The week of practice is over and the Vikings are nearly set for their contest against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. Here's what we learned this week about the Vikings-Lions matchup in Week 6.
Barr looking more comfortable in pass coverageThere isn't much that Anthony Barr hasn't done well in his first 16 games. Through 12 games last season, Barr was a contender for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. In the first four games this season, Barr seems to have picked up where he left off, even intercepting Peyton Manning in Denver in Week 4.
Speaking of an interception, it's actually in pass coverage where Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards says Barr is beginning to look more and more comfortable.
"Last year was sort of his first year where he did a lot of covering, walked out in a displaced number two, covering backs, covering tight ends, playing different progressions underneath – that's not something he did a lot of at UCLA," Edwards explained. "And I think after going through last season and really through the offseason, at least being in the meeting room, hearing the terminology, getting the communication between the safety, the nickel, the guys underneath, the corner, you can just tell he's starting to be a lot more communicative himself, so I think that kind of helps the whole out a bunch, where he's not having to second-guess himself or think about what his responsibility is – know what your responsibility is and now understand what the offense is trying to do to attack."
The Chiefs defensive line is banged upIt was known entering this week that Chiefs DT Dontari Poe (knee) was injured and may not be available. He's been ruled out of Sunday's game. But another member of the Chiefs defensive line popped up on the injury report later in the week.
OLB/DE Tamba Hali, one half of Kansas City's disruptive pass-rushing duo (with Justin Houston), has been added to the report with a knee injury and is listed as questionable for Sunday. The good news for Kansas City is they have quality depth up and down the line. DT Jaye Howard is one of the more underrated defensive linemen in the League and he'll be flanked in the starting lineup by veteran DE Mike DeVito and fellow DE Allan Bailey.
The Vikings offensive line, which will go up against that Chiefs defensive front, appears to be healthy. All five players who've started the first four games should be able to go on Sunday. The Vikings are also mostly healthy on the defensive line, with only DE Justin Trattou (foot) out for Sunday.
Chiefs defense similar to BroncosIt won't be a case of "copy and paste" when it comes to the offensive game plan this Sunday, but the Vikings will see a Chiefs defense that is very similar to the Denver defense the Vikings faced in Week 4. An excellent tandem of pass rushers on the outside, disruptive defensive tackles in the middle and CBs who can play press-man coverage.
"The thing about the defense we're getting ready to play, they have two outstanding edge rushers, very similar to what we saw in Denver," Vikings Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner said. "They've got very good cover guys, their corners are outstanding, they're very aggressive, they play a lot of press-man."
Denver was able to sack QB Teddy Bridgewater seven times two weeks ago, so facing a similar defense may cause many to focus on pass protection this week. While pass protection is most certainly paramount, Turner pointed to another aspect of the game that should be important on Sunday.
"Again, obviously, we want to have balance, we want to have success in the running game," Turner said. "If we can have success in the running game that tends to help you in the issues you're talking about in protection. We just have to be very smart on 3rd down."
Charles is out, but Chiefs have capable options ready to goWe learned watching last week's Chiefs-Bears game that Kansas City would be without RB Jamaal Charles when they traveled to Minnesota this weekend. Unfortunately, we also learned that Charles is lost for the season because of the injury he suffered against Chicago – a torn ACL.
While there's no doubt Charles' loss is a big blow to Kansas City' offense, another we learned this week is that the Chiefs have more-than-capable options at RB behind Charles. The team's website examined the subject in this piece.
Figuring out how to move on – and move the ball – is the challenge for Kansas City. The absence of Charles will also pose a challenge for the Vikings defense this week because there's no telling yet exactly how Kansas City will operate on offense now that their No. 1 option is out.