Chart: Three areas of comfort for Vikings

  • Updated: August 23, 2011 - 9:14 PM

Coming off a 6-10 season, the Vikings have plenty of holes to fill, but some positions offer some stability. Here's staff writer Mark Craig's top three:

1 Loeffler to Kluwe to Longwell: Not quite as well-known as Tinker to Evers to Chance, but long snapper Cullen Loeffler to holder Chris Kluwe to kicker Ryan Longwell has to be the most rock-solid place-kicking trio in the league. And that's gold for any team, let alone one that's breaking in a new offense without the benefit of a typical offseason. Former coach Brad Childress still gets beat up pretty good in these parts, but let's tip the cap to him in this case. One of the first decisions he made as head coach in 2006 was to put an end to the placekicker nonsense that went on for way too long before he arrived. Longwell was one of the first free agents Childress signed. Six seasons later, Loeffler, Kluwe and Longwell have been together for every step and snap of the way.

2 Running back: They have the same trio -- Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart and Lorenzo Booker -- coming back this season, yet it already looks like an even better backfield. Peterson is a once-in-a-generation back who's still in his prime and getting better. Gerhart is running with more balance, which gives him more power. He's not getting blasted off his feet as much as he was at this point last season. Meanwhile, Booker is a very nice change-of-pace guy and an astute acquisition from the UFL last season.

3 Tight end: Those who were puzzled on draft day by the second-round selection of Kyle Rudolph are probably a little less puzzled after watching the big fella in this particular passing game. He's 6-6, 258 pounds and has soft hands and ball skills that allow him to catch balls that aren't perfectly thrown. In this offense, Rudolph will make an immediate impact in multiple tight end formations. Visanthe Shiancoe is one of the more underrated tight ends in the league, and he's excited to be in Bill Musgrave's offense. From a blocking tight end standpoint, 34-year-old Jim Kleinsasser never has been more valuable than he is right now. He'll help left tackle Charlie Johnson with the pass rush, and can still surprise teams in the passing game. Meanwhile, veteran Jeff Dugan is one of the hidden values on the team. He's probably the hardest-working guy on the roster. He plays on all the special teams and can line up at fullback as well as tight end.

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Kansas City - WP: J. Vargas 6 FINAL
Cleveland - LP: C. Kluber 2
Toronto - LP: M. Castro 5 FINAL
Boston - WP: K. Uehara 6
Chicago WSox 0 Postponed
Baltimore 0
Tampa Bay - LP: B. Gomes 1 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: J. Wilson 4
Washington - LP: D. Fister 4 FINAL
Atlanta - WP: E. Stults 8
NY Mets - WP: C. Torres 3 FINAL
Miami - LP: S. Cishek 1
Milwaukee - LP: J. Nelson 6 FINAL
Cincinnati - WP: J. Marquis 9
Pittsburgh - LP: V. Worley 0 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Hammel 4
Seattle - WP: T. Walker 3 FINAL
Texas - LP: Y. Gallardo 1
Detroit - WP: D. Price 5 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: T. Milone 4
Philadelphia - WP: C. Hamels 4 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: J. Lackey 1
Colorado - WP: T. Matzek 5 FINAL
Arizona - LP: C. Anderson 4
Houston - WP: P. Neshek 9 FINAL
San Diego - LP: J. Benoit 4
San Francisco - LP: T. Lincecum 3 FINAL
Los Angeles - WP: C. Frias 8
Atlanta 115 FINAL
Brooklyn 120
Milwaukee 94 FINAL
Chicago 88
Memphis 92 FINAL
Portland 99
Tampa Bay 5 FINAL
Detroit 2
NY Islanders 1 FINAL
Washington 2
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