By Josh Moeschl
As a Minnesota sports fan I hear almost every year about how improved the Minnesota Vikings are going to be and how optimistic we all should be. Normally this jargon turns into missing the playoffs, and lately, playing some pretty mediocre football. This year however there truly is reason for optimism, and here’s why:
Let’s start where every die hard purple and gold fan wants to start, with Teddy Bridgewater. After sneaking back into the first round of the draft to select him, many have high hopes and higher expectations of the young signal caller. You’re absolutely right to have them. This kid has a ceiling that I’m not sure we can even see quite yet.
Teddy displayed tremendous poise in the pocket last year for a rookie. That says a lot for his moxy as the team didn’t have any sort of a running game to keep defenses honest. He passed efficiently, completing almost 65% of his attempts. For those of you thinking that’s just not good enough to win at this level, let me put that into some perspective.
The big knock on Teddy is the smaller hands and not throwing a good deep ball. First of all, forget about the small hands thing. Teddy fumbled just three times last season. Luck had thirteen and just for good measure, Rodgers had ten. As for the deep ball, he has been working on that aspect of his game all off-season and looked really good in training camp in Mankato. With a few speedy new toys in the receiving corps to throw to, expect much better long balls this season.
Next, we have to go to the obvious reason for optimism. Our all-world, All-Pro, first ballot HOF running back Adrian Peterson. He is coming back from a basically season-long suspension and will be as fresh as he was back in 2012, when he was coming back from a knee injury that sidelined him in 2011. What did he do after he came back the pervious time? Oh, he just rushed 348 times for 2,097 yards and came within a play or two of breaking the NFL’s season rushing yards record.
This time, he isn’t coming back from a physical injury. He hasn’t been rehabbing all off-season. He hasn’t been sitting around doing nothing. He has been working out constantly for this moment, this season. Adrian always has played with a chip on his shoulder, but this season that chip is bigger than normal. Behind a steady offensive line (yes, Kalil will be fine), this man is going to run with reckless abandon and could easily challenge the season rushing mark again.
Lastly, let’s look at our offensive scheme in general. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner has been applauded for his stellar schemes and his dominant tight end plays. Kyle Rudolph is finally 100% healthy this year, and I expect him to be used a ton. Remember, Norv pretty much made Antonio Gates a star out in San Diego and Rudy is arguably more talented.
With AP in the backfield again, defenses will be forced to keep their secondaries honest, opening up all kinds of passing opportunities that seemed forced last year. We can’t forget the emergence of Charles Johnson either. This is a 6’2”, 215lbs kid (he’s just 26) that runs a 4.3 second forty and has a 40 inch vertical. Believe me, we are just scratching the surface of what this guy is capable of and Norv will be running a lot of plays downfield for him this season. Alongside of CJ will be newly acquired wideout Mike Wallace. This guy has it all. He runs crisp routes, he’s a 4.2 guy, and he plays well in the red zone.
With those two speedsters on the outside, AP in the backfield, and Rudolph at TE underneath, this could very well be one of the league’s more potent offenses. Many NFL talking heads are picking Minnesota as a sleeper Playoff team. They are seeing the same things we are.