As the offseason now enters it’s final stages before training camp, teams are now fumbling their last minute grabs off of free agency. However, some teams, like the Minnesota Vikings, can only measure their offseason based on whom they didn’t resign.
The Vikings have been littered with many questions other then just who their starting quarterback will be come the start of the 2009 season. The Vikings face the looming issue of the end of 2012 season and no where to play in the state of Minnesota as they will have to leave the Metrodome.
On top of that, Brad Childress for a little over a season now has been pacing the Minnesota sidelines with a giant target on his back. Many have looked at his coaching style and find it too conservative for they type of players/talent they possess.
Although, with giant off the field questions hanging overhead, the Vikings face immediate issues with who will be playing on the field in ‘09.
Quarterback: (Tarvaris Jackson, Sage Rosenfels, J.D. Booty, [Brett Favrte?])
Official Grade: C- (w/o Favre) A- (w/ Favre)
One could only wonder which QB from this platoon will be leading come late August. Tarvaris Jackson’s efficiency (or lack thereof) has kept him in the mix, but Sage was brought in for a fourth-round pick and is expected to out-duel Jackson for the job.
Booty could prove to be a delightful surprise if he comes out firing in camp, but to think he’ll outmatch both Jackson and Rosenfels is a bit of stretch. The naysayers still think the Vikings will trade for a QB using other players on the roster including but not limited to Chester Taylor, Tarvaris Jackson, or Sage Rosenfels. Sage wants the opportunity to start, and he’ll have that in Minnesota...assuming Brett Favre doesn't sign.
As for this offense, they need a much better QB if they want to win the first Super Bowl title in the franchise’s history. Jackson is hardly first string material and Rosenfels has been a career back-up, much like the now recently departed Gus Frerotte. The only eyebrows that might be raised is if Sage clicks well or Booty makes a splash at camp…the former being more likely.
All the same, the intrigue of Favre could clear that final hurdle for the purple, but only time and a doctor will tell.
Running back: (Adrian Peterson, Chester Taylor, Albert Young, Ian Johnson) Official Grade: A+
What more can you say about the running back core if it boasts arguably the best running back tandem in the league? Adrian Peterson’s short career already has quite a list of mentionable achievements that could put place him in the Hall one day.
After leading the league last year in yards, the current single game record holder of yards in game with 296, NFC Rookie of the Year, and 2007 Pro Bowl MVP to name a few. Chester Taylor features probably the best number two running back numbers in the past couple years. These two are the centerpiece of the offense.
Add Percy Harvin to this backfield and it's immediately lethal.
Interesting enough, former Boise State Bronco Ian Johnson, whom played against Adrian Peterson when he was a Sooner at Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl in 2007. It was long remembered as one of the finer Bowls in recent history. Irony that both starting running backs from that game are on the Vikings roster heading into camp?
Fullback: (Naufatu Tahi, Jeff Dugan) Official Grade: B
As the resigning parade continued, Tahi was tendered to come back to the Vikings, a move that will be remembered this offseason as a vital one. Tahi is a big impact on the Vikings primary running attack and remains a pivotal piece of the Vikings offense.
Dugan should resume his back up role as the H-back/F-Back and pass-block tight end.
Wide Reciever - (Bernard Berrian,Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice, Bobby Wade)
Official Grade: B+/A-
Before Berrian joined this receiving core, it was a solid C- at best. A year later, and millions spent on Berrian, the Vikings have a true deep threat in Berrian, something they’ve been craving since Moss was sent to Oakland and Carter went on the shelf.
Sidney Rice was plagued with injuries last year and however reliable Bobby Wade is, he’s still a number three receiver at best.
The Vikings defiantly made a great move by grabbing Percy Harvin as a big time playmaker that could make an immediate impact. Harvin's speed is explosive and has natural hands. One could expect that Harvin could have a big time career in Minnesota, if he's healthy and stays out of trouble.
Tight End: (Visanthe Shiancoe, Jim Kleinsasser, Garret Mills) Official Grade: C-
Shaincoe is proving more and more to be an offensive threat, wherever he is on the field. He’s been of the more deeper threats lately seemingly because he isn’t being guarded by the fastest guys on the field. The resigning of Kleinsasser was a must.
Without him, this offensive line, now Birk-less would be average and thus making Peterson a much lesser threat. Shaincoe still has great upside and seems to have a nose for the endzone, but until he utilizes his height and athleticism, he’s still just an average tight end.
Offensive Line: (Bryant McKinnie, Steve Hutchinson, John Sullivan, Anthony Herrera, Phil Loadholt , *Artis Hicks, *Ryan Cook) Official Grade: C+
Without Birk in this line, it is simply average. Sullivan will be baptised under fire this year, fortunately for him, he’s got Steve Hutchinson on his left shoulder.
If McKinnie can prove his worth this year, he just may become a top-dollar tackle. Although,until he can stay out of trouble and overwhelm his opposing defensive ends, he’s a good tackle, but certainly not great.
Herrera is solid and should keep his spot at right guard despite the incoming fight for the job.
Phil Loadholt, the 6' 8" behemoth drafted in the second round by the Vikings should easily come in and take the starting right tackle spot. His large frame should prove to compliment left tackle Bryant McKinnie (also 6' 8") well.
Ryan Cook is too much risk nowadays. He’s had his better days, but when you’re getting flagged this much, you’re obviously trying to compensate for something. Cook could get moved back to center where he thrived at New Mexico State as a three-time All-American.
