Vikings Players: Who's Hot, Who's Not

The Vikings seem to be finding out who their playmakers are and how to best utilize their talents. We take a look at more than a dozen players who are on the rise, figure to play a big role or who may be limited by injury.

  • LB Dontarrious Thomas and CB Brian Williams aren't starters but they are expected to play big roles Sunday in attempting to contain Giants TE Jeremy Shockey. Thomas is the Vikings' fastest linebacker and saw extensive action in nickel and dime situations last Sunday against Detroit. Williams also plays in passing situations.

  • DT Kevin Williams appeared more at home against the Lions playing the 3-technique in the 4-3 defense. Williams clearly wasn't comfortable at the end position in the 3-4 alignment the Vikings used for three games. His biggest play of the game was a fumble recovery deep in Lions territory that led to a touchdown.

  • DE Erasmus James' strained right hamstring was termed "a real mild injury" by coach Mike Tice on Monday. James got his first career start against the Lions and figures to stay in that role now that the Vikings are back to playing the 4-3.

  • LB Keith Newman, who lost his starting job on the strong side to Napoleon Harris entering the season, continues to be a standout for the Vikings. Newman, reinstated as the starter after four games, had five tackles, a sack and a pass broken up against the Lions. He also put a hit on Detroit's Kevin Jones on a first-quarter blitz that forced the running back to leave the game because of a nerve contusion in his arm.

  • CB Antoine Winfield, who openly complained about the game plan after the Vikings' 38-13 loss to Carolina on Oct. 30, had 11 tackles, an interception and two passes broken up in the 27-14 victory over the Lions. Winfield also had three tackles on special teams. Among the adjustments Winfield liked was a form of the cover-2 that was used against the Lions.

  • QB Daunte Culpepper continues to wait for the swelling in his right knee to go down before he can undergo surgery to examine and fix the three torn ligaments he suffered against Carolina. Culpepper's rehab is expected to take at least nine months.

  • QB Brad Johnson completed 15 of 22 passes for 136 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions versus the Lions. Johnson, who had a 115.0 passer rating, appeared to have the confidence of his teammates and was taking charge in the huddle. This isn't surprising considering he already was very familiar with the schemes from his first stint in Minnesota.

  • RB Mewelde Moore underwent an MRI on his sprained right wrist Monday and could miss Sunday's game against the Giants. Coach Mike Tice didn't sound overly optimistic that Moore will be available, meaning they could be without their starting running back and punt returner.

  • RB Michael Bennett went from forgotten man to go-to guy on Sunday, rushing for a season-high 106 yards on 18 carries, including a long of 31, and also catching a 5-yard touchdown pass. Bennett got a game ball for his effort and should get plenty of playing time against the Giants as long as he remains hot.

  • RB Moe Williams missed the Detroit game because of knee and back injuries. He continues to undergo treatment and has been replaced by rookie Ciatrick Fason in third-down and goal-line situations. Fason scored his first career touchdown against the Lions.

  • WR Nate Burleson had only two catches for 16 yards against Detroit, but his 15-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter was about as pretty as it gets. With a penalty flag already thrown against the Lions, Brad Johnson took a free shot at Burleson in the right side of the end zone. Covered by cornerback R.W. McQuarters, Burleson jumped, tipped the ball with his right hand and then, falling forward, hauled it in with his left arm. He then paid tribute to the injured Daunte Culpepper by making the rolling motion with his arms that the quarterback usually does after touchdowns.

  • WR Travis Taylor led the Vikings in receptions with four against Detroit but had only 27 yards. Nineteen came on one play. Taylor continues to lead all Vikings wide receivers with 29 catches for 332 yards.

  • WR Troy Williamson appears to have a good rhythm with quarterback Brad Johnson that could make him a bigger part of the offense. Williamson was unable to hold onto what would have been a touchdown pass on a near perfect deep throw from Johnson on Sunday. He did have three receptions for 26 yards.

  • WR Koren Robinson isn't seeing much action at receiver but continues to excel on kickoff returns, averaging 24.2 yards per return on the season. He broke a 49-yard return against the Lions. If Mewelde Moore can't play Sunday, look for Robinson or Burleson to return punts.

  • TE Jermaine Wiggins appeared to suffer the most from having Brad Johnson replace Daunte Culpepper at quarterback. Wiggins caught a season-low one pass but still leads the Vikings with 36 receptions for 306 yards.

  • K Paul Edinger missed a 52-yard field goal attempt versus Detroit, but made kicks from 40 and 21 yards. Edinger is perfect from 20-to-29 yards (7-of-7) and 40-to-49 yards (3-of-3) but is only 1-for-4 on kicks from 30-39 and 2-for-4 from 50-plus.

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