Culpepper On the Spot

Daunte Culpepper has been viewed in the Vikings locker room as the team leader for the last three years. But now he's going to take on that role for everyone to see.

Whether the Vikings wanted to admit it or not, Randy Moss was the face of the franchise. While the team had locker room leaders like Daunte Culpepper and Matt Birk and field leaders like Kevin Williams and David Dixon, the fact was none of them were held up as the go-to guy of the franchise.

But, with the trade of Moss combined with the defections to south Florida of offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and backup QB Gus Frerotte, Culpepper is going to become the face of the franchise and will have to do it on his own.

While Moss is viewed by most as the primary missing ingredient, the Vikings did an adequate job of replacing him -- taking speedster Troy Williamson in the first round of the draft and picking up former top 10-pick Travis Taylor in free agency. More important to the equation appears to be the loss of Linehan and Frerotte.

Linehan's penchant for the deep ball fit nicely into Culpepper's skill set. With him gone, the Vikings are likely to rely more on the running game with Steve Loney and Mike Tice -- both offensive line coaches by trade -- at the helm. Frerotte was also an important teaching tool for Daunte. When Culpepper emerged in 2000, he had veteran Bubby Brister to calm him down and break down film. When Brister left and unproven Todd Bouman was the voice in his helmet, Culpepper suffered and never put together the same type of numbers. With Frerotte as his backup, Culpepper set career highs and became a Pro Bowl performer once again.

While he does have Brad Johnson as a capable backup, this will be Culpepper's year to redefine himself and the team -- and this time it will happen with all eyes (and expectations) clearly focused on him.

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