Lurtsema's Reaction: OL, DL, QBs and Owners

Former Viking Bob Lurtsema gives his insight on the areas of the Vikings that have changed the most over the past month — the offensive and defensive lines and the quarterback position. He also spins an interesting yarn or two about Vikings owner Zygi Wilf.

VU: On the topic of defensive line pressure, the Vikings say they are not blitzing as much as they did earlier in the season. Obviously they got five sacks against Cleveland. Do you think they are finally at a point where they can get enough pressure with four down linemen?

This is the first time they've been able to do that in quite a while. I think the biggest thing working for them is that they're working North all the time. Whenever they are making they're moves with all their aggressiveness, it's always uphill. A lot of times I thought they were even reading to a degree before they took off rather than getting out of their stance right away and reading on the run. Now when they're making they're moves, they're not stopping to make a move. They're actually making a move as they're continually heading north. The simplest example I can give is when they do a spin move, the defensive lineman has got to wrap his arm around the offensive lineman's hip and make that spin step upfield. Don't make it where you spin like a top in the same spot. You have to play that way on all your moves. Also what I think has happened is that with Pat Williams being a tremendously crafty veteran, he's jumping that snap count. He's looking for little things, like how a center rotates the ball, how a quarterback nods his head, does the quarterback continually go on two, etc., etc. He's getting off so fast that they have to double-team him immediately. Of course, once you've got one guy double-teamed in the middle there, your other three linemen are normally one-on-one, except when the back sits back there. Normally, you want one man double-teamed for sure right out of the chute and that will give your other three linemen a great opportunity to put pressure on the quarterback.

VU: Taking into account the injury to Kevin Williams, do you think C.J. Mosley is a better option than Kevin right now because of his injuries and maybe not being in the best playing shape?

I think they were pretty happy with Kevin finally coming around and getting into shape and just really getting back to his All-Pro form, so that was really a big-time hit for him to miss the next three or four games. Now to have C.J. Mosley in there at this time of the season, he's got fresh legs and that's very, very important. But you can't judge on just one game. He had a great game; as a matter of fact, he and Pat Williams tied with Antoine Winfield for number of tackles last week. When you get your defensive linemen in there with those numbers, you know they're doing something up front. The kicker here with C.J. is what type of pass rusher is he? Is he a bull rusher? Is he a soft-type elusive rusher? Does he work the offensive guard's shoulder? You don't know that when he came off the bench like that, so you totally confuse the offensive line to start with. Once Mosley gets a lot of his different moves down on tape, the upcoming opponents can see the way he plays and then they'll adjust their offensive style to best defend his defensive approach. Now your opponents are going to see him on film, and so many times we've seen quarterbacks, whatever the situation, when a guy comes off the bench and plays spectacularly for a game or two and then just kind of goes back into the closet, that's because the opposing teams are making adjustments.

VU: What did you think of the offensive line and the players that they had in there for this last game?

I have to give Mike Tice and Steve Loney all the credit in the world. They're playing Chinese Checkers the way they move people around. That's a very difficult thing to do. I talked before about all these defensive acquisitions and that it's going to take six to eight games for them to jell together, that seems to be bearing itself out. Anthony Herrera brings a lot of energy to the situation playing guard, and with Bryant McKinnie having a Pro Bowl kind of year, it's stabilized that left side. Melvin Fowler playing at center, he comes from the old school with his style and his attitude. He's definitely an old-school type of player, so I kind of like that. Chris Liwienski is a horse in there, and I think with him, he had the injury that really plagued him and kind of fatigued him to a degree. Now you have Liwienski being 100 percent healthy and fresh, so you've got him coming off the bench and that's a big plus. As far as Marcus Johnson goes, he has a lot to learn and I'd be very careful with him because I think Mike Rosenthal is a better ball player right now. You can't make the mistakes. They got away with it last week, with Johnson making five of the seven penalties, and I believe those were the only five on the offense. So I'm not sure about Marcus. Mike Tice says just settle down, settle down, settle down. Don't give him too many chances to settle down because suddenly you're going to miss out on a touchdown opportunity, and the way we've been playing our games so tight to the wire lately it could be a disaster. With only five games to go, obviously every win is tremendously important.

VU: Minus the re-insertion of Matt Birk next year, do you think this is the offensive line for the future or is it way too early to tell that?

It's way too early because you really don't know where Johnson is best at. It's something where he has to tell the coaches, but it's hard for a ball player to tell the coaches where you want to play. Either he has to tell them or a coach really has to realize, hey, he is a natural right guard or left guard, or he is a natural right tackle and then find out what he likes best and grow him in that way. A lot of times coaches throughout my career would take players out of position because of need, but sometimes if you play them out of position you actually hurt the other 10 ball players. I've seen that happen so many times during my playing years.

VU: To me it seems like Brad Johnson has given this team just about everything you'd expect out of him—good management and not turning the ball over. Is there anything that's he's done, good or bad, that has surprised you?

He's done everything good, and he's gone beyond what you anticipated. He has brought a calming effect into that huddle, and I think you lost that with Matt Birk. Matt Birk was the one who kept everything calm up front, and now Brad has taken over, not only for Daunte Culpepper, but he's taken over for Matt Birk as well. That's a tremendous plus for an offense. Also, Brad comes in with many suggestions, what he thinks might work for the upcoming week, and they're embracing that. A lot of people will say, ‘Why didn't he do that when Daunte was playing?' You can't give the coaches ideas when a different quarterback is going to execute them. By different I mean the exact opposite, from strong arm to bull running to more of a laid-back, different-styled quarterback. He likes to run what he's comfortable with, so that's a double positive.

VU: Any more impressions you can share with people about the Wilfs? I know you were bowling with them the other night. What can you tell people about them as far as their personalities and where you think this franchise will go?

Zygi Wilf is the best owner in the National Football League. He is in a class by himself, and I know it's only been a short time but he just constantly comes across as being a very, very bright businessman but also an individual who has a tremendous sense of humor—he loves what he's doing. But he has everything in order. He has his family first, then that passion for football. For him to be involved in this community with that attitude, I cannot say enough good things about him. Think about this: We had a fundraiser for the Viking Children's Fund and he's out there bowling. Pick another one of the 31 owners that would go out there and bowl. He's one of the guys, but he's got the separation that you understand the chain of command and the line of authority that he directs. He's just the greatest. To show you the type of fan he is, in the hallway the other day, Sid Hartman while we're waiting to get in the locker room says, ‘How big of a win was this over Cleveland?' And Zygi says, ‘I just met Jim Brown!' I got the biggest kick out of that. That tells you his passion for football and that's awful neat to have. If the state doesn't wake up and see what a total package he can bring with a new stadium, they're crazy. He's the best.

Bob Lurtsema was a 12-year veteran defensive lineman in the NFL, playing with the Baltimore Colts, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks, and the longtime publisher of Viking Update. He joins for a weekly Q & A session, and his monthly column appears in the magazine.

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