RAISING THE BAR
No one raises the bar like Adrian Peterson. The reigning league MVP averaged 131.1 yards per game (2,097 yards total) a year ago. This year, he wants 156.3 so he can reach 2,500, his well-publicized goal. "I think it's a good goal to have, if you're Adrian Peterson," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. But is it in the Vikings' best interest to remain so one-dimensional? Remember, the Vikings lost at Green Bay when Peterson ran for 210 yards. The bar that really needs raised on offense is better balance and less predictability. The Vikings, who had a passing attack that ranked 31st in the NFL, still just squeaked into the playoffs and were quickly dismissed. A revamped receiving corps could help quarterback Christian Ponder achieve a consistent balance. Of course, that could happen and Peterson still could reach his goal. "With that dude? It's logical," defensive end Jared Allen said. "And, yeah, that's crazy."
Probably no player in the league is looking forward to actual meaningful games more than Greg Jennings.
Since arriving from Green Bay via free agency, the wide receiver has had to address questions about being old, injury-prone and a diva who doesn't play nice with his former team, particularly its quarterback. Fortunately for Jennings' snakebit tongue, the attention soon will shift to his legs, hands and veteran savvy as an eight-year veteran receiver in an offense starving for a non-petulant playmaker at that position. Jennings has defended Ponder as a talented young quarterback who needs receivers and the confidence to trust those receivers. "No disrespect to the guys he was throwing the ball to, but you can just get a sense that he needed a little more help," Jennings said. Jennings turns 30 on Sept. 21 but insists, "I'm not old. … I can definitely still make plays." All eyes will be on him to prove that after missing 11 games the past two years, including eight last year, because of knee and core muscle injuries.
THE X FACTOR
Ponder has played 27 NFL games with 26 starts. His completion percentage in those games: .592. In today's NFL, that's not gonna cut it. Even Ponder's career completion percentage at Florida State (.618) won't cut it nowadays. Ponder needs to sling it like he did as a junior at FSU. His completion percentage that year: .688.
1 Can coordinator Bill Musgrave stay true to the team's Adrian-first identity while striking a winning balance that incorporates Jennings, raw rookie Cordarrelle Patterson and a healthy John Carlson for the multiple tight-end sets?
2 What's the next step for the offensive line, a unit that played intact for 17 games during a playoff season a year ago but was shaky this preseason? Drafting two guards could be something to remember if the line struggles.
3 Can 27-year-old receiver Jerome Simpson redirect his career arc upward to where he left off in Cincinnati in 2011 or will he continue the slump that began with last year's suspension and back injury?