2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Despite major progress, Vikings must prove more

By DAVE CAMPBELL - AP Pro Football Writer
    2013-07-23 13:03

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The Minnesota Vikings have reached a crossroad, coming off a remarkable season during which they improved by seven victories, made the playoffs and watched Adrian Peterson transition from ACL rehab patient to MVP award winner.

Slip back a bit, and 2013 will likely be widely viewed as a disappointment. To pick up where their progress left off last year, though, the Vikings will need just as much to go right as in that surprising 2012 season. Similar to last year, when they were coming off a 3-13 mess, the Vikings have again set out amid skepticism from analysts and fans about whether they're built to stay on a title-contending track.

By the end of 2013, they'll know whether last season was simply a fluke or a foundation for the future.

``Super Bowl: I know that's the goal as a group,'' Peterson said at the end of minicamp. ``I feel like we've got the right pieces in place. Everyone has that vision in their mind.''

Five things to know about the Vikings as camp begins:

1. PONDERING THE FUTURE: Christian Ponder will be the starter when the Vikings open at Detroit on Sept. 8. But he has a lot to prove before his status is ensured for next year, let alone for the rematch against the Lions that wraps up the regular season on Dec. 29. This time, the Vikings have a better option as a backup in Matt Cassel. General manager Rick Spielman has often said he needs three years to evaluate quarterbacks, bringing the former first-round draft pick into a crucial window. Not only does Ponder have a stronger offensive line, his receivers have been upgraded over that span, too, despite the departure of the do-it-all Percy Harvin. Greg Jennings was signed from Green Bay to be the leader, Jerome Simpson was brought back on another low-risk one-year contract and Cordarrelle Patterson was selected with the third of three late first-round draft picks. Tight end Kyle Rudolph, the Pro Bowl MVP, will also be relied on even more as a down-field weapon. ``Christian, I'm excited. He's a great quarterback. He's going to shock people,'' Jennings said last month.

2. ALL DAY CAN GO ALL YEAR: Peterson left no doubt about his determination, focus and seemingly superhuman skills by returning from reconstructive surgery on his left knee to rush for 2,097 yards, 9 short of the NFL record. If Ponder can improve, the Vikings offense should be more balanced, which would make cracking the 2,000-yard mark again even more challenging for Peterson. But he's one of the rare players for whom any feat seems possible.

3. UNDER THE DOME: The Vikings have long enjoyed a significant advantage under the noisy Metrodome's roof on the spongy artificial turf, but this is their last year in the quirky, outdated stadium. They'll play two seasons outside at the University of Minnesota before opening their new indoor venue in 2016. They'll also have one fewer home game this fall, too, when they ``host'' the Pittsburgh Steelers in London on Sept. 29.

4. THE NEW DEAL, ON THE DEFENSIVE LINE: The front four has long been a strength of this franchise, from the Alan Page-led Purple People Eaters to the era of Hall of Fame pass rushers Chris Doleman and John Randle to the current group led by Jared Allen. But Allen, fellow defensive ends Everson Griffen and Brian Robison and stalwart defensive tackle Kevin Williams have all begun the final year of their current contracts. Given age, productivity and salary cap factors, envisioning all of them still around in 2014 is all but impossible. So not only will these guys need to re-establish their worth, for either their present employer or other teams on the open market, but the Vikings themselves must make some important decisions about who to invest in for the future. First-round draft pick Sharrif Floyd is in line to replace Williams, a six-time Pro Bowl pick.

5. STILL UNDER SIDELINE SCRUTINY: Despite the feel-good vibe and vast improvement he helped produce last season, Leslie Frazier hasn't yet secured his future with the franchise. The Vikings routinely exercised their option for 2014 on his contract, but since coaches rarely enter the final year of a deal without an extension, this is another prove-it season for Frazier, a subject he has tread carefully around in public.

---

Follow Dave Campbell on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DaveCampbellAP

---

Online: AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Pierre ThomasOct 30 07:22p

New Orleans Saints RBs Khiry Robinson (forearm) and Pierre Thomas (shoulder) are both inactive in Week 9 against the Carolina Panthers Thursday, Oct. 30.

David HawthorneOct 30 07:12p

The New Orleans Saints have declared LB Austin Johnson, LB David Hawthorne, C Jonathan Goodwin, RB Khiry Robinson, WR Nick Toon, RB Pierre Thomas, CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste inactive for Week 9.

Amini SilatoluOct 30 07:12p

The Carolina Panthers have declared OG Amini Silatolu, CB Bene Benwikere, OT Byron Bell, RB Fozzy Whittaker, WR Philly Brown, FS Thomas DeCoud, OG Trai Turner inactive for Week 9.

Brandon BrownerOct 30 04:32p

New England Patriots DT Alan Branch (non-injury related) and DE Chandler Jones (hip) did not practice Thursday, Oct. 30. S Nate Ebner (finger), DL Dominique Easley (knee), OL Cameron [ More ]

Brandon ThompsonOct 30 04:22p

Cincinnati Bengals CB Darqueze Dennard (hamstring), LB Rey Maualuga (hamstring) and OG Kevin Zeitler (calf) did not practice Thursday, Oct. 30. DT Domata Peko (toe) and OT Andre Smith [ More ]

Dwight FreeneyOct 30 04:22p

San Diego Chargers LB Manti Te'o (foot), CB Jason Verrett (shoulder) and S Jahleel Addae (concussion) did not practice Thursday, Oct. 30. LB Jeremiah Attaochu (hamstring) was limited. CB [ More ]

Donald BrownOct 30 04:12p

San Diego Chargers RB Donald Brown (concussion) practiced fully Thursday, Oct. 30.

