Nov 11, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Detroit Lions running back Mikel Leshoure (25) rushes against the Minnesota Vikings on a 2 yard gain in the second quarter at the Metrodome. The Vikings win 34-24. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Lions 2013 Opponent Preview: Minnesota Vikings

The Detroit Lions will host the Minnesota Vikings to kick off the 2013 season in week one with the return trip to Minneapolis scheduled for week 17. The two teams took steps in completely opposite directions with the Lions following up their 10-6 2011 season with a disappointing 4-12 mark while the Vikings made an unexpected run to the playoffs.

To get a feel for the Vikings side of the preparations for the 2013 season, I got together with Dan Zinksi of The Viking Age for a Q&A. Here are my questions followed by his answers.

1. How would you assess the team’s offseason? Did they do what they needed to do through the draft and free agency?

Did the Vikings truly address all their needs? It’s too early to say. That sounds like a cop-out answer but in fact it’s the only honest answer. They targeted players at their need positions, sure, but did they pick the right guys? Obviously they had to address wide receiver after the Percy Harvin trade, and they made a splashy signing by picking up Greg Jennings. He’s a solid veteran who will be a big help to Christian Ponder. But after that it’s not like they spent a ton of money bringing in can’t-miss free agents. Desmond Bishop was the biggest signing after Jennings and he’s a major question mark. Some of the guys they brought back like Jerome Simpson and Erin Henderson are also question marks. Draft-wise, it’s even more uncertain. Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and Cordarrelle Patterson all have a chance to be good players. But there’s also a chance that none of them will be starting come opening day. There’s a ton of uncertainty with this roster right now. Fans seem to be getting caught up in the potential of these players but realistically, we are a long way from knowing if these moves will pay off. You gave up two pretty reliable veterans in Antoine Winfield and Percy Harvin and their production will be hard to replace. And guys like Kevin Williams and Jared Allen are clearly on the downside.

2. Which Rookie are you most excited to see play in 2013 and why?

I’m going with Cordarrelle Patterson. We keep hearing all about his explosive talent. He has the moves of Percy Harvin and the size and speed of Randy Moss. He is destined to be the greatest wide receiver in NFL history. Easy to get hyperbolic in OTAs and minicamp. Let’s at least see this guy in a real training camp session before we crown him.

3. What is the biggest question that still needs to be answered heading into training camp?

The linebacker situation is certainly the biggest issue. Desmond Bishop was brought in to beat out Erin Henderson at the Mike. Henderson is a decent Will but I don’t think anyone believes he can play the middle consistently. Also, how does rookie Gerald Hodges fit in? Hodges is a former safety who has some coverage skills. The Vikes ultimately want this guy playing for his coverage ability but it’s obvious they are in no rush to get him in there. Right now you have two linebacker positions up in the air. You’re going to need all of training camp and possibly the preseason to get that whole thing sorted out. The only other major camp battle involves right guard where the underwhelming Brandon Fusco is up against rookie Jeff Baca. Oh and of course Adrian Peterson is in a ton of trouble at running back. Or not.

4. What are your expectations for the team in 2013?

I really don’t know what to expect. 2012 was such a weird season. It’s not often you can win 10 games and make the playoffs with such mediocrity at quarterback. Of course Adrian Peterson was overwhelmingly great, which made up for the poor play at quarterback. And in the early part of the year you had Percy Harvin playing at an MVP level. And the defense got better as the season wore on and DC Alan Williams got more familiar with his personnel. I think 2013 hinges on a few things. Can AD have another dominating season? Can the defense continue to get better with the new additions to the roster and Williams’ evolving scheme which figures to move away from Cover-2 and incorporate more press-man looks? And of course most importantly, can Christian Ponder take the next step? Ponder is the great unknown in this. I think most people agree the Vikings won in spite of him last year. Can he truly become a leader this year and begin to use the weapons the team has put around him? Or is he destined to remain inconsistent, sometimes a help to his team but just as often a liability? It’s all about Ponder. That’s why, to me, it’s hard to get a read on what this team will do. 10-6 would not shock me. But 6-10 would not shock me either.

5. Right here, right now, are you marking down the game against the Lions as a win, loss or toss-up?

It’s the Lions so a Vikings sweep is always a possibility. We just own the Lions as everyone knows. But there’s one little factor this year that has me a little worried. Reggie Bush. The Vikes have had a ton of trouble with this guy in the past. If the Lions can get the ball in his hands, he can be a major weapon for them. Having him out there with Megatron makes the Lions’ offense potentially scary. Then again, you look at Matthew Stafford and realize he’s probably not that good despite the gaudy stats. The Vikes don’t seem to have any trouble containing him. So I guess I’ll go out on a limb and predict two Vikings victories.

