Although the Minnesota Vikings finished last season 5-10-1 and drafted a quarterback with the last pick in the first round, they are still a playoff contender this coming season and proved it by naming Matt Cassel the team’s starting quarterback. Teddy Bridgewater played well this preseason, completing 65 percent of his passes for 266 yards and four touchdowns through three games, but Cassel further proved he can manage an offense, which is exactly what the defensive-minded Mike Zimmer will be asking him to do.
Zimmer was hired to reignite a defense that ranked last in points against in 2013, leaving the majority of the offensive decisions to offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Turner’s offense has been hailed as one of the most complex in the entire league, a tip-off that the veteran Cassel would have the initial upper hand on the rookie Bridgewater. Thus when Cassel completed 66 percent of his passes for 367 yards and two touchdowns through the first three preseason games, it was an easy choice to keep him atop the quarterback depth chart as he gives this team the best chance to win now.
A revamped defensive line filled with pass rushers should help the inexperienced secondary this coming season, and that should improve the unit as a whole and make them a league average group. If Zimmer can pull this off and refrain from giving games away late on defense – like the Vikings did numerous times last season – a steady offensive attack should be enough to bring the Vikings out of the NFC North cellar and back into playoff contention.
Last season Cassel played a part in each of the team’s five victories, meaning there is no reason to avoid high expectations for a group that has improved on both sides of the ball. The offense still features Adrian Peterson in the backfield, but second-year pro Cordarrelle Patterson is primed for a breakout season, and veteran Greg Jennings has reliable hands and was one of Cassel’s favorite targets in 2013. Cassel won’t need to do much more than simply manage the game from under center this coming season. Although it likely won’t result in a Super Bowl championship, the Vikings are looking to win-now while also doing what’s best for a rookie quarterback trying to acclimate himself to the NFL game and lifestyle.