The Minnesota Vikings trimmed their active roster to 53 players this past Saturday. They will open the regular season this Sunday, Sept. 8 at noon CDT against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field in Detroit. The game will be televised locally on FOX9.
There were no surprises in terms of who the Vikings cut. Among the veteran players who were considered to be on the bubble, former backup quarterback and now wide receiver Joe Webb made the team as did defensive back/return specialist Marcus Sherels.
Undrafted fullback Zach Line had a terrific preseason and made the Vikings 53 man roster. Although Line played very well during the preseason, his making the team is primarily due to starting fullback Jerome Felton being suspended for the first three games of the regular season.
The Vikings went 1-3 in the preseason and weren't terribly impressive in any of the four games. That said, star running back Adrian Peterson played all of two plays in the four preseason games and did not carry the ball even once. Starting quarterback Christian Ponder was hot and cold during the preseason ... mostly cold. Defensively the Vikings look like they may have addressed their concerns at linebacker effectively but will have some trouble keeping their corners healthy in the defensive backfield.
Those things said, some coaches try a lot harder to keep starting players healthy during the preseason more than they try to win the games and Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier appears to be one of those coaches so fans should take the Vikings lackluster preseason in stride and look forward to the regular season instead.
The Vikings strategy on offense will come as no surprise; a steady diet of reigning league MVP, superstar running back Adrian Peterson combined with enough of a passing game to keep opposing defenses honest. The Vikings traded wide receiver Percy Harvin to Seattle and acquired wide receiver Greg Jennings via free agency during the offseason. Jennings is a steady performer and a veteran presence at the position for the Vikings and should help them greatly.
Wide receiver Jerome Simpson it is thought came to training camp knowing the Vikings system much better and also much more ready to work than he did last season. If that's true the Vikings should benefit greatly from a focused Simpson. Pro Bowl MVP tight end Kyle Rudolph became Ponder's favorite target last season and should figure prominently in any success the Vikings have in the passing game in 2013.
The Vikings offense will run through #28, Peterson. Without him, their prospects on offense look shaky at best. Peterson came within 8 yards of breaking Eric Dickerson's single season rushing record in 2012 and Peterson has said he is looking to not only repeat that performance but to exceed it. Time will tell but the more yards he gains, the better the Vikings offensive picture looks.
Defensively, Erin Henderson will take over for the departed Jasper Brinkley at middle linebacker. Marvin Mitchell and Pro Bowler Chad Greenway will nail down the outside linebacker starting spots for the Vikings. Safeties Harrison Smith and Jamarca Sanford are the steady pieces in the Vikings defensive secondary. Starting corners Josh Robinson and Chris Cook were plagued by shaky play and injury during the preseason thus that position is a concern heading into the season for the Vikings.
On special teams placekicker Blair Walsh is back. Walsh was nearly automatic and made an unprecedented ten field goals of 50 yards or longer in 2012. Having a reliable placekicker is a huge help for any team so the Vikings are hoping Walsh will repeat or come close to repeating the phenomenal rookie season he had in 2012. At punter the Vikings released veteran Chris Kluwe and brought in Josh Locke from UCLA whom the Vikings drafted in the fifth round of the 2013 draft.
First-round draft choice Cordarrelle Patterson from Tennessee will handle kickoff returns for the Vikings on opening day and Sherels will take care of returning punts.
The biggest question marks going into the season for the Vikings are whether or not Christian Ponder grows into the role of starting quarterback, Adrian Peterson stays healthy and remains the Vikings rock on offense, will Erin Henderson be able to do the job at middle linebacker and will the Vikings corners hold up. Time will tell but look for the Vikings to finish the season 10-6 as they did in 2012 or possibly 11-5 and look for them to return to the playoffs again in 2013.