ESPN Scouts Inc. article on Viking needs
Although the Vikings clearly need to show more discipline, they are still very talented. In fact, this is the team most ready to challenge the Bears for supremacy in the NFC North. In addition, Minnesota has run a version of the West Coast offense since the end of the Dennis Green era. As a result, the team won't have to make a ton of offensive adjustments with Brad Childress taking over as head coach.
That won't be the case on defense. New defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin will install his version of the Cover 2, and the potential for a rocky transition is high because Minnesota's linebackers aren't good fits for the system. In addition, the Vikings need a few high-character players committed to righting the ship on and off the field.
Running back: Michael Bennett is an unrestricted free agent who the Vikings are not likely to re-sign. Bennett has made plays in spurts but the team is looking for more consistency out of the position. Although Onterrio Smith will return from his one-year drug suspension, he cannot be counted on after missing an entire season. Mewelde Moore should be a nice fit for Childress' system and provide good depth. However, Minnesota needs a franchise back who has the speed and receiving skills to excel in this offense.
Outside linebacker: The Vikings have a lot of bodies here but not enough talent. Napoleon Harris was sitting on the bench by season's end, and former second-round pick Raonall Smith is an unrestricted free agent who has basically been a bust. E.J. Henderson and Dontarrious Thomas need to mature and are extremely inconsistent. Making matters worse, Keith Newman is coming off a knee surgery.
Middle linebacker: There isn't an inside linebacker on the roster who is a good fit for the Cover 2 scheme Tomlin will employ. Sam Cowart is a solid run defender and veteran leader, but he lacks ideal range and isn't fast enough to run down the middle of the field with tight ends.
Quarterback: Daunte Culpepper has been squawking about wanting a new deal even though he is coming off a disappointing season that ended with a major knee injury. In all likelihood, he will not be ready to start until midseason. Veteran Brad Johnson played well in his place, but he is on the downside of his career and might not be able to produce at the same level. With Culpepper coming off a serious injury and Johnson aging, Minnesota needs to improve its depth here.
Safety: Darren Sharper played very well once he got accustomed to the new system but he is not getting any younger. Corey Chavous, an unrestricted free agent who has been unhappy about not getting a new deal prior to the start of last season, likely will be moving on. There is not much quality depth here either.
Big things were expected from Minnesota before a slow start, injuries and off-the-field incidents derailed its season. In addition, there is no question that there are concerns about the backfield, and changes have to be made on defense.
However, these problems are fixable, and the Vikings still have enough talent to make a run deep into the playoffs. Keeping that in mind, the Vikings must do two things well this offseason. The first is adding the right players to fill important voids, and the second is adding high-character players who will help the team buy into Childress' philosophies and long-term vision.
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