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Sunday August 31, 2008 8:43 am

NFL Preview: Minnesota Vikings




Posted by Charles Mitri Categories: NFL,

Adrian Peterson runs it for the Minnesota Vikings

MINNESOTA VIKINGS
2007 RECORD: 8-8
Overview: Considering the numbers they posted last year, the Minnesota Vikings should have been much better than a .500 club. The Purple Gang were the league’s top rushing team and they had the top defense against the run. So why the 8-8 record? Even though the Vikes knocked off the Super Bowl champion New York Giants during the season, they simply couldn’t win on the road (3-5). A quick look into their overall stats brings things into focus. Total first downs? The Vikes had 294 but gave up 305. Third down conversions? Minnesota had 69 out of 200 attempts but also gave up 94 out of 234. The real telling stat is total passing yards where super soph Tarvaris Jackson racked up 2745, but the defense surrendered 4225. Minnesota was just an average team with an average record.

Offense: Rookie running back sensation Adrian Peterson and second-year quarterback Jackson lucked out last season. No one expected Jackson to develop so quickly and Peterson was the surprise offensive weapon of the season. ‘08 will tell a different story. Opposing defenses will be keying on Peterson to shut down the Vikes’ running game. Jackson will be forced into a passing game, which can be a risky proposition. The more a quarterback puts the ball in the air, the more chances there are that he’ll be picked off. Wide receivers Bobby Wade and Bernard Berrian might be able to take some of the heat off the running game, but once opponents figure out Jackson’s game plan, it’s gonna be a long season. The backfield tandem of Chester Taylor and Thomas Tapeh could find themselves having to grind out hard yards if Peterson is neutralized.
Defense: The Vikes front four annihilated the ground game last year by ceding a paltry 67 first downs and a very meager 3.1 yards per carry. And during the offseason, they added ‘07 NFL sacks leader Jared Allen.  The secondary had a hard time against the pass where they gave up 222 first downs and a whopping 4225 aerial yards. The secondary foursome of Antoine Winfield, Cedric Griffin, Madieu Williams, and Darren Sharper seem to come up short in crucial third down situations where opposing quarterbacks spent the season peppering their coverage areas. It could well spell disaster if the Vikes defense is forced out of zone coverage and have to play man-to-man. The defensive backfield just don’t have the wheels for it. Add in the fact that the defense spent almost 31 minutes per game on the field makes for some very tired players.
Rookies: Defensive end Martail Burnett out of Utah and defensive tackle Leger Douzable will spend most of the season in the lumber business (riding the bench). The defensive front four isn’t about to make room for anyone. Strong safety Tyrell Johnson could log some playing time (aka a baptism by fire) if Darren Sharper doesn’t get the job done. Cornerbacks Brandon Sumrall and Marcus Walker could also be pressed into service if Winfield and Griffin are equally ineffective.
Prediction: The forecast isn’t all gloom and doom. Minnesota has as many pluses as they do minuses on both offense and defense. If Jackson, Peterson, and company can establish a ground game, this in turn will give the defense some much needed rest. The Vikes got some big offensive guns that can move the ball forward and chew up time. Their beefy defensive front four can make minced meat out of most running backs. Key factors to watch over the course of the season will be the secondary and Peterson’s offensive fireworks. If both are in place, Minnesota could be a force of nature. Without them, it’s gonna be a long season.

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