The Vikings front office and coaching staff used last week to evaluate each player on the roster, focusing on one specific question: Is this player good enough to help the Vikings take the next step?
That evaluation included wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who struggled during his second season. Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman echoed the same optimism coach Mike Zimmer expressed about Patterson at the end of the regular season, however.
"He's a unique talent with the ball in his hand," Spielman said Wednesday in a postseason sit-down with beat writers. "I know Zimmer has put a plan in place, and it's up to Cordarrelle to follow through with that plan. But I think Cordarrelle has all the ability to be a very good receiver in this league. It's going to be on him to take that next step."
Spielman believes Patterson could be part of a common trend in the NFL when a receiver breaks out during his third season. Zimmer's plan for Patterson, which hasn't been revealed, comes after a 33-catch, 384-yard season.
Spielman will look for upgrades at almost every position during free agency and the draft, except at quarterback. Teddy Bridgewater, who was named to the Pro Football Writers of America's all-rookie team this week, showed he could remain a fixture at the position for the Vikings.
"If you look at the playoff teams, they're pretty stable at that position," Spielman said. "I think Teddy will be that type of player to stabilize us at that position as he continues to grow."
Spielman was impressed with how the offense's success near the end of the season was a byproduct of Bridgewater's performance, even though the team was missing three starting offensive linemen and running backs Adrian Peterson (suspended) and Jerick Mc- Kinnon (injured).
"All that learning that he had to go through will just expedite the process of him getting that much better as we go forward," Spielman said.
Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn's first season with the Vikings was marred with inconsistency, partly because of a new defensive scheme after spending his first five seasons with Carolina.
"We signed Captain as a nickel, and he ended up having to be a full-time starter for us," Spielman said. "I thought he had some struggles this year, but I think he has the potential. … Sometimes you expect some things right away from [unrestricted free agents], but also sometimes those guys will take a potential year to understand what's being asked of them. I know Captain stated he was disappointed in his year and everybody expects him to play a higher level next year."
Spielman confirmed running backs coach Kirby Wilson interviewed with Jacksonville about its still vacant offensive coordinator position.
Wilson has served the past 13 seasons as a running backs coach for Tampa Bay, Arizona, Pittsburgh and the Vikings. Assistant wide receivers coach Klint Kubiak, who became the wide receivers coach at the University of Kansas, has been the only departure on Zimmer's staff.
The Vikings were one of seven teams scouting Monday's Ohio State-Oregon game. The NFL selected the teams present at the game based on a lottery. Spielman was among the Vikings representatives in attendance.