QB Sage Rosenchoker, QB Brett Favre, CB Karl Paymah.
WR Percy Harvin, OT Phil Loadholt, CB Asher Allen, ILB Jasper Brinkley, S Jamarca Sanford.
QB Gus Frerotte, FB Thomas Tapeh, WR Aundrae Allison, WR Robert Ferguson, OT Marcus Johnson, C Matt Birk, DT Ellis Wyms, DT Kenderick Allen, ILB Napoleon Harris, OLB Vinny Ciurciu, ILB Dontarrious Thomas, CB Charles Gordon, S Darren Sharper, S Michael Boulware, KR Maurice Hicks.
2009 Minnesota Vikings Offense:
The Vikings have a three-way quarterback controversy. Three signal-callers, two of whom are new to the team, will compete for the starting gig in Minnesota. Unfortunately for all parties involved, including the fans, there won't be any winners.
Starting with the incumbent, Tarvaris Jackson's poor mechanics and inability to make reads qualified him as the worst starting quarterback in the NFL playoffs last season by a wide margin. You can get by with a mediocre signal-caller in the postseason if you have a great defense and a sound running attack. But Jackson can't even sniff mediocre; against the Eagles, he was 15-of-35 (42.9-percent completion), 164 yards (Ken Dorsey-like 4.7 YPA), no touchdowns, one interception and a fumble. In fact, in my 2008 NFL Season Preview of the Vikings, I had the team making the playoffs and losing at home in the first round to an NFC East team (Cowboys), citing that I was looking forward to betting against Jackson in the postseason. Well, I walked away from the game with $300. Go me.
Curiously enough, most of the team seems to be behind Jackson, which I simply can't understand. I guess most of the players have no interest in winning a Super Bowl and want to go on vacation early instead.
Behind Door No. 2 is Sage Rosenfels, or as he's called on this site, Sage Rosenchoker. Rosenchoker is a much more capable quarterback than Jackson; his mechanics are sound and he can actually make reads. Unfortunately, Rosenchoker's downfall is the fact that he's very turnover-prone. In five starts last year, Rosenchoker threw just six touchdowns to 10 interceptions, and fumbled four times, including thrice against the Colts in a memorable choke job for the ages. On the bright side, Rosenchoker had an 8.2 YPA in 2008, and unlike Jackson, he could lead Minnesota to a postseason victory, provided he doesn't self-destruct.
Meanwhile, in case you somehow missed ESPN's rampant coverage of the situation, Brett Favre looks to be Minnesota's third option. The Vikings have given Favre a deadline of July 29 to commit to the team, and given that Favre has met repeatedly with the team's trainers, it looks like he's going to oblige.
With all that's happening with Favre, it's apparent that Brad Clueless is once again living up to his nickname. I don't understand - was he not paying attention to what happened to the Jets last year? Favre was effective for some games, but he threw at least as many picks as touchdowns in five of his first eight games in New York because he came in late, and was unfamiliar with the scheme and personnel. Favre then had a three-game stretch where he was brilliant against the Rams, Patriots and Titans, but closed out the year on a horrific note; he had two touchdowns and nine interceptions in the final five weeks of the season.
Apologists will blame Favre's late-season collapse on his injured shoulder, but you can't convince me that part of the reason for his downfall was that he was playing quarterback as a 39-year-old. Favre, who turns 40 on Oct. 10, is now coming off shoulder and biceps surgery. If he starts for the Vikings, he'll have a few great games, but they'll be mixed in with one-score, three-pick performances.
Whether it's Favre, Rosenchoker or Jackson, Minnesota's starting quarterback will have a few solid weapons to work with. Bernard Berrian, a quick, downfield target, caught 39 passes for 757 yards and five touchdowns last season when Jackson wasn't under center (he predictably struggled with Jackson). Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe finally emerged as the tight end the Vikings were hoping he'd become, grabbing 42 balls for 596 yards and seven scores.
I like a young wideout Minnesota has, but it's not rookie Percy Harvin. Sidney Rice, entering his third year, was ineffective in 2008 because he had an injured knee. Rice, now completely healthy, turns 23 on Sept. 1. At 6-4, 202, he's the split end the Vikings need to step up. He's going to be a very effective end-zone target. Harvin, meanwhile, will be a nice gimmick player in the Wildcat and on end-around plays, but don't expect much of him as a receiver; he's coming out of Florida's goofy offense and will have to learn how to play in a real scheme.
