MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The Minnesota Vikings raced forward with their rebuilding project last season by finishing 10-6 and reaching the playoffs ahead of expectations, a feel-good ride behind those 2,097 yards rushing by
With Peterson in his prime and a bunch of recent high draft picks with the potential to be future cogs, there's a sturdy blueprint in place along with lingering concerns. Standout defensive end
"I'm hoping that they'll just think about that fact, that how important this moment is, that you can't be looking toward next year," coach Leslie Frazier said. "You can't be looking back at the past, but being able to seize this moment."
Peterson will again be the featured attraction, but here are five things to know about the Vikings beyond the league MVP award winner:
DOWN ON THE CORNER: With Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford in the division and Eli Manning, Joe Flacco and Robert Griffin III among other standout passers on the schedule, the performance of the cornerbacks could prove to be critical for the Vikings.
The departure of Antoine Winfield, who was cut before his $7.25 million salary at age 36 kicked in, left a large void. His sure tackling and sage leadership won't be replaced. Success will hinge on the ability of
The last one on that list could be as tough to achieve as any. Cook, a second-round draft pick in 2010, missed 16 games to injuries over his first three years. Robinson, a third-round selection in 2012, and Rhodes, one of three first-round picks this year, each missed practice days with hamstring strains.
RIVALS RECRUITED: The modern history of the Vikings has included several chapters on former Packers who crossed the border to join their NFC North foes, most notably Brett Favre. That pipeline from Green Bay hasn't dried up yet, as evidenced by the arrival of wide receiver
Jennings was limited by an abdominal injury to a career-low 366 yards last year, and Bishop missed the whole season because of a torn hamstring. But even though they might be past their primes, they can still help the Vikings compete with their friends-turned-enemies.
Jennings will be Ponder's best target, a savvy route runner with sure hands and a knack for the end zone who's being asked to mentor raw first-round draft pick
DEFENSIVE TACKLE TANDEM:
Williams has declined in recent years, but the Vikings believed he was worth keeping, that fewer snaps and a fresher body can yield valuable contributions from Williams in what will likely be his last of 11 seasons with the team.
Health has already become a concern, however. Floyd had a minor operation to relieve pain in his left knee last week. He's expected to be ready for the opener at Detroit on Sept. 8, but Williams might not. Blindsided by a low block in the preseason, Williams has a hyperextended right knee and a significant bone bruise around the joint.
STADIUM SAGA: The Vikings secured funding approval last year from the state for a new stadium, and they're planning to open it for the 2016 season after playing two years at the University of Minnesota. The timetable has tightened, with the public agency in charge of it examining the personal finances of team owner Zygi Wilf and his family. The Wilf brothers committed fraud and contract breach with an apartment development, a New Jersey judge ruled recently, and they'll likely have to pay a hefty fine. Both sides have said repeatedly there's no danger to the stadium project.