LAST YEAR: Surpassed rival Packers to win NFC North for first time in six years, before crushing one-point loss to Seahawks at home in record cold capped by Blair Walsh's improbable miss of 27-yard field goal. Defense ranged from decent to dominant under sage supervision of coach Mike Zimmer. Teddy Bridgewater was better than his rookie season, but ranked in bottom third of league in major QB statistical categories except completion percentage (ninth, 65.3). Adrian Peterson won NFL rushing title. Offensive line struggled. WR Stefon Diggs was only one with 500-plus yards receiving.
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IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: Rookie WR Laquon Treadwell, LG Alex Boone, RT Andre Smith, SS Michael Griffin, rookie CB Mackensie Alexander, LB Emmanuel Lamur.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: WR Mike Wallace, SS Robert Blanton, CB Josh Robinson.
CAMP NEEDS: Allow Bridgewater to relax behind beefed-up OL and develop better deep ball. Foster chemistry between him and first-round draft pick Treadwell. Keep Peterson fresh at age 31. Choose starter at RT, with Smith leading candidate among incumbent T.J. Clemmings and injury-comeback hopeful Phil Loadholt. Keep 27-and-under stars of defense healthy: LB Anthony Barr, FS Harrison Smith, LB Eric Kendricks, CB Xavier Rhodes and DT Sharrif Floyd. Pick starter at SS next to Smith. Make sure Walsh's confidence is unshaken after heartbreaking January shank.
EXPECTATIONS: With division title in Zimmer's second year, only place to go now is deep in playoffs. Further progress depends on Bridgewater, of course, along with better blocking in front of him. Deep, determined team, fueled by Zimmer's aggressive, deceptive defensive scheme, has sights set on Super Bowl.
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