The greatest weapon the Vikings have on offense, of course, is Adrian Peterson. Peterson, a 220-pound monstrous back with breakaway speed, rushed for 1,760 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2008. As long as Peterson stays healthy, Minnesota will be a playoff contender. However, Peterson isn't much of a factor in the passing attack, which is why Chester Taylor was used as the third-down back last year. Taylor caught 45 passes for 399 receiving yards, and vultured six of Peterson's scores.
What's scary for the opposition is that Peterson and Taylor could be even more effective in 2009 because the offensive line has improved. The left side has remained the same; Bryant McKinnie and Steve Hutchinson are both devastating run-blockers, though the latter struggles in pass protection (seven sacks allowed). The same can be said for right guard Anthony Herrera (7.5 sacks).
The two new additions to the line are center John Sullivan and right tackle Phil Loadholt. Sullivan has no career starts and has the unenviable task of replacing the legend Matt Birk, but Birk really struggled last season. The coaching staff likes Sullivan, so I can't see him being a major downgrade. Loadholt, meanwhile, figures to be a force in the ground game. The monstrous Oklahoma rookie stands at 6-8, 337 pounds (and that's pretty generous).
2009 Minnesota Vikings Defense:
If you were wondering how the Vikings made the playoffs last year with a one-dimensional offense featuring not one, but two crappy quarterbacks, this is it. Minnesota ranked 13th in points allowed (20.8), but was sixth in yardage surrendered and third against the run (3.4 YPC).
The team also registered an impressive 45 sacks, thanks to the presence of Jared Allen. A year ago, the Vikings essentially robbed the foolish Kansas City Chiefs, acquiring Allen far below market value. Allen had 14 sacks in 2008, and created more one-on-one opportunities for everyone else. Playing on the other side of the line, Ray Edwards notched five sacks. Under tackle Kevin Williams compiled eight sacks. Linebacker Chad Greenway, who led the team in tackles with 115, accumulated six sacks of his own.
With such a great pass rush, it's almost unbelievable that Minnesota ranked 22nd versus the pass (7.2 YPA). You can't put any blame on Antonie Winfield, who had a great 2008 campaign. Unfortunately, Winfield is 32 and due for a dropoff in production. No. 2 corner Cedric Griffin was a liability in coverage and is now overpaid; the front office gave him a 5-year, $28.5 million deal in March. Meanwhile, corner depth is an issue; Charles Gordon, in all likelihood, won't be ready to start the regular season because he's coming off multiple injuries. Asher Allen is a mere rookie, so Karl Paymah, who struggled with the Broncos last season, looks to be the team's nickel corner.
Safety is also an issue. Darren Sharper is gone, leaving Madieu Williams and Tyrell Johnson as the starters. Johnson, a second-year player, obviously doesn't have much experience, but is a promising, young defensive back. The problem is at free safety. When the Vikings signed Williams to a 6-year, $33.75 contract a year ago, I heavily criticized the move; the former Bengal was a very injury-prone player and wasn't worth nearly that much money. As it turns out, Williams missed seven games in 2008.
As indicated earlier, Minnesota has one of the top run defenses in the league. Unfortunately, the team could struggle in this department the first four weeks of the season. There's a chance that Pat and Kevin Williams, known as the Williams Wall, will be suspended for the team's first four contests. If that happens, it'll be up to Fred Evans and Letroy Guion to fill in. This is a hunch, but I think opposing runners will be happy to see those two players on the field.
Playing behind the Williams Wall is a quality group of linebackers. I already mentioned Greenway, a talented strongside linebacker who will be entering his third year as a starter. In the middle, E.J. Henderson will be back after missing 12 games in 2008 with a foot injury. Henderson's return to the lineup is huge for the Vikings, who really could have used his dominating presence against the Eagles. Weakside linebacker Ben Leber is the inferior of the three players in the unit, but he's still a sound defensive talent.
2009 Minnesota Vikings Schedule and Intangibles:
Minnesota is just 10-37 when playing outdoors the past seven seasons. The team was a pedestrian 1-4 in those contests in 2008. Remarkably, three of those 10 victories came at Lambeau Field.
