a big role in how the team performs this upcoming season, but there are still a handful of names already on the roster that will have a direct impact on the successes and failures of this team in 2012.

    Let’s take a look at who will make the most significant impact this year—positive or negative.

Kyle Rudolph

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    Everyone knows that tight ends are a quarterback’s best friend, and Kyle Rudolph will be Christian Ponder’s this season.

    Last year, he emerged as a real threat down the middle with speed and wonderful hands.

    Now with a full year under his belt, he'll be looked upon to bail Ponder out in tough situations, as well as become a legitimate threat inside the red zone.

    From a passing standpoint, there may not be anyone more important to the development of Ponder than this kid.

Charlie Johnson

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    Perhaps the biggest question mark on the entire offense, Charlie Johnson has the task of filling the hole that was created when Minnesota decided to let Steve Hutchinson go.

    In Johnson's defense, he was out of position last year and did the best he could, and for that, I give him props.

    Unfortunately, his best was not that good, and the Vikings organization addressed the situation with the No. 4 pick in this year’s draft.

    He'll have to show he’s capable of holding his own at the guard position, or he’ll find himself looking for work elsewhere.

Phil Loadholt

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    The time is now for Phil Loadholt to become the player everyone thought he would be when he was drafted in the Round 2 out of Oklahoma in 2009.

    After a decent rookie season, he’s digressed each of the last two seasons—leaving pundits to wonder if he’ll ever live up to his potential.

Harrison Smith

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    Harrison Smith will start opening day and that’s exciting for fans who have been crying for an upgrade at the safety position since the departure of Darren Sharper.

    However, the first year is going to be a learning experience for the young safety and fans will have to be patient.

    There’s going to be moments where fans will be pulling their hair out over his mistakes, but he will make big plays and show why Minnesota moved into the bottom of the first round to snag him.

Jerome Simpson

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    Dope is a term I use to express something that I really like.

    I’ve used the word in that context ever since the first time I saw the movie Boomerang (Sorry I couldn’t find a clip, but movie buffs should remember Bony T).

    Anyway, Jerome Simpson uses the word dope in a completely different text. And it’s what caused him to be suspended for the first three games of the 2012 season (via NFL.com)

    When he comes back, he will play opposite either Michael Jenkins or Devin Aromashodu (as of right now), with Percy Harvin working in the slot.

    Although he’s not the most talented receiver we have, he’s been brought here to be a true No. 1 option for Christian Ponder.

    Can the “Dopeman” become that guy, or will Harvin end up back on the outside? Time will tell.

    I hope he does. It would be dope.

Jasper Brinkley

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    Apparently Jasper Brinkley is good enough to be a starting middle linebacker and quarterback of the defense.

    Now we don’t see what goes in practice on an everyday basis, but there wasn’t a time—in any game he’s played—where you could point to and say this guy has “it.”

    Either way, the keys to the defense have been handed over and now we’ll all see if he can shoulder the load.

    The most significant impact Brinkley will have on this defense, for better or worse, is in the run game.

    Can he come in and stuff the run like E.J. Henderson did so well before him? Time will tell, but we should get a good indication early on.

Letroy Guion

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    Just like the aforementioned Jasper Brinkley, many have reservations about how Letroy Guion will perform as a starter this upcoming season—mostly when it comes to plugging up the middle and stopping the run.

    Without Pat Williams, Minnesota ranked 11th in the NFL against the run in 2011, which just so happened to be the first time they fell outside the Top 10 since 2006, according to ESPN.

    At 303 lbs, Guion isn’t nearly the mountain-of-a-man that Williams (317 lbs) was when he was a member of the “Williams Wall.” Not to mention, he was obviously given every opportunity last year to beat out Remi Ayodele, whose tenure in Minny was nauseating at best, and Guion didn't win the job.

    Why didn't Guion win over the starting job? Seriously, I'm asking.

    That being said, he's now been given his chance, and it's up to him to feed his critics some humble pie.

    And if he shines, it will make things easier for the likes of Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and most importantly, Jasper Brinkley.

Matt Kalil

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    The feeling is that whatever success the offensive line ends up having will lie squarely on the shoulders of first-round pick Matt Kalil.

    Kalil's ability to protect the blind side will hopefully allow for Christian Ponder to grow into the franchise QB the Vikings organization envisioned him becoming when they took Ponder with the No. 12 pick in 2011.

    Kalil is only one man, however, and it takes a cohesive unit of five guys having each other’s backs to allow for their QB to grow and not be constantly running for his life.

Christian Ponder

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    No one player will be more responsible for the successes and failures of the Minnesota Vikings than Christian Ponder.

    Rick Spielman has surrounded him with the necessary tools to succeed at this level. Now it’s up to him to make good use of them.

    The only concern here is the length of time he could be given to show he’s the guy for the job.

    Cam Newton and Andy Dalton came in early on and set the bar extremely high, and Ponder could start feeling the pressure to perform up to those standards sooner rather than later.

    Ponder critics will be calling for his head the first time he under-throws a receiver and gets picked off. Just remember that he's only started 10 games. 

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