Regardless of how you feel about the draft - good, bad, or indifferent – you should feel pretty good going into the 2010 season.
Let’s all hope that Favre’s ankle is good enough to bring him into camp “Early” this year.
I won’t even get into who will start if Favre retires. However, it will be interesting to see how well Archer or Perrilloux comes along in training camp to see if the team would be willing to trade Sage. While unlikely as that may sound, it’s probably the only way either makes the roster. Their will be one heck of a battle for even practice squad spots this year, and the Vikings have a lot more invested in other players and uncertainty at other positions to forsee a QB taking a PS roster spot if Favre makes the team.
I really hope Perrilloux comes on strong enough in training camp to encourage the Vikings to trade Sage and beef-up one of their weaker positions.
RB - Running Back
By drafting Gerhart, the Vikings now have a RB tandem that could easily dominate the NFL for the next 5 years and will help solidify this offense even after Favre retires.
With Gerhart on the roster the Vikings will likely play more 2 RB sets reminiscent of the SF 49ers WCO of old. Both RBs are threats to run the ball up the middle or catch the ball out of the backfield. Combine this with Gerhart projecting as a capable blocking FB and the added ability to line-up Harvin in the backfield and send him in motion and we have the potential for another significant step forward for the Vikings offense. This was a major hole in the WCO that has been run by the Vikings in the past, but, now with the right personnel to run the WCO it should really get interesting.
3RD Running Back Spot
With AP and Gerhart commanding the top 2 RB positions the competition for the 3rd running back spot will be intense.
Reynaud – As a Punt Returner/3rd down only RB/Trash Time RB
Reynaud is a better option than Young or the Johnsons. RB/SLOT Receiver is probably a better position for Reynaud, while he has great hands and play making ability he doesn’t have the route running ability to ever be a major contributor at WR. Note that Reynaud gets a bump as the KR behind Harvin as well, with teams kicking away from Harvin more often late in the year Reynauds value to the team gets a bump.
Ian Johnson – Ideal RB for a practice squad, versatile player with great physical tools to simulate many RBs and is good pass catcher…I would keep trying to develop Johnson with his superior skills over V Young. With his slight frame and running skills not likely to help him carve out a starting RB role in the NFL (especially behind AD/Gerhart), I think they will keep Ian around to push Reynaud for the 3rd down RB role.
Young – Doesn’t bring a lot of value as a 3rd running back, Practice Squad is the most he can hope for, lack of speed and proven pass catching ability don’t bode well for Young. Young would be very unlikely to play when it counted, and
Reynaud could take care of “mop-up” duties just as easily.
With the FO having invested a draft pick in Reynaud, combined with his big play ability and his ability to return punts I have to think this position is his to lose.
Depending on the coaching staffs confidence in Reynaud there may be no need to go after a FA RB, especially with AD’s improvement in the passing game and Gerhart’s ability to confront blitzing LBs.
Conclusion, if Gerhart is as good as advertised and Reynaud adapts well to a 3rd down role the Vikings should have the playmaking ability and bone crunching impact that defensive teams fear.
This will be a very interesting position this offseason, while Gerhart looks to be a perfect compliment for AP, Gerhart makes more since as a feature back running behind a lead blocker. And make no mistake, when AP is getting his breather on the bench Gerhart will the feature back. The FB position will not disappear. However, the Vikings may fill this need much more creatively than anyone may think. We could very easily be saying goodbye to FB as a fulltime position and thus Tahi from the team and welcome in a FB by committee.
Look at all of the part time FBs on the roster, if Kleinsausser, Dugan, and Mills were not enough we drafted Triplett and Diempero with rumors that they are being looked at to play FB as well.
This will be the most entertaining position during the preseason for me. If there are still any teams that would value Tahi’s services it’s time to make a trade. I don’t know what we would get for him, but, if it could help us upgrade at any other position they should take it, even, if it meant we had to eat a substantial salary for a veteran player so be it if Tahi would be enough to get them to turn him loose.
TE – Tightend
Wow, how many roster spots can be tied-up with TEs. Just like FB, this will be an interesting position this offseason. Who will be able to keep a roster spot? Shiancoe, Kleinsausser, Dugan, Mills and Shuler…that’s a long list of players trying to make the roster. It’s made even more cloudy by the two LB/FBs that the team drafted as well.
I think that only Shank has a guaranteed roster spot. Kleinsausser is hanging around as a superior blocker (almost an O-lineman himself) with everyone else
Shuler is supposed to be a quality red zone target, and with Favre’s predisposition to TEs in the red zone that may be enough for him to make the team.
Dugan and Mills should be getting pointers on how to be a fullback if they want to make the roster.
Again, it will be interesting to see how this plays out in conjunction with the FB position.
