Optimism Abounds In System's Second Season

The Vikings have added players and coaches, but the key to the team's 2007 success on offense could be having a year of experience in the system. Here's a wrap-up of the top issues facing the team and what was observed at spring practices.

Brad Childress appeared optimistic as the Vikings neared the end of their Organized Team Activities that players are far more comfortable in his West Coast offense than they were a year ago. But that doesn't mean the Vikings are going to be a significantly better team than the one that finished 6-10 last season in Childress' first season.

The key to improvement will be whether second-year quarterback Tarvaris Jackson is ready to take over as the Vikings' starter. Despite talk of Brooks Bollinger competing with Jackson for the starting spot, it's clear that Jackson is Childress' choice to take over.

Jackson got plenty of work in the minicamp and OTAs but admittedly looked rough at times. It does appear Jackson is developing a good chemistry with free-agent receiver Bobby Wade, who will primarily line up in the slot.

Another receiver, Troy Williamson, who is coming off a disappointing 2006 season, also has looked much improved in the camps and dropped very few passes after being plagued by drops last season. As a whole, the Vikings' receiving corps is raw and did not look consistently sharp during the camps.

The Vikings had the NFL's top-ranked run defense in 2006 but tied for last in pass defense. That unit will return largely intact — the move of E.J. Henderson to middle linebacker is the biggest change — but there will be some tweaks with Leslie Frazier replacing Mike Tomlin as defense coordinator.

Tomlin has taken his enthusiastic, upbeat approach to Pittsburgh, where he will be the Steelers head coach. Frazier commands respect but does it in a much more low-key manner.

Rookie to watch: Sidney Rice — The second-round receiver out of South Carolina appears as if he should be ready to contribute immediately. Rice has good size (6-4, 200 pounds), appears to have good hands and also showed a level of maturity during the summer camps. Some had questioned Rice's maturity before the draft.

Sudden impact: First-round running back Adrian Peterson not only will be a threat on the ground but also displayed good hands in pass-catching drills. Peterson wasn't used much in the passing game at Oklahoma and there were questions about his hands before the draft. Peterson, who will form a dangerous 1-2 combo with Chester Taylor, also didn't appear to have any trouble with the collarbone he broke last season in college.

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