NFL camp preview: On balance, Vikings need less AP, more Ponder

The SportsXchange

MANKATO, Minn. -- As they report to training camp Thursday, then head out for their first full-squad workout Friday, the Minnesota Vikings want to keep their goals in perspective.

Running back Adrian Peterson, fresh off a near-record 2,098-yard season, wants to obliterate Eric Dickerson's NFL mark with 2,500 more this year.

To keep things in perspective, the Vikings hope that doesn't happen. Or at least isn't necessary.

The reigning league MVP is the greatest running back of his generation, and beyond. But a second straight 2,000-yard season might signal that quarterback Christian Ponder and last year's 31st-ranked passing game are still anchors hanging around Peterson's thick neck.

So the focus in training camp shouldn't be on Peterson, but rather on the wildly inconsistent Ponder and a revamped receiving corps that must come together quickly if the Vikings are to achieve the necessary balance needed to match or improve on last year's 10-6 record and wild-card playoff berth.

It won't be easy. Gone is Percy Harvin, the electric play-making receiver-returner, traded to Seattle when his relationship with the team dissolved beyond repair. Harvin was an early MVP front-runner last season before an ankle injury ended his season after nine games, but the Vikings did make a playoff push that included a 4-0 finish with Harvin long gone from the lineup.

Training camp and the preseason will provide a better indication as to whether former Packer Greg Jennings and raw rookie Cordarrelle Patterson have what it takes to make fans forget about Harvin. Jennings is a savvy route-runner with experience and deceptive speed, but he also turns 30 this season and has struggled with injuries the past two seasons. Patterson is a freakish athlete with tremendous potential, but may need a year to learn all the intricacies of the NFL game.

Defensively, the Vikings head into camp looking for more plays in the back seven. The kind of plays that should match the tremendous front-four pass rush the Vikings have had in recent years.

The linebackers have question marks across the board. Even strong-side linebacker Chad Greenway, the team's leading tackler the last five years, is coming off minor knee surgery that sidelined him in minicamp. Meanwhile, the secondary has a lot of promise, but also is without Antoine Winfield, its best player and veteran leader, for the first time in a decade.

Former Packer Desmond Bishop should start camp ahead of or beat out Erin Henderson at middle linebacker. Henderson spent the offseason in the middle, but should end up back on the weak side since Bishop was signed after the team had plenty of opportunities to evaluate Henderson as a middle linebacker in OTAs and minicamp.

Also, rookie Xavier Rhodes, the 25th overall draft pick this year, should step in at Winfield's old spot on the left side. Second-year pro Josh Robinson ran with the first team during the offseason, but Rhodes' talent will win out in camp. Robinson, however, is the front-runner for the nickel slot position that Winfield played in passing situations.

On special teams, the Vikings took a chance by discarding outspoken veteran punter Chris Kluwe (now with the Oakland Raiders) in favor of fifth-round draft pick Jeff Locke. This comes a year after they took an even bigger chance by cutting veteran kicker Ryan Longwell in favor of sixth-round draft pick Blair Walsh.

Walsh came into camp with confidence a year ago. He went from a horrendous senior season at Georgia to earning All-Pro honors during a record-setting rookie season.

Whether Locke or any other player can step up like that in 2013 will begin to come into focus at practice Friday.

-- Team correspondents for The Sports Xchange contributed material for this story.
View Comments

Recommended for You

  • CELLPHONE SNOOP DISCOVERS HER BOYFRIEND IS CHEATING

    DEAR ABBY: I have been in a long-distance relationship with "Victor" for several years. Recently I began to suspect he was cheating. What raised my suspicion was that I suddenly couldn't reach him on the weekends. Usually we would Skype -- Sunday night for me, Monday morning for him. Last February…

    Dear Abby51 mins ago
  • Flight Attendant's Hilarious Safety Instruction Video Goes Viral

    Fasten your seat belts, stow your belongings under your seat and put your electronics in airplane mode. Southwest Airlines' Martha Cobb has a few safety announcements, and a couple of jokes to share as well. The Houston-based flight attendant known as Marty is gaining national attention thanks to a…

    Trending Now
  • Owe More than $10,000 to the IRS?

    Free case evaluation -- If you owe $10,000 or more to the IRS, speak with a licensed tax attorney in your area. Know your rights and fight back!

    AdChoices TaxationLawFirms.comSponsored
  • Walker's brothers to help finish 'Fast & Furious'

    NEW YORK (AP) — Paul Walker's brothers are stepping to help finish filming on "Fast & Furious 7," the film Walker was in the midst of making when he died in November.

    Associated Press
  • Woman leads police on chase after she forgets $50 on gas station counter

    A deputy intended to do a good deed by following the woman, but after running her tags, learned she was driving with a suspended license.

