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Powers: Vikings’ offense apparently was better than we thought

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By Tom Powers

St. Paul Pioneer Press

From the “It wasn’t our fault” department: Despite finishing 5-10-1, all 11 Vikings offensive starters from 2013 are set to return in the same capacity. According to the official depth chart, the same 11 who finished up last season are scheduled to run out there for the first play in 2014.

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Weird.

“Typically, when you have a coaching change there is a lot of weeding out of guys and different things,” noted receiver Greg Jennings. “There was really no need for that.”

Which raises the question: Why not?

“The consistency of the guys that were coming back,” Jennings explained. “We all pretty much knew, had a good grip on what we were expecting of one another, and what we were going to see and look like coming back this year.”

The Vikings certainly have experienced upheaval. Mike Zimmer was hired as the head coach, then brought in new offensive and defensive coordinators. The defense remains in a state of flux after the high-profile departures of Jared Allen and Kevin Williams, among others.

Yet the starting offensive unit appears to be returning intact. This just proves what some of us have said all along: blame 2013 on the defense. (Mostly.)

“I like our offensive players,” coordinator Norv Turner said. “We’re not going to play 11 players. You can only play 11 at a time, but I think we have 16, 18 guys that can contribute to what we’re doing.”

For the record, the projected returning starters, according to the team’s depth chart, are Kyle Rudolph, Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson, Matt Kalil, John Sullivan, Phil Loadholt, Brandon Fusco, Charlie Johnson, Matt Cassel, Jerome Felton and Adrian Peterson.

When asked if he were surprised by the lack of change, Jennings said, “Yes and no.”

“When you have a coaching change, the first thing they typically want to do is weed out those bad apples first, and then those guys that are kind of pulling the other guys in the wrong direction,” Jennings added. “But in this locker room, you really didn’t have that. I think it says a lot about the organization, the character of the guys that they bring in.”

Yes, good character is a plus. But it is a distant second to ability. So it says something that the Vikings decision-makers were willing to maintain the status quo here. I’m not exactly sure what, but probably that they are confident in this core group, especially with Teddy Bridgewater developing off camera.

“I think every guy is still developing,” Turner said. “When you put a new system in, you give them opportunities to get better. I think the most important part of the NFL is evaluating your own team. I hear people say, well, they’re out there in shorts and you can’t evaluate them like that. It’s spring.

“But you watch tape and watch guys play physical football, so you know they can do that. And then you go out and watch their athleticism. That’s the most important part of our jobs, evaluating them and projecting what they can do. We have a lot of guys on our football team that can grow and get a lot better. That’s what I’m counting on. I expect this to be a lot better team offensively in November and December than we are right now.”

Turner seems happy enough. And maybe he should be. After all, despite all the fretting about Christian Ponder last season, we knew deep down that the defense was the main culprit. Still, the lack of churn seems odd for a team that lost twice as many games as it won. Even the original apostles made the occasional move, such as bringing in Matthias to replace Judas after the latter had a difficult year in 33 A.D.

“I think it’s shown up enough in preseason that when we do things right, we can be an explosive team,” Turner said. “We obviously haven’t played our best player (Adrian Peterson) yet, so I think he’ll bring something to the entire package in terms of what we are doing.”

Apparently, there’s no sense messing with a good thing.

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with the Forum News Service

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