So on Thursday, I went over questions 1-5. Now, let's go 6-10. If you have any more questions, let's hear 'em!
6. Can the secondary hold up?
The secondary has been springing leaks for a couple seasons now, and attempts to plug them have been mixed. Madieu Williams was signed as a free a couple of seasons ago, and his performance has been below average. Tyrell Johnson took over for Darren Sharper, and Johnson has not lived up to expectations, either. Antoine Winfield has fought off some nagging injuries, and is starting to show signs of age after six stellar seasons in purple. His counterpart, Cedric Griffin, blew out his knee in overtime of the NFC Championship game, and it’s doubtful he’ll be ready to begin the season. The Vikings did draft CB Chris Cook, signed free agent Lito Sheppard, and re-signed Benny Sapp. If he can stay healthy, Winfield has one or two good years left, and Chris Cook has looked impressive in rookie minicamps and OTA’s. It all hinges on the play of the safeties. Both Johnson and Williams played well in 2008, so I don’t think it’s a question of talent. There were free agent and/or draft options available at safety, so the coaching staff doesn’t think it’s a talent problem, either. I can’t support moving Winfield to safety, because the CB position is so unsettled with Griffin’s injury, and I still believe Winfield can be an impact CB.
7. Has AP fixed his fumbling issues?
I’d like to think that a guy with the talent and work ethic of Adrian Peterson, the answer will be an emphatic yes. I’m not trying to minimize the effect of a lost fumble on an offense, especially inside the opponent’s 10 yard line, right before halftime of the NFC Cha—sorry, never mind. As Vikings fans, we’re hard wired to look at the DOOM aspect of something, and we’ve done a pretty good job of elevating Peterson’s fumbles to the detriment of the rest of his talents, which quite frankly is ludicrous. To put his fumbling in perspective, he has 20 in 915 career carries; Walter Payton had 30 in 846. Granted, he can’t keep fumbling, but it isn’t Ragnarok, either. He’ll fix it, and make the rest of the NFL pay in 2010.
8. Can Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin repeat 2009?
With Favre throwing the ball, yes they can. It was great to see Sidney Rice emerge, after flashing brief glimpses of his talent in 2007 and 2008. He became a legitimate #1 receiver, and helped Favre have one of his best seasons. He just recently revealed he has a hip injury that’s kept him out of the Cris Carter off-season death camp; I think I’d cut off a foot to keep from going, but that’s just me. For Harvin, he has shown the ability to score whenever he touches the ball, and the only thing keeping him down is his migraine headaches. They really tend to knock him on his ass, which is more than NFL defenses can do. I hope he finds relief, so he can keep causing headaches for the rest of the league. They are the most dynamic receiving duo in the league, and have the potential to bring back the glory days of Moss and Carter.
9. Can EJ Henderson and Cedric Griffin make it all the way back?
For me, the low point of the regular season was the Sunday night debacle in Arizona. EJ Henderson had a Joe Theismann moment, and the team was clearly deflated after seeing it happen right in front of their bench. Jasper Brinkley played admirably in Henderson’s place, but losing the defensive captain had an effect. Griffin’s injury was overlooked because of the magnitude of the moment in time and the consequent ending of the season, but it is still just as significant. A knee injury to a cornerback can be tough to come back from, especially one as bad as a torn ACL. Henderson sounds like he’ll be back, but if he can’t, Brinkley should be able to do the job. I’m not sure you can say that with certainty about the CB depth if Griff can’t make it back.
10. Can Bernard Berrian be the deep threat he’s supposed to be?
Prior to last season, I thought that Berrian was the best receiver heading into training camp. Although Sidney Rice really emerged, Berrian still has that deep threat that Rice does not, and the veteran’s knowledge that Harvin does not yet possess. Berrian suffered a hamstring injury early in the season last year, which in a way was a blessing for Rice and Harvin, as they were forced to step up. But if you add the 2008 version of Bernard Berrian to this offense, it can challenge the 1998 team in terms of explosiveness. A healthy Berrian puts even more pressure on a stressed defense, and adds a dimension that was largely missing last season. There’s no reason to believe that he can’t return to form, and if he does, look out.
As I look across the landscape that is the Minnesota Vikings, I see a team with one more serious run in them. The defense is one year older, but they are not devoid of talent. If the safety play can bounce back, and a couple of key guys can bounce back from injury, this is a championship-caliber team. I thought the schedule was a tough one when it came out, and I still do, but I also believe that this team is as good as any, and can beat anyone, anywhere, in any conditions.
My Dad and I were all in last year, this year we’re doubling down for one last run.