3 Minnesota Vikings

They stop the run like no one else--now the offense, with a second-year QB and a rookie running back, must improve
September 02, 2007

WHAT'S NEW

> With 2007first-round pick Adrian Peterson, who rushed for 4,045 yards in31 games at Oklahoma, slated to become the team's workhorse running backbehind what might be the best left side in football, Minnesota should be abetter rushing team than last year's 16th-rated group. Strength on the groundis also the hallmark of the defense, which last year held teams to a remarkable2.83 yards per carry, third-best for a run defense since the league wentto a 16-game schedule in 1978. (Amazing but true: The Super Bowl-champion Coltsgave up 111 more rushing yards per game than the Vikings, who went 6-10.) Withtwo star defensive tackles back--run-stuffer Pat Williams and pocket-disrupterKevin Williams--the run D won't let this team down. Rushing the passer isanother matter, but the return of speedy outside linebacker Chad Greenway, the2006 first-rounder who missed his entire rookie season after tearing his leftACL in his first preseason game, should make passing downs less painful towatch.

WHERE THEY'REHEADED

> The Vikingswere the most-flagged team in football last season (123 penalties enforcedagainst them) and one of the most inefficient on offense--26th in scoring, 23rdin total yards. This after hiring a scholarly offensive coach, Brad Childress,to turn the team around after a troublesome 2005.

If a practice inmid-August was any indication, the Vikes' discipline still needs work. First,tackle Ryan Cook had a false start and took a punishment run. Two plays laterguard Anthony Herrera jumped, and he had to run too. A couple of minutes later,a third false start in a seven-play stretch was whistled. Yes, it was a monthbefore the season, but it's an area that must improve.

The best thingthat happened to the offense on this day? Easy. Fiesty second-year quarterbackTarvaris Jackson--who might level a blow better than he completes apass--lowered his shoulder in the open field and blasted Kevin Williams, anAll-Pro defensive tackle, to the ground while staying on his feet andcontinuing a long run. "That's one of the things we like aboutTarvaris," says guard Steve Hutchinson. "He's got a lot of spunk."But if the Vikings rely on Jackson in the open field to spark the offense, then1) Brooks Bollinger will be playing by October, because Jackson will neverlast; and 2) it's going to be a very long year in Minnesota.

Childress, whotutored Donovan McNabb in his early years in Philadelphia, says he won't letthat happen--that Jackson, who was drafted in the second round out ofDivision I-AA Alabama State in 2006, is not going to be a running QB whohappens to throw once in a while. "The quarterback in this offense will bethe ultimate decision maker, the guy who takes care of the football and movesthe chains," Childress says. "Everybody wants to put this kid in abox--southern conference black quarterback, runs first, throws second. Totallywrong. He's ahead, systemwise, of where Donovan was after one year. Is he readyfor everything defenses will throw at him? Is anyone ready in Year 2?He'll be fine. He's just got to manage the game. The question is, Will we begood enough around him?"

Minnesota willneed to be more efficient. "We've got to get our team intothird-and-manageable a lot more often," says Hutchinson. That will come ifPeterson, who will share duties with incumbent Chester Taylor, can make a quicktransition from Norman to Minneapolis and be the impact back the Vikingsdrafted him to be. The rookie looked strong in the preseason and didn't favorhis balky left shoulder in an impressive eight-carry, 70-yard performance inthe first half against the Jets on Aug. 18. "I'll be ready to put ashoulder into anyone I need to," Peterson said during camp.

The big questionon defense--other than What can the Vikings do for an encore?--is howMinnesota's defenders will adjust to a new teacher. Ever-challengingcoordinator Mike Tomlin now coaches the Steelers, and quiet Tony Dungy-discipleLeslie Frazier takes over. Look for more blitzing than Tomlin did last year."We'll miss Mike a lot," says Pat Williams. "He was never afraid tocall players out, and Leslie's quieter. He lets his coaches coach. But it's onthe players." Childress has encouraged the defense to study some of Eaglescoordinator Jim Johnson's blitz packages for inclusion in the Vikings' scheme,perhaps with safety Darren Sharper trying to cause more havoc in opposingbackfields.

