Friday, August 31, 2007

Official Minnesota Vikings Preview 2007

It's here! We are less than a week away from the start of the regular season. Most preseason games are completed and now the real fun can begin. So with that, here is a real, detailed breakdown/preview (Fuzz on the Defense, Q on the Offense) of what you can expect from the Minnesota Vikings in 2007.

Winston Churchill once said: “It is no use saying, 'We are doing our best.' You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.”

What is necessary for the Minnesota Vikings to succeed in the 2007 is to have a dominant defense. Our offense is going to struggle from time to time with the most inexperienced QB in the NFL leading the way. Our defense can’t have the attitude that “We are doing our best,” we need make it happen. We need to be a top five defense this year to get to the playoffs. Period. If we fall short of that, we don’t have a chance in hell.

The Vikings were 6-10 last year with a defense that was 1st in the run, 31st in the pass and 14th in points given up. They obviously can’t improve on the run category, but they are going to need improve dramatically on the pass defense and slightly on the total points given up. I’ve been posting everywhere on this site predicting a top five defense for my beloved Purple this year. I’m either on something or onto something. Here is a breakdown of the positions of our (potential) top five defense:

The football experts will tell you that it all starts upfront if you want to have a good defense. Since the extent of my football career was highlighted by a fill-in cornerback role my freshman year of high school for ONE series while the starter got taped up, I’ll take these “experts” word for it.
Overall, we have a pretty good line that is laced with overweight men (Pat Williams), overrated players (Udeze), and NFL stars (Kevin Williams). However, it’s feast or famine with these guys. They are historically awesome in one category (run) and absolutely horrendous in the other (pass).
The Williams’ boys are considered one of the deadliest D-tackle combos in the league. They are so effective against the run it’s scary. Rosie O’Donnell in a two-piece scary. Side note to Cedric Benson: You might have this cocky “I was the 4th pick overall, I’m the new starter for the NFC champions” attitude going right now, but you have no chance against us. Get used to this line: 24 for 52 yds pal. Put that up on your bulletin board. Those lugs weren’t our problem though, it was our D-ends. Udeze started all 16 games last year and didn’t record a sack. Not one! That’s unbelievable if you think about it. We’re hoping the return of Erasmus James from injury, the emergence of Ray Edwards (having a cliché “great camp”), and rookie surprise Brian Robison get enough pressure on the QB to lower that 31 against the pass number. I have faith, do you?

If our defense was the cast of Cheers, our linebackers would be Lilith. The one in the group that always brought the show, and everyone else, down. You want to know how bad we are at this position? In the last 20 years, we’ve had TWO linebackers selected to the Pro Bowl. Jack Del Rio in 1994 and Ed McDaniel in 1998. I’m talking about the same Pro Bowl where 10 guys drop out every year for “personal reasons” and they need to grab 10 more new guys to fill the rosters. Yep we’ve still had just two!
Saying that, last year was the first year where things kind of turned around. We signed Ben Leber (who had a solid year) and EJ Henderson came into his own. EJ won the Butkus award in college and we’ve been waiting for him to emerge. This year, we should be stronger with the return of first round pick in 2006, Chad Greenway. Out with a knee injury all of last year, he’s looking to contribute right away. Leber, Henderson & Greenway better stay healthy though, because after the starters we fall waaaayyyy off with guys I don’t even want to mention.

Fast talking, love boat purchaser Fred Smoot is no longer a Minnesota Viking and this HELPS are secondary. Trust me. He was overrated and we’re better off as a unit without him. We still have the most underrated cornerback in the league, Antoine Winfield who still hasn’t gotten the recognition he deserves. On the other side, we have 2nd year guy Cedric Griffin. Teams will be targeting this young man, but the kid has some serious talent. He was an early 2nd round pick in 2006 from the Texas Longhorns. Texas won a National Title that year and he had to guard a lot of the big time college receivers his last year. That experience will help him this year when he is starting. Another guy to keep an eye on is Marcus McCauley. Those so-called “experts” say he’s first round talent that slipped to the third round. So far he’s making all the right moves. He’s jumped to our third cornerback on the depth chart and we haven’t had a regular season game yet. Shows you how much the coaches like this kid. Side note: I really wish we played Cincinnati this year. There is a rumor that Chad Johnson mailed every D-back he’s playing this year a letter trash talking them. God knows what he said, but I hope this is true. Can I get a confirmation on this? Now onto our safeties...

We’re not dominant at this position, but were very deep. Darren Sharper is considered one of the better safeties in the league and he’s still roaming the field like a centerfielder for us. He doesn’t come up and make the big hit a whole lot anymore, but he does get his interceptions. The other safeties are Dwight Smith, Mike Doss, Tank Williams and Greg Blue. A bunch of names the casual fan probably has no clue about. Dwight Smith is the starter opposite of Sharper but with heavy competition he’s going to need to be great to hold the position. All this depth at both the CB and S position are going to help us in our pass defense, where we struggled immensely last year.

What’s that sound? Do you hear it? It’s the sound of “Top 5.” I love that sound and it’s been a while since I’ve heard it. I can’t wait when we roll into Lambeau or Solider Field and not roll over. Defense isn’t usually an exciting thing to watch, but I’m honestly jacked for our D this year. We’re all about playing defense and breaking hearts here in Minnesota…


Positive and negative. Two words that are polar opposites of each other. To the best of my knowledge, only two groups of people are able to take a positive and change it to a negative (or vice versa): mathematicians and scientists. Since I am no where near either one of those, it makes my task today very difficult. I have been asked to take a negative and turn it into a positive. I speak of the Minnesota Vikings offense.

