10 points decide if Vikings tease or please
Between now and the official start of the 2015 season, every NFL team has critical decisions to make. The Minnesota Vikings are no exception, especially given that they are becoming a trendy pick to make the jump to being a playoff contender.
These are going to be the 10 factors that will play the biggest role in whether the Vikings are contenders or pretenders in 2015.
1. Yo, Adrian! – Perhaps no player is going to be more impactful on the 2015 season than Peterson. To date, he hasn’t publicly stated that he’s returning to the Vikings. But given the Vikings have maintained that they intend to have A.P. on the roster in 2015, it would appear he isn’t going anywhere. The question now is will he be with the Vikings or will he hold out? The former seems probable, the latter unlikely.
2. Waynes World – Last year, Xavier Rhodes took the next step in being a dominant cornerback. With the drafting of Trae Waynes, the Vikings have the potential to have two shutdown corners. If Waynes can make the same kind of jump that Rhodes made last year, the Vikings could have one of the most dominant cornerback tandems in the league.
3. The Blind Side – Matt Kalil struggled badly at times last year as he played through knee injuries. The team was rumored to be willing to make a draft day run at OT Brandon Scherff if he was still available. But the Vikings picked up Kalil’s 2016 option, although there are no guarantees that he will remain a Viking beyond this season. If any player is facing a crossroads season, it’s Kalil.
4. If One Works, Why Not Two – The Vikings made a splash last year taking UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr in the draft. The team went back to the well earlier this month with the selection of Eric Kendricks, who will be expected to start at linebacker as well. If Kendricks can come close to what his former college teammate did in his rookie season, the Vikings defense will be much improved.
5. Teddy Football – A year ago, Teddy Bridgewater started the season as No. 3 on the depth chart. A year later, both of the veterans in front of him are gone and Teddy is being asked to move the offense without a safety net. Shaun Hill is now the veteran backup and, if the Vikings are to make a run, the less Hill plays the better for the team.
6. Changing of the Guard – The Vikings had a revolving door at guard last season, losing both Brandon Fusco and Charlie Johnson to injury. Fusco is expected back, but Johnson is gone and the Vikings didn’t sign a veteran in free agency to replace him. It would appear that the replacement is on the roster, but the questions are who will it be and at which position? Fusco might switch to left guard, but whichever guard spot needs a new body, there will be plenty of competition.
7. The Bottom Line – Over the last couple seasons, the Vikings have changed the guard on the defensive line, allowing Jared Allen and Kevin Williams to leave. After seeing his sack total drop sharply last year, Brian Robison will be under the spotlight. Is B-Rob going to follow Allen and Big Kev out the door after 2015? For this year, no. But his performance this year will determined his future.
8. Healthy Competition – For the last couple seasons, Kyle Rudolph has struggled to stay healthy. With a tight end-friendly offense in place, the Vikings need Rudolph to be on the field, not on the sideline. When healthy, Rudolph can be a difference-maker, but until he proves he can stay on the field, he will continue to be more of a tease than a force in the Vikings offense.
9. Cutting the Cord(arrelle) – As a rookie, Cordarrelle Patterson was a weapon that the Vikings used early and often. In the new offense last year, Patterson’s role dropped markedly and he enters 2015 without a starting job and will have to earn his spot back in the lineup. Will talent win out or will Patterson remain a round peg in a square hole?
10. Be Like Mike – The Vikings’ biggest offseason move was to trade for Miami wide receiver Mike Wallace. He has the potential to be the most prolific big-play threat the Vikings have had at wide receiver since Randy Moss left. Will he be a glove fit in the Vikings offense or a one-trick pony with deep speed? We’ll find out quickly which of those will take place.
Every team has a lot of questions to be answered between now and the start of the 2015 season. For the Vikings, if the majority of these 10 questions can be answered positively, the talk of Minnesota being a playoff contender will continue to grow.
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