When you look at the Vikings as they enter the 2010 season, several prominent players could be the focus of this Pressure Point series.
Will Brett Favre return, and if he does, will this be the year that Father Time finally catches up to the future Hall of Famer? Can the offensive line as a whole play better -- particularly in opening holes in the run game? Can E.J. Henderson return to top form after his injury? Is this secondary good enough to compete with the other high-flying teams in the NFC such as New Orleans, Dallas and Green Bay?
But the focus of this piece is on Adrian Peterson. And the reason is simple. He is a remarkable player. In my opinion, he is the best running back in the league and will be remembered as an all-time great when he finally hangs up his cleats.
So why is Peterson under the microscope? First and foremost, the fumbles simply need to stop occurring at such a high rate and at inopportune times. With the number of touches he will always command and his rugged running style, some turnovers have to be expected. Plus, Peterson does run somewhat upright and doesn't curl himself around the football like some other runners.
Still, he has to get better at this skill. He must value the football better and concentrate on keeping the point of the ball between his index and forefingers and the bulk of the ball tight against his forearm, bicep and pectoral muscle while keeping his elbow tight to his body. And he must realize that he now has a huge bull's-eye on his chest from every tackler in the league with his deserved reputation for putting the ball on the ground. He must be more aware. My guess -- judging by the aggression with which he plays and his extremely competitive nature -- is that Peterson is too proud of his craft to allow this to remain a problem.
Lastly, I will be the first to admit that Minnesota's offensive line is vastly overrated in the run-blocking department and clearly the Vikings became more of a passing offense last season than at any point of Peterson's young career, but I want more production overall from this superstar. I know that sounds somewhat ridiculous considering that Peterson ran for close to 1,400 yards, added another 436 as a receiver and got into the end zone 18 times last year. But I hold this young man to a higher standard than any back in the league today -- including Chris Johnson. I just believe Peterson is capable of more.
Barry Sanders didn't usually have a high-end offensive line paving the way for him, but he still excelled year in and year out. Peterson is such a great player that I compare him to greats such as Sanders and Walter Payton. That isn't to take anything at all away from Johnson or any other back in the game today, but no one else offers the total package like Peterson.
One aspect of his game that I would like to see him improve on is showing more patience. At times, he appeared to be trying to do too much too quickly instead of using his tremendous vision and decisiveness. That may have been a result of frustration and not trusting his blocking as he once did. Either way, he needs to help his blockers more and let things develop.
But I also think he is just scratching the surface with his receiving abilities as a whole -- and he made great strides in this department last season.
To me, 2009 should be his floor in terms of production if he plays in all 16 games, even though his supporting cast is more or less the same. By the way -- and this is easy to forget with all he has accomplished in the NFL -- Peterson is only 25 years old. He has the time and ability to improve. I contend that he will get a lot better. Frightening.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.