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singersp
11-10-2005, 12:48 PM
Posted on Thu, Nov. 10, 2005

Few signs of an upgrade

The addition of five starters has done little to lift the Vikings from their defensive doldrums.

BY SEAN JENSEN
Pioneer Press

The Vikings partly justified their offseason subtraction of receiver Randy Moss with their addition of five defensive starters.

They signed nose tackle Pat Williams, cornerback Fred Smoot and safety Darren Sharper. Trades brought linebackers Napoleon Harris and Sam Cowart. With the moves, the Vikings expected their long-suffering defense to see major improvement.

New faces, familiar places: The Vikings' defense ranks 26th in the NFL against the run, 23rd against the pass and 27th overall.

Unlike in recent seasons, there have been spurts of success. New Orleans Saints Pro Bowl running back Deuce McAllister managed just 63 yards rushing on 14 carries. The Vikings allowed less than 100 yards passing to the Chicago Bears and Atlanta Falcons but lost both games.

Injuries have been a bugaboo. Safety Willie Offord and defensive end Kenechi Udeze are out for the season after knee surgeries. Linebackers Cowart and E.J. Henderson and Sharper have missed time. And Wednesday, the team learned Smoot will be lost for at least four weeks with a broken collarbone.

There have been other issues. All-pro defensive tackle Kevin Williams was not in optimal shape at the start of the season. His play suffered with the team's shift, based on injuries to Udeze and defensive end Spencer Johnson, from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme.

Now, the Vikings will use the 3-4 as a change of pace, not as their base defense.

Here is a position-by-position analysis of the defense at the midway point of the season.

DEFENSIVE LINE

Among the front seven, nose tackle Pat Williams has been the most consistent performer.

Therein lies the problem.

Williams should play a complementary role, empowering Kevin Williams, the team's young defensive ends and even middle linebacker Cowart to make more plays. By commanding double teams, Pat Williams should free up his teammates for better matchups. But Kevin Williams has just one sack, and the projection of a breakout season for Udeze vanished after his injury in the third game.

Despite a shoulder problem, veteran defensive end Lance Johnstone leads the Vikings with 4½ sacks. The pass rush is not entirely the defensive line's responsibility, especially with the three-game stint in the 3-4. But the Vikings are tied for the seventh-fewest sacks in the NFL with 14, a dismal total for a team that considered its defensive line richly deep.

The offense's ineptitude (19 giveaways) has put the defense in unenviable positions.

After Kevin Williams' offseason knee surgery, his conditioning came into question. In the first two games, he had nine tackles, no sacks and just one quarterback hurry. But he showed encouraging signs Sunday, nearly sacking Detroit quarterback Joey Harrington twice.

Pat Williams has an impressive 44 tackles, and he has a sack or hurry in all but two games. Not bad considering he often is double-teamed. He is tied for the team lead with four tackles for loss.

Darrion Scott has played as expected, solid in run support and adequate as a pass rusher. Johnstone, though slowed by injury, could top 10 sacks for a third consecutive season.

Rookie Erasmus James was set back by a mysterious illness early in the season, but he is starting to show flashes of the ability that persuaded the Vikings to make him a first-round pick. James has only one sack, but he made a difference in the first half against the Lions.

LINEBACKERS

Considered the questionable unit during training camp, the linebackers haven't dispelled that perception. Cowart has fulfilled the Vikings' most basic expectation of him, that he would properly line up his teammates and make good adjustments. His leadership was missed in the one game he didn't play, against Cincinnati.

Players believed that the 70-yard touchdown pass from Carson Palmer to Chad Johnson during the first minute of the game wouldn't have happened had Cowart been on the field. That play set the tone for a 37-8 drubbing.

Cowart has not silenced skeptics who said his best years were behind him. He has 42 tackles and one sack but no tackles for loss.

Linebacker Napoleon Harris, acquired along with the seventh overall pick in the draft in the Moss trade, has struggled. His failure to defend tight ends and play consistently led to a demotion after four games. After undergoing a minor knee procedure, Harris has improved the past two weeks. He had a pass defense against the Lions and a clutch tackle for loss against Carolina.

Dontarrious Thomas and Raonall Smith have not performed at a level expected of second-round picks. They have combined for 37 tackles. Smith generates more buzz on special teams, leading the unit with 13 tackles, than on defense.

