Pretty negative approach, but that's what this all about; digging out all the negatives that the Vikings need to look at and address if possible. No smoke being blown up the patootie, this is a no-excuses critique looking at the worst possible scenario of every part of the team. Again, not saying that the Vikings are terrible in any of these assessments, but I'm looking for issues and want to drag them all out.
What isn't the best that it can be, going into 2010? What needs to be improved?
Let's start with the basics;
Tackling. If anyone's been watching the 2009 games again, one thing that crops up again and again are situations where a Viking defender had the opposing ball-carrier dead to rights, right there, and couldn't seal the deal. Poor tackling on the part of most of the team (excepting Winfield). Madieu Williams and Cedric Griffin were frequent offenders, but the problem also existed on the line with the right-side DEs (Edwards, Robison) quite a bit too. This is something that has to be addressed and worked on when training camp opens, and improved. There's no excuse for lousy tackling in the NFL.
Holding onto the Ball. Oh yes, I'm going there, and I'm looking hard at Adrian 'Butter-Fingers' Peterson. Fumbles and dropped passes really hurt the Vikings last year and arguably kept us out of the Super Bowl. When it comes to passes, Harvin and Berrian need to step up their game and get more serious about hanging onto every ball that comes their way (Sidney did very well in this regard). This is another very basic thing which MUST be addressed and improved going into 2010 if the Vikings are to be serious contenders, instead of heart-breakers.
Quarterback Situation - The Vikings are living on life-support here. They're hoping that Favre comes back, but what if he doesn't? What if he gets injured halfway through the season, then what? What's behind him? Can the Vikings rely on Jackson and Rosenfels? Everything depends on Favre and that's not the most comfortable place to be. What will they do after the season when Favre's gone? This isn't a minor issue and it needs to be addressed ASAP.
Running Backs - Adrian Peterson, arguably the best RB in the NFL who just came off down year where he 'only' gained 1383 yards in the regular season, coming in 5th. I think we can agree that he'd've done a lot better if he had better support at the line of scrimmage. The real worry int he running game is what's behind AP? Albert Young? Unproven, untested except in 'garbage time' and he didn't exactly wow anyone. Now Darius Reynaud is being pulled into the position which says something about how confident they are in Young. While Reynaud's been a regular break-away threat on Special Teams, how well will he do going back to his old college position as RB? Who knows. This is not a solid situation and the Vikings need to pay close attention after letting Chester Taylor go.
Full Backs - Tahi and Dugan/Mills playing backup is the current plan, and the Vikings mainly use these guys as supplemental blocking linemen. But wouldn't it be nice if they had a full back who could turn on some speed and had great hands? Someone who could reliably carry the ball on 3rd and short, or brutally pound his way into the end zone on a regular basis. No laurels to rest on here, the Vikes need to constantly be looking for an upgrade.
Wide Receivers - How's Percy's noggin doing? Is he still a prime candidate for Brian Westbrook Syndrome, or has the Mayo Clinic been able to fix him up? Will he be plagued by migraines and miss more games? The Vikings need to get an answer there so they know whether or not the WR corps needs shoring up. How about our recurring running injury machine, Bernard Berrian? Can we expect to see him pull a hammy while running untouched down the field on a regular basis, or was that an aberration, and he'll be saving his injuries for when he's tackled? The man is fragile.
Tight Ends - While Shanko seems to gotten over the dropsies, we all know that the much beloved 'Sasser is getting long in the tooth. Who's going to be able to step up to those size 28 cleats when the Big Man is ready to hang it up? Dugan? Not likely. Mills? Hardly. This position survives only on the assumption that Jimmy K comes back every year, healthy and hale and ready to plant cleat-in-chest on anyone who is foolish enough to get in front of him, but he's aging and the Vikings need to keep an eye out for some to TE talent in the near future.
Centers - Our longsnapper looks alright but Sullivan is a question mark. Most agree that he should be getting better but the Vikings need someone who can ride point for Adrian Peterson while holding his own, and so far Sully hasn't been that guy. Can the Vikings afford to go on hope that Sully will get better, or do they need to bring in some insurance?
