What Adrian Peterson’s return means for the Vikings

With Adrian Peterson apparently pulling a one-eighty and deciding to join the Vikings for OTAs, the question is: What does it mean for the team?
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By Vincent Frank

Now that Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has returned to the team and is participating in OTAs this week, the entire landscape surrounding this situation has changed.

The stunning about-face from Peterson’s camp will likely change the dialogue from what the Vikings are going to do with the veteran running back to how he fits into the team’s offense with young signal-caller Teddy Bridgewater.

Even with Peterson sitting out 15 games due to his child abuse case last year, the Vikings were still able to pull off a surprising 7-9 record. Led by consistently good play from Bridgewater and surprising production from a couple unknowns at running back, the Vikings were much more competitive than many first imagined they would be.

Of the team’s nine losses, five were by one score. Minnesota also finished 6-6 with Bridgewater under center — a sign that the team was trending in the right direction without Peterson.

For Bridgewater’s part, he played well. The 2014 first-round pick tallied over 3,000 total yards with 15 scores and 12 interceptions. And after initial struggles, he picked it up big time. In his final nine starts, the young quarterback threw 13 touchdowns compared to seven interceptions and led the Vikings to a 5-4 record.

Aided by a running back duo in Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon, Minnesota’s offense was better than anticipated. The two combined for nearly 1,600 total yards and 10 touchdowns in Peterson’s stead.

Now that Peterson is back with the team, there’s little doubt that this unit is better off. McKinnon can be moved to more of a specialist role as a change-of-pace guy, while Asiata can act as a short-yardage back in order to help keep Peterson fresh throughout the season. In short, a running back group that had been a question mark just became one of the most talented in the league.

More than that, Peterson’s presence is going to be absolutely huge for the Bridgewater. While Asiata and McKinnon performed well last season, defenses really didn’t need to scheme against them. Assuming Peterson comes back healthy and motivated, it changes the entire dynamic of this offense.

Just imagine how Minnesota’s passing attack will open up with defenses having to play run a majority of the time. Bridgewater will see his receivers out in single coverage on a consistent basis. And based on his accuracy at this stage, it’s going to present a major issue for opposing defenses. Enter into the equation Mike Wallace and the return of tight end Kyle Rudolph from injury, and there is reason to believe Bridgewater will take a drastic step forward in 2015.

We have no idea how the entire Peterson situation is going to play out. He could decide to hold out of training camp. The Vikings could decide that they are better off as an organization without him. Heck, Peterson may return as a shell of his former self.

However, the reality of the situation is that Minnesota is a vastly improved football team with Peterson in the mix. He pushes two young running backs down a notch on the depth chart. He adds a dominating dimension to a Vikings offense that now possesses talent at every tier. If all goes according to plan here, there’s no reason to believe this team won’t contend for a playoff spot with Peterson in the fold. There is just too much talent throughout the roster.

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