Work in Sports
Youth movement falls on second-year QB Culpepper
The Minnesota Vikings open their training camp at Mankato State University in Mankato, Minn., on July 23. Here are a few questions from Sports Illustrated's Dr. Z, followed by CNNSI.com's perspective on some of the issues facing the Vikings this season. SI's season preview will post Aug. 23.
Dr. Z wants to know:
1.) Is there some kind of sabotage at work here, with Red McCombs scuttling the team to set up a move out of Minnesota? (I'll grant you, this is a way out, kind of loony rumor, but I keep hearing it.)
2.) Can anyone find a coherent reason why Dennis Green is choosing to go with totally unproven quarterback Daunte Culpepper?
3.) The wideouts were grumbling and calling for Jeff George when Randall Cunningham struggled in 1999. Who will they be calling for this time, if Culpepper has trouble? Bubby Brister?
4.) The Vikings lost four starters via free agency, including the heart of their O-line, G Randall McDaniel and C Jeff Christy. They signed five free agents, none of them a starter. What does this tell you about their plans for 2000?
The Vikings can make the playoffs if ... Daunte Culpepper is ready to be a front-line quarterback. He's not, so the Vikings must wait until he matures. The Vikings took a severe hit in free agency, losing center Jeff Christy, defensive end Duane Clemons cornerback Jimmy Hitchcock among others. Also gone are guard Randall McDaniel and tight end Andrew Glover, blockers who helped pave the way for Robert Smith. If the Vikings falter, head coach Dennis Green has a built-in excuse: An inexperienced QB surrounded by a less-than-stellar supporting cast.
Pivotal games: Coming off its bye week (Sept. 24), Minnesota plays five NFC Central teams in six weeks, four on the road. And it won't get any easier. The final three weeks of the season hold a road trip to St. Louis, a home date against Green Bay and a journey to Indianapolis. ...Maybe this wasn't the year to go with a first-year QB....
On the hot seat: Dennis Green always manages to hold the wolves at bay. This year, though, they may run him off the Vikings sideline. Green brought in Sherm Lewis to direct the offense and Emmitt Thomas to lead the defense. Both were with Green Bay last season (a year in which the Packers failed to make the playoffs). ...Denny's "us" vs. "them" mentality may be wearing thin -- especially with a group of youngsters.
Up-and-comers: Receiver Matthew Hatchette's progress allowed the Vikings to part ways with Jake Reed. Entering his fourth season, Hatchette will be the third receiver behind Randy Moss and Cris Carter. Once Carter steps aside, Hatchette will step up. Last season, Hatchette had nine catches for 180 yards, including a team-long 80-yard TD reception.