Q&A: With Dean Dalton, Part II

Running back Michael Bennett is having a breakout year, which is a credit to him and the rest of the offense. In the second part of a Q&A with Dean Dalton, the position coach talks about the rest of the offense's contributions to Bennett's season.

After being Mike Tice's assistant offensive line coach last year, Dean Dalton was quickly moved to running backs coach after Tice was named head coach in January. He has been a factor in Michael Bennett's first 1,000-yard season. Previously, Dalton worked with former head coach Dennis Green's son, Jeremy, at War Room publications, which evaluates football player personnel.

Dalton became a Vikings assistant in 1999 after four years at the War Room. Dalton was also dean of students and athletic director at Delevan-Darien School District in Delevan, Wis., for two years before going to the War Room. Previously, he worked in other capacities in high school athletics and in sports broadcasting and publishing. Collegiately, he has coached at Western Illinois (1984-85), Wisconsin (1986-87), Texas Southern (1988-89) and Purdue (1990).

Q: How impressed have you been by the blocking job done by the offensive linemen and other players this season?

A: The fact we are in a position to have an opportunity to possibly finish as the best rushing offense in the NFL isn't just because of Michael Bennett and Moe Williams or the running backs. It's because of our entire offense. Up front the fellows have blocked exceptionally well all year. You wouldn't have the yards-per-carry average that we have (5.5 entering the Miami game) if you weren't getting great blocking. Our offensive scheme this year was modified a bit. Personnel-wise we brought Hunter Goodwin back and moved Jimmy Kleinsasser back full-time to a tight end position. Those two guys are exceptional blockers in the run game. And that has opened things up for Michael.

The big plays happen because of great downfield efforts. Randy Moss has done a great job blocking this season. There were a couple of plays against Green Bay where Randy had two blocks because of great effort. D'Wayne Bates has been a great addition to the offense because he is a smart guy who is very tenacious and will be in position to make key blocks in the running game as well. And Chris Walsh, we have known forever he is a tough guy who will fight you and be in position to make a block. He won't back down from anything. There was a situation a couple of weeks ago where he was stuck in the game and had to do a back-side cutoff block, inside, like a big tight end, and Chris Walsh got the job done.

Without a doubt, the success of our running game is the entire offense. And Daunte Culpepper, he gets us in the right play. A lot of our running game is predicated on the number count that the defense is showing us, and Daunte makes great decisions at the line of scrimmage to change from this run to that run, and that run to this run, based on what the defense is showing. He has done an exceptional job of that all year.

Q: In a tough season, how proud are you of the fact that the Vikings could finish with No. 1-rated rushing offense for the season?

A: There is no such thing as a moral victory. It's about winning and losing, and our record is what our record is. But when Mike (Tice) took over the program he established a three-year plan to win the world championship. Unfortunately our record is poor right now, but we have made great strides in the direction of meeting the objectives necessary to make that three-year plan a reality.

I think anybody who has watched any of our games will understand that this a young team, this is a talented team, and it's a team that is very cohesive and sticking together behind its leader and behind the leadership of the staff. It's a team that will play 60 minutes, that will fight to the end regardless of the circumstance and has a lot of pride. With the youth, we can eliminate those mistakes that we have made in crucial situations, we can correct some of the situations that have allowed us not to win the close games, and we can add to our team the necessary players to make the difference.

Our administrative staff has positioned us, with the salary-cap situation, to be able to afford to put this team together. So, we can take a lot of positives from what we have done, and on the offensive side one of the great positives is we have broken a few team records. There are a few team records that are out there that we hope to break and plan to break before the season is over. … The No. 1 thing on everybody's goal board in this building is winning. But there are a lot of other objectives we feel you need to do to succeed, and we are able to accomplish many of those objectives to allow us to have the winning happen here in the very near future. Like next year.

Q: Moe Williams has continued to play despite being banged up. How is he doing at this point?

A: Moe plays hard. He is a warrior. He is a true football player. He is injured, but a very tough guy and filled in in a couple of spots. With the cold weather and as hard as Michael worked (against Green Bay), he had some cramps. Moe stepped in there and ripped off a 44-yard run that was just pure grit. You just love what he brings to the team and has brought to the team all year since he returned from Baltimore. His leadership and his effort and his production on the field is fantastic.

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