Lurtsema's Reaction: Defense and RBs

The Vikings are 1-1 so far this preseason, thanks in part to an opportunistic defense. So what exactly does former Vikings defender Bob Lurtsema think of the defense and some of the plays they have made, along with their new coordinator? And how about Adrian Peterson and the running game? Find out inside.

VU: What stood out to you about the defense so far this preseason besides the obvious turnovers for touchdowns?

BL: Number one, I just think Leslie Frazier, the defensive coordinator, is just a dream come true. When I first talked with him, I asked him if he was going to run more blitzes or stunts for a better pass rush and he said, "I'll just play to the strengths of my players." I always love that when a coach says that. The thing to back up what I just said about him, Darren Sharper was textbook in how he broke on that interception and ran it back for a touchdown. You can't jump the route any better than the way Darren Sharper jumped it. That was from two things. I always said about 65 percent of that is coaching and then the rest is the player. So when you have a veteran Pro Bowler like Sharper and you see him jump a play like that, you're going in the right direction – I don't care if it's preseason or you're playing in the state championship for high school – that's a great play and a great working relationship.

VU: You know what's interesting about that play is that, in asking both Sharper and Brad Childress about it, they both say there isn't freelancing in this defense.

BL: The coaches want to say that there is no freelancing because with young players you have to be structured and disciplined. But if you're not going freelance – with veterans, freelancing is just a veteran's educated guess on a particular play – then have all rookies. What's the advantage of a veteran? They say we need veteran leadership, then let them lead. He leads by taking what's he's learned in his profession and making a positive out of it. I always tell people when I was with the Seattle Seahawks and had Mike Curtis as my outside linebacker and I was playing right end, Mike Curtis was the smartest linebacker I've ever played with. We would work calls and we would go against the defense. That sounds like I'm not coachable, but I'm coachable. But I had 12 years in the league at that time and he was a 13-year veteran. We knew what play was coming, so why would we want to go in a defense that wasn't going to put us to the play? In one game, we made three different changes and two of them were for losses and one of them was at the line of scrimmage. We didn't do it very often, but then when the coach jumped us the first time we did this, he said, "Well, if you do it, you'd better be right." If I was to do it and I was right four out of five times, as a coach I'd still let the players do that because they've got to be uninhibited. I'm talking about on defense. You don't want 11 guys freelancing all at the same time, but on that particular play, Frazier put them in the right position and the veteran Sharper jumped the route.

VU: What do you think is going to be different with Frazier? You talk about putting them in the right position and you're talking him up, but what do you think he's going to do differently than Mike Tomlin did last year to help improve the pass defense?

BL: I think he said he'll blitz about 25 percent of the time and that could be a fairly large amount, but I think he's going to work harder up front and the front seven is what I'm talking about. I know they blame the defensive backs, but you've got a pretty good group back there right now and I like what they have. Now, if you can get the pressure – sure, you want to stop the run, but you do need some pressure. From what I've seen, with having Chad Greenway back and his tremendous speed, he made a nice interception too. But his interception was caused by great pressure. So Frazier, a man's coach, is going to work a lot harder with the front seven to put the heat on. We'll have to see how many stunts they run – by stunts, I'm talking about defensive line stunts when the ends and tackles exchange – and how many blitzes they're going to run.

VU: What did you think of Adrian Peterson's spin move?

BL: I loved his move because he's got to learn that he's not going to run over everybody like he did in college. The week before, I was disappointed with his 11 carries for 33 yards. I just didn't think he had the awareness. Whether his head wasn't up or what, I don't know for sure, but I thought a couple times he turned into the tackler to punish him. No, rookie, you're not going to punish the defensive line and linebackers. I thought he was a lot looser last week. I don't think he was nervous or uptight, I just think that there are certain habits and techniques that you can get away with in college and they draw a big blank in the pros. I've gone on record and said our offense with Chester Taylor and Peterson should be in the top five as far as the running game goes. I'd be disappointed with anything worse.

VU: Would you still start Taylor over Peterson?

BL: It doesn't really matter who they start because they're going to change them in and out the whole game. The thing that I want is to see both of them in there at the same time because that confuses defenses. If you have Tony Richardson in there, defensive linemen are a little more tuned into playing the rush a little stronger because you figure he's going to be the lead blocker. So it changes your read as a defensive lineman. Then when you put the split backs in there, you go, "Wow!" because there are too many things they can do. Even now in the pros, they're going to put their defensive ends in pass coverage and all of a sudden you have a defensive end covering Taylor or Peterson.

Bob Lurtsema was a 12-year veteran defensive lineman in the NFL, playing with the Baltimore Colts, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks, and the longtime publisher of Viking Update. He joins for a weekly Q & A session, and his monthly column appears in the magazine.

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