I personally don't think the Vikings have a chance in this division, just because the Detroit Lions and Packers are both too far ahead for the Vikings to make a turn-around. And both have looked very strong this season. But of course, with a phenomenal running back like Adrian Peterson, anything is possible.
Here are my thoughts per position:
QuarterbackTavaris Jackson was supposed to be brought in here to take over QB after Brad Johnson left. Well that came a lot sooner than expected and he was forced to jump into NFL action prematurely. He's got a great arm, but lacks awareness and I just don't think that the West Coast Offense is the best offensive scheme for a young quarterback like Jackson. I understand why Head Coach Brad Childress drafted him, he ran the same style offense when he was the offensive coordinator with the Eagles and Donovan McNabb. McNabb and Jackson are essentially the same style of athlete and quarterback. I really want to be optimistic about Jackson and hope he turns it round, but I just don't see it happening. It's not all his fault, he doesn't have a go-to wide receiver he's been able to rely on, but at this point, I don't think it'd matter all that much. So with that said, I really think the Vikings will push hard for McNabb this summer either via trade or via free agency (if he's released by the Eagles). McNabb and Childress still to this day have a great relationship and I think that McNabb would be a good teacher for Jackson. If we don't go after him, I see us drafting a quarterback in either the first round or second round.
Who could be there? Well in the first round, Matt Ryan is surely moving up the boards. I've liked Matt Ryan for a year or so, basically just because I've liked B.C. since William Green was running on opponents a few years ago, but I think that he's a good quarterback prospect. He poses a strong arm with great accuracy. He also has good vision on the field with his 6-foot-5 frame. I would have to rate him #1 right now. #2 would be Brian Brohm. I don't get the "product of the system" tag many put on him. Louisville has run the ball as well as they've passed the ball the last few years (remember Michael Bush?). It's not Brohm's fault that he makes that offense what it is. I personally hope the Vikings end up with Brohm over Ryan, but I have to still put him behind Ryan at this point. The Vikings biggest problem with drafting Brohm will be to get him before Atlanta gets him. Bobby Petrino was Brohm's coach at Loiuisiville and now coaches the Falcons. And with Michael Vick likely out for next season (if the Falcons would even consider bringing him back) I think the Falcons will push hard for Brohm. Next I want to put Dennis Dixon at #3, and although I like the ball he throws, I think he's a better athlete than quarterback and I can see him moving to wide receiver at the NFL level. Of course a team will probably try him at QB, but his run-first mentality probably won't equate to much at the next level as it's few and far between. So #3, I would put Andrea Woodson of Kentucky. You can argue that he's in the same field as Dixon with athleticisim, but I think Woodoson is more of a natural quarterback, and not a running back/wide receiver playing QB which I see in Dixon.
I would be happy with any of them, but I prefer Brohm the most.
Rookie Adrian Peterson is having a year for the ages. Not only is he a possibility for the NFL Rookie of the Year award, he could also make a run for the most yards in a season by a running back, and he could also battle Tom Brady for MVP, but only if Brady makes a big drop off from now through the end of the season. I've watched Peterson very closely since his freshman year, and he is honestly the reason why I started watching college football in the first place. Before him, I would only watch the Championship game and the Heisman Ceremony. So was I happy the Vikings drafted him? Of course. But to be honest, when I was looking at mock drafts before the draft, I didn't want us to draft him. It wasn't at all because of his injuries, it was because I liked Peterson so much that I felt bad he was going to end up on a bad team, like the Vikings. But I guess that if he didn't fall to us, he'd fall to another bad team regardless, so it kind of works out that the Vikings got him after all. If the offense could ever learn to throw the ball, we are going to have a phenomenal offense since Peterson is arguably the best runner in all of football. Although I still think LaDainian Tomlinson is a more complete back, I think Peterson's pass catching skills are underrated. Peterson's made a few mental mistakes here and there, but he's a rookie and he'll get over them. I hope that the Vikings trade Chester Taylor in the off-season. It's not because I don't like him, but it's because I think we could get a good return for him and I think we could find another suitable backup to Peterson. I think a 3rd-round pick wouldn't be out of line at all (it's also give the Vikings three 3rd-round picks which we could possibly package in a trade).
I honestly like the direction that our receiving core is heading. The arrival of Sidney Rice is great, but it doesn't help him or anyone else when nobody can throw them the ball. Troy Williamson in my opinion is not the right fit for this offense. I think he'd be better in an offense like the Colts, who throw it more down field. I know people will say "well he can't catch the ball" and my argument is that almost every ball is over thrown or under thrown to him. In the Bears game earlier this season, he and Jackson connected on a 60-yard touchdown which was a rare "perfect throw" to him. And the Vikings only attempt to throw it down field ends up with the receiver running a straight route down the sideline allowing the opposing defensive backs to use the sideline as a second defender. I blame Childress for that. I'm also critical of his crossing routes, because they rarely ever end up in a big gain, and our receivers are burners who can make a cut and take it to the house at any time. The crossing routes we run don't allow us to do that. Personally I just blame Childress for all of our problems here. We also need to get Visanthe Shiancoe more involved in the offense. I know they've increased his role a bit the past few weeks, but he's an important player in this offense and he could help turn this team around (not kidding). It's not so much he can help turn this around, but any consistant receiver (mostly at tight end) could help turn this team around.
