Fusco harsh in self-critique of struggles

Brandon Fusco knows he isn't playing well and has no one to blame but himself. He took an honest self-critique of what is going wrong with his play.

The last thing any player wants is to be the one pointed out as a weak link on a team. In 2007-08, there were people that viewed the Vikings as a potential Super Bowl contender, with the glaring exception of Tarvaris Jackson as their starting quarterback. It gave Jackson a chip on his shoulder and severely impacted his confidence.

Jackson never fully recovered from that, especially after Brett Favre arrived and it eventually led to him to being shipped out of Minnesota – T-Jack learned the news when the Vikings drafted Christian Ponder during the NFL lockout and gave him Jackson's number.

Vikings guard Brandon Fusco is feeling similarly about the level of his play. He has been identified as the weak link of the Vikings offensive line and, on Sunday, the Bears took full advantage of that perception. They ran tackle-end stunts and brought linebacker pressure directly over Fusco, who was having problems winning individual battles, much less helping out on trying to chip blitzing linebackers.

Fusco is his own harshest critic, but he said he stood out Sunday – for all the wrong reasons.

"They were picking on me a little bit," Fusco said. "I haven't really been playing that well. I know that. I need to start getting back to my game – being physical, keeping my head up and on a swivel, being top-heavy. I just need to get back to my game and get my confidence back."

The Vikings are sticking with Fusco as their starter for now, but it's clear improvement is needed.

Fusco was pointed out by the game analysts on Sunday, for good reason – it seemed like every time the Bears blew up a play and got after Christian Ponder, it was because Fusco struggled to hold up his end. His problem is as simple as getting back to the very basics of pass blocking. His run blocking has graded out well, but, in a passing league, you have to do both and Fusco's pass blocking currently isn't anywhere near the level he wants it to be.

"I play physical, but in my pass blocking, I'm very aggressive," Fusco said. "Maybe I'm throwing my punch little too soon or I'm not watching their hands. I haven't been patient in my pass blocking. In run blocking I'm getting after it, but it's my pass blocking that I really need to focus on that – my technique, my fundamentals, getting back to basics."

When offensive linemen struggle, opposing defenses tend to focus on them and alter their attack to exploit that weakness. Fusco realizes he is under the microscope and admitted it's a problem he is fighting to keep from snowballing out of control.

The coaching staff got frustrated as well. The rotation with Geoff Schwartz at right guard saw Schwartz get more snaps than Fusco for the first time this season. Fusco won the starting job in training camp because Schwartz, a free-agent signing who was brought in to compete along the offensive line, suffered an injury that kept him out all of camp and the preseason. Fusco's biggest challenge now is staying on the field, because he doesn't get a feel for the game being in one series and out the next.

"It makes it tough getting into the rhythm of the game when you're switching in (and out)," Fusco said. "That's a coach's decision. I've got to deal with it. I put myself in this position. I allowed myself to get Geoff some reps."

At times, he has caught himself over-thinking and, when he gets frustrated, he's looking for a pancake block and doing too much. More times than not, that creates more problems and can turn a bad situation worse.

"I'm getting too aggressive and out of whack," Fusco said. "My technique has gone to crap. I've just got to get back to being relaxed, more confident and just back to my technique."

Fusco realizes that his starting job is on the line, but isn't going to let his current funk get the best of him. He's convinced he can right the ship, get back to basics and do the things that won him the starting job in the first place.

"I know I'm good player," Fusco said. "I just have to show everyone what I can do. It's not like I'm nervous out there anymore. I feel like a veteran now, but I've got to go out there and do my job."


John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.



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They ran tackle-end stunts and brought linebacker pressure directly over Fusco, who was having problems winning individual battles, much less helping out on trying to chip blitzing linebackers. Fusco is his own harshest critic, but he said he stood out Sunday – for all the wrong reasons. \"They were picking on me a little bit,\" Fusco said. \"I haven't really been playing that well. I know that. I need to start getting back to my game – being physical, keeping my head up and on a swivel, being top-heavy. I just need to get back to my game and get my confidence back.\" The Vikings are sticking with Fusco as their starter for now, but it's clear improvement is needed. Fusco was pointed out by the game analysts on Sunday, for good reason – it seemed like every time the Bears blew up a play and got after Christian Ponder, it was because Fusco struggled to hold up his end. His problem is as simple as getting back to the very basics of pass blocking. 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