Moving forward: Vikings offensive analysis
QUARTERBACKS: Starter — Joe Webb. Backups — Patrick Ramsey, Rhett Bomar, Tarvaris Jackson.
Webb started the last two games of the season after Brett Favre suffered a concussion but there is little certainty about what will happen at this position and the Vikings likely will have to look outside for their next starter. Webb was drafted in the sixth round last April with the intention that he would be moved to wide receiver. That didn't happen after former coach Brad Childress saw Webb throw at a rookie camp. Webb, however, remains a very raw quarterback and has plenty of learning to do. It's not beyond reason that he could still be shifted to wide receiver. Ramsey and Bomar were brought in late in the season. Ramsey was signed to serve as a backup for the rest of 2010; Bomar, however, received a multi-year contract and will get a shot to stick after being signed off the New York Giants practice squad. Jackson, a second-round pick in 2006, could be an unrestricted free agent depending on what happens with the collective bargaining agreement. Both Jackson and the team likely feel it will be best for him to move on after five seasons.
RUNNING BACKS: Starters — Adrian Peterson, FB Naufahu Tahi. Backups — Toby Gerhart, Lorenzo Booker, Albert Young.
Peterson is one of the NFL's elite running backs, having rushed for 1,298 yards on 283 carries with 12 touchdowns. He also was third on the Vikings with 36 receptions for 341 yards and a touchdown. However, the most impressive thing might be that Peterson was charged with only one fumble this season. That came after Peterson had 20 fumbles, including 13 lost, from 2007-2009. Peterson's contract will void after 2011 and he's going to want a new deal with a boatload of guaranteed money before next season starts. Gerhart made progress as his rookie season went along and proved that he is someone who can get yards and move the chains. He isn't nearly as fun to watch as Peterson, but Gerhart can be effective. Gerhart finished second on the Vikings with 322 yards on 81 carries and a touchdown. Booker was signed late in the season and gave the Vikings a boost on kickoff returns. He could battle for a job as a third-down back. Young finished on injured reserve because of a knee injury. Tahi has been the fullback in the Vikings' West Coast offense, but there is no guarantee the team will run that offense in 2011.
TIGHT ENDS: Starter — Visanthe Shiancoe. Backups — Jim Kleinsasser, Jeff Dugan.
Shiancoe's reception total dropped from 56 in 2009 to 47 this season and his touchdowns went from a career-high 11 to only two. Shiancoe did a good job of hiding his frustration, but there is little doubt he wants to be more involved going forward. Shiancoe is easily the team's best pass-catching tight end. Kleinsasser, whose 17 receptions were his most since he had 22 in 2005, remains a top-notch blocking tight end. Dugan can play both tight end and H-back. He caught four passes and must battle for a roster spot every year.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters — Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice. Backups — Hank Baskett, Bernard Berrian, Greg Camarillo, Greg Lewis, Jaymar Johnson.
Coming off a season in which he had 83 catches for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns, Rice missed much of the season after having hip surgery and finished with 17 catches for 280 yards and two touchdowns in six games. The four-year veteran stands to become a free agent and the Vikings could balk at giving him a rich deal given his struggles with injuries. Rice's season wasn't the only disappointment for this team from a receiving standpoint. Berrian, signed to a six-year, $42 million free-agent contract in 2008, had only 28 catches for 252 yards with no touchdowns and appears a candidate to be released. Harvin, coming off a terrific rookie year in 2009, missed much of training camp and two games because of continuing issues with migraine headaches. Baskett and Lewis almost certainly won't be back. Camarillo, who had 33 catches for 240 yards with a touchdown, is a possession receiver and little more. The speedy Johnson (thumb) spent 2010 on injured reserve but should battle for a roster spot in training camp.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters — LT Bryant McKinnie, LG Steve Hutchinson, C John Sullivan, RG Anthony Herrera, RT Phil Loadholt. Backups — T Pat Brown, C/G Ryan Cook, C Jon Cooper, G Chris DeGeare, T Thomas Welch.
The starting unit had a rough season with both guards lost to injured reserve and Loadholt taking a step back in his second year. Herrera suffered a torn left anterior cruciate ligament on Nov. 21 against Green Bay and Hutchinson broke his hand a week later at Washington. Sullivan, meanwhile, injured both his left and right calf and was slowed for a portion of the season by that issue. McKinnie started all 16 games and is a good left tackle, but overall the Vikings need more consistency and better production from these five. Cook and DeGeare stepped in as the starters at right and left guard, respectively, when Herrera and Hutchinson were out. Cook figures to become a free agent this offseason but could be kept around because of his versatility. Cooper, signed as an undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma in 2009, could get an opportunity to challenge Sullivan for the starting job in training camp. Brown and Welch were both promoted from the practice squad during the season. The Vikings' decision to release offensive line coach Pat Morris and assistant line coach Jim Hueber last week means the team likely will be going away from a zone blocking scheme.
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