In an ideal world, it should not matter whether or not Christian Ponder or Matt Cassel is the starting quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings.
Ponder is going to be the starter—leading us to believe he is the better player—but unlike other teams such as the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots or Green Bay Packers where the quarterback is the marquee player, in Minnesota we all know who it’s all about.
He wears No. 28, goes by All Day and craves orange peanuts.
Yes, sports fans, I’m talking about the one and only Adrian Peterson.
I don’t bring up the quarterback thing to put down Ponder (or Cassel), but this year’s play-caller is going to be more Trent Dilfer than Brett Favre...and that’s okay.
The Vikings have put myriad weapons around Ponder, placing him in a position to succeed even if he’s not pulling plays out of his behind like the Ol’ Gunslinger once did.
It starts with Peterson, of course, but having a wide receiver corps of Greg Jennings, Jerome Simpson and Cordarrelle Patterson in addition to tight ends Kyle Rudolph and John Carlson makes Mr. Samantha Steele’s job a whole lot easier.
No, there are no Randy Moss-caliber players in that group, but there are no Troy Williamsons either. (Quick aside: I seriously would pay good money to see him fight Brad Childress. I actually think Chilly Willy stands a chance. He probably freezes his opponents and rips out their spine like Sub Zero).
Minnesota boasts a lot of weapons, so defenses should have trouble keeping the passing game at bay—especially with Peterson and backup Toby Gerhart forcing opponents to plug up the box.
As long as Ponder is capable of executing a handoff and distributing the ball while keeping it out of the hands of opposing defenses, the Vikings will be just fine.
The offensive line is equipped to give him time in the pocket, so his decisions should not be rushed. In no way should he have to carry the team on his back unless it gets down really early in the game.
In order to understand how the Vikings will attack opposing defenses, let's look at their running game, receiving corps and tight ends.
There is no secret here: A.D. is Minnesota’s guy, and while the Vikings may not run him until he vomits like C.J. Spiller out in Buffalo, Peterson might have a couple dry heaves toward the end of contests.
Nobody in their right mind would have the best running back in the game and force their quarterback to carry the team. Peterson is going to have the ball in his hands all game and should be chewing up yardage and clock all season long.
Gerhart’s role on the team should not be overlooked, however. A.D. is human—or at least we think so—and like all other human beings, he is going to need rest.
Peterson by no means shies away from contact—far from it—but Gerhart is more of a bull and is going to bowl over defenders.
Let’s put it this way: If Peterson is a muscle car, Gerhart is J.R. Smith’s armored vehicle.
Speaking of Brink's trucks or whatever the hell that is Smith uses to commute to work, the Vikes are going to miss Jerome Felton. According to ESPN’s Ben Goessling, Felton was suspended three games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. This stems from his DUI in June 2012.
While Forbes says he is overpaid, he was a Pro Bowl fullback for the team last season.
This should be good news for my guy Zach Line, a former running back who tore it up at Southern Methodist and scored an impressive 61-yard touchdown earlier in the preseason.
Line or whoever Minnesota chooses to put at fullback has big shoes to fill for those first three games and will be an important—perhaps overlooked—factor when the season begins.
Wide Receiver Corps
Big things will be expected of Jennings, Patterson and Simpson this year.
The risk paid off when the Vikes were able to land Jennings and then deal four draft picks to the Patriots to select Patterson.
C-Pats, as nobody calls him, not only has the pressure of being part of a massive trade and filling Harvin’s shoes, but he also has only one year of Division I football under his belt and chose No. 84. That number was worn by a superstar receiver in Moss.
Patterson has a lot to learn in the upcoming weeks and will need to show he can rapidly catch up to the NFL game. The physical tools are there, but it takes more than speed and leaping ability to be an impact player at the game’s highest level.
Jennings has been around the block and will serve as a mentor for Patterson. He comes from a team called the Green Bay Packers—a club which, last I heard, is viewed unfavorably by the Vikings fanbase.
On the field, he will be expected to be a go-to guy and is capable of putting up big numbers in the league. Opposing defenses will not be allowed to zero in on him, however, with Patterson and Simpson toeing the line of scrimmage.
He will likely enter the regular season as the favorite for the No. 3 wide receiver spot, but will be challenged by two 23-year-olds: Jarius Wright, a fourth-rounder, and Stephen Burton, who was selected in the seventh round.
Joe Webb might also get a spot on the 53-man roster because of his hybrid ability to line up as a slot receiver and play as a third-string quarterback (or at least conduct a civil game of 500).
All in all, Ponder should have plenty of options to throw to once the regular season starts.
The Notre Dame boys, Rudolph and Carlson, are both receiving threats and can help with the running game, making them big assets to this football team.
It is a surprise that tight ends are not held in higher regard around the league because of the varied skill set they must possess to excel at their position.
Rudolph and Carlson are both in the 6’6”, 250-pound range and athletic, so they can bulldoze opponents to create running lanes as well as create matchup problems in the open field.
Like other great tight ends, their speed will bother some linebackers while their size will threaten safeties and cornerbacks once they get into the open field.
Vikings fans tend to be bullish on Rudolph, but some tend to harbor mixed feelings about Carlson.
On one hand, he is a hometown guy from Litchfield that was born with incredible talent at his position. On the other hand, he has an extensive injury history and joined Felton on the list of most overpaid players in the offseason.
If Carlson falters, Rhett Ellison, a fourth-rounder from 2012, or free-agent signing Chase Ford out of Miami will challenge for his spot.
Assuming Carlson can stay healthy and Rudolph continues to do his thing, both Ponder and Peterson should be in good hands entering the season.
On the outside, it may look like Ponder, Cassel, you or me could quarterback this Vikings team. It features an impressive offensive line, a plethora of receiving options, two solid tight ends and the best running back in the game.
Hell, even Troy Williamson could probably have a productive snap or two at quarterback.
With how the offense is shaping up, the upcoming season should be an exciting one for Vikings fans.
Tom Schreier covers Minnesota sports for Bleacher Report and is a contributor to Yahoo! Sports.
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