Here are five questions we posed to PFW senior editor Eric Edholm on the current state of the Vikings:
What is the plan for rookie QB Christian Ponder?
The plan is to get him up to speed on Bill Musgrave's offense as quickly as possible, but starting the rookie in Week One seems like a pipe dream at this point. The team traded for veteran Donovan McNabb to start right away and help deflect the pressure. The Vikings could have a team that is ready to contend again, although many league officials believe it is a team in transition, which makes Ponder's timeline quite open and flexible. Contend early, and the Vikings likely will stick with McNabb; struggle out of the gates, and Ponder might get an earlier call than expected.
Will Percy Harvin be able to get over his migraine headaches?
No one knows, of course, and even the neurologists were confused as recently as last season. But Harvin reportedly feels better than he has in some time, which is obviously good news. It's one of those issues that might stick with him his entire career until the doctors can get his medications exactly right, but for now there is some optimism. If Harvin can stay migraine-free, he could be a truly special player.
What veteran might be a breakout candidate on the roster?
Some breakout candidates include Brian Robison, Phil Loadholt and Chris Cook. For Robison, he has been a relatively productive player on a per-snap basis, but he hasn't played a lot. With Ray Edwards leaving for Atlanta in free agency, the job might be Robison's to lose — and his high effort should reward the coaches. Loadholt has flirted with dominance at times but also has appeared out of shape and not aggressive enough. A change of scheme and continued maturation could be what spurs him toward improvement. Cook is coming off a knee injury that hindered him as a rookie, but he has a chance to use his great length and athleticism as a playmaker if he can mature. For a far deeper sleeper, keep an eye on WR Juaquin Iglesias; the coaches seem to like the potential of the Bears' 2009 third-round pick.
What rookie should we keep an eye on besides Ponder?
Fourth-round DT Christian Ballard was talked about as a potential first-rounder at one point, and whether he's ready or not right away, he could be called upon to play early — and often — if Kevin Williams must serve a four-game suspension from the get-go. Ballard has some good skills and can dominate in waves, but he also has been called out for his immaturity and inconsistent technique. Tough coaching might be needed right away.
Can Jared Allen have a more complete season?
Allen started slowly last season, and though he came on in the middle part of the campaign, there are some league sources who think his game has dropped off a notch or two. Although Allen remains a high-motor, crafty rusher, he no longer plays with the same bull-rush power he once did, and the disintegration of the DL talent around him certainly can't help. Is he a 10-sack player anymore? Perhaps not. But the Vikings will take 7-9 sacks and more consistent pressure and be happy with what he offers to this defense.