Now that the Super Bowl is over, it’s time to turn our attention back to the Vikings.
By JORDAN WRIGHT
After winning the NFC North title after an 11-5 season, the Vikings were a few plays away from advancing to the second round of the playoffs. Although the season was cut short, the Vikings still exceeded expectations and will be back in 2016 looking to take the next step.
For the next six weeks, I will be looking back at the roster, examining the positions to find weaknesses as well as strengths.
An NFL team is only as good as their quarterback. While that adage isn’t always correct, it’s safe to say that if you have a good quarterback and at least an average supporting cast, you have the makings of a good team. Taking a look at the tape, it is clear the Vikings are in good hands (or rather, gloves) with Bridgewater.
Teddy Bridgewater played 1,069 out of a possible 1,097 (97 percent) offensive snaps in 2015, finishing the year with 3,231 passing yards, 14 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Teddy also had 192 yards on the ground and 3 rushing touchdowns. Bridgewater finished the season as Pro Football Focus’ 13th rated quarterback.
He showed tremendous growth when comparing his rookie year to his sophomore campaign. His ability to throw with accuracy, touch and anticipation far outweighs whatever slight he might have in the arm strength department. Not to mention, he is only 23 years old.
Bridgewater is under contract through the next two seasons and the Vikings will have a fifth year option for the 2018 season. With one Pro Bowl under his belt, and another year in Norv Turner’s offense, it’s easy to imagine Teddy continuing to progress and being rewarded with a healthy contract extension in the future.
Shaun Hill only saw the field 28 times in the 2015 season, but his real value is behind the scenes. Hill is a great mentor to Teddy, and is still under contract through the 2016 season.
Taylor Heinike is under contract through the 2017 NFL season, but at this point he is just a developmental project. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Vikings bring in competition for Heinike this offseason, either by using a late draft pick or signing a young quarterback in free agency.
Adrian Peterson led the NFL with 1,485 yards on 327 carries (4.5 yards per carry) while also chipping in 11 touchdowns. Peterson has shown that he still has what it takes to dominate the NFL, although he turns 31 in March. However, even though he led the league in yards, he was only PFF’s 37th ranked running back, thanks in large part to his horrible pass blocking.
Peterson is under contract for two more seasons. This year, his cap hit will be a manageable $11 million, but that number raises to $18 million in 2017, which is a lot to pay for a running back nearing the end of his career, even if that player is one of the best to ever play the position.
Jerick McKinnon only received 52 carries, but still managed to turn those carries into 271 yards (5.2 ypc) and two touchdowns. McKinnon has proven to be an exceptional change of pace back, able to get yards on the ground or catch passes out of the backfield. Jerick is under contract for two more seasons.
Matt Asiata carried the ball 29 times for 112 yards (3.9 ypc). Asiata is a free agent this season, and while there is a chance the Vikings bring him back on a cheap contract, my impression is that the Vikings will look to bring in his replacement through the draft.
Zach Line played snaps at both full back and tight end and was good at just about everything, yet he wasn’t great at anything. Line is a free agent, and I think the Vikings will look to bring him back, but he is not a priority re-sign.
Overall, the quarterback and running back position is in good hands. Teddy might not be near the “elite” conversation, he is steadily progressing and will look to take a huge step forward in year three. At running back, Peterson will be back for at least one more season. Behind him, McKinnon will get plenty of chances to see the field, but it’s up to him to prove he has what it takes to take over for Peterson once the moment arrives.