Terrell SuggsOct 30 04:02p

Baltimore Ravens WR Michael Campanaro (thigh), CB Jimmy Smith (foot) and LB Terrell Suggs (neck) all did not participate in practice Thursday, Oct. 30. OG Marshal Yanda (knee) [ More ]

Brett KeiselOct 30 03:52p

Pittsburgh Steelers DE Brett Keisel (non-injury), SS Troy Polamalu (non-injury) and SS Ross Ventrone (hamstring) did not participate in practice Thursday, Oct. 30. CB Ike Taylor (forearm) and FS [ More ]

Bruce CarterOct 30 03:22p

Dallas Cowboys LB Bruce Carter (finger) suffered a broken ring finger during practice Thursday, Oct. 30, but expects to play in Week 9. He will wear a splint on his finger for protection.

Cullen JenkinsOct 30 03:12p

New York Giants DT Cullen Jenkins (calf) did not participate in practice Thursday, Oct. 30. CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (back, hamstring) and P Steve Weatherford (ankle) were both limited in practice.

Brandon BoykinOct 30 03:12p

Philadelphia Eagles FS Nate Allen (hamstring) did not participate in practice Thursday, Oct. 30. TE Brent Celek (back) and WR Brad Smith (groin) were both limited in practice. CB [ More ]

D'Qwell JacksonOct 30 03:12p

Indianapolis Colts LB D'Qwell Jackson (toe), DT Arthur Jones (ankle), LB Erik Walden (quadriceps) and LB Josh McNary (ankle) did not participate in practice Thursday, Oct. 30. CB Vontae [ More ]

Rashad JenningsOct 30 02:42p

New York Giants RB Rashad Jennings (knee) said he is on track in terms of his rehab, but there is no timetable for his return. Jennings said he has [ More ]

Jordan CameronOct 30 02:32p

Cleveland Browns TE Jordan Cameron (concussion) did not participate in practice Thursday, Oct. 30.

Anthony CollinsOct 30 02:32p

Tampa Bay Buccaneers OT Oniel Cousins is working at left tackle with the first-team offense during practice Thursday, Oct. 30, because OT Anthony Collins (foot) is sitting out practice.

Doug MartinOct 30 02:22p

Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Doug Martin (ankle) is not participating in practice Thursday, Oct. 30.

Jason VerrettOct 30 01:52p

San Diego Chargers CB Jason Verrett (shoulder) is expected to miss two to three weeks with a torn labrum, according to two sources.

DeAngelo WilliamsOct 30 01:52p

Carolina Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams (ankle) will start the team's Week 9 game against the New Orleans Saints Thursday, Oct. 30, according to head coach Ron Rivera.

R. Griffin IIIOct 30 01:42p

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III (ankle) received most of the work with the first-team offense during practice Thursday, Oct. 30, and will start in Week 9 if he [ More ]

Jaylen WatkinsOct 30 01:32p

Philadelphia Eagles SS Earl Wolff, FS Chris Maragos and CB Jaylen Watkins could be options to start at safety if FS Nate Allen (hamstring) is not able to play in Week 9.

Giovani BernardOct 30 01:22p

Cincinnati Bengals RB Giovani Bernard (hip, shoulder) did not participate in practice Thursday, Oct. 30.

Tony RomoOct 30 01:02p

Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo (back) didn't take part in the walk-through Thursday, Oct. 30, and will not practice with the team. However, head coach Jason Garrett remains hopeful [ More ]

Trent RichardsonOct 30 12:42p

Indianapolis Colts RB Trent Richardson (hamstring) is participating in practice Thursday, Oct. 30.

Reggie WayneOct 30 12:42p

Indianapolis Colts WR Reggie Wayne (elbow) is not participating in practice Thursday, Oct. 30.

Tony RomoOct 30 12:22p

Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo's (back) status is making head coach Jason Garrett feel optimistic about his availability for Week 9.

Dallas ThomasOct 30 11:43a

Miami Dolphins OG Dallas Thomas would be the most likely candidate to start at left guard if OG Daryn Colledge (illness) is not able to play in Week 9.

Rashad JenningsOct 30 11:12a

New York Giants RB Rashad Jennings (knee) has been ruled out for Week 9.

Phil BatesOct 30 10:52a

The Cleveland Browns signed free-agent WR Phil Bates (Seahawks) to the practice squad and released CB Marcus Cromartie Thursday, Oct. 30.

Charles SimsOct 30 10:13a

Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Charles Sims could have 10 or more touches in Week 9, in the opinion of beat writer Greg Auman.

Ryan MathewsOct 30 09:52a

San Diego Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (knee) is likely to sit out of the Week 9 game and return after the Week 10 bye.

Dennis PittaOct 30 09:52a

Baltimore Ravens TE Dennis Pitta (hip) may never be able to play football again after two surgeries on a fractured and dislocated hip in as many seasons.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2014 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group