By Joseph Gunther
The Minnesota Vikings were coming off a 3-13 season and in rebuilding mode.
The general consensus was that this season wasn’t going to be much different as the roster overhaul continues. The Vikings shocked several teams, including three Super Bowl contenders still alive in these playoffs.
The disappointment felt after Saturday’s loss to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in the wild card round of the playoffs should quickly turn to optimism.
The Vikings have a solid core of players led by running back Adrian Peterson. He led the league in rushing yards, had the highest yards per rush among players with at least 250 carries, the most carries of at least 20 yards and most first down runs in the league. He finished nine yards short of having the greatest season in NFL history by a running back.
The young nucleus of players spread through the offensive and defensive lines, along with skill players on offense and in the secondary.
Rookie Matt Kalil solidified the offensive line and made it the best unit in the division and one of the best in the league. John Sullivan is emerging as one of the best centers.
The unit most in need of improvement is the receivers. Percy Harvin, Jarius Wright and Kyle Rudolph are good trio, but more help for Christian Ponder is needed.
On the defensive side of the ball, Everson Griffen is on the verge of becoming a force at defensive end. The secondary is not as big an area of upgrade as it was a year ago because of rookies Harrison Smith and Josh Robinson.
Surgery coming for Allen
Jared Allen confirmed Saturday that he will have surgery to repair a torn labrum in one of his shoulders. He said he doesn’t what exactly will happen in the surgery and that it will be his first surgery. He was first listed on the injury report before the Vikings defeated the Detroit Lions in Week 10 at Mall of America Field. The surgery will happen after he plays in the Pro Bowl on Jan. 27 in Honolulu.
Draft prep work begins
Now that the wild card round is over, the Vikings know that it will have the 23rd pick in April’s draft. The Vikings’ need in the offseason is a wide receiver. According to Scouts Inc. the top three wide receivers in the draft currently rank between the 25th to 30th best prospects overall. Tennessee’s Justin Hunter (25th) and Cordarrelle Patterson (30th) and California’s Keenan Allen (28th) are the only wide receivers currently ranked among the top 32 players eligible for the draft, according to Scouts Inc. West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith is in the 23rd spot as the top signal caller.
Re-sign or let go?
The Vikings have 14 players scheduled to become free agents this summer; 10 unrestricted, two restricted and two exclusive rights.
The 10 unrestricted free agents are wide receiver Devin Aromashodu, offensive lineman Joe Berger, linebacker Jasper Brinkley, fullback Jerome Felton, linebacker Erin Henderson, offensive tackle Phil Loadholt, linebacker Marvin Mitchell, safety Jamarca Sanford, offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz and wide receiver Jerome Simpson. The two restricted free agents are cornerback A.J. Jefferson and offensive lineman Troy Kropog. The two exclusive rights free agents are safety Andrew Sendejo and cornerback Marcus Sherels.
Aside from its usual home-and-home series with its division rivals, the Vikings will play against the NFC East and AFC North next season.
Its eight home games will be against the Chicago Bears, Lions, Packers, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers (at Wembley Stadium in London). Its eight road games will be against the Bears, Lions, Packers, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Seattle Seahawks, Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals.
The Vikings had a 4-4 record against those same teams that it played this season.
The full schedule will be released in the spring.
For more Local Football Bloggers and the latest Vikings news, see CBS Sports Minnesota.
Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. His work can be found on Examiner.com.