Third-year linebacker Henderson has been dependable, and he leads the unit with 45 tackles.

Veteran Keith Newman has been a standout when rushing the passer (1½ sacks and six hurries). The key word is when. Defending tight ends is not his strength.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Cornerback Antoine Winfield has been one of the defense's most consistent performers. Despite a forgettable game against the Bengals, Winfield has reinforced his reputation as one of the NFL's toughest cornerbacks. He is tied for the team lead with two interceptions and is second with 46 tackles.

Winfield was dominant against the Lions, with a game-high 12 tackles, an interception and two passes defended.

Though slowed by injury, Sharper also has satisfied expectations. He provides leadership and patrols the secondary with aplomb. Cornerbacks Brian Williams and Ralph Brown have been sturdy, although the former has missed three games with a knee injury.

Brian Williams, a sure tackler, has displayed another facet of his game: an ability to get after the quarterback. He has one sack and four quarterback hurries.

Reviews of strong safety Corey Chavous and Smoot are mixed. Chavous leads the team with 50 tackles and is tied for the team lead with four tackles for loss. But Chavous' speed and tackling have been questionable at times.

Smoot had one of the worst games by an NFL cornerback in recent memory against Carolina. The Panthers' Steve Smith torched him, collecting 11 catches for 201 yards and a touchdown.

Sean Jensen can be reached at sjensen@pioneerpress.com

twilliamson1914
11-10-2005, 11:37 PM
uhhhhhhhhh...... where were you 2 months ago when this happpened??

singersp
11-11-2005, 12:39 AM
"twilliamson1914" wrote:

uhhhhhhhhh...... where were you 2 months ago when this happpened??

:scratch: Did you read the whole article?

Ltrey33
11-11-2005, 01:07 AM
That's a good article. I think it's a pretty fair assessment too. It shows we still have a lot of improving to do, but we may be on the right track.

cajunvike
11-11-2005, 01:15 AM
"The offense's ineptitude (19 giveaways) has put the defense in unenviable positions."

This is a HUGE reason that the Vikings are 3-5...if the offense plays just a little better, we most likely beat Tampa Bay and Chicago and maybe even Atlanta...and are 6-2 (or 5-3) instead of 3-5 (I think that we still would have lost to Cincinnati and Carolina).

WBLVikeBabe
11-11-2005, 01:18 AM
"singersp" wrote:

"twilliamson1914" wrote:

uhhhhhhhhh...... where were you 2 months ago when this happpened??

:scratch: Did you read the whole article?

yea, never question Singers articles, they are always good reads.

Paulbedy59
11-11-2005, 05:38 AM
Yes they are.I would say Smoot had the worst game by a corner in recent memory because Cottrel did one of the worst coaching jobs in memory.

umaguma1979
11-11-2005, 06:23 AM
Hopefully Tice stays involved in coaching the defense as he was last week. Cottrell cannot be trusted on his own.

twilliamson1914
11-11-2005, 06:27 AM
I finally read the whole article....

Sorry bout that

I took one look and it talk about the upgrades in the offeseason

Never judge a paper by its first sentence

snowinapril
11-11-2005, 06:35 AM
[quote="cajunvike"]"The offense's ineptitude (19 giveaways) has put the defense in unenviable positions."

This is a HUGE reason that the Vikings are 3-5...if the offense plays just a little better, we most likely beat Tampa Bay and Chicago and maybe even Atlanta...and are 6-2 (or 5-3) instead of 3-5 (I think that we still would have lost to Cincinnati and Carolina).[/quote

I have been saying that all along, my title should be turnovers, turnovers, turnovers.

Offensive Penalties and Turnovers have put this defense in a bad position in every loss this season. Most of the games playing from behind early.

snowinapril
11-11-2005, 06:37 AM
"Paulbedy59" wrote:

Yes they are.I would say Smoot had the worst game by a corner in recent memory because Cottrel did one of the worst coaching jobs in memory.

There was an article on here that showed how smoot was left out to hang in the wind and that he didn't play as bad as it looked. In a few cases, he was suppose to have help and didn't. He did get burnt a few times in that game but it isn't all his bad.

He was going up against the hottest WR in the league at this time.