MINNESOTA VIKINGS (8-8)
OPEN CAMP: July 26, Minnesota State University, Mankato, Minnesota.
LAST YEAR: Fell hard following 5-0 start, finishing third in NFC North they won in 2015. Devastating knee injury to QB Teddy Bridgewater was handled deftly with acquisition of Sam Bradford, who set NFL record for completion percentage. But already dubious depth on OL couldn’t handle onslaught of injuries up front. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner abruptly resigned after seven games due to philosophical disagreement with coach Mike Zimmer. With running game buried at bottom of league, defense and special teams that fueled season-opening surge ran out of steam down stretch. Zimmer’s eye trouble that forced him to miss one game topped off dysfunction.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: LT Riley Reiff, RT Mike Remmers, rookie RB Dalvin Cook, RB Latavius Murray, WR Michael Floyd, DT Datone Jones, rookie C Pat Elflein.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: RB Adrian Peterson, CB Captain Munnerlyn, LT Matt Kalil, WR/KR Cordarrelle Patterson, LB Chad Greenway, RG Brandon Fusco, P Jeff Locke.
CAMP NEEDS: Smooth and swift rebuild of OL is most critical project, with Reiff and Remmers bookending embattled group that likely will have two holdover starters, LG Alex Boone and RG Joe Berger. Murray must regain full speed following ankle surgery rehab. Speedy Cook has to prove he’s ready for complexity of NFL offense, reliable pass blocking and hanging onto ball after fumbling problem at Florida State. Defense, with all but one starting spot retained from last year, needs to regain swagger.
EXPECTATIONS: With refreshed Zimmer and rekindled defense, Vikings will have edgy eagerness to restore themselves among NFC contenders after last season’s debacle. Fact they’re hosting Super Bowl doesn’t hurt for motivation. With wealth of young drafted-and-developed standouts like WR Stefon Diggs, DE Danielle Hunter and CB Xavier Rhodes, there’s strong enough talent base for turnaround. But with Bridgewater still rehabbing, Bradford can’t regress. And, of course, OL must show significant improvement.
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