Defensive Line Coming Together

The Vikings' defensive line could be finding its identity halfway through the season, and with two emerging youngsters leading the way the future looks bright. See what the veteran of the line, Lance Johnstone, think about its growth.

The Vikings defensive line is on pace to have a 40- sack season for the first time since 1999. Kevin Williams and Lance Johnstone both are on pace for double-digit sacks for the second consecutive season. First-round draft pick Kenechi Udeze has three sacks halfway through the season.

The last time the Vikings had three players register at least 10 sacks in the same season was in 1989, when Chris Doleman had 21, Keith Millard had 18 and Al Noga had 11-1/2. Prior to last season — when Williams had 10-1/2 sacks and Johnstone finished with 10 — the last time the Vikings had two players finish the season with at least 10 sacks was in 1993, when Doleman and John Randle had 12-1/2 apiece.

"The guys on the defensive line are starting to work together for the last couple of games," Johnstone said. "We're starting to get a feel for each other."

The Vikings needed time to adjust to the new system under defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell, Johnstone said.

"It's a new defensive system for a lot of us guys and we are really starting to understand the nuances that go with some of the coverages that Teddy's putting in," Johnstone said. "We're starting to jell a little bit."

The Vikings faced the toughest quarterback to sack last Monday night in Indianpolis' Peyton Manning, but Kevin Williams registered one sack on him.

PLAYOFF TESTED
The Vikings are currently in a stretch of games where they are playing six teams, each of which could qualify for the playoffs this season. The Vikings faced Tennessee Oct. 24, the New York Giants Oct. 31, Indianapolis last Monday, Green Bay this Sunday, Detroit Nov. 21 and Jacksonville Nov. 28.

With the exception of the Titans, all of those teams have .500 records or better. And some still consider Tennessee a potential playoff team in the AFC.

Vikings cornerback Ralph Brown said the Vikings can't concern themselves with the schedule. Instead, he said, they must utilize the ol' one-game-at-a-time approach.

"We can't look ahead. When you start looking ahead, you start losing focus of what's now," Brown said. "We have to put last week behind us, focus on the next game, try to get the ‘W' and get momentum for the season."

Safety Corey Chavous takes the same approach. No one game is any bigger than the next.

"Every game is an intersection for our team," Chavous said. "This is a week-to-week league. You can only worry about who your next opponent is. That's how you have to keep the focus. Things change week to week and we can't control what's going to happen two or three weeks from now."

Fair enough. We'll focus on this week's game.

On Sunday, on a nationally televised game, the Vikings play at Green Bay in a game that (with all due respect to the Detroit Lions) could go a long way in determining the NFC North Division champ. Of course, there's that rivalry thing going this weekend, too.

"It's about getting ready to play a team you love to play against," Chavous said. "They're a team that's one of our biggest rivals."


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