Vikings 16-0? It's a Possibility For fhe Purple And Gold
Go ahead and take a few minutes to laugh. Roll around on the floor and wipe those tears of laughter from your eyes. Banish me to the depths of Green Bay. Sentence me to a life on the streets of Chicago. Cut me up and feed me to Detroit.
How in the world will this ever happen?
Take a step back and look at the 2008 season. What was missing from the Vikings?
They were without their defensive captain and emotional leader for nearly the entire season. The man we all adore and refer to as Superman, EJ Henderson. Without a doubt, he was sorely missed from the dreaded Vikings' run defense last season.
EJ brings a new element to the defense that Napoleon Harris or David Herron couldn't quite reach. EJ is irreplaceable and an icon on a what appears to be an even deadlier defense next season.
The Vikings were also without their special teams captain and cover monster, Heath Farwell. He is back and will be ready to improve a terrible special teams that surrendered a terrible four returns for a touchdown, two by one person, Reggie Bush.
Along with the two captains, the hitting machine of Madieu Williams was missed for nearly half the season with a severe neck injury. The moment he came back, the secondary was revolutionized. He brought crazy ball-hawk skills and some devastating blows. It will be exciting to see what he can do with a full season in purple.
Other players that missed games include Pat Williams, Bryant McKinnie, and Sidney Rice. Jared Allen played with a partially separated shoulder for much of the season. He was expected to miss at least two weeks initially, but played through the pain and brought new meaning to the phrase, "never quit trying."
While it's true we lost a ton of leadership in Matt Birk and Darren Sharper, both players had less-than-stellar final seasons for the Vikings. Birk didn't have that initial pop to the defenders and Sharper was slowed mightily by age.
Who replaces a legend like Matt Birk and a ball-hawk like Sharper?
If my memory serves me correctly, a Pro Bowler by the name of Jeff Christy was replaced by a sixth-round pick from Harvard who ended up being a Pro Bowler himself, Matt Birk.
The same has happened here. John Sullivan was the sixth-round draft selection a year ago to replace an aging Matt Birk. John, like Matt, will be replacing a legend. I have a good feeling that history will repeat itself.
Sharper was definitely not what he used to be. He had slowed way down and was not getting the opportunity to catch many interceptions. Tyrell Johnson, the Vikings' second-round selection will be given the chance to show why the Vikings took him in a pick that surprised much of Vikings Nation last year.
Johnson is a hard-hitting safety with a nose for the ball. He played admirably filling in for injured Madieu Williams last season. He got the chance to sit and watch how the game was played; now it's his turn to step up and make the plays that Sharper just couldn't anymore.
What did they get in the offseason?
The Vikings needed to address their right tackle position. They found that in the draft. They drafted the biggest lineman in the draft, Phil Loadholt out of Oklahoma. He stands in a 6'8'' and 340 pound frame that gets used to plow defenders over with relative ease. He's a mirror image of the underrated Bryant McKinnie.
While neither is a very fast tackle, both excel in the run-blocking game and are no slouches when it comes to blocking for the quarterback. Phil is a huge upgrade over incumbent Ryan Cook.
They Vikings also selected playmaker Percy Harvin, who figures to add a whole new dimension to the Vikings' offense. He brings speed and athleticism to a needed position. It will be interesting to see how the Vikings use their new two-headed monster in Harvin-Peterson.
The Vikings third-round selection is very underrated. Asher Allen left after his junior season in Georgia to play in the NFL. He played the 2008 season with a broken hand, but opposing quarterbacks still didn't throw his way. He made huge plays and was a true shutdown corner for the Bulldogs. He could find himself in a nickel corner position next season.
There weren't any free agent signings to be recognized that will make a huge impact next season. The only offseason moves the Vikings had that were of any consideration were the re-signing of blocking extraordinaire Jim Kleinsasser and the acquisition of gun-slinger Sage Rosenfels for a fourth-round selection.
While it looks as if Sage could be the new starter, I'm going to go out on a limb and say it will be Brett Favre. He is getting surgery on his shoulder and pending the outcome, will sign with the Vikings.
How does their team actually look now?
The Vikings will walk into 2009 with basically the same team, just a year older and a year healthier. The return of EJ Henderson alone to the defense makes them deadly. Throw in a healthy Madieu Williams and newcomer Tyrell Johnson and you've got yourself the hardest hitting secondary in the NFL.
They have one of the easiest schedules in the NFL entering the new season. They play the Steelers and Ravens in back-to-back road games. That's bad news right? Not necessarily.
The Steelers still don't really have a running game and their offensive line is terrible. Had it not been for the efforts of Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers' offense would be footnote in a wondrous season lead by their remarkable defense.
The defense of the Steelers is feared as being dominant all-around. They have not faced a running back as amazing as Peterson nor have they faced the biggest tackle tandem in the NFL in McKinnie and Loadholt. That renders their defensive ends useless and allows Hutch and Herrera to do what they do best: find a linebacker and plow them over.
The Ravens defense is identical to the Steelers. They have the same 3-4 scheme, but lost star linebacker Bart Scott and cornerback Chris McAlister. Those are two huge gaps that cannot be filled. They will not repeat their 2008 success.
Outside of those two teams, the Vikings have a very easy schedule. Division rivals always pose a threat, but with a new quarterback at the helm in Brett Favre, the offense will be much improved over last season.
If you are one of many that think Brett doesn't have it anymore, take a look back two years ago. He had an MVP-like season that was erased with one bad throw. It happens to every quarterback; get off his back.
His 2008 Jets didn't do him any favors the last few weeks of the season. They dropped a league-leading 11 balls in the final weeks. It's pretty tough to sustain a drive when you're dropping passes. New York used Brett as a scapegoat for a terrible receiving corps.
Brett was also able to make Thomas Jones look good. Imagine what he could do with Peterson behind him. Throw in his healed shoulder and you've got a stronger-than-ever Brett Favre.
The passing offense will be taken care of. The passing defense is still working against the Vikings.
While I was not a believer in Cedric Griffin heading into 2008 as well as half the season, he slowly started to make a believer out of me. His explosive hits and ability to get in the receiver's face makes him a valuable asset and could be a starter for the Vikings for years to come.
His opposite, Antoine Winfield, is absolutely insane. He is getting old, but his age doesn't seem to show. He is still a premier shutdown corner and the best tackling corner in the NFL.
Whether you like it or not, the Vikings are Super Bowl ready. They have the best running back tandem in the league, the best defensive line in the league, and a crazy-good linebacking corps. If 1998 was exciting, 2009 should not disappoint. SKOL VIKINGS!
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