Sunday slant: Justified fret or wasted worry?

The Vikings will certainly have some positions of concern and questions that need to be answered when they start training camp. We offer up the two biggest worries and two that we believe fans are agonizing over too much.

Vikings fans are typically a nervous bunch. If there isn't something to fret about, it wouldn't be right.

Maybe it's the four Super Bowl failures or more recent NFC Championship losses in in 2009, 2001 and 1998. Whatever the case, the team has provided plenty of opportunities for the fantasy general managers to second-guess the real general manager, triangle of authority before that, or gang of 10 going back into the 1990s.

As training camp approaches (less than three weeks until the first practice on July 27) and coming off a 3-13 record that tied for the worst season in franchise history, there are numerous positions to question, whether it's the depth or the starters causing worry among the fans. Here are two positions we think there is too much fretting over and two that maybe should be of more concern than we've heard.

TOO MUCH CONCERN

  • The secondary – It seems like a lifetime ago when the Vikings actually had a dominant corps of defensive backs, but Antoine Winfield was a Pro Bowl cornerback in 2010 and 2008. The Vikings have talked about reducing his role and would like to use him ideally as a nickel back, where his run-stuffing and blitzing abilities can be better exploited. But, unlike last year, when Chris Cook spent more time away from the team because of legal trouble than he did with it, there are other viable options.

    Cook, if he can stay healthy and out of trouble, has shown the ability to be a very good cornerback. Fans haven't gotten to see enough of him to realize it, but this could be his breakout season. In addition to him, free-agent acquisition Chris Carr should help the depth, and if third-round pick Josh Robison can develop in his rookie season, the cornerbacks will be in shape than most fans expect.

    Certainly there is a lot left to prove among the safeties, but rookie Harrison Smith is expected to be a big upgrade over what the Vikings have had the last three years at safety. Here's one way to look at the safety position for the glass-half-full crowd: it can't get any worse than the rotation the Vikings were forced into last year. The improvement will bank on Smith living up to first-round billing. If not, the nervous crowd will feel justified.

  • Offensive line – The biggest question here is at right guard, but while Brandon Fusco is a big unknown after a rookie season spent in the shadows, free-agent signee Geoff Schwartz offers a solid fallback option as a former full-time starter with familiarity of the blocking schemes used by offensive line coach Jeff Davidson.

    The other two positions with new starters – left tackle and left guard are both expected to be upgraded. Charlie Johnson is more of a guard than tackle, the Vikings believe, and that's where he'll finally be with blue-chip left tackle Matt Kalil providing a big boost to the pass protection. And with Christian Ponder getting experience last year and having a full offseason of practicing with the offense, he should improve by getting rid of the ball sooner, thereby making the pass protection look improved.

    Three of the five offensive line spots will have different players manning them, but for good reason – because they are believed to be upgrades.

    NOT ENOUGH CONCERN

  • Linebacker – On the surface, Jasper Brinkley might not appear to be a downgrade from an aging E.J. Henderson, but the Vikings could missed Henderson's experience making calls in the middle of the defense. But the bigger concern here is Brinkley's inability to stay healthy. He missed last year with a hip injury, then missed more practices in June – he said the issue was the hip while the Vikings said he was only being treated for a groin injury suffered during an organized team activity. Either way, there is a justifiable concern about his durability.

    More worrisome yet is the lack of depth behind Brinkley … or any of the starting linebackers, for that matter. General manager Rick Spielman points to veteran Marvin Mitchell as an option, but Mitchell hasn't proven himself either as a full-time starter and is new to the Vikings' defensive system. Meanwhile, the Vikings are building depth with younsters like rookie Audie Cole and CFL signee Solomon Elimimian, but look for the ace in the hole to be the team's No. 3 position on the waiver wire. At this point, they have wanted to get their young players offseason practice snaps to develop, but if Brinkley or another starter gets dinged in the preseason, look for a veteran acquisition here.

  • Defensive tackle – Like safety, the Vikings will have a new starter. At defensive tackle, that is Letroy Guion taking over for Remi Ayodele, a failed free-agent experiment in 2011. Guion is quicker, but can he anchor in against the run? That remains to be seen. There is depth behind Kevin Williams at the three-technique tackle, but there it's Fred Evans or bust at nose tackle if Guion goes down.

    Given that most of the defensive trepidation is right up the middle of the defense, it starts at the defensive line and Guion. If the defensive tackles are getting pushed around, the once-proud run defense could fall even further in the rankings.

    Nearly everyone is in agreement on the direction of the roster. It's a rebuilding project that isn't completed yet. The roster is getting younger, but we should know just how justified the current concerns are at certain positions early in the regular season and how much Spielman is willing to use his waiver-wire position. That will tell the true story of how the Vikings feel about certain positions coming out of the preseason.


