Tweaks, Changes and Adjustments

The Vikings are busy tweaking their offense to better suit Brad Johnson while the defense might be preparing to make more use of the old 4-3 alignment.

The Vikings offense will have a bit of a new look Sunday as veteran Brad Johnson takes over for the injured Daunte Culpepper. The coaching staff is spending the week adjusting the offensive scheme to fit Johnson's style.

Coach Mike Tice calls Johnson more of a rhythm thrower, meaning receivers will have to be ready for quick timing passes. Although Culpepper was certainly more of a running threat than Johnson, perhaps the biggest difference is the fact that Culpepper's arm is so much stronger.

These changes could be an advantage for the Vikings on Sunday because the Lions will be left guessing on what to expect, at least early in the game. Johnson did play the final three quarters last Sunday at Carolina but his four scrambles in that game were an indication little was done to tweak the offense at that point.

The other part of the equation will be if the Vikings attempt to rely more on a running game that has been nearly nonexistent this season. Inconsistent play from the offensive line has been the biggest reason for this but Tice and offensive coordinator/line coach Steve Loney are hoping that unit is starting to come together. It will have to if the Vikings want to keep Johnson healthy.

Playing behind Johnson, at least for the Detroit game, will be longtime No. 3 quarterback Shaun Hill. The Vikings do not plan on signing another quarterback before Sunday and it remains to be seen if that will happen at all.

On defense, the Vikings' 3-4 scheme collapsed after two pretty solid performances.

Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme threw for 341 yards and Panthers receiver Steve Smith (201 yards) destroyed the Vikings and cornerback Fred Smoot in particular. Pro Bowl lineman Kevin Williams also has looked lost of late playing left end in the 3-4; Tice said that issue will be discussed by the coaching staff this week.

That could mean the Vikings return to playing more 4-3, especially with end Spencer Johnson ready to return.

No question, there also is some friction among the defensive players and the coaching staff. Some players feel that defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell's scheme isn't aggressive enough. Of course, it doesn't help matters that players also have often been out of position.

NOTES

  • WR Marcus Robinson sat out Wednesday's practice because of a knee injury and is listed as questionable on the team's injury report.

  • CB Fred Smoot practiced despite a bruised right shoulder that he suffered against Carolina. Smoot was listed as probable for Sunday's game against Detroit on the first injury report.

  • RB Moe Williams was held out of practice because of knee and back injuries and is listed as doubtful for Sunday's game.

  • LB Napoleon Harris is on the injury report with a sore knee but is listed as probable.

  • G Toniu Fonoti is doubtful because of a hand injury but went through his first full practice Wednesday.

  • LB Dontarrious Thomas practiced and appears ready to return after being held out two games because of a bruised shoulder.

  • DL Spencer Johnson is ready to go after missing the past three games. This could allow the Vikings to play more 4-3 Sunday.


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