You have already heard about how great our defense could be. My partner has told you that we can make the playoffs if they are a top five squad. Unfortunately, unless our offense can score some points, it won’t matter how good our defense is. This could prove to be difficult…but not impossible. There are some strengths and areas of potential on this much maligned side of the ball. Let’s break it down so you can see what I mean:

Offensive Line-
Obviously, when talking about the Vikes line, you have to start with all-world guard Steve Hutchinson. The guy anchors the left side of the line and can open a hole big enough for pre-Subway Jared to run through. Hutch has proved to be worth every cent we gave him last offseason. He is joined on that left side by a mountain of a man, Bryant McKinnie (generously listed at 6’8” 335), and former Pro Bowl center Matt Birk. The talent of those three men should give every Vikings fan hope. I know we have shaky receivers and an unproved quarterback, but when you have a high quality O-line it’s easier to hide those faults.
The right side of the line, however, is a major question mark. Artis Hicks and Anthony Herrera are battling for the right guard spot, while Ryan Cook and Marcus Johnson are in a fight for the right tackle spot. These two spots are in such disarray that there is talk of moving guys between tackle and guard (such as starting Cook and Johnson), or even shuffling guys in and out throughout the game. That doesn’t exactly sound promising. That said, there is some high potential in this group. Cook was taken in the second round, and has bounced from center (his position in college) to guard to tackle. If he could settle into a consistent spot, he wouldn’t have to worry about playing time and could just let his talent speak for itself. Johnson is also a second round pick and showed signs last year of coming into his own. Hopefully another year on the job will allow for more consistency.

Running Backs-
It is very well known that the running back position is one of great strength on this team. Last year, Chester Taylor ran for over 1,200 yards (4th most in team history) and had a Viking single season record 303 carries. This “overuse” caused Taylor to slow way down towards the end of the season. However, remember that he was a backup for years in Baltimore before coming to Minnesota, so that sort of breakdown could be expected. In year 2 as the feature back, his stamina should be up and we can expect another 1,000+ yard season and hopefully a bump in touchdowns (he only had 6 last year). He is backed up by Mewelde Moore, Ciatrick Fason, etc., none of whom are significant enough for much mention. And I think that should about cover this position.
Oh wait, I forgot that the Purple drafted some kid out of Oklahoma. I don’t know much about him, but I’m sure they’ll bring him along slowly for a couple of years and then, eventually, he’ll take over for Taylor. Kidding, of course. Adrian Peterson, a.k.a. All Day, a.k.a. AP, a.k.a., AD is the stud running back the Vikes took with the 7th overall pick in the draft. How good is he? At Palestine High School, he broke the Texas high school rushing record and was considered good enough to make the leap to the NFL at 18 (you know, if it were possible). At the University of Oklahoma, he rushed for over 4,000 yards in just 31 games and finished second in the Heisman voting after his sophomore year. And despite breaking his collarbone last year (and reaggrivating it during the Sooners bowl game), he was still considered the best running back in the draft. AP is going to be the man. Period. He’s shown signs of it in the preseason and is getting a ton of hype (all deserved) from the media. I’m already worried about resigning him in 3 years, that’s how good he is.

Wide Receivers-
We now move from the position of greatest strength to the one with the most questions. I know the quarterback situation get the most publicity, but at least there is potential. Most “experts” would tell you that you can’t say the same thing about our group of pass catchers. At least most people can’t.
Troy Williamson is in his 3rd year, normally a breakout year for WR’s, but after his shocking case of the drops last year, there isn’t a lot of confidence in him in Viking Nation. He did go to a fancy Nike eye doctor in the offseason and has looked decent during the preseason, so maybe…
Bobby Wade was brought in to be another burner in offensive sets as well as in the return game. Though he has bounced around the league a bit, he definitely has talent, and if he gets the ball in his hand, no one will catch him…
How do you get excited about the Vikings drafting another wide receiver out of South Carolina when the last experiment from that school turned out so poorly? When he’s a 6’4” pass catching machine named Sidney Rice. He’s going to be good, just watch...

Here we are, the glamour position. Starting quarterback. Who are the most famous and recognizable names and faces in the NFL? Quarterbacks. Manning, Brady, Favre, McNabb, Palmer, the list goes on and on. And soon to be added to that list, Tarvaris Jackson. That’s right, I said it. Most write ups on the kid have been on the fence, fluctuating between talking about his potential, and his perceived weaknesses. Not me. I’m thinking Donovan without the injuries, Culpepper with bigger hands, Cunningham with better instincts. In short, the man. Childress is going to bring him along slowly, so don’t expect too much right away. We will run the ball a ton to take the pressure off of him. But then you’ll start to see it. A deep pass hitting a receiver in stride. A tackle-breaking, third and long bullet to a tight end at the stakes. A 40 yard scamper past grasping linebackers and defensive backs. A high powered, balanced attack that will have people talking Purple all year long.

By this time next year, the Minnesota Vikings will be the “in” pick to make a run in the NFC playoffs. You might be wondering what the basis is for this bold call. A gut feeling. Not very scientific, but it’s the method I’m using to turn this negative into a positive.


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