For Vikings, now it counts

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 2, 2013 - 12:47 PM

As we turn the page on the preseason (thankfully), we’ll finally have a chance to gain some clarity on the Vikings’ various unknowns.

Whew, thankfully that’s over, so now we can move on to football games that actually matter.

It’s safe to put away the NoDoz that came in handy during preseason games. No more evaluation of backups and long shots who might never wear an NFL uniform again.

As we turn the page on the calendar and send the kids back to school, we’re reminded that summer is over and so is the tedious analysis of training camp position battles.

In other words, it’s time for Adrian Peterson to get back to work in his quest to rush for a million yards in a single season.

The Vikings reconvene at Winter Park on Monday to being preparation for Sunday’s season opener in Detroit. Their 1-3 preseason record is meaningless as an indicator of future performance, but it’s fair to ask what, if anything, can be gleaned from those exhibitions.

In truth, it’s difficult to say, at least offensively, because Peterson played only two snaps in the preseason and didn’t touch the ball once. A passing game that benefits from the attention Peterson receives never really clicked, which did nothing to allay concerns about Christian Ponder’s development.

Ponder played only 73 snaps in three preseason games, according to ProFootballFocus. That small sample size made it impossible to gauge Ponder’s chemistry with his new targets, Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson.

Even their supposed dress rehearsal against San Francisco in the third game didn’t present a true picture because the team removed Peterson after only two plays. Sunday’s opener will provide the first true glimpse of how their offense can function.

The Vikings enter the season with a few other unknowns. Will veteran defensive tackle Kevin Williams be ready for the opener after suffering a knee injury on a cheap shot against San Francisco? How will the three-game suspension of Pro Bowl fullback Jerome Felton affect Peterson and the running game? Can the young cornerbacks perform sufficiently in a pass-happy league?

The good news is that the Vikings return 19 of 22 position starters from a team that won 10 games and earned a playoff berth. This isn’t a team filled with new faces.

The 53-man roster announced on Saturday included 12 players who weren’t on the 2012 final roster, a relatively low number compared with other seasons. The group of newcomers includes eight rookies, seven of them draft picks.

The Vikings continued to tweak their roster Sunday by claiming former Chicago Bears tackle J’Marcus Webb off waivers to serve as a backup to Matt Kalil and Phil Loadholt. The team released Troy Kropog to make room for Webb and also signed seven players to the practice squad.

General Manager Rick Spielman formulated a plan after a tumultuous 2010 season to build a youthful roster and turn the draft into an organizational bedrock. Of the 53 players on the active roster, 15 were selected in the two most recent drafts.

The Vikings have overseen so much roster turnover in recent years that team should have required players to wear name tags. To fully appreciate their extreme makeover in a league known for its fluidity, just go back to the end of the 2010 season.

The Vikings began that ensuing offseason with 69 players in the organization. Only 18 are still with the team.

They had nine wide receivers; none of them remain. Only three of the 11 offensive linemen and three of the 14 defensive backs still call Winter Park home.

In this case, change was necessary, and all the maneuvering injected the roster with some promising young talent that helped the Vikings orchestrate the largest single-season turnaround in team history in 2012.

And now for the encore.

The best part of preseason is its conclusion. Rather than speculate about Ponder, his new wide receivers or the team’s young cornerbacks, we’ll finally gain some clarity this week.

 

Chip Scoggins • ascoggins@startribune.com

 

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