Jason Schulte's Vikings ColumnWhen I approached Pierce County Herald Sports Editor Sean Scallon about writing a Vikings column online, he basically said do it whenever you can. As a lifelong fan, the chance to write about my favorite football team doesn’t get much better. I knew I wanted to write a column before the season started, but I didn’t know how to put it. Going by positions, each team in the NFC North, etc… were thought of, but then it struck me: A to Z. It gives me a chance to be humorous, yet serious at the same time.
By: Jason Schulte, Pierce County Herald
When I approached Pierce County Herald Sports Editor Sean Scallon about writing a Vikings column online, he basically said do it whenever you can. As a lifelong fan, the chance to write about my favorite football team doesn’t get much better.
I knew I wanted to write a column before the season started, but I didn’t know how to put it. Going by positions, each team in the NFC North, etc… were thought of, but then it struck me: A to Z. It gives me a chance to be humorous, yet serious at the same time.
So here we go, the 2009 Minnesota Vikings from A to Z:
A is for All Day, AP or his real name, Adrian Peterson. After only two years in the league, he is the best running back in the National Football League and has a chance to go for 2,000 yards in a single season. That realistically won’t happen, but he does have a chance to take it to the end zone on every carry. If you don’t believe me, watch the video from the Vikings’ preseason game against Houston, and, specifically the Vikings’ first offensive play.
B stands for Bernard Berrian. Vikings fans have been clamoring for a deep threat wide receiver since Randy Moss left and in his first year Berrian responded with an average of 20 yards per catch and almost 1,000 yards receiving. The goal this year is an injury-free season, which is off to a bad start, considering he didn’t play at all during the preseason.
C as in Center, since the Vikings have a new one in 2009 – John Sullivan, who replaced Matt Birk. Despite his inexperience, you’ve heard nothing but good things about him this preseason, which is good.
D is for Defense, which has been the Vikings’ strength the last three years. With the additions on the offensive side, could it be that in 2009, the defense doesn’t feel like they have to score on their own to stay in games?
E stands for ESPN. If you think the coverage the network has given the Vikes so far has been over-the-line, just you wait. If you haven’t heard by now, one of the Vikings-Packers games will be on ESPN Oct. 5.
F stands for Frazier, as in defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. The growing perception is that Frazier is cut from the same cloth personally and professionally as former Viking defensive coordinators Tony Dungy and Mike Tomlin, who have gone on to win Super Bowls after leaving the purple. Frazier was a finalist in multiple head coach openings last year, and if the Vikings’ defense has another successful year, a new defensive coordinator will be needed in 2010.
G as in Green Bay Packers, the Vikings’ closest rival. Some people say Brad Childress earned the right to coach in 2009 by winning the division. I say he got another year by finally beating the Packers last year. Remember this record, Vikings fans: He’s 1-5 against the Pack.
H stands for Henderson, as in middle linebacker E.J. Henderson, who was playing at an elite level when he got injured and missed the last 12 games in 2008. As the “quarterback” of the defense, when healthy, Henderson is just another talented player opposing offenses have to deal with.
I is for injuries, a must contending teams hope to avoid. When this year’s Super Bowl comes, it’s a virtual guarantee that the two teams playing in it have been injury free.
J stands for Jared Allen. Along with wide receiver, defensive end has been a glaring need until Allen was acquired in a trade with Kansas City. Like Berrian, he had a great first year, with 14.5 sacks. Vikings fans love him because he can get to the quarterback, which opposing teams hate. That’s good enough for us.
K is for Kleinsasser, as in Jim Kleinsasser who believe it or not is the longest-tenured Viking. He’s been with the purple since 1999. Fans love him for his contributions he’s made since that time along with the fact he attended North Dakota.
L as in Ryan Longwell. One of three well-known former Green Bay Packers to have played with the Vikings this decade. In his three years with the Vikings, Longwell has made about 85 percent of his field goals and only missed two extra points during that time. If the latest former Packer produces results like that, all Vikings fans will be happy.
