Enemy Intel: Vikings

Enemy Intel: Vikings
July 8, 2013, 1:00 pm
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RG3 ties the knot in Denver

Over the past five months, we’ve kept a watchful eye on the teams who appear on the Redskins’ 2013 schedule.

We’ve tracked their free agent signings. We’ve examined their drafts. Now, in our final edition of Enemy Intel, we’re taking a look at three storylines that will dominate each team’s preseason.

Up today …

Opponent/Week: Vikings/10

2012 record: 10-6 

Key acquisitions: WR Greg Jennings, QB Matt Cassel, LB Desmond Bishop, DE Lawrence Jackson

Draft picks: DT Sharrif Floyd, CB Xavier Rhodes, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, LB Gerald Hodges

Storyline No. 1: Adrian Peterson had something to prove last season as he returned from a major knee injury. Motivated by doubters, he returned early, then rushed for a career-best 2,097 yards. Peterson, in fact, fell nine yards short of breaking the NFL’s single-season record set by Eric Dickerson in 1984.

The 28-year-old claimed the league’s MVP and offensive player of the year awards. He also clinched his place among the all-time greats.

The question now is this: Can A.D. do it again?

History says it won’t happen.

There are seven running backs in the 2,000-yard club: O.J. Simpson, Dickerson, Barry Sanders, Terrell Davis, Jamal Lewis, Chris Johnson and Peterson. None of Peterson’s predecessors topped 2k more than once.

Apparently, averaging 125 yards per game over the course of a grueling 17-week schedule is as hard to do as it sounds.

Storyline No. 2: The Vikings want Christian Ponder to succeed. They really do.

But the team signed veteran signal caller Matt Cassel, just in case it doesn’t happen.

Ponder, a 25-year-old former first round draft pick who is entering his third NFL season, had some solids outings as a sophomore in 2012. But he also had some mediocre ones (his two touchdown, two interception loss in Washington) as well as a handful of shaky performances (two third quarter red zone interceptions in a loss at Green Bay).

Among quarterbacks who took 75-percent of their team’s snaps, ProFootballFocus.com ranked Ponder as the 22nd most effective starter.

Despite his uneven effort, Ponder will enter the season as the Vikings’ No. 1. But he’ll do so with Cassel, a nine-year pro, looking over his shoulder.

With expectations growing in Minnesota after a 10-win season and an infusion of young talent via the draft, the Vikings might not be so patient with Ponder should he stumble out of the gate.

Storyline No. 3: A prospect is just that until he proves himself on the field. But Minnesota is excited about its three 2013 first round draft picks – and rightfully so.

Floyd, taken 23rd overall, is expected to make an impact as a reserve this season and eventually become a stalwart at defensive tackle.

Rhodes, selected 25th (with the pick the Vikings received from Seattle in exchange for Percy Harvin), is a 6 foot 1, 210-pound corner out of Florida State that the Vikings hope will match up against big NFC North wide receivers Calvin Johnson (Lions), Brandon Marshall (Bears) and Jordy Nelson (Packers). 

Patterson, meantime, seems to be in position to have a strong rookie campaign. With veteran wide receiver Greg Jennings attracting double teams and Peterson posing a massing threat out of the backfield, the former Tennessee star could find himself open quite a bit.

The Vikings were the first team to make three first round selections since St. Louis in 2001. And, if memory serves, that team did pretty well.