Offensive Guards - Hutch is a rock, but Herrera isn't really 1st string quality, leaving the right side vulnerable. Sure, I've heard Chilly make some expressions of faith in Herrera but faith doesn't win the Lombardi; performance does. Bring in some top talent to the RG position and let Herrera take Hick's old spot as back up.
Offensive Tackles - Loadholt came on like a ball of fire and we have no reason to think he won't be even better in 2010, but what about McKinnie? Long before his planter fasciitis in Dec there were issues and we have no reason to think he'll be better in 2010. The Vikings need to bring in some quality LT talent to push McKinnie and be ready to step up and take his place if McKinnie is injured or has other issues. Right now, clearly we don't have a guy who can do that.
Kickers and Punters - Longwell is still The Man and Kluwe really stepped up his game after having a lot of issues in 2008, but now there's a new guy in the mix; Rhys Lloyd, handling kick-offs. Will he live up to expectation?
Special Teams - This is the one area the Vikings have which I can't find a real knock on. Maybe someone else can think of something.
Defensive Tackles - While the Vikings have some depth here, the fact is that this will probably be Pat Williams' last year. Behind the Wall are new guys Montomery and Tremaine Johnson, and vets Guion and Jimmy Kennedy. Jimmy Kennedy has done alright but Guion is a career backup. This looks like a cluster-puk, and the Vikings need to keep an eye out for some real talent to develop behind Phat Pat.
Defensive Ends - Jared Allen rocks but interestingly, the NFL's Viking website roster no longer shows Edwards on the team. This doesn't inspire confidence, but if he stays, the Vikings have Jayme Mitchell and Brian Robison on the depth chart behind them. Are we solid here, or is it dependent on Ray Edwards, RFA, not going anywhere? Remember what happened with Chester Taylor, it's not smart to leave things dangling.
Linebacker Corps - While I pray that EJ Henderson will return alright this year, there's no guarantee of that. And even if he does, will he be up to top form, or will he experience a drop off in talent? Jasper Brinkley looked fairly good in the last part of the year but he wasn't up to par on pass-coverage, and the Vikings absolutely depend on an MLB who can cover the center flat. On the sides, Greenway is proving himself outstanding and Leber is an absolute rock, but let's not forget that Ben Leber is not getting any younger. In theory there's lots of depth with Farwell, Onatolu, and Erin Henderson (if he stays with the team) back there, but those guys are at their best on ST, not the regular D. Leman isn't exciting anyone. The Vikings should keep an eye out for some quality LB talent and grab it if they can.
Corner Backs - What can you say about a position where BOTH of your 1st string CBs are hurt by injuries? Winfield and Griffin were an very good tandem but now there's question-marks hanging over both their heads. I hope they're back and up to speed, but will they be as good as they were before the injuries? The Vikings have Benny Sapp and Asher Allen waiting in the wings but will either be ready? Sapp's game has improved quite a bit but we haven't seen enough of Allen to be certain that he's ready to step forward. Behind them are a group of ST CBs, none of whom are suitable to play in the regular D. This is an area that the Vikings would be smart to actively pursue some upgrades, just in case.
Safetys - Tyrell Johnson may step up in 2010 but so far he hasn't discouraged any QBs from throwing in his direction. Madieu Williams, from Cinci, has had a few shining moments but for the most part seems to be focused on ensuring that he's a solid disappointment. He looked pretty good in 2008 but in 2009 he missed a lot of tackles. Jamarca Sanford has shown that he might be able to step up but he's not a proven quantity. This is another position that needs some adjustment help and it might get it from the CB side.
The entire point of this is to be negative, to look for likely worse-case scenarios, to hopefully shine some light on things which the Vikings should be looking at and things that they might be looking at which we didn't see before. Things that might make some sense out of the unforeseen choices we're sure to see the Vikings make in the weeks to come.
If you have any other ideas to add to it, or suggestions of things they need to work on, please toss them out. They can't draft to fix every deficiency and even if they could, they can't afford Pro Bowl level talent at every position. And if there's an FA that the Vikings are eligible to grab, that's certainly worth exploring.