Reserves Expect Plenty of Action

With a pass-happy attack employed by the Green Bay Packers, the Vikings have will have a number of their nickel and dime defensive specialists on the field Sunday. See what third-down pass rusher Spencer Johnson and dime defensive back Charles Gordon had to say about the challenge, and we detail just how lopsided the Packers' attack has been.

Cornerback Charles Gordon was on the field a little longer after Thursday's morning walkthrough receiving a couple of extra pointers, and there's good reason for that.

Players like Gordon and Marcus McCauley are likely to get more playing time Sunday against the Green Bay Packers than they did against a run-first outfit like the Kansas City Chiefs, the Vikings' opponent last Sunday.

Only the New Orleans Saints and Detroit Lions have thrown more passes than Brett Favre and the Packers through three games, and only the Packers have ridden that high passing rate to a 3-0 record. With a three- and four-receiver sets part of the Green Bay arsenal, Gordon, the Vikings' dime defensive back, can't help but look at Sunday's game as an opportunity to get on the field more.

"Definitely. I'm always looking for opportunities to get on the field. If we get into our dime situation, it's another opportunity for me," he said. "They might try to spread us out like last year, but you just never know what they're going to do. We have it in our game plan and I'll prepare as if I'm going to get out there."

Chances are, Gordon will be on the field as much as ever. Last year, the Packers threw the ball 42 times at the Metrodome and this year they have gained 43 first downs through their passing game – second-most in the NFC – while have a league-low seven first downs rushing. The NFL first-down average is not quite a 2-to-1 ratio in favor of the pass. The Packers are 6-to-1. However, that high percentage of first-down pass plays has also led to a league-low 3.06 yards per first-down play.

They've been that unbalanced despite quarterback Favre saying that head coach (and play-caller) Mike McCarthy is more conservative. For Favre, throwing the ball and taking chances all depends on the situation during each game.

"God forbid if we fall behind in this game and it's the fourth quarter and we're down by 17 points, people might be saying different things," Favre said. "If I throw checkdowns the rest of the game and we still lose, people are going to say, ‘Boy, he didn't take no chances. Boy, he is playing smart,' but hell, that ain't no good. So I think up to this point, I think I am making good decisions. I think if we're leading every game, there is no need to take chances."

So far, so good for the Packers, who are one of only two undefeated teams in the NFC, but Gordon and his defensive teammates would like to do something about that.

"He's a great quarterback, great quarterback. I love challenges. I'll just go out there and play my technique and hopefully I can make something happen," Gordon said.

Another player who is likely to contribute a bit more with Green Bay's propensity to throw the ball more often than most is defensive tackle Spencer Johnson, who enters the game when the Vikings go into their nickel defense, either alongside Kevin Williams or Darrion Scott.

The Vikings have been using their nickel defense often this season, as their run defense has put opponents in a lot of third-down situations. The Vikings lead the NFC by yielding only 4.09 yards per first-down play.

"Our run defense is pretty good now and teams are losing yards on first down and second down and so they'll usually be in passing situations (on third down)," Johnson said. "I've been getting in earlier, getting going and getting a feel of the game earlier, going against the offensive line pretty much in the first quarter going on third downs. So I'm definitely getting a feel of the game a little faster now."

That shows in the statistics. Johnson entered the season with his only career sack coming in 2004. So far this season, he is tied with Kenechi Udeze and Brian Robison for the team lead with two sacks. He is also only a half sack behind Arizona's Darnell Dockett for the league lead for sacks among defensive tackles.

"I'm definitely feeling more comfortable. Me, Kevin (Williams), Pat (Williams), Kenechi, Darrion, we've been together. Everybody knows we can play to the ball, so it's just a matter of me getting in good situations, getting in on third down and being able to rush the passer, so that's it," Johnson said. "(Defensive line coach Karl) Dunbar comes in and teaches us some really good stuff right now. The pass rush has been the focus of the defense in the offseason. We were just really focusing on getting to the passer more."

They've accomplished that in the first two games, getting six and four sacks, respectively. However, last week against the Chiefs, the Vikings managed only one sack. They will need to get to Favre to have a good chance of limiting the Packers' passing game, which is averaging 272.3 yards in the air per game.

Still, Gordon, Johnson, defensive end Ray Edwards, head coach Brad Childress and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier have all stated this week that stopping the run is still the first objective of the defense.

"Our first thing is to stop the run. Our second is to get pressure (with) the front four. Favre is a guy who's been in the league and if you key on a blitz, you can get to him and that's good for you," Johnson said. "Basically, we're going to go out with our game plan and try to get pressure with our front four. If it's blitzing, try to get there in time so he won't throw the ball and get big gains on us."

You can bet that reserves like Johnson and Gordon will be a big part of that game plan.


For the Vikings on Thursday, the injury report stayed the same as Wednesday. QB Tarvaris Jackson (groin), S Dwight Smith (hamstring), RB Chester Taylor (hip) and WR Troy Williamson (hamstring) were limited in their practice participation while RB Tony Richardson fully took part in practice.

For the Packers, DE Michael Montgomery (knee) is out. TE Bubba Franks (knee) and CB Al Harris (back) were limited after they did not practice on Wednesday. RB Brandon Jackson (shin) and WR Greg Jennings (hamstring) did not participate. WR Donald Driver (toe), QB Brett Favre (finger) and LB Desmond Bishop (shoulder) participated fully. T Chad Clifton (knee), DE Cullen Jenkins (ribs), RB Vernand Morency (knee), DT Corey Williams (knee) and CB Charles Woodson (foot) were all limited in practice.

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