Matchup to Watch: Tight End Trouble?

The Vikings have faced a number of a very good pass-catching tight ends this year, but the most productive one this season is the one they face today.

It seems like every week, the Vikings face a new challenge from a pass-catching tight end that can cause problems for a defense. Starting with Alge Crumpler and progressing to Tony Gonzalez, Donald Lee, Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen, the Vikings face perhaps their biggest challenge to date when they must take on Jason Witten of the Cowboys – making his battle with linebackers Ben Leber and Chad Greenway the Matchup to Watch.

Terrell Owens gets much of the attention when it comes to the receivers for the Cowboys, but nobody has more catches (32), yards (454) and touchdowns (4) than Witten, who has transformed from simply a chain-mover who had just one touchdown last season to a player who has become a favorite of Tony Romo and is on pace to catch 85 passes for 1,211 yards and 11 touchdowns.

His ability has jumped out on game film got the attention of those being asked to stop him.

"He does so many things well," Leber said. "He reminds me a lot of Tony Gonzalez in that respect. He can line up on the line, be a standing receiver in the slot or line up outside. They move him all over the field and try to find mismatches for him. I'm expecting that much of the same things we saw from Gonzalez are what we'll see from (Witten)."

Considering Gonzalez had 94 yards receiving against the Vikings and was a major reason for the Chiefs' second-half comeback against Minnesota, Witten will certainly pose a problem.

The Cowboys have found ways to find him in the deep seam and, with safeties often occupied with Owens and speedy Patrick Crayton, outside linebackers and safeties are given the assignment of taking Witten out. Seeing as he's averaging more than five catches a game and 75 yards a game, that hasn't been done often.

The Vikings will look to put a body on Witten at the line and not give him a free release. With so many weapons in the passing and running game, wherever Witten lines up, more times than not, the primary responsibility for guarding him will fall to Leber or Greenway. They will be asked to man up one-on-one with Witten and win their down-by-down battles. It is likely will Witten will be the first or second option on a dozen pass plays or more. The extent to which Greenway and Leber can prevent Romo from using Witten as a check-down or even a No. 1 option will go a long way to limiting what Romo can do with the pass offense Sunday, making their battle the Matchup to Watch this week.

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