WR – Wide receiver
There is no question that Rice, Harvin, and Berrian will make this team. But with Percy’s migraines and Bernard’s hamstrings it wouldn’t hurt to have another impact WR waiting in the wings.
After the top 3 it may be more up in the air than we think as to who that potential impact WR may be.
Webb throws a real Monkey-wrench into the works here. If he shows that he has reliable hands and is coachable in training camp he is a lock for the 53 man roster. There is no way he survives on our practice squad with his physical abilities and proven competitive drive. Now, if he is not coachable and/or his hands are not up to snuff then he could easily be let go.
Webb has the ability to be a major contributor on special teams and will probably surprise people as a 4th receiver on the field. He is a superior athlete who should be able to pick-up the limited responsibilities of a 3rd or 4th WR on the field much more quickly than most people think. Remember, we won’t ask him to step into a starting WR slot, and if he can catch the ball reliably and develops good route running habits he could be a very effective WR as 4th or 5th on our depth chart.
The big question is who will win out between Jaymar and Lewis? Jaymar, was never known as a good route runner and his real contribution is on special teams as a Punt Returner. Greg Lewis is a veteran player recognized for his route running skills. If the team keeps Reynaud as a RB and is confident that they have a back-up quality PR on the team then Jaymar could be the odd man out.
There is a possibility that we carry 6 men on the 53 man roster, in that case, expect Webb to claim the 6th spot and emerge mid-way through the season to grab a spot on the 45 man roster.
OL - Offensive Line
Instead of complaining about how much better of we would be if we drafted differently or complaining about how some players are on the decline and others were never any good, I have only one opinion of our OLine as it stands now…More Depth!!! More Depth!!! More Depth!!!
I never expected any player we could afford in the draft to make a real difference, especially in his first year, however, having Cook and Degeare as primary back-ups doesn’t make me feel comfortable after losing Hicks.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Degeare can be a monster interior lineman down the road. He was moved from OG to OT for his senior season and I think some scouts were down on him for his 2008 redshirt year and Academic concerns. If you look at this guy he is a monster and will definitely push for playing time as the season goes on.
A FA signing (Faneca) or a bold trade bringing us a savvy Veteran would make me feel a lot better about the offensive line.
Offensive Unit as a whole
As a whole I think Gerhart’s addition combined with Favre’s return can put this team over the top as the best offensive unit in the NFL. The only area of great concern is Offensive line depth, with an added injection of talent/depth on the o-line this unit could easily challenge for one of best all time offensive teams.
Well, the team has made great strides over the last few years and by signing Rhys they should continue to get better, while there is room for improvement it is unlikely the team focuses any more effort in this area as it would be difficult to improve in this area.
Kicking should be more than solid. Longwell is one of the best kickers in the league and should be a staple until his performance tails-off and Lloyd should put up some ridiculous numbers in domes.
If anything happened on Special Teams it would likely be a new Punter. Kluwe was one of the worst punters in the league at downing the ball inside the 20 and average in other aspects. The team should at least invite a quality punter or two into camp for a competition to keep Kluwe on top of his game.
Harvin is a beast on KO returns, so much so that teams started kicking away from him.
This is an amazingly talented team, with the addition of
Lloyd every roster position is even more crucial and more difficult to keep. Loeffler could be in a bad spot if another position player can cover his LS responsibilities. If
Sullivan, Cook, Cooper and Herrera can all play Center, can one of them cover the LS duties as well? I still wouldn’t be surprised to see Loeffler make the team as LS is truly a specialists job.
Griffen, Webb, Shepard, Diempero, Triplett and Cook mark a substantial increase in team speed that should be available for special teams (coverage/return) as well. This type of improvement is difficult to forecast, but, I have to think that the special teams coach is chomping at the bit to find out if these guys have what it takes to play on special teams.
If they replaced Kluwe with a better Punter then I think the Vikings would have a leg-up for best Special Teams unit in the league.
DL- Defensive Line
While many wanted us to draft a defensive tackle in the draft, it was mostly looking forward to the future. This team is loaded on the defensive line and especially at Defensive End. With Edwards playing for a contract and the addition of Griffen the only thing that can slow this group down would be a “Starcaps” suspension.
DEs Allen, Edwards, Robison, and Griffen are locks to make the team. The question is, do we keep Mitchell or Montgomery? or both? By drafting Griffen, one of these guys has got to go.
The Williams Wall is the Williams Wall. Kennedy has something to prove as well so he should make the interior of the line solid. The question is, who is active on game day and who is relegated to the 53 man roster? Evans should make the 45 man roster and I think Guion has a chance to make the 53 man roster ,but, maybe not if the Coaching staff would rather have a DE heavy line.
