I am sure this is how Zimmer will chew out Josh Robinson on every possession.

I am sure this is how Zimmer will chew out Josh Robinson on every possession.

Of course, there is no ‘D’, either, and Zimmer has proven to be a very good defensive coach, but I think by the end of this blog, you will get my point.

On Tuesday, the Minnesota Vikings officially announced Mike Zimmer as the new head coach of the team, 16 days after giving Leslie Frazier his walking papers. Of course, the Vikings announced the hiring via Twitter, which makes the actual hiring of Zimmer more innovative than anything the team has done since Randy Moss’ lateral to Moe Williams.

I should say I am actually a fan of Zimmer. He is a great defensive mind and at 57, it is about time he got a head job. However, he is not what the Vikings need right now. Yes, I get it, the defense for the Vikings faltered in about every way possible this season and ranked as one of the worst. But that’s an easy way to trick the simple fans into thinking it’s a good hire.

While the Vikings’ defense has steadily gotten worse the last few years, the offense has been even worse for about 15 years. There were only a few years when the offense was above average. Yes, there was the great 1998 season and Dante Culpepper and Randy Moss helped the Vikings put together a few good seasons, until Mike Tice decided to give away every secret the offense ever had.

Adrian Peterson did have an historic season in 2012, but he also carried the offense. In fact, many fans were hoping the Vikings would just put him under center and have him run the Wildcat.

But Rick Spielman did what he has done in the past — relying on a defensive coach and just hoping to put the right offensive coordinators in place. Well, that didn’t work with Dave Wannstedt in Miami and it obviously didn’t work with Leslie Frazier in Minnesota. Is anyone in Minnesota going to miss the massive playbook of 12 plays Bill Musgrave would keep closely guarded? I think not.

Musgrave's highly designed playbook

Musgrave’s highly complex playbook

So now here is the whole trick in the whole Mike Zimmer hire. I believe he can fix the defense. He was able to draft well with Marvin Lewis and helped bring out the best in his players. How many problems do you hear coming out of Cincinnati? None, really, which shouldn’t seem that shocking until you realize the man formerly known as PacMan has been on the roster for a number of years. Adam Jones, as he is now known as and which is his actual name, has been an important cog in the Bengals’ defense.

But Zimmer has to hire a quality offensive coordinator and quarterback coach, because I am going to presume the Vikings are going to draft a quarterback. But who knows, maybe Brooks Bollinger is ready for another go-round in the league.

Without a quality offensive coordinator, the Vikings will fall into the same routine. Three to four years without a quality offense that only relies on Peterson and in three to four years they’ll be searching for another quarterback and another coach and hopefully another general manager. I am assuming that Spielman gets fired after another less-than-stellar campaign coming up here. I mean, it is his track record.

Zimmer did mention he wants to hire Norv Turner as the offensive coordinator and the search for the OC is another blog for another time. I will say Turner would be a quality hire, unlike the other two who are rumored — Kyle Shanahan and Mike Mularky.

So right off the bat, Zimmer faces his first test. Who does he bring in to run the offense and to develop the next QB for the Vikings? Guess we will see what stones he is made of because this might be his most important decision and could define his career with the Vikings. Welcome to the fold of being the head honcho, Zim.


Favre Center

So the Minnesota Vikings have a big decision to make. Who is going to be the head coach? I think they plan to hire every coordinator of a playoff team. I am not just talking about NFL playoff teams, but I think the Vikings received permission from Waverly-Shell Rock high school to interview the offensive and defensive coordinator of the Go-Hawks.

Until the Vikings decide on which of the 1,374 candidates they have asked permission to speak to, maybe the better question is what scenario might be the best for the Vikings’ fan base to get excited about?

There really isn’t a candidate out there that screams “exciting hire” to the fan base. I think there are a few logical, smart choices to lead the Vikings potentially into the playoffs, which is a tougher task than most cause you have to coach a roster that Rick Spielman put together.

However, I think there could be more excitement for a coordinator or position coach hire. Mainly because of one person and one person only. He knows the Purple and Gold inside and out because he tore it to shreds year after year before leading them to the almost promised land – which is also know as the promised land for Vikings’ fans.

Yes, I am talking about the grey-haired, Wrangler wearing, hitting on team masseuse, farm boy, gun-slinging from Mississippi Brett Favre.

I am not making him the head coach. Sorry, you need a bit more than “high school offensive coordinator” to be a head coach in the NFL. Well unless you are the Cleveland Browns. I hear they are going to hire a high school science teacher next cause he has this formula to develop the next QB.

I am not even hiring Faver to be the offensive coordinator, even though I would be very interested to see how that goes. No, I want Mr. Brett Favra, as ESPN once called him, to be the quarterbacks coach of the Vikings.

But I am not just bringing Favre in to coach any QB the Vikings’ have. I think he would have no interest in “coaching” Matt Cassel. Let’s be honest, is there a head coach that says “YEAH CASSEL IS MY QB.” It’s more like, “YEAH WE GET TO DRAFT A GOOD QB HOPEFULLY.”

I only want Favre to coach one quarterback and one quarterback only — Johnny Manziel.

Yep, that's who the Vikings might draft.

