Opening-day overhaul

The Vikings' starting lineup on Sept. 7 will be markedly different than last year's opener. As many as half or more starters could be different, along with a new coaching staff.

Turnover in the NFL is not only expected, it's undeniable. Rare is the time when a team returns all 22 starters from a year ago. However, when a franchise goes through a coaching-regime change, a lot can change in a hurry.

As many as half the starters that will take the field in Week 1 of 2014 weren't starters in Week 1 a year ago. For fans who are planning late-summer "staycations" in Mankato, they will see a much different Vikings team than they saw in what passed for the mildest of dog days of summer last year – a vernal equinox version of the polar vortex.

How different will the roster be? Let's break it down.

QUARTERBACK – Christian Ponder started the season opener last year. It would appear the only question is whether the starter will be Matt Cassel or Teddy Bridgewater this year. That coming despite Ponder still being on the roster.

RUNNING BACK – Adrian Peterson will be in the starting lineup again, but keep in mind that Jerome Felton wasn't in the lineup while serving a three-game suspension and Toby Gerhart is gone. A.P. will still be the focus of the offense, but the supporting cast is going to be markedly different.

WIDE RECEIVER – Cordarrelle Patterson didn't start Week 1 last year. Expect that to change.

TIGHT END – Kyle Rudolph will still be the starter, but he will be playing for a contract this season, which is much different than last year – especially coming off a season in which he missed eight games due to injury. With John Carlson gone and no significant replacement brought in, it could be all Rudy all the time.

OFFENSIVE LINE – The only position group on the team that potentially has the same pecking order in 2014 as 2013. But with rookie guard David Yankey being viewed as a starting candidate from the Class of 2014, both Charlie Johnson and Brandon Fusco have been put on notice to bring their best.

DEFENSIVE LINE – Last year, the starters were Jared Allen, Letroy Guion, Fred Evans (Kevin Williams was inactive in the opener) and Brian Robison. Only one of them (Robison) is likely to be a starter in 2014's season opener.

LINEBACKER – The only linebacker who started last year that is expected to start this year is Chad Greenway. Changes are coming and the blitzing of linebackers is likely to change as well.

DEFENSIVE BACK – Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes will be returning as starters, but Chris Cook is gone and Jamarca Sanford has no guarantees.

The Vikings came on late in the season with a starting roster that will be markedly different from the team expected to be the focal point of the 2013 team. Change has come to the Vikings and it is becoming clear that it extends beyond the new coaching staff. The Vikings in Week 1 of the 2014 season are going to be a far cry from the team that was on the field (and the coaches on the sideline) when the 2013 season began. Will they be better? Stay tuned.


John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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