Lineup Changes Continue

The Vikings' move to the 3-4 defense is just part of the new look the team is taking on as it looks to find its way on the fly in 2005.

Two weeks ago, coming out of the bye week, the Vikings switched from the franchise-long use of the 4-3 defense to the 3-4. At the time, coach Mike Tice said the change was primarily due to injuries that depleted the defensive end depth on the team. After two weeks of solid performances vs. the run, it looks like the Vikings are going to retain the 3-4 as their main defensive set.

The new defense has highlighted the skills of Pat Williams, a pure nose tackle who thrived in the 3-4 with the Bills -- a team that has struggled to stop the run since his departure. Williams has graded out as well as any defensive player since, making the Vikings defense suddenly have the look of a unit that could lead the team to wins down the line.

* The defensive changes may continue after the success the Vikings had by locking CB Fred Smoot on Donald Driver last week. Driver was over 100 yards by halftime of Sunday's game, but once the team committed Smoot to him every play and gave some safety help as well, Driver had just two catches for 16 yards in the second half. The task this week will be even more difficult. Steve Smith has speed to burn and is among the NFL leaders in every receiving category -- meaning Smoot will have a long day if the Vikings plan to continue the trend that worked last week.
* Mewelde Moore will continue to return punts for the Vikings this week, but the intention is to put Nate Burleson into that role by the time he returns to full strength in the next week or two.
* Melvin Fowler will continue to start at center, but has been forced to spend additional time in practice working on his long snaps, which were sporadic at best last week.
* RB Ciatrick Fason will be active this week and could see some time in the Vikings backfield, although the team is currently saying his primary role will be on special teams vs. the Panthers.
* Napoleon Harris is trying to fight his way back into the lineup and showed his resolve to do that Thursday. After missing practice Wednesday to have fluid drained off his right knee, Harris returned to practice Thursday and played throughout.
* The Vikings Children's Fund, which has been in operation for children's charities since 1978, topped the $4 million mark in donations to the University of Minnesota Department of Pediatrics. Since 1978, the fund has raised more than $7.1 million to varied children's charities.

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