Lurtsema's Reaction: Formation to use

Former Vikings defensive end Bob Lurtsema would like to see the offense use a particular personnel grouping more often, and he offers his insight on getting more defensive pressure, the impact Jared Allen is having, the return of Bryant McKinnie and outlook with a 1-3 record.

VU: What were the areas that you thought were most disappointing against the Titans?

BL: As I've said many times before, there is more pressure on the fans than the players themselves. As a fan, you cannot control your destiny. As a player, you've prepared yourself and it's another day at the office. The further I'm away from it, the more I'm strictly, totally a true hard-core Vikings fan and I can't control their destiny. I'm very frustrated. When I played on the defensive line, the formation I hated to play against, that put the most pressure on me as far as my aggressiveness and my reads, was the split-back formation. Normally with split backs, you think it's going to be a passing formation. So a lot of times you're going to put your ears back because they're in there for extra blocking protection. But, when you have an Adrian Peterson and a Chester Taylor, I truly think that their talent dictates that those two get in the backfield together on running situations and passing situations. Those two could be the total package together. Last week, they might have had one time together in the backfield. I don't understand why they don't use that and understand the pressure that puts on the defensive linemen. It takes away their aggressiveness and the whole works and they don't even look at it. So I'm a frustrated ex-jock.

VU: How do you think they should be able to get out of these eight- and nine-man boxes, because it appears things are really getting crowded for Peterson?

BL: I think with Gus Frerotte in there, they are out of them. You see a few of them, but just having a veteran quarterback is going to get you out of that. If you get in that and you have a two-back, they're a dead duck if you get those guys out in the flat. With Gus in there, you're going to see less and less eight- and nine-man boxes because Gus is smart enough.

VU: How much do you think getting back Bryant McKinnie will help, and do you expect him to make the start Monday night in New Orleans?

BL: Having Bryant McKinnie back, he's not going to be in playing shape no matter how hard he worked out in those four weeks because of the physical contact in a game. I think it's going to take a couple of weeks for him to get everything back together. Artis Hicks, I thought he did a very, very good job. The one thing that you did notice is that they gave him some extra help. He played against three or four Pro Bowlers, so they gave him a little extra help. Overall, I would not be afraid to play McKinnie a little bit, but it's a lot different after sitting for four weeks. It's no different than after a bye week, some teams come after a two-week layoff and start out kind of lazy. You've seen that happen so many times. I've always thought with Super Bowls you get such a better game with just one week of preparation because you don't break your routine. I'm going to have to withhold judgment – Mac's an awful good tackle, but I would not be afraid to play Hicks at least half and half.

VU: Defensively, they didn't have any sacks on Sunday. Do they need to blitz more or what is going on with that?

BL: Actually, I thought they blitzed a little more than usual Sunday. The pass rush, they put a lot of pressure on Peyton Manning. They were all over him. With Jake Delhomme, they just smoked him. Throw some blitzes in there, yes, but with our defensive backs the opposing receivers are getting a lot more separation than what I would like to have be allowed. A veteran quarterback like Kerry Collins can pick you apart throwing that short stuff. They're not going to sit in the pocket and throw that 80-yarder. It's a three-step drop and release and it's tough to get the sacks. You can't always judge a game by how many sacks they had. In the second half, the Titans had only 70 yards total offense anyway.

VU: How deep of a hole do you think 1-3 is and what do you think the players' level of frustration is at this point?

BL: When you're 1-3, you pick up on any positive you can. You say, ‘Well, we're 1-3 but we're only one game out of first place.' You're going to play Green Bay again and you play Chicago twice, so you still have your destiny is your hands. So 1-3 isn't too bad, but 1-4 is a killer if you drop back two games. You've still got five NFC North division teams, so you still have a little positive to hang on to.

VU: As a player, is it hard to stay away from finger pointing and try to forcefully make suggestions and things like that?

BL: It's changed a lot. It seems that a lot of players do want to point the finger at somebody else and those aren't the successful players. It's not really a team game. You say you win as a team and lose as a team – well, yes, you do. It's a nice cliché and everything, but you win and lose with individual successes and failures too. Once an individual fails on the field and accepts it as a team loss, you're losing something there. He's got to improve and step forward and make his contribution the best possible week in and week out. You talk about team, team, team all the time, but it's also individual. When I sat in films all those years, I looked at myself to correct and improve my game – which there was a lot of improvement to do – but I sure didn't watch everybody else and what they were doing. Take a look at yourself and don't point fingers unless you're going to point it at yourself.

VU: From what you see with Jared Allen, do you see him getting doubled quite a bit and that's why he's not on pace to do what he did last year for sack numbers?

BL: They've changed their offensive blocking schemes in the first four games. They've all been different based on what Allen does. You look at Sunday's game and both of the Williams brothers had six tackles apiece. They didn't have those numbers last year. Jared Allen is old-school all the way. He'll give you 100 percent and he'll look himself in the mirror and he'll say that he's got to improve. But I think the defense is fine. The front seven is one of the best front seven in the league. There are a couple you can compare them to, but I'm tickled pink with that and they're changing their schemes because of Allen. He was a good investment.

Bob Lurtsema registered 57 careers sacks as 12-year veteran defensive lineman in the NFL, playing with the Baltimore Colts, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks, and the longtime publisher of Viking Update. He joins for a weekly Q & A session, and his monthly column appears in the magazine.

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