RSS Mailbag - 1/22

Posted Jan 22, 2010

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I felt the Cowboys had a very good front 7 with Anthony Spencer, DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, etc. Do you think the Saints have a chance of slowing down Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor? My personal opinion is AP will have a breakout game. What is your opinion? Can the Saints defensive front compare to the Cowboys?
-- James M.

One major difference in the front 7s is that the Cowboys employ a 3-4 defensive front and the Saints are a 4-3 team. So there is a fundamental difference between the 2 defenses. From a talent standpoint, one might argue that Dallas has the edge, although Dallas is sitting at home and the Saints are still playing, so New Orleans’ defense is doing something right.

My thought is that New Orleans will do to the Vikings what every other team has done to the Vikings – focus on stopping the run and Adrian Peterson first. In spite of QB Brett Favre’s fantastic season, teams continually prioritized stopping the Vikings ground game. I don’t see any reason why the Saints would approach it differently.

With that being said, the Vikings could very well find a way to use the run effectively to keep the defense off-balance. This is exactly what they did against Dallas last week. Peterson and Chester Taylor combined for 86 yards rushing, which is okay but not great. The point, though, is that the Vikings were able to run the ball a total of 33 times, and that kept Dallas off-balance and it forced their outstanding pass-rushing OLBs to honor the run instead of simply pinning their ears back and focusing on Favre.

What do you think about getting a kicker to kick the ball off and put it in the endzone every time? Keep Longwell as the FG Kicker, but let’s bring someone in who can boot the crap out of the ball. This would take care of any special team coverage problems.
-- Ryan N., Jamestown

Having a kicker who can boot kickoffs into the endzone for touchbacks is valuable because it forces the opposing offense to drive 80 yards and it also eliminates the chance for kickoff return TDs, as Ryan pointed out. Dallas does indeed dedicate one of their roster spots to a kickoff specialist. The tradeoff, though, is that instead of having 50 roster spots dedicated to non-specialists (kicker, long snapper and punter) you have only 49. That means you get one less player on your 53-man roster, and one less player on your active game-day roster (45 players), which makes you less flexible to make lineup changes.

It’s a numbers game and a matter of a coaching staff deciding what they value, a better chance for touchbacks or more flexibility in their lineup options. For the Vikings, with how well Longwell can control the accuracy of his kickoffs – which helps the coverage team – I think they are better served to keep Longwell as their kickoff option and maintain the flexibility in their game-day lineup options.

Can someone please tell me why was Darren Sharper was let go? I’ve been asking this question for a while but no one seems to give me an answer. I know he was a free agent but why didn’t Vikings resign him?
-- Nate F., Blog comment

It’s very easy to throw criticism at the Vikings for letting go of Darren Sharper now that he’s had a great season for the Saints. But coaches and personnel departments don’t have the luxury of hind-sight; they have to make important decisions based on what they’ve seen on film and what they have coming up through the ranks.

For the Vikings, Sharper wasn’t a great fit in the defensive scheme, he was getting into the later stages of his career and his presence in the starting lineup was stunting the growth of Tyrell Johnson, a 2nd round pick from the 2008 draft.

In the long run, it was probably a wise decision to move on from Sharper and begin the transition of Johnson and rookie Jamarca Sanford.

Also, you have to consider the price of bringing Sharper back. He would’ve been an expensive player to re-sign and doing it might have precluded you from making other moves, such as adding a veteran QB (Favre) or signing younger core players to long-term contract extensions.

Will Adrian Peterson be used more for screen passes against the Saints?
-- Patrick R., La Crosse, WI

The simple answer to this question for me is “I don’t know.” I haven’t been in the game plan meetings so I’m not sure what the exact plan is. But I’d guess he’ll be as involved in the passing game as he’s been all season. I actually think Chester Taylor, at this point, is a better option in the screen game than Peterson. That’s not taking anything away from Peterson – he’s improved as a receiver and he set a new single-season career-high for receptions this year with 43. Rather, it’s a compliment to Taylor, who is a versatile threat in the Vikings offense and should be utilized in any way possible.

Hey Mike, do you think Percy Harvin will have a bigger role in running the ball? He seems to be effective at it.
-- Benson, Blog comment

He is clearly effective at running the ball – Harvin set a new franchise record for rushing yards by a WR. I’d say the same thing as I said in the previous answer regarding Peterson – he’ll probably be used the same amount he’s been used in recent games. Harvin is excellent with the ball in his hands and the Vikings will try to get the ball in his hands in a variety of ways, from handoffs to screen passes to pass routes.

Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell was asked a similar question on Thursday; here was his response: “We’re trying to put Percy in as many places as we can. We want to make sure we don’t have him just lined up in one spot where you can take him away. We need to be conscious of that, whether it’s Percy, whether it’s Sidney, all of our guys. Ones that they may, as we talked about earlier, have a chance to double. To answer your question: I think it did have the desired effect. Again, it’s important to get the ball in his hands, sometimes to throw it, but sometimes the easiest way is just to hand it to him in some form or fashion.”

How do the Vikings prepare for the noise level they will experience at the Superdome on Sunday?
-- Dave C., Sauk Rapids

The Vikings pump in artificial crowd noise through giant speakers during the week of practice leading up to road games. It’s also not uncommon for them to practice with crowd noise during home games. Remember, defenses must communicate just as offenses do and loud crowd noise inhibits communication for the defense as much as the offense.