Minnesota, along with Pittsburgh, become the first NFL teams to have their full rosters open training camp when the two squads start back to work on Saturday. Rookies for Baltimore, Cleveland, New England and New Orleans have already reported to training camp, but the Vikings and Steelers are the first teams to have everyone present as the NFL gets back to business.
The Vikings go into camp this season with a little more certainty than previous years, as Teddy Bridgewater looks to take the next step after having a successful rookie campaign. Yet, along with every other NFL team at the start of training camp, there are questions about Minnesota that no one will know the answer to until the pads are strapped on and the helmets are buckled. Here are the biggest questions Vikings fans want and need answers to.
Can Adrian Peterson regain his MVP form after missing nearly all of last season?
Peterson’s last snap in an NFL game was the 2014 season opener against St. Louis. After turning 30 in March, people are starting to wonder if they will ever see the old AP ever again. Traditionally once a running back hits 30 years old, they start to take a turn for the worse. This isn’t just any old running back though, this is the same guy who came back early from an ACL tear and went on to win the MVP award the following season. This is a man who has always bounced back after bad breaks and situations. Chances are we won’t see much of Peterson in the preseason, he traditionally doesn’t play at all in the warm-up games. We will have to wait until the first game of the regular season, which will be on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” on the road against the San Francisco 49ers.
Will Teddy Bridgewater take the next step as a starting NFL quarterback?
Bridgewater enters training camp as the unquestioned franchise quarterback of the Vikings. Coming off a rookie campaign where he started 12 games, he won six and was named the 2014 NFL Pepsi Rookie of the Year. The question is now can he lead a team that only won seven games total last season to the playoffs? Avoiding the “Sophomore Slump” can be tough in the NFL, let alone at the position with the biggest spotlight in sports. Bridgewater has the poise and intellect to take the next step, and has a new wide receiver to work with in Mike Wallace. In the QB-heavy NFC North, Bridgewater will have to work harder than ever before to make a difference and get the Vikings to the playoffs this season. Hey Christian Ponder did it, why can’t Teddy?
Will former No. 4 overall Matt Kalil turn it around this season?
Last season was one to forget for Kalil. After making the Pro Bowl his rookie year, Kalil has taken a tumble down from grace. After only allowing two sacks his rookie year, he has allowed 16 in the past two seasons. That’s a pretty drastic turn of events for a guy who was supposed to solidify the left side of the offensive line for years to come. The Vikings did pick up the last year on his rookie deal option, so this is the true test season for Kalil. If he doesn’t play exceptionally better, the odds are he will be looking at a new team for the 2016 season.
Can the secondary holds its own in one of the league’s best quarterback divisions?
In a division that features quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler, having a good secondary is more crucial than ever. The Vikings are starting to trend in the right direction, but still have to navigate six games against NFC North rivals that all have quarterbacks who have been to the Pro Bowl. Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith are the cornerstones of the defense and should provide good stability, but it takes more than two to have a successful back end of the defense. Guys like Robert Blanton and Josh Robinson will both have to play better. First-round pick Trae Waynes could play a big part this season at cornerback, but that depends on how well he adjusts to head coach Mike Zimmer’s defense.
How much will the former UCLA linebackers contribute?
The Vikings took Anthony Barr in the first round of the 2014 draft, and his former college teammate Eric Kendricks was taken one year later in the second round. These two will be a big factor in determining how well the Viking defense plays this season. Barr is coming off an impressive rookie year, which he was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 8 after he scooped up a fumble and returned it for a game-winning touchdown in overtime. Kendricks has already been getting rave reviews from coaches in OTAs and minicamp. If both stay on the field and can grasp Zimmer’s defense, they both could cause havoc in this league sooner rather than later.
— Written by Josh Koop, who is a part of the Athlon Contributor Network and Director of New Media with the Bemidji Axemen of the Indoor Football League. You can follow Josh on Twitter at @Koopsnet.