The Minnesota Vikings did a lot to improve upon their abysmal 2013 season, but it is not enough to improve the national perception. They finished last season with a 5-10-1 record, worst in the NFC North and eighth worst in the entire league.
In order to improve upon that record, the Vikings need to answer five questions.
Who is going to play quarterback?
Mike Zimmer has not publicly committed to a quarterback for his first season as Vikings head coach. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner seems impressed with all three quarterbacks on the roster. Veteran Matt Cassel is expected to start at least Week 1 in St. Louis, but rookie Teddy Bridgewater has been very impressive during offseason workouts.
In recent weeks, the Vikings quarterback situation is being compared to the Seattle Seahawks’ situation in 2012. Rookie Russell Wilson was to be a backup to Matt Flynn. Wilson became the starter and ran with it. The Vikings would be very happy if the two situations mirrored each other.
Who is going to put pressure on the quarterback?
Jared Allen led the Vikings in sacks for several years. He is now in Chicago and the void is there to be filled. Everson Griffen has the physical skills, and now the pay check, to be a feared pass rusher for the Vikings.
Griffen, entering his fifth season in the NFL, wanted to receive starting defensive end money after completing his rookie contract last season. He got it from the Vikings and now needs to justify it.
Is Adrian Peterson going to stay healthy?
Peterson has finished the season healthy just once in the last three years. That one healthy season concluded with an MVP trophy, eight yards short of tying the single season rushing record and a wild card playoff appearance. Peterson is the best running back in the league and best player on the Vikings offense. With the lack of experience behind Peterson, the Vikings obviously need a healthy Adrian Peterson.
Can Chad Greenway return to form?
Greenway’s play has declined over the last few seasons. He has always been a solid run stopper, but his play in coverage has been suspect. He was below average at both last season. Speculation is that he was overcompensating for Erin Henderson’s play at middle linebacker.
Linebacker is not one of the better position groups on the Vikings roster. Greenway is the Vikings’ most recognized linebacker and rookie first round draft pick Anthony Barr is still raw. Greenway needs to step up and be a leader for the Vikings defense.
Can the defense hold a lead in the fourth quarter?
The Vikings had leads in the fourth quarter of 10 games, four turned to defeat and another led to a tie in the final minute of regulation. Holding onto four of those five blown leads would have won the division and if they held onto the right leads - beating the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears on the road - they could have won the division by holding onto three fourth quarter leads. Of course, every team could be in contention late in the season if a few plays had gone their way. But, having a 5-4-1 record when leading within the final minute of the fourth quarter is staggering.