It’s easy to get caught up in the primadonna Brett Favre saga. So much so that it makes Viking fans sometimes forget that there was some other pretty exciting news that has been happening in the land of purple this offseason.
Starting Tuesday, the Vikings will start providing some newsworthy material that doesn’t relate to ex-Packers (Unless they for some reason end up signing Mark Tauscher, but let’s hope it doesn’t come to that …). Here are some things to keep your eyes on as rookie and voluntary veteran OTAs start May 19th , followed by mandatory mini camps on May 29th.
1. Percy Harvin in purple
Viking fans can finally put down their hacked Madden video games where they created their own Percy Harvin (Maxed out to 99 speed, of course) and actually watch and listen to reports of him in purple. Access Vikings has said that the media will be allowed to watch practices on Thursday, the 21st, and that there will be a plethora of videos, photos, and love letters already written to Harvin on that first day. This day should be of note for Viking fans though, as there seems to be some ephemeral experience of seeing a new player in a purple jersey for the first time, and catching a glimpse of Harvin should be enough to tickle the fan base for a while.
2. The growth of Ian Johnson
Some were surprised when Ian Johnson, the giver of memorable proposes, went undrafted this year, yet even more people were surprised when he signed with the Minnesota Vikings who already had two established veterans on the roster. This week will be interesting for Johnson doubters and fans alike to see what element he can bring to the offense. Behind Peterson and Taylor there is a lack of quality depth at running back. Johnson could easily win the third running back spot from 2008 stalwart Albert Young and if his pass protection, blitz pick ups, and soft hands prevail, he could consistently see the field on third downs for the Vikings in 2009. This weeks mini camps will go a long way to provide a glimpse into that possibility.
3. Phil Loadholt may eat Ryan Cook
Phil Loadholt, the Vikings’ second round pick in 2009, has caused such a ruckus about his size (generously listed as 6-8, 343 lbs) that jokes about how big Phil Loadholt is are already going out of style. But, truth be told, the guy offers the potential for an amazing upgrade on the right side of the offensive line and will be competing most likely with incumbent Ryan Cook for the starting spot. Although these OTAs are mostly non contact, fans should get an idea of Loadholt’s footwork, mental awareness, and physicality immediately when he lands Brian Robison on his backside. The opportunity may also present itself to see how much of a false start machine he truly is, as has been alleged to be his Achilles heel.
4. Will Tarvaris Jackson actually have competition?
Almost made it through without talking about Favre … But unless he signs, Viking fans will get their first look at one of two potential starting quarterbacks in 2009 when Sage Rosenfels and Tarvaris Jackson start their battle for the right to throw dump off passes to Viking fullbacks. Will Jackson show flashes that he’s starting to recognize defensive coverage? Can he bounce back from a disastrous post season appearance? Will Sage truly challenge Jackson for the starting spot? Will he helicopter in the air, just for old times sake? Will the media overreact to the quarterback they see taking snaps with the first team right away? All of these are hard news questions that fans will be dying to find out about.
5. Increasing defensive back depth
As most ill informed major media groups tend to point out whenever they can, the Vikings apparently have a horrendous passing defense. While not entirely accurate (They gave up the 18th most yards through the air last season, and gave up the fifth least touchdowns through the air), the depth in the defensive backfield and consistency of play was an area that the team wanted to improve upon this offseason. In an attempt to do so, the Vikings signed cornerback Karl Paymah from Denver and drafted CB Asher Allen out of Georgia in the third round. With Charles Gordon returning and Cedric Griffin given a money vote of confidence by signing an extension, there is hope that the quality of play at the corners will continue to improve and reach that of the front seven. Now, if only we could guarantee the same for the safety position …
These are only some of the many highlights that fans have to look forward to this week. The issue of who’ll play center, the always interesting fullback competition, Udeze’s return, depth at linebacker and many other items of note should provide plenty of things for bored authors to over analyze … Like me.
In the mean time though, just sit back and enjoy the OTAs, and dream of fall football.