    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.



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    \r\n\r\n","mobileBody":"Vikings fans are typically a nervous bunch. If there isn't something to fret about, it wouldn't be right. Maybe it's the four Super Bowl failures or more recent NFC Championship losses in in 2009, 2001 and 1998. Whatever the case, the team has provided plenty of opportunities for the fantasy general managers to second-guess the real general manager, triangle of authority before that, or gang of 10 going back into the 1990s. As training camp approaches (less than three weeks until the first practice on July 27) and coming off a 3-13 record that tied for the worst season in franchise history, there are numerous positions to question, whether it's the depth or the starters causing worry among the fans. Here are two positions we think there is too much fretting over and two that maybe should be of more concern than we've heard.
  • The secondary – It seems like a lifetime ago when the Vikings actually had a dominant corps of defensive backs, but Antoine Winfield was a Pro Bowl cornerback in 2010 and 2008. The Vikings have talked about reducing his role and would like to use him ideally as a nickel back, where his run-stuffing and blitzing abilities can be better exploited. But, unlike last year, when Chris Cook spent more time away from the team because of legal trouble than he did with it, there are other viable options. Cook, if he can stay healthy and out of trouble, has shown the ability to be a very good cornerback. Fans haven't gotten to see enough of him to realize it, but this could be his breakout season. In addition to him, free-agent acquisition Chris Carr should help the depth, and if third-round pick Josh Robison can develop in his rookie season, the cornerbacks will be in shape than most fans expect. Certainly there is a lot left to prove among the safeties, but rookie Harrison Smith is expected to be a big upgrade over what the Vikings have had the last three years at safety. Here's one way to look at the safety position for the glass-half-full crowd: it can't get any worse than the rotation the Vikings were forced into last year. The improvement will bank on Smith living up to first-round billing. If not, the nervous crowd will feel justified.
  • The biggest question here is at right guard, but while Brandon Fusco is a big unknown after a rookie season spent in the shadows, free-agent signee Geoff Schwartz offers a solid fallback option as a former full-time starter with familiarity of the blocking schemes used by offensive line coach Jeff Davidson. The other two positions with new starters – left tackle and left guard are both expected to be upgraded. Charlie Johnson is more of a guard than tackle, the Vikings believe, and that's where he'll finally be with blue-chip left tackle Matt Kalil providing a big boost to the pass protection. And with Christian Ponder getting experience last year and having a full offseason of practicing with the offense, he should improve by getting rid of the ball sooner, thereby making the pass protection look improved. Three of the five offensive line spots will have different players manning them, but for good reason – because they are believed to be upgrades.
  • On the surface, Jasper Brinkley might not appear to be a downgrade from an aging E.J. Henderson, but the Vikings could missed Henderson's experience making calls in the middle of the defense. But the bigger concern here is Brinkley's inability to stay healthy. He missed last year with a hip injury, then missed more practices in June – he said the issue was the hip while the Vikings said he was only being treated for a groin injury suffered during an organized team activity. Either way, there is a justifiable concern about his durability. More worrisome yet is the lack of depth behind Brinkley … or any of the starting linebackers, for that matter. General manager Rick Spielman points to veteran Marvin Mitchell as an option, but Mitchell hasn't proven himself either as a full-time starter and is new to the Vikings' defensive system. Meanwhile, the Vikings are building depth with younsters like rookie Audie Cole and CFL signee Solomon Elimimian, but look for the ace in the hole to be the team's No. 3 position on the waiver wire. At this point, they have wanted to get their young players offseason practice snaps to develop, but if Brinkley or another starter gets dinged in the preseason, look for a veteran acquisition here.
  • Like safety, the Vikings will have a new starter. At defensive tackle, that is Letroy Guion taking over for Remi Ayodele, a failed free-agent experiment in 2011. Guion is quicker, but can he anchor in against the run? That remains to be seen. There is depth behind Kevin Williams at the three-technique tackle, but there it's Fred Evans or bust at nose tackle if Guion goes down. Given that most of the defensive trepidation is right up the middle of the defense, it starts at the defensive line and Guion. If the defensive tackles are getting pushed around, the once-proud run defense could fall even further in the rankings. Nearly everyone is in agreement on the direction of the roster. It's a rebuilding project that isn't completed yet. The roster is getting younger, but we should know just how justified the current concerns are at certain positions early in the regular season and how much Spielman is willing to use his waiver-wire position. That will tell the true story of how the Vikings feel about certain positions coming out of the preseason.
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