Yep, that’s who the Vikings might draft.

This is a no-brainer, right? Aren’t they about the same person? Johnny Manziel already has the nickname Favre probably craves. No, not ladies man. Johnny Football. How bad do you think Favre wants to be called that? “Hey, my name is Brett Football.” He would be more obsessed with that name than Roger Goodell is with fining players for a regular sack.

Yes, The Gunslinger is a really cool nickname. With that name, you would think he would be the head of the Republican party or something. Or he would be touted out there when gun control is being discussed. “This is one of the greatest QBs of all time and you want gun control? It would’ve ruined his career.” Seriously, I can see Bobby Jindahl or some idiot Republican saying that.

But you know Favre has to see a lot of himself in Johnny Football. Looks at the plays Manziel makes. He is able to keep plays alive with his feet and makes great throws with a strong arm. He sees the field well even under pressure and plays with the same cockiness that Favre had. There isn’t a throw Manziel isn’t confident about, which described Favre to a T.

Heck, I bet Manziel can even play a backyard football game in Wranglers and still hit the middle aged farmer in a perfect deep crossing route for the touchdown in a pick-up game in the summer.

Yes, Favre needs to coach Manziel because it is the son he has always wanted. Manziel is a cocky leader, just like Favre was. Manziel is a gunslinger. The two would be perfect for each other. Favre has never really had the desire to teach younger QBs before, just ask Aaron Rodgers. But come on, would you want to be in a room with Rodgers for more than 5 minutes? Seriously, look at that mustache he had and ask yourself how has Clay Matthews not decked him.

Plus the Vikings will be playing outdoors in Minnesota the next two years. Did you step outside earlier this week? Well if you did, you aren’t reading this blog cause you froze to death. Someone, Favre got through that cold on a weekly basis in Green Bay. A Southern kid braved the awful weather to lead his teams deep into the playoffs every year.

Favre was also a potential movie star at one point, something Manziel has to look up to. Who can forget Favre’s should’ve been Oscar performance in There’s Something About Mary. In all fairness to Favre, it’s not like Ben Stiller has done too much since that movie, either. Right Heartbreak Kid?

Who is worse, Cameron Diaz or Brett Favre? Only one is a paid actor ...

Who is worse, Cameron Diaz or Brett Favre? Only one is a paid actor …

Manziel could learn a lot from that with however Favre dealt with it. Whether it was ignoring it or he just got a great rub-down before the game started. Who knows? Only one former Jets employee does…

Manziel would hopefully eat up everything Favre said, too. Why wouldn’t he want to learn from the living legend himself who basically wrote the book for a player like Manziel. If Johnny wasn’t famous already, you would think Kiper and Berman would get that name wrong pretty easily. I mean, I don’t even know if Berman can get his own name right anymore.

Of course, there is the problem with getting Manziel, but I will try and let Spielman handle that, unless he is getting ready to draft Tommy Rees cause he loves Notre Dame.

Who know if this is a good move. Heck, it could be an awful move for all I know. But you know what, it will be a fun move at the very least and a fun trainwreck to watch if it doesn’t work out. I mean, what is your favorite Christian Ponder talks to Bill Musgrave moment? Oh, you forgot about those two already too?

If it does work, Favre will pass along his cocky knowledge of how to be a gunslinger to a cocky kid who just wants to prove that being a rich kid can get you somewhere in this country. I mean, just ask the Romneys.

All-in-all, why not give it a try. I am all for this idea because at this point, there isn’t much else to hope for. Are you really excited for Derek Carr? Can Aaron Murray come back from knee surgury and be like Matthew Stafford? Those are questions that can be answered for another time.

In the meantime, just ask, what can Favre do for the Purple and Gold one more time?

Alright, so we all make New Years’ Resolutions and I am no different. Since I am in the land of better internet for a year and closer to Minnesota sports. Granted, Minnesota sports aren’t the highest priority here, but I still manage to follow. Mainly because I have a strong urge to have ulcers when I get older and put dents in the wall from banging my head.

So, hopefully I keep my resolution and we have more Sota Sports updates. Because what’s more fun than the misery Minnesota sports provides you? Reading about the misery it provides others.


The Minnesota Twins came into the season with one of the worst pitching staffs in baseball, supposedly, and opened the season with the defending American League champs, Detroit, which also happens to have a Triple Crown winner and one of the best offenses in baseball.

Sounds like the start of a series that no one wants to watch, right? Or at least a series the Twins’ faithful would be longing for the future that has been promised to them.

Apparently the Tigers’ lineup is still having nightmares of Matt Cain, Sergio Romo and Madison Bumgarner because they made Vance Worley, Kevin Correia, Casey Fien and Mike Pelfrey look like legit MLB pitchers.

Yes, that’s right, the motley crew that is the Twins’ pitching staff held off the vaulted Tigers’ offense and opened the season with a 2-1 series win over the team that is suppose to run away with the American League Central.

Instead, the Twins are tied with Cleveland and Chicago at the top of the standings after three games and did enough of a number on the Tigers bullpen that they signed Jose Valverde, a person the Tigers vowed ALL off-season they wouldn’t sign. Mainly because Valverde had problems getting people out in the playoffs, but the Tigers just can’t quit him.

