Scoggins: Vikings are happy campers heading to Mankato

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 23, 2013 - 6:01 AM

Compared with last year, the team enters training camp with much more optimism.

hide

Though the Vikings are coming off a playoff appearance, the continued development of Christian Ponder will be the key for a postseason return.

Photo: CARLOS GONZALEZ • cgonzalez@startribune.com,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

A procession of luxury vehicles will stream down Hwy. 169 on Thursday as the Vikings report to training camp in Mankato. Unlike last summer, they’re not dragging a perception of doom and gloom with them.

The Vikings arrive as a playoff team, not one that’s facing a painful rebuild. A year ago this time, every conversation focused on the health of Adrian Peterson and whether he would be ready to start the season or, worse, if he’d ever be the same after tearing up his left knee. Silly us.

The big talker this offseason focused on who will play middle linebacker. This is a more desirable starting point for coach Leslie Frazier, who oversaw the largest single-season turnaround in team history but now faces a different kind of challenge.

The Vikings silenced those of us who thought a three-win season in 2011 was a portent to more struggles. Now, they must prove that a 10-win season was not a one-hit wonder that came primarily on the strength of an inspired MVP campaign by the best football player on the planet.

Though a fundamental question at quarterback lingers, the Vikings will reconvene as a team that is expected to compete for a division title and playoff spot, and anything short of that will be a disappointment.

“We can’t settle on what we did last year,” veteran defensive tackle Kevin Williams said. “We jumped over the bar that people had set for us. We have to expect to get there and beyond this year.”

This is the beauty — and quintessential marketing tool — of the NFL. The Vikings delivered another testimonial on the league’s unpredictable nature, which might just serve as Frazier’s message when his players gather again. Assume nothing.

Every NFL season offers surprises, both good and bad, and 32 teams feel hopeful as they head to training camp. Realistically, the Vikings could have a better team but worse record because so many variables come attached to every season. Injuries, of course, often determine a team’s fortunes. The Vikings also face a tougher schedule. That’s nothing more than guesswork, though, because in the NFL, it’s not so much who you play but when you play them that matters.

Given truth serum, the Vikings’ decision-makers didn’t anticipate being in this position so quickly after overhauling the roster in a youth movement last offseason. If they truly expected to be a playoff team, they wouldn’t have released veteran Sage Rosenfels in camp and left themselves so vulnerable at backup quarterback, a move that cost them any chance in the playoff game at Green Bay.

The Packers remain the pacesetter in the NFC North, but the Vikings have earned the right to be in that discussion. The gap between those two no longer requires binoculars. The glaring difference, of course, lies at quarterback and the Vikings’ ceiling hinges on Christian Ponder’s improvement.

If Ponder can play like the quarterback we saw the final few weeks of the regular season, the Vikings’ future looks even brighter. If his performance continues to pinball all over the map, the Vikings likely will be starting over at that position in 2014. This season will provide the ultimate judgment on Ponder, because he’s more seasoned and surrounded by better talent.

We should know by now that it’s unwise to doubt Peterson, but it’s also foolish to bank on him repeating his 2012 effort. That was a historic season, not an annual expectation, even for a guy who seems superhuman.

So much has changed since last summer and not only concern over Peterson’s knee. The Vikings must replace Percy Harvin and Antoine Winfield and anyone who minimizes their absence is wearing Purple blinders. But General Manager Rick Spielman has done a nice job reshaping the roster and finding young players capable of making an immediate impact.

Every season begins with a message, and Frazier’s approach last summer was masterful. Even though his job was on the line, not once did Frazier complain about his team’s youth movement or allow it to become a crutch. He also sold his veterans on the belief that a team’s age and external expectations don’t determine a season’s direction.

That’s a good lesson as the Vikings approach training camp. They’re coming off a playoff appearance and are trending in the right direction. Expectations are higher. But as they proved last season, the narrative can change abruptly.

They should welcome this challenge. It sure beats the malaise that greeted their arrival in Mankato last summer.

 

Chip Scoggins chip.scoggins@startribune.com.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Mets - LP: J. Familia 6 FINAL
Miami - WP: A. Ramos 9
Philadelphia - WP: C. Hamels 7 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: J. Teheran 0
Boston - LP: B. Badenhop 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: G. Balfour 4
Minnesota - WP: P. Hughes 6 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: K. Gausman 4
Pittsburgh - LP: G. Cole 4 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: S. Maness 5
Milwaukee - LP: J. Nelson 2 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Turner 4
Detroit - WP: D. Price 12 FINAL
Cleveland - LP: C. Kluber 1
Seattle - LP: C. Young 1 FINAL
Oakland - WP: J. Hammel 6
San Francisco - WP: J. Affeldt 4 FINAL
Colorado - LP: C. Friedrich 2
Arizona - LP: T. Cahill 1 FINAL
San Diego - WP: T. Ross 3
San Francisco - LP: S. Romo 9 FINAL
Colorado - WP: L. Hawkins 10
Washington - WP: G. Gonzalez 6 FINAL
Los Angeles - LP: R. Hernandez 4
Texas - LP: C. Lewis 3 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: Y. Ventura 4
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
Buffalo 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
New Orleans 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta
Minnesota 9/7/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Cleveland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Jacksonville 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Oakland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Cincinnati 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Washington 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Tennessee 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
New England 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Tampa Bay
San Francisco 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Indianapolis 9/7/14 7:30 PM
Denver
Utah State 7 FINAL
Tennessee 38
SMU 0 FINAL
(10) Baylor 45
Miami-Florida 13 FINAL
Louisville 31
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(7) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(2) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(15) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Indiana 84 FINAL
Chicago 86
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis Noon
Sep 14 - vs. New England Noon
Sep 21 - at New Orleans Noon
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How many fantasy football teams do you draft?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close