Minnesota Vikings News: 2014 NFL Season Preview, Fantasy Sleepers, Predictions and More
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With the NFL season fast approaching, Latino Post looks at the offseason moves that will make or break each team.
Last Season: 5-10-1 (Last in NFC North)
Key Additions: DE Corey Wootton, DT Linval Joseph, DT Tom Johnson, ILB Jasper Brinkley, CB Captain Munnerlyn, CB Derek Cox, S Kurt Coleman, OLB Anthony Barr (1st round), QB Teddy Bridgewater (1st round), DE Scott Crichton (2nd round), RB Jerick McKinnon (3rd round)
Key Losses: DE Jared Allen, DT Kevin Williams, QB Josh Freeman, RB Toby Gerhart, TE John Carlson, QB Joe Webb, DT Letroy Guion, CB Chris Cook, ILB Erin Henderson, ILB Desmond Bishop, CB A.J. Jefferson
Games to Watch: Sept. 14 vs. New England, Oct. 2 at Green Bay, Nov. 16 at Chicago, Dec. 29 vs. Chicago
Three Questions Heading into the 2014-15 Season:
•1. Will the Vikings carry three quarterbacks?
If the adage "three heads are better than one" is to be believed, the trio of Matt Cassel, Christian Ponder, and Josh Freeman would have led Minnesota to the playoffs last season.
Cassel had the highest quarterback rating among the three and was the only one with more touchdowns than turnovers. He provided stability where Ponder couldn't, though that's not saying much.
The Vikings ranked 4th in interceptions thrown, 11th in passing yards, and tied for last in touchdown receptions among NFC teams. Their overall quarterback rating (76.0) was second worst, with the New York Giants being the only team worse.
For once, high expectations weren't solely on Adrian Peterson's shoulders. 2013 was supposed to be Ponder's breakout year. The one that proved he was a legitimate starter. The one refuting claims that his 2,935 passing yard, 18 touchdown season the year prior wasn't a fluke.
Based on nine starts last season, it was.
Ponder bumbled to a 2-6-1 record, tossing nine interceptions while being sacked 27 times. He was permanently benched following a Week 13 start against Chicago.
Everyone knows by now Ponder isn't a permanent solution. He's a viable backup who will find a starting role in another city. It's just not time for Minnesota to let go. They'll pay Ponder $1.8 million if he's cut, giving general manager Rick Spielman incentive to trade the third-year quarterback. And if they don't, Teddy Bridgewater has more time to develop.
Bridgewater was a consensus top pick until he lost favor with NFL scouts. The Louisville product completed 71 percent of his passes last year and threw 31 touchdowns to only four interceptions.
He doesn't have the pomp of a Johnny Manziel or Cam Newton's quickness, but Bridgewater does have an all-around game that complements Peterson and the team's undervalued receivers.
•2. Were there improvements in the secondary?
Minnesota's defensive backfield may be cursed.
Chris Cook missed four games with a groin injury, Xavier Rhodes was out a couple of weeks with a bum ankle, and Harrison Smith was placed on the IR with turf toe. Already vulnerable positions became easy pickings for opposing quarterbacks. Josh Robinson filled in at starting corner to horrendous results, many grading him the worst cornerback in the NFL.
The Vikings allowed a league-high 37 passing touchdowns to only 12 interceptions. They hired former Pro-Bowl cornerback Jerry Gray to address the issue.
A revamped secondary doesn't include Cook, who left for San Francisco, but that may be a good thing. Cook had more arrests than interceptions over the last four years. They signed former Panther Captain Munnerlyn to fill the void.
Chris Cox also brings experience to a youthful backfield. He notched 12 interceptions in four seasons with Jacksonville before signing with San Diego.
The safety spot is still open for Robert Blanton and Jamarca Sanford to challenge for. Otherwise, Minnesota's secondary is set, as long as Smith and Rhodes can stay healthy.
•3. How would Jerome Simpson's suspension affect the receiving corps?
Jerome Simpson's recent DUI charge may have been dismissed, but he still faces a three-game suspension.
It wouldn't be the first time Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Simpson. The wide receiver missed three games in 2012 after being convicted of a felony when he tried to mail marijuana to his home in Kentucky. This is Simpson's first alcohol-related offense, but could classify him a repeat offender under the Policy and Program for Substance Abuse.
Simpson earned career highs in receptions, receiving yards, and yards per reception in 2013. Losing their slot receiver to start the season puts Minnesota in a bind.
Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson are ready to go but Jarius Wright, the man slated to replace Simpson, left Monday's practice session with an ankle injury.
Rodney Smith and Adam Thielen are battling for the final wide receiver spot but neither has caught a pass in a regular season game. It's not out of the question for both to make the opening day roster.
Simpson's suspension enacts a domino effect down the team's depth chart.
Cordarrelle Patterson - WR
Few wide receivers surprised as much as Cordarrelle Patterson surprised NFC secondaries last season. The 29th overall pick in the 2013 draft grabbed 45 receptions for 469 yards in being named a Pro Bowler. That's an accomplishment, given Minnesota's turnstile at quarterback.
The scary thing is Patterson is more dangerous as a kick returner. He averaged more than 30 yards per return on 43 attempts, taking two back for touchdowns. With Simpson's looming suspension, the Tennessee grad becomes the Vikings' most potent deep threat.
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