Run Defense Gets Stiffer Tests in 2007

The Vikings finished with the top-ranked run defense in the league in 2006, but a repeat of that feat won't come without stopping some of the best the NFL has to offer in 2007.

In the world of the NFL, it is often a "what have you done for me lately?" existence, where coaches are hired and fired and teams can go from double-digit wins to the double-digit losses in the span of one year.

For the Vikings of 2006, one of the primary things they could hang their hats on in a disappointing season was a run defense that came within a long Steven Jackson run from setting the modern-day record for fewest yards allowed on the ground in a 16-game season. But the Vikings didn't exactly play a "who's who" of top-end running backs in 2006. Clinton Portis was forced into part-time duty thanks to a preseason shoulder injury, the Panthers and Jets used a platoon, the Seahawks were without Shaun Alexander and the best backs the Vikings faced during the season were Frank Gore, Willis McGahee and the aforementioned Jackson.

In 2007, the Vikings will ask their defense the question, "what have done for me lately?" The running games of the Vikings' opponents next year will be much more difficult as they try to defend their top ranking in run defense.

Aside from in-division rivals, the Vikings are set to face some of the top runners in the league. In their home schedule, they're slated to see Brian Westbrook and the Eagles, Portis again when the Redskins come to the town, LaDainian Tomlinson and the Chargers and the run-happy Atlanta Falcons, led by Michael Vick - who became the first quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.

The road schedule doesn't get any easier, as the Vikings will face Larry Johnson and the Chiefs, the Broncos running back du jour, Gore once again, Brandon Jacobs of the Giants and Julius Jones and Marion Barber of the Cowboys.

In the NFL, teams must always look ahead and prepare. For a Vikings team that is proud of its run defense, there can't be any let up in the offseason because the big-time runners are coming time and again next year.

* Defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin has had his name surface as a potential head coaching candidate for the vacant Falcons position, which came open when Jim Mora was fired earlier this week. Tomlin's name has also surfaced as a potential candidate if Bill Cowher steps away from the game, as many expect he will announce within the next few days.
* Travis Taylor was charged with three counts, including a pair of gross misdemeanors, for his role in a New Year's morning incident with Minneapolis police. He was charged with fourth-degree assault and obstruction - both gross misdemeanors - and misdemeanor disorderly conduct. According to police reports, Taylor was on the step of a bus talking to someone inside when a police officer told him to either get all the way on the bus or get off. When Taylor refused, the officer pulled him off the bus, at which point the complaint claims Taylor pushed the officer. The officer then used a Taser to knock Taylor to the ground and make the arrest.
* The Vikings signed former Ravens wide receiver Randy Hymes to a future contract, as well as wide receiver Maurice Mann, offensive linemen Jimmy Martin and Norm Katnik, defensive tackle Alex Guerrero and defensive back Patrick Body.
* Former Vikings coach Mike Tice told the St. Paul Pioneer Press he would be interested in the vacant University of Minnesota coaching job, but doesn't have a bachelor's degree, a requirement for the Gophers' coaches. Tice told the paper he was about 17 to 20 credits short of his degree at the University of Maryland when he entered the NFL.

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