The general atmosphere improved dramatically with the exit of one-year personnel guru Fran Foley in the mix, and stability, organization, order and harmony began to reform when Rick Spielman was hired as the team’s new vice president of player personnel.
Spielman is a tireless worker who knows how to organize a scouting and personnel staff. He’s also very adept at crafting his “team” to meet the needs of the coaching staff for whom he works with. As result, he’s perhaps been criticized for some of the moves he’s made, but he does a nice job of having all hands rowing in the same direction.
He and Childress appear to have a healthy working relationship that seems to have everyone on the same page.
Not the splash of the previous year that included early moves for Chester Taylor, Ben Leber, Ryan Longwell and then Steve Hutchinson, but some measured moves to fill needs that two years later still hold up well.
Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe looked like a bust after his first season in Viking purple. After his second season, however, he appears on the verge of Pro Bowl consideration. Shiancoe took time to fully understand the nuances of the team’s offense, but he has monster ability which began to show this past season. One can only imagine what kind of numbers he could put up with a consistent veteran presence at quarterback.
Bobby Wade hasn’t been the big-time playmaker at wide receiver that some hyped him up to be, but he was never really intended to be a top-flight No. 1 or even No. 2 wideout. He just happened to be the next-best option after they missed out on Kevin Curtis, who signed with the Eagles. Wade is a reliable and effective slot receiver.
Vinny Ciurciu was a modest move to bring character, toughness and experience to the special teams unit. He wasn’t a high-dollar signing to start with, so he’s lived up to expectations.
Evans is no Pat Williams, but he’s provided some quality snaps in the rotation at defensive tackle. He’s quick, strong and athletic and capable of making some noise.
Frampton was probably the team’s best special teams player this past season, which is where he earns his keep.
Grigsby has flashed some pass-rush ability in occasional duty after being picked up off Carolina’s practice squad in ’07.
Mills appears to possess still-to-be-seen potential as a pass-catching tight end, but a chronic ankle problem negated much impact from him this past season. Still, they like what he brings to the table after being claimed on waivers from New England.
The Peterson draft
Given the impact that running back Adrian Peterson has had in his first two seasons, you’d have to grade the first Childress-Spielman draft a rousing success.
In 30 games, he’s rushed for 3,101 yards (5.2 avg.) on 601 carries with 22 touchdowns and back-to-back Pro Bowl appearances. One can critique the finer points of his game, but he was an out-an-out steal with the No. 7 pick in Round One.
The rest of the draft was solid, but the jury is still out as far as long-term impact.
WR Sidney Rice showed promise as a rookie, catching 31 passes for 396 yards (12.8 avg.) and 4 touchdowns. But a knee problem early on cut his productivity essentially in half last season, so he needs to bounce back.
CB Marcus McCauley also suffered a bit of a sophomore slump after showing a lot of promise as a rookie. Injuries in training camp also contributed to him falling behind on the depth chart. The ability is there, but is the confidence and consistency?
Brian Robison appears to have been a real find in Round 4. He hasn’t put up gaudy numbers (7 sacks in two seasons), but he’s made plays when healthy. He appears to be a legitimate starting-caliber player if he can withstand the full-time rigors of the NFL.
WR Aundrae Allison (5th Round) excelled on kickoff returns as a rookie and flashed big-play ability as a receiver. He has the ability, but lacks some feel for the offense still. A quality quarterback could bring out the best in Allison, or the light just may never go completely on.
The one that got away?
Seventh-round pick quarterback Tyler Thigpen is the one that got away. When Childress tried to sneak him through waivers to stash him on the practice squad as a rookie, the Kansas City Chiefs stepped in and claimed him.
Instead of keeping Thigpen, Childress kept veterans Brooks Bollinger and Kelly Holcomb. Bollinger was cut this past year and Holcomb retired after one season with the Vikings. With the benefit of hindsight, even Childress regrets the move now.
Thigpen is far from a proven quarterback-of-the-future talent, but he offers more promise than the two players they kept at the time and might have every bit as much potential as Tarvaris Jackson.
Thigpen’s numbers on a 2-14 team last season: Completed 230-of-420 passes (54.8%) for 2,608 yards, 18 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and a quarterback passer rating of 76.0.
Herron has seen spot duty at linebacker and contributed on special teams. Daniels has spent two full seasons on the team’s practice squad and will now have to make the opening day roster to stick around this coming season.
Next time: 2008
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