Defense Getting Early Upper Hand

In the battles waged between the offense and defense over three days of training camp practices, the defense has come out ahead, which is no surprise to head coach Brad Childress. See what he and some of the players had to say about the progress of both units so far.

The expected appearance this morning of first-round pick Adrian Peterson has Vikings fans buzzing about a spark being added to an offense dormant in 2006. But quarterback Tarvaris Jackson reminds that the explosive running back from Oklahoma should assist the purple defenders as well.

"Not only does it help me," Jackson said, "it helps the defense because we can run the football and take time off the clock. … Having all those guys back there is just going to help us out period as a team."

Thus far in camp, the defense hasn't needed much assistance. The unit, ranked eighth overall last season, has consistently controlled the offense, even earning a an extended curfew to 1 a.m. on Saturday from head coach Brad Childress because of its strong play.

"It is generally, over the course of time, defenses are going to start faster than offenses are just because they are playing their technique and it's a reaction game," said Childress, who made the offense stick to an 11 p.m. lockdown. "Our defense is very good at getting off the football and has pretty good speed, so they will be ahead for a little while here."

Pro Bowl guard Steve Hutchinson admits the defense currently has the upper hand.

"The defense is winning most of the drills," he said. "They're definitely, I would say, ahead of us…But we're getting there. Practicing against them, they are one of the best defenses in the league, and if we can move the ball on them, we should be able to on Sundays."

The offense, to its credit, did battle back Sunday toward the end of 11-on-11 drills, converting several short third-down situations. But big plays from the first-team offense have been few, thanks to a decent pass rush, active linebackers and tight coverage by the defensive backs who have stuck with the Vikings' speedy receivers.

"I like what I see from what they are doing on defense, and I see a couple of wrinkles and twists," Childress said. "I sat in one of their installations this afternoon and watched them install it on the field here, just because I like to know how we're going to get blitzed on the offensive side. I like some of the things that I see, and I think our guys like the things that are going on."

The defense, though, isn't content with its early camp performance. The unit is determined to improve from last year when it nearly set a modern NFL record for fewest rushing yards allowed but tied for last in pass defense.

According to Ben Leber, who has been held out of practice the past few days due to a strained calf muscle, better play versus the pass from the linebackers can help shore up any deficiencies.

"I think a lot of the situations we were in last year with the short and intermediate routes, that's our zone and our area," said Leber, the strongside starter at linebacker. "We definitely have to step it up and be more cognizant of the route recognition and read the quarterback.

"We're just going to shore up some pass rush stuff, some zone drops and hopefully we'll be in an area where we can deflect some of those balls and pick some off."

That has happened at times in the first three days, helping the defense to its current edge.

But for those of us keeping "score" in the daily battle between the units, running back Chester Taylor has a blunt message.

"We're a team," he stressed. "Nobody ahead of nobody. We don't look at each other like that."

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