For more on the Vikings, check out The Viking Age.

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  • 3kolu

    KWill has been the dominant DT of this generation bar none and the plan is obviously to ease Sharif Floyd into the DT 3 tech. position. Floyd doesn’t have to start to make an impact. And, KWill can still come in for a majority of the running situations and be an impact. As far as Jared Allen is concerned, he’s still got 3 or 4 good years left. I’m still expecting 14-15 sacks, yet I wouldn’t be surprised if he nears the 20 mark if he remains relatively healthy. And, the Vikes were just as good with Percy as they were without him because of chemistry. Jennings is an impact WR no matter who’s at QB, so look for him to have a solid year. Rudolph will get even more passes his way, Carlson will be more involved this year and Simpson will hold down the outside till Patterson can get acclimated. if they can win their first 2 road games, which I believe they will, they will be competitive in the NFC North once again.

  • James Kallestad

    Deear Dan Zinski: I was positive this article was written by a reporter from Detroit until I saw you name at the bottom. What did you do for a regular job, coach little league football? You’re wrong at every point with the LB’s questionable. 11-5 with Ponder winning honors.

  • Mike Bridges

    What the hell Zinksi? You have anything positive and productive to say? That had to be the most pathetic interview I’ve ever read with a guy who is supposed to be a Viking fan. In my 40 yrs as a fan of the Purple and Gold that has to be the first time I’ve seen a pundit of a young promising team give the team no shot. First thing you said that was comical was that Jared Allen was on a definitate downturn in his career!! The man had 12 sacks last year! When he plays he still creates havoc, he still hassles the QB and he still gets his tackle numbers up there! I get the feeling that no matter what Allen does, you are going to push for the Vikings to get rid of him. I get to meet and speak to him next week in Birmingham England and I’m going to do my best to bring this up to him and see how he feels about writers like you! Sure, he’s not 25 anymore but, he still gets the job done. You sound as if this team has nothing but Peterson. Especially on O. Speilman has gone to great lengths to have made some great moves this offseason, especially in that great draft. You mentioned Harvin’s great start to last year. What about his flop to the last part? Everyone could see he was blagging it! He didn’t want to be there even tho he tried to say it was the other way around. He tried to make it look as tho he wasn’t wanted there! How about the hot start by Ponder? He had 7 TD’s and no ints in the first 5 games! After Harvin decided to call it quits things got very tough for Ponder. How did you expect him to have great numbers when he had no WR help? Every “expert” has battered the futile Vikings WR corps and even with that knowledge you, and many others, bash Ponder for it! In spite of that BS he did manage a respectable QB rating. He still led the team to the best turn around in team history. Why don’t you and all the other Ponder haters just admit you just dislike him? His 2 years have been tough cuz he’s had no stability at WR! Just tell the truth! Sure, it was absolutely great that AD had that fantastic season! He did carry a big load, not because of Ponder but, because Harvin and the rest of the WR ‘s were a disgrace! When Ponder needed them down the stretch, when the team had to beat some great teams, when the team couldn’t lose another game in order to make the playoffs, he didn’t have even a very good WR to depend on. But, even then, Ponder and AD delivered. The team has some great additions on both sides of the ball and a couple of FA signings along with some great draft picks that could really make a positive difference. The team going into this season will have more positives than last season’s team. I honestly can’t see how you feel that you are a writer for a Viking fan site. You never seem to have anything good to say. You are do off on every point you brought up and I even think the LB position will be improved as well. I see a young team on the up. Unlike you. The team does have a difficult season but I can at the very least see another 10-6….but, I feel it will be 11-5, with improved play by vets and great play from rookies and Ponder will finally start opening eyes and shutting mouths! SKOL VIKINGS!

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  • J.r. Dorland

    I see the Lions Sweeping the Vikings this year. We got rid of some defensive weakness such as Cliff Avril. Our defensive line has gotten young and huge with monkey arms. Our secondary is much deeper and very strong in the safety position and our young corner Slay is surprisingly good. We do have a receiver opposite Calvin named edawrds who has burning up the field and creating remarkable separation and yes he can catch the ball. Now you add the factor that the Vikes will not be able to quadruple cover Calvin because of Edwards and Bush coming out of the backfield, The Vikings lose over and over. Get use to it Vikings Fans.