Lurtsema's Reaction: Week 3

The Vikings gave up too many sacks and missed a number of their own opportunities on the defensive side of the ball. Still, there are a number of things that are going right and will have to continue to go right against the Falcons.

VU: With seven sacks in the last game, is it just that the offensive line has a long ways to go or is it a combination of the offensive line and Daunte Culpepper holding the ball too long?

The thing I liked the most is that even Daunte said the most you can get on one play is six points. Daunte was working so hard because he's such a competitor and the total package that he felt he had to do most of it on his own. I think now he's starting to realize and the coaches are saying, ‘Don't make a mistake. Stay within the game plan and it will come to you.' Rather than risk an interception or a turnover or anything that might be a negative effect on the entire success of the game itself, he's deciding to take the hit and go down. He took some of those sacks just to be on the safe side, and there's nothing wrong with that because sometimes stats can be very misleading. In the same breath, they're not settled on their front five yet, so that's telling you that there are offensive problems. I thought Cory Withrow played a lot better. He had some great hits, but when you rotate your right guard – he had three other guys playing right guard next to him – it's not easy to get the chemistry going. I know that from playing with the New York Giants – in my first three years there I played with 23 different defensive linemen. You can't get your chemistry, and it really, really hurts you. It wouldn't surprise me one iota if they would bring back David Dixon.

VU: Mike Tice said two of those sacks came because of the running back position. Obviously, Mewelde Moore did a good job running the ball, but what did you think of him with his ability to pick up the blitz and help in pass protection?

That's a hard one for me. If Mike said he's missing an assignment, then he does. Sometimes you don't know which way the backs are supposed to rotate and which way the line is shifting. It's tough for any fan to make a judgment. I know that's why they don't like rookie backs back there. You don't want Daunte to get hurt, and this Ciatrick Fason – who is really a hard runner and actually had more yardage than what Cadillac (Carnell Williams) had last year (when both were in college) – he hasn't been able to pick up the blitzes as well, so it's a great concern for running backs to be able to pick up the blitzes for Daunte.

VU: That said, what are your impressions of these trade inquiries between the Vikings and Arizona with Michael Bennett?

I think it's crazy. You need more backs, without a doubt. I think it's foolish because the average life expectancy of a back is only 2.3 or 2.5 years, so you know there are a lot of injuries that happen. To lose a Pro Bowler in this situation, where you don't have a lot of great depth in the running backs, there is more to the story than what I'm reading or what I'm seeing.

VU: Obviously, the receivers did a good job Sunday. Do you think if Nate Burleson is out for a few more games that they'll be just fine with what they've got without Burleson and obviously the loss of Randy Moss?

You're always better off with Burleson. Burleson is a consistent player who is predictable the way he runs his routes. He runs every play hard. They will be better. In the meantime, I'm hoping this will be enough of an opportunity for Troy Williamson to improve his game. Coming from South Carolina, where they had more of a run-type offense, he needs all the plays he can get to really pick up his game to be worthy of a No. 1 draft choice. With how well Travis Taylor is playing, if they can hang onto those receivers and you've got this Koren Robinson, another No. 1 draft choice, then you've got three number ones out there. It's not all bad.

VU: In talking with Darren Sharper, he sounded like he'll be pushing it to play on Sunday. Being that there is a bye after Sunday's game, would you be more or less likely to put a guy out there who is not quite sure about his knee?

I'd throw him out to the wolves. He has to make the decision – is he hurt or is it an injury? Then you go to the point: Can you really re-injure it? Then, if he's not at 100 percent, what percent is he at? If he's at 70 percent, you're not going to chase Michael Vick down at 70 percent. I would be more apt to throw him out to the wolves and push him to see if it is an injury or if he's just hurt. Each individual is different. People are going to read this and say, ‘He's cruel.' But the last thing I would want is for him to get a career-ending injury or season-ending injury or lifetime injury – I would never want that to happen. But if he's just hurt, I'd throw him out there because he's still got two weeks until the next game.

VU: Atlanta being such a run-heavy team with Vick, with Warrick Dunn, with T.J. Duckett, Tice had mentioned – without Willie Offord and if Sharper can't go – they may consider playing four linebackers. Do you think he's talking about a 3-4 defense or do you think they'd come up with some inventive-type defense where they would stack up four linemen, four linebackers and just go with one safety?

You don't see a lot of the 4-4 in the pros, and if you show a lot of the 3-4, which you know and all the fans out there know I hate the three-man line, I think what he's referring to right now is that you have strong tackle play in both the Williamses (Kevin Williams and Pat Williams). The defensive ends are still suspect to a degree from the standpoint of injuries, and with Michael Vick, if he gets outside, you're a dead duck. When he mentioned that, I assume he's thinking they're going to have a little more containment in the defensive structure and try to keep Michael Vick inside the pocket. And good luck.

VU: The defensive line that you're talking about, do you feel like they're getting enough pressure on the quarterback, or with all the 3-4 that they've been running, do they need to be as aggressive as they have been to get pressure on the quarterback with their blitzes?

You always have to be aggressive. I don't care if it's the three-man line, the four-man line or whatever, I like the aggressiveness from the standpoint of when you throw those blitzes up, you can cause some confusion and give the defensive linemen a great opportunity for a sack. A couple weeks ago, playing against Carson Palmer, he was getting rid of the ball awful quick – just a hair over two seconds and that ball was gone. When they did have good, clean pass rushes, they got nothing out of it. This last week, they were all over Aaron Brooks, and I thought they'd have more sacks than what they ended up with (three). They could have had seven or eight sacks. The defensive line, I think they could be a lot more active on the straight pass rush and be able to take each individuals' instincts and let him go with it, have no secondary worries. I think sometimes they worry too much about the draw, worry too much about them getting outside. They've really got to take a mentality that they're dominant, they're going to win the ball game, it all starts with the defensive line and everybody else can get behind us, get in line because we are the best, get an aggressive swagger. As the season goes on, they're going to get in better shape, and you want to be in great shape as a defensive lineman because late in the third quarter or fourth quarter, that's where you're going to pick up a lot of your sacks because you set your offensive player up in the first half.

  • Bob Lurtsema was a 12-year veteran defensive lineman in the NFL, playing with the Baltimore Colts, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks, and the longtime publisher of Viking Update. He joins for a weekly Q & A session, and his column appears in the magazine.

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