M as in Miami, where this year’s Super Bowl will be played. It’s the goal of all the people within the 32 teams and their fans to reach that game. (Okay, it’s different if you’re a Detroit Lion fan you just want to see your team actually win a game in 2009).
N as in NFC North, the Vikings’ division. The Vikings’ chances of reaching. Miami will be helped if they can win their division. Wild card teams have had success in the past as they’ve won three of the last four Super Bowls, but the Vikings want as many home games as possible in the playoffs, and that means you have to win you division.
O for offensive line, which has two new starters in 2009. Their job is simple: Open holes for Peterson and give the quarterback time to throw the ball. Being an offensive lineman is a thankless job because you get all the blame when something goes wrong and none of the credit when it goes right.
P is for patience. I’m 30 years old and I’ve never seen the Vikings in the Super Bowl in my lifetime. Matter of fact since the Vikings last reached a Super Bowl for the 1976-77 season, only two other NFC teams haven’t made it either (Detroit or New Orleans). Patience is running thin.
Q is for quarterback. Hey, did you hear we got a new starting quarterback this year?
R is for resume. If the Vikings don’t reach letter M or anywhere close to it, it’s a good possibility that Head Coach Brad Childress and some of his staff will likely be updating their resumes after this season.
S as in special teams, the forgotten unit sometimes in football. But not for the Vikings in 2008. It was terrible, especially the return coverage (Reggie Bush, Monday night football, ring a bell?) Most of the unit returns plus a new coach, so it will be curious to see if it’s the guy who is delivering the message or the players itself?
T is for Tarvaris Jackson. Oh, what might have been? A starting quarterback for a playoff team nine months ago, now, is a back-up and will likely never see the field in 2009 unless our new quarterback gets injured. Being in the Metrodome that day when the Vikings hosted the Eagles in the Wild Card playoffs, I still can’t shake some of those images out of mind of Tarvaris having a deer in the headlight look. Apparently, after three years, Vikings management agreed.
U is for upset. The Vikings’ first five games are against teams that picked in the top 10 of the NFL draft in 2009 (Cleveland, Detroit, SF, GB and St. Louis). They will be heavy favorites in four of those games. If they lose more than one of them, it will be an upset.
V is for Visanthe Shiancoe, Vikings’ tight end. When he was signed prior to the 2007 season, fans were saying who? After a disappointing 2007 season, he was on his way to being called a bust. But, something clicked in 2008, as he nearly had 600 yards receiving and seven touchdowns. Even bigger and brighter things are expected in 2009.
W stands for the Williams Wall. The Vikings’ defensive success begins up front with Kevin and Pat Williams, their two defensive tackles. The pair has helped the Vikings’ defense be number one against the rush the last three years. However, just like everything else on this team there are question marks, specifically, how many, if at all, games the pair are going to miss over the StarCaps issue.
X is for X-factor, the one determining factor that most NFL followers feel is essential to the team’s success. Most experts have already said the play of our new QB is the X-factor. I respectfully disagree, as the X-factor for the Vikings will be someone who will never take the field in 2009. How Childress responds to challenges presented each and every Sunday will be the X-factor.
Y is for youth. Big and I mean big things are expected from the Vikings’ first two draft picks, Percy Harvin and Phil Loadholt. Harvin is listed on the depth chart as a wide receiver, but expect him to be a punt or kickoff returner and even behind center for a few plays as well. Loadholt, a 6-foot-8-inch, 343 pound giant, is projected to be the right tackle for this year and beyond.
Z stands for Zygi Wilf, Vikings’ owner. In his four years as owner, he’s opened up his checkbook to give the coaching staff what they’ve needed (defensive line, wide receiver, offensive line, quarterback) to become a team that on paper has a chance to go very far in the postseason. Now, the question is if those results pan out on the field, will it give Wilf what he really wants – a new stadium?