Week 1: Minnesota Vikings Vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
- QuarterbackThe Vikings are operating under the theory that Christian Ponder will be much improved this season and all reports indicate that he has made strides. However, Ponder is going to have to demonstrate improved accuracy and decision making early in the season if the Vikings have a chance to exceed expectations.There’s little doubt that Blaine Gabbert has all the physical characteristics that are needed to play the quarterback position, thanks to his size, strength and rocket-arm. However, his instincts are still developing and that means he will make a lot of mistakes.
- OffenseThere aren’t many teams any more that will feature a running back as the primary factor in the offense the way the Vikings do with Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart, but few backs play at their level. The Vikings offensive line could be much improved with Matt Kalil knocking defensive linemen around like they were rag dolls.Despite the ugliness of his preseason holdout, it seems likely that Maurice Jones-Drew will be back early in the year. If he is, there is a chance that the Jaguars could be much improved on offense because rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon looks like a real player and Laurent Robinson looks like a real player at the other receiver spot.
- DefenseThe Vikings lacked cohesiveness on defense last year but new coordinator Alan Williams will closely follow head coach Les Frazier’s philosophy that depends largely on discipline and positional play and not blitzing. Defensive end Jared Allen is still an explosive pass rusher but he could start to slow down this year.While the Jaguars were a 5-11 team last season, there was significant improvement on the defensive end under defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. They went from 28th in the league to 6th, and they should continue to improve this year because rookie defensive end Andre Branch can turn the corner and explode to the quarterback.
- Special TeamsSpecial teams were troublesome for the Vikings last year and punter Chris Kluwe needs to show some improvement. Rookie placekicker Blair Walsh replaces inconsistent Ryan Longwell.It’s hard to find fault with placekicker Josh Scobee, who connected on 23-of-25 field goal attempts last year. The Jags drafted punter Bryan Anger in the third round and they need him to be a momentum turner.
The Jaguars are probably the most low-profile team in the NFL, but they should be solid on defense and special teams. That should be enough against a Vikings team that is trying to rebuild and hoping that Adrian Peterson will be healthy and ready to roll at the start of the season.