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2011 Team Report: Minnesota Vikings

Quarterbacks

Starter: Donovan McNabb
Backup(s): Christian Ponder [R], Joe Webb, Rhett Bomar

Starting QB: After being run out of Washington, Donovan McNabb landed in Minnesota to keep the seat warm until rookie Christian Ponder is ready to take over the helm. McNabb inherits a team that just lost their #1 WR to free agency in Sidney Rice, and replaced him with a handful of questionable guys. However, he also inherits one of the best running backs in the league in Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin is a pretty exciting receiver himself. If McNabb's veteran presence can keep this team focused, they still have some potential. Remember, this was a team the Brett Favre almost took to the Super Bowl just two years ago.

Backup QB: The Vikings surprised a few people by selecting Ponder at #12 overall on draft day, but they really believe in the kid and expect that he's their QB of the future. The Lockout was his biggest obstacle to the starting job, and it forced the Vikings to land a veteran like McNabb to be their starter. This gives Ponder a chance to come along a little slower and really prepare for that starting job. He will probably be the starter before the end of the season, but don't expect much from him the first few weeks. Joe Webb will probably return to the #3 slot on the team. He performed well when pressed into duty last season, and has some versatility that gives the Vikings some options with him. If he stays at QB, he might even run a wildcat formation or two each game.

Running Backs

Starter: Adrian Peterson
Backup(s): Toby Gerhart, Lorenzo Booker, Matt Asiata
Fullback(s):

Starting RB: The Vikings are going to lean heavily on Adrian Peterson this season. Their passing game is going to be very shaky with a new QB and a lot of question marks at WR. That means more action for Peterson and the Minnesota running game. Last season, Peterson 'only' turned in 1600 yards from scrimmage, but added 13 trips to the end zone as well, landing him in among the top three fantasy RBS for his fourth consecutive season. Expect another solid year from Peterson as he is pushing to be the every down back, and could easily see 350+ touches this season.

Backup RBs: Toby Gerhart came in to help share the load with Peterson last season, but he never played more than a series or two if Adrian Peterson was healthy. Gerhart performed well in relief of ADP, and he should see similar numbers again this season given the state of the Minnesota passing game. If you draft Peterson this season, you probably need to target Gerhart as well. Lorenzo Booker is more of a utility player, filling in on kick returns and landing a carry or two here and there. However, he isn't a guy who is going to see a lot of action unless Adrian Peterson goes down for an extended period of time.

Fullback: The Vikings don't use a true fullback position. Jim Kleinsasser and Jeff Dugan sometimes line up as a second TE/H-Back but they are really more tight ends than true fullbacks.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Percy Harvin, Bernard Berrian, Michael Jenkins
Backups: Greg Camarillo, Devin Aromashodu, Stephen Burton, Jaymar Johnson

Starting WRs: With the departure of Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin and Bernard Berrian assume the #1 and #2 WR roles by default. Harvin is an electric player who is dangerous every time he touches the ball. Minnesota likes to get him the ball in space where his speed and elusiveness can really do some damage. He also returns kickoffs and is good for at least one return TD each year. Berrian is a shadow of his former self, and is coming off a terrible 2010 season. He begins the season as the #2, but may not hold on to the job for very long. Michael Jenkins comes over after underperforming for years in Atlanta. If he can beat out Berrian for the starting job, he should be able to be a big contributor to the Minnesota offense, especially as a deep threat.

Backup WRs: Devin Aromashodu comes over from Chicago this off season, he will push Greg Camarillo for the #4 spot. Camarillo came over from Miami last season with a great opportunity to take over a starting spot. Camarillo was only able to provide minimal support and he finished with just 20 catches for the season. He and Aromashodu will compete for the #4 and #5 slots unless Berrian and Jenkins totally flame out. In deeper leagues, they might be worth considering because there is going to be a revolving door at WR after Harvin this season.