The first game of the series started as planned as the Tigers got out to a 3-0 lead after 2 innings against Worley and it looked like the Tigers would cruise to an easy victory. But the runs stopped coming for the Tigers and hits outside of Torii Hunter and Cabrera were hard to come by after the first three innings.

The Twins actually had a chance to win the game against the Tigers after Verlander left, but were pathetic with runners in scoring position in the first game and Detroit pulled out a 4-2 win.

At the time, it looked like a moral victory in the first game, but actually victories were not far behind.

Even though the Twins could barely get a hit off Anibal Sanchez, the Twins were still in the game heading into the bottom of the ninth and Phil Coke came into the game with one out. Coke saved the first game of the season, but that vaulted Twins lineup was too much for him.

Remember the Francisco Liriano trade? Could anyone name one of the two players the Twins received from that trade before Wednesday’s game? I could barely remember. One of the players was Eduardo Escobar, a light-hitting back-up middle infielder who should probably be playing Triple-A ball instead of on a major league club.

But because of the lack of quality major league ready middle infielders, Escobar is on the roster and pinch hit with two runners on and the Twins down by a run. So of course, the light-hitting infielder lifted a pitch to the warning track to win the game and to stun the Tigers.

The Tigers didn’t appear to be stunned and had a 2-0 lead again in Thursday’s game, but two-run shot off the “new” Rick Porcello. (Looked like the same Porcello to me) by Josh Willingham made it a game again and  Trevor Plouffe then put the Twins ahead.

From there, the Twins continued to do a number of the Tigers’ bullpen, which gave up 10 runs in 10 innings against Minnesota, who ran away with an 8-2 win. Figured the Twins might have fixed that troublesome bullpen in the off-season, but hey, who cared since they brought in Torii and V-Mart was back!!!!

What does this opening series mean? Honestly, I don’t know besides the Twins didn’t start the year 0-3 or 1-2. Maybe it means that they are somewhat alive, because I don’t remember seeing this team last year. Maybe the bench coaching changes are working a bit and Ron Gardenhire still knows what to get out of this team.

I am skeptical. Mainly of Gardy and if the pitching staff can actually keep this up because Cole DeVries and Liam Hendricks have to pitch year. The offense still had some moments where it wasn’t clicking, including the fact that Aaron Hicks needed until his last at bat of the series to get his first major league hit.

But for now, Twins fans to take it to the Tigers, because we all know those Tiger fans who need to be taken behind the woodshed because the Tigers have won so much since the mid-80s … What’s next, Lions fans bragging they are going fall apart in the Super Bowl.

Anyway, the Twins played Baltimore early last season and looked pretty bad. Time to see if the Twins can keep this start going and can surprise the fan base.

Even I didn’t think the Minnesota men’s basketball job would be open this long, but it also doesn’t surprise me. While the ones who said this is the reason Tubby shouldn’t have been let go, he still should’ve been fired.

There are still many viable candidates out there to coach the Gophers and there is still a lot of potential that surrounds the job. The Barn is a good place for basketball if the fans ever show up and Minneapolis is becoming a recruiting hotbed.

Here are some candidates that haven’t said no and would actually be good hires. No, I would’ve never included Mick Cronin on here.

Gregg Marshall – Wichita State head coach


No, this isn’t a “they made the Final Four” flashy pick. Yes, I admit, it makes the resume really sizzle, but Marshall has this knack for making it to the NCAA Tournament. Marshall came to Wichita State and won 11 games his first year (2007-08).

The next year the Shockers were in the CBI, then the NIT and then the NIT championship game. The last two years, the Shockers have made the NCAA tournament and were a No. 5 seed last season. Yes, they lost to VCU, but everyone loves Shaka Smart.

This year, the epic journey to the Final Four for the 50-year-old coach, but Wichita State isn’t where Marshall made his mark.

Before coming to Wichita, Marshall made the NCAA tournament seven times in his nine years as head coach at Winthrop. His last year at Winthrop, they made it to the second round.

The only reason he didn’t get hired at a higher place than Wichita State after Winthrop is because he reportedly rubs some people the wrong way. All he does is make the tournament and gets the most out of his teams. I think he is well worth throwing some money at to take a chance on at Minnesota.

Nate McMillan – unemployed NBA head coach


Yes, I get it, he is an unemployed NBA head coach and usually NBA coaches don’t take NCAA jobs. He also has no ties to the University of Minnesota and no college experience.

But I am willing to take a chance on him because he has had success in the NBA and I think he is the type of coach that can recruit and get players ready for the NBA. I think that is huge for a college kid, to have someone get them ready for the NBA. Just ask Kentucky how that is working out with John Calipari. Yes, it was a rough year for Kentucky but they again have one of the best recruiting classes and a lot of NBA prospects.

I don’t know if McMillan has interest on the college level, but can’t hurt to try. I mean, the Gophers did seriously go after Cronin. Plus McMillan was an assistant for Coach K and Team USA this past summer and in 2008.

Scott Drew – Baylor head coach


Drew was asked to do the impossible at Baylor – take over the mess that Dave Bliss caused there by covering up a murder. Since that time, Drew turned Baylor into the laughing stock of the Big 12 to a competitive team. Yes, Baylor only made the NIT this year, but they are competing for the NIT title after losing three players to the NBA last season.

