Five things about the Vikings offense

  • Updated: July 25, 2012 - 9:52 PM
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Last Dec. 24, Bengals receiver Jerome Simpson pulled off a highlight-reel play for the ages, flipping over Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington for a touchdown. Simpson will join the Vikings this season.

Photo: Darron Cummings, Associated Press

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1 BIGGEST PRIORITY

Nothing the Vikings do, did or will do matters unless second-year quarterback Christian Ponder is comfortable and confident running coordinator Bill Musgrave's offense. This is Ponder's first training camp as the starter. He has been given a rebuilt offensive line, a potential star deep threat in Jerome Simpson and another big target in tight end John Carlson. He also has had a full offseason to work with Musgrave, something the two didn't enjoy during last year's NFL lockout. Now, Ponder and Musgrave need to piece it all together at full speed during training camp and the preseason.

2 MOST EXCITING NEWCOMER

Jerome Simpson. Sorry, Matt Kalil. You're the fourth overall draft pick and all, but your job as a potential superstar left tackle is to make us forget about you for the next 10 to 15 years. "Most exciting newcomer" goes to the dude who did that Christmas Eve goal-line flip over Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington. It was the most exciting play of the 2011 NFL season and an example of the much-needed downfield athleticism the Vikings are counting on from the former Bengal once he returns from an NFL-imposed three-game suspension to start the season.

3 THE PRESSURE'S ON ...

Christian Ponder. He's a likeable fella with what seems to be a winning makeup. But he also has yet to disprove the notion that he was a reach at the 12th overall pick in 2011. Time lost during the NFL lockout and the Donovan McNabb fiasco gives Ponder a free pass for a wildly inconsistent rookie season. That ends in Mankato this summer. If Ponder doesn't show progress this season, things are going to get uncomfortable for the entire franchise. Except Joe Webb, of course.

4 FUN TO WATCH

Simpson vs. Chris Cook. Simpson has the long frame, ball skills and speed the Vikings have lacked in a No. 1 receiver. Cook is a big cornerback who was beginning to emerge as a breakout cover guy before his legal woes wiped out the final 10 games of last season. Wake up, Mankato. The deep forward pass could make its return this summer.

5 BREAKTHROUGH POTENTIAL

The Vikings' No. 3 running back essentially will be the No. 2 back while starter Adrian Peterson is eased back from a knee reconstruction. That gives 22-year-old Jordan Todman ample time to turn heads with his speed, shiftiness and passion for practice. A sixth-round pick of the Chargers in 2011, Todman was signed off San Diego's practice squad with a week left in the season. The 5-9, 193-pounder has the potential to be an exciting change-of-pace back behind Peterson and Toby Gerhart. But first he has to beat out veteran newcomer Lex Hilliard.

MARK CRAIG

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