Richard Martin

Top 5 Questions At Vikings Camp

Created on Aug. 05, 2013 1:58 AM EST

What's going on at quarterback?

It's no mystery: The top issue for the Minnesota Vikings centers on the quarterback position. The key question is, “Can Christian Ponder get it done this year?”

But the answer to that might not be crystal clear. The operational question might be “At what point would Leslie Frazier replace Ponder with Matt Cassel?”

Frazier stuck with Ponder during some terrible games, especially his calamitous performance at Green Bay. Plenty of Vikings fans urged him to put Joe Webb in at quarterback ... but Webb played poorly in the playoff game at Green Bay and now is trying to make it as a receiver.

Depending on how the season goes, you have to think that Frazier won’t let a winnable game slip away this year. If Ponder screws up, Cassel might get the nod.

It will be interesting to see how the two quarterbacks look in training camp. There will be a microscope on Ponder.

Who’s going to be part of the receiver corps?

That’s a tough one. It’s hard to know who will start and who will be part of some kind of rotation.

This much we know: Greg Jennings will play every down, and plenty of balls will come to him and Kyle Rudolph.

Here’s what we don’t know: How well Jerome Simpson will play? Can Webb play receiver? How quickly the Vikings can incorporate Cordarrelle Patterson into the offense? Whether Greg Childs can come back from injuries and regain his college form? What role Jarius Wright will have on a team with a far stronger receiving corps than the team had in 2012?

That's a lot.

Who’s going to play middle linebacker?

Jasper Brinkley was the starter, now he's gone. Vikes fans probably say “Good riddance.” Middle linebacker was undoubtedly one of the team’s biggest weaknesses last year

The Vikings signed Desmond Bishop after he was cut by the Packers. He’s been a middle linebacker after a torn hamstring kept him out all year. The front-runner appears to be Erin Henderson. He’s a good run defender and a strong tackler, but not very good in coverage. He’d be an upgrade over Brinkley.

If Henderson’s the favorite and Bishop a strong number two, the dark horse is Micheal Mauti, a steal in the seventh round from Penn State. He’s had injury problems, but if he’s healthy, early signs are that he is, he could be in line for plenty of playing time. 

He was a tackling machine at Penn State and was strong in coverage. 

Henderson and Bishop will start. It’s just not sure where. Mauti will be part of the linebacking rotation, and Audie Cole probably will too.

What will be the defensive backfield rotation?

Antoine Winfield left. The Vikings team will miss him even if they weren’t going to start him. 

The apparent starters are Chris Cook and Josh Robinson, with A.J. Jefferson a nickel back. The biggest issue is how first-round pick Xavier Rhodes fits into the picture. He’ll certainly play a lot, but will he start?

Harrison Smith should be even better than he was last year. Others in the rotation are Mistral Raymond and Jamarca Sanford. The dark-horse threat at safety is Robert Blanton, who played with Smith at Notre Dame. Maybe it’s a case of wishful thinking: The team could use improved play at free safety.

Is Toby Erhart a good enough backup for Adrian Peterson?

Yes, I know. This is Cassandra speaking. Why in the world would you need a strong backup for the best player in the league?

Because anyone can get hurt. And it would be nice to be able to take Peterson out. It would be great to call plays that used two backs, both of whom are threats. And, most importantly, the team needs a good insurance policy.

Toby Gerhart tailed off last year, averaging only 3.4 yards per carry.  That’s not good enough.

You have to wonder if management will pick up someone’s castoff. It’s worth consideration.

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