HEAD COACH: Leslie Frazier
Key Additions: WR Jerome Simpson; TE John Carlson; CB Zack Bowman
Key Losses: CB Cedric Griffin; TE Visanthe Shiancoe; DL Remi Ayodele; LB E.J. Henderson; TE Jim Kleinsasser; OL Anthony Herrera; PK Ryan Longwell
Offense: Christian Ponder will be the quarterback after taking over last season and throwing for 1,853 yards with 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. The backups include Joe Webb (376 yards passing with three TD and two INT) and journeyman Sage Rosenfels.
The running game was ranked 4th in the NFL last year (145 yards per game) and would get a huge boost from the healthy return of Adrian Peterson, who suffered a bad knee injury late last season after gaining 970 yards (4.7 ypc average) and scoring 12 touchdowns. The Vikings have been cautious with AP in training camp so far this year.
Other running backs in the mix include Toby Gerhart (531 yards for a 4.9 ypc average and one score) and Percy Harvin, who ran for 345 yards (6.6 ypc) and also caught 87 passes for 967 yards and six touchdowns and also took the opening kickoff of the season back for a touchdown. Overall, Harvin scored nine touchdowns in 2011.
The Vikings also have free agent wide receiver Jerome Simpson (50 receptions, 725 yards and four TD with Cincinnati) and Michael Jenkins (38, 466, three TD) at wide out.
Kyle Rudolph (26, 249, three TD), Devin Aromashodu (26, 468, one TD) and John Carlson, who will team with Rudolph and rookie Rhett Ellison (USC) as the tight ends, are also available targets in the passing game. Greg Childs and Jarius Wright (both rookies from Arkansas) will get looks in pre-season as well.
The offensive line is anchored by center John Sullivan along with tackles Phil Loadholt and rookie Matt Kalil (USC), who was the fourth overall pick in the NFL Draft. The guards are Charlie Johnson and Geoff Schwartz. In reserve up front are DeMarcus Love, Joe Berger, Brandon Fusco, Pat Brown and Chris DeGeare.
The passing game must improve after finishing 28th in the league, averaging just 185 yards per game. Overall on offense, Minnesota was 18th, averaging 330 yards per game.
Defense: Jared Allen is the man on the Vikings defense.
The nine year veteran Defensive End had a league high 22 quarterback sacks a year ago as the Vikings tied with Philadelphia for the league lead with 50 QB sacks.
Along with Allen at defensive end is Brian Robison, who had eight sacks. The tackles in the 4-3 set include Kevin Williams (five sacks) and Letroy Guion.
Everson Griffen (four sacks) is also available at end while Fred Evans, Christian Ballard and D'Aundre Reed will spell the other starters up front.
Linebackers include middle man Jasper Brinkley, along with outside backers Erin Henderson and Chad Greenway. Ready to step up are Larry Dean, Tyrone McKenzie, Marvin Mitchell and rookie Audie Cole.
The secondary was much maligned a year ago and has Harrison Smith (rookie from Notre Dame) at safety along with Jamarca Sanford for the 2012 season. The corners are Chris Cook and Antoine Winfield.
Reserves in the defensive backfield include Chris Carr, Zack Bowman, Eric Frampton, Mistral Raymond and rookies Josh Robinson and Robert Blanton. The Vikings only intercepted eight passes all of last season.
The Vikings were 21st in the league on defense in 2011, giving up 358 yards a game. The run defense fared batter than the pass defense, giving up 107 yards per game (11th in NFL) while the Vikings D gave up 251 yards through the air, which was 26th overall.
OUTLOOK: The Vikings are a team in transition under second year Head Coach Leslie Frazier and will do good to win more than three games this season.
The secondary has to improve as the Vikes play against Green Bay, Detroit and Chicago twice a year (NFC North) and will see a lot of passes in those games. The fact the defensive front gets pressure (50 sacks in 2011) should allow the defensive backs to do their job better, so there is no excuse for only eight interceptions all season while giving up 251 yards per game.
In addition, only Tampa Bay yielded more scoring to the opposition as teams lit up the Vikings for 449 points (28 points a game) last season.
Getting back a healthy Peterson would be big for the offense and in particular the young quarterback Christian Ponder, who was sacked numerous times after taking over as the starter in mid-season. Minnesota allowed 49 QB takedowns a year ago. Peterson is a force at running back and will carry the load if he is ready to go.
A somewhat soft schedule for the first half of the season might help the team's confidence if they can manage some more wins because the second half of the schedule is loaded with tough opponents, including four games against the Packers and Bears as well as Houston and Detroit, both playoff teams last season.
A 4-12 finish is the most likely outcome for the team in 2012, which would be a slight improvement from last year. Anything above that would be icing on the cake as the Vikings look to build for better days in the future.
Week 1- vs. Jacksonville
Week 2- at Indianapolis
Week 3- vs. San Francisco
Week 4- at Detroit
Week 5- vs. Tennessee
Week 6- at Washington
Week 7- vs. Arizona
Week 8- vs. Tampa Bay
Week 9- at Seattle
Week 10- vs. Detroit
Week 11- BYE
Week 12- at Chicago
Week 13- at Green Bay
Week 14- vs. Chicago
Week 15- at St. Louis
Week 16- at Houston
Week 17- vs. Green Bay