Tight Ends

Starters: Visanthe Shiancoe
Backups: Jim Kleinsasser, Kyle Rudolph [R], Jeff Dugan

Without Favre throwing to him in the red zone, Shiancoe fell out of the top fantasy TEs last year, and was not even worth having on your roster by the end of the season. His lack of TD production made him useless to most fantasy owners and he finished as the #24 fantasy TE. McNabb knows how to get everyone involved in the office, so Shiancoe might see additional action this year, but don't expect miracles. The Vikings also have rookie Kyle Rudolph who will push for time in the Minnesota offense. Jim Kleinsasser and Jeff Dugan will also see action in spots, but only as check-down or secondary receivers and are not worth having on your fantasy roster.

Place Kicker

Ryan Longwell : The Vikings did not lose kicker Ryan Longwell to free agency, re-signing him to a 4-year deal. Longwell was happy, "[My wife] Sarah and I are really excited to be back with the Vikings. It was our intention all along to stay if we could, so we feel so blessed it worked out this way. I'm a big believer in the way Coach [Leslie] Frazier approaches life and football, so I can't wait to get to work." The other two specialists also remain the same this year: long snapper Cullen Loeffler, who had a quiet summer, and punter/holder Chris Kluwe, who significantly increased his media presence this summer. After two consecutive top ten rankings, the Vikings plummeted to 32nd (i.e. last place) in kicker scoring opportunities last year.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners:

Percy Harvin, Lorenzo Booker, Cord Parks, Jaymar Johnson

Punt Returners: Jaymar Johnson, Greg Camarillo, Marcus Sherels, Lorenzo Booker

WR Greg Camarillo is listed as the top punt returner on the initial depth chart, followed by WR Jaymar Johnson. That is likely to switch around in the regular season - especially after Johnson had a 40 yarder in the preseason opener. Rookie CB Marcus Sherels and RB Lorenzo Booker are other potential punt returners. WR Percy Harvin is listed as the top kickoff returner on the initial depth chart, followed by Booker. Harvin's use on returns during the regular season will be a "game-by-game type of deal" according to special teams coordinator Mike Priefer. Rookie WR Stephen Burton, Jaymar Johnson and CB Cord Parks have also been working on kickoff returns.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT DeMarcus Love [R], LG Steve Hutchinson, C John Sullivan, RG Anthony Herrera, RT Phil Loadholt
Key Backups: Charles Johnson, Chris DeGeare, John Cooper, Ryan Cook

Team Defense

Jared Allen anchors a group up front that isn't quite what it once was. The "Williams Wall" is no more with Pat Williams not re-signing. Also gone is defensive end Ray Edwards, who signed with Atlanta. Remi Ayodele comes over from New Orleans to replace the departed Williams and work with fellow tackle Kevin Williams to attempt to re-create one of the great run defenses in the league. The projected starters at linebacker are all home-grown talents. E.J. Henderson is the middle linebacker and is the most experienced of the group. He is joined by solid 6th-year player Chad Greenway who has 99 or more tackles in each of the last four seasons. Erin Henderson -- younger brother of E.J. -- was suspended four games in 2009 for violating the substance abuse policy. He'll be expected to play a bigger role this season as a replacement for the departed Ben Leber. The cornerbacks are the notable pieces of this secondary. Cedric Griffin and Antoine Winfield are well-known veterans capable of playing solidly. Minnesota's defense will most likely decline this season with all of the new pieces. If this defense is in the top 15 of the league, defensive guru and head coach Leslie Frazier will have done a great job. The "young" of this young and old defensive mix can unfortunately also be described as inexperienced, and "old" could be deemed past its prime.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Jared Allen, DT Kevin Williams, DT Remi Ayodele, DE Brian Robison
Backups: DE Everson Griffen, DE D'Aundre Reed, DE Adrian Awasom, DT Christian Ballard, DT Fred Evans, DT Letroy Guion

Starting DL: The Vikings defense is led by perennial pro-bowl DE Jared Allen, arguably the league's best defensive end. Allen, who is annually among the league leaders in sacks, is a dynamic pass rusher and also excels in run defense. Over the last six year, Allen has averaged 50 solos, 12 assists and 12 sacks. With the departure of Ray Edwards, Brian Robison takes over at the DE spot opposite Allen. Robison has flashed pass rushing skills, but have not shown enough consistency. Veteran Kevin Williams returns to man one of the DT spots. Williams is one of the best two-way interior linemen in the league and is strong both against the run and as an inside pass rusher. He hopes to rebound from a one-sack 2010 season. Lining up next to Williams will be DT Remi Ayodele. He was signed to replace the departed Pat Williams.

