Today was the day every player in the NFL dreads - reporting to Training Camp. The actual fun for the Minnesota Vikings beings on Friday, and like every year at this time, there's several questions before our boys lace the cleats and put on the pads. So here's my top five questions for the Minnesota Vikings leading into the 2008 version of Training Camp.
5. How will the Packers allegations of Tampering affect the Vikings, especially Tarvaris Jackson? (Getting this one out of the way first. Even the NFL Commish wants this soap opera to come to a swift end)
Coach Childress stated a few weeks ago that Jackson is his QB and he's got his full vote of confidence. With phone records stating that Favre made several calls to Bevell and Childress, one might think that Jackson will start to question his coach's actual confidence in him. As late as today, the Star Tribune ran a story stating that Antoine Winfield thinks Favre would be a great fit for the Vikings. But Jackson does have plenty of support from other Pro-Bowl veterans to include Sharper, Pat Williams, and Kevin Williams. Jackson needs to do what the rest of the NFL should have done from the begining and just ignore this story. As it stands, he is the leader of the Vikings and he's got plenty to prove.
4. Does adding Jarred Allen truly improve the Vikings' secondary?
It's been no secret in the NFL the past couple of years on how to attack the Vikings defense. Pass, pass, and pass some more. But you have to mix in the run to open the passing game right? Not on the Vikings because....A) You CANNOT run against them due to the Williams Wall and B) The Vikings are innept when it comes to stopping any passing game in the NFL and they often provide mediocre at best QB's with career games. The Vikings have actually had good personnel in the secondary. Guys like Sharper and Winfield play a Pro Bowl calibur game every year, but when you have zero pass rush, there's no way you are going to cover receivers in the NFL when a QB has all day to survey the field. So, if Allen follows up in Purple with what he did last year in Kansas City, the Vikings' Secondary should be vastly improved.
3. Will Bryant McKinnie be suspended after his court date on September 24th?
Since McKinnie is a repeat offender of the League's Personal-Conduct Policy, he's all but guaranteed to suffer a four game suspension, but not until after his day in court. It will be interesting to see how the Vikings organization deals with this situation as well. He's a huge part of one of the better offensive lines in football, but the Vikings have cracked down on what types of characters they have on their team. Should he only get the four game suspension and be welcome back to the team, it will be an interesting month to see how the line holds up in pass protection and providing the holes for the dynamic duo - Peterson and Taylor. The Vikings must address this in camp and find out who will be able to step up in McKinnie's October absence.
2. Has Adrian Peterson fully recovered from last year's knee injury?
Before Peterson suffered his knee injury in hated Green Bay, he was on pace to beat Dickerson's rookie rushing record. When he came back, he didn't have the same explosive press though the line that propelled him during the first half of the season. According to team trainers and coaches, Peterson looks stronger than ever and has that explosive step back. But, can he sustain it through the course of an entire season? The Vikings are lucky enough to have a humble Chester Taylor behind Peterson, but let's face it, without Peterson, the Vikings offense is no where near the same level.
1. Can Tarvaris Jackson lead the Vikings to the Playoffs and beyond?
Ah yes, the million dollar question. Childress seems to think so and has put all of his faith in Jackson (should you truly ignore Favre's phone records). He's still raw, but I firmly believe he's got the arm to become a good QB in this league. This is the year he gets fairly judged. Gone is Troy Williamson and that alone will be a huge asset in Jackson's decision making. The Vikings also landed Bernard Berrian who started showing #1 receiver ability in this league with a rotating QB situation in Chicago that I feel is far worse than Jackson. Sidney Rice enters his second year and has all the makings of having a break-out season. Allison also showed promise last year as a rookie and Bobby Wade will fill the slot this year, a roll he's happy with and damn good at. Jackson has all the tools to show that he's for real this year, and having AD behind him for a little play action never hurts either. Should the Vikings show that they can establish a passing game early on, that will limit the eight and nine man fronts and make AD even more dangerous.