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Arizona Cardinals Opponent Preview: Minnesota Vikings

While things have changed in Minnesota, there is still hope.

NFL: Preseason-Los Angeles Rams at Minnesota Vikings Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The guys over at Daily Norseman did an admirable job of answering the questions then going back and changing all of their answers after the Teddy Bridgewater injury. They did not change it again after the Sam Bradford trade, but that is why we will also do a preview before the game starts.

Check out Daily Norseman though, they do a fantastic job of covering the Vikings.

How much longer can the Vikings realistically expect Adrian Peterson to churn out quality seasons, and do they have a backup plan if Father Time claims him in 2016?

The old saying reminds us that Father time is undefeated, but if anyone has the opportunity to fend him off, it’s Adrian Peterson. He continues to bust his behind in the offseason in order to keep himself at the top of his game, and he’s been able to do whatever the Vikings have asked him to do. That said, his current cap figure for 2017 is $18 million, which is more than double the next-highest running back in the league. If he and the team can’t come to an agreement on some sort of a team-friendly extension, there’s at least a chance that he’s going to be battling Father Time somewhere else in 2017 and beyond.

If he does start to struggle this season, the team has a very capable backup plan in Jerick McKinnon. McKinnon blew people away with his athletic traits at the Scouting Combine a couple of years ago, and has had little trouble making the conversion from college option quarterback to NFL running back. If something should go awry with Peterson, McKinnon would easily be able to step in. Frankly, the Vikings offense is definitely less predictable with McKinnon in the lineup, so it might not be a bad idea to start working him into the offense more anyway.

How far away is Teddy Bridgewater from being a top-tier quarterback? What does he need to do to get there?

Bridgewater is out for 2016 after suffering an ACL tear and "other structural damage." That means that this team is going to rise and fall on the right arm of Shaun Hill.

Shaun Hill is old, like, played in NFL Europe (which hasn't existed for a decade) old. His best days are clearly behind him, and at this point he's really pretty much the definition of "game manager." He has minimal arm. He's been decent in spurts during his career, but he's never really gotten the opportunity to be the full-time guy. Can he handle it now as the oldest player on Minnesota's roster? That's the hope. It might not necessarily be a good hope, but the Vikings really did a pretty poor job of preparing themselves for this scenario. Now, it's officially bitten them.

What’s the team done to improve its offensive line during the offseason? Can the line potentially become a strength this season?

I don’t know if it’s going to improve to the point of being a “strength,” but after the past couple of seasons, Vikings fans will settle for them merely being “not completely awful.” They brought in former San Francisco 49ers guard Alex Boone to man the left guard spot, allowing Brandon Fusco to shift back to the right side. They also brought in former Cincinnati Bengals tackle Andre Smith to man the right tackle position, and they brought in Tony Sparano to coach the offensive line. It remains to be seen if all of those changes will affect the way the offensive line looks in a “live fire” situation, but since we’re not sure if the offensive line can be any worse than it was last season, there are reasons for optimism.

How much confidence does the receiving corps inspire heading into 2016? Who’s the leading receiver this year’;

The team drafted Laquon Treadwell in the first round of this year’s draft, and he’s been working his tail off in camp, from all accounts, but he might be more of a red zone option this year and not a full-time starter. Still, there is a lot to be excited about with the Vikings’ receiving corps. They have Stefon Diggs, who is the team’s top receiver right now, and he appears to have really developed a bond with Teddy Bridgewater. It also appears that Charles Johnson is ready to return to prominence. Johnson had a strong finish to the 2014 season and was expected to “make the leap” in 2015, but got injured in Week 3 and never really got himself on track after that. Jarius Wright will also make his share of plays in this offense. If Diggs continues to develop and Johnson can get himself back to his 2014 form, a top three of Diggs, Johnson, and Treadwell has a lot of promise.

The Vikings limited how much they used 2015 first-round pick Trae Waynes as a rookie. Does the team expect Waynes to take on a larger role this season?

I think people will be disappointed if Waynes doesn’t take on a much larger role. We know that Terence Newman had a bit of a renaissance in 2015 after being reunited with Mike Zimmer, but if we’re talking about people that are battling Father Time, nobody’s had a longer fight with him than Newman has. Waynes really needed a year to get some refinement and learn about the way Mike Zimmer wants his corners to play in his defense, and when he was pressed into duty towards the end of the season, he actually held up pretty well. Newman is the elder statesman, but Waynes is the future of the Minnesota cornerback group alongside of Xavier Rhodes, and should be the starter in Week 1 barring something weird happening.

Which young, athletic Minnesota defender do you expect to have most impact on the season: middle linebacker Eric Kendricks, defensive end Danielle Hunter or strongside linebacker Anthony Barr?

It has to be Barr. He’s already one of the top outside linebackers in the NFL, which is impressive that he was only a linebacker in college for two seasons before the Vikings drafted him (he was originally recruited to UCLA as a running back). He can just do so much in this defense. His coverage skills have improved greatly over his first two NFL seasons, he’s already outstanding against the run, and he’s a force when it comes to rushing the passer. I don’t know if he’s a lock to be the NFL’s next great linebacker, but he’s certainly got to be on the short list. Hunter is going to overtake Brian Robison sooner rather than later at defensive end, and Kendricks has shown the ability to make plays from sideline-to-sideline, but if I’m looking at one guy for this season, Barr is a fairly easy choice.

Who's the fan favorite player, the cult hero [think how John Kuhn used to be in Green Bay] and why?

I think it would have to be wide receiver Adam Thielen. He’s a local guy, having grown up in Minnesota and played his college ball at Minnesota State University-Mankato, which is where the Vikings hold Training Camp every year. He started out on the practice squad and fought his way onto the active roster. He first really got noticed courtesy of a blocked punt for a touchdown in 2014 against Carolina, and had another of the Vikings’ biggest plays on special teams last season, running 49 yards with a fake punt in the division-clinching season finale against Green Bay. This offseason and preseason, it looks like he’s making a play at clawing his way up the depth chart at wide receiver as well. Thielen is a prime example of how you should never really give up on your dream and just continue grinding it out every day in an attempt to make it happen. He’s probably the closest thing to a cult hero the Vikings’ roster has.

How does the first month of the season go for the Vikings? The last month of the season? What's the final record going to be?

Obviously, the Bridgewater injury puts a serious dent in Minnesota's Super Bowl hopes, which were pretty legitimate until Tuesday afternoon. This means even more relianing on Adrian Peterson and the hope that he can continue winning his battle against Father Time. If he can, the defense and the running game that this team has can still land them in the playoffs, but their chances of being a serious contender at this point would appear to be pretty much nil. I'm going to give my most optimistic viewpoint on this one and say that this team still goes 10-6 on the strength of Adrian Peterson and one of the NFL's best young defenses and manages to sneak in as a Wild Card, but it's going to take a lot of things going right. I think the first month sees them go 2-2. I think they can still pull off a 3-1 final stretch of the season en route to making that record happen.