Coaches Q&A, Part II: Loney Talks About Line, QB

Offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Steve Loney has a new center to work with and spoke about the possibilities with Melvin Fowler and other offensive linemen, including starting rookie Marcus Johnson and veteran Bryant McKinnie. Loney also addressed the balancing act he must perform between using Daunte Culpepper's athletic ability and keeping him healthy.

Offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Steve Loney is in his first season running the Vikings offense, but fourth season in charge of the Vikings' offensive line. This is his 29th season as a football coach.

Prior to joining the Vikings in 2002, Loney worked his third coaching stint at Iowa State, during which he was offensive coordinator and offensive line coach under Cyclones head coach Dan McCarney.

Loney also coached for the Gophers at Minnesota (1998-99), Iowa State (1995-97), Connecticut (1994), Arizona Cardinals (1993), Colorado State (1989-92), Citadel (1984-86), Morehead State (1979-83), Leavenworth H.S. (1977-78), Missouri Western State College (1975-76) and Iowa State (1974). He played collegiately at Iowa State from 1970-73.

Q: What can we expect from center Melvin Fowler, who you acquired over the weekend in a trade with the Cleveland Browns?

He's a very high character kid. He's very athletic and can pull and do things. From my college evaluation and what I know of his intangibles makes me feel really comfortable with him.

Q: Could Fowler turn into the starting center, putting Cory Withrow back at home as a backup center?

Fowler's a guy that has started in the NFL so you have to say he is capable of starting.

Q: It's been three years. Has Bryant McKinnie lived up to the expectations you had when he was drafted?

He's a very prideful young man and he has high expectations for himself. He's a guy that certainly has high expectations of himself. I really think the last four or five games last year he did really well. In pass protection, he's going to have an excellent test this week against Simeon Rice. But I think Daunte (Culpepper) feels very comfortable with the protection he's getting on his blind side. It's always been a matter of the run game with McKinnie, and he's worked hard to improve that. I hope that every offensive lineman improves this year through their experience here and the coaching they get.

Q: Six weeks ago, did you expect Marcus Johnson to be the starting right guard for the season opener?

Not really. Anytime you have a rookie you try to wait and see how quickly he grasps things and how he takes the pressure of it. He's done well. He deserves to start.

Q: How much of an impact will it have on your offense to have a healthy Mike Rosenthal at right tackle, and a healthy Jimmy Kleinsasser at tight end?

It's like adding two free agents to your offensive unit. It's good to have them back. Part of the reason Marcus Johnson has been able to be a starter is he has a real veteran guy (Rosenthal) next to him who's a good communicator. From that standpoint alone, Mike's been a big boost to us. And Jimmy Kleinsasser back at the tight end position can block with the best of them and help guys get around that edge for us.

Q: You don't have Randy Moss. But you do have Daunte Culpepper. By all accounts Culpepper is in the prime of his career and on the cusp of another MVP-type season.

The one thing when you take over an offense and coordinate an offense, it's the players that make it go. If you don't have a quarterback, you can have the best system in the world with great receivers, but if the guy behind the center is not hitting on all eight cylinders, that can really affect the offense. I have nothing but praise for him. He's a great leader on our offense.

Q: Because of the running back situation, might we see Daunte run the ball a little more than last year?

You have to be smart about that. You run too much with him and every time he gets hit you increase the chances of him getting hurt. Selectively, he can hurt you with his feet, but as a coordinator, you have to be smart.

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