Scouting Outlook Changes

With new offensive and defensive schemes in place, the Vikings' scouting department will rely on the coaching staff for insights into the type of players they are looking for and the desired assets they possess.

On the day the Vikings signed Mike Tomlin as their new defensive coordinator, the scouting department had to rethink its philosophies on players. A player who was good in Ted Cottrell's system might not necessarily be as good in Tomlin's new system … or maybe he'll be better.

Whatever the case with each individual player, Vikings pro personnel consultant Paul Wiggin was ready to familiarize himself with the changes that will inevitably occur in what the scouts are supposed to look for in players.

"Part of what makes Tampa go is they've got (Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick) Brooks and they've got guys that are around the football," Wiggin said. "One game we were playing them I think Brooks had 17 unassisted tackles. … It makes a difference who's playing. We'll find out if there is a need for change in what we have. We've got to evaluate our people and see if they plug in the way they want. If that's not the case, then we'll have to do some dramatic changing."

While players do a make defense, Wiggin also said he's confident that Tomlin's system, which he's bringing after learning it from former Vikings assistant Monte Kiffin – now the defensive coordinator in Tampa Bay – is a sound scheme. Afterall, the Bucs defense not only survived the loss of defensive tackle Warren Sapp and strong safety John Lynch – both Pro Bowl players – the defense has thrived and claimed the NFL's No. 1 ranking by the end of the 2005 season.

But dealing with a new defense will mean dealing with new opinions on what makes a good defender in this new "Tampa-2" system. That process should start shortly since Fran Foley has joined the team as its new personnel director.

"We're going to have to take their recommendations, in all honesty, whatever the coaches recommend," Wiggin said. "They're going to have to take a look at our people and come to us and say, ‘OK, these guys, based on what we want to get done, we're concerned they can't do it.'"

Or maybe they can do it even better, as head coach Brad Childress emphasized that the players are going to be coached this year in a manner they haven't been before. Tomlin said the strength of his defense is in the details.

One such unknown is linebacker Dontarrious Thomas. A second-round draft pick of the Vikings in 2004, Thomas became the first rookie linebacker to start a season opener. Since then, however, the Vikings have had a hard time trusting his diagnostic skills on defense. They are sure the man nicknamed "Reindeer" at Auburn can run, but they still aren't sure if he can play.

Running back is another position that might need to be addressed. There are several top-notch backs scheduled for free agency on March 3, such as Shaun Alexander, Edgerrin James and Jamal Lewis – but some or all of them could be re-signed by their current teams before then or given a franchise designation (Alexander reportedly has a no-franchise option in his contract). But Wiggin said running back is one of the easier positions to project from college to the NFL, which means the Vikings might be able to have a fall-back position of waiting until the draft if they can't get good value out of a free agent running back.

One thing is certain: However the landscape shakes out once free agency dawns on March 3, the Vikings will be looking for different assets in some of their position players with new systems on offense and defense.

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