Lurtsema's Reaction: Positions of need

Former Viking Bob Lurtsema has a couple of interesting takes on positions he thinks the Vikings could upgrade, but he also talks about how real the need is at positions where many people believe an upgrade is needed. Is there a spot defenses are attacking on the Vikings offense, and which position might be easiest for a rookie to contribute at right away?

VU: With Cedric Griffin's injury and Antoine Winfield's age, do you agree with the concensus that says cornerback is the Vikings' biggest need?

BL: As we discussed last week, with the tight ends you've got Visanthe Shiancoe and one of the best blocking tight ends. You've got three good ones, but you get predictable with the more one-dimensional tight ends. If you get a tight end that can block and receive, it makes it a little more of a combination there and you can disguise some of your offensive plays a little more.

In the same breath, I always like taking care of that second running back. Get the split backs and use some diversification. If they come out I-formation with the fullback ahead of the halfback, strictly speaking as a former defensive lineman, it reduces my responsibilities – how I read my keys is so much easier and I can get more physical. So many times, it's going to be a run out of that formation. When they come out split backs, you've got two good receivers that no matter what the situation is, it makes me stay home. Usually the split backs is a passing formation, but a lot of times you have second-back responsibilities and you can't let them get outside of you. You have to contain more. It really puts a little more thinking in the game for the defensive linemen, and anytime you make a defensive lineman think he's going to slow down a little bit and that could be the difference in six inches that springs a running back. It is that refined at the top level and that can open more of a hole for your running backs.

VU: Right now, Albert Young is the No. 2 guy at running back. Do you think it will stay that way when they get to training camp or do you expect them to add somebody in the draft or a veteran after the draft?

BL: I really can't answer that with any certainty. I don't have that strong of a read on Young. He's a good back, but I haven't got that good of a read on him and Darius Reynaud. I think it's completely wide open, and I think it will come down to whoever Brett Favre feels the most comfortable with. Every time you hear from the young running backs, they say they're learning how to block or they know how to block, so that's coming from (running backs coach) Eric Bieniemy. He's telling these backs that it's one thing to catch the ball and run with the ball, but you've got to block – protect the quarterback. Right now, the No. 1 prerequisite is that they can block.

VU: Because of the age of Pat Williams, another position people talk about for the Vikings in this draft is defensive tackle. Do you think Jimmy Kennedy can step in that starting role after Pat Williams is done, or do you think that's a position they need to look at hard in the upper rounds of the draft?

BL: Jimmy Kennedy can handle that position. He's strong enough. He has a better pass rush than what Pat does. There's a little give and take there, but Kennedy is more than adequate. This will be Pat Williams' last year and you could tell last year if they had won the Super Bowl that he would have retired.

VU: Interior offensive line is another position that people are talking about quite a bit to challenge Anthony Herrera. Is guard a relatively easy position to get playing time at as a rookie because you have a center and tackle to protect you?

BL: A rookie guard sometimes has to have a little more agility, depending on the offense, like if they want you to run the old Packer sweep and the guard pulls quite a bit. These days, I think it would be the easiest job on the offensive line to get adjusted to. But, they are all tough. As a rookie, you have to have great strength. That would be the biggest thing for a rookie guard – can you handle the big horses? You are absolutely right that a center and tackle can help you, slide your way and give you different pointers. But if you're a lightweight rookie, it might take a couple years to get down the technique to handle a big man. If you do come in strong, that gives you a better opportunity.

VU: Speaking of strength, I'm curious about your opinion on John Sullivan in the middle. Do you think he's strong enough for the position or do you think he's still got some developing to do there?

BL: He sure is smart enough. He's made the adjustment there, like what we just talked about with the guards and having a certain technique. Could he be a little stronger? Definitely. On many occasions he needed help. They came with a five- or six-man rush and you could that sometimes they were putting the bigger man on Sullivan. When you see defenses structured that way, you know they're trying to take advantage of the offense's weakness. I think some of the opposing teams thought he wasn't a real strong blast-type center. But the biggest thing with center is your agility and your brains. That's a position normally where centers have a longer longevity in the National Football League because so many times there is nobody line up directly over them and they are just helping out. They're not taking the brunt of everything. But when you see more man-over-the-center this year, where they're shading the gap and their technique is toward the center, that's telling you they see something with Sullivan, but he had a very good year.

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

Viking Update Top Stories