It’s that time of year again.
Once again the Viking faithful have had their team talked up for a deep playoff, and possible championship, run.
Is this the year we finally shake off years of disappointment and reach our expectations, or will we once again be let down by the greatest tease in all of professional sports?
With all the talk about Brett Favre joining the Vikings, many other stories about this year’s squad have been overlooked. After a strong showing last year the team has improved in every questionable area.
The defense, which ranked 6th overall and 1st against the run, will be getting E.J. Henderson back. Before getting injured last year, E.J. was playing very well and his return should give the defense a boost.
Last year’s acquisition of Jared Allen added strength to an already solid defensive line, adding 14 sacks. Chad Greenway also had a great year, leading the team with 115 tackles.
The only real loss on defense was Darren Sharper. While being an excellent leader, he only had one interception and, being 33, the team decided not to resign the veteran; starting duties will go to 2nd year man Tyrell Johnson.
The offense last year again relied on the strong running of rushing leader Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor, finishing 5th in the league for team rushing, but also showed signs of things to come in the passing game.
Bernard Berrian led the league in yards-per-catch and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe finally overcame a case of the dropsies, ending up with seven touchdowns.
The only major loss on offense was the departure of center Matt Birk, an intelligent leader for the offensive line. Birk’s duties are projected to be taken over by rookie John Sullivan and it will be interesting to see how the newcomer handles the pro game.
Also new to the offensive line is massive rookie tackle Phil Loadholt who is expected to start opposite gigantic Bryant McKinnie, giving Favre a wall of muscle for protection.
First round draft pick Percy Harvin is expected to be a versatile weapon both on offense as a wide receiver and possible “wildcat” option, and special teams as a return man. His speed will add more firepower to the already explosive skill position players.
The special teams, which struggled last year, also received a few changes by promoting assistant coach Brian Murphy. How he will change up the poor coverage teams has yet to be seen but the resigning of ace Heath Farwell will make his job easier.
Chris Kluwe finished 6th among punters by averaging 47.6 yards a punt. If Murphy can straighten up the coverage problems, this unit can be solid.
I have talked about many areas of this year’s squad, saying very little about the one most interesting element; what about Brett Favre?
His addition should make the Vikings passing attack worthy of some defensive attention, opening up opportunities for the dangerous Peterson. If Favre can get opposing defenses to not stack the line with eight players keying in on the run, his acquisition will be worth the drama.
But bringing in Favre also adds another, less talked about story to the squad. Which quarterbacks will secure spots on the roster?
Tavaris Jackson was expected to compete for the starting job with newly acquired Sage Rosenfels while the Favre drama played out. Now there are four quarterbacks gunning for three roster spots.
Rosenfels looked composed in the preseason opener, while Jackson struggled, leaving the back up position up in the air. Also, what to do with 2nd year man John David Booty.
Favre adds hall of fame experience and knowledge which could be used to mentor a young gunslinger, but who is the team going to stick with? Will it carry Jackson, and his contract, or groom in the young Booty?
Seeking outside help from Favre shows the organizations doubt about Jackson being the future of the team and I think he may end up being the odd man out, being potential trade bait.
Once again, I sit brimming with excitement over the potential of this year’s squad, hoping against hope that they can bring it all together. Will our expectations be let down once again?
We can only watch and see how it turns out, sitting on our couches with family and friends, appetizers and refreshing drinks by our side. Doesn’t sound too bad to me.