    Odd News
  • N. Korea officials 'target London salon over Kim haircut ad'

    British police said Tuesday they had intervened after North Korean embassy officials reportedly told a London hairdresser to take down a discount haircuts advert featuring leader Kim Jong-Un. Mo Nabbach said two officials identifying themselves as being from the Stalinist state's mission took…

    AFP
  • Here are all the passwords you need to change right now because of Heartbleed

    By now, we all know what a huge deal Heartbleed is. The massive vulnerability in OpenSSL protocol impacted 66% of all sites on the Internet at the time of its discovery, and now companies are scrambling to fix the issue. Most big companies seem to have done a pretty good job of acting quickly, but…

    BGR News
  • Conjoined Twins Leave Dallas Hospital

    The Ezell Twins Were Successfully Separated 6 Weeks After Birth

    Good Morning America
  • Teacher who ‘ordered a hit’ on 7th grader gets fired

    Florida’s St. Lucie County School Board officially fired veteran teacher Dru Dehart after their investigation found that she encouraged six 8th grade students to beat up 7th grader Radravious Williams, WPTV NewsChannel 5 reports.

    Odd News
  • Save up to 70% on Term Life Insurance

    Less than $14 a month for a $250,000 policy. You can get a personalized, free, no-obligation term life insurance quote in just a few minutes.

    AdChoices AIG Direct Sponsored
  • Crimeans find their new lives in Russia harder than expected

    A month on from their referendum to join Russia, Crimeans ought to be looking north to the mainland with some satisfaction. Kiev is mobilizing troops to oust them, raising the possibility that Russia will respond with military intervention. But for Crimeans, now safely ensconced in Russia's…

    Christian Science Monitor
  • Play

    Caught on Tape: Intruder on Surveillance Over Baby's Crib

    Sheriff has released unnerving video of a family home with an intruder and a lesson to all.

    ABC News Videos
  • Study finds signs of brain changes in pot smokers

    NEW YORK (AP) — A small study of casual marijuana smokers has turned up evidence of changes in the brain, a possible sign of trouble ahead, researchers say.

    Associated Press
  • William, Kate and baby George kick off Australia tour

    Prince William and his wife Kate flew into Sydney on Wednesday with their baby son George to kick off the Australian leg of their tour Down Under. The royals disembarked from an Australian air force 737 under sunny skies after arriving from New Zealand, an AFP photographer said. Eight-month-old…

    AFP47 mins ago
  • What I learned as a liberal talking head on Fox News

    In the fall of 2013, I gave a TED talk on what I learned as a progressive, on-air talking head at Fox News, where I worked for two years before leaving and joining my current home, CNN. After all, one of the most frequent questions I was asked during my time at Fox was how I did it, how I was a fox…

    Christian Science Monitor
  • South Dakota mystery solved: Teen girls died in 1971 car crash

    By Brendan O'Brien (Reuters) - The remains recovered from a car found overturned in a South Dakota creek last fall have been identified as those of two teenage girls who disappeared in 1971, and no foul play is suspected, authorities said on Tuesday. The girls, Cheryl Miller and Pamela Jackson,…

    Reuters
  • 2014 Top Credit Cards

    Top 10 Cards for Fair Credit. Compare & Apply for the Best Card!

    AdChoices CreditCards.orgSponsored
  • Geologic Wonder: See the Grand Canyon from Space

    Helicopter tours of the Grand Canyon can provide a bird's-eye view of the iconic landmark. But that's nothing compared to what astronauts see as they zip over northern Arizona in the International Space Station. In a new image taken from orbit, the Grand Canyon is visible slicing through the Kaibab…

    LiveScience.com
  • View

    Utah woman arrested after dead babies found (16 photos)

    A judge set a $6 million bail for a Utah woman accused of killing six babies that she gave birth to over 10 years. State Judge Steven Hansen in Provo set bail at $1 million for each child when Megan Huntsman appeared via video in a Utah courtroom Monday morning. Huntsman, 39, was arrested Sunday on…

    Yahoo News
  • 'DWTS': How Derek Hough Got Between NeNe Leakes and Tony Dovolani

    In one of the first dramatic moments of this season's "Dancing with the Stars," NeNe Leakes stormed out of a dance rehearsal during the week after she noticed her partner Tony Dovolani was getting a bit jealous. Leakes had danced with Derek Hough the week before during switch-up week and had come…

    ABC News
  • 'Syria rebels get US-made missiles'

    Syrian rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad for the first time received at least 20 US-made TOW anti-tank missiles from a "Western source," a rebel official told AFP Tuesday. "Moderate, well-organised fighters from the Hazm movement have for the first time received more than 20 TOW…

    AFP
  • Chief: Suspects wore GPS devices during killings

    ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Two parolees raped and killed at least four women while wearing GPS trackers, and there may be more victims, a California police chief alleged Monday.

    Associated Press
  • Play

    Man, 2 children dead in I-65 crash approaching 2nd accident in Indiana

    An Indiana man and two of his children were killed in a crash on I-65 in northwest Indiana on Monday night.

    WLS – Chicago
  • Bad News for Agents, Great for Virginia Drivers

    If you are currently insured, have no DUI's, and drive less than 50 miles per day, you may be paying too much for auto insurance. Find out now.

    AdChoices FreeRateReport.comSponsored