Last year, all Chad Greenway got to do was run down the field to cover a kickoff and then rehabilitate a torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered on that play.
This preseason has been much more fulfilling for the 2006 first-round draft choice out of Iowa. After two preseason games, he is still listed on the active roster, there aren't a lot of zeroes in his statistical line and he is already a productive starter.
The 6-foot-2, 242-pound weakside linebacker will get the most action of his short professional career on Saturday in Seattle, but already he is seeing signs of improvement as the preseason progresses.
"I think one thing that came about (in last weekend's) game was my wind and getting back out there," said the former Iowa standout. "When you play that amount of snaps, you're going to get pretty tired. I've just got to get back into that."
He will see even more snaps this weekend, as the starters are expected to play into the second half, but that only means more of an opportunity for Greenway to continue to impress with his all-out play and his quickness.
Being the weakside linebacker in the Tampa-2 defense means that he is expected to be the team's leading playmaker at the linebacker position, and so far cornerback Cedric Griffin is the only expected starter that has more tackles than Greenway's six this preseason. But he is also quickly becoming accustomed to the big play.
Greenway has registered a pass defensed, a tackle for a loss and – the biggest of all – a 16-yard interception return for a touchdown on an ill-advised sideline throw from New York's Chad Pennington. Greenway jumped a dump-off pass intended for running back Leon Washington and went untouched for the touchdown.
"It was part of my assignment, but when the play started to break down like that and he held the ball so long, I knew the ball was going to go there – I just didn't know at what point it was going to get there," Greenways said. "My thing was just to go up there and make the tackle, but obviously he waited a little bit too long and made the throw."
That's because Pennington was under heavy pressure from defensive end Ray Edwards, who was pulling on the quarterback as he released the ball.
"That play was forced by the defensive line, no question. They had pressure really that entire game, including (Brian) Robison getting the strip and everything else," said Greenway, who was asked about increased pressure from the line after the entire defense generated only 30 sacks last season. "Last year is last year and this year is a whole new year. We're just taking it one stride at a time and improve on what we thought we lacked last year."
One thing the defense did lack last year was Greenway.
PLAYER OF INTEREST
While Philadelphia Eagles veteran quarterback Kelly Holcomb has been rumored to be a Vikings interest if he were to be released before the regular season, a source close to the Eagles has indicated that the Vikings have offered a seventh-round draft pick in trade for Holcomb. The Eagles are said to be looking for a fifth-round pick and feel his value may increase as preseason injuries take hold. That could translate into a conditional draft pick based on playing time if a trade were to be consummated.
The Atlanta Falcons also have reportedly shown an interest in Holcomb after most likely losing Michael Vick to legal problems and D.J. Shockley to an injury.
Of course, the Eagles may want to wait to trade Holcomb until they assess their situation at quarterback after this Sunday night's game in Pittsburgh.
Since 1996, Holcomb has completed 523 of 810 passes for 5,401 yards with 37 touchdowns and 37 interceptions for a 79.9 passer rating.
Pat Williams weighed in – bad pun intended – on the obvious difference between defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and former defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin.
"Coach Tomlin is just more open, just talking more. Frazier is just more laid back than Coach Tomlin," Williams said.
THE BIG TEST
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and head coach Brad Childress have each said team preparation this week has moved into more of their regular-season routine. They will be playing the starters into the second half and there is more game-planning being done.
"This week we've been able to settle in more to our game week with the longer week, so the practices and some of our preparation meeting times have been able to mirror that, so some of our younger guys are able to go through that for the first time," Bevell said. "There are some good things coming out of this week and we look forward to going to Seattle."
Fans will have to wait until the regular season to see exactly how the coaches plan on splitting the time between running backs Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson, although they have indicated that Taylor will start and Peterson will be a "change of pace" player.
However, one thing is for sure: Peterson adds an explosive element to the Vikings offense, and Bevell said that explosive plays aren't just the domain of the passing game.
"Explosive gains can come out of the run game, too," the offensive coordinator said. "A 43-yarder by Adrian Peterson (against the Jets), that's an explosive gain. The very next play, (a 12-yard run) by Chester; that's an explosive play. It can come through the air, but it can also come by running the ball."
Taylor's run for 12 yards was the minimum length rushing the ball to be qualified as an explosive run. Receptions must be 16 yards to be categorized explosive.
THE RETURN GAME
Special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro said he plans to use rookie receiver Aundrae Allison to return some kicks again in Seattle. The fifth-round draft choice returned three kickoffs for a 20-yard average against the Jets, but Ferraro said he isn't opposed to using rookies in that role.
"However they can help us. Whether they are a rookie or a veteran, if they show us through these preseason games that they can help us be a better football team with them in there, then we are going to go with them regardless of what the experience level is," Ferrero said.
Another new player that could be put in that role is receiver Robert Ferguson, who signed this week after being released on Friday by the Green Bay Packers.
Ferraro said was familiar with Ferguson's return ability from when Ferraro was coaching in Carolina and Ferguson was with the Packers.
"He certainly has got great athletic ability, got a burst, got good ball skills for sure. He is going to be able to contribute somewhere. Again, we are just evaluating where exactly that is going to be at this time," Ferraro said.
Ferguson is also known for his coverage ability on special teams.
Notebook: Greenway Getting His Groove
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