Special Teams Overhaul Part of Equation

The talk of the last five months around Vikings country has been the conversion to the West Coast Offense and the Tampa-2 defense. But the biggest change for the Vikes could well be the changes to a special teams unit that more than carried its own in the Vikings' late-season run in 2005.

As Vikings fans, we've heard all about the West Coast Offense being installed by new head coach Brad Childress. By the same stroke, we've also been inundated by talk of the Tampa-2 defense.

But what about the "fury of Ferraro?"

Paul Ferraro, the new Vikings special teams coach, has as big a rebuilding job as any coach on the Vikings staff. Flash back one year. The Vikings' special teams coverage teams were led by Moe Williams and Keith Newman. Neither of them is with the team anymore.

The placekicking job was in the small hands of Paul Edinger. He's no longer with the team.

The critical task of holding for field goals and extra points fell on then-backup quarterback Brad Johnson. As the unquestioned starter in 2006, that is a role Johnson won't fill this year – Ferraro comes from the coaching school of thought that believes a punter should hold for a kicker.

The Vikings sent Koren Robinson to the Pro Bowl last year – as a return specialist. Heading into last season, the Vikes cut and released K-Rob to minimize their exposure in the event he relapsed from his bout with personal demons. He proved himself worthy and was rewarded with a contract that calls on him to be the anticipated No. 1 receiving option. That alone could erase his chances of being a return specialist this season.

To be successful, the Vikings will need their personnel to adapt to a new offensive scheme, a new defensive scheme and a special teams that will have a vastly different look in 2006 as well. We have a clear idea of the expectations of the West Coast Offense. We're holding out hope that the current cast on defense can adapt to the Cover-2 scheme. The special teams remains a mystery.

To be a playoff contender, the Vikings will need all three packages to work effectively – offense, defense and special teams. Ferraro may have the biggest challenge in front of him. The extent to which the special teams steps up and makes a name for itself will go a long way to determining the team success – where anything short of a playoff berth will be viewed as a failure.

To hear analysts speak, they will say "both sides" of the Vikings have been addressed in the off-season. There is a "third side" – special teams. That may be the most noteworthy change of all facing the new-look Vikings. Ferraro's job will be to put together a unit that can be game-changers. But, he'll have to do it with Johnson, Williams, Newman, Edinger, maybe punter Chris Kluwe and possibly others out of the equation and bring new leadership to the table for those who are willing to serve as blockers and wedge-busters.

Viking Update Top Stories