QB Brad Johnson, 37, proved he can still start in the NFL, going 7-2 after stepping in for the injured Daunte Culpepper. But that already appears to be creating an interesting off-season dilemma for new coach Brad Childress. Johnson, signed as Culpepper's backup after being unable to get a starting job last off-season, has made it clear to the Vikings front office he doesn't want to end his career carrying a clipboard and wants some assurances for 2006.
QB Daunte Culpepper is due a $6 million roster bonus in early March and is expected to return to the starting role once he has recovered from the three torn ligaments he suffered in his right knee at Carolina in late October. The Vikings are saying they expect Culpepper to be ready for training camp, but that appears unlikely. Culpepper also hasn't made life easy on the Vikings. He has elected to do most of his rehab work at his home in Orlando, Fla., and has made it difficult for some members of the organization to reach him. His first contact with new coach Brad Childress was a 45-minute phone conversation. The interesting thing about that was Culpepper was in town at the time but elected not to meet face-to-face with his new coach as expected.
RB Michael Bennett is set to become an unrestricted free agent, and after averaging 3.8 yards per rush, he appears on the way out unless new coach Brad Childress decides Bennett is his guy.
RB Mewelde Moore's 662 rushing yards (4.3 average) led the Vikings, but for the second consecutive season he failed to prove he can stay healthy. He might be better off in a more specialized role. Moore also led the Vikings with 37 receptions, placing him third on the team.
RB Ciatrick Fason saw limited action but led the Vikings with four rushing touchdowns after replacing injured veteran Moe Williams as the team's back in goal-line situations.
RB Onterrio Smith, who sat out the season after violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy, creates a decision for the Vikings on whether to keep him or cut him loose.
TE-HB Jermaine Wiggins led the Vikings in receptions for the second consecutive season, catching 69 passes. At 6-foot-2, 260 pounds, Wiggins will never be a candidate for any Mr. Fitness awards, but his soft hands result in few drops. That means he could be a good fit for the West Coast offense that Childress will bring with him from Philadelphia. The biggest surprise about Wiggins is he caught only one touchdown pass after tying his career-high with four TD receptions in 2004. His reception total, however, was only down by two
TE Jim Kleinsasser can catch the ball (22 receptions in 2005) but his greatest asset is his blocking ability. With the Vikings' young and sometimes suspect offensive line, Kleinsasser was often called upon to provide blocking help this season. One of his best performances came in the Vikings' victory over the New York Giants when he helped contain standout DE Michael Strahan. Kleinsasser should be at full strength next season after returning from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee that sidelined him during the opening game of 2004.
TE Richard Angulo (6-8, 270 pounds) is a player who intrigued former Vikings coach Mike Tice but might not fit in with what new coach Brad Childress wants to do.
WR Nate Burleson lost four games to injuries, along with any chance of replacing the traded Randy Moss as the Vikings' top receiver.
WR Travis Taylor led the Vikings' receivers with 50 catches. His reception total was his highest since 2002, but his limited speed meant his biggest play went for 31 yards.
WR Marcus Robinson had five touchdown catches for the Vikings this season. Robinson was expected to be a jump-ball threat in the end zone, but the Vikings did not consistently utilize that play. Three of his touchdown grabs came in one game.
WR Koren Robinson showed flashes of being a No. 1 receiver but finished with only 22 catches. Part of the reason was that Robinson didn't sign until September and didn't play in the first two games. His first catch didn't come until the fifth game.
WR Troy Williamson, taken with the seventh pick in the NFL draft last April, proved to be raw and finished with 24 receptions. Given time and coaching, Williamson's blinding speed should make him the deep threat the Vikings were missing. He must spend his off-season improving his route-running.
C Matt Birk elected to undergo season-ending surgery on a torn labrum in his left hip during camp. The line ended up being a work in progress almost the entire year. Birk's return will give the line stability it sorely lacked in 2005.
T Bryant McKinnie, who had the best season of his four-year career, was the only lineman to start every game for the Vikings this season.
G Toniu Fonoti, acquired near the trade deadline from San Diego, replaced Chris Liwienski at left guard but suffered a season-ending groin injury against the Packers. Fonoti is a pending free agent and reported to the Vikings at 404 pounds - 54 pounds more than his listed playing weight. However, if he can get in shape, Fonoti could be a force and would probably bump RG Adam Goldberg.
C Melvin Fowler replaced injured starter Matt Birk, but Birk is expected to return in 2006, meaning Fowler's days in Minnesota are most likely finished. He will be a free agent and is expected to look for a starting job.
Offensive Questions Still Prevalent
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