Vikings' Rush Offense Still a Struggle

The Vikings' ineffective running game is starting to hamper their passing game as well. Part of the problem lies with the offensive line.

The Vikings' sickly offense will try to get better this weekend against the visiting and winless Detroit Lions at the Metrodome.

The unit broke a streak of 12-plus quarters without a touchdown late in Sunday's loss at Buffalo, but with the bye approaching in Week 6 there remains plenty of work to be done before things are considered to be on track.

The Lions (0-4) would appear to be the perfect opponent because their defense is ranked 26th overall in the NFL and 30th against the pass. However, Detroit's run defense is a respectable 10th in the league and it is in that area that the Vikings need to start proving themselves.

So far Brad Childress' West Coast offense is ranked 22nd in rushing and is coming off a game in which it averaged 3.9 yards per carry. Overall, the Vikings are getting 3.6 yards a carry. That is the Vikings' lowest average through the first four games over the past five seasons.

Running back Chester Taylor, signed to a four-year, $14.1 million free-agent contract during the offseason, is averaging 3.5 yards and gained only 23 yards on 10 carries at Buffalo. He lost yardage on 30 percent of those attempts and had only 6 yards on six carries by halftime.

Granted, Taylor had a sore ankle, but the pain was nothing out of the ordinary and certainly wasn't the reason Childress went away from the ground game.

The problem is that until the Vikings establish the run, the vertically challenged passing game also won't be able to hit for many big plays. Right now, opponents have no reason to fear either facet of this offense.

So what's wrong?

One of the main problems is that an offensive line touted as one of the NFL's best entering the season hasn't been able to deliver as expected. Part of the problem is that second-year right tackle Marcus Johnson has been inconsistent and at many times has flat-out struggled. The jury is still out on right guard Artis Hicks.

The strength of the line is on the left side, where the highly paid tandem of tackle Bryant McKinnie and guard Steve Hutchinson line up next to center Matt Birk. The left side, however, has yet to prove itself as the dominant force many expected.

Members of the line acknowledge their mistakes and say it's small technique-type things that are holding back the run game.

But problems extend beyond the line and include blocking by tight ends, receivers and fullbacks. The continued mistakes, no matter how small, are surprising considering Childress' attention to detail.

If the miscues don't get cleaned up this could turn into a long first season for the Vikings coach.


  • The Vikings-Lions game could be played on either Sunday or Monday. Scheduled for noon Sunday at the Metrodome, it will have to be moved to 7:30 p.m. Monday if the American League Division Series between the Minnesota Twins and Oakland Athletics goes the full five games. A potential Twins-A's Game 4 would be played on Saturday and the Vikings are willing to wait until that game is over before they make an official announcement. One more A's win in the next two games would put the Vikings game on Sunday.

  • S Darren Sharper suffered a bruised left quadriceps in the second half against Buffalo and is listed as questionable for this weekend's game versus Detroit. He did not practice Wednesday and is receiving, "round-the-clock" treatment. If Sharper can't play, rookie Greg Blue stands to get his second start of the season.

  • LB Ben Leber was replaced by Dontarrious Thomas against Buffalo because of a sprained left knee. Leber is listed as questionable for this weekend but was able to practice Wednesday.

  • QB Tarvaris Jackson (knee) did some work in Wednesday's practice and is listed as questionable on the injury report. Jackson did miss a portion of Wednesday's session and might not return to his role as the third-string quarterback until after the Vikings' bye in Week 6.

  • CB Antoine Winfield was a surprise addition to the injury report because of a thigh injury and did not practice Wednesday. He was listed as questionable.

  • TE Jermaine Wiggins is listed as questionable because of a hamstring injury but did not miss any practice time Wednesday.

  • K Ryan Longwell was absent from the Vikings' facility on Wednesday because of strep throat. He is listed as probable on the injury report and coach Brad Childress does not expect he will need to bring in an emergency kicker.

  • RB Ciatrick Fason was inactive for a third consecutive game last Sunday against Buffalo. Fason had a shoulder injury during training camp but said he is fine.

  • WR Troy Williamson appears to be back as the Vikings' full-time kickoff return man after being limited in Week 3 because the team was concerned about his injured left shoulder.

  • QB Tarvaris Jackson did not suit up for a second consecutive game on Sunday against Buffalo after having knee surgery on Sept. 25. It would not be surprising if Jackson returns from the minor procedure after the Vikings' bye in Week 6.

  • OL Jimmy Martin joined the practice squad to take the place of OT Donald Penn. Penn was signed to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' active roster. Martin, who played college football at Virginia Tech, had been with the San Diego Chargers in training camp.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 58-24: The Vikings' record at the Metrodome since 1996, giving them the second-most home victories to Green Bay (61-21) in that time.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "Probably the biggest thing that takes everybody being on the same page is running the ball. From the tight end to the offensive line to the fullback to the tailback. All the stars have to be aligned for everybody to be on the same page. Probably right now that's where we're lacking. Because we're in second-and-long, third-and-long a lot. We need to gain more yards to get second-and-medium. Kind of make the defense play on their heels a little bit." — Left guard Steve Hutchinson addressing the Vikings' struggling running game.

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