Word on the street is that Artis Hicks may earn a much desired spot as the new center. He certainly would deserve and fit the bill. Although it is quite likely Minnesota will keep Hicks as a versatile backup as he is much more valuable there.
Defensive Line: (Jared Allen, Pat Williams, Kevin Williams, Ray Edwards)
Official Grade: A
The two things Minnesota has as it’s bread and butter…running the ball and stopping the run. Jared Allen has made this line five yards short of immortal. Allen produced 14.5 sacks last year that Minnesota was craving, forcing trouble in the passing game which Minnesota has struggled with in recent years.
As a result, O-line’s and QB’s were more worried about Jared Allen and the Williams Wall then say…on first time Pro Bowl corner Antoine Winfield. The only factor that remains is that the Williams’ may have to see time out for anywhere from 1-4 weeks suspension, otherwise the league may have to fork up some doh. Either way, the line is strong enough to hold their own, even without the Williams’ Wall.
Linebackers: (E.J. Henderson, Chad Greenway, Ben Leber) Official Grade:B
Chad Greenway stepped up in only his second year of playing with the team (injured his rookie season). He led the team in tackles in 2008 with 115 tackles in the stead of the team captain, E.J. Henderson.
E.J. has been waiting for his year, his prime. Without a doubt 2008 was meant to be that year. Although the Vikings will be careful with him, expect E.J. to try and make up for his year of absence in a big way. With him healthy and if Winfield can play at the same intensity he did in 2008 the whole season, this defense could be downright scary.
Cornerbacks: (Antoine Winfield, Cedric Griffin, Charles Gordon, Benny Sapp, Marcus McCauley, Asher Allen) Official Grade: C
It’s hard for me to put a “C” grade of any sort next to Antoine Winfield, but he’s the only one really doing anything for this group. He achieved his first Pro Bowl selection in his 11 years in the league and is now enter the final year of his contract.
Griffin just received an extension and it’s an honest bet that the Vikings will try to find a consistent player with experience to add to the mix in the secondary probably to fill the role of the now departed Darren Sharper. Until Gordon, Sapp, and McCauley prove they're more then just fill-ins, Griffin will have a solid hold on a CB spot, especially after they invested a lot of money in him.
Asher Allen, the Vikings third round pick, who's been compared in ways Antoine Winfield, will be fighting for a spot in the nickel scheme and should prove to be a great pick up as long as injuries don't plague him.
Expect a three to four year deal heading Winfield’s way before this season is over, despite the early setbacks. Griffin and Rice will be coming into this year to prove they are worth what they’re paid and worth what they are on their team’s depth chart.
Safeties: (Madieu Williams, Tyrell Johnson) Official Grade: C-/D+
With Madieu battling injuries through the last season, he’s yet to be proven on his new team since coming to the Vikings last year. Yes he's a great player, but he needs to prove he's durable and able to lead this secondary.
Tyrell is young, did well in his short stint in place of Williams last year, but only proved that he’s still too young to rely on. Johnson has a lot of potential, but only time will tell if this tandem can function well in transition. Although it is possibly they will grab a veteran safety to help the transition for Johnson.
Kicker: Ryan Longwell Official Grade: A+
Longwell has been flawless and you can only expect him to keep up his good work; going into 2009 after going 29-for-34, not missing anything under 30 yards, and perfect from beyond 50 in 2008.
Punter: Chris Kluwe Official Grade: C+
Kluwe and other members of the special teams may need to keep better eye and mind on what they do with the ball. The Vikings gave up a record amount of touchdowns on returns last season.
With a new special teams coach, this should be addressed ASAP. And as long as Kluwe doesn’t kick the ball to Reggie Bush twice in the same game when he already takes it back to the endzone once.
Kick/Punt Returners: (Chester Taylor, Bernard Berrian, Percy Harvin)
Official Grade: B+
This was supposed to be solved with Maurice Hicks last year, but ended up being a complete flop. It seems the Vikings will look within to fill this void, but Taylor, Gordon and Berrian are defiantly good enough to do this if the need arises.
Not to mention with new acquisition Percy Harvin, the open field game could be flashes of Devin Hester-like returns if Harvin proves a deadly return man.
Coaching Staff/Ownership: (Brad Childress, Rick Spielman, Zygi Wilf) Official Grade: D-
There’s no telling where this team would really be if the coaching staff made some decisions that didn’t merit the term "pansy." Childress' lack of assertiveness in the Wild Card round of the playoffs this year probably cost the team the game in the final moments.
It is known fact that Childress sticks to his strengths, but to play a game like that with run plays in the final five minutes becomes asinine when you’re only a score away playing for your season’s longevity. All the same, Childress is now in his fourth season of his contracted five. He'll be fighting this year to keep his job.
Spielman has done little to nothing to improve the team over the offseason into the 2009 season. Other then the resignings, the trade for Sage Rosenfels and an attempt to sign star wideout T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Spielman has only prepped for the Draft.
It’s pretty clear to say Vikings fans were spoiled by the Vikings '07-'08 offseason with the acquisitions of Bernard Berrian, Jared Allen and Madieu Williams. As such, when the Vikings made it clear a QB change was to be made, many thought this meant a big name QB would be leading this offense. Obviously that isn’t the case...yet.
Zygi Wilf. New Stadium. Failure. Need I say more?