Five Questions the Minnesota Vikings Must Answer During Training Camp
Minnesota Vikings 2013 Training Camp: Five Questions That Must Be Answered
Coming off a 3-13 season in 2011, no one saw the Minnesota Vikings as anything resembling a potential playoff contender in 2012. But that’s exactly what they were, winning their final four regular season games to finish 10-6 and earn a playoff berth.
Minnesota’s season came to a disappointing end on the road in the Wild Card Round against the rival Green Bay Packers, as quarterback Christian Ponder missed the game with an arm injury and backup Joe Webb struggled mightily for most of the game. But all things considered last season was a nice step forward, and lends hope for the future as general manager Rick Spielman’s plan to fill the roster with younger players appears to be working.
With expectations now surely higher than they were at this time last year, the Vikings have many questions to answer as the more critical parts of the offseason get closer. Key veterans Percy Harvin, Antoine Winfield and Jasper Brinkley are gone, and Minnesota is looking at their current roster, along with the pieces they added in April’s draft, to replace them right now.
Ponder is also entering effectively a make-or-break season in 2013, and the Vikings added wide receivers via free agency (Greg Jennings) and the draft (Cordarrelle Patterson) to help him take a big step forward. If Minnesota takes the next step and perhaps wins a playoff game this year, Ponder will have to be one of the top reasons why.
Here are the five biggest questions the Vikings will have to answer when training camp gets going late next month.
5. Will Brandon Fusco Be Starting at Right Guard Week 1?
The Vikings have one of the league’s top offensive lines, but Fusco was not particularly dominant despite starting all 16 games at right guard in 2012. Jeff Baca and Travis Bond were added in April’s draft, and one of them could easily challenge Fusco for the starting job during training camp.
4. Will Matt Cassel Be Allowed to Make a Push For the Starting Job?
The Vikings upgraded their backup quarterback situation by signing Cassel, but it’s fair to wonder if Ponder will be on a shorter leash with a more proven veteran behind him. It would be a major upset if Ponder is not under center Week 1 against the Detroit Lions, but if he looks bad in preseason games the door could be open for Cassel to win the starting job.
3. Can CB Josh Robinson Replace Antoine Winfield?
Robinson struggled with consistency as a rookie last season, and he has now been tabbed as Minnesota’s primary slot corner in place of the departed Antoine Winfield. He has admitted he’s not totally comfortable in his new role at this early stage of OTAs, which is not surprising since he never played in the slot in college. If Robinson’s lack of comfort lingers into training camp and affects his play in preseason games, the Vikings will be forced to look another direction to fill a key position in their defense.
2. Is Jarius Wright Ready For a Bigger Role?
Wright had some good moments late last season as a rookie, and will now likely take over as Minnesota’s primary slot receiver with Percy Harvin having been traded to the Seattle Seahawks. Harvin is a unique talent that can’t be completely replaced, but if Wright can build some rapport with Ponder the Vikings should be happy with his contribution in a bigger role.
1. Will Joe Webb Make the 53-Man Roster?
The Vikings made a long overdue move by switching Webb to wide receiver this offseason, after trying to make him exclusively a quarterback over the last couple seasons. He has also been fielding punts at OTAs this week, which betters his chances to make the roster if he develops some instincts in that area. Webb may be the best athlete the Vikings have, so it behooves them to find room for him on the roster and find ways to get him on the field.