Personnel Preview: Vikings vs. Bears

The Vikings will be looking to find their new right tackle and tight end, while the Bears are dealing with plenty of injuries as well. Get in-depth on the personnel updates of Vikings and Bears before Sunday's game.


The Vikings' ability to rebound from a 27-16 loss at Philadelphia might hinge on how well third-year pro Adam Haayer and rookie Nat Dorsey handle blocking Bears left defensive end Adewale Ogunleye at the Metrodome on Sunday.

Ogunleye led the AFC in sacks last season with 15 at Miami. He also has 24.5 sacks since 2002 (none this season) and was good enough to fetch former Bears No. 1 receiver Marty Booker in an offseason trade.

Meanwhile, Haayer will be making his first NFL start in his seventh game, while Dorsey, a fourth-round draft pick, will be making his NFL debut. They're replacing six-year veteran Mike Rosenthal, who fractured his right foot against the Eagles and was placed on injured reserve on Wednesday.

"(Haayer and Dorsey) are good players," coach Mike Tice said. "They're just young."

The Vikings will rotate Haayer and Dorsey every few series. The team hopes the 6-foot-7, 322-pound Dorsey plays well enough to take most of the reps and establish himself as the starter coming out of next week's bye.

Dorsey is a more natural tackle (although he hasn't played on the right side since high school), while Haayer is more valuable as a backup to the line's four non-center positions. Haayer could hang on to the job if he plays well and the 21-year-old Dorsey proves to be too green for the assignment.

The Vikings will give Haayer and Dorsey help in pass protection with tight ends and running backs. But they won't babysit them the entire game.

"(The tackle) has to be out there on an island by himself sometimes, and he has to show us he can win," Tice said. "If he can't win, then the next guy is going to get a chance. We're cognizant of him having a tough duty, but at the same time there are a number of times he has to do his job."

Haayer and Dorsey said they're excited about the opportunity to start and play. For Haayer, a Twin Cities native, it's something he has dreamed about since he was a child.

"I've wanted to run through that tunnel since I was a kid," Haayer said. "I always wanted to be Keith Millard. I wasn't thinking of playing offensive line back then."


  • SLB Keith Newman might get his first start as a Viking. The Vikings want to give rookie WLB Dontarrious Thomas a breather mentally, so they're going to take him out of the starting lineup. They'll probably move Chris Claiborne from the strong side to the weak side, and start Newman on the strong side. Another option is starting Mike Nattiel on the weak side.

  • K Morten Andersen will break Hall of Famer George Blanda's NFL record when he plays in his 341st game on Sunday. "I'm very proud and humbled," Andersen said. "But, obviously, I haven't had the physical contact that George had because he also was a quarterback for most of his career."

  • DT Chris Hovan has only three tackles, one solo, in two games. He has been under fire from Vikings fans, and coach Mike Tice even called him out for poor play in the season opener against Dallas. Tice, however, said Hovan, "did his job" in the loss to Philadelphia. The bottom line is Hovan isn't making the big plays that are expected of him.

  • RB Onterrio Smith had a career-high 148 yards in a bulldozer-type effort in last year's 13-10 loss at Chicago. He'll get most of the carries against the Bears on Sunday. He'll need to improve on his performance from the Philadelphia game. Smith was held to 28 yards on 10 carries and was stopped for no gain on two carries from the Eagles' 2-yard line.

  • TE Sean Berton, a decent blocker who was cut in training camp, was re-signed this week and will start because of the Vikings' injuries at tight end. No. 1 TE Jim Kleinsasser (knee) was placed on injured reserve Wednesday. No. 2 TE Jermaine Wiggins (hand) probably will miss the next two games. Berton was shopping at the Mall of America when coach Mike Tice called and told him he would be starting against the Bears on Sunday.

  • RB Moe Williams (ankle) didn't play Monday night. He's listed as questionable, but he will play this week.


    Bears coach Lovie Smith was encouraged to see cornerback Jerry Azumah back at practice in full pads this week, but he won't be back soon enough to help an injury-decimated secondary deal with Randy Moss on Sunday.

    Azumah is well ahead of schedule after undergoing surgery for a damaged disk in his neck in early August, but he will be unavailable Sunday along with safety Mike Brown and cornerback Charles Tillman, three-fourths of the starting defensive backfield.

    "Initially we talked about (Azumah returning) some time after the open date (Oct. 10), and we're hoping it's some time around there," Smith said. "I could play ‘Dr. Smith,' but I really don't know for sure. That's what I'm hoping."

    Azumah's return would go a long way toward filling the void left by the loss of Brown, and especially Tillman.

    Both injured defensive backs say the Bears' secondary will be in good hands until they return, but it almost sounds like whistling past the graveyard. Todd Johnson and Bobby Gray will both play safety in Brown's absence.

    "I told Todd he has to look at it as him and Bobby have to come and take my job," Brown said. "‘Make them get rid of me.' That's the way they have to look at it, and go out there and perform that way, and hopefully they do, so I can go get another (signing) bonus somewhere."

    Gray and Johnson will be on the field together in passing situations, when Green moves to the third cornerback position in the Bears' nickel defense.

    "Greenie's going to be fine," Brown said. "He plays every position, so he probably knows the defense better than any guys in the room, including linebackers, anybody. He has help back there. The key is communication. As long as they keep the lines of communication open, they'll be fine. They'll be perfect."

    Of more concern is how the Bears will fare without Tillman, who preserved a 13-10 victory over the Vikings in the fourth quarter last season by taking a ball out of Moss' hands in the end zone.

    "That play was last year," Tillman said. "I know that's what the hype probably was about for this game, me taking the ball away from Randy Moss. That was a long time ago; a lot of games ago. I'm past the big Randy Moss play. It's about this year. That's why they drafted Nathan Vasher and why they've got Todd McMillon.

    "I have all the faith and confidence in those two guys. I don't know how the rest of the Bears' fans feel about those two guys, but personally, I know what they can do. I think they are going to step up and accept the challenge."

    Vasher and McMillon are both getting reps with the first team, and Smith said he won't decide on a starter until later in the week. It's even possible that Green could move to cornerback, leaving Gray and Johnson as the starting safeties. Whoever is at the corner with R.W. McQuarters will attract a lot of attention from Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper.

    "Obviously they're going to test whoever's out there, especially a young corner," Brown said. "That's what it's about in this league, especially at corner. The only way to learn is to go out there and be tossed in the fire and see if you can make plays. The only way you're going to find out is if you do it or you can't. It's a perfect opportunity for them to step up and make plays."


  • FS Todd Johnson has received most of the snaps with the first team this week and is expected to get his first NFL start Sunday in place of injured Mike Brown.

  • SS Mike Green is expected to remain at his usual position rather than switching over to free safety in place of Mike Brown, who is out for the season with a ruptured Achilles' tendon.

  • S Bobby Gray was considered the logical choice to replace injured Mike Brown in the Bears' secondary, but it appears he'll be bypassed in favor of Todd Johnson. Gray will still be on the field in nickel situations at strong safety, when starter Mike Green moved to nickel back.

  • QB Rex Grossman, despite an efficient outing vs. the Packers in Week Two, has completed just 49.1 percent of his passes and has a quarterback rating of 53.9 with one touchdown and three interceptions. In three starts as a rookie last season, Grossman completed 52.8 percent of his passes and had a rating of 74.8 with two touchdowns and one interception.

  • WR Bernard Berrian will be counted on more after the release of WR Daryl Jones. Berrian has yet to catch a pass this season.

  • Viking Update Top Stories