For someone traveling down to Mankato to check out training camp, the absence of Brett Favre might be a good thing because there was enough room down in Mankato to have a good time. By the way, I recommend the roast beef sandwich at the spot next to Boomtown across from the stadium.
The crowd in Mankato was unimpressive for a team that is looking to improve on a successful 2009 season, which included the playoffs. No doubt, of course, that your tried and true Vikings fans were still filling up Blakeslee Stadium during the team’s first intra-squad scrimmage under the lights. And though the small collegiate stadium was full, you wouldn’t exactly claim that the crowd was bursting at the seams. That might be a good sign, to reverse the trend of Vikings fans going into a season with inflated expectations, only to get rocked back to Earth in a blaze of infamy. Expectations of the Vikings seem muted, but honestly the team that I saw at training camp that night was deserving of what I would call “muted excitement”.
As far as the muted part, Adrian Peterson is Adrian Peterson. Adrian Peterson means many good things, and often, historic things. But we all know that Adrian Peterson can’t offensively win a Superbowl by himself (though the defense makes that scenario seem awfully possible to tip you off on the “excitement” part). Nor does Adrian Peterson have to accomplish that feat by himself, because his fellow offensive teammates are quite a talented group. During the scrimmage it was actually tight-end Visanthe Shiancoe that raised my eyebrow the most through his overall activity and execution during a handful of plays. Shiancoe made a beautiful over the shoulder catch with the defender draped on his back that brought the crowd to its feet. But other than that the Vikings offense gave off the aura of a similar performance to what we have seen for the last few years, which could be described as muted. Actually it reminds me of the Cedric the Entertainer joke about Luther Vandross’ (rest his soul) jheri curl not quite curling all the way over. Limp jheri curls make one long for more lift, and so has the Vikings’ offense over the last few years.
Many want to blame the struggles of the team on the quarterback play, and perhaps there’s teeth to that argument seeing as the team so rigorously pursued Favre; or maybe like I said before, Brett Favre is just a great QB. You all know that I’m the President of the MN branch of The Travaris Fox Jackson Fan Club. However, I would be destroying my sterling journalistic credibility if I did not inform you that I watched Jackson throw two interceptions during the scrimmage that night. Jackson was also off on quite a few other passes (the offensive line didn’t help), and didn’t seem to take overall command like I want him to (I’m credible, just opinionated).
Sage Rosenfels didn’t inspire much more, though both he and Jackson eventually made some positive strides. So all together, the offense made me think that we may see a similar muted product as we did last year, and a similar shuffling of quarterbacks. Perhaps the dazzling rookie Percy Harvin, and an active Visanthe Shiancoe, can lift a team that didn’t need to get a ton better in the first place.
And the reason that they don’t have to get a ton better is because of how the Vikings defense looked last year, and because they looked a mile better than they did last year, if you ask me. The Vikings defense looked as if anything less than a Superbowl would be uncivilized. Antoine Winfield looked fresh and hungry, and Ray Edwards looked like just what the doctor ordered opposite Jared Allen at the defensive-end position. And for goodness sake, E.J. Henderson is back. I could go on and on about the defense, but in the end that greatness is determined on Sundays with other teams that look good in practice too.
So in summary: the O, I don’t know, but the D, …I’m not a rapper, so finish that verse on your own. Ah, “but the D, Ooowee!!” 50 cent better stay on his game…since corny raps are fashionable these days.