MINNESOTA VIKINGS / 2013 TEAM NEEDS
The offense’s basic framework will be similar. The team will employ a rhythm passing game and a power rushing attack led by the incredible Adrian Peterson. Leslie Frazier has said that Christian Ponder will be the starting quarterback next season, and he was playing his best ball in the final few games. But major questions reside at receiver and how the Vikings can be more dynamic offensively.
TOP 3 OFFENSIVE NEEDS
WR — Percy Harvin’s place with the team is in limbo. Free agents Jerome Simpson and Devin Aromashodu are not certain to return, and Michael Jenkins was released. That leaves Jarius Wright, Stephen Burton and Greg Childs, who is coming off two torn knee tendons. They need a viable split end to make Bill Musgrave’s offense sing and could go both the veteran and draft-pick routes to find help here.
OG — Assuming ORT Phil Loadholt is re-signed, tackle and center are set. But the guard position needs reinforcements. OLG Charlie Johnson was just OK, and ORGs Brandon Fusco and Geoff Schwartz were up and down, as well. At worst, they need depth here.
TE— Injuries killed John Carlson’s season, and who knows if he will return to form? Kyle Rudolph needs a running mate if the Vikings want to be a two-TE offense, as Rhett Ellison is more of an H-back. Carlson was paid good money last offseason and could be back if the Vikings guarantee his salary. Not a major concern, but a depth issue.
The Vikings’ coaching staff settled down nicely, and it resulted in a more even defensive performance that was not so reliant on front-four pressure. New coordinator Alan Williams called the schemes and did a good job re-implementing more of the Tampa-2 coverages that Leslie Frazier prefers. The coverage can be better, as can the tackling, but this is a decent group.
TOP 3 DEFENSIVE NEEDS
DT — Will Kevin Williams be back? Not likely at $7.5 million. So unless he redoes his deal, the team will target help. NT Letroy Guion hardly guaranteed his starting spot next season with an uneven performance. NT Fred Evans played well as a reserve but might not be better with more snaps, and DT Christian Ballard doesn’t appear to have starter potential.
MLB — Both Jasper Brinkley and Erin Henderson are free agents, and neither stood out as Tampa-2 “Mike” linebackers. The position requires top coverage skills in this scheme, and neither player performed that well in the nickel package, which was employed heavily in 2012. Look for the team to move on from one of them and target a player with superior cover skills.
CB — Antoine Winfield turns 36 in June, great as he is. Chris Cook is entering a contract season and carries durability concerns. Josh Robinson could be great but isn’t there yet. A.J. Jefferson is probably a dime back at best, and Marcus Sherels is strictly a punt returner. More help is needed here.
2012 DRAFT REWIND
1st round (4): OLT Matt Kalil / USC (GP/GS: 16/16)
Skinny: Everything the team could have hoped for in first season.
1st round (29): FS Harrison Smith /Notre Dame (GP/GS: 16/16)
Skinny: A bit up and down, but helped steady a shaky defensive backfield.
3rd round (66): CB Josh Robinson / UCF (GP/GS: 16/6)
Skinny: Speedy, has loads of potential, but fell out of rotation late.
4th round (118): WR Jarius Wright / Arkansas (GP/GS: 7/1)
Skinny: Displayed play-making flashes. Expected to take on bigger role in ‘13.
4th round (128): TE Rhett Ellison / USC (GP/GS: 16/7)
Skinny: H-back/move TE who saw snaps gradually increase.
4th round (134): WR Greg Childs /Arkansas (GP/GS: 0/0)
Skinny: Two torn tendons cost him season; long rehab continues.
5th round (139): CB Robert Blanton / Notre Dame (GP/GS: 13/0)
Skinny: Majority of snaps on special teams transitioning from CB.
6th round (175): PK Blair Walsh / Georgia (GP/GS: 16/0)
Skinny: Best rookie kicker ever? Ten 50-yard FGs say it all.
7th round (210): SLB Audie Cole / North Carolina State (GP/GS: 5/0)
Skinny: Highlight was back-to-back pick-sixes … in preseason game.
7th round (219): DE-DT Trevor Guyton / California (GP/GS: 0/0)
Skinny: Cut at end of camp. Not re-signed to practice squad.
SUMMARY: No stars in group, save for maybe Kalil, but several valuable contributors — including major sleeper Walsh.