Program, Get Your Program

The Vikings hope that Matt Birk returns to Pro Bowl form in 2006. But, as it stands now -- a month before training camp is scheduled to open -- the 22 Vikings starters could include as many as 15 players that weren't opening-day starters just one year ago.

For most NFL teams, the offseason is spent pondering where things went wrong. For teams like the Texans, Saints, 49ers and Packers, it's easy to ponder – they stunk. But the Vikings were 9-7 and a late rally short of making the playoffs. They shouldn't be viewed as a team as a team in flux. Or should they?

When the 2006 season opens with a Monday night game at Washington, the Vikings could have as many as 15 new starters on the field.

On offense, the Vikes are prepared to open with as many as nine different starters from 2005 – Brad Johnson at QB, Chester Taylor and Tony Richardson behind him, Koren Robinson and Troy Williamson flanked outside and Steve Hutchinson, Matt Birk, Artis Hicks and Marcus Johnson in front of him. At tight end, we have to call a draw, since for the Week 1 game vs. the Buccaneers a year ago, both Jim Kleinsasser and Jermaine Wiggins lined up on the first play and earned starting nods for the game.

Defensively, the Vikings potentially have their own share of new starters at five – DE Erasmus James, linebackers Ben Leber, E.J. Henderson and Chad Greenway and safety Tank Williams.

With only 22 starters, most teams that have as many as 15 different players starting on opening day compared to the previous year are teams that drafted high in the current year's draft and likely will the following year. The Vikings are working on a winning record with a realistic expectation of double-digit wins this year.

Success in the NFL is often predicated on chemistry. The Vikings, it would seem, have created chemistry in a Petrie dish. They have collected all of the needed ingredients, but will they blend into something incredible or something inedible? Only time will tell, but few, if any, teams in the NFL will line up on the first down of their respective NFL seasons with more different players in the starting lineup on opening week of the 2006 season than the Vikings. Good or bad? You decide.

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