Stillers vs. Vikings Pre-game:
The Vikings will have a short week to prepare for this game, as if that matters.�� Last Saturday, Minnesota prevailed in New Orleans 28-21; that game was a rematch of a 2000 second round playoff tilt when the Vikes whipped the Saints 34-16.
Victory in preseason means squat but it is worth noting that the Viking starters and top reserves were up 21-7 at the half.� Culpepper hit Moss for 60 yards and a TD; later Dauntae scrambled in from 11 yards out.� Deep in the first half, backup QB Todd Bouman led the Vikes to a 3rd score; the reserves hung on in the 2nd half but barely.� At the end, the Saints were first and goal.
The success that Minnesota�s starting groups enjoyed is, of course, in sharp contrast to the listless, pitiful performance that the Stiller top guns gave in Atlanta.� Upfront, the Stillers were beaten on both sides of the ball; considering the Falcon�s long-term ineptitude there, this doesn�t argue for good things to come.� Kordell and Kent were clueless under center and, on the D-side, Scott, Logan, and Poteat got position but didn�t convert on (3) INT opportunities.� The D-side blew those big-play chances but Atlanta was beatable anyway. This won�t be true in the Twin Cities; against the Vikes high-powered O-side, those are the kind of plays that must be made.� Turning to this encounter:
When the Stillers have the ball:� The Stiller offense has been, at best, mediocre; the Viking defense has been just stunningly awful.� This shapes up as a battle of pygmies.
Throw the football:� If this were a regular season game, the Stillers clock-control, power game would be the ticket.� If the Viking D-side can�t get off the field then Culpepper, Moss, Carter, etal can�t get on.�� Winning matters in the regular season but not now.� Pre-season is all about scheme, identity and individual match-ups.� Given that, the Stillers, ideally, would score fast and get their D-side back on the field to work against the multi-faceted Viking passing attack.� This might not be a winning formula but it is the most fruitful practice paradigm available this week.�
The Stillers passing game has ranked 29th, 26th and 29th over the last few seasons; the Viking defense was about as bad.�� Their secondary is decent in the middle with Orlando Thomas and Robert Griffith but the CB, Kenny Wright and converted WR Robert Tate, aren�t exactly Madison and Surtain.� Beyond that, the Vikes will have trouble rushing the passer.� Long-term ace John Randle is gone and micro-DE Lance Johnstone has been installed on the right side.� Someone named Talance Sawyer (99/6) is the LDE and the Vike OLB are the now very ordinary Ed McDaniel and Gabe Northern.� All in all, the Viking D-side figures to get little pressure and will have problems matching up in the passing game.� If the Stillers can�t get an advantage here, well, it�ll be a long, long season at Heinz Field.
For the sake of comparisons to come, note that Saint QB Aaron Brooks was 10/10 for 129 yards last week in his limited tour against what passes in Minnesota for the top D-unit.
Bring out the new:� See above; if there actually is a new offense, well, work on that.� There is little doubt that, in the regular season, the Stillers will be able to run inside against Hovan, Robbins, Fernando Smith and the rest.� Last year, every team ran on the Vikes and, while they�ve drafted (4) DT in the past two years, there is little evidence that those men are ready to play.� Similarly, there is little evidence that the Stillers have installed any significant new O-side components.� If they have, better those are tested in pre-season than wheeled out as steaming virgin veal fresh for the Jags on September 9th.�
Jeff Hartings vs. Chris Hovan:� The Vikings play the 4-3 but use an NT/under tackle type formation.� Hovan will be on the nose and, while this man is somewhat inexperienced, he does bring very good quickness, Hamptonesque weight room strength and plays with a high revving motor.� Hovan will challenge Hartings; hopefully, our novice OC will be up to the task.
When the Vikings have the ball:� In 2000, the Stiller D-side was marginally play-off worthy.� Bell seems to be the real deal and, if Hampton develops (and/or Tez comes in) then the 2001 unit could be much improved over that previous edition.� Against the Vikes, they�d better be; that offense has been state-of-the�art since Moss came on the scene.
Overview:� The Vikings have lost (4) Pro Bowl OL over the last two seasons.� Despite that, their offense figures to be typically high-powered this year.� Denny Green�s Vikings are, in some respect, the anti-Hogs.� In the Gibbs days, skill players came and went but Grimm, Jacoby and Bostic endured.� Up in the Twin Cities, OL have come and gone but Coach Green has retained Carter, selected Moss then Culpepper and moved on.�
Systems mismatch:� We all know about Moss and Carter but the Viking passing attack figures to be highly diverse this season.� Byron Chamberlain, a bulked up WR in the Sharpe mold, is in to work the deep seams.� The Vikes look to swing the ball to their RB; Robert Smith was highly effective in that mode and, ultimately, ex-Badger Michael Bennett will fit the bill.� The Vike FB is Jim Kleinsasser a former college TE.� These (3) secondary receivers will pressure the Stiller S and OLB and, if Porter and Gildon have cover duties, the Stillers will have problems mounting a pass rush.� IMO, this is the signal weakness in the 3-4.� Here, if the OLB don�t get pressure, opposing QB have all day to throw the ball.� Look for Culpepper to have plenty time to wait for Moss and Carter to come free.
Stiller DE vs. OT Brad Badger and Chris Liwienski:� The current Viking OT aren�t Steussie and Stringer; then again, the Stiller DE aren�t Burnett and McCrary.� If the OLB are in coverage, the DE have got to get home.
Casey Hampton vs. Matt Birk:� Hampton was okay in Atlanta but just okay.� Birk was a Pro Bowl player last year; this will be a good test for the young man.
Mike Logan vs. Randy Moss:� Logan is here to give over the top help; the time is now.
Kendrell Bell vs. Mike Jones:� Bell has the ability to even-up the system mismatch described above.� Bell has the speed to cover or rush and very clearly can deliver a blow when he arrives.� Mike Jones may be a cover specialist but he is no threat to get on any QB and, judging from his performance in Atlanta, never saw a block he wouldn�t run around.� The 3-4 depends on deception and that depends on athletes who have multiple abilities; DB who can rush, LB who can cover, you know the drill.� Bell has got it like that; Jones does not.