Defensive Dilemmas

While Lance Johnstone says the Vikings need more pressure from the defensive line, Nick Rogers is just concerned about his ability to react without thinking so much.

Lance Johnstone, Kenny Mixon and Lorenzo Bromell all rank among the top 30 pass rushers in the NFC. But as a defensive unit, the Vikings' pass rush has struggled this season. In fact, it often has been the facet fans overlook when automatically blaming the secondary for poor pass coverage.

There is a reason quarterbacks like Chad Pennington and Joey Harrington have succeeded against the Vikings: With a lack of a pass rush, both quarterbacks had too much time to throw and appeared way too comfortable in the pocket.

As a defensive unit, the Vikings rank 26th in sacks per pass play, a more accurate measure of a team's pass rush than mere sacks alone.

"I know when we look back on film, we could have easily had six more sacks," said Johnstone, a pass-rushing specialist brought in last season from Oakland. "It's about discipline. We would have more sacks if we stayed in the spots we were supposed to be."

Johnstone said the defensive linemen and defensive backs need to familiarize themselves with each other. The longer the two units play together, the better off they will be, he said. "We have to get a rhythm going between the two units," Johnstone said. "It's something you get over time."

Rogers still learning
Head coach Mike Tice announced Monday that Nick Rogers, a sixth-round pick out of Georgia Tech, will be the starter at strongside linebacker for the remainder of the season.

"Nick is going to be our guy," Tice said. "I think the linebacker core we've got in there right now with Nick and (Greg) Biekert and (Henri) Crockett gives us our best opportunity to win. … We really like Nick and he is going to be a guy that I think we can win some football games with."

Rogers, however, knows he has plenty to learn. "I'm still thinking a lot," he said. "When we line up, I'm looking at things and thinking about things I really don't need to think about instead of reacting and playing fast. I'm thinking, and that is slowing me down like a half a second."

As far as getting the starting job, Rogers said: "It gives me confidence, but first I have to really feel comfortable being out there and be totally confident in myself. I'm glad they have confidence in me that I can go out there and do it, but now it's time for me to get comfortable."

And how will Rogers get to that point?

"I think just playing, just getting more reps in practice and things, and seeing more offenses and motions and stuff like that," he said.

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