Drew has two Elite Eight appearances with Baylor under his belt and is still only 42 years old. He has to recruit at Baylor. Minnesota is a huge upgrade.

Tad Boyle – Colorado head coach


Boyle has only been at Colorado for three years, but he has made the postseason in all three years and is 50 years old, so not exactly old and not young either.

The last two years, Colorado has made the NCAA tournament and the prior year they made it the NIT semifinals.

Before coming to Colorado, he was the coach at Northern Colorado. While that doesn’t sound too impressive, his team won four total games in their first year and were a 25-win team by the time he left for Colorado.

One problem is that he is a Pueblo, Colorado native, so he may not want to leave his home state anytime soon, or ever.

Tim Floyd – UTEP head coach


Seriously, how can you not support a guy who wants you to get your library card? Reading Rainbow on the Minnesota campus? Sure!

Floyd is currently sitting in NCAA purgatory known as UTEP for the last three years and has only made the NIT tournament once in those three years.

However, he was cleared of wrongdoing by the NCAA and USC was interested in bringing him back at one point. Why? Because is really the only one to have success with the Southern Cal basketball program in a long time. The Trojans made the NCAA tournament 3 of the 4 years he was there and made it to the Sweet 16 once.

Yes, his trip to the NBA with the Chicago Bulls was a disaster, but who didn’t see that coming? He got NBA money, which is what he wasn’t going to get at Iowa State.

Speaking of his time with the Cyclones, he guided them to NCAA tournament in three of his four years in Ames. Floyd even had success at New Orleans, leading the program to 2 NCAA tournaments and three NIT appearances before he went to Ames.

Floyd is 59, but it’s not like Tubby Smith was all that young when Minnesota brought him on. I would say Floyd has a good 10-15 years left in him in the coaching world. Heck, why not? I think he is a better candidate than say…Cronin.

Dave Rice – UNLV head coach


Rice has only been a head coach for two years, but he has made the NCAA tournament with UNLV in both of those years in a gritty Mountain West Conference. Plus he is only 44 years old.

However, this is a long shot because Rice played for UNLV and was an assistant there before going to BYU to be an assistant. He was at BYU during the Jimmer time and then went back to UNLV when Lon Kruger went to Oklahoma. I think UNLV is where he wants to be, but it’s not like Minnesota is hearing the word “yes” too often lately, so why not take the chance?

Marvin Menzies – New Mexico State head coach


Menzies’ only stint as a head coach has been at New Mexico State and the Aggies have made the NCAA tournament two of the last three years.

Before coming to NMSU, he was an assistant under Rick Pitino and he is 51 years old.

Wayne Tinkle – Montana head coach


Tinkle has been at Montana since the 2006-07 season and Montana has made the NCAA tournament three of the last four years, making a trip to the CBI the one year they didn’t make it in those four. OK, it’s the CBI, I get it, no big deal.

Also, I get the Big Sky isn’t exactly a basketball hotbed, but Montana has still won the conference and earned a trip to the tournament. He is also 47 years old and with the way the list of candidates that have turned down Minnesota, is he really looking that bad?

cst  UM hoops vs Michigan 20372

OK, I can’t take full credit for the Tubby Smith getting fired at Minnesota. But I did all I could with my #firetubby hashtags on Twitter. That probably played a 0% chance that Norwood Teague pulled the trigger to let the old man go.

There are enough nay-sayers out there that are going to go against what Teague did, but it was the right call. The stats for Tubby look pretty good. The Gophers had five 20-win seasons and they made it to the second-round of the NCAA Tournament this year. Tubby went 124-81 in his six seasons at Minnesota and he brought back respectability to a program that has been in the doldrums since the Clem Haskins scandal.

Sorry Dan Monson, while you were the coach after Clem, no one really cared about Minnesota until Tubby became the coach. Tubby won 20 games in his first year and took the Gophers to the NCAA Tournament his second year on the job. Things seemed to be on the up and up as Tubby was starting to bring in some prized prospects.

But that moment was the climax for Tubby’s time at Minnesota because it all went downhill from there, which showed the name of Tubby Smith is better than the reality of Tubby Smith.

Tubby was there to keep his namesake going and to collect a paycheck. He liked recruiting visits but didn’t really bring that passion to the court. It was time to let him go and his players basically had that same tone in the past few press conferences. As Teague said, it’s time to have some new eyes on the program that has Minnesota at heart, which I really question about Tubby.

Tubby has gone 46-62 in the Big 10 during his tenure and has never finished better than sixth. Is the Big 10 a tough conference? Yes, but with the collection of talent Minnesota had coming in this year, an 8-10 finish was not what Gophers’ fans were hoping for.

The Gophers brought in Ralph Sampson III, Colton Iverson, Royce White, Trevor Mbwakwe and Rodney Williams. It was quite the collection of talent and Tubby only added to it later with recent players like Dre Hollins and Joe Coleman.

Tubby led the Gophers to the tournament against in 2010, but they missed the tourney in 2011 and were in the NIT last year before this year’s trip to the NCAA’s.