Backup DL: The Vikings' depth on the defensive line took a hit when former reserve Brian Robison was promoted to the starting lineup to replace the departed Ray Edwards. One player the Vikings are counting on to help fill the void is DE Everson Griffen. A fourth-round pick in the 2010 draft, Griffen is expected to see a significant increase in playing time. He has good pass rushing skills, but needs to work on consistency. Seventh-round draft pick D'Aundre Reed will compete for a roster spot at DE along with former Giants lineman Adrian Awasom. Rookie Christian Ballard can play both DE and DT and adds versatility to the bench. Ballard, a fourth-round pick, has good interior pass rushing skills, which is something the Vikings are in need of. Ballard will compete for playing time with backup DTs Fred Evans and Letroy Guion.

Linebackers

Starters: MLB E.J. Henderson, SLB Chad Greenway, WLB Erin Henderson
Backups: MLB Jasper Brinkley, OLB Heath Farwell, OLB Ross Homan, OLB Kenny Onatolu

Starting LBs: After suffering a broken femur in 2009, there were concerns that E.J. Henderson's career could be in jeopardy. Those concerns were answered last year as Henderson returned to anchor the Vikings' LB corps. Henderson missed a total of 16 games in the two seasons prior to last year, but when healthy he is a consistent LB who creates big plays and is also a consistent tackler. Starting SLB Chad Greenway is solid in all phases of the game and can also play WLB. Greenway has played in 64 consecutive games after missing his entire rookie season with a torn ACL. Greenway set a career high in solo tackles last year with 109. Erin Henderson, brother of starting MLB E.J. Henderson, is expected to open the season at the starting WLB. Henderson replaces the departed Ben Leber in the starting lineup.

Backup LBs: Jasper Brinkley is the primary backup to E.J. Henderson and started the last four games in 2009 after Henderson was injured. Brinkley was solid in run support, but struggled in coverage and was basically limited to being a two-down LB. Heath Farwell is the primary backup at both outside linebacker spots and is a great special team's player as well. Ross Homan, a sixth-round pick in this year's draft, will compete for one of the backup spots at OLB. The Vikings are hoping that Homan can contribute immediately. Kenny Onatolu adds depth at OLB and is a solid on special teams.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Antoine Winfield, CB Cedric Griffin, SS Husain Abdullah, FS Tyrell Johnson
Backups: CB Asher Allen, CB Chris Cook, CB Tony Carter, CB Brandon Burton, S Jamarca Sanford, S Mistral Raymond, S Eric Frampton

Starting DBs: After an injury-plagued 2009 season that saw him miss six games, Antoine Winfield returned last year and played in all 16 games. Winfield struggled a bit in coverage and averaged fewer than five solos per game for the first time since 2004. Winfield should benefit from being another year removed from his injury. Cedric Griffin has suffered a torn ACL in each of the last two and it remains to be seen if he will be healthy enough to start. When healthy, Griffin is one of the best run defending corners in the league. Husain Abdullah returns as the starter at strong safety. Abdullah had 54 solos and intercepted three passes last season, his first as a starter. The starting job at the other safety spot is up for grabs, with Tyrell Johnson currently atop the depth chart. Johnson started 15 games in 2009, but struggled last season and lost his starting job.

Backup DBs: Over the last two years, the Vikings have had numerous injuries to their starting corners and the backups have not picked up the slack. Asher Allen started 11 games last season, but struggled with inconsistency. He returns to a reserve role this year. Chris Cook started five games last season. He showed flashes, but like most rookies, had his share of ups and downs. Recently acquired CB Tony Carter and rookie Brandon Burton will battle for roster spots. Jamarca Sanford has starting experience and could compete for one of the starting jobs at safety. Rookie Mistral Raymond and Eric Frampton will compete for the other backup safety spot.

Last modified: 2011-08-26 09:18:50

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