"We'll attackoffenses a little differently," says Greenway, who looked superb intraining camp. "We've got to do a better job limiting big plays in thepassing game." And making plays in their own passing game. That would helptoo.

PROJECTEDSTARTING LINEUP

WITH 2006STATISTICS

COACH BRADCHILDRESS (6-10 in NFL), second season with Vikings

BOBBY WADE (NewAquisition)

POS WR

REC 33

YARDS 461

TD 2

 

CHESTERTAYLOR

POS RB

ATT 303

YARDS 1,216

AVG 4.0

REC 42

YARDS288 

AVG 6.9

TD 6

 

TARVARISJACKSON

POS QB

ATT 81

COMP 47

PCT 58.0

YARDS 475

TD 2

INT 4

RATING 62.5

 

TONYRICHARDSON

POS FB

ATT 5

YARDS 12

AVG 2.4

REC 13

YARDS 111

AVG 8.5

TD 0

 

TROYWILLIAMSON

POS WR

REC 37

YARDS 455

TD 0

RYAN COOK

POS RT

HT 6'6"

WT 328

G 6

 

ANTHONYHERRERA

POS RG

HT 6'2"

WT 315

G 2

 

MATT BIRK

POS C

HT 6'4"

WT 308

G 16

 

STEVEHUTCHINSON

POS LG

HT 6'5"

WT 313

G 16

 

BRYANTMCKINNIE

POS LT

HT 6' 8"

WT 343

G 16

 

VISANTHE SHIANCOE(New Aquisition)

POS TE

REC 12

YARDS 81

TD 0

 

DEFENSE

CHADGREENWAY*

POS WLB

TACKLES 156

SACKS 2

INT 1

 

KENECHI UDEZE

POS LE

TACKLES 29

SACKS 0

 

PAT WILLIAMS

POS DT

TACKLES 44

SACKS 1

 

KEVINWILLIAMS

POS DT

TACKLES 36

SACKS 5

 

RAY EDWARDS

POS RE

TACKLES 10

SACKS 3

 

BEN LEBER

POS SLB

TACKLES 46

SACKS 3

INT 1

 

ANTOINEWINFIELD

POS CB

TACKLES 97

INT 4

 

DWIGHT SMITH

POS FS

TACKLES 78

SACKS 1

INT 4

 

E.J.HENDERSON

POS MLB

TACKLES 109

SACKS 3

INT 2

 

DARRENSHARPER

POS SS

TACKLES 67

SACKS 1

INT 4

 

CEDRICGRIFFIN

POS CB

TACKLES 41

INT 2

 

RYAN LONGWELL

POS K

FG 31-25

POINTS 90

 

CHRIS KLUWE

POS P

PUNTS 93

AVG 42.3

 

NEWACQUISITION

*2005 collegeStats

> 2006 RECORD6-10 NFL RANK (Rush/Pass/Total): OFFENSE 16/18/23 DEFENSE 1/T31/8

2007 SCHEDULE

SEPTEMBER

9 ATLANTA

16 at Detroit

23 at Kansas City

30 GREEN BAY

OCTOBER

7 Bye

14 at Chicago

21 at Dallas

28 PHILADELPHIA

NOVEMBER

4 SAN DIEGO

11 at Green Bay

18 OAKLAND

25 at N.Y. Giants

DECEMBER

2 DETROIT

9 at San Francisco

17 CHICAGO (M)

23 WASHINGTON

30 at Denver

(M) Monday

SCHEDULE STRENGTH

NFL rank T18

Opponents' 2006 winning percentage .500

Games against playoff teams 7

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THE KING 500

Steve Hutchinson
23
Guard

The Vikes allowed 43 sacks and averaged a middling 4.1 yards a carry in'06--not what they expected when they signed football's best drive blocker-passblocker-pulling guard for $49 million. Now Hutchinson has adjusted toMinnesota's zone-blocking schemes. "The key is knowing how the guy next toyou is going to respond to the defense," he says. "We've worked a loton it in this off-season. We'll be better."

 

PHOTOMARK BRETTINGEN/WIREIMAGE.COM Outsidethe box
The Vikes like Jackson's energy but want his arm to be his callingcard.
PHOTOTOM DAHLIN/WIREIMAGE.COM

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)