During that time, Mbwakwe suffered some key injuries and never really developed into the inside force everyone thought he would become. He was a solid player, but never a game-changer.

Iverson left Minnesota and the big man went to Colorado State. He had to redshirt and had one year left, which was this season, and he was one of the best players in the Mountain West Conference. It makes people in Minnesota wonder what Iverson would have done with a better coach developing him at Minnesota since Iverson probably could develop more yet. It seemed like Tubby wasted Iverson’s talents.

Sampson III was relegated as a bench player his senior year until Mbwakwe got injured and never played with a fire despite having a lot of tools. Another case of a lost cause under Tubby.

Royce White did have some controversy, which Tubby helped put a tag on. White got in some trouble his freshman year, but nothing serious. However, Tubby let White out to dry. Well, White has an anxiety disorder, so that was about the worst thing Tubby could have done, showing that he doesn’t know how to handle today’s players anymore.

White left Minnesota and went to Iowa State. He was one of the best players in the Big 12 last year and was a first-round draft pick. He is really the only player Tubby has recruited that will go in the first round, but it was under Fred Hoiberg’s watch.

Williams is actually the one person who has been able to avoid the Tubby curse. He has developed into a great energy guy and one of the Gophers’ best players. He has had to shoulder a lot of the load and has handled it well.

Hollins’ future has yet to be written, but he has had an up and down last two years, flashing so much potential in many games, but not living up to his potential in others. I think under a new coach, he can flourish and being one of the best guards in the country, let alone in the Big 10.

Some Gophers’ fans have posted on Twitter, well what are the expectations? The expectations were to compete for a Big 10 title and that never happened under Tubby Smith. It was a mid-tier Big 10 team that never saw its players develop to the fullest and transferred to other programs.

There isn’t a reason why Minnesota can’t succeed with the level of basketball talent in Minnesota, not to mention the ability to steal a couple of Iowa or Chicago players. Tubby was losing the battle in Minnesota, something that shouldn’t happen.

There is a good amount of potential with Minnesota basketball. It’s finally time to find a coach that can do it with some prized prospects in the same vicinity as the school.

Yes, I was a bit MIA for the Minnesota Twins’ season, but who can blame me? It seems the Twins have been MIA for their own season. But I am back for the Vikings’ season preview, but don’t expect many chipper moments from me about it. I had more hope for the Twins’ season.

Minnesota missed out on Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, but they have another chance to get a potential franchise quarterback with Matt Barkley. Wait, don’t the Vikings have Christian Ponder? Well, he will make a good backup someday.

The Vikings have a chance to be the worst team in the NFL as well, since they might have the worst team in the NFL. I will be going through every position and grade it out. While I think some positions are upgraded, there are key positions that were passed up in free agency and the draft that should have been addressed.

Let’s start with the position that means the most this year….

Quarterback: D

Christian Ponder is the leader of this group that saw maybe an upgrade over the offseason. Granted, that upgrade came with the release of Sage Rosenfels, whose time in the NFL is over, basically. He did not look that great in the preseason, but McLeod Bethel-Thompson has, so that is your upgrade, with the third-string quarterback.

Granted, Ponder has been getting rave reviews all camp. However, the reviews have been about his leadership and how he has stepped up. I commend Ponder for this, but this reminds me Colt McCoy last year when all of his teammates raved about his leadership and he was one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL.

I don’t care if Ponder improved his leadership. That was always a key attribute for him at Florida State, along with always getting injured. So let’s see if he improved on that. Oh, and his limp arm and his accuracy and his god-awful deep ball. Let’s just say at high school games this year I have already used the term Pondered for a bad pass and I have been getting some good laughs for that. Ponder needs to show considerable improvements with his tangible attributes before I care about his intangibles.

Let’s put it this way, Philip Rivers seems to be a huge dick, but his team is always behind him and he is always considered a top-10 quarterback. I think the Vikings would rather have the dick in Rivers than the good guy in Ponder right now.

Joe Webb is a serviceable backup quarterback and the Vikings are actually committed to keeping him as a quarterback, but his development will forever be stalled with how his first two years were handled. Now Minnesota needs to find a way to use his ability. The package Webb was used in last year was awful and I do not think offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave is smart enough to know how to use him, so until Ponder gets hurt, what could be a valuable asset is wasted.

Bethel-Thompson is a project, but aren’t most third-string quarterbacks? He is the most accurate of the three quarterbacks and has the best arm, though. So he has that going for him. Yes, his success came against third-stringers in the preseason, but at least he has some potential.

Running backs: A

Bleacher Report gave the Vikings a B at this position. This is why their WWE reporting has always been better than their football reports.

This position is the best on the team. I really do not see a major hole in this unit and it has one of the best one-two punches in the league. However, one of the punches has a little bit of a hole in it with Adrian Peterson because of his ACL tear. However, Peterson says he is ready to go and he will be 100 percent by the end of the season. Plus, Peterson at 75 percent is better than half of the running backs in the NFL.

Peterson will see a bit of a drop in productivity because of his knee injury, but with Toby Gerhart, the team can ease Peterson back. Gerhart can easily be a 1,000-yard rusher and a top 10 running back in the league if he was a full-time starting running back. He has power and good enough speed to make it all work. That’s why Minnesota will not miss a beat if Peterson has to be held back.