Speaking of Lambeau, a big signing three years ago was former Packer Ryan Longwell. After a disappointing 2006 campaign in which he was 4-of-8 from 40-plus, Longwell rebounded, nailing 11-of-15 attempts from that distance in 2007. Last year, Longwell was 29-of-34, including an amazing 6-of-6 from 50-plus.
Punter Chris Kluwe was once again one of the top players at his position in the NFL, maintaining a 47.6 average while hitting 23-of-73 kicks inside the opposing 20.
Never mind the punt return Bernard Berrian took the house; the Vikings surrendered FOUR touchdowns on special teams. That needs to be fixed. On the bright side, Percy Harvin will provide a boost in the return game.
So maybe not having the Williams Wall for the first four weeks won't be so bad... the Vikings open the season at Cleveland, at Detroit, home to San Francisco and Green Bay, and at St. Louis. Pretty ridiculous. It does get tougher; immediately following the Rams game, Minnesota hosts Baltimore, then goes to Pittsburgh and Green Bay. The team's final six games will also be taxing, as they have to battle the Bears, Cardinals (road), improved Bengals, Panthers (road), Bears (road) and Giants.
2009 Minnesota Vikings Analysis: Last year, I wrote the following: "Remove Tarvaris Jackson off the roster and replace him with a proven, veteran signal caller, and I'd probably pencil the Vikings into the Super Bowl."
Have things changed with Sage Rosenchoker and Brett Favre? Well, Rosenchoker isn't proven, and Favre is way too veteran. Besides, the NFC North will be much tougher this season. Aaron Rodgers is entering his second year as a starter, while the Bears have improved tremendously with the acquisition of Jay Cutler.
Harvin is unbelievably talented. Based on that alone, he should have been a first-round pick. However, he comes with a ton of baggage. He has major durability issues. He has an injury history. He's a raw receiver who played in a system that proves that it doesn't translate well to the NFL.
And then there are the character issues. Harvin knew he was going to get tested for weed at the Combine. The fact that he tested positive means one of two things: Harvin is either really stupid, or he simply didn't care.
Having traits of stupidity and lethargy isn't good for a player who needs to work hard to make the adjustment to a pro-style offense. Sure, the Vikings will be able to use Harvin in some trick plays to get some big gains. Harvin will also be effective as a return specialist. I just question if he'll ever develop into an impact receiver. His work ethic and injury history say that he won't.
Matt McGuire predicts that Harvin will be out of the league in four years. I wouldn't be surprised at all if that happens. How long will it be until he tests positive again or does something else to disrupt the locker room? Bodog, 5Dimes or BetUS should post odds on this.
At any rate, I feel as though the Vikings had a very solid draft otherwise. The Harvin pick just drags the overall grade down.
Grade given on 4/27/09: C
2009 NFL Draft Picks:
22. Percy Harvin, WR, Florida
Did Zygi Wilf forget about the boat incident? Percy Harvin is a raw receiver with huge durability and character concerns. How do you test positive for weed at the Combine? Brad Clueless definitely lived up to his nickname with this selection. (Pick Grade: F)
54. Phil Loadholt, OT, Oklahoma
Well, the Vikings are semi-forgiven for the Percy Harvin pick in terms of positional value. Phil Loadholt is an upgrade at right tackle, and he'll blow open huge holes for Adrian Peterson. Great value. (Pick Grade: A)
86. Asher Allen, CB, Georgia
Minnesota had to acquire a young corner, and the team is getting nice value here with Asher Allen. Solid pick. (Pick Grade: B)
150. Jasper Brinkley, ILB, South Carolina
Solid value here; Jasper Brinkley could have gone in the third round, and no one would have complained. (Pick Grade: A)
231. Jamarca Sanford, S, Ole Miss
Jamarca Sanford was a mid-round prospect, so I love this pick in terms of draft value. (Pick Grade: A)
Pretty predictable. An offseason ago, I stated multiple times that I hoped the Vikings would win the NFC North so I could bet against them in the playoffs. Minnesota was an obvious one-and-done candidate because neither Tarvaris Jackson nor Gus Frerotte has what it takes to win in the postseason. It's a shame too because the Vikings have the other pieces in place to make a Super Bowl run.
