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.