Last year, the Bucs ranked eighth in rushing yards per game and sixth in rushing yards per attempt, so they like to run the ball more than average and are one of the best teams in the NFL at doing it. But it's also where the Bucs like to run that would be especially disconcerting for a team missing its Pro Bowl defensive tackle, Kevin Williams, and its Pro Bowl middle linebacker, Henderson – two key cogs in a defense that prides itself in stopping the run.
Tampa Bay ran the ball 431 times last year. Of those, 120 were right up the middle. Include runs to the right or left guard and the Bucs ran the ball 230 times in the interior of their offensive line last year, nearly 15 rushes per game.
But it's not just that they run inside often, but that they are effective. They ranked in the top half of the league for rushes over each of the interior line spots, but they are especially good when it comes to yards per carry targeting those three interior line positions. They are pretty average over center, gaining 3.77 yards per carry (ranking 21st), but they improve dramatically cutting out to the guard positions. They ranked 12th with a 4.29-yard average per rush over left guard and even better, fourth overall, by gaining 4.98 yards per carry that went over the right guard.
Expect the Bucs to target the middle of the Vikings defense even more if Henderson is out, but there is this:
"If you average 6.1 [yards] rushing the football, like we did, and hold a team to 2.9, like we did, you feel like you're going to have a chance, that you're going to be in games," Frazier said after the San Diego game.
The Vikings signed offensive lineman Joe Berger this week and released Jon Cooper. Berger, in his seventh NFL season, will start out working mostly at center but can also play guard.
"Just felt like for what we were trying to do and where we want to be that this is the right thing to do," Frazier said after the signing. "Jon has done a great job for us. Really like what he has done for our football team and in our locker room as well, but for where we're trying to get to, [we] just thought that this would be a good move. We'll see how it goes."
Frazier said Berger's experience didn't factor into the decision much, and the Vikings elected to release Cooper over rookie Brandon Fusco, who said he has been taking reps at guard the last two weeks. Fusco played center at Slippery Rock.
NOT WORTH THE PRACTICE
The Vikings saw how well punter Mike Scifres did kicking off and kicking field goals for San Diego after Nate Kaeding hurt his knee on the opening kickoff Sunday trying to tackle Percy Harvin during his return for a touchdown. However, that won't prompt Vikings special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer to spend time working with punter Chris Kluwe on kicking field goals.
"In terms of the kicker, I would hate for [Kluwe] to practice that during the week because it's totally different than a punting motion," Priefer said. "It's like having Ryan [Longwell] be a backup punter – it's totally different than the kicking motion. To me, it's not that essential. I don't think that you practice that. If it happens, he's got to be a pro and Chris would do that, as Ryan would do that as a punter. If they are asked and called upon, I believe they'd go out and do a good job for us."
If Kluwe were forced to kick field goals, Greg Camarillo or one of the backup quarterbacks would be the holder, Priefer said.
"There are times where he and I will discuss it on occasion, but I think we're past that point now," Frazier said. "Jared has grown so much as a teammate and understanding the importance of doing what's best for the team. … He understands what we're trying to get done. He knows there are going to be opportunities for him to rush the passer. It's not a hard sell anymore."
Allen has five career interceptions, four with the Vikings, which ties him with Kevin Williams for most interceptions by a Vikings defensive lineman.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.