Minnesota Vikings Training Camp
Mankato, MN- In between the morning walk-thru and the afternoon practice I thought I would present the five things I noticed during the walk-thru. Hope you enjoy. Also note to anyone who is thinking about coming to Mankato, never wear pants on a 80-degree day, this sports writer found out the hard way.
Christian Ponder, the former first round pick, and former starting QB for the Vikings, did not see the field during the walk-thru. That doesn't sound like a bad thing, however when you put it in a bigger picture, like what exactly is Ponder's role on this team? Is it water boy? Is it a third string QB? It sounds pretty bad. If those two roles are what Ponder ends up doing, than he is way over paid for that. Ponder will make just over $3 million (including bonuses) this season, which doesn't sound to bad, but giving the notion that he won't see the field after August unless, barring an injury to either Cassel or Teddy. Why is Ponder still here? Ponder's role on the team had diminished greatly since this team last played seven months ago. Ponder should be let go, and given the opportunity elsewhere to rejuvenate his career.
Matt Kalil took a step back last season, after a stellar rookie season that saw him go to the Pro Bowl. Kalil looks like he is ready to make the jump and become one of the elite offensive linemen in the NFL. Also Phil Loadholt, Charlie Johnson, John Sullivan, and the rest of the crew need to do a better job than last season if this team even wants to sniff the playoffs. Whether it is Matt Cassel or Teddy Bridgewater at the QB spot, this crew needs to protect their QB and keep them on two feet. To many times last season we saw Ponder and Cassel on their backs still holding onto the football. Ponder could not recognize pressure very well which resulted in sacks, and hurries which makes the O-line look bad. Both Cassel and Teddy do a much better job recognizing pressure and have the quick mind to get rid of the football quick, which will help the offensive line.
Okay, I know camp just started, they haven't even played a preseason game yet, however that won't stop people from asking who is the starting QB week 1? If I was coach Zimmer I would play Matt Cassel, given the fact that Teddy is a rookie and Cassel has some experience in the NFL. However if the last few seasons have taught us anything, it would tell us that rookie quarterbacks can excel quickly in the NFL. Just look at Andrew Luck, Andy Dalton, Robert Griffin III, and Russell Wilson just to name a few. Given what those handful of quarterbacks have done I would not be hesitant to make a QB switch early in the season if either Cassel or the whole team struggles, because Bridgewater is the future of this franchise and it is just a matter of time until it is officially Teddy's team.
Comparing a rookie to a proven NFL player is unfair, even if the comparison is accurate given their physical features. McKinnon is five-foot nine-inches while Sproles is five-foot six-inches, but when you see them both play, the comparisons are comparable. Both can play the running back position and can catch passes out of the back-field and can be big contributors on special teams. It is there running style that really draws the comparisons. McKinnon and Sproles are agile, quick, and can change direction on the dime. I think McKinnon can become a big contributor on special teams, and can become Robbin to Adrian Peterson's Batman. McKinnon can give this offense a different look when AP is on the side line, and could give opposing defense coordinators nightmares the night before they face the Vikings. Look for McKinnon to become the Vikings secret weapon like Cordarrellel Patterson was last season.
Last season the Vikings secondary was a sieve, giving up big plays after big plays. This past off-season the Vikings addressed those issues by signing Captain Munnerlyn who resembles a younger Antoine Winfield. If Munnerlyn can replace the output that Winfield did for the Vikings for the past decade this secondary will become respectable instead of laughable. Also Derek Cox and Kurt Coleman should give the Vikings the depth they need in order to put forth a secondary that can actually tackle a player this season. If Harrison Smith can stay healthy he could become a perennial Pro Bowler for this team and can become the backbone on this defense. There are three areas that need to step up in order for this team to get back to the playoffs, and the secondary is one of those three, the other two are the QB position and the offensive line.