Behind Enemy Lines: Questioning the Vikings

Brett Favre has generated the headlines, but can he live up to the hype created by his return to the NFL on a rival team? And does he have the offensive line in front of him to get it done? What about that stingy Vikings defense? Team experts Barry McBride (Browns) and Tim Yotter (Vikings) preview Sunday's regular-season opener.

Barry McBride: You're probably as sick of the endless discussion about the quarterback position as we are, but how limited will the Vikings offense be on Sunday? Favre didn't have to spend any time in the dorm, and he wasn't working on timing with receivers or practicing things out of the playbook, either. Will the Vikings have to ratchet back a bit on the offensive gameplan as a result?

Tim Yotter: Not at all. In fact, they may have greater confidence in his ability to work the system. The Vikings' offensive coordinator is Darrell Bevell, who was Favre's position coach in Green Bay, and Favre has said much of the offense is the same from his Green Bay days. He has said he knows the offense so well he could teach it. Combine that with 18 years of experience in the league and being able to diagnose defenses without much trouble and he already appears to be the team's most confidence quarterback in years, and their best decision-maker before the ball is snapped. The one issue that will be evolving throughout the season is his timing with the receivers. He still needs to get used to the way certain players run routes and read defenses. And then there is wide receiver Bernard Berrian, who hasn't played in a preseason game since Favre arrived because of a hamstring injury. So there are challenges that Favre has to overcome because of his late arrival, but learning the actual playbook doesn't seem to be one of the bigger hurdles.

BM: The Vikings offensive line seems eerily similar to Cleveland's: A strong left side of the line, and new starters at center and right tackle (the Browns also get a bonus point for a new right guard). How has the offensive line jelled with the new components? Is Anthony Herrara capable of covering some of Phil Loadholt's youthful errors?

TY: The Vikings seem to have little concern with center John Sullivan's ability to make the correct line calls and handle the mental aspects of the game. But he isn't a very big guy, so his real challenge will be handling huge nose tackles like Shaun Rogers, if he plays. The good thing for Sullivan is that he got to deal with Pat Williams throughout the offseason, so that helped prepare Sullivan in that department. Phil Loadholt is a massive human being and should be an upgrade at right tackle. However, he is still a rookie and needs to develop some consistency. He told me this week that his biggest challenge is still just getting used to the scheme, so I think once he is comfortable in that aspect he should develop into a strong right tackle. He's definitely going to be tough to get around because of his extensive arm length. As for Herrera at right guard, he struggled all last year with a shoulder injury, so it will be interesting to see if his play improves, even with first-year starters on each side of him.

BM: Looking at the Vikings defensive depth chart, I'm not seeing a whole bunch of obvious weak spots worthy of attack. If you were the Browns offensive coordinator, how would you attack the Vikings defense? Try to go sideline-to-sideline to minimize the impact of the Williamses? What defensive weaknesses are there to exploit?

TY: Sideline-to-sideline rarely works against them because they are very good with their gap discipline and stringing the play out until a linebacker or cornerback makes the tackle for a loss or minimal gain. This defense still needs to improve in defending the pass, but I'm not sure the Browns have the established quarterback to take advantage of that strategy. In order to beat the defense, the passing game has to stay patient with underneath throws and then be effective in the red zone. The one thing I've seen is that occasionally they can over-pursue, allowing bootlegs to develop. Also, this preseason there have been some quarterbacks who can step up in the pocket then find room to scramble for first downs.

BM: Are we right in assuming that the Vikings have to go deep into the playoffs or Brad Childress will get a chance to look at other career opportunities?

TY: Owner Zygi Wilf is a pretty loyal man, but I think even he would have to consider a change in coaching if they didn't advance far into the playoffs. He has spent a lot of money, especially for a low-revenue team, to put together an impressively talented roster. The amount of playmakers that have been added in the past three years on offense – Brett Favre, Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, Bernard Berrian, Visanthe Shiancoe – and the big signing of Jared Allen on the defense give Childress every opportunity to succeed. If he doesn't succeed with this group, you'd have to wonder how he would find success in the future.

BM: Back to the QBs as we wind up. Favre is coming in with what appears to be great hype once again. At this point in his career, with injury concerns, losing some of the ability which made him special, what are the realistic expectations of what he will contribute this year? Do you feel that the Vikings can achieve and excel with a QB that has a recent track record of injuries and carelessness with the ball?

TY: It is one of the most interesting dynamics to watch this year, for sure. One of the reasons Favre has called the Vikings a "perfect fit" for him is that he doesn't feel he needs to be the savior. This week he said everybody knows that Adrian Peterson is the monster on this offense, and I think at this point in his career Favre is OK with letting the running game dictate the pace of the game. He knows at some point he will have to make some critical plays to win games, but it sounds like he feels better equipped to do that if he can keep from regularly throwing the ball 30 times a game and wearing out by December. The key will be keeping him relatively clean with the two new starters on the offensive line. He took a couple of hard shots in the preseason and bounced right back up, but I'm not sure if he could continue doing that for 16 or more games in the regular season.

Barry McBride is the publisher of the Orange and Brown Report on Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update.

Viking Update Top Stories