RSS Mailbag - 1/15

Posted Jan 15, 2010

Do you have a comment or question? Send it to the Mailbag! Every Friday we’ll post several comments or questions as part of Mailbag feature. Although we can’t post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.

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How will the Vikings counter the Dallas defensive line rush and protect Favre in passing situations?
-- Quinten B, Big Lake, MN

This question directly addresses one of the crucial aspects to Sunday’s game. When the Vikings passing attack is clicking, they are a force to be reckoned with, especially at home. There are a number of tactics to utilize when facing a productive pass rush and I expect the Vikings to mix in several of them to keep the Dallas pass rushers off balance. We’ll see the Vikings use RBs and TEs to chip, the Vikings might use a max protection package, they could fade a guard to help against edge rushers and moving the pocket is always an option. Also, screens and draws are good plays to run against a team with a heavy pass rush.

But the #1 way for the Vikings to neutralize Dallas’ pass rush is to get rid of the ball quickly. If the QB doesn’t have the ball, then there’s no one to sack. I expect we’ll see the Vikings try to execute a short passing game that relies on yards after the catch and effective blocking down field.

How is Antoine Winfield's foot? Will he play full time this weekend?
-- Tim, Frisco, TX

I haven’t spoken directly with Antoine about his foot and the only thing we know for sure is that he’s participated in practice all week. So all indications are that he will be playing on Sunday, we just don’t know how much he’ll be playing and in what role. In the Vikings regular season finale against the Giants, the Vikings were selective about when and where they used him. One option this week against Dallas will be to use him primarily in the nickel package and have him play inside against the slot receiver.

Time will tell how and where the Vikings use Winfield, but I think a good guess at this point is that his role will be similar to what it was against the Giants.

How do we limit Dallas' ability to run the screen pass?
-- Eric H, Brooklyn Park, MN

Dallas is a very good screen passing team because they have athletic and strong offensive linemen as well as RBs who are great with the ball in space. Two important factors in defending screen passes are recognition and tackling. The Vikings defensive linemen must be able to read when the screen is coming, make the appropriate reactions and then make tackles.

What 5 key aspects of the game will the Vikings need to accomplish to win the game?
-- Pete O, San Antonio, TX

1. Turnovers – I saw one of the TV networks flash a stat on the screen last week that said home teams that won the turnover battle were 88-5 in the playoffs since 1990. I might be off a little bit on the numbers, but you get the point.
2. Rush the passer – The Vikings have 29.0 sacks this season on artificial surfaces alone. DE Jared Allen and Co. need to get after QB Tony Romo and disrupt the Dallas passing game.
3. Protect Favre – Conversely, the Vikings must protect Favre and allow him to get in rhythm with the Vikings receivers. Dallas is most susceptible in the middle of the field; their CBs are awesome.
4. Explosive plays – Both of these offenses have tons of talent and both offenses are capable of registering explosive plays (runs of 12+ yards and passes of 16+ yards). It’s pretty likely that the winner of Sunday’s game will have more explosive plays than the loser.
5. Special teams – By and large, both special teams units are solid. But they’ve each had a few missteps during the season. A misstep on Sunday might be enough to lose the game.

Is Jamarca Sanford going to get more playing time over Tyrell Johnson?
-- Jeff D, Crookston, MN

It’s far too early to close the book on Johnson. He was a 2nd-round pick in 2008, was thrust into the starting lineup right away because of an injury to Madieu Williams and has produced mixed results to this point. I expect Johnson to continue to start this season, but it is clear that the Vikings coaching staff prefers to have Sanford on the field at times as well. I think Johnson will get the bulk of the playing time the rest of the way this season, but this could be an interesting training camp battle for 2010.

Remember that Sanford is an outstanding performer on special teams, and at this point in the season it wouldn’t make much sense to start mixing around lineups and depth charts. But it’s hard not to be impressed and encouraged by what Sanford has done on defense and special teams this season for the Vikings.