Minnesota Vikings 2014-15 Team Preview
The Minnesota Vikings are by all means a rebuilding team. Its incumbent quarter back, starter Matt Cassel, is 32 and on his way out.
First round pick Teddy Bridgewater figures to have a long successful career after being the fourth QB selected in the first round, 32nd overall.
The Vikings feel that the coaching tandem of Norv Turner and Mike Zimmer can help the team return to success, but as evidenced by the odds at Bovada, this team is expected to finish last in the NFC North.
Odds to win Superbowl: 75/1
Odds to win NFC: 40/1
Odds to win NFC North: +1000
Odds courtesy of Bovada
Norv Turner is the best thing this offense has going for it, not its players. Bill Musgrave had the team basically running every play, and even with a RB as effective as Adrian Peterson, something has to give with some versatility in play calling. Turner balances the run and pass games very well, and is great at getting a lot from big backs. Peterson could put up nearly as good numbers, while the team improves dramatically.
That best case scenario has to be tempered by the team’s roster though. The quarterback position is years away from improving. Cassel returned to the Vikings after opting out and will assume the role of Bridgewater’s tutor. Christian Ponder somehow works into the mix, but he’s been a horrible disappointment, so a lot of Vikings fans probably wish he was just gone. This will be the last season of his inadequacies before Bridgewater assumes a larger role.
The Vikings are loaded at RB, if only because AP is the No. 1 there. Peterson is the highest paid running back in the league, and even at age 29, it is difficult to imagine him dropping off. He’s had two surgeries in the last three offseason, and the Vikings will be wise to cut his carries down some this season. The Vikes drafted Jerick McKinnon of Georgia Southern in the third-round and he’ll slide in to replace Toby Gerhart who left to sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars. McKinnon will be a good change of pace back, and he’s very powerful.
The receivers should get a big boost from working with Turner. Turner was largely responsible for Josh Gordon’s monster season in Cleveland last year. Similarly, Cordarrelle Patterson should make a big leap this season. He’s 6’2” 220 and very quick. Musgrave really didn’t get much considering his immense talent, and of Patterson’s seven TDs, six came in the final five games of the season. Greg Jennings will be better off with Cassel starting, too. He’s good for big plays.
The OL is inconsistent and underwhelming. The guard positions are both weak. Charlie Johnson could be a decent bargain, but he’s 30. 2013 draft pick Jeff Baca and fifth rounder David Yankey will be considered. There’s just no reason to expect much improvement from last season’s status, and that was the line’s second year together.
Zimmer uses a 4-3 and 3-4 defense and has produced some top-10 defenses. The Vikes have talented players on the ends and Linval Joseph at tackle, which should allow the team to run a hybrid 4-3 scheme a lot.
The DL is very young. There’s likely no way it is even as good as last year with two All-Pros departing. The LB positions are also subpar, though Anthony Barr is going to be a monster pass rusher and should be interesting to see evolve under Zimmer. He’ll start on the strong side with Chad Greenway taking the weak side and middle in the nickel format. Greenway led the Vikings in tackles last season.
The secondary is mediocre. There isn’t any top-end talent, nor depth. Safety Harrison Smith and CBs Xavier Rhodes and Captain Mennerlyn should help it improve, as the latter two were first-round draft selections. The Vikings have two good CBs essentially, but that’s just not a strong enough secondary to put it all together. The Vikings defense should be fairly awful, overall, this season.
Patterson was an excellent kick returner last year. He led the league with a 32.4 yd average and had a 109 yard return for a TD. Marcus Sherels set a franchise record with a 15.2 yard punt average.
Blair Walsh made 10-of-10 from beyond 50 yards his rookie season, but only hit 2-of-5 last season. Still, he only missed four attempts and has a long career ahead of himself. Second-year punter Jeff Locke will need to improve, but Sherels will have most of the duties anyway.
There’s no reason to expect the Vikings to finish any higher than last in the NFC North. +1000 at Bovada speaks for itself, and the Vikings will have to play to its ceiling to avoid being a 10 loss team. This is largely because the team falls apart down the stretch typically, and Cassel is still not a great option, though far better than Ponder. Ultimately, Vikings fans are taking the long-term approach to playoff hopes, expecting Bridgewater to pull this franchise out of the gutters.