That is the Multi-Million dollar question that’s on the minds of Viking fans. Does he have the fortitude ? Does he have the ability to lead ? Does he have the staff ? Does he have the Horses ?
Much has been written about the unsuccessful courtship between Childress and Brett Favre where the team and the media for that matter, was played like a Spanish Guitar by the Mississippi man of mystery. During this unashamed gushing over the former Packer star, Childress gives us a bit of unintended insight into the mindset of a coach on the hot seat.
So Brad is completely confident in his three quarterbacks ??? OK, what is he suppose to say ? Of course he HAD to explore the possibility of acquiring a Pro-Bowl level QB, And that pursuit was bound to make the current law firm of Tjax, Booty and Rosenfels feel at least a little alienated. AAWWWW !!! Get over it ! You guys are being paid a king’s ransom so grow up and act like men already ! If you have a problem with the coach trying to upgrade the position, then step up to the plate and perform !!!
But what does this say about the confidence Childress REALLY has in this triumvirate ? I realize Childress is trying to say and do all the politically correct things here. But what it says to me is:
1. Childress’s job depends on getting the Vikings Deep into the play-offs.
2. We are really weak at the Quarterback position.
3. To get really Deep into the play-offs we need to upgrade the Quarterback position.
I realize that he’s had 3 years to remedy this situation and all we have to show for it is the seemingly flawed Tavaris Jackson experiment, the Deer in the headlights, turnover prone Sage Rosenfels and the man with the great name and not a single NFL play under his belt, J.D. Booty.
I also realize that we could have made a play for Jay Cutler, but didn’t because Childress was probably convinced that Brett Favre WAS going to come in and solidify the position without surrendering a number 1 pick.
But Childress didn’t realize he was being held hostage by a force that no man could contain, let alone predict. I’ll call it, the Favre syndrome.
So here we are…….like it or not. Childress MUST now play with the hand he has been dealt.
So what else do we have to look forward to. OK, let’s look at the rest of the squad.
We need to start by focusing on the fact that outside of Quarterback, this is quite possibly the most talented roster in the league. I mean, we are absolutely loaded at nearly every other spot, particularly on defense. Having a healthy E.J. Henderson back will only make this situation better.
Today we look at the Defensive roster: This is the first time in recent memory, that the team doesn’t have to game plan for a particular glaring weakness. As a matter of fact, from front seven to back four, this team has above average talent at every position.
Assuming that the case facing the two William’s boys remains in a Minnesota courtroom then this is at worst a top 5 line and quite possibly the best front four in the NFL. The Vikings have been number 1 vs. the run for the last 3 seasons. No other team in NFL history can make that brag. Things should not vary much. Teams CANNOT run against us. Period ! Next…..
Pass rush: The addition of Jared Allen last year was a tremendous upgrade that did more to upgrade the secondary then anything else they did. Ray Edwards is a very good pass rusher, and Kevin Williams is a monster for offensive coordinators to deal with as he cannot be stopped without a double team.
Brian Robison is another guy who can pin his ears back and pressure the QB consistently. He will compete for the starting end spot with Edwards and can spell Allen.
The recent retirement of Kenechi Udeze was not only sad to see, but also leaves the team a bit thin at end. Otis Grigsby and Jaime Mitchell will fight for the fourth end position. While second year DE Martail Burnett out of Utah is a bit undersized but is an excellent candidate for the practice squad.
Inside, Jimmy Kennedy is an intriguing back-up. A former high number 1 pick, Kennedy has never reached the lofty level of play that was expected of him coming out of college. Perhaps being limited to 15-20 reps a game will keep him fresh enough to make him a dominant back-up. Others pushing for reserve playing time are Nose tackle Fred Evans who has handled the middle very well when called upon. Letroy Guion, in his second year out of Florida State is big and should push for a back-up role. Antoine Holmes and Tremaine Johnson round out this group.