Lions sign WR Glenn Holt
Vikings cut WR Glenn Holt
Raiders sign ILB Napoleon Harris
Vikings sign QB Brett Favre
Falcons sign WR Robert Ferguson
Jets sign WR Aundrae Allison
Vikings cut WR Aundrae Allison
Vikings announce retirement of QB Brett Favre
Vikings cut CB Charles Gordon
Patriots sign OLB Vinny Ciurciu
Raiders sign OT Marcus Johnson
Vikings re-sign DT Fred Evans
Vikings re-sign DE Otis Grigsby
Vikings re-sign FB Naufahu Tahi
Vikings sign WR Glenn Holt
Saints sign S Darren Sharper
Vikings sign CB Karl Paymah
Vikings re-sign DT Jimmy Kennedy
Vikings re-sign CB Benny Sapp
Vikings re-sign OLB Heath Farwell
Ravens sign C Matt Birk
Vikings cut Vinny Ciurciu
Vikings acquire QB Sage Rosenfels from Texans for a 4th-round pick
Vikings re-sign TE Jim Kleinsasser
Vikings cut QB Gus Frerotte
Vikings re-sign DE Jayme Mitchell
Vikings tender DT Fred Evans
Vikings re-sign CB Charles Gordon
Vikings cut KR Maurice Hicks
Quarterback: It doesn't matter how awesome your car looks; it won't run if the engine is really bad. Tarvaris Jackson has accuracy issues, poor mechanics and a horrendous grasp of reading defenses. Gus Frerotte is good for a few bone-headed decisions per game. The Vikings need a capable quarterback to become legit Super Bowl contenders. Traded for Sage Rosenfels; signed Brett Favre
Center: Matt Birk's play fell off a bit last year. He's a 33-year-old free agent, so it's unlikely that he returns to the Vikings in 2009.
Right Tackle: Ryan Cook and Marcus Johnson spent another year sucking. Nothing new here. I have no idea why Minnesota didn't upgrade this position a year ago. Drafted Phil Loadholt
Cornerback: Cedric Griffin is pretty inconsistent. The Vikings could definitely use an upgrade at corner. Drafted Asher Allen; signed Karl Paymah; re-signed Charles Gordon and Benny Sapp
Defensive Tackle: The Williams Wall is an impenetrable force, but Pat Williams turns 37 in October. Minnesota may look to draft his successor relatively early in the 2009 NFL Draft. Re-signed Jimmy Kennedy and Fred Evans
Special Teamers: The Vikings gave up FOUR punt return touchdowns in 2008. FOUR! That's ridiculous. No surprise that Brad Clueless has a horrendous special-teams unit.
Return Specialist: Charles Gordon and his 4.4-yard punt-return average isn't scaring anyone. Kick returner Maurice Hicks can't break one either.
Safety: Tyrell Johnson will take free-agent Darren Sharper's spot in the lineup. The Vikings will need some depth at safety. Drafted Jamarca Sanford
2009 NFL Free Agent Signings:
Sage Rosenfels, QB, Texans. Age: 31. Traded to Vikings for a 4th-round pick; signed for 2 years, $9 million
Though known for his antics in the epic "Sage Rosenchoker" meltdown against the Colts, Sage Rosenfels is a much more capable quarterback than Tarvaris Jackson and Gus Frerotte. Rosenfels is prone to some mistakes (10 interceptions to six touchdowns in 2008), but he's not mentally challenged (Frerotte) and he can actually make reads (Jackson). For the first time in years, Minnesota has a legitimate signal-caller.
Brett Favre, QB, Jets. Age: 39. Signed with Vikings
Divisional Rival History: Chicago Bears: The home team has claimed 12 of 14. Detroit Lions: Pure domination. The Vikings have somehow won 18 of the past 20 meetings. Green Bay Packers: The Packers have won five of six, as well as seven of 10 battles in this intense rivalry.
Features to be Posted This Offseason:
2009 NFL Draft Grades (Pick-by-Pick NFL Draft Grades as well - Live on Draft Day!)
I had the Panthers taking a right tackle with the last pick of the second round for weeks. I thought it would be David Sharpe, but Moton is a good pick and is a physical blocker to open holes for Christian McCaffrey.