Shiancoe Patient Despite Lack of Passes

Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe has only caught two passes so far this season, but he says there is at least one reason for that lack of use. See what he and others had to say about the subject and a potentially tough matchup for him this Sunday.

Visanthe Shiancoe was one of the Vikings' prized free agent signings in March, despite the fact that his name didn't resonate with casual NFL fans. He wasn't putting up numbers like Tony Gonzales – the Vikings' opposing tight end this Sunday – or even Jermaine Wiggins, the team's leading receiver in 2004 and 2005.

So far, Shiancoe has caught only two passes – both in the season opener against the Atlanta Falcons – and his lack of use in the passing game is starting to get noticed.

"It's definitely not by design that (the tight ends) are not getting the ball. There are opportunities and plays that they're either the first or second guy in the progression. Coverage can dictate that the quarterback go elsewhere with the ball," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "It's something that we'll continue to look at and find ways to get them more involved, but there are just times that it gets dictated away from that."

But, according to Shiancoe, it's not just the coverage that is dictating it. It's the Vikings' personnel and the way that other defenses are approaching it.

"It's kind of hard to open up the offense when you have teams that blitz so much. A lot of times I've got to be part of that protection and we've got to help other people out," Shiancoe said. "It's a team effort and we've got to establish that run, and once we establish that run, then we'll maybe be able to open up that pass a little bit."

Ironically, because of Tarvaris Jackson's groin strain, this could be the week that the Vikings get a veteran quarterback on the field. How that veteran – whether it's Kelly Holcomb or Brooks Bollinger – takes advantages of the blitzes early on will be key.

"I feel that defenses are going to try us until we prove that we can beat this blitz. Once we beat this blitz, we can (take it to them)," Shiancoe said. "It will be a lot easier for everybody. If I can help in any way, take any bit of pressure off anyone, that's what I'm here to do."

Bevell said part of the issue is that the Vikings don't want to show their hand too much by simply using Shiancoe as a pass-catching tight end and Jim Kleinsasser as strictly as a blocker.

"We brought (Shiancoe) in as a pass-catching guy. Obviously we haven't got him the ball a bunch, but he has progressed in terms of just his run blocking," Bevell said. "The one thing that we've got to be careful of is we want to make sure we don't have big tendencies with hey, every time Shiancoe is lined up here they are running it or they're going to throw it because Jimmy is such a great run blocker."

But with three receptions between the two of them, that certainly isn't an issue at this point. Shiancoe said the offense does incorporate some quick-hitting passes to the tight ends to counter certain blitzes.

So far, blitzes have been a big part of what defenses are showing the Vikings. Shiancoe said the number of times Jackson and the Vikings offense has been blitzed so far this year is "way above average."

"They blitz a lot. What I've experienced, I've experienced a blitz about every other play (with the Vikings). They're trying to rattle, throw off our quarterbacks, just like in New York they'd blitz every other play with Eli (Manning). Once you hit them over the top a couple times, that stops quick," he said.

As for his role, it's obvious he'd like to become more involved in the passing game, but he isn't looking to make waves.

"Any sort of way I can take pressure off of anybody, to my running back, quarterback, wide receiver, offensive lineman, that's where I fit it," he said.

This week may be even more of a challenge for the Vikings' tight ends, as they will be facing one of the most experienced linebackers when it comes to defending the pass. Donnie Edwards has the most interceptions (28) of any active linebacker in the league.

"He's a vet. He's been in the game for a little bit. He plays aggressive, he plays smart," Shiancoe said. "We're going to really have to be on our Ps and Qs with him. They use him basically everywhere. He's no set position. He's kind of like the (Brian) Westbrook of the defense – he's all over the place."

When told that Vikings linebacker Ben Leber played with Edwards in San Diego, Shiancoe said he'll have to talk with Leber about the Chiefs linebacker.

"Having played with the guy, you quickly understand that he's just smart," Leber said of Edwards. "He has great instincts. I think that's one of the reasons why he's excelled at the position. I've learned a lot from him just in doing man-to-man coverage and zone drops. He's one of those players that just always seems to be around the ball. That's evident not just by his interceptions, but he has like 150 tackles every year."

Out of the 16 linebackers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, only Nick Buoniconti and Jack Ham (32 each) and Sam Huff (30) have more career interceptions than Edwards, and Leber said he doesn't see a marked decline in Edwards' skills yet.

"I don't think there's any proof that he's on the decline. As much criticism as he took in the latter parts in San Diego, he still went out and performed well and kept having a ton of tackles, key interceptions and big plays," Leber said.

NOTES

  • Thursday's official practice report had QB Tarvaris Jackson and S Dwight Smith not participating; S Darren Sharper, FB Tony Richardson and RB Chester Taylor were limited in their participation; and S Mike Doss had full participation.

    "If you're talking about reps just in terms of running the offense, I'll be honest with you, Tarvaris needs every rep that he can get," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "He needs to be in there, he needs to be running the offense. With the things that we have in place he does have reps on all of those plays throughout training camp and throughout the first couple weeks of the season. I'm not saying he's in a position where if he didn't get every rep in practice that he wouldn't be able to still function well in the game."

    Head coach Brad Childress said after practice on Thursday that Kelly Holcomb and Brooks Bollinger split the snaps. Those two stayed after practice to work further while Jackson went into the locker room as soon as practice was over.

    For the Chiefs, WR Eddie Kennison is out while T Damion McIntosh, S Greg Wesley and S Jon McGraw participated fully on Thursday.

  • Former Vikings linebacker Napoleon Harris has 19 tackles, a sack, an interception, a forced fumble and two passes defensed in two games (one start) with the Chiefs.

    "He's been a good gift for us," Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards said of Harris. "(He's) playing a similar defense really, when you think about it. It's kind of the one they ran in Tampa, so it's kind of worked its way up here also. He's a guy that is familiar with the defense and has done a good job."

  • Former Vikings Pro Bowl (2002) running back Michael Bennett has 12 carries for 38 yards with the Chiefs this season, and five catches for 30 yards.

  • Former Vikings running back Ciatrick Fason, who was released prior to the start of the season, had a tryout with the Seattle Seahawks on Wednesday.

  • According to the Star-Ledger, the New York Giants worked out former Vikings wide receiver Todd Lowber on Tuesday.


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