Plus, Minnesota has a major upgrade with the third running back in this Matt Asiata guy, who impressed in every aspect of camp. Having a guy like Asiata made it ridiculous that the team ever signed Lex Hillard, who they released. Asiata’s main aspect, though, is his pass protection, which has always been something Peterson has not mastered along with Gerhart. He may have played himself into the third down back role because of that. Also, there is no way he can be as bad as Lorenzo Booker, so he’s an upgrade there.

Unfortunately this meant Jordan Todman had to be cut, who had potential as a return man over the incompetent Marcus Sherels. Todman was injured most of camp but had a successful last game. I thought the Vikings should have kept him over Jerome Felton, who is a mediocre blocker as a fullback. I would rather see Asiata get more fullback time than Felton.

Felton is the one down spot on the running back roster and Ryan D’Imperio has had an injury that basically got him cut. I loved D’Imperio last year, so I thought this was a big blow. The Vikings should have used Rhett Elliason as a fullback instead of tight end, since the Vikings have a lot of tight ends and needed more fullback help. But once again, this is Rick Spielman and the Vikings, they never make the right choices.

I may be old school, but a lead blocker is very important to the running game. Jim Kleinsasser proved that for the last decade and had a down year last year and retired. This year could show how important he was … oh wait, that Tahi 12th-man in the huddle showed that in the NFC Championship game against the Saints.

Offensive Line: D+

Make no mistake about it, even with drafting Matt Kalil as the new left tackle, the Vikings offensive line is full of holes, but there is the potential for this draft grade to go a LOT higher, like into the B-range. However, a lot needs to be done for that.

The only offensive lineman I trust right now is Kalil, but I know he is going to make his mistakes this year since he is a rookie and has to face Julius Peppers twice this year. But Kalil learned from one of the best defensive ends in the game (Jared Allen), so he is already ahead of the curve. The only problem is he does not have a veteran to really show him the way on the offensive line (sorry Charlie Johnson). But Kalil is going to be solid and I think was a no-brainer. He won’t be a Pro Bowler this year since he is the only competent lineman on the team, but next year he has a chance.

Johnson shifts from tackle to left guard with Kalil coming in. Johnson was AWFUL in pass protection last year and mediocre at best in the run game. He got beat on the edge countless times, but that is something that is fixed at the guard spot. When he is locked up, he is physical, but it is unknown how he will be able to match up with the Suhs of the world who can throw him around if he isn’t careful. Plus he is having major trouble picking up the schemes from the preseason even though he is a veteran. If Johnson cannot pick up the schemes, he will be as big as a liability at the guard spot as a tackle.

Once again, Bleacher Report is awful. An A to John Sullivan? This guy gets beaten off the line of scrimmage consistent and he is a horrible driver. If he stands his ground, it is a success. Remember Matt Birk and Jeff Christy? They could not only DRIVE their counterparts but pulled with the best in the league and caught the blitzes. These are things Sullivan is less than mediocre at. The only reason he got signed to an extension was because Spielman loves Notre Dame players for some odd reason.

What’s funny, Bleacher Report said this about Sullivan:  Some interior pressure given up through his blocking, missed run assignments and miscommunications along the line were surprising problems. Well, it isn’t surprising because he has never consistently done ANY of those things well.

Brandon Fusco is a major wildcard, but as a right guard, I am OK with it. This is the do-or-die year for Fusco. He was drafted out of Slippery Rock, a Division II college, last year and is a big guy at 306 pounds who is quick on his feet. He is a physical guard that can easily stick with defensive tackles. However, it was the learning curve of Division II to the NFL for him that he had to learn and we will see about that learning curve this year. I like him, but I think it may be a year too early. However, I see a lot of Matt Birk qualities in him and I thought it may have been a year too early for Birk, so no time like the present. He will also have his moments, but he is the best the Vikings have their by far.

Phil Loadholt. Let’s put it his way, the leadership thing has been thrown around with him a lot too. Great, awesome, grand, let’s see if he can actually play in a phone booth instead of consistently getting burned on the edge time and time again. His run blocking is coming along, however, learning the schemes and his footwork is still bad, which sucks because he can be very physical at the point of attack. This is his do-or-die year and honestly I think he dies this year. I just cannot trust his pass protection at all for him toe be a future starter for the Vikings.

Joe Berger is a quality backup as a center, but is below average as a guard, as he showed last year. Last year, I thought Berger was a better blocker and puller at the center position than Sullivan. He consistently got a push on his player, so he is quite the backup to have since Sullivan sucks.

Geoff Schwartz could be a quality backup at the guard spots, but he was injured for much as camp so I definitely would not trust him in a starting spot or as a backup tackle. Mark Asper is a waiver wire pickup who hopefully will not see too much time. He got very low marks by the Buffalo Bills. He is just a guy right now. While I was not high on DeMarcus Love, I would have given him a chance at right tackle for Loadholt. However, he is on the injured reserve with a pec injury. The Vikings do not have a backup at the tackle spot, so cross your fingers that Kalil or Loadholt do not get hurt.

