Fowler Says He's Ready If Needed

The Vikings are in the midst of changes on their offensive line, and center Melvin Fowler moving into the starting lineup is one of the possibilities. Whatever changes are made over the bye week, we know Steve Loney will be working more with the offensive line on game days. Plus, one receiver believes the offense isn't struggling right now.

The Vikings' offensive line has been a subject of concern since training camp, and more changes are in the planning process, according to Mike Tice on Monday. But those changes will come internally, Tice said.

That means that either Cory Withrow or Marcus Johnson, or both, are expected to be bumped from the starting lineup.

Melvin Fowler, who would be Withrow's likely replacement, said he hasn't been told what to expect, but he believes his playing style is similar to Withrow's.

"I think our styles are very similar. He plays very physical, very hard. I believe he had a couple knockdowns in this last game, as well as the other three. I think he's a great player, and I think I'm a great player too," said Fowler, who took the first-team reps at center Thursday while Cory Withrow rested a strained hamstring. "If the Vikings need me to step in there, then I'll be ready."

Fowler said he picked up the Vikings' system in about three to four weeks. As a rookie draft pick of the Cleveland Browns, Fowler said it didn't take him long to pick up that offense because he ran a similar offense in college. The Vikings offense requires more of him.

"It's a little bit different in that the center has a little bit more responsibility here. I've played football a long time. It's all relatively basically the same thing," he said.

With the hiring of offensive consultant Jerry Rhome this week, another change on the offensive line will be getting more game-day input from position coach Steve Loney, who has worked hard but with limited results in a dual role of offensive line coach and offensive coordinator.

Rhome's exact employment status and daily role is still being worked out, but Tice has an idea of how he would like things to go.

"If I had a vision of what I would like to work out, it would be Jerry in the booth talking to me on the phones calling the plays and Steve working with the line," Tice said.

"If he's open to staying for the season, I certainly would like to have Jerry stay for the game-planning and maybe all the way up to calling the plays. At one point, he was the quarterback guru in the National Football League in his career."

The connection with Rhome and the current offensive staff runs deep, and Loney was the one that suggested bringing Rhome in as an offensive consultant – before he even knew Rhome had a history with Tice.

"I was with Mike when he came in from Maryland as a rookie quarterback," Rhome said. "Myself and Howard Mudd convinced the head coach, Jack Patera, that Mike should probably be a tight end instead of a quarterback. That was a good move, and Mike was all for it and he had a great career. We have been friends all through the years. I have kind of been following the Vikings the last two years and routing for them. I was here in 1994. I had the pleasure of being here with Cris Carter, Warren Moon and that group."

Rhome was also with the Vikings when Brad Johnson was a young backup QB and linebackers coach Pete Bercich was a player. Rhome also coached with Ted Cottrell in Phoenix and Rusty Tillman in Seattle.

No matter what suggestions Rhome has for the offense as a whole, guard Adam Goldberg, who could end up starting at guard for Marcus Johnson, said he didn't think the offensive line needed dramatic changes in their approach to schemes and game plans.

"I don't think schemes have to be morphed, especially when you're looking at a system that has such an explosive, prolific passing offense in the past. And we haven't changed our protection schemes. I don't think schemes need to be changed. I think schemes need to be executed better," he said.

With Loney back on the sidelines and determined to figure out what ails the O-line, the Vikings hope their bye-week changes are a start to turning around a season of high expectations that started with a disappointing 1-3 getaway.

After quarterback Daunte Culpepper endured nine sacks in Atlanta, running back Mewelde Moore knows improving protection is at the top of the to-do list.

"We've all got to do a better job protecting, giving Pepp some time to throw the ball," he said.


Vikings players are used to a high-powered offense. Baltimore Ravens players aren't, and apparently neither are ex-Ravens.

Viking Update asked wide receiver Travis Taylor about the offensive struggles, and his answer was curious at best.

"I've been through offensive struggles before, and I promise you we're not in one right now," Taylor said of a team averaging only 10 points a game in its three losses, and that includes a defensive touchdown in the season opener. "I've been in Baltimore for five years, and we went three games straight without scoring a touchdown. We've got a ways to go and some things to correct, but at the same time we've got a lot of talent."

The talent has been thinned due to injuries, but Taylor wasn't about to put the blame for the Falcons loss on the receiving corps.

"We got open. This receiving corps, we're very talented … we've got a lot of speed, we're quick, but we just didn't get the opportunities," he said. "That's it. … If you watch the film, you'll see a lot of guys wide open."

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