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Vikings looking so far, so good (08/31/2011)
By John Edstrom

...this is going to take some luck

Well fans, could it be that this season might prove the opposite of last year, when everyone was stoked with Super Bowl aspirations and the same team that fumbled away a trip to the Big Game down in New Orleans would surely make another deep run into the playoffs? Instead, the defense was only mediocre with injuries to the cornerback position, shoddy play at safety, an unexpected lack of pass rush, and uncharacteristic inability to stop the run.

Meanwhile, on offense, a great was initiated by an offensive line which typically allowed penetration into the backfield, disrupting both the rushing and passing attacks. What’s left – special teams? Adrian Peterson was hit well behind the line of scrimmage more often than not, making the all-important play action an empty gesture. Brett Favre was knocked around like a tackling dummy and began to act his age, while sadly missing favorite receiver Sidney Rice, who underwent an operation for a hip injury no one even knew about, effectively ending his season.

The Metrodome collapsed and might as well have landed on Brad Childress, whose every roll of the dice came up craps, the worst of them Randy Moss. By the time Childress was fired it didn’t appear anyone was listening to him anymore. A universal, glum we-told-you-so went up from all of the unbelievers in the Childress/Bevell offense who had been temporarily silenced by the Favre heroics of the previous season. (So far the antics of Bevell and Tarvaris Jackson out in Seattle are warming the hearts of mean-spirited fans of the Purple.)

With none of these problems addressed during an off-season roiled by labor tumult, it was a rare Vikings fan who held out much hope for this season, with the Cheeseheads looking invincible and the Bears and Lions resurgent.

After three exhibition games, however, there are glimmers of hope. It appears that Donovan MacNabb was the right choice in a veteran QB – he has looked fit, athletic, and strong-armed, a good bet to hold down the starting position for the entire season, giving Christian Ponder invaluable seasoning. In a bold move by the new Frazier regime, that sullen, slovenly, sloppy, long-term underachiever, Bryant McKinnie has been sent packing, replaced by Charlie Johnson from Indianapolis, an acclaimed good citizen. Saturday night vs. the Cowboys he played a solid game on a solid offensive line, news for which fans of the Purple have thirsted.

Adrian Peterson was given room to run and resumed his pile-moving ways while breaking into the defensive backfield regularly. Had he been left in the game he would have gained 200 yards. Now, the defenders have to show some respect for the play action, unlike last year’s painted old tart, and that yielded the long strike to Bernard Berrian in the first series. Could it be that he and Favre just had a bad chemistry? As well, the other receivers vying for roster spots are suddenly showing promise rather than floppy ears and tails, while Bill Musgrave’s tight end friendly offense shows some spark and imagination.

On defense the best news is that CB Cedric Griffin seems to be healthy, and former Gopher Marcus Sherels has impressed in training camp and will make the team. Unfortunately, Chris Cook is hurt again (hamstring) and Asher Allen has a bad toe, so the cornerback position is a question mark for the Vikings as usual, and it doesn’t appear that anything or one is set at safety either.

The defensive line has been looking good, despite big Pat Williams’ departure, with Letroy Guion and Fred Evans stepping up, and rookie Christian Ballard showing some pass rushing skill. At linebacker Erin Henderson seems to be stepping in well for Ben Leber and, of course, his brother E.J. and Chad Greenway will be solid as usual. What is needed here is depth, and the same could be said for the Vikings in general. If they stay healthy, they could surprise a lot of people in the NFC North. 


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