Personnel Analysis: Week #4 (Defense)

Here's a personnel analysis from the Vikings 23-16 loss to Green Bay in Week #4. See the position-by-position breakdown. This edition: Defense.

Overview:

Once again the Vikings defense shut down the run nicely, allowing just 2.3 yards per carry on 20 attempts.  But their pass defense bent a little more than usual going against a superior quarterback like Brett Favre, who completed 32-of-45 passes (71.1%) for 344 yards, 2 touchdowns, no interceptions (that counted) and a passer rating of 108.0.  Between the pass protection Favre’s offensive line afforded, and his quick release, the Vikings managed just one sack and one quarterback hurry the entire game in what was probably the weakest overall effort by the defense so far this season.  Nevertheless, they only allowed the Packers into the endzone twice.

Defensive Line:

Kenechi Udeze started at left end but was spelled a fair amount as the Packers were in a lot of three-wide passing sets.  He was in on 2 tackles, one for no gain and the other also at the point of attack.  On the pass rush, he wasn’t able to do much on veteran Mark Tauscher.

Pat Williams stacked the run as usual but was relegated to the sidelines oftentimes during pass-oriented personnel.  He was the anchor to the team’s stout run defense in this game and got in on 5 tackles.

Kevin Williams got a lot of reps inside against some younger interior blockers, but was unable to generate much.  He endured frequent double-teaming and stacked the run nicely but was not involved in any official statistics.  This was probably his quietest game to date.

Ray Edwards was disruptive at times but didn’t make any truly big plays before leaving the game with a hip injury.  He had a 5-yard offsides penalty in the first quarter.  Edwards was in on 2 tackles.

Brian Robison spelled Udeze at left end quite a bit and recorded the team’s only quarterback sack, for a 6-yard loss, when he defeated Tauscher.  He also recorded the team’s only official quarterback hurry.  He was also active against the run and led the team’s defensive linemen with a hand in 5 total tackles.  While it doesn’t really matter because anyone who contributes gets some reps, Robison could be pushing for the official starting nod ahead of Udeze at left end.

Jayme Mitchell saw extensive action at left end and at right end after Edwards went out.  No official stats for Mitchell, but he makes his presence felt.

Spencer Johnson and Darrion Scott got some reps coming off the bench.  Johnson recorded 2 tackles, including one nice stuff for no gain on a running play.

Erasmus James (knee) and Fred Evans were once again inactive.

Linebacker:

MLB E.J. Henderson was very active once again, recording 9 tackles, 1 forced fumble and 1 pass breakup.  He continues to be very disruptive on defense and really has a nose for the ball.

WLB Chad Greenway is also around the ball a lot and finished with 3 tackles and 1 fumble recovery.  He could have had another fumble recovery which he would have returned for a defensive touchdown, but a quick whistle killed the play.  It might have been the correct call but the quick whistle scuttled any chance at a fair review.

SLB Ben Leber saw less action than normal with a lot of nickel situations, but he remains a sound run defender and was in on 2 tackles.

Dontarrious Thomas got a few reps with the nickel defense and recorded one tackle.

Heath Farwell and Vinny Ciurciu played exclusively on special teams.

Defensive Back:

Antoine Winfield asked to cover Donald Driver and often times he got to.  He finished with a team-high 10 tackles on the afternoon and was his usual, reliable, wrap-up tackler in the open field.  He also broke up 2 passes in coverage.  His 5-yard illegal contact penalty that nullified an interception on the Green Bay’s opening drive, but he otherwise had a solid overall game.  Driver did catch 7 passes but for just 58 yards, and not all of those were on Winfield.

Cedric Griffin had a mixed performance once again.  He was not beaten badly but left too much cushion a couple times and seemed to lack focus with his technique.  But he also made one very nice pass breakup inside and a couple solid hits.  He supported the run well and finished with 4 tackles and 1 fumble recovery.

Marcus McCauley was technically on the hook for both touchdown passes.  The first was a 16-yard slant pattern to Greg Jennings; the other a 33-yard go route to James Jones down the sideline.  In his defense, both were laser-like precision throws and in both cases Favre appeared to look off or pump-fake the safety from providing any deep zone help.  McCauley was clearly too loose on the coverage, but only the coaches know for sure to what degree it was entirely his fault.  He did have one nice pass breakup in pass coverage and recorded 5 tackles.

Dwight Smith may have been the man out of position on at least one of the two TD passes, but he was very active with 5 tackles, 1 tackle-for-loss, 1 pass breakup and 1 forced fumble when he ripped the ball from tight end Donald Lee.  It was Smith who sniffed out Driver on the end-around for a one-yard loss.

Darren Sharper was in on just 2 tackles and had an interception early in the game nullified by a penalty on Winfield.

Mike Doss, Tank Williams and Charles Gordon played on special teams.  Ronyell Whitaker was among the inactives.

Summary:

Love him or hate him, Favre is tough to stop.  When he’s in a rhythm with getting rid of the ball quickly, he’s impossible to pressure.  The Vikings’ run defense continues to control the line of scrimmage, but after earning the right to rush the passer they still need improvement there.

Coming Soon:  Special Teams


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