Everyone in the Vikings organization adores TEDDY BRIDGEWATER. And before his horrific left-knee injury last summer, they believed he was their future at quarterback. But here's the cold, hard truth: SAM BRADFORD is markedly better than Bridgewater. Bradford has superior arm strength, accuracy and drop-back timing, and he—not Bridgewater—is the one Minnesota should worry about re-signing after this season.
• Did the Vikings overspend for Lions left tackle RILEY REIFF (five years, $26.3 million guaranteed)? Probably. How about Panthers right tackle MIKE REMMERS (five years, $10.5 million guaranteed)? Probably, again. But anyone who watched this team in the second half of last year can't blame them. After three offensive tackles went down and T.J. CLEMMINGS—whose NFL future (if he has one) is as a backup guard—was put back in at left tackle, the passing game was reduced to screens and hasty three-step drop-backs. Bradford & Co. never had a chance.
• This will be a three-receiver offense. Minnesota is solid at wideout and, beyond seven-year veteran KYLE RUDOLPH, it has no proven tight ends or fullbacks. Rudolph is a flawed run blocker but a steady inside-aligned receiver who can get open with the right play design.
• The Vikings are predominantly a two-high-safety defense. The reason more teams don't use this structure is that it leaves one less body in the box, which hurts against the run. Minnesota, however, has a trio of stingy run stoppers inside: oversized linebacker ANTHONY BARR, athletic linebacker ERIC KENDRICKS and massively underrated nosetackle LINVAL JOSEPH. Defensive ends EVERSON GRIFFEN and DANIELLE HUNTER aren't great edge-setters, but in a two-high scheme they don't need to be. That job falls to either the cornerbacks or the safeties (depending on if it's Cover 2 or Cover 4). Their DBs, especially free safety HARRISON SMITH, are sure tacklers.
• Kendricks is a key component of coach MIKE ZIMMER'S staple double-A-gap package. It's imperative that the linebackers, who will walk up in the area between guard and center, have the ability to retreat into landmark zone coverage when the blitz is merely a bluff. Kendricks is tremendous here.
"BRADFORD, NOT BRIDGEWATER, IS THE QUARTERBACK THEY SHOULD WORRY ABOUT RE-SIGNING AFTER THIS SEASON."
SI'S 2017 PREDICTION
2016 RECORD 8--8
ANDY BENOIT'S 400 MMQB ON.SI.COM/400
40 HARRISON SMITH SS
87 XAVIER RHODES CB
96 LINVAL JOSEPH DT
121 ANTHONY BARR LB
172 EVERSON GRIFFEN DE
192 DANIELLE HUNTER DE
194 STEFON DIGGS WR
246 ERIC KENDRICKS LB
249 SAM BRADFORD QB
263 ANDREW SENDEJO FS
367 RILEY REIFF T