Friday, September 01, 2006
And now the final stop on my NFC North voyage... the Minnesota Vikings. I live and die by the Vikings each Sunday, which made the beginning of last year rather painful.. anyway, hopefully things improve this year. Here's a look:
About Last Year: As bad as things were on the field at times, they were even worse off the field. I'm sure you've all heard about everything a million times, but hopefully all of those problems are in the past. On the field, the Vikings sucked at the start of the year, and then Daunte Culpepper got hurt. Now, that's certainly not the only reason the Vikings turned things around in the 2nd half. Heck, it wasn't even the biggest thing. In the 2nd half of last year the Viking defense turned into a shutdown, turnover-forcing machine, and this was the biggest reason the Vikings were playoff contenders by the end of the year. Anyway, they finished 9-7.
What they Added: First and foremost, a real coach. For a multitude of reasons, Mike Tice was awful. Brad Childress and the rest of the staff is not real experienced, but I feel 100% better and more confident with them in the helm, because I think they actually know what they're doing and stuff. Elsewhere, the biggest pickup was obviously Steve Hutchinson, the best OG in the league. Sure, they overpaid a little bit, but they could afford to. They also get back Pro-Bowler Matt Birk on the O-Line. Chester Taylor was also brought in to try and bring stability to the running back position. He hasn't looked great this preseason, but he's a solid runner that should also be able to catch some balls for the Vikings. Defensively, Ben Leber was brought in and will start at LB for the Vikings. They also picked up Dwight Smith to start at safety.
What they Lost: Well, Daunte Culpepper is gone. Though it's not like the Vikings didn't have time to prepare for that, because he was out over half the year. Still kinda disappointing that the Vikings lost their 2 most talented players in a 2-year span. But that's the past. Another big loss is Koren Robinson, and again, I think we all know about that. It's not easy to replace your #1 WR who also happens to be a Pro-Bowl kick returner right before the season begins. Defensively, Lance Johnstone is gone, and he was an excellent pass rusher for the past couple years. In the secondary, the big loss is Brian Williams, who stepped in greatly when Fred Smoot was injured, but left for Jacksonville in the offseason. Safety Corey Chavous is departed as well. All in all, there was definitely a fair amount of turnover as Brad Childress tried to remake the team into what he wants it to be.
What does this all mean? I have no idea. If things clicked right away and the Vikings went 11-5, I wouldn't be really surprised. If the offense never came together and the Vikings finished 10-6, I wouldn't be overly shocked. There's just so many variables and so many new parts that it's hard to see how things will work at this point. However, I'm optimistic. The defense has looked great this preseason, and the front 4 has the potential to be top front 4 in the league. The linebackers are improving and the secondary is solid. Offensively, they have a very talented Line, it just needs time to come together. Brad Johnson has always been a very solid QB. If the line plays up to its talent level, the Twins should be a solid running team, and Brad will have the time he needs, which allows him to be an accurate passer. Call me crazy, but I see 10-6 and a share of the division title... but I may be biased!
I should also mention that I'll be out of town for the Labor Day Weekend, so obviously this won't be updated for a couple days. So anyway, enjoy the holiday and the sports weekend, especially some excellent college football games!