Irvin Injury A Blessing?

Injuries in the NFL are never good news, but, from the Vikings' perspective, having Ken Irvin injured with three preseason games left is better than having it opening day of the regular season.

Ken Irvin's Vikings career has lasted just two plays. That's a shame, since Irvin was penciled in as a starter at cornerback. But his dislocated right big toe may end up being a long-term positive for the Vikes.

The injury, which coach Mike Tice told VU will keep him out at least two games, but isn't expected (at this point) to keep him out of the season opener vs. Green Bay, bumps everyone up a notch on the team depth chart.

The significance of that is two-fold. It will give coaches a chance to see not only players who might compete for a starting job against first-team offenses, but the marginal roster spot players get more field time in game situations to give the coaching staff more tangible on-field evaluations before deciding on who stays and who goes.

Irvin, who left the Metrodome through the press box while the game was still underway, will have the toe evaluated today. In the meantime, it opens opportunities for other players to make their own personal stamp on the team -- whether as a starter or a 53-man roster spot. In the big picture, this could be good news for the Vikings as they attempt to improve a defense that, by any measure, was one of the worst in the NFL last year.

* VU has been told that Brian Williams, who the coaching staff had considered moving to safety, will start in Irvin's place Saturday vs. the Chiefs.
* One of the players Tice talked up to VU after Saturday's game was RB Onterrio Smith. Smith, who had just one carry in the first half with the first-team offensive line, had 11 carries in the third quarter, including 10 on an impressive 10-minute TD drive. Tice said he will get a chance to play with the first-team O-line Saturday, but didn't go as far as saying he will start the game.
* The Vikings special teams was nothing short of awful vs. the Jags. From having players running on the field and running off to a botched field goal snap to Nick Murphy hitting a 20-yard punt (half of those yards coming after the ball bounced favorably) to allowing the Jags almost 30 yards on three kick returns, the special teams looked to have many of the same problems that plagued them last year. Maybe they were "rusty," but, seeing as Tice has had 22 games (preseason and regular season) as a head coach, none of the three specials teams coaches has yet to make a tangible difference in fixing the ills of the special teams.
* In an interesting turn, the Jaguars media was pointed in criticism of Hugh Douglas in his first game as a Jag. Instead of giving credit to the Vikings for neutralizing him, Douglas was blasted for not being a difference-maker.
* The Vikings came away from Saturday's game pleased with its defensive effort. Despite letting the first-team offense play almost all of the first half, the Jags managed just 11 first downs and were a woeful 1-of-10 of third-down conversions.
* Rookie DL Kevin Williams got a good look by coaches, playing in series in all four quarters Saturday.
* This will be a big week for rookie Keenan Howry. While he and John Avery are sharing duties as kick returners, VU has been told Howry will be the team's top punt returner Saturday vs. the Chiefs, replacing Kelly Campbell. If he has a big play or two, it will solidify his chances of making the team.
* One player the Vikes won't have to worry about in the regular season opener is Packers nose tackle Gilbert Brown. The mammoth DT tore a bicep muscle and is gone for the year -- which will likely end his NFL career with a whimper.

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