Thanks to the love boat fiasco and another postseason where they didn't earn an invitation, the Vikings have plenty of reasons to put last year behind them. But Erasmus James has his own set of reasons why he wants to leave the past in the past.
While many of the Vikings who return would like to forget about the way last season ended, James would like to erase from memory how last season began.
The 6-foot-4, 266-pound defensive end who was drafted in the first round (18th overall) in the 2005 draft held out during training camp and signed a contract late in the second week of camp. Whether blame gets placed on the coaches, James, or both parties, it never seemed like he fully caught up until it was too late.
"It's a fresh start for me," he said Wednesday. "I can put last year behind me."
James won't mention any names. He doesn't need to. As he closed the first chapter of his NFL career, he also left behind the theory that he was never truly forgiven for his two-week holdout. He started the final nine games of the season, but considering the way the Vikings stumbled out of the block an argument could be made that he should have had increased playing time earlier in the season.
Yet rather than look in the mirror, James chooses to focus forward.
"The major difference from last year to this year has to do a lot with coaching," he said. "I love these coaches and they're doing a lot to help us. Not to take anything away from last year's coaches, but this year I feel a lot better in this scheme."
The scheme James is talking about is the "Tampa-2," first-year defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin's defense that uses the defensive line as its foundation. Not a bad place to start considering the Vikings have three former No. 1 draft picks – James, Kenechi Udeze and Kevin Williams – in their front four.
"The defensive scheme we're running fits everyone well on this team," James said. "We get to pretty much go up-field and react to whatever the defense gives us. It feels good because your athletic ability comes out and you just feed off whatever they give you."
James finished his rookie season with 34 tackles and four sacks. His sack total ranked fifth among NFL rookies. In the second half of the season, he showed sporadic flashes of what Vikings talent analysts envisioned when they drafted him. Against the New York Giants, he notched six quarterback hurries, four tackles and two passes defensed. In December against Pittsburgh, he amassed his first two-sack game.
"I finished a little bit stronger, but I still wasn't satisfied," said a trimmer and more toned James. "I have a world of potential and it just wasn't coming out. I had hoped to play more all season but it just didn't happen, it just wasn't coming down from the coaches and I didn't feel it. But this year I definitely feel it."
So does head coach Brad Childress. "You should make a jump your second year," he said of James.
James Looking to Leave Last Year in Past
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