Notebook: Frazier Knows Sharper Is Frustrated

Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier knows that safety Darren Sharper is frustrated and explained why the veteran safety might not be getting as many interceptions as he did in his first season with the Vikings.

Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier believes there is a connection between safety Darren Sharper's relative lack of interceptions and the safety's frustration.

After Sunday's 23-16 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, the 11th-year veteran of the NFL vented a bit, saying the team needed more playmakers, a criticism that was also waged by Antoine Winfield during the offseason.

Asked after Sunday's loss if there were any easy answers to turning things around for the 2-5 Vikings, Sharper said, "You have to get some playmakers. That is one thing you could do, get some playmakers or let your playmakers be playmakers. That is the answer."

With the best remaining players signing early in free agency in March and the trading deadline having past last month, there are no "easy" solutions left for the Vikings, Sharper said on Wednesday that there wasn't any discussion between him and the coaches about his comments because they were true.

"There hasn't been any discussion and I don't think there really needs to be any discussion because it's not a big issue at all. It's a true statement," Sharper said, but he also softened his comments a bit. "In our games, we have pretty much been in every game, so it comes down to a guy here or there making a play. That was the basic statement – that we need to make more plays and have our playmakers step up and make plays."

On Thursday, Frazier indicated that Sharper could be frustrated with his own ability to make plays or not being put in a position to get interceptions as often.

"Without question. D-Sharp is a playmaker and that frustrates him to the Nth degree," Frazier said. "He wants the ball in his hands and if I am an offense and I see him in the middle, I am probably not going to throw a post deep on him. I was surprised that Detroit tried him the times that they did. Most people don't throw the ball deep to his side, and if he is on the tight end he doesn't get a lot of throws when he covers tight ends. But his frustration stems without question from his inability to get turnovers and picks."

Sharper signed with the Vikings in March 2005 after the Packers released him when he refused to take a pay cut. He responded with nine interceptions in his first season in purple, but that was in Ted Cottrell's defense.

The last two years, the Vikings have switched to a Cover-2 defensive scheme with Mike Tomlin as their defensive coordinator last year and Frazier employing the same scheme this year. Last year, Sharper posted four interceptions, and through seven games this season he has two interceptions in the Cover-2 defense.

"There are some things you can do, but you want to do it within the structure of the scheme. There are opportunities for him in what we are doing. What we are finding is people aren't throwing necessarily to his side when we are in Cover-2," Frazier said. "We are playing two and (offenses are) still taking some shots, but it's not necessarily to the side that he is on, which is a tribute to him. But from a pressure standpoint you can do some things. That doesn't necessarily mean that the ball still is going to come his way. It could be to the outside – we have done that and people throw outside. You might be able to bring him on some blitzes, which we have done, where he can have an impact in that area. Turnovers sometimes are by chance, just depending on what people are doing, and when the opportunities come he will make them. He just hasn't had very many opportunities."

Apparently Sharper was proactive in voicing his concerns to the coaching staff even before the season started – and well before he made his most public statements on Sunday. Frazier said Sharper has been talking him about such topics "from day one."

"My first meeting with our secondary, I asked him who the best safety in the National Football League is. Who do you think he said? D-Sharp, and then he quoted me why," Frazier said. "I love it that he wants to make plays. I think it's great. You want to have guys that want to be playmakers, but at the same time you want them to do it within the structure of the defense regardless of what style defense you play. You have got to have something you hang your hat on. This defense has been successful in other places and it will be successful here. There are some things we need to clean up, but his place will come. He just has to be patient."

Frazier also indicated that with Sharper in the middle of the field and two young cornerbacks in Cedric Griffin and Marcus McCauley on the outside in the nickel defense that teams are naturally going to want to throw to the outside. Last week, however, the Vikings had Charles Gordon playing inside in the nickel defense and Antoine Winfield played on the corner. Previously, McCauley came in on nickel situations and Winfield moved inside.

One positive sign for Sharper is that he has an interception in each of his two meetings with the Chargers.

LOW ON WIDE RECEIVERS

Troy Williamson missed another day of practice Thursday while attending a family funeral and Bobby Wade missed with a hyperextended knee. That was the second consecutive day that each player missed practice.

That left the coaches looking for help in other areas, with rookie Aundrae Allison and veteran Robert Ferguson being possibilities to step in for Wade as the slot receiver.

"Ferg is a guy that can move to more than one spot just because of his familiarity with the offense and being a little bit more of a veteran," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "A lot of times with the younger guys you try to let them get their feet wet, put them at one spot, because moving them all over the place can sometimes hamper their ability to make plays when they're thinking mentally."

JACKSON IMPROVING

Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said that Tarvaris Jackson's fractured index finger on his throwing hand seems to be improving.

"I thought it was much improved. Last week when he came out here and threw the ball around – it's important like we talked about to be able have that great command of it, whether it's being able to snap the ball, being able to get a sharp spiral on it, and then putting it where you want it to go – and I saw that improvement (Wednesday)," Bevell said.

NOTES

  • Frazier said the safety Dwight Smith, who is tied for the team lead with two interceptions, is close to returning after sitting out the last two games with a hamstring injury. Tank Williams has started in Smith's place, but when Smith returns, the starting job is his again, Frazier said.

  • While conceding that the Philadelphia Eagles stacked the line of scrimmage in an effort to limit his effectiveness last Sunday, running back Adrian Peterson once again saw on film some of the mistakes he made and held himself accountable.

    "When I watched film, there were some plays that I left on the field that could have been home runs. So I am just going to go out and just focus and do my job and take things slow and let the game come to me," he said, saying he was too "impatient" and that left him just shaking his head after seeing it.

    Peterson still leads the league with 740 yards rushing. If he is still leading at the end of the season, he would be the first rookie to lead the league in rushing since Barry Sanders did it in 1989.

  • Special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro on the Vikings' onside kick last week in the first quarter after their opening touchdown drive: "We knew what we were going to get and it was just a matter of when we were going to determine when we were going to pull the trigger on it. We felt good about it. Coach and I had talked about that we were going to probably do it, but until you get into the game and see what is going on in terms of the score and the course of the game, you decide which part you might pull the trigger on it. We determined after the first score that we were going to go ahead and do it, but we had some other options there."

  • Wide receiver Sidney Rice leads NFC rookies with nine third-down catches.

  • Punter Chris Kluwe leads the league with 19 punts inside the 20-yard line.

  • Linebacker Ben Leber, safety Eric Frampton and fullback Jeff Dugan appear to be in line for captains this week.


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