(Photo: AP - Ann Heisenfelt)
It's no secret that the 2013 season was a disappointment for the Minnesota Vikings. After making the playoffs in the year prior, the Vikings had to make changes and decided to clean house with their coaching staff. They have also added some new faces to the roster, along with new schemes both offensively and defensively. Training camp is right around the corner and there are some burning questions heading in.
Success always starts up front, so let's begin with the offensive line. Will the Vikings offensive line be able to live up to the expectations? With Norv Turner's explosive verticle offense, pass protection will be a huge emphasis. The offensive line will also have to be able to allow the quarterback time for plays to develop.
The right side will go unchanged from last year. Besides the highly efficient run blocker Phil Loadholt and top five center John Sullivan, the Vikings also have Brandon Fusco, who made strides last season. The left side should be improved with a healthy Matt Kalil as well. Kalil's nagging shoulder injury was likely a huge reason for his "step back" last season, and hopes are that he will be back to pro bowl form this year. The only big question mark still remaining is at left guard between Charlie Johnson and fifth round pick David Yankey. This will be something everyone should be watching closely during training camp.
Being implemented on the defensive side of the ball is Zimmer's hybrid 4-3 scheme. It may seem like your prototypical 4-3 defense, but peel back the layers and you will find something remarkable. The defensive line is very strong up front and very good at controlling the line of scrimmage. With newly signed Linval Joseph and second year player Sharrif Floyd, the Vikings hope to get similar impact that Geno Atkins has in Cincinatti. Beyond that, the coaching staff has high hopes for a Fred Evans/Corey Wootton rotation.
With Joseph, Floyd, Evans and Wootton devouring double teams, Everson Griffith, Brain Robinson and Anthony Barr rushing the edge, there are not too many holes to run through with the middle line backers lying in wait.
The big question, as always on defense, is the secondary. Captain Munnerlyn definitely improves the secondary being able to cover the faster, shiftier wide-outs, but the pass rush must being able to help the defensive backs.
Another situation that the Vikings regularly find themselves in, is who should start at quarterback? Many fans want to see Teddy "The Glove" Bridgewater to start immediately, a la Geno Smith with the New York Jets last season. There is no reason to throw Bridgewater to the wolves unless he really impresses early.
Lets see Bridgewater play a few preseason games before proclaiming him the starter. Matt Cassel has proven he can get the ball to our play-makers, which was a huge reason Cordarrelle Patterson had his coming out party in 2013 as more than a kick return specialist. Greg Jennings also had a good chemistry with Cassel, and has been lobbying for that chemistry going into the 2014 season.
We all know that Adrian Peterson is the focal point of the Vikings, but we need to stop the revolving door at the quarterback position. The old adage, "if you have two starting quarterbacks, you don't have one." applies here. It is hard to establish a leader if he is not routinely on the field. Stability would be a nice change from last season, and I think the Vikings will have that.