Search For Secondary Continues

The Vikings have a nice record at 3-1, especially considering the injuries they have endured, but the player personnel department continues its quest to upgrade the defense whenever possible. Plus, get the notes and stats of the week.

The Vikings continued their search for quality secondary depth when they released injured CB Rushen Jones (hamstring) and re-signed Derek Ross. Ross is the third cornerback on the roster who wasn't with the team when it opened the season.

The Vikings believe Ross would have made their opening-day roster if not for what they called "training camp knee." Ross, a former draft pick of the Cowboys, was released by Dallas after landing in Bill Parcells' doghouse. The Vikings signed Ross during the preseason and kept him briefly before realizing his knee wasn't strong enough to allow him to play.

Ross has been strengthening his knee ever since.

The move can't hurt. Jones seemed to have a promising future when he joined the Vikings as a rookie free agent last season. Jones had climbed to the dime back position before the season, but the team's faith in him crumbled in the season opener. Ken Irvin's ruptured Achilles tendon during pregame warmups thrust Jones into the nickel back role. He blew a coverage that led to a long touchdown pass right before the half against the Cowboys. Even though the Vikings went on to win 35-17, the Vikings never used him in a significant role again. Jones was hurt against the Texans, forcing the Vikings to finally dump him.

The Vikings also have added CBs Terrence Shaw and Ralph Brown since the start of the season. Brown has been a disappointment. The Vikings are more satisfied with Shaw, although he couldn't contain Texans WR Andre Johnson when he was forced to cover him Sunday.

Of course, Shaw shouldn't have been asked to cover Johnson as much as he did. The Vikings should have found a way to get either Antoine Winfield or Brian Williams locked on Johnson, the Texans' top receiver.

WR-KR Ryan Hoag's climb from Minnesota's Division III Gustavus Adolphus college to the Vikings' 53-man roster was completed — at least for now — when the Vikings promoted him from the practice squad on Tuesday. Hoag spent part of last season on the Giants' practice squad. The Vikings promoted him because Keenan Howry will be placed on injured reserve because of a shoulder injury. Howry was the team's punt returner and second kickoff returner.

Hoag was promoted ahead of WR Ben Nelson because Hoag showed promise as a return man during the preseason. If Hoag appears in a game, he will join defensive tackle Kurt Ploeger as the only Gustavus players to do so since the 1970 merger. Ploeger, a sixth-round draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 1985, was a replacement player for the Vikings during the 1987 strike. "It's one thing to be on an active roster," Hoag said. "It's another thing to be on an active roster and actually contribute on Sunday. I've still got a couple more steps to go."

  • The last time the Vikings and Saints played, coach Mike Tice gained praise for going for a two-point conversion with the Vikings trailing 31-30 late in a game at the Superdome. QB Daunte Culpepper ran for the conversion and the Vikings won 32-31, sparking a three-game winning streak to end a 5-11 season. Culpepper was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week after throwing for 312 yards and two touchdowns that week.

  • RB Michael Bennett figures he needs to get healthy in a hurry. He sprained his right knee during the third preseason game and didn't return to the field until the bye week. He was scheduled to play last week against Houston, but he tore cartilage in his right knee during a bye week practice. He had arthroscopic knee surgery and will miss at least one more game. The Vikings haven't missed him, leaning on 2003 fourth-round draft pick Onterrio Smith in the first three games and 2004 fourth-round draft pick Mewelde Moore last week. "I need to get back out there or I might be out of a job," Bennett said. He was joking, but he actually might be right.

  • WR Randy Moss has 18 catches for 288 yards (16.0) and five touchdowns in four games against the Saints.

  • K Morten Andersen played his first 13 seasons in New Orleans. Vikings TE coach John Tice played 10 seasons there. RB Mewelde Moore played at Tulane, and Des Kenny Mixon and Chuck Wiley played at LSU.

  • Just two plays after dropping a certain game-winning touchdown pass, Marcus Robinson got a second chance at Houston on Sunday. Robinson caught the second opportunity and turned it into a 50-yard game-winning score and a 34-28 overtime victory. "When that ball was in the air, all I was thinking was, ‘Catch this ball, and whatever else happens, happens.' "

  • QB Daunte Culpepper, in three games against New Orleans, has completed 65.3 percent of his passes for 946 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception. He also has run for 124 yards and two touchdowns in 11 attempts (11.3).

  • C Billy Conaty was re-signed and will back up Matt Birk on Sunday. Conaty is an experienced veteran who impressed the Vikings during the preseason. Conaty was signed because Cory Withrow tore cartilage in his right knee Sunday at Houston.

  • OL Adam Goldberg probably will be active for the second consecutive week. Goldberg normally backs up the four non-center positions, but he also can play center in a pinch.

  • WR Aaron Hosack, a rookie from the University of Minnesota, has been added to the practice squad. The Vikings saw some potential in him when he was with them in training camp. Hosack replaces Ryan Hoag on the practice squad. Hoag was promoted to the active roster because Keenan Howry (shoulder) will be placed on injured reserve.

  • LB Max Yates was released in a series of moves to make room for depth at other positions. He was re-signed to the practice squad.

  • LB Raonall Smith had four tackles, including three solo, in his first NFL action on defense last week. He started at weak-side linebacker last week. Smith also leads the Vikings in special teams tackles with nine. The next-highest total is five by S Willie Offord.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "We know better than to look ahead. Last year taught us a lot. There's a lot of time before anyone gets to celebrate." — Defensive end Kenny Mixon on whether the 3-1 Vikings can celebrate the demise of the 1-4 Packers in the NFC North. The Vikings blew a 6-0 record and a 3 1/2-game lead over the Packers en route to losing the division to Green Bay last season.

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