Depth may be an issue here, but the three starter are all at or near the Pro-Bowl level. The return of E.J. Henderson is huge ! Before last season’s hideous injury, Henderson was playing as well as any linebacker in the game. He is an absolute stud in the middle vs. the run, and when cut loose on the blitz, he becomes the turn-over creating playmaker they desperately needed and missed last season.
Chad Greenway: A player on the verge of stardom. Completely healed from the knee injury that cost him his rookie year. He makes plays from sideline to sideline. He is very good in coverage, is a hard hitter and has improved his tackling. Last Season he led the team in tackles. If Leslie Frazier decides to turn him loose on the blitz a bit more, we may really start to see just how dominant this player can be.
Ben Leber: Not as “Flashy as the other two. Just a real steady, consistent player. Leber can cover, stack up against the run or blitz with near equal competency. Steady as a rock, he has been very durable, and he has a nose for the ball.
Primary backups are special teams ace Heath Farwell, the undersized but very quick Erin Henderson, and rookie Chester Brinkley ( who is starting to look like a 5th round steal ).
Cornerback: The starting duo of Antoine Winfield and Cedric Griffin are very solid coverage corners. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier thinks this may be the best starting tandem in the league. They both do a nice job coming up in run support. Particularly Winfield who is possibly the best tackling corner in the game. He is also a big time playmaker who practically won the Carolina game last year with that highlight sack, fumble recovery and touchdown play that completely turned the game and the season around for the then 0-2 Vikings. He should be hungry and happy after signing his new contract extension that should keep him in Minnesota for the remainder of his career.
As for Griffin, he has made himself into a good cover corner by improving his tackling skills, footwork and most importantly, his concentration level. He has good but not great overall skills, he was just inconsistent in coverage. His hands are average at best and he tends to drop balls he easily gets his hand on, and he has good but not elite speed, but overall, the former Texas Longhorn has become a dependable starting NFL Cornerback. He has come into camp this year in terrific shape and seems to be focused on having a career season.
Nickel back – This shapes up to be a fight between Benny Sapp, Rookie Asher Allen and Marcus McCauley and free agent signee Karl Paymah. Sapp has big play capability but also tends to make huge gaffes at bad times. Allen is difficult to access as a rookie but seems to have solid skills and good hands. He can be a bit injury prone but comes to camp with a clean slate. As far as McCauley is concerned, this guy is an enigma. He has All-World talent, but it just never seems to translate onto the playing field. Paymah will probably make the squad because of his ability to play on special teams, but his coverage skills are limited. Others fighting for roster spots include CB Rookie Colt Anderson from Montana, who may be a better fit at safety because of less then elite speed, but a reputation of being a big hitter. Also Derrick Roberson of Rutgers and Marcus Walker from Oklahoma are long shots but could find themselves on the practice squad.
Safety: I really want to come out and say that second year player Tyrell Johnson is going to make a Major impact on the defense. I really like this guy ! Yes, he is bound to make some mistakes, but he is such an upgrade in terms of range over Darren Sharper who clearly lost a step late year. This guy can come up and deliver huge hits in run support as well. His hands are suspect, so don’t expect a lot of turnovers, but by virtue of his speed and sideline to sideline range, there should be far fewer “Big” plays against this secondary.
Madeau Williams: Did anyone else notice how much the secondary improved when Williams returned to the starting unit after his neck injury? It was a subtle and quiet as the things he does rarely get noticed unless you look at the overall impact he makes. Not many turnovers, a few big hits. But suddenly, the defense became much more difficult to throw against. This is mainly because the offense doesn’t throw to his area very much. This is due to the fact that Williams takes up a lot of space. He is usually in great position and covers a lot of ground. As a matter of fact, the combination of Williams and Johnson is probably the best overall safety combo the Vikings have had in many years. They are both young and still improving.
The back-ups here are third year player Eric Frampton and second year safety Husain Abdullah, both Washington State alumni and rookie Jamarca Sanford out