OFFENSE LINE Øgood condition
To date, rookie Matt Kalil has been just about as good as advertised. And coming out of Southern Cal, Kalil was advertised as a can't-miss left tackle with the size, instincts, footwork and punch to be an instant difference-maker. Throughout the preseason, Kalil has shown flashes that he could be a Pro Bowl regular for the next 10 to 12 years. His arrival also has enabled Charlie Johnson to move inside to left guard, where he should be more comfortable and more effective. The Vikings are thrilled with center John Sullivan's continued growth. Right tackle Phil Loadholt will face a defining season in the final year of his contract. And right guard Brandon Fusco carries himself with a notable combination of intelligence and aggression. Chemistry has been strong up front, which should result in greater holes for running backs and more time for quarterback Christian Ponder to throw.
PETERSON'S LEFT KNEE ØFAIR CONDITION
Truthfully, this probably deserves an upgrade to "good." But until Adrian Peterson is knifing around the field during regular-season action with the same blaze and blast he's renowned for, we'll keep the optimism tempered. That said, over the past eight months, Peterson has attacked his rehabilitation with incredible determination and a positive attitude, refusing to accept conventional timetables for his recovery. He always has vowed to be ready for the opener against Jacksonville. And it looks as if that could happen. That Peterson might end up missing only six quarters of regular-season action from a knee injury so severe is remarkable. Now the Vikings must set realistic expectations for what to expect from the star back early in the season, knowing it might be October before Peterson is ready to assume a full workload. Toby Gerhart's reliability certainly lessens the worry. In the preseason, Gerhart averaged 4.6 yards per carry.
TIGHT END JOHN CARLSON Ø SERIOUS CONDITION
The Vikings chased Carlson hard when free agency opened in March and reeled him in with a five-year contract that could be worth up to $25 million when all is said and done. The Vikings have grand visions for what they can do with Carlson paired with Kyle Rudolph in two tight end sets. But how can anyone be certain Carlson will provide a healthy return on investment? Healthy being the operative word. Carlson suffered a right knee sprain early in training camp and was out of practice for more nearly four weeks, missing all four preseason games as well. He also missed the entire 2011 season while in Seattle after suffering a torn labrum in his left shoulder.
DEPTH AT WIDE RECEIVER ØCRITICAL CONDITION
Please step to the side, Percy Harvin. This discussion excludes you. Harvin, after all, had 87 catches and 1,312 yards from scrimmage last season, proving to be explosive and versatile as a featured weapon. As for the other four Vikings receivers eligible to suit up Sunday? Let's just say opposing defensive coordinators aren't losing much sleep watching tape of Michael Jenkins (getting old), Devin Aromashodu (rarely productive), Stephen Burton (still raw) and Jarius Wright (inexperienced). Jerome Simpson's return from a three-game suspension at the end of the month will help. Still, the Vikings own the most ordinary receiving corps in the NFC North. By far.