Vikings Concerned with Jags

In this Sunday's matchup between the Vikings and Jaguars, Jaguars fans know all about the explosive running of Adrian Peterson, the enormous and enormously talented interior defensive line with Pat and Kevin Williams, and the great pass rushing disruption that is Jared Allen.

"(They are a) big, strong group," Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio explained. "(They are) talented across their football team. Obviously offensively it centers around their backs. They have got two very gifted athletes back there that get the ball a lot. They got speed at receiver. They've got multiple tight ends that they utilize. They got a big offensive line. So it is a good group. Then defensively it's probably the deepest group of biggest, strongest front four guys in the league. So it is a pretty good group. So they've got good players throughout their team. They've got eight or nine Pro Bowl guys. So it's a good football team. I know both of the teams that are lining up this Sunday would like to have better records, but we are where we are and we are excited to get a chance to go battle a good team."

Even though the Jaguars have a 4-6 record, Vegas marks them as three point favorites in this matchup. The question is why? Vikings head coach Brad Childress sheds some light on the issue of what concerns his team the most with the preparation of playing Jacksonville.

"Jacksonville, obviously, is a very talented team," Vikings head coach Brad Childress explained. "I know they've had injuries of their own, but they were in the playoffs last year. It starts with their running backs and quarterback. They do like to run the football, and they'll go to the play action. David Garrard might have the strongest arm that I've ever seen at the combine, just being down on the field. I'm talking about sideline velocity. Obviously he can move around a little bit, but he's an accurate, strong thrower. (I have) a lot of respect for him and how he's established himself. Defensively, it's a big defensive front. Derrick Harvey is in there playing now. John Henderson, I know, has been deactivated the last couple of weeks. I would expect to see him this week. (They're) tall and they've batted a lot of passes down. (They're) physical in the front. You might say that the strength of there is the speed in the linebackers that they have that move-around and runaround. They can run a lot of different things down, so we have our hands full going on the road against a team that was a playoff team and has shown that they can win."

Just has Jacksonville has had issues with stopping opposing tight ends, so has Minnesota, and one of the few matchups that should swing in the Jaguars favor is the tight end position.

"Most people are going to run down the middle and try to hit a shot on you, in the middle read," Childress said. "They just so happened to have a 6-6 or 6-7 tight end that they threw up in a good spot, and he made a hell of a play on the football. Marcedes Lewis is a good player for them, a good speed guy. I'm sure that they will, just like everybody does, try to use the tight end, just like we try to use ours."

Another area of concern for Minnesota is special teams. Although the Jaguars have modest rankings of 12th and 15th respectively in punt return and kickoff return average, they have a game-breaker in Brian Witherspoon. Minnesota, conversely, is ranked 10th in kickoff coverage and dead last in punt coverage, allowing an average of 18.1 yards per return, including a league high four returns for touchdowns. No other team in the league has allowed more than two.

"There are plenty of guys in this league that do both (kickoffs and punt returns); we are facing one again this week, Witherspoon," Vikings special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro explained. "But catching a punt and catching a kickoff are two completely different things. I am not going to call it easier – it is simpler to catch a kickoff versus a punt. A punt is a whole different thing."

The Vikings may just counter with their best playmaker on special teams, as running back Adrian Peterson could return a kick here and there. You simply can't get the ball in that guy's hands enough, and having him return kicks could set Minnesota up with great field position.

"Adrian wants to be back there," Ferraro said. "He'll go to the head coach even before we go to him. So when those situations have come up in the past Adrian has been right there wanting to do it."

To many Jacksonville fans, this Sunday's matchup looks like a mismatch in a lot of areas for the Jags. Minnesota runs the ball well, and they stop the run as well as anybody. They put pressure on opposing quarterbacks and they force turnovers. Still, if Vikings head coach Brad Childress's concerns are legitimate the Jaguars will have a good chance of bettering their current 1-4 home record. At least Vegas thinks so.

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