Charlotte, NC- Here is a look at the defensive preview for Sunday game at the Vikings.
This group of players will once again play a major role in the outcome of this game. The difference between the two teams though will each lines focus. Carolina's first priority will be to get pressure and contain Dante Culpepper. The less time he has to set back and scan the field the better. You can say that about just about any quarterback in this league, but Culpepper is throwing to Randy Moss. Carolina's line has to make him as uncomfortable as possible or they are going to be in for a long day. Also Carolina's defensive line comes in with the most sacks in the league with 8. Fox will be playing the same starters as last week, LDE Julius Peppers, DT
Brenston Buckner, DT Kris Jenkins, and RDE Michael Rucker. DT Sean Gilbert and DT Shane Burton will see plenty of actions as well. Can Peppers and Rucker keep up their little battle for most sacks???
Minnesota's front four comes into this game as one of the best in the league against the run. That is something Carolina will be looking to do, since Fox's focal point is to pound the ball. Their job will be to stop Lamar Smith. Smith hasn't looked great this year, but has seemed get the yards when he needed to. This stat might be a little over blown, considering teams are trying to take advantage of Minnesota's weak secondary. Minnesota's starter will look like this: LDE Kenny Mixon, DT Fred Robbins, DT Chris Hovan, and RDE Lance Johnstone.
Dan Morgan is slowly becoming one of the dominant middle linebackers in this league, and continues to leads Carolina's line backing corps. Mark Fields has been slowed a little recently with a sore shoulder, but all appears to clear for him to have a strong performance against the Vikings. Hannibal Naives is also starting to show that he can be more than just solid on the outside. He as been able to do a good job in run support in the first 2 weeks of the season. This group will have to keep an eye out for screens and a quick dump off the backs when Culpepper is in trouble. Not knowing which back they will face majority of the time could cause some problems, Moe Williams, Doug Chapman, and Michael Bennett are all expecting to see playing time.
With what Minnesota lacks in speed it makes up for with experience and hard nose play. The leader of their defense is their middle linebacker Greg Biekert. After signing a contract right before the season started, he came right in and got down to business. He will be a force against the run, and Carolina will have to figure out a way to keep him for being to disruptive. On the outsides will be Lemanski Hall and Henri Crockett.
Actually this section has the potential to have a new title, The Burn Zone. Unless both of these groups play a great game, it could get ugly and very quickly. Both quarterbacks will be looking to go deep and go deep often. The safeties will have plenty of work helping with coverage. Carolina will probably use Deon Grant to help double up on Moss. He matches up the best size wise against him, and can come with a pick if the chance is given. Carolina will also have to deal with Dewayne Bates and Derrick Alexander. The starting corners, Terry Cousins and Reggie Howard will have their hand full. Terry Fair is trying to push his way into the starting lineup and will see plenty of playing time. Mike Minter will line at his normal strong safety position, and will be looking to add another Int to his stat sheet, after returning one for a touchdown last week.
Minnesota will have the same match up problem against Carolina's wide outs Mushin Muhammad and Steve Smith. They lack the size and speed to battle with them straight up. To slow things down and to try to gain an edge look for them to run a zone and some cover 2 packages against them. At corner Corey Chavous and Tyrone Carter will get the start, and joining them will be free safety Ronnie Bradford and strong safety Willie Offord.