Secondary Shake-Up Pays Off

The defense was planning a major shakeup in the secondary before the Giants game. A look after the game and the results are very favorable.

The Vikings' lack of tackling and overall porous defensive performance in their 48-17 loss to Philadelphia resulted in a reshuffling of the secondary for the Monday night game against the Giants.

The most important addition was the return of Robert Griffith at strong safety. Griffith, the only member of the Vikings defense to make the Pro Bowl since 1998, played his first game since suffering a broken leg in Week 2 at Chicago.

He had three tackles and a pass defensed, but returned to his leadership role and helped the defense limit the Giants to only 61 yards rushing.

Griffith's return meant Don Morgan was back on the bench. Veteran free safety Orlando Thomas, who struggled to make tackles against the Eagles, was benched in favor of Tyrone Carter.

At the corners, the recently signed Dale Carter moved into the starting position on the left side and rookie Eric Kelly shifted from the left to the right side. That sent Kenny Wright to the bench.

Kelly also was moved into the nickel-back role in three-receiver sets, with Robert Tate playing right corner in those situations. Wright, meanwhile, was assigned to play dime back.

"You get to the point where you have to try something," defensive backs/assistant head coach Willie Shaw said. "We can stay where we are or we can make changes. … We feel like we just need to do something. But we're not making moves to make moves. We're trying to get to be a better team."

Griffith admitted he was not at full strength entering the Giants game but was confident he could help. "I'll be in good enough shape where I'll be able to push through," he said. "Obviously, I won't be in midseason shape because of the injury, but I feel confident that I'll be able to play at a high level for the whole game."

He did.

Griffith also felt he would infuse some emotion into the struggling defense, but said he didn't feel any pressure. "Are things going to be different when I am in there? I think so because I'm going to bring what I always bring to the game," he said. "You guys have been around and have watched me. I'm not going to go in there if I can't bring something to the defense that we've been lacking.

"As far as the pressure is concerned, there is no pressure. I'm just going to go out there and play my best and whatever happens, happens. It's a situation where I am healthy enough to play, and I'm going to go out there and play hard like I always do."

No more special teams
Griffith came to the Vikings as a special teams player in 1994 and still played on the various units at his own request. But after being hurt on the opening kickoff against the Bears, he knows odds are good he won't be playing special teams anytime soon — if ever.

"Not right now," he said. "I don't think the coach is going to allow me to play special teams anymore. But it's something I do every year. I play at least five or six games at safety on kickoff. It just got blown out of proportion because I am a starter and I got hurt doing something that we could have probably got someone else to do."

Fitting in
Dale Carter, who signed with the Vikings earlier this month, said he is feeling more comfortable each day.

"I think I've been fitting in pretty good," he said. "I get more and more comfortable every day and I get more comfortable in the meeting room, which from a mental standpoint is good because the game goes so quick you don't have time to think.

"My mindset was good when I first got here. I knew what I had to do. I had to come in knowing this is my job. I have to learn on the run. There is no time to be trying to sit and have a mental lapse. You are going into the ninth game of the season and have to be ready."

Carter, 32, a nine-year veteran who sat out 18 months serving an NFL-imposed suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy before joining the Viking, said he hasn't had much trouble getting the system down.

"Basically, all of it is the same," he said. "It's just different terminology and having to get the terminology down. There is a whole group of different guys that I have to get more comfortable with and know what they are doing to make myself feel more comfortable and fit in with their schemes. They don't have time to try to fit in with what type of techniques I do. I had to fit into what they did, and actually it has worked out for the best."

In his debut as a starter against the Giants Carter posted five tackles, but New York seemed intent on testing the Vikings' less experienced cornerbacks rather than going often in Carter's direction.

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