2006 season recap
There's room for improvement
The first season under head coach Brad Childress featured a promising start for the Vikings, who jumped out to a 4-2 record. However, they lost eight of their final 10 games and didn't show much improvement. The Vikings led the NFL in run defense but were done in by a lethargic offense that eventually was handed over to rookie quarterback Tarvaris Jackson.
Key camp questions
How will this offense score points?
The Vikings took a step back offensively in the first season running Childress' West Coast system. The offensive woes were paramount down the stretch, as the Vikings averaged 16.2 ppg and 298.5 ypg while dropping eight of their final 10 games. The offense lacks experienced playmakers at the skill positions, and any success likely will start with the running game. Veteran Chester Taylor and rookie Adrian Peterson will run behind the mammoth left side of tackle Bryant McKinnie, guard Steve Hutchinson and center Matt Birk, hoping to wear down defenses on the ground.
Is Jackson ready to be a starting quarterback?
No player's performance will impact the Vikings' season more than that of the second-year quarterback. Jackson has all the physical tools to be an NFL starter, a full offseason of progress and the confidence that comes with entering the season atop the depth chart. With so little experience among the wide receivers, though, much of his success will rest upon the Vikings' ability to run the ball behind a talented offensive line. How quickly Jackson can work through his experience and acclimate himself to the nuances of playing the position at this level will determine how much freedom Childress will have with the offense.
Can the defense generate enough pressure to improve the pass defense?
The Vikings were hampered by an inconsistent pass rush in 2006, finishing 25th in the league in sacks and placing increasing pressure on a secondary that was exposed as the season wore on. The team made no changes during the offseason, choosing to rely on the improvement of its three recent first-round picks on the defensive line -- ends Kenechi Udeze and Erasmus James and tackle Kevin Williams -- to remedy the pass rush. James missed the final 14 weeks of 2006 with a knee injury, Udeze had no sacks in 16 games and Williams recorded only five. The return of outside linebacker Chad Greenway, the 2006 first-round pick who is expected to start, should help.
Key position battle
Tarvaris Jackson vs. Brooks Bollinger
Head coach Brad Childress has promised Bollinger the chance to compete against Jackson -- the favorite -- for the starting spot. Childress believes Bollinger is a capable starter, but it remains to be seen how much of a competition this will be. Jackson started the final two games of his rookie season in 2006, and the Vikings acknowledged his progress after a full offseason of working with the team and coaching staff. Jackson has the physical tools but can only make up for his lack of experience with time. Bollinger, who injured his shoulder in Week 13 and missed the final four games, will lean on the experience of his nine starts during 2005 with the Jets.
RB Adrian Peterson
The Vikings passed on drafting quarterback Brady Quinn in favor of running back Adrian Peterson, who is expected to bring explosiveness and a "wow" factor to an offense that finished 26th overall in scoring (17.6 ppg) and 23rd in total offense (308.9 ypg) last season. At 6-foot-2 and 217 pounds, Peterson has the ability to run inside or outside, and the Vikings believe he can catch the ball out of the backfield, as well. Durability is the biggest concern surrounding Peterson, who was able to avoid surgery for an injured collarbone and will start camp on time.
Player on the spot
WR Troy Williamson
The seventh overall pick in the 2005 draft, Williamson has yet to live up to that draft status. He dropped a team-high 11 passes last season and finished with 37 receptions for 455 yards and no touchdowns in 14 games. With the departures of Travis Taylor, Marcus Robinson and Jermaine Wiggins, Williamson is the No. 1 receiver by default in a corps with little depth or experience. He took part in a clinic with Nike to correct a vision problem and has worked judiciously on pass catching over the summer. The Vikings drafted three receivers and have added free agents Bobby Wade and Cortez Hankton, meaning it's a make-or-break season for Williamson.