With the addition of Kalil and Fusco at RG, the unit ranks the same as last year. The only positive was Steve Hutchison, but he was injured, so this unit could be better if just those two play well. That’s how bad the line was last year and will be this year.

Tight Ends: B

I really, really wish I could give this a higher rank, but lack of experience and John Carlson keeps it at a B. More on Carlson in a minute.

Kyle Rudolph has improved his blocking, which was huge. This kid could be a star at tight end if Musgrave can figure out to use him. He is not a Gronkoski or Jimmy Graham, but he is a Jason Witten-type of guy who can be consistent game in and game out. Rudolph has great athleticism and great hands. I love this kid, which is a good Notre Dame call by Spielman.

However, signing Carlson was a big, big mistake. Of course, he is a Notre Dame guy. Crap. With all of the needs, spending money on Carlson was not a smart move with other tight ends out there that could have been signed as a backup. Of course, he was injured for much of camp. He is a mediocre blocker and has seen a major dip in production in the passing game since his rookie year. He is the Michael Jenkins of the tight end position, basically.

Ellison can be a productive blocker and fullback, so he fits in well, even if he was drafted a round or two too early. I like of like him, he has some Kleinsasser in him. Allen Reiser showed some stuff in the preseason and I wish he was the backup tight end over Carlson, more for Carlson sucking. This is a decent group with a LOT of potential.

Wide Receiver: B-

I wanted to rank this group lower, but I could not for two reasons – Greg Childs’ injury and Jerome Simpson’s ability.

Percy Harvin could have a more productive season than last year and if he doesn’t worry about his contract, he is solid and a legit threat as a No. 1 wide receiver, even though he would be a better No. 2.

Simpson, wow. Did you see that hurdle in the preseason? This guy is just an athlete. It’s unfortunate he will miss the first three games, but if he produces in the first three games after it, the Vikings need to lock him up. The only reason he signed a one-year deal was his suspension. Simpson has major potential and is a highlight-reel type of guy. I like this gamble.

After those two, it is a major black hole. Childs was impressing during camp when a bad Ponder pass had him come down awkwardly trying to adjust to the pass and he tore BOTH patelal tendons in his knees. Are you kidding me? Thanks Ponder. His career might be over.

Jarius Wright showed some of his skills in the last preseason game, but before that he was not able to gain any separation from defensive backs. He will see some time as the No. 4 or No. 5 guy and needs to show a lot to see consistent playing time. He has a long time to go to catch up the NFL game, basically.

Michael Jenkins is not a guy you want to rely on and provides a moment here or there, but I would rather a young guy took his reps. However, no young guy stepped up with Childs going down, so he is there as the third guy for another year as a disappointing first-round draft pick by the Falcons. He will have a moment here and there, but just never trust him.

Stephen Burton, this is his do-or-die year and right now he is dying. He had his chance in camp and just never really impressed. He did well on the practice squad and in a limited role, but he has not really progressed from that.

Devin Aromashodu, this guy. He can break the big one at any moment, but he is drop prone. He is never to be trusted and had one of the worst catch rates in the league. There is a reason Chicago gave up on him and the Vikings should’ve spent the money on a better receiver than Aromashodu. And I hate spelling his name.

Defensive Line: B+

This grade should be higher, but I need to see more out of Brian Robison and there is a big black hole next to Kevin Williams.

Jared Allen, with how good this line can be, I can see him making another run at the NFL sack record. Thank Brett Favre for falling down for Allen to not have the record. First-ballot Hall of Famer, right here. No doubt. If he isn’t, come on.

Kevin Williams, he looked like an All-Pro in the last four games after dealing with his suspension and injury early in the season. He looked good in the preseason and I expect a big year out of him again and he is going to allow Allen to get some more looks at the quarterback.

LeTroy Guion and Fred Evans, two disappointments in the attempt to replace Pat Williams. The Vikings should have looked for a free agent but jumped to keep both of these two. They are both quality backups, but as starters, they consistently lose ground and are not quality run stoppers. They are below-average pass rushers, too, with the increase of snaps.

Here is what Minnesota needs to do, move Everson Griffin to the DT spot. Yes, he is undersized, but he is also a better pass rusher than Guion and Evans combined and is not worse at run defense. Plus to give him a breather, you utilize the abilities of Evans and Guion as quality backups.

Robison came on very strong last year and had a better year than Ray Edwards, but he wilted with the prolonged season since he was a backup in the past. If he can play a full 16, he will be a major asset, and with his work ethic, I think he worked on that. He has always been very good in the run game, so this could be a breakout year for him.

Christian Ballard had potential, but he has not been able to shift from the Big Ten to the NFL and I am almost surprised he made the team. He really does not have anything that makes him special or stick out. Just one of those college guys that does not have the physical tools or any moves to make it at the next level.

D’Aundre Reed is still a wild-card defensive end for Robison. He is a seventh-round draft pick who has shown some ability. I don’t know if he will ever be better than a backup, but he seems serviceable for now.

Linebackers: D

Chad Greenway keeps this at a D than it being lower. Greenway regressed last year after signing his deal. He was worse in coverage and not as quick to the ball carrier. I think the lockout and contract stuff got to him. I think he can come back and be one of the best strong-side linebackers, but will teams run at him with Allen on that side, too? Greenway has to have a return to his top form for the linebacker corps to at least be serviceable.

