Behind Enemy Lines, Part 1

The Dolphins are set to face the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, so we asked Viking Update publisher Tim Yotter for his thoughts. Part 1 focuses on life after Daunte Culpepper for the Minnesota offense.

Q: What the reaction from fans and the press when the Vikings traded Daunte Culpepper to the Dolphins?

Yotter: The trade of Culpepper received a very mixed reaction from Vikings fans. I don't think fans quite knew who to believe in the rift that formed between Culpepper and (Coach Brad) Childress between the time that Childress was hired and Culpepper was traded. Some felt Childress was being too hard and outspoken in his criticisms of Culpepper's rehabilitation process and refusal to rehab in Minnesota. Others either put the onus on Culpepper for not trying to work with a new coach, or they simply didn't care because Culpepper was having a terrible year in the first half of 2005 before he got hurt. There was also the feeling that Culpepper manipulated the situation to end up Florida. There were reports that the Tennessee Titans had an interest in Culpepper and may have been willing to give up more than Miami did, but Culpepper didn't make a good impression there, maybe on purpose.

Q: Do you think the Dolphins gave up too much for him?

Yotter: While people were split on the decision to trade Culpepper, nearly everyone felt the Vikings didn't get enough in return, despite the fact that he was damaged goods. After trading Randy Moss the previous year, the two faces most associated with the Vikings' strong offenses of the previous five years were now gone. To compound the frustration for Vikings fans, the team passed on a number of more well-known quarterbacks in the draft and selected Division I-AA quarterback Tarvaris Jackson at the end of the second round and traded up to do that. They ended up with three second-round pick in April's draft, with the Culpepper pick being used on offensive lineman Ryan Cook, who most draft analysts thought was a reach in the second round and who has been inactive every game this season.

Q: Did you think the Vikings would be better offensively without him, particularly after the success they had last season with Brad Johnson?

Yotter: The fact of the matter is that Brad Johnson isn't having the success he did last year, but this is a completely different offense with Childress' version of the West Coast offense. It's a complicated offense to learn, and the feeling was that Johnson would have the best shot to learn it quickest because of his familiarity with a similar offense from his days in Tampa Bay and his history of learning other offenses. So far, it's been a struggle for the entire offense, and the receiver corps just isn't very effective right now. A more mobile quarterback than Johnson may help, but, with Culpeppper's injury, he wasn't going to provide that this year anyway. Long-term, however, it looks like rookie Tarvaris Jackson could have a bright future.

Q: How big of a surprise has Chester Taylor been for the Vikings?

Yotter: I wouldn't say that Taylor is much of a surprise to those knew what he did in Baltimore when given a chance, but there is probably a feeling of affirmation that he has held up as well as he has. He was never a full-time starter in Baltimore, and, quite honestly, the Vikings are pounding him. He's one of the top running backs as far as carries and offensive "touches," but very little has come easy. He's been a workhorse for sure, even if it has been with surprisingly limited success.

Q: Q: Has the free agent acquisition Steve Hutchinson made a big difference on the offensive line?

Yotter: Not as big of a difference as it should have. Last year, the Vikings' offensive line really struggled and changes were being made monthly. This year, there haven't been any changes in the starters from week to week (although they are considering it this week), but they just aren't as dominant as they should be. Talent is no longer an issue, but the blocking schemes are being questioned. It doesn't appear that the offensive linemen completely understand the concepts yet and maybe don't buy into them either. It's turning into a hot-point issue behind the scenes.


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