I will reiterate what most already have stated. Bryant McKinnie is vastly overrated and overpaid. He has been very inconsistant for our o-line this season and he has let the defense put too much unneeded pressure on our quarterback. But I'm not going to go on and say that he's the problem why our quarterbacks haven't produced. But he isn't helping either. I really like the Steve Hutchinson-Matt Birk combo we have on the left-center of our line. They are very agile for big men and have helped Adrian Peterson break free. Peterson's success can be looked closely at what these two guys have done for him. I think the right side of our line needs help, and I hope we address it in the off-season either through the draft or free agency. I will also like to add, that I don't think McKinnie is a horrible left tackle. But I think that the "zone blocking" scheme that Childress runs is not his forte. McKinnie could really benefit with a change of scenery, or a different blocking scheme.
This probably our most "sound" and consistent group on the team. The D-Line is anchored by the Kevin Williams and Pat Williams in the middle. With Ray Edwards and Kenechi Udeze on the outside. Edwards has looked promising at times, and he's also looked lost at times. Luckily for him, Brian Robison has been very impressive in just his first year and has helped him out, however he may be cast aside to let Robison start at some point this season. Udeze is also having an impressive season. After not sacking a single quarterback in 2006, he has 4 so far this season. Although I'm not sure it will be enough to secure his starting job in 2008. Erasmus James still hasn't made an impact since he's come back with a knee injury. He's under contract with the Vikings until 2012, so he'll have time to prove he's worthy, but he needs to get healthy and stay healthy to get the chance.
I personally like our linebackers, but they can make me very frustrated at times with inconsistent play, primarily in coverage. Ben Leber is a very good defender, but he's been burned a few times this season, as has Chad Greenway and E.J. Henderson. I like Henderson up the middle, where he's been very effective this season, and I like Greenway's athleticism, so I'm still very optimistic about this group.
A group I'm far less optimistic about is our defensive backs. Coming into this season, we had a very good backfield with Antoine Winfield and Darren Sharper as the main components, but they as well as everyone else has looked dreadful this season. Promising young corner back Cedric Griffin has been very hard to watch at times as he still has been making rookie mistakes, yet it is his second year. I would not be surprised to see a huge overhaul to our backfield this off season with Sharper possibly being cut and Winfield can't feel safe either. I think Winfield is one of the best corners in football, but I think his disagreements with Childress will possibly push him out of Minnesota. Next season, I will be very uncomfortable if Griffin and rookie Marcus McCauley are our starters. Dwight Smith will likely be gone as well, which means we could potentially have 3 holes that need to be filled. If we keep Winfield, I wouldn't be surprised to see Griffin moved to safety to fill a hole, where I think he'd be better at anyways. If that became reality, a big name free agent would be nice to help out the weakest part of our defense.
Ryan Longwell and Chris Kluwe have been very good for us this season. I don't have much to say about them, except that I'm happy we inked Kluwe to a long-term deal and that I'm happy Longwell is a Viking.
But for returning. I think that it's ridiculous to have Adrian Peterson out there returning kicks, unless it's a dyer situation. I understand that he'd be a big risk if we're under pressure and he doesn't have experience (look at his rookie mistake against the Eagles), but I don't think he needs to be returning kicks at all. I'd like to see the Vikes add a big home run threat this off-season like the Bears have with Devin Hester or like the Jets have with Leon Washington. But then again, so would everyone else.
I really don't like Childress, but I don't think that's a surprise if you read this. I think that he has a few good ideas like his "good person, before good player theory", but he needs to not take it so far. I knew the Vikings were doomed in '06 the moment we cut Koren Robinson. I know that he's not a good example since he was suspended anyways, but he was definitely our biggest offense threat and he was cut because of Childress' theory (I know he would've gotten disciplinary actions regardless, but Childress have been very stern with this theory). This isn't grade school football anymore, the best players are going to make the biggest impact, and it's just an added benefit if they are good people as well. I'm not endorsing that we become the Cincinnati Bengals and have talented players and don't control them, but we need to have a balance.
I hate the offensive and defensive scheme's we run. Our quarterback and wide receivers are not fit for the West Coast Offense. Our offensive line should be man-to-man blocking and not zone-blocking. And I've never been a fan of the Cover-2 (aka Tampa-2) defense we run. We've left our corner backs very susceptible to giving up big plays and I really wish we would've never implemented the T-2 defense in the first place. But I suppose if we ran it correctly, it may be a different story. Perhaps it's our players and not all the coaches fault. But I'm still very critical of Childress for his decisions he's made these last two seasons.
I like the direction that our team is going, but that's mainly because of our strong offensive and defensive lines and Adrian Peterson running behind our moving trucks of Matt Birk and Steve Hutchinson.
What are your thoughts of the team? Are my grades out of line? What do you think needs to change?