Jasper Brinkley. Let’s just say the Vikings needed to sign a free agent in the offseason. He seems hesitant returning from a missed year due to injury. He is not good at all in pass coverage and his angles to the runner are not good at all. He is going to be picked on all year and will be a major liability.

Erin Henderson is a guy that does not do anything great, but he does not do anything really bad either. He is mediocre. He is a backup that plays out of necessity. He is a special teams player that is playing because he needs to. He is a good tackler, but he is not very quick to the ball. He is smart, he just can’t make up for the lack of quickness that he has. His pass coverage is mediocre and his run stopping is mediocre. The Vikings needed to keep him as a special teamer last year and this year, but have signed no one to take his spot.

Larry Dean, he is a quality special teamer along with Marvin Mitchell, you just do not want them seeing significant time football field. They both remind me of Heath Farwell (that’s who it was ,right?).

Tyrone McKenzie looks decent as a backup and can move laterally well. Just don’t know if he can cut it as a starter.

Audie Cole. He isn’t that athletic and he isn’t that fast, but he is smart and it showed in the preseason. He can make some plays and breakup plays. He be a better option at middle linebacker than Brinkley. However, he is a seventh-rounder and did it against third-stringers. He needs time, but he seems to be picking up the NFL game well. I kind of like this kid. Make sure he is on special teams.

Cornerbacks: B-

This was a very hard position to grade because I do not know how much Antoine Winfield has left and he has been injured a lot in the past few seasons. Is Chris Cook ready and mature enough? What the heck can Josh Robinson do? Plus the two cornerbacks – Chris Carr and Zach Bowman – that Minnesota signed were cut.

A trade for A.J. Jefferson was a positive for me, but how much can he provide right away?

I will trust Winfield still. He is one of the best tackling corners in the history of the NFL, basically. IF, and that’s a big IF, he can stay healthy, he could go out on a high note. I think this is his last year. He can play man, he can play zone, he has great instincts and is a hard hitter. I love this guy basically.

Cook, he has the talent. But last year his immaturity got him suspended, which was a major red flag for him. He has the size and speed to stick with players. He actually played Calvin Johnson decently last year, so he has the talent. Can he grow up though? The entire cornerback group hinges on Cook. If he flops, the whole unit goes down in flames. He is the Cedric Griffin this year.

Jefferson, he is a big cornerback who can play man-to-man and zone as a nickel back. I really like this kid because he is a returner as well. With him, the Vikings should just cut Sherels. Jefferson can be a big asset right away for Minnesota and I like this trade for a nickel back who can return kicks.

Robinson is a very fast kid, no doubt. But what can he do? He is very raw, but he does have a lot of ability. However, he overplayed routes more than a few times in college, so he has to fix that in the NFL. He goes for the big play instead of the smart play a lot of the time and that has to be fixed. He dealt with an injury for much of camp, so a lot needs to be seen out of him. I am still skeptical.

Brandon Burton is a fourth or fifth guy that will not kill you, but I think that is his ceiling. Sherels, he is a below average returner and he got just killed last year as a defensive back when pressed into action. He was not much better than preseason and I really do not know why he is on the team. Robinson, Wright, Jefferson and the cut Todman are all better returners.

Safeties: D

Harrison Smith is the only safety with talent on this roster right now. Smith is the first rounder out of Notre Dame and was a good choice I thought. I love his aggression, something a safety has not had since Darren Sharper. He is very smart too and can read quarterbacks well. He can play either safety spot and is a good run stopper. He also reminds me of Robert Griffith, so maybe he should play the strong safety spot. He will have his moments as a rookie, but in the long haul, I think he was a great pickup.

Mistrel Raymond and Jamarca Sanford are awful, just awful. Neither one takes good angles at all in the running game and take awful angles in the passing game and they cannot read quarterbacks or the deep ball. The Vikings needed to sign another cornerback and this will be a HUGE weak spot for Minnesota because one of these two has to start. Crap.

Robert Blanton….of Notre Dame…is shifting to the position after playing cornerback all throughout college. He is a smart kid and I think he can make the transition, but dealt with an injury all throughout camp. He needs to learn how to read the quarterback better and play the deep ball better, but he already seems like an improvement over Raymond and Sanford, especially when he gets the position down.

Andrew Sendejo is a special teamer that was better than Eric Frampton at special teams, so hopefully he contributes well there. He does not have much upside at all as an every-down player.

Punter: A

The Vikings have one of the best and one of the most entertaining punter in the league in Chris Kluwe. He can nail it inside the 20 and has great hang-time. I always trust Kluwe and he is one of the funniest guys in the league.

Kicker: B-

I kind of like Blair Walsh, but he has been inconsistent from deep going back to his time at Georgia his senior year despite having a big leg. He is great inside the 40, but he needs to get more consistent from deep and there have been concerns about his mentality. So I had to put it at B-, but he could be a pleasant surprise this year.

Overall Grade: D+

I do not see much potential at all unless Christian Ponder learns how to pass and the linebackers and safeties learn how to play football. This could be a LONGGGGGG year.