Will Christian Ponder improve as an NFL quarterback in 2012?
Quick Review of 2011
Offense—No. 4 rushing, No. 28 passing, No. 18 total.
Defense—No. 11 rushing, No. 26 passing, No. 21 total.
After the Brett Favre experiment, the Vikings expected 2011 to be a transition year. They drafted quarterback Christian Ponder and brought in Donovan McNabb to mentor him. McNabb had a terrible year and gave way to Ponder before being cut.
Ponder was probably thrown into the fire before he was ready. He had a 54 completion percentage, he threw as many interceptions (13) as touchdowns and he won only twice. He also had injury issues.
The Viking were swept by the NFC North while going 3-13, and to make a bad season end worse, they lost star running back Adrian Peterson to a torn ACL late in the year.
CB Zack Bowman, TE John Carlson, FB Jerome Felton, RB Lex Hilliard, OT Levi Horn, LB Marvin Mitchell, DE Nick Reed, G Geoff Schwartz, WR Jerome Simpson.
How many games will the Vikings win in 2012?
OT Matt Kalil, S Harrison Smith, CB Josh Robinson, WR Jarius Wright, FB Rhett Ellison, WR Greg Childs, S Robert Blanton, K Blair Walsh, LB Audie Cole, DE Trevor Guyton.
Undrafted Free Agents
DT Chase Baker, RB Derrick Coleman, CB Bobby Felder, G Tyler Holmes, WR Kamar Jorden, DE Eric Latimore, LB Tyler Nielson, DE Ernest Owusu, LB Corey Paredes, G Austin Pasztor, DT Tydreke Powell, DT Terrell Resonno, C Quentin Saulsberry, DE Derrick Shelby, OT Darrion Weems.
S Husain Abdullah, LB Xavier Adibi, RB Lorenzo Booker, WR Greg Camarillo, CB Cedric Griffin, LB E.J. Henderson, G Anthony Herrera, G Steve Hutchinson, S Tyrell Johnson, LS Matt Katula, TE Jimmy Kleinsasser, K Ryan Longwell, LB Kenny Onatolu, S Jarrad Page, CB Benny Sapp, TE Visanthe Shiancoe.
Outlook For 2012
The Vikings had two big problems last year—passing offense and passing defense. They used the draft to address those problems. They spent five of their first seven draft choices on defensive backs and wide receivers.
The Vikings traded back into the first round to pick S Harrison Smith. They also took a pair of receivers from Arkansas, Jarius Wright and Greg Childs. Then they drafted CB Josh Robinson and S Robert Blanton.
The defensive backfield must improve to compete against the quarterbacks they will face in the NFC North.
Percy Harvin is a multi-purpose weapon that must be utilized more to take the heat off of the maturing Christian Ponder. He should also create opportunities for the rookie wide receivers.
With a new stadium on the horizon, head coach Leslie Frazier could begin to feel heat if the team doesn't begin to show signs of progress in 2012.
There will be two key factors that will determine how far the Vikings can go in 2012—Christian Ponder's development and a healthy return of Adrian Peterson.
Sep. 9 Jacksonville
Sep. 16 at Indianapolis
Sep. 23 San Francisco
Sep. 30 at Detroit
Oct. 7 Tennessee
Oct. 14 at Washington
Oct. 21 Arizona
Oct. 25 Tampa Bay
Nov. 4 at Seattle
Nov. 11 Detroit
Nov. 25 at Chicago
Dec. 2 at Green Bay
Dec. 9 Chicago
Dec. 16 at St. Louis
Dec. 23 at Houston
Dec. 30 Green Bay
They will close with four consecutive dome games. Their only prime-time appearance will be on Thursday, October 25, against Tampa Bay.
Every other NFC North team is a playoff contender. Last year the Vikings went 0-6 against Chicago, Detroit and Green Bay for the first time since 1962.
Wins will be just as hard this year. Outside the division they will play Super Bowl contenders San Francisco and Houston.
The final seven weeks will be brutal with six games against playoff contenders.
Expect another last-place finish with less than four wins.