Players, Coaches Notice Fowler's Improvement

With playing time and more time in the Vikings' system, center Melvin Fowler is playing faster and the results started to show last Sunday. His linemates and coaches say his confidence is on the rise.

The music has stopped playing along the Vikings offensive line. The game of musical chairs appears to be over; at least for now.

That's fine with Melvin Fowler, who slowly has taken over at center for Cory Withrow. Fowler started Oct. 16 and has played the last four games at center for the Vikings. The results have progressively gotten better, with a peak performance last week against the Lions.

The Vikings' running game is built around a pulling center who can move downfield and make blocks, which they had in Pro Bowler Matt Birk. But once Birk underwent season-ending surgery to fix a torn labrum in his hip the Vikings were left with a gaping hole. Withrow, who coach Mike Tice called the best backup center in the league, wasn't faring well early well enough in training camp and preseason so the Vikings traded guard Nat Dorsey to the Cleveland Browns for Fowler.

It took Fowler time to adjust to the Vikings' scheme, but if Sunday against Detroit was any indication, he appears to be feeling at home with the Vikings.

"It's a work in progress. Each week we're all getting better as a group," Fowler said. "We've just got to keep getting better and better and build on the performance we had on
Sunday and we'll be a pretty good offense."

One of the reasons the Vikings were able to run for a season-high 164 yards Sunday was because of Fowler's mobility. At 6-3, 295 pounds, Fowler can move and pull, both necessities for Vikings centers.

"With Melvin now feeling good about the calls and calling a very good game, some comments were made by our pro personnel department, (Scott) Studwell and (Paul) Wiggin said that Melvin seemed to be playing faster," Tice said. "That goes back to the sign that I put up, ‘Knowledge is confidence.' He played faster because he knows what he is doing. When players know what they are doing they play faster. So he is starting to know what he is doing and he is playing faster and he has great athletic ability."

Fowler's linemates have noticed.

"He's getting more confident in his calls," tackle Mike Rosenthal said. "He's getting better each week. He's doing a nice job for us."

Fowler, a man of few words, said there is a method to his madness.

"Never settle," Fowler said. "You have to have an us-against-them mentality and just go out there and execute and do what we know how to do well. Anytime you have minimal penalties and minimal turnovers, you have an excellent chance to win."

The Vikings offensive line knows baby steps must be taken first, before Giant (pardon the pun) steps can be made.

"We just need to improve each week," Adam Goldberg said. "Obviously with more experience we're going to get better."

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