The reports from a dozen media outlets following the Vikings in Mankato have been studied. The expert analysis of national voices has been heard. The comments from players, coaches and team officials have been consumed.

The exhibition opener was played on Sunday night with a winning effort from the Vikings’ offense, defense and special teams.

Thus, the time has arrived to find out where our Purple heroes fall on the famed Reusse sliding scale from 5 to 1. A “5’’ makes a position group worthy of the 1978 Steelers (the best team ever) and a “1’’ replicates the winless 2008m Lions.

(See chart for full sliding scale).

Here is what I have been able to ascertain while monitoring the blood, sweat and tears (of joy) that have been expended in Mankato.

COACHING: Mike Zimmer already has earned the distinction of being the second best head coach in Vikings history, and has been closing the gap on Bud Grant with every practice. Zimmer has the advantage of being the finest defensive mind in the annals of American football. Amazingly, he also is working with Norv Turner, the finest offensive mind in the annals of American football.

Rating – 5.0.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Explosive Everson Griffen is at one end and relentless Brian Robison on the other. Sharrif Floyd is improving by the hour at one tackle and Linval Joseph is healthy and ready to prove his value at nose tackle. Yet, the real story is dynamic Danielle Hunter, the steal of the draft as a third-rounder.

Rating – 5.0.

LINEBACKER: Adam Zimmer is the linebackers coach. He offered this assessment of his group to the Star Tribune: “ … the talent level is so much better than it was, and we’re excited about where we’re going.’’

If the son of the finest defensive mind in the annals of American football believes this, believes in Chad Greenway, Anthony Barr, Gerald Hodges, Audie Cole, Brandon Watts and Mike Mauti, who am I to argue? And don’t forget: second-rounder Eric Kendricks looks like the steal of the draft.

Rating – 5.0.

CORNERBACKS: Xavier Rhodes is the best player on this defense of unlimited potential. Trae Waynes had a rough exhibition, but we all know Mike Zimmer will take advantage of this as a learning experience and turn Waynes into the NFC Defensive Rookie of the Year (they have one of those, right?).

Meantime, there are feisty veterans in Terance Newman and Captain Munnerlyn, and Jabari Price is going to come back from his season-opening suspension with a new resolve to make an impact. Extra-deep at important position.

Rating – 5.0.

SAFETY: Robert Blanton might be slightly flawed at strong safety, but there are a couple reasons for optimism there: A) Anthony Harris could be the steal of the NFL’s undrafted free agents; and B) free safety Harrison Smith is so good he can cover both positions.

Rating – 4.5.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Strong legs kicking and punting, explosive returns by Cordarelle Patterson and rookie Stefon Diggs, and now there’s competition at long snapper. The Vikes don’t miss a trick.

Rating – 4.5.

OFFENSIVE LINE: I was told by a veteran reporter with inside sources that Matt Kalil should have spent last season in an orthopedic ward with casts on both knees rather than attempting to play left tackle, so put that in your pipe and smoke it. Brandon Fusco is healthy and ready to take over at left guard, John Sullivan is powerful of body and mind at center, Phil Loadholt is healthy and fresh at right tackle, and right guard is secure with veteran Mike Harris (he looks good) and sixth-rounder Tyrus Thompson (the steal of the draft).

Rating – 4.5.

WIDE RECEIVERS: If the Vikings had known they would have the good fortune to land Maryland’s Diggs as the steal of the draft in the fifth round, they might not have bothered to acquire Mike Wallace from Miami. Now, they have them both, to go with Charles Johnson, Jarius Wright and the newly-committed Patterson. Fantastic.

Rating – 5.0.

TIGHT END/ FULLBACK: Kyle Rudolph is healthy. Even if he wasn’t, the Vikings on Sunday night unveiled talented fifth-rounder MyCole Pruitt, the steal of the draft.

Rating – 5.0.

RUNNING BACK: From what I can tell from Purple fandom, the best thing to happen for the 2015 Vikings was Adrian Peterson spending last season on the sideline dealing with a child abuse charge, because he’s now fresh and with more determination than ever. Plus, the Vikes have Jerick McKinnon.

Rating – 5.0.

QUARTERBACK: Teddy Bridgewater was close to flawless as a rookie last year, and now he’s stronger, quicker, more accurate, a better leader, plus he has virtual reality and a new pair of gloves with magical powers. Don’t look back, Aaron Rodgers … someone is gaining on you.

Rating – 5.0.

That works out to an average of 4.86, which admittedly puts the Vikings a fraction shy of the 1978 Steelers. The same scale also was applied to the rest of the NFC North, and the Packers came in at 3.45, the Lions at 2.40 and the Bears at 1.28.

Bottom line: I feel sorry for the Vikings’ primary competitors.


5:  1978 Pittsburgh Steelers – Best team ever.

4: 1998 Vikings – 15-1 and upset losers in NFC title game.

3: 2006 Bears – 11-5 Super Bowl team with Rex Grossman as quarterback.

2: 2001 Vikings – 5-11 team that got Dennis Green fired.

1: 2008 Lions – They lost ‘em all.

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