Vikings regular-season wrap-up

January, 4, 2012
1/04/12
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Final Power Ranking: 30
Preseason Power Ranking: 20

[+] EnlargeAdrian Peterson
Geoff Burke/US PresswireAdrian Peterson's uncertain future hangs over the entire franchise.
Biggest surprise: It has never been clear why anyone thought acquiring Donovan McNabb as a stopgap starting quarterback was a good idea. All indications were that McNabb had taken a significant step back since his heyday as an annual Pro Bowler, and in truth, he had no more familiarity with the Vikings' new offense than did rookie quarterback Christian Ponder. He threw for an embarrassing 39 yards in a Week 1 loss at the San Diego Chargers, was benched after six starts and waived with five games remaining. I'm not sure the Vikings would have won more games with Ponder or Joe Webb as their Week 1 starter, but the entire episode was a failure waiting to happen. Why wasn't that obvious to everyone?

Biggest disappointment: Tailback Adrian Peterson's shredded left knee will cast a shadow over the organization for months. The Vikings have said they hope to have Peterson back on the field when the season begins, but the truth is no one can know for sure how a running back will come back from two torn knee ligaments and other assorted damage. Newly-promoted general manager Rick Spielman will have a difficult decision to make: Can the team continue to build its offense around Peterson? Does it necessitate the acquisition of a replacement or a philosophical shift? Of all their positions, running back represented the least of the Vikings' concerns at midseason. Now it's among their first priorities.

Biggest need: On a roster full of holes, no positions are more needy than defensive back and offensive line. The Vikings finished the season with Week 1 backups playing both cornerback and one safety positions, and the only incumbent who should have a decent chance to start in 2012 is veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield. Although they led the NFL with 50 sacks, the Vikings' coverage was so poor that opposing quarterbacks still compiled a 107.1 passer rating, the second-highest mark in NFL history. Meanwhile, the Vikings must find a long-term replacement for deposed left tackle Bryant McKinnie and might have to find a new left guard if Steve Hutchinson retires. The future of right guard Anthony Herrera is also up for debate.

Team MVP: Defensive end Jared Allen finished a half-sack shy of tying Michael Strahan's record for sacks in a season (22.5), along the way setting an example of how to continue playing hard despite the weight of a lost season. Runner up goes to Percy Harvin, who shed his migraine issues to become the kind of all-purpose receiver/running back the Vikings envisioned when they drafted him in 2009. He caught a team-high 87 passes and also took 52 carries, combining for 1,312 total yards and eight touchdowns.

Questionable call: Cornerback Chris Cook was arrested in October and eventually charged with strangulation and domestic abuse. In the end, the Vikings took the highly unusual path of dismissing him for the season while keeping him on the active roster and paying him game checks for the final eight games of the season. Coach Leslie Frazier said the organization wanted to give Cook a chance to get is life in order, but Frazier admitted this week that it's unclear what progress he has made. Unless he is incarcerated as a result of his upcoming trial, Cook seems likely to return to the team in training camp.

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