It Starts with the Line

The Vikings might be looking to get their passing game going against the league's worst pass defense, but they will have their hands full trying to protect quarterback Brad Johnson from a strong defensive line.

That Green Bay has given up more passing yards this season than any other team in the NFL should not provide any sense of comfort to the Vikings, who have scored an anemic seven offensive touchdowns in the first half of the season.

If the Vikings are going to take advantage of one of the league's worst passing defenses Sunday at the Metrodome, they will need to provide more time (and safety) for quarterback Brad Johnson than they have in previous weeks.

The Packers have racked up the second-highest sack total in the NFC this season. Seattle leads the NFC with 30 sacks, Green Bay is second with 27 sacks. Defensive end Aaron Kampman leads the NFL with 9½ sacks. Defensive tackle Corey Williams has five sacks and defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila has three sacks.

"They play hard and it all starts with the left defensive end, Aaron Kampman," Vikings guard Artis Hicks said. "He is a relentless man and a guy who gives big effort every play and who's going to play until the whistle's blown."

As impressive as Kampman and Gbaja-Biamila have been this season, the Packers' interior play has almost matched the level of intensity by Green Bay's bookends, Hicks said. "Inside, they have guys who can move around and in the nickel they become more athletic with Jenkins," Hicks said. "They have a nice mixture of big guys and athletic guys."

Under coach Mike Tice, the Vikings offered Aaron Kampman a contract two years ago, but the Packers matched it to retain him. Current head coach Brad Childress wouldn't have minded if Tice's move had gone through.

"Kampman has always been an Energizer bunny type of guy," Childress said. "He's constant motion, high, high motor… Marcus (Johnson) will have his hands full, but a lot of people have had their hands full with that guy."

Earlier this week Kampman tried to explain such a drastic improvement. "There have been a number of similar questions concerning why I've improved this season so far," he said. "Experience, off-season training, great coaching, great teammates, understanding angles of rushing the quarterback better, more recognition of how offenses try to attack… I could go on."

Even though he won't go head-to-head with Kampman, Hicks wishes he would stop on and off the field – beginning Sunday.

"Success comes if we do our job and get it right on blocking assignments," Hicks said. "The rest will take care of itself. We've got guys who make plays, we just have to give those guys opportunities to make those plays."

If the Vikings struggle in pass protection Sunday, a concern could still arise of the offensive line's lack of cohesion, considering Bryant McKinnie was the only full-time starter to return to the Vikings line from a year ago.

"You hear (guard Steve Hutchinson) talk about ‘five fingers make a fist.' I feel like they, for the most part, have played pretty well this year," Brad Johnson said. "We've run the ball pretty successful for the most part and our pass protection has been good, at times. When we've had bad things happen they've been bad. We just have to eliminate those things, get the play off earlier and give ourselves time at the line of scrimmage to make the calls."

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