John Crist: The Vikings appear to be a mess at the quarterback position right now and have already had three signal-callers under center in four games. Tarvaris Jackson got off to a horrible start before being sidelined with an injury, so do you think the team would be better off starting him this week now that he's healthy enough to play or keep him on the bench a little while longer?
Tim Yotter: The Vikings invested a second-round draft pick in Jackson, and head coach Brad Childress is sticking by his man. There is some justification to that move, considering Jackson did a good job managing the game against the Atlanta Falcons in the season-opener for the team's only win this season. Jackson's second outing was nothing short of horrible, throwing four interceptions in a game against Detroit that still went to overtime. However, a missed field goal in the fourth quarter and Brooks Bollinger's fumble at midfield in the extra period also contributed to that loss.
Given that Kelly Holcomb's two starts produced a slightly better passer rating but no wins, there is no reason for the Vikings to sit Jackson again as long as his strained groin is healthy enough to let him be mobile. Jackson may not be much better than Holcomb right now but Childress needs Jackson to get playing time to develop, so starting him if healthy enough is the right move in my opinion.
JC: Rookie Adrian Peterson has been even better than advertised so far and looks to be a future star in this league. Will Minnesota continue to split his carries somewhat equally with veteran Chester Taylor now that he's healthy again, or is Peterson pretty much going to be the workhorse the rest of the way since his ceiling is so much higher?
RB Adrian Peterson
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TY: If you had fans and media running the offense, Peterson would be getting nearly every carry, but Childress still wants to split the workload between Taylor and Peterson. It seems there are two reasons for this: One, he wants to keep them as fresh as possible for NFL running backs; and two, he still isn't confident enough in Peterson's ability to pick up all the blitzes that defenses throw the Vikings' way.
There is no question that Peterson is the more explosive and productive runner, but until he either learns the nuances of the passing game a little better or the Vikings' passing game can make defenses pay for blitzing, it's likely to be a timeshare backfield. That's probably the reality of having a rookie running back and a second-year quarterback both trying to develop at the same time.
JC: Minny still doesn't seem to have a legitimate primary target in the passing game since Bears castoff Bobby Wade is currently the team's leading receiver. What happened to Troy Williamson, is Sidney Rice ready for prime time yet, and who in the Sam Hill is Visanthe Shiancoe?
TY: I don't know anything about Sam Hill, but if you ask a draft expert they'd probably rave about his burst, vision and how he was misused in the college game. OK, seriously, sometimes it's easier to divert attention away from the Vikings' receiving corps than it is to think about what once was with Randy Moss, Cris Carter and Jake Reed. Back to the present. Williamson still hasn't completely rid himself of his propensity to drop passes, although he has improved marginally in that area over the offseason, but I also don't think he has shown a consistent ability to get separation from physical cornerbacks. For a speedster, he doesn't get open downfield enough, and he'll either have to improve in those areas or eventually just continue to drop on the depth chart. Wade is a nice, reliable receiver in the slot with some consistency and leadership qualities, but he's best suited as a No. 2 or No. 3 receiver. The future of the receiving corps is probably Rice, who seems to just be getting started in becoming comfortable with the NFL game. His natural ability, with a 6-4 frame and tremendous ball skills, says he should become the team's go-to receiver right now.
As for Shiancoe, the Vikings invested in him on potential and he's been used in spot duty. When they throw to him he has usually produced, but I think part of the issue is that there are just so many new parts with this offense this year that they aren't really in sync quite yet. Shiancoe does have some work to do in his pass protecting, so he's probably not quite the well-rounded product they hope he can become.
JC: Once again, the Vikings have one of the better defenses in football and are stopping the run to the tune of just 62 yards allowed per game – No. 1 in the league. We know about the Williams brothers down in the trenches, but introduce us to the rest of the front seven and why they are having so much success despite a lack of household names.
DT Kevin Williams
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TY: It does start with Pat Williams and Kevin Williams in the middle, but it's not always them getting the tackles. Mostly, they occupy double teams and allow the linebackers to make a lot of tackles and quite a few behind the line of scrimmage. Despite a pass defense that has lacked consistent effectiveness, the defense as a whole continues to focus on stopping the run. It doesn't seem to have hurt them at all that they moved E.J. Henderson from the weak side to middle to replace Napoleon Harris, or that 2006 first-round draft pick Chad Greenway came off of a full season on injured reserve to become the starter on the weak side. But the run-defending success goes beyond just the front seven.
Even the secondary has committed to stopping the run with the best tackling cornerback in football, Antoine Winfield, moving to the slot position in nickel situations to help with run support when needed. The Vikings have everyone trying to stop the run, they are very aggressive doing it and they have the speed to gang tackle. All of those components go into them being very effective against the run.
JC: Minnesota has, however, had trouble defending the pass and is surrendering 266.8 yards per game through the air – 30th in the league. Is this more a product of poor play in the secondary, or are the numbers somewhat skewed because this unit has been borderline impenetrable against the run?
TY: They continue to want to sell out stopping the run, and sometimes that has hurt them as many teams end up giving up even trying to run with any consistency. In Kansas City, after stopping Larry Johnson for the duration of the first half, the Chiefs for the most part abandoned the run and came from behind with their passing game. They aren't the first team to employ that strategy, and they won't be the last. However, the Vikings continue to emphasize the importance of points given up versus yards allowed, and they have been pretty successful there giving up less than 15 points per game.
Nevertheless, with a struggling offense, that still hasn't been good enough to produce wins by the defense alone. Even three defensive touchdowns haven't been able to produce a consistent winner. So while the pass defense receives some criticism, they have produced turnovers, touchdowns and not a lot of points. But since defenses are generally ranked by yards allowed, there is no hiding the fact the Vikings give up a lot of yards per game in the air. They seem willing to sacrifice that statistic as long as they continue to force turnovers, shut down the run and keep offenses out of the end zone.