Offensive Line Still in Flux

After 10 games, the Vikings still haven't figured out a solid starting combination on the offensive line.

Ten games into the season, the Vikings' offensive line continues to be a work in progress.

The latest changes came before and during Monday night's last-second 20-17 victory at Green Bay and included switches at three spots. The biggest surprise was the first-half decision to lift right tackle Mike Rosenthal.

Coach Mike Tice had announced last week that left guard Chris Liwienski would be benched in favor of trade-deadline acquisition Toniu Fonoti. Fonoti, who at 386 pounds is 35 pounds over his playing weight, got the start but suffered a groin injury in the third quarter and was replaced by 6-2, 315-pound Anthony Herrera.

Herrera played the remainder of the game and appeared to hold his own against the Packers interior line.

At center, Cory Withrow took the majority of the snaps last week in practice because Melvin Fowler has been nursing a strained oblique muscle. Fowler was lifted at halftime of the Vikings' victory over the New York Giants a week early because of the injury and Tice decided to stick with Withrow on Monday night.

Withrow had started the first four games of the season before being replaced by Fowler; although he is undersized (6-2, 287 pounds), he knows the offense better than Fowler.

Rosenthal was benched in the second quarter after giving up a sack to Packers defensive end Aaron Kampman. The final straw was a holding call against Rosenthal. Rookie Marcus Johnson, a player that Tice raved about in training camp, came in for Rosenthal and played the remainder of the game.

Johnson had started the season at right guard but lost that job to Adam Goldberg after four games.

Rosenthal did get in for two second-half plays at right tackle but that was as part of the Vikings' heavy package, which shifts Johnson to a tight end spot.

Tice made it clear he was impressed enough by the play of Herrera and Johnson that the two likely will start against Cleveland on Sunday.

The moves in Monday's game mean the only member of the offensive line not to be replaced at some point this season is left tackle Bryant McKinnie.


  • One of the Vikings main goals entering Monday night's victory over Green Bay was to stop rookie running back Samkon Gado. Gado had rushed for 103 yards and three touchdowns in the previous game against Atlanta but was held to 7 yards on 10 carries and was benched after a third quarter fumble. "We talked all week about not giving them anything on the run," Vikings coach Mike Tice said. "I hadn't heard of their running back before last week and I told them at the end of the night that I didn't want to hear about him again."

  • QB Brad Johnson is 3-0 as the Vikings' starting quarterback since taking over for the injured Daunte Culpepper. So what has changed? "I think we just believe in each other," Johnson said. "In the first four or five games we played some tremendous teams when you look back at it. The first time we beat a heavyweight team was the Giants (on Nov. 13). In the last four or five weeks we have stopped people in the first quarter. (The defense hasn't) given up a big, long touchdown. They have created turnovers and given us short fields offensively."

  • Coach Mike Tice on the key to the Vikings' two-game road winning streak, which followed an 0-4 start away from home this season: "Turnovers and not getting panicky when something goes wrong and showing more maturity. The guys hung in there. It was a tough start and we are starting to settle down a little bit."

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