For the past several seasons, Minnesota Vikings' fans have entered the season confident of three things. The first was that the team had some talented playmakers. The second was that that talent almost certainly would be improperly utilized. The third was that the team was committed to a quarterback and a style of play not suited to that quarterback--no matter the consequences.
In 2014, the knowns about the Vikings have shifted. The team now has greater question marks at some positions, with less certainty on the defensive line and in the linebacking corps. Those uncertainties likely will be off-set, to a degree, by a far more pedigreed coaching staff that has already made clear, at least at the quarterback position, that it will favor production over promise (at least for now).
In Cincinnati, new Vikings' head coach Mike Zimmer led one of the more productive defensive units in the NFL. In his short time in Minnesota, Zimmer has already made clear that he prefers a defense that mixes schemes and presses the opponent--both critical to defending in the current NFL and both anathema during Leslie Frazier's run in Minnesota.
On offense, Vikings' fans should expect tight ends to contribute over the middle and in the red zone, running backs to contribute as receivers, and receivers to extend the field. These, of course, were all foreign concepts under offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, as Vikings' fans watched Kyle Rudolph, Greg Jennings, Adrian Peterson, and Cordarrelle Patterson, among others, used as decoys and short options as much as anything.
What transpires for this year's Vikings' team will depend greatly on how quickly the defensive line and linebacking corps learn the defense, how well the Vikings' secondary plays with new players, new starters, and a new system, how well the offensive line plays, and whether Matt Cassel can be ordinary to better most of the time. In short, the season has many unknowns. What appears evident so far, however, is that the team at least has a better handle on the fact that change was imperative and more competent leadership capable of making positive, progressive, and incremental change a reality.