Todd Korth: When is Adrian Peterson most effective? Catching short passes? Running up the middle? Running to the outside? How has he been able to dominate?
Tim Yotter: While Peterson is starting to do it all now, he hasn't been used a whole lot in the passing game, although he is averaging over 17 yards per catch on his 12 receptions. As teams concentrate on him more and more in the running game, he should be used more on screen passes to get him out in space, as his elusiveness is one of his greatest assets. Early on, the Vikings were a bit more leery of his ability to pick up blitzes, but head coach Brad Childress mentioned Wednesday that he is progressing nicely in that area.
Most of Peterson's big rushes have been taking a handoff, looking inside and then bouncing it outside. He has become very good recently at setting up his blocks by moving a defender with a quick fake. He is still very good at picking up 5 yards on runs up the middle to keep defenses honest, but his longest runs tend to come when the middle is clogged and he bounces outside of an offensive tackle.
TK: Why did Brad Childress and his staff take so long to use Peterson as the No. 1 back? Not that Packers fans are complaining, but he only had three carries after gaining more than 100 yards in the first half of the Sept. 30 meeting between the two teams.
TY: No doubt about it that they weren't using him enough early on. As I mentioned, they first cited that they weren't comfortable with his ability to pick up blitzes effectively, a common knock on rookie running backs, but I'm not sure they even knew how talented he would be in game situations. Taking a screen pass 60 yards for a touchdown in the season opener should have been a clue, but they have been very conservative up until recently in getting him the bulk of carries, likely because they didn't want to lose Chester Taylor's attention. However, a hot hand is one that should be exploited, and they are beginning to do that. It was a bit humorous when Childress still called Peterson a backup after he went for 224 yards against Chicago on Oct. 14, but Peterson has since been a starter.
TK: Many Packers fans remember Brooks Bollinger from his days at the University of Wisconsin. How has he progressed this season, and do you think he will start on Sunday?
TY: It's pretty early in the process to know for sure whether he will start or not, and it will all depend on how Tarvaris Jackson recovers from the concussion he suffered on Sunday. That knocked him out for a minute or two and Jackson is taking it seriously. However, Childress continues to say that if/when Jackson is healthy, he's the starter … at least for this year so they can see what they have or don't have in him. But my mid-week guess says that Bollinger probably starts this week and Jackson after that. Interestingly, Bollinger hasn't started a game yet despite having a 112.3 passer rating in three relief appearances while Jackson has the worst rating at 50.6. With a strong running game, like he had at Wisconsin, Bollinger seems to be just effective enough to win. However, the one downside I see to Bollinger is that he tends to run himself into pressure and sacks, and the way the Packers' defensive ends have been playing, that isn't a good thing for players in purple.
TK: Is TE Visanthe Shiancoe getting more involved in the Vikings offense in recent games? Has he been worth the contract that the Vikings gave him this past offseason, in your opinion?
TY: He might be worth the contract if they would use him more, but they just haven't gone to him enough to justify the outlay of cash they made. In games so far, he has proved to be a pretty reliable receiver, better than when he struggled with catching the ball consistently in the offseason. With the Packers giving up three 100-yard efforts to tight ends, it would seem to be the ideal time for Shiancoe to have a breakout game, one that really signals his arrival as a West Coast tight end. He had a five-reception game two weeks against Philadelphia, and that type of game should be the norm for him, not the exception. Unfortunately, he has also been shut out in three games this season as well.
TK: Do you feel WR Robert Ferguson will bounce back from the concussion that he sustained and play against the Packers? Has he contributed much to the Vikings offense this season?
TY: Every indication is that his concussion wasn't nearly as serious as Jackson's. I fully expect Ferguson to play. He wasn't even listed on the injury report. Like Shiancoe, Ferguson hasn't really become a staple in the offense, but it's been even more of a struggle to get Ferguson involved. He has had a few opportunities downfield, one or two that he dropped, one or two that were overthrown, and one that he has hauled in. So it has been kind of a mixed bag, but I talked to him on Wednesday and he is really itching to get more opportunities in the passing game rather than just being counted on to be a good blocker for Adrian Peterson downfield.
TK: Do you feel Brad Childress will be the coach of the Vikings next season if Minnesota finishes with a sub-.500 record?
TY: If it happens to be something like 5-11 or worse, then I don't think you can say he has shown significant enough progress. Plus, the ticket base has really started to fall off since he came aboard at the beginning of 2006. He took over a team that was 9-7 and said it was the best opportunity to win out of the 10 coaching openings in the NFL at the time. He may have overestimated Daunte Culpepper's ability to bounce back from his knee injury and his willingness to work hard in order to do that. But there were also opportunities to get other quarterbacks in here over the offseason and Childress decided that Jackson should be the starter. Better quarterbacking performances this season would likely have the Vikings in contention for the playoffs and right there with the Packers. The facts are that Jackson has struggled mightily and the Vikings still have been in every game this year. So if Childress can't exceed his six wins from last year and show some flexibility in admitting he overestimated some talent, then he might be gone after this season. But the fans probably have a say in that as well with their attendance at games. If that is brutal by the end of the season, it will be hard for an owner trying to gain momentum for a stadium to retain him.
TK: How do you think the Vikings will defense Brett Favre on Sunday?
TY: Much of that will probably be dictated by how the game goes in the first drive or two. If the Vikings are able to get Peterson going and score a couple of touchdowns, they may be content to play their Cover-2 defense, give up some yardage and hope to limit the Packers to field goals. However, if the Green Bay defense is able to limit Peterson and the Vikings offense, then I think they'll have to pressure Favre early. While that could allow him to unload some quick passes, I don't think they can just allow him to sit back and pick them apart if Minnesota's offense isn't producing. The Vikings always say they want to stop the run first, and they have, but in the case of the Packers offense, my opinion is that they need to blitz early and often and take some risks. In turn, that could mean they give up some yardage, but it should also lead to a couple of turnovers for an opportunistic defense like the Vikings have.
Todd Korth is the managing editor of PackerReport.com and Tim Yotter is the editor and publisher of VikingUpdate.com.
Behind Enemy Lines: Part I
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