Quarterback

The quarterback position for this year’s Vikings team was a bit of a roller coaster ride. The season started out with Donovan McNabb at the position due to the lack of practice and training camp for Rookie Christian Ponder. The McNabb experiment ended up being a bust as he played poorly in the first 6 games he started despite not turning the ball over very much. Christian Ponder was then given his opportunity to show why he was the Vikings 12th overall selection in last year’s draft. Ponder started the final 10 games but battled injuries late in the season. In his time as quarterback he showed signs of poise, confidence and accuracy early on but then began to stumble in later games and the turnovers began to mount. This is to be expected from any rookie and the hope for the Vikings’ front office is that Ponder learned from his experience this season and can build on it over the offseason. In the games that Ponder was injured the last few weeks Joe Webb filled in nicely. He led two comeback attempts against the Lions and Redskins posting 168 yds. passing, 3 TDs and 0 INTs which also included 143 rush yds. and 2 rushing TDs between the two games. In the final game of the season however, he also had to fill in for Ponder after an injury and didn’t do as well. The Vikings ended up losing the game and Webb finished with 200 yds, 2 INTs and only 2 rushing yds. After McNabb was released the Vikings picked up former Viking Sage Rosenfels to fill in as the 3rd quarterback in case of any injuries.

Because the Vikings hired from within by promoting Rick Spielman to GM and leaving the offensive coaching staff in place, I expect Ponder and Webb to both remain as the team’s top 2 quarterbacks in the 2012-13 season. Both quarterbacks will compete for the starting job during the offseason with Ponder receiving the inside track to earn the job. Spielman made a statement about Ponder on PFT live after the season by saying, “He’s going to be our starting quarterback when everyone is back for OTAs.” Many fans would like the team to take a hard look at drafting Robert Griffin III (RG3) with the 3rd overall pick but I don’t see the Vikings using back to back first round picks on quarterbacks when they are confident in Ponder’s future. Critics may think RG3 shows more upside than Ponder, but the team will likely fill other needs with that pick. The Vikings will also probably keep a veteran as the 3rd QB and Rosenfels could be a viable candidate for that job. Spielman has had a history with Rosenfels as he brought him to the Dolphins when he was GM in Miami and also was instrumental in bringing him to Minnesota before they were sure about Favre playing.

Under Contract: Christian Ponder, Joe Webb

Vikings Free Agents: Sage Rosenfels

Running Back

After signing Adrian Peterson to a 7 year $100M extension at the beginning of the season and having second round pick Toby Gerhart as his backup, the Vikings had a clear future locked up in the running back position. Now that the season is over the position is one of the biggest question marks on the team. Adrian started the year strong staying near the top of the league in rushing yards and touchdowns most of the season. He sustained a high ankle sprain late in the season causing him to miss 3 games. He was able to return to the field for the final few weeks and looked to be his old self until he sustained a torn ACL in the second to last game of the season causing him to be out indefinitely. Even though he missed 4+ games during the season he was still 3rd in the NFL with 12 touchdowns on the season and ranked 9th in the NFL averaging just over 80 yards per game. Peterson is expected to be rehabbing for 8-9 months from his ACL tear after having surgery to repair it and could miss the first few weeks of next season. Toby Gerhart filled in nicely for Peterson and looked to be a reliable backup as he finished the season with over 500 yards rushing and averaged 4.9 yards per carry. Unfortunately, in the final game of the season, Gerhart sustained an MCL sprain causing him to be out indefinitely as well. Gerhart’s injury is less serious than Peterson’s and will not require surgery. He will rehab for a couple months and should be good to go for opening day next season.

Looking forward to next season, Peterson is penciled in as the starting running back however they will not rush him back from his injury. Everything we are hearing says that Adrian is known to be a fast healer and will work extremely hard in his rehab. The team expects him to heal and rehab faster than the timetable and they fully expect him back for the opener. The back-up plan of course will likely be Toby Gerhart as he should be ready on opening day. Past those two players the running back spot(s) on the roster are up for grabs. Lorenzo Booker saw the field on occasion this season but to me he looked awful. He is not a between the tackles runner, he is more of a change of pace back that can run in space but even that is a stretch from what I saw. Other candidates include Caleb King, who looked great in the pre-season but spent almost the entire regular season on the practice squad and Jordan Todman, who was picked up off the Chargers practice squad after the Peterson injury. Todman however is only 5’9″ tall and more of a Darren Sproles type player. Both running backs are coming off their rookie seasons. I don’t see the Vikings using a draft pick on a running back unless it’s a low round pick but they could sign a free agent backup if the price is right and if those two rookies are unable to earn the roster spot(s). Everything hinges, of course, on the health of franchise running back Adrian Peterson.

Under Contract: Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart

Practice Squad Options: Caleb King, Jordan Todman

Vikings Free Agents: Lorenzo Booker (restricted)

Fullback

Fullback is always a versatile role that can be filled by a TE, a FB or not be used at all. Ryan D’Imperio was given a chance to show what he brings in the final 6 weeks of the season. He is a second year player that spent all of last season on the practice squad. It is unclear if the Vikings liked what they saw in D’Imperio or if they will look another direction. The Vikings will also lose TE Jim Kleinsasser who will retire at the end of the season. He has played a vital role as a blocking TE on the line of scrimmage or in the fullback position. The Vikings have a lot of options here including drafting a fullback, sticking with D’Imperio or signing a veteran to fill that role. It’s not a real flashy position to speculate what they could or should do, but it’s probably D’Imperio’s job to lose.

  • Be sure to check out our other installments of Vikings Off-season Outlook: QB/HBWR/TEOLDLLBCB/S

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