In anticipation of the Chicago Bears contest versus the Minnesota Vikings this week, we sat down and chatted with Ted Glover, editor at Daily Norseman. Big thanks to Ted for taking the time to give us some insight on his team...
1- After Rick Spielman was promoted to General Manager before the 2012 season, the Vikings were able to put two straight losing seasons behind them (6-10 in 2010 and 3-13 in 2011) to clinch a Wild Card slot. What is the current dynamic like with the Wilfs, Spielman, and head coach Leslie Frazier?
Ted: Everyone is on the same sheet of music, and there is a clear delineation of power, which is something that's been rare in Vikings history. For the longest time, they had an ownership group of 10 people headed by Max Winter, and they gave day to day power to guys like Roger Headrick and Mike Lynn. Even after the team was sold to Red McCombs and then Zygi Wilf, there was no real front office structure. There was the infamous 'Triangle of Authority, which had some success, but it also had the Randy Moss trade and release in 2010. With a bona fide GM with final say over the roster, and a coaching staff that has a lot of input but not veto authority, the Vikings seem to be finally all rowing in the same direction. With Wilf as an owner, the Vikings have a new stadium approved and will be breaking ground next month. It's as good as a front office dynamic the Vikings have had since GM Jim Finks and coach Bud Grant built the Purple People Eaters. I'm not saying that's going to happen here, but there is a good dynamic here from owner, to front office, to coach.
2- The VIkings selected QB Christian Ponder (6'2", 225, Florida St.) in the 1st round of the 2011 draft, but the offense is still very much driven by the legs of Adrian Peterson. What is your opinion of Ponder, and do you think he is the long-term answer for Minnesota?
Ted: Yes, I think so. This is definitely the make or break season for him, though. He's had moments where he's played pretty solid football, but then he's had games like last week at Detroit. That caused the Christian Ponder bandwagon to careen off towards the ditch, and he needs to have a good game to get back between the lines. His detractors point to his happy feet and tendency to stare down receivers, and his supporters point out he's had some good games and he has a knack for fourth quarter comebacks, and when the Vikings had their backs to the wall last season, he was an important part of them winning their last four games to make the playoffs. The jury is definitely still out on Ponder, though, and I suspect he will be put on trial every week until he either proves beyond a shadow of a doubt he can or can't do the job.
3- Who are some rookies and sophomores that could really make a splash for the Vikings in 2013?
Ted: Well, the three first round rookies--DT Shariff Floyd, CB Xavier Rhodes, and WR Cordarrelle Patterson should all make an impact. Floyd looked okay in his first live game action last week, and Rhodes went man to man on Megatron and did well. Cordarrelle Patterson saw limited time, but he has a lot of potential to become an impact player. Second year guys Harrison Smith has become a hard hitting safety, and of course, kicker Blair Walsh is as good as any kicker in the NFL. GM Rick Spielman is doing a good job of getting a nucleus of solid, young talent on the roster, on both sides of the ball.
4- What are the biggest strengths and weaknesses on offense?
Ted: On offense, obviously, Adrian Peterson. Stop him, and you've got a good chance of forcing the Vikings offense off the field. As much as I like Christian Ponder, he has yet to prove he can consistently take advantage of eight and nine man fronts. Until he can, the key to stopping the Vikings offense is to load the box and make AP beat you. Granted, he has done that in the past, but getting a passing game to balance things out would be nice. They have the weapons to do it in Greg Jennings, Kyle Rudolph, and Jerome Simpson, but it's on Ponder to get them the ball consistently when the defense is daring him to throw.
5- What about on defense?
Ted: The defensive line sets the tone. DT Kevin Williams will be back, and his presence in the middle was sorely missed last week. Jared Allen and Everson Griffen will need to bring pressure on Jay Cutler. If they can get him out of rhythm and force him into making mistakes, the Vikings have a very good shot at winning this game.
5b- How do you see the NFC shaking down this season, and how close are the Vikings to really getting back into contention in the NFC?
Ted: Wait, what? If I recall, the Vikings were 10-6 last year and went to the playoffs. How is that not in contention? Seriously, I understand what you mean. For the Vikings, they're close. They've had very good drafts, and they have a pretty solid roster with a good mix of youth and experience. The only thing they need is good quarterback play. Get that, and this team is a legitimate contender. Don't, and with their schedule...it could be a long year.
Again, big props to Ted for hanging out with us and chatting about his Vikings... Here's to an injury-free game this Sunday at Soldier Field!