Behind Enemy Lines: Vikings-Dolphins, Part II

Even people in Miami wonder what's going on with the Vikings' passing game, and the trade of Greg Camarillo for Benny Sapp holds intrigue on both sides of the equation. Alain Poupart of Dolphin Digest asks, Tim Yotter of Viking Update answers in preparation for Sunday's game.

Alain Poupart: Brett Favre didn't look sharp in the least in the opener. Given his age and lack of training camp reps, was that an aberration or should the Vikings be concerned that last year was a fluke and he's in for a tough season?

Tim Yotter: Given his previous 19 years of experience and success, I don't think he is all the sudden going to lay an egg for an entire season. However, I do think there are some issues that contributed to his slow start. First, he was rough out of gate last year as well, but that was against much lesser competition (the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions). The start this year is a little more aggressive with the Saints and now the Dolphins.

There are probably two issues at work here: First, he once again arrived to the Vikings after training camp was over in Mankato. That probably wouldn't have been as big of a deal if it weren't for the issues at receiver. Sidney Rice had hip surgery shortly after Favre arrived, putting him out for at least the first six weeks of the season and likely longer, and Percy Harvin collapsed on the practice field and ended up in the hospital before Rice's surgery and after Favre arrived. That meant Favre's top two receivers from last year were out of the mix early. He has yet to get in sync with Harvin, Bernard Berrian and Greg Camarillo.

AP: We heard about the great rapport he quickly established with former Dolphin Greg Camarillo, yet Camarillo wasn't used until late in the opener. Why was that, and do you expect Camarillo's role to increase?

TY: I definitely expect his role to increase. Favre had nothing but praise for Camarillo this week. In fact, he went so far as to question why the Dolphins would have traded him. Camarillo's lack of plays in the opener was surprising, especially given the short-handed nature of the team's receiving corps. I'm sure he wasn't quite up to snuff on the entire playbook, but they could have used his hands in the opener. Another reason had to do with what the Vikings expected from the Saints defensively. Minnesota entered that game intent on protecting Favre and played a lot of two-tight end sets, which further limited Camarillo's reps.

AP: Has Minnesota's offensive line become more reputation than production?

TY: Actually, I think the only reason they have a positive reputation (if they do) is because of the big name at left guard, Steve Hutchinson. Hutchinson battled through a shoulder injury last year, but he was still pretty effective, although not up to his standards. The rest of the line is still finding its way. They had two new starters last year – center John Sullivan taking over for Matt Birk and rookie right tackle Phil Loadholt. They should jell a little quicker this year with the increased experience. The big key is Bryant McKinnie, the massive left tackle who can dominate defensive ends when he's engaged, but his play can be pretty sporadic.

AP: Since acquiring Pat Williams, the Vikings traditionally rank among the best defenses at stopping the run. Do the Dolphins have any reason to think they can run the ball on Minnesota?

TY: New Orleans showed that Minnesota can be vulnerable at times, but Vikings defenders insist that the Saints' second-half success was because some of the players weren't in their gaps as they should have been. Pat Williams can still anchor the middle, and Kevin Williams is solid as ever. If the Dolphins can get the passing game going with Brandon Marshall, that's their best bet. The Vikings ranked first against the run from 2006-08 and were second last year, so it's still pretty stout. The best opportunity to run on them is with a good cutback running game.

AP: With the injuries in the secondary, do the Vikings in any way (not that they'd publicly admit it) regret having traded Benny Sapp to the Dolphins, and is the secondary going to be at full strength Sunday?

TY: If rookie cornerback Chris Cook hadn't hurt his knee in the third preseason game, right after Sapp was traded, I think they would have been fine. But, given the timing of that injury and that 2009 starter Cedric Griffin is still making his way back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in the NFC Championship Game, the cornerback position was extremely thin. They only had three cornerbacks healthy against the Saints and were lucky none of them were injured. Griffin and Cook both seem close to coming back, but I'm not sure they'll be ready yet against the Dolphins, and given Miami's run-first mentality, the Vikings could opt to deactivate both of them again for another week of recuperation. When those two return to action, there likely wouldn't have been a useful place for Sapp, but their trade of him had more to do with their lack of healthy receivers than it was a slight on him.

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