I would not be surprised to see the Vikings take advantage of Everson Griffens unique athletic ability and utilize him as a DE/OLB in passing situations. His speed is better than his combine results. He ran as low as a 4.46 in high school and coaches refer to his sub 4.6 speed (4.59 at pro-day), that would make him the fastest LB on the team! (Much less DE). Great teams adapt to the talent they have available, if Griffen can handle the NFL we may see some interesting changes on the defensive side of the ball.
While we didn’t add any Top Level talent to the Linebacker corps we may not need it. EJ Henderson’s health status will be key to the Vikings success this year.
Look for Greenway, Leber, Henderson and Brinkley to form a solid LB core for this team. Farwell is also a Pro-Bowl Special Teams player so pencil him in as well. After those five it should be a real battle between Onatolu, Leman,Triplett, and Diempero to make the team, especially if we take advantage of Everson Griffen’s athletic ability and work him out at LB as well.
TEs really had a field day aginst the Vikings last year and any improvement in TE coverage ability would have to be a focus for the LB corps.
I have read many conflicting reports on Triplett as a LB but have noted he is a beast on Special Teams and will just assume he is a good match for the Vikings D , Diempero actually projects as a practice squad FB and neither Onatolu or Leman have the speed you would look for to handle TEs in the NFL or to succeed in the Tampa 2 base defense so don’t be surprised if Triplett and/or Diempero make the squad based on their speed and flexibility.
If a top-end coverage LB became available, he would also be a great addition to the team.
DB- Defensive Backs
Injuries were not good to the Vikings last year, but, if Griffin comes back healthy this should be a very deep group. Add to that depth the potential of Chris Cook , the experience of Lito Shepard and an extra year of experience for the young safeties and this group may be a pleasant surprise this year.
This team is now loaded at CB with Winfield, Griffin, Cook, Shepard, Allen and Sapp. Unless Cook or Shepard step up and take over a starting CB spot I would expect to see all 6 CBs on the roster all year.
Griffin may start the year on the PUP list, but, when he comes back I think Abdullah or Frampton will have to be let go unless there is an injured player.
The safeties will be anchored by Williams and Johnson with support from Sanford. Abdullah or more likely Frampton will make the 53 man roster but not the 45 man gameday roster.
Without a shut-down corner this unit will never be elite, but, they will be a more solid group this year if they don’t have the injuries that plagued them last year. If a quality veteran safety becomes available it would be a good addition to the team.
Defensive Unit as a Whole
The strength of this defense is its Defensive line and they will be even stronger this year. With all of the DE talent they may even warrant a new nickname. Couple the defensive line with the growing talent in the secondary and you have the perfect situation to manufacture Sacks and more Turnovers. The only real weakness is LB coverage (speed) over the middle which is compounded by the Tampa 2 defensive scheme that we run.
I try to keep in mind that the Vikings gave up a lot of easy yards and points last year as a result of being ahead in games so often and playing “prevent” defenses to slow down the offense and not necessarily trying to stop the other team.
I would not be surprised to see the Vikings take advantage of Everson Griffens unique athletic ability and utilize him as a DE/OLB in passing situations. His speed is touted as being better than his combine results. He ran as low as a 4.46 in high school and coaches refer to his sub 4.6 speed, that would make him the fastest LB on the team! (Much less DE).
Team as a whole…
The overall team grades out very well, with Gerhart’s addition the Vikings should be able to sustain long drives even more consistently this year, combine that with a more effective defensive secondary and a defensive line that’s been made even more deadly and you have a team ready to make big things happen in 2010.
The Vikings had the 33rd ranked offense of all time last year with a 1st year QB in Favre, a feature back with fumblitis in AD, a rookie WR in Harvin, an often injured WR2 in Berrian, a lackluster year by Chester Taylor, two new offensive lineman and three other offensive linemen that all suffered some type of physical setbacks last year. If these dudes can just get their act together they may be pretty good. Or maybe the 33rd ranked offense all time is pretty good already.
The special teams will be better with Lloyd for sure, but, they could use an upgrade at Punter as well.
The defense should be even better this year as well, but, they have one heck of a schedule to go up against this year which may not show that improvement statistically as much as we hope for.
Overall, the defensive unit will be the deciding factor in the Vikings improvement as a team next year and the overall success of the team. If they can bring the secondary and linebacking units up to the level of the defensive line this team will be the odds-on favorite to win it all.
So, going forward, I can only see limited ability for the team to improve for the 2010 year:
1. Offensive Line Depth
2. Better Punter
3. Veteran Coverage Linebacker
4. Proven Veteran Safety
5. Veteran 3rd down RB
It will be interesting to see what moves the team makes before game 1. The off-season is not over yet!