When the Vikings last took to the field to play a meaningful game, the run defense was one game away from setting the modern-day record for least rushing yards allowed in a season. The Rams and running back Steven Jackson denied the Vikings that record in a blowout rushing performance. While the starters are likely only going to play a quarter or so in the preseason opener, the matchup of the Vikings run defense against Jackson will be the Matchup to Watch Friday.
The Vikings run defense was oppressive in 2006, led by Kevin Williams and Pat Williams in the middle, whose ability to clog the inside running lanes allowed the linebackers and defensive backs to shoot gaps and break down plays in a hurry. Some teams abandoned the run and made their offenses one-dimensional as a result. What the Vikings will be looking for is to reinforce the notion in opposing offenses that they too may have to go pass-only for key stretches of games because they will find the pickings slim trying to run the ball.
The best opponent for such a plan would be the Rams. Jackson, a power runner with surprising speed and agility, hammered the Vikings, rushing 25 times for 142 yards and three touchdowns. While much of that came on two long runs, Jackson consistently picked up four and five yards on most of his carries – something the Vikings defense hadn't allowed for most of the 2006 season and it robbed them of setting the record.
That hasn't been forgotten by those Vikings who played in that game, nor is it lost on Scott Linehan and the Rams. Marc Bulger wasn't the guy who beat the Vikings 41-21 – it was Jackson and you can bet that the Rams are going to try to mix things up offensively and get Jackson his share of early touches to see if their dominance of the Vikings will continue.
While the final outcome of the game will be decided after the Williams Boys and Jackson have taken off their shoulder pads for the night, the importance to the Vikings defense to set the tone that opponents still can't run on them, much less doing it against the player who cost them the record last season, will make Jackson vs. the Vikings defensive front the Matchup to Watch Friday.
Vikings-Rams: Matchup to Watch
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