Justin Fritze will be breaking down where every team in the NFL currently stands for us here at TOJ, going from worst to first…continuing today with the Minnesota Vikings -
The NFL is the only sport that can say without pause that anyone can win on any day at any venue, home or away. Despite their inability to get anything going the entire season, there’s always some sliver of greatness in the bottom five of the league. There’s always rookies coming on (or about to come on in the next year’s draft), a strange storyline about a team that was on top and fell off (Vikings with Favre), or as with this year, it’s the anticipation of a rookie quarterback (Luck) and one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game having a pre-draft three way metaphysical battle of the psyches between past, present, and ownership.
Would Peyton help Luck? Would Peyton survive? Is Irsay trying to become the new face of the Colts? Is Luck doomed to suffer under the bloodshot eyes of Irsay?
Crawling upwards slightly from the bottom of the barrel you’ve got the Rams, who had the worst luck of any team in the NFL (11 cornerbacks RIP) and have undergone one of the most rapid declines since the Greatest Show On Turf, which can be summed up as a bad deal on the tail end of the #1 draft pick before they changed the rookie pay scale, an experiment with McDaniels that ended in complete and total failure, and the once vaunted Spags defense that really had no talent to begin with, and thus, no impact, even in the terrible NFC West.
With that, I turn attentions again to the Vikings. The Vikings I doomed for at least four years after their stunt with Favre (every year with aging quarterback means two years of failure afterwards), the smoke and mirrors Vikings, the crypt keepers, the old and the unfortunate. The Vikings to me are like a machine that never quite works right. They’re a cheap dirt bike. Half the price, less fun, and prone to throw a piston every few days. The past year has gone as such: Brett Favre nearly dies his second year at the helm, Percy Harvin has migraines that may or may not force him into early retirement, and Adrian Peterson, the greatest running back in the league, just tore an ACL and an MCL.
There’s not much I believe in when it comes to the Vikings. It’s a whirlpool of underachievement. Looking at the all important secondary, Antoine Winfield is too old to keep up with the freaks of the NFC North: Greg Jennings. Calvin Johnson. Earl Bennett? Ok that’s a stretch.
Do they want to grab Morris Claiborne and attempt to put a stop to the aerial assault of Detroit and Green Bay? He could give Harvin a spell on special teams. He also played with Patrick Peterson, who gave the Cardinals a few minutes on sports center as they went ahead and lost for what seemed like the 156th time in the past two years.
Turning to the guys in the middle, Chad Greenway is one of my favorite linebackers in the league simply for the fact that after he sacks somebody, I imagine him screaming something about the cost of the GreenWay, or something about traffic on the GreenWay, an offhand Beltway reference.
The Vikings aren’t going to trade down for a defensive lineman, so they might try and grab someone in free agency or a defensive end/outside linebacker like Whitney Mercilus in the 3rd. They’ll have Jared Allen back, and hopefully Kevin Williams survives the blade unlike Pat. Although Pat is 39 and Kevin is 31, so that move kind of made sense, especially when you look at the actual athletes on teams like the Giants or the 49ers and the general trend towards speed rushers instead of fatboys.
So why “give the kid some money”? Christian Ponder NEEDS some money. He needs some big time. Some Deion. He needs someone who can make him look good. He needs Justin Blackmon. If for no other reason than the fact that they need SOMETHING to take the pressure off Percy Harvin for the rest of his Vikings career. If Kyle Rudolph pans out as a Gronk prototype, the fact that Adrian Peterson can rip off a 94 yard run in the strong I formation should get him open on about 99% of play action bootlegs. Every linebacker bites agains the Adrian Peterson play action fake. There’s no choice when you’re dealing with that sort of vicious juggernaut with a head full of steam.
So what would Justin Blackmon mean? The second coming of Randy Moss? The Third coming of Randy Moss? Neither. Two legitimate receivers on the edge, a working man’s Gronkowski and the best running back in football. That’s what they’ll need if they want to compete in the NFC North.
So enters the Ponder detractors. Ponder doesn’t need elite talent, he needs to be a good quarterback, which he can do with a 2nd or 3rd round receiver and a bolstered offensive line. Regardless the play of Ponder, Matt Kalil will be Matt Kalil, whereas Justin Blackmon can’t be Justin Blackmon if he’s getting passes thrown at his ankles on 3rd down.
Never mind the fact that Steve Hutchinson seems to be on his way out and they may in fact start a kid from Slippery Rock. The Vikings, in essence, need to get more blue collar before they get big time.
Late round value at cornerback and defensive line could get this team into at least playoff contention. Hell an 8-8 season would be looked at as an accomplishment, and prevent Adrian Peterson from suffering the same fate as Larry Fitzgerald – a career whose potential never even came close to what it should be due to John Skelton, Matt Leinart, and Kevin Kolb’s greatest con of all time in getting $50 million for nothing. (If Larry plays his cards right this week however, and Peyton Manning ends donning the Kurt Warner 2.0 uniform, all will be forgotten.)
For pure excitement, I hope they get Blackmon and attempt to grab some lineman in free agency, because I’ve got no horse in the race, and flash is fun. Especially in Minnesota. Which may become LA.