After a 3-13 season like the Minnesota Vikings had in 2011, there are obviously many questions to be answered heading into the 2012 season. Now that the long running stadium situation is resolved and Minnesota will be the franchise's home long term, a greater focus can be brought on questions facing the on-field product, from the head coach on down.
Here are the three most pressing questions, at least in my view, that the Minnesota Vikings will be facing when training camp starts in July.
1. How Healthy Will Running Back Adrian Peterson Be?
Peterson's significant left knee injury (torn ACL, etc.) suffered late in the 2011 season has his status for the start of the season up in the air, to say the least. Many reports have suggested he is making good progress and intends to be ready for Week 1, but it's safe to say the team will be cautious with their best offensive player to make sure he is healthy for the long haul. The Vikings do have a capable fill-in in place with Toby Gerhart, but how much work Peterson is able to do in training camp and the progress he makes will tell a lot about how much he will be able to do early in the season.
2. Will Christian Ponder Take The Next Step In Becoming A Capable NFL Quarterback?
Ponder had moments after taking over as the Vikings' starting quarterback in the middle of least season, but also had some growing pains as a rookie as injuries and turnovers began to pile up late in the season. A full offseason should allow Ponder to get a firm grasp on offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave's system and allow him to take on a greater leadership role as well. The team looks committed to him for 2012 and beyond, but if Ponder fails to make some strides in his second season or the team struggles as a whole again a re-evaluation of the quarterback situation may be forced to happen. A strong training camp and preseason would go a long way toward starting to cement Ponder's future as Minnesota's signal caller.
3. Who Will Win Jobs In The Secondary?-
The Vikings struggled mightily against the pass last season, which was compounded by a severe lack of interceptions (tied for league-low with eight) and injuries depleting what depth there was. Some additions have been made via free agency and the draft, most notably first round pick Harrison Smith who has to be considered a front runner for one of the starting safety spots, and the return to health of cornerback Antoine Winfield will only help. Needless to say, no one is necessarily guaranteed a role in the Minnesota secondary at this point (except Winfield, most likely) and the competition for jobs should be wide open and benefit all involved. There is really nowhere to go but up for the Minnesota secondary, particularly when you consider how good Tim Tebow looked against them last season as a passer.
How all three of these questions and some others are answered, for better or worse, will almost certainly determine the fate of head coach Leslie Frazier after the season and perhaps general manager Rick Spielman as well. That said, 2012 looks likely to be the first step in a rebuilding process for the Vikings and those in positions of authority may get one more year if improvement is seen in terms of wins and losses.