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Scouting the Schedule: Vikings

Posted by Albert Breer  July 19, 2010 01:00 PM

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Up for debate is whether Favre will play in the second preseason game or only in the third exhibition. Last year, Favre saw action in preseason games Nos. 2-3 for Minnesota. However, the Vikings will play at San Francisco on Aug. 22 and there is a feeling Favre might not make that trip. That would mean his only tune-up would come on Aug. 28 against Seattle at the Metrodome. (As is the case around the league, most starters will not play in the fourth game.)

On an un-Favre related note, it will be interesting to see what type of progress Peterson has made this offseason now that veteran Chester Taylor has left. Taylor, who signed with Chicago as a free agent, was used extensively on third down and in two-minute situations because of his ability as a receiver and in pass protection. Peterson definitely needs to make strides in the latter area and will be expected to be much improved. Peterson also needs to prove he can consistently hold onto the football.

He has fumbled 20 times and lost 13 in his first three seasons, including seven fumbles (six lost) in 2009. That doesn’t include the two fumbles he had in the Vikings’ loss to New Orleans in the NFC title game. Peterson also took responsibility for a third miscue that was charged to Favre late in the first half deep in New Orleans territory. If Peterson continues to struggle with fumbles there is a chance second-round pick Toby Gerhart (Stanford) could see an increased role.

It remains to be seen if cornerback Cedric Griffin (ACL) and middle linebacker E.J. Henderson (broken leg) will be able to return for the start of camp. Both are optimistic about their recoveries but it seems a long shot either will be back that quickly. That means the newly signed Lito Sheppard could open as the starting right corner and second-year player Jasper Brinkley could be the middle linebacker.

This needs to happen to win big: Most importantly, Favre needs to return. If Favre surprises everyone and decides to retire, the Vikings could go from being one of the favorites in the NFC to being a middle of the pack team.

Tarvaris Jackson almost certainly would be the starter if Favre retires, and he has yet to prove he can be consistent in that role since being selected in the second round of the 2006 draft.
Rice, who is still recovering from a hip injury suffered in the playoffs, is going to need to repeat his outstanding performance of 2009 and Harvin is going to have to remain a versatile threat. Harvin also was a standout as a kick returner (27.5-yard average and two touchdowns) and was elected to the Pro Bowl for his contributions in that area.

Harvin, though, battled migraine headaches for much of his rookie season and even missed a game because of the problem. Harvin went to the highly respected Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., last winter and came away with a plan that he and the team hopes can help manage the problem.

The Vikings are going to need improved play from safeties Tyrell Johnson and Madieu Williams, who combined for one interception last season. The Vikings’ play a Tampa-2 scheme which frequently means the safeties aren’t in position to pick off passes.

However, Johnson and Williams lack of aggressiveness at times was probably the most concerning factor about their play. Jamarca Sanford, a seventh-round pick in 2009, could challenge either Johnson or Williams for a starting job.

Where they stack up: The Vikings will be looking to win a third consecutive NFC North title but it’s not going to be easy. Minnesota’s schedule is more difficult this season than it was in 2009 and the Green Bay Packers look as if they could give the Vikings a real run for the division crown. The Vikings swept Favre’s former team last year but that’s going to be hard to do with Aaron Rodgers being a year better.

The Chicago Bears also should be improved. The Bears and Vikings split last season with Chicago winning in overtime in the  second-to-last game of the season. In his second season with the Bears, Jay Cutler should be that much more comfortable at quarterback. Nonetheless, if Favre is running the show in Minnesota, the Vikings will be expected to make another run at the Super Bowl.

SCOUTING THE SCHEDULE SERIES
Wednesday: Bengals
Thursday: Jets
Friday: Bills
Saturday: Ravens
Yesterday: Chargers

Today: Vikings
Tomorrow: Browns
News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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