My plans are for this to be a 2-part piece beginning by dissecting the offense first and finishing with the defense and special teams respectively. This is simply my opinion of the Vikings current roster and what parts of that roster that I feel need to be upgraded. I also included what I call the worry meter. Its based on a 10 point scale with 1 being the lowest level of concern and 10 being the greatest, which I use to show which areas of the roster I am most worried about going foward.
Quarterback: Theoretically there should not be much going on in this department over the course of the forthcoming offseason. The Vikings grabbed a young QB in Christian Ponder with the #12 overall pick in the 2011 draft and second year player Joe Webb entered the 2011 season with 3 starts under his belt. The vikings even added vetaran Donovan McNabb to bridge the gap between the Favre and Ponder eras in Minnesota. However to quote one of the most overrated Led Zepplin tunes, not all that glitters is gold.
While Ponder has displayed great athleticism and a knack for making plays on 3rd down, he still has left much to be desired in terms of accuracy (especially on throws over 20 yards) and arm strength. The Vikings are currently ranked near the bottom of the league in every passing statistic. And currently only Blaine Gabbert is rated worse as a passer than our own Christian Ponder. Ponder has also thrown more INTs and has a much lower completion % than our own Donovan McNabb.
At this point it's honestly too early to determine if Ponder is indeed a "franchise quarterback" or just a game manager. I am not convinced one way or another that he can be the type of player to put his team on his back. In his defense he is playing behind a struggling offensive line and with lackluster receiver play, but that will be discussed further later on.
Next on the depth chart is Donovan McNabb. I will admit that I supported this move when it happened. And while he didn't live up to my expectations, actually I still do support it. Given the way the lockout played out which lead to no offseason, Ponder would have been in a no win situation if he had been made the day one starter. And let's face it, McNabb and Ponder have both lead this team to one win a piece. Both QB's have struggled. While McNabb stuggled to convert 3rd downs and put his team in the endzone, his ability to limit turnovers kept games close. Ponder on the other hand has been the polar opposite. He has moved the offense much better but has had the habit of forcing throws which have lead to critical turnovers. In the end Ponder will be back next season and McNabb won't.
So these leads to another question: Can Joe Webb be an effective back up QB? That is the question that theTOA will have to address. With the likely departure of McNabb, the roster will be down to 2 QBs. My guess is that Musgrave see's Webb as a "Slash-type," dual threat player and would like to develop him more in that role and not as a traditional back up QB. This means that I expect the Vikings to pursue another veteran QB or pick an Adam Weber type off someones practice squad this offseason. I also think it would be wise for the Vikings to develop a QB on their own practice squad.
While Ponder has shown promise at times, the QB depth chart will still need to be addressed this offseason.
Final reading on the worry meter: 5
Running back: I am amazed and dismayed every time I read someone's suggestion to trade Adrian Peterson. Adrian Peterson is the best running back in the NFL and by far the best player on the Minnesota Vikings roster. We saw how ugly things got when Peterson left the game on Sunday and Ponder was left to fend for himself. With that being said, we have to acknowledge that the Vikings are always one play away from disaster. Sunday will provide us an opportunity to take a good look at Toby Gerhart and Lorenzo Booker. But the reality is that Gerhart is not suited for his current role on this team. He is not a change of pace back. He is not a prototypical 3rd down or goal line back either. He is the type of back that needs to get into a groove and progressively wear down the defense. I am not sure why the TOA traded up for him last year but it was a bad move in my opinion.
I don't anticipate much movement here, or any at all for that matter. But after AP this unit isn't as deep as some might like to believe.
Final reading on the worry meter: 1
Offensive Line: This really could fill a post all by itself. The offensive line is in shambles right now. I think most of our offensive linemen would have a hard time finding work outside of Minnesota. Charlie Johnson was brought in at the last minute to be our starting Left tackle. My general rule of thumb is that starting left tackle and last minute should never be in the same sentence. So in all fairness to Charlie Johnson, that was a dumb move by the TOA to make. Steve Hutchinson has been a great player for many years, but right now he is a shell of his former self. He was given some slack last year because we all knew he was battling injuries, but his play this year indicates that he is on the decline.
The interior of the line last year was a complete mess. It hasn't improved much this season as Sullivan is still undersized and Herrera is injured again. Fusco and Berger have been given some opportunities to show what they have and Demarcus Love is another young player on the roster that I personally would like to see on the field in the near future.
Phil Loadholt has not bounecd back from his sophmore slump. He is very slow and struggles against speed rushers. He also is one of the league leader's in false start penalties. He is a solid run blocker, but in my opinion Loadholt has not been much of an upgrade over Ryan Cook. In my opinion the Vikings should be looking for two new starting tackles this offseason and at least one new guard.
The vikings will likely be drafting early in 2012. This will afford them the opportunity to select one of the top rated tackles in either Matt Kalil or Jonathan Martin. But that will not be enough to fix what I think is the biggest area of deficiency on this team.
Final reading on the worry meter: 10+
Wide Receiver: I have called this unit the worst receiving corps in the league. And while that might have been a slight exaggeration, this team does not have a true #1, game changing receiver. Percy Harvin is a dynamic player, but not once in the 3 years that he has been a member of the Vikings has he taken over a game from the receiver position. Michael Jenkins has been an okay possession receiver, but even he is a #3 option at best. Devin Aromashadu has not shown me anything deserving of a roster spot next season. Camarillo is a team player and has handled punt return duties when called upon, but he too could stand to be upgraded.
This team has had no luck as of late in attracting a quality receiver in free agency. Because of this, I think the vikings have to go against my better judgement and spend an early pick on a receiver to help with Christian Ponder's development. Alshon Jeffery would be hard to pass up, especially if Kalil and Martin are off the board by the time we are up to the podium.
Final reading on the worry meter: 10
Tight End: I am liking what I am seeing out of Kyle Rudolph. Matter of fact the only thing I don't like is that the Vikings aren't using him more. Shiancoe is still a solid player and has been a decent security blanket for Ponder. I hope he is resigned for the next year or two. And with Reisner on the practice squad, I think this unit can be a strength of the team for years to come. Ideally the Vikes keep Shank and Sauce in place for another year and continue to develop Reisener on the PS. But whether or not the TOA goes in that direction is to be seen.
Final reading on the worry meter: 2