Chemistry Made Easy

While the Vikings have made wholesale changes on the defensive side of the ball, life in the NFL is often more than a mad scientist mixing chemicals to make a formula work and some think the Vikings are making a toxic mix.

For every Fred Smoot, there's a Brian Williams. For every Darren Sharper, there's a Brian Russell. For every Pat Williams, there's a Spencer Johnson. And for every Sam Cowart, there's a E.J. Henderson.

While Vikings fans have been giddy about all the changes the Vikings have made to their defense, with every new player comes a current player who has been displaced from his starting job. For guys like Brian Williams, Russell and Henderson, going from starter to role player may be easier said than done.

Change is inevitable in the NFL, but the number of changes in the Vikings defense already this offseason have called into question by some whether adding so many new component parts will be the answer. It didn't work for the Raiders, who had one of the league's worst run defenses despite spending huge money on Warren Sapp and Ted Washington.

The truth is that about 50 percent of all free agent signings turn out to be busts. Why? Because more times than not, they're players beyond their prime who often are overpaid and expected to recreate the magic of their youth. Too often, that's too much to ask.

While there's no questioning Smoot's ability, the same can't be said for the other new Vikings additions. Pat Williams has had problems controlling his weight and the Bills didn't get in a bidding war for a long-term deal because of that. Some Packers observers believe Sharper has lost a step and last year's sub-par performance wasn't just an injury-riddled season. Some say Cowart's exit from the Jets was coming before Jonathan Vilma showed up. Some Raiders insiders believe Napoleon Harris will continue to be an expensive tease -- showing flashes of greatness, but not consistently.

Few people can question that the Vikings defense will be better in 2005 than it was in 2004 -- it almost has to be. But, for fans expecting the Vikings defense to suddenly look like the Bucs or Ravens, you may be fooling yourselves. If three of the five new defensive starters pan out, the Vikings would be ecstatic. But history has shown us that more likely only two of those five will make a big impact.

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