Do you like surprises?
Well for Minnesota Vikings fans, the 2014-15 season could shockingly be a great turnaround after a 5-11 finish last season.
Several positive things come to mind as the Vikings are a mere two months away from opening up in St. Louis to begin the season.
First, the new coaching staff should help make the Vikings versatile on offense and defense starting this season. Head coach Mike Zimmer brings in a defensive mindset and has been pushing his defense this offseason to learn the new style quickly. Minnesota’s passing defense has been the biggest focus as they were ranked among the worst in the NFL last season. Zimmer has made it a mission to get guys like second-year cornerback Xavier Rhodes in a good position to utilize his skills more than he could last season. There have been nothing but good reports on Rhodes’ progress so far in the offseason practices.
It’s nice to see the Vikings getting pushed to the limits to be ready for the first game. The team will be more disciplined than ever under Zimmer and that will be a big plus moving forward.
Second, let’s talk some changes on offense.
The old playbook will essentially be thrown out, and it really should be burned. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner brings in a whole new arsenal in the passing game. Turner had great offensive success with the Chargers and has a lot of talent to work with here in Minnesota.
Look out for Cordarrelle Patterson folks. Rumor has it, Patterson is the new number one receiver ahead of Greg Jennings. Turner likes to throw the ball downfield, thankfully, and with Patterson’s athleticism and speed he should have a breakout year. He could really become on of the top-receivers in the NFL this season in the new offense.
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has been brilliant in the offseason scrimmages. This is a good sign for a team that hasn’t developed a winning quarterback since Daunte Culpepper. Of course, Matt Cassel will start the season and could experience great success in the new system, but if Minnesota opens with three losses, expect Bridgewater to come in and shock the nation right off the bat. The guy has a great attitude and worth ethic. I have faith that he can revamp the passing offense in a hurry with his solid arm and quick release under pressure in the pocket.
Third, the schedule will challenge the Vikings but also help them grow as a team.
I fully expect the Vikings to struggle in the opening three games against St. Louis, New England, and New Orleans, but a lot of learning will come from it.
The Vikings may shoot out of the gate 0-3, but of course that’s only speculation. The point is that Zimmer’s team will not quit on the season. The Vikings will continue to get better and better on both offense and defense. 10-6 or 9-7 should get them a spot in the playoffs and that’s where a young/talented team that played tough games early on, learned from their mistakes, and improved can flourish.
All of this gives me great optimism about the upcoming season. I fully expect the Vikings to be contenders.