The Vikings gambled $47.5 million over five years that Greg Jennings can do as much for them as he has done against them since 2006. In 15 meetings over seven seasons, Jennings and his Packers were 11-4 as Jennings racked up 68 catches for 1,018 yards (15.0 yards per catch) and 10 touchdowns. Maybe that’s why a smiling Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said, “It’s a great day for the Minnesota Vikings” when Jennings was signed in March. Although Jennings is a savvy veteran, excellent route runner and high-character addition, he also turns 30 in September and has missed 11 games because of knee and core muscle injuries the past two seasons. Soon, we will find out if General Manager Rick Spielman’s risk is rewarded. The Vikings do have a knack of squeezing a few more excellent seasons out of former star Packers (see: Favre, B.; Longwell, R.; Sharper, D.).
TIME TO PROVE IT
Duh. For roughly the 3,245,678th time in the past couple of years, let it be known that Christian Ponder needs to prove himself as an NFL quarterback. Spielman likes to say it takes three years to judge a draft pick. Well, Welcome to Year No. 3, Christian. No pressure, other than the fact Adrian Peterson isn’t getting any younger and the Vikings now have a legitimate backup quarterback in Matt Cassel. It’s Ponder’s team, but don’t think for a moment that won’t change with another one of Ponder’s prolonged skids. Is Ponder the slump-shouldered guy who threw away a winnable game with two interceptions at Green Bay a year ago? Or can he consistently be the confident guy who passed for three touchdowns with no picks and a career-high 120.1 passer rating in the playoff-clinching victory over the Packers at the Metrodome only 28 days later? One way or the other, it’s time to decide.
The Vikings thought enough of Cordarrelle Patterson to trade four picks to move back into the first round and select the Tennessee receiver to fill a desperate need. By all accounts, the dynamic Patterson is considered a solid pick and potential triple-threat star along the lines of Percy Harvin, only in a bigger body. The Vikings expect Patterson to fill the kick return threat immediately. As for receiver, well, the word on Patterson is he’s still raw. As in real raw. He might need a year to develop, but the Vikings are sure to at least find a way to take advantage of his deep-ball speed and skills. The Vikings also drafted two guards, Jeff Baca in the sixth round and Travis Bond in the seventh round. Baca will most likely be a backup at left guard. Bond’s nickname at North Carolina was “Tree Top.” Why? Because he’s 6-6, 329 pounds. That’s why. He’ll be in the mix as a backup right guard or left tackle.
Once again, Bill Musgrave has to strive to balance a lopsided offense. Although Peterson is the greatest running back of his generation and defenses stack the line of scrimmage to stop him, Ponder has remained consistently inconsistent since becoming a starter seven games into his rookie season. In a quarterback-driven league, that’s a problem no matter how many yards Peterson piles up. Losing Harvin hurts, obviously, but the addition of Jennings and Patterson, the evolution of tight end Kyle Rudolph and, oh yeah, Peterson in his prime should give Musgrave and Ponder enough tools to improve the league’s 31st-ranked passing attack.
At 28, Peterson isn’t old. But there should be an urgency to improve at every other position to maximize one of the best running back careers in NFL history. Using that line of thinking, one has a hard time accepting a depth chart that lists Jerome Simpson ahead of Patterson. Yes, Patterson is raw. We have heard that a few thousand times, no doubt said a few thousand times to alleviate pressure from the youngster. But the Vikings traded a lot to move up and nab him in the first round. In one year of major college football, he broke Tennessee’s record for all-purpose yards (1,858). He is big, fast and talented. Simpson was a disappointment a year ago, catching 26 passes with no touchdowns during a season marred by injuries and a suspension.