Risk Vs. Reward: Minnesotas Vikings

Michael ZappContributor IMay 11, 2009

It is about that time of years when everybody decided to weigh in on what their favorite team has done.  I am no different.  I would like to present some additional perspective that is not focused around the Brett Favre three ring circus.

Risk Vs. Reward for the 2009 season.


1.  Obvious selection to lead off would be the drafting of Percy Harvin. 

Risk: Character issues, No true position fit.

He claims that he has matured over the past few months due to his failed drug test at the combine and subsequent plummet down the draft.  How much do you really need to understand here, Percy?  You knew you were a top prospect for the draft. 

You knew that there were going to be drug screens at the combine.  This doesn't take the logic of a three year old to figure out.  Where do you actually fit onto the field?  Are you a WR or a RB?  Can you throw from a 'wildcat' formation?  Can you return kicks?  Do you want a first-round draft pick returning kicks?

Reward: Talent, Play-making ability, Wants to be a piece of the whole.

The upside to this situation can easily make others forget about some of the detracting factors.  With "Devin Hester"-type skills, he presents issues for opposing defenses.  Percy has the speed and moves to take any play to the house at any time.  This is a great compliment to Adrian Peterson

As Peterson goes, so go the Vikings. Harvin, along with Berrian and Rice, will add numerous opportunities to compliment the focus of the Vikings offense.  Regardless of whom is throwing the ball, defenses may have to think twice about putting 9 men in the box on every play.


2. Media favorite:  QB position (Sage, Jackson, Favre?)

Risk: Consistency, Age, Future implications

Clearly the question on everyone's mind is when (not if) will Brett Favre sign with the Vikings.  There are issues that come along with that as well. Sage was brought in to be a serviceable starting QB, or at least provide competition. I am not sure that Childress will be able to stick to his own words there. 

He has committed himself to Jackson since they traded up to get him in the second round a few years back. Jackson has shown one consistency; a lack of consistency.  He threw four touchdown passes against eventual Super Bowl runner-ups Arizona in Arizona.  Yet he was benched after two games at the beginning of the season. 

Favre has had injury issues the past few years and has always been the type of player to take unneeded risks with the ball.  Will he be the QB that lead the Jets to playoff favorites or the one who bombed the last five games and cost them the playoff chance?  Favre has been in the league 18 years, Sage nine, and Jackson three. 

Last time I checked, there weren't any 40-year-olds that could keep up with the 28 years olds in the physicality of the game.  Where do the Vikes go from here?

Reward: Experience, Attitude/Confidence

You don't make it to the Hall Of Fame by being a backup QB your entire career.  Favre has the experience to read a defense and know what adjustments to make.  Sage has been around the league a while now and has some gaming experience, too.

He has run into some poor timing though that may have hampered his playing time.  Seems like everywhere he went, the team always brought in a top name expensive player that the team was determined to get their money's worth from them.  If Favre doen't sign, the Viking will be just fine.

Sage has the winning attitude you want from the leader of your offense.  Favre has the confidence that will force defenses to honor his abilities and his decision-making skills.  Jackson had swagger in the preseason last year and has the tools to play at this level.


3. Center of no attention.

Risk: Lack of playing time, Unproven options

Allowing Matt Birk to leave will have a bigger impact on this team than any player they could sign to play QB.  That's right, I said it.  The loss of Birk could be CRITICAL to this team. 

Birk was a pro-bowl player the majority of his time in Minnesota.  He made the line adjustments and was a tremendous leader in the locker room.  John Sullivan did not play a snap last year. 

Ryan Cook has not played center since college a few years ago.  Herrera has solidified himself at right guard and won't be moving from there.  They signed two undrafted free-agents but it is unclear how much impact they may have at all. 


Reward: Consistency in the system, Opportunity, Competition

Birk took over for an aging Jeff Christy in much the same fashion the projected starter John Sullivan will be replacing Birk. Sullivan is great on the work ethic and understood that he had a chance to learn from on of the best centers in the game. Sullivan only has played center, that is the only position he focused on last year. 

The system will be the same.  Cook may get a chance to return to his natural position at center also.  He moved to right tackle when he got to the NFL.  Maybe going back to center will allow him the chance to prove the he can be a starter on a NFL offensive line once more. 

This is one of the true positions that is open for competition this year.  May the best one win the job.


4. Defensive Secondary (mainly Safety)

Risk: Safety position, Experience, Injury, Depth

The loss of Darren Sharper will hurt this team considerably.  Granted the scheme that the Vikings play was not as conducive to Sharpers style, but he had experience.  He could recognize plays before they got started. Tyrell Johnson will be a great fit for this scheme though. 

Madieu Williams has some glaring injury concerns. The neck injury really affected him all year long. Beyond the starters, there is room for major concern in Minnesota.  Abdullah (undrafted rookie in 2008) has skill but is still raw. What other options are they considering?

Reward: Youth, Scheme, Flexibility

Williams and Johnson can provide one of the best tandems in the league.  They both can cover and hit extremely well. 

They are fairly young in terms of NFL safeties go as well.  They could end up covering the field turf (or grass if they get an outdoor stadium) for the Vikings for years to come.  The cover-two scheme that the Vikings run is perfectly suited for their style of play. 

They don't get beat over the top and the punish everything underneath.  They are both excellent at run support as well.  With Antoine Winfield getting a little older, they could shift him to safety if needed.

He has the knowledge of the game and is a top-notch defender in coverage and run support. If they had to do something, they have plenty of options at cornerback.  Although they would hate to move him away from that position, they have options if needed.


5. Philosophy update

Risk: Lack of confidence, Predictability, Limitations

Brad Childress has been as dry with his play-calling as he is with his press-conferences.  There is no change, no excitement.  Play-calling is not the only thing that is in need of some tweaking. 

Special teams has been horrible last year.  Field position is not always about punting as far as possible.  Coverage is the other factor that was widely missed last year. 

The players involved also had a hand in what could be done on the field.  Jackson closed the playbook considerably. Gus could not go with all of the movement calls either.  The Vikings made little attempt to get out of their comfort zones last year and were drastically exposed in the playoff loss to Philly.

Reward:  Sense of Urgency, Different Players, Nothing to lose

The window for this particular team is not as wide as it was two years ago.  Many contracts will be coming to an end at the end of this season or next.  The team is geared up to win and win big this year and next.  The infusion of some more play-makers (Harvin, Favre) should allow for more things to be done.

Favre has the knowledge to be able to use the entire playbook.  Harvin has the flexibility to be used in numerous situations.  Loadholt should be an upgrade at right tackle and allow for more runs to that side of the formation. 

Harvin could be utilized in a version of the 'Wildcat' formations also.  The Vikings won the division last year and thus would have a bulls-eye on their backs this year.  It is harder to stay on top of the mountain than to get to the top. 


The season is a long ways away.  There is a lot of time to work on the areas of need.


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