Minnesota Vikings: Before the Disaster, a Look Back at the 2009 Report Card
2009 Minnesota Vikings Report Card
Heading into the 2009 season, expectations were high for the Minnesota Vikings. Brett Favre had decided to play once and for all, and he was expected to be the competent quarterback the team had been missing.
The Vikings won the NFC North with a 12-4 record, and earned the No. 2 seed in the conference. But it all came to a disappointing end in the NFC Championship Game, as they turned the ball over five times on the way to a 31-28 overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints.
Here's my position-by-position report card for the 2009 Vikings.
Quarterback Grade: A
Brett Favre enjoyed one of his best seasons this season, topping 4,200 passing yards with 33 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. As the season went along he and the passing game had to carry more of the offensive load, and the 40-year-old was up to the task in most games.
Favre is under contract for next season, but he could choose to retire. If he does not return, that would leave Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels in his place. Jackson is scheduled to become a free agent this offseason, but has stated his desire to return to the team. Rosenfels was acquired via trade last offseason from the Houston Texans, and is under contract through 2011.
Draft Outlook: Even if Favre chooses to return next season, the Vikings still need to find a quarterback of the future. It is possible they would continue to try to groom Jackson if they choose to re-sign him, but he has had opportunities in the starting role and was a disappointment.
Running Backs Grade: A
Adrian Peterson had another excellent regular season in 2009, finishing with 1,383 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns along with a career-high 43 receptions. He continues to have fumbling issues at times, but that is really the only negative with him.
Chester Taylor continues to play in Peterson’s shadow, and is usually fairly productive (44 receptions this season) when he gets a chance. He is scheduled to be a free agent this offseason, so there is a decent chance he could find an opportunity to play more elsewhere.
Fullback Naufahu Tahi is an effective blocker and even caught a touchdown this season. He should continue to be the Vikings starter next season.
Draft Outlook: If Taylor leaves via free agency, the Vikings may draft a backup for Peterson. Otherwise, this does not look like a pressing need on draft day.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends Grade: B+
Sidney Rice enjoyed a breakout season with Brett Favre under center, as he had 83 receptions for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns. He is a player on the rise, but he will be challenged to repeat his success next season if Favre does not return.
Percy Harvin was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year after totaling 60 receptions for 790 yards and six touchdowns along with averaging 27.5 yards on kickoff returns with two returns for touchdowns.
Bernard Berrian had a disappointing regular season, with just 55 catches for 618 yards and four touchdowns. In fairness, he battled hamstring issues for much of the season and did have his best game (nine catches for 102 yards) in the NFC Championship Game.
Darius Reynaud averaged 10.3 yards per punt return, and proved to be adequate in that role. He did not catch a pass all season.
Greg Lewis had just eight catches during the season. His shining moment was a game-winning touchdown catch in Week 3 against San Francisco.
TE Visanthe Shiancoe had the best season of his career in 2009, with 56 receptions for 566 yards and a team-high 11 touchdowns. He was a reliable red zone target for Brett Favre but his challenge, as with all the Vikings pass-catchers, will be to continue this season’s success if Favre does not return next season.
TE Jim Kleinsasser is the longest-tenured Viking, and is still an effective blocker.
TE Jeff Dugan caught two touchdowns this season, but is not big factor in the passing game.
Draft Outlook: The Vikings seem to have solid depth at tight end, but if a young, dynamic talent were to be available they may have to consider taking him.
Offensive Line Grade: B
Left tackle Bryant McKinnie and left guard Steve Hutchinson were elected to the Pro Bowl from this unit, and center John Sullivan replaced the departed Matt Birk and played fairly well. Elsewhere, right guard Anthony Herrera and rookie right tackle Phil Loadholt were usually adequate.
The offensive line may get much of the blame for the long stretch of games Adrian Peterson had over the second half where he failed to top 100 yards, at least prior to the NFC Championship Game. The line should get some credit for keeping Favre upright and mostly healthy all season.
Draft Outlook: The Vikings may look to add some depth to this unit, and perhaps may look to find a replacement for Herrera at right guard.
Placekicker Grade: A+
Ryan Longwell missed just two field goals all season, and remains among the best kickers in the NFL.
Defensive Line Grade: A
DE Jared Allen had 14 sacks this season on his way to earning a Pro Bowl bid. He had 7.5 sacks in two games against Green Bay this season.
DT Kevin Williams had six sacks this season and earned another Pro Bowl bid. He is among the best interior linemen in the NFL.
DT Pat Williams was an important run-stuffer for the Vikings again this season. But he may not have many more years left since he will turn 38 during next season.
DE Ray Edwards had eight sacks during the regular season and also had three sacks in the Divisional Round win over Dallas.
DT Jimmy Kennedy provided solid depth behind the “Williams Wall” as he had three sacks during the regular season.
Also providing depth along the defensive line is DE Brian Robison (four sacks in 2009), DT Fred Evans and DE Jayme Mitchell.
Draft Outlook: The Vikings may look to draft an eventual replacement for Pat Williams in April, but otherwise defensive line is not a huge need.
Linebackers Grade: B+
Chad Greenway led the team in total tackles with 99 along with three interceptions. He is a player on the rise.
Middle linebacker E.J. Henderson had 83 total tackles in 12 games before suffering a broken left femur. His status for the start of training camp next season is in doubt, and would create a substantial void in the Vikings linebacking corps.
Ben Leber had a solid season with two sacks. He will return to his spot on the weak side next season.
Jasper Brinkley stepped into Henderson’s starting spot as a rookie this season and played solidly against the run but struggled in pass coverage. If Henderson is not ready for the start of next season, he should get the first shot at earning the starting nod.
Heath Farwell and former CFLer Kenny Onatolu were key special teams contributors this season, and they should continue to make an impact there next season.
Draft Outlook: The Vikings may look to add some younger depth behind the solid starting three, and may have to look to find a replacement for Henderson if his injury winds up being career-threatening.
Defensive Backs Grade: B-
CB Cedric Griffin finished second on the team in tackles with 78 and also had a team-leading four interceptions. He suffered what is feared to be a severe knee injury (torn ACL and MCL?) while covering a kickoff in overtime of the 2010 NFC Championship Game, which puts his status for the start of next season in doubt.
CB Antoine Winfield was hampered by a right foot injury for a large portion of the season, missing six games and being in limited duty in a few others (including the two playoff games). He still finished with 55 total tackles and one interception, and remains one of the more underrated corners in the league.
Madieu Williams had 73 total tackles, but also missed his fair share of tackles at times. Due to the value of his contract, he will remain the Vikings’ starting free safety.
Tyrell Johnson took over for the departed Darren Sharper as the Vikings’ starting strong safety. He should be given the chance to improve upon his performance next season.
Providing depth in the secondary this season was rookie CB Asher Allen and rookie safety Jamarca Sanford along with CBs Benny Sapp and Karl Paymah. Eric Frampton and Husain Abdullah are contributors on special teams.
Draft Outlook: The Vikings may look to find a replacement for Johnson in hopes of possibly pushing him to improve if nothing else. Another corner is also a possibility, since Winfield will turn 33 during the offseason and Griffin is injured.
Punter Grade: A
Chris Kluwe averaged 43.9 yards per punt (eighth in the NFC) and had a 37.8 net average during the regular season. He is among the best punters in the NFC.
Overall Grade: A-
A season that finishes in the conference championship game is not a disappointment per se, but the Vikings had aspirations to the Super Bowl.
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