‘Barometer’ Season Ahead for Frazier
The Vikings play the first of four pre-season games starting tonight in San Francisco, and then open the regular season at home against Jacksonville on September 9. This is a “barometer” year for coach Leslie Frazier, according to Dean Dalton.
Dalton, the former Vikings assistant coach who hosts an NFL Saturday program on SiriusXM Radio, told Sports Headliners the upcoming season is a “huge” year for Frazier but likely not a situation where if the Vikings don’t make the playoffs the coach is out.
Frazier was interim coach for six games at the end of the 2010 season. That was an unstable season with the Vikings not meeting expectations, a troubled locker room and even the Metrodome roof collapsing.
Then last year the NFL labor dispute prevented the normal off-season and pre-season preparations with players. That was a disadvantage for Frazier who was starting his first full season as Vikings head coach and first assignment as boss of any NFL team.
This year has been normal for preparations and Dalton said the off-season front office move to create more authority in the personnel department is another asset for Frazier. Rick Spielman, promoted during the off-season to the newly created position of general manager, works effectively with Frazier and gives the Vikings more definitive management of personnel than has been in place.
All of this puts more “structure” in place around Frazier, according to Dalton. “Even the stadium is settled,”Dalton said, referring to the off-season approval to build a new facility.
What Dalton thinks ownership wants to see from Frazier’s team this season is progress. Not to be measured so much by wins or losses but by performance improvement.
“You want to show you’re improving every week,”Dalton said. “You want to see a team that is ascending.”
Dalton said Vikings improvement means “there’s no games where the team is mailing it in,” not trying because of the situation or circumstances. “They look competitive (in each game),” he explained. “There’s no situations where there’s turmoil.”
Dalton said Frazier has already demonstrated his leadership in the locker room, showing he’s an “excellent” manager of players. Now Frazier has the opportunity to show what he and his staff can do coaching during a full season in a normal NFL environment.
The Vikings were 3-13 last season and Dalton said five or six wins is probably a reasonable expectation in 2012. “They can be pretty good,” Dalton said. “The challenge is playing teams we know will be very good. It’s tough to say.”
Pro football analysts aren’t forecasting playoff games for the Vikings. Several teams on the schedule look better, including NFC North rivals Chicago, Detroit and Green Bay, and the Vikings are in the process of shuffling personnel. “It’s a young, inexperienced group,” Dalton said.
Dalton suggested fans watch for a couple of developments that will ultimately tell how well the Vikings play in 2012. He said the offense “could be really explosive” if the deep passing game is effective. Stretching the field and taking an extra defender away from the line of scrimmage will create running opportunities for all-world halfback Adrian Peterson.
On defense, Dalton said the “secondary really has to step up.” In the pass-happy NFL, it’s mandatory to have multiple defensive backs who can make plays. Another defensive development Dalton will be watching is the progress of linebacker Jasper Brinkley who is replacing E.J. Henderson.
Progress. There’s that word again.
As of this week, the Vikings had 41 new players on the 90 man roster – 14 free agents, 10 draft choices and 17 undrafted free agents. The roster has to be reduced to 75 by August 27.
Among the storylines to follow in tonight’s game at San Francisco and the other upcoming preseason games is who will emerge as Minnesota’s No. 3 running back behind Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart. Peterson, recovering from his ACL surgery, won’t play for awhile yet and Frazier said Gerhart’s carries will be limited tonight.
Frazier also said that in addition to Peterson, the following injured players won’t play against the 49ers: Robert Blanton, John Carlson, Kamar Jorden, DeMarcus Love, Geoff Schwartz and Jordan Todman.
Because it’s the first preseason game, Percy Harvin won’t return kickoffs. He ran 101 yards on a kickoff return for a touchdown in a regular season game against the 49ers in 2009.
The 49ers roster includes former Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss. Vikings assistant coach Mike Singletary was the 49ers head coach from 2008-2010.
Former Vikings coaches Jerry Burns, Dean Dalton and Paul Wiggin were among those attending last Saturday’s induction of ex-Vikings defensive end Chris Doleman into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The 49ers-Vikings game will be televised on WUCW in Minneapolis-St. Paul. The game will be simulcast on KFAN Radio. Paul Allen will do play-by-play with Pete Bercich providing analysis, plus Greg Coleman and Ben Leber reporting from the sidelines. The Vikings’ other three preseason games, including next Friday at home against Buffalo, will be simulcast on KARE 11 and KFAN.
The 49ers, 13-3 last season, play a regular season game against the Vikings in Minneapolis on September 23.