Injuries Have A Different Effect

Many times, injuries give backup players a chance to start, but this week it looks like injuries will force the Vikings to stay with relatively the same lineup on offense. Confused? Well, after one game, nothing seems normal with the Vikings in 2005.

The Vikings' world seems turned upside down after one game. Their offense was ranked 26th in the NFL (29th rushing, 15 passing) and their defense was ranked 19th (24th against the rush and 13th against the pass) before Monday night's game.

So maybe it figures that something weird would happen with injuries as well. Usually, injuries end up giving backups a chance in the starting lineup.

Not so this week.

Rookie right guard Marcus Johnson was benched in the second half in favor of Adam Goldberg, who actually entered training camp as a starting guard. Once Johnson established himself in preseason, Goldberg was relegated to learning the backup center position and expected to be a utility lineman who knew all five positions.

It figured that if Johnson was pulled last Sunday, he might not get the start this Sunday. As offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Steve Loney told Viking Update after the Tampa Bay game, there was no sense continuing to frustrate the rookie by keeping him in the game.

But on the last play of the game, left tackle Bryant McKinnie strained his foot and left the Metrodome in a walking boot. That means Adam Goldberg will get the practice reps at left tackle early this week, even though head coach Mike Tice said McKinnie will probably be able to play against Cincinnati this Sunday.

"The tests were negative, and there is nothing else there besides that (sprain)," Tice said of McKinnie. "He's in a boot right now; we had to shut him down. He should be good to go Sunday, but we'll see as the week progresses. If not, then we'll have Adam Goldberg go at that spot."

That means Johnson is the expected starter at right guard again Sunday with no real changes to the starting offensive lineup anticipated.

"Changes? I don't know that changes are going to help us right now," Tice said. "I don't think it's time to say, ‘These are our guys. I love the right guard (Johnson),' and then all of the sudden he has a bad game and you say, ‘He's not our guy right now.' That really shows a lot of support. We've just got to get better."

Another injury will keep Michael Bennett as the starter. Even though Moe Williams started the opener, Bennett is still being given the tag of the starting running back.

Mewelde Moore got leg whipped Sunday on his already-tender ankle (it was originally reported as being his other ankle), which will keep Bennett as the starter, although his stats certainly didn't show it in the opener. He rushed six times for minus-1 yard. Williams didn't fair much better. After opening the game with a 9-yard run, Williams was held to a total of 15 yards.

The main reason for the poor running – and the poor offensive showing overall – is that the offensive line struggled. It also contributed to Daunte Culpepper's struggles, as the QB had three interceptions and two fumbles.

"Playing the position, when there is early pressure on the quarterback early in the game, your internal clock tends to speed up a little bit," former University of Maryland quarterback Tice said. "You know you don't have as much time because you haven't had that much time from like the first snap on. When you do have some things some times, you rush some things."

Strange as it sounds, because of injuries the Vikings are expecting to go with the same offensive lineup on Sunday.

MISSING BIRK

Tice said the "A gaps," the holes on each side of the center, were the biggest problem with Sunday's protection and run blocking against Tampa Bay. Cory Withrow got the start Sunday because Pro Bowler Matt is out for the season with a hip injury.

"The one thing about Matt Birk and centers like his magnitude, like Kevin Mawae from the (New York) Jets, is when you have a center like that, you have a tremendous gift that you can single block with your center," Tice said. "He can single block in pass protection; he can single block in the running game. It really helps you a lot when you have a center that can take his guy and you don't have to bring much help to him. There is a lot teams that don't have a center that can single block. But you have to work your way around that."

COWART QUESTIONABLE

Middle linebacker Sam Cowart suffered a strained calf during Sunday's game. He will be monitored throughout the week

"We will make sure that we stay on top of that and see if it is just day-to-day and he'll be good to go Sunday or if he needs to shut it down," Tice said.

If Cowart can't play in Cincinnati, Rod Davis likely would get the start. Tice doesn't want to move E.J. Henderson into the middle and shuffle the whole linebacker corps to accommodate the injury.


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