How can the Vikings protect Teddy Bridgewater? The second-year quarterback was pressured more often than any other passer in the NFL in 2015, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and he's been sacked 83 times in 29 career games. Veteran offensive line starters Phil Loadholt and John Sullivan will be trying to return from a torn Achilles and two back surgeries, respectively, and the Vikings will have a decision to make on Loadholt, who's scheduled to carry a $7.75 million cap figure in the final year of his contract. But after a tough first season for rookie T.J. Clemmings, the Vikings might have to figure out whether Clemmings is ready to be the full-time right tackle. In any case, the Vikings have to do something to create more consistent protection for Bridgewater, who's been forced to run from pressure too often in his first two seasons.
What's the offensive identity of this team? Adrian Peterson will be back at age 31 after leading the NFL in rushing yards this season in his return to the league. The Vikings based their offense on a power running game with Peterson. But it took them until late in the season to find an approach -- a quick passing game -- that would work for Bridgewater. Coach Mike Zimmer said last week that the Vikings want to be more explosive on offense and have had to manage things too often this season. That's due in part to the Vikings' protection issues, but there were rumblings in the second half of the season that Bridgewater was frustrated with the direction of the offense. Zimmer said in December that the quarterback was still learning how much he could speak up about what he wanted in the game plan. Whether it's helping Peterson get comfortable in the shotgun or working with Bridgewater on more of the downfield throws Norv Turner wants in his offense, the Vikings have to find an approach that fully accommodates both of their offensive keystones. Zimmer has gotten more comfortable with the Vikings' offensive game plan, too, so he might speak about the approach more often.
Does the wide receiver group need an upgrade? As impressive a rookie season as Stefon Diggs had, catching 52 passes for 720 yards, the Vikings might need to add another dynamic receiver to their offense, particularly if they part ways with Mike Wallace, who's scheduled to make $11.5 million in 2016. The Vikings could still use a big target in their receiver group; it doesn't appear the 6-foot-2 Charles Johnson is the answer after the Vikings took him out of the lineup in the season's final weeks. And Cordarrelle Patterson, who was used almost exclusively as a kick returner, has a non-guaranteed salary of $1.389 million next year. We'll see how much a kick returner, who hasn't worked out as a receiver, is worth to the Vikings.
Who's the safety next to Harrison Smith? The Vikings played Andrew Sendejo next to Smith for most of the season, but they could look for an upgrade. Third-year man Antone Exum and second-year player Anthony Harris could get a chance to compete for playing time at safety, with Sendejo scheduled to hit free agency, or the Vikings could spend a draft pick on a player they could develop next to Smith.
Can Trae Waynes take the next step? With Terence Newman set to hit free agency in March and turn 38 before next season, the Vikings could see whether Waynes, the 11th overall pick last year, is ready to start at cornerback opposite Xavier Rhodes. They could also look to bring back Newman, who has a great relationship with Zimmer and played well at age 37, but at some point the Vikings need to find out what they have in Waynes, who didn't play much on defense this season. That's not necessarily a bad thing, Zimmer said last month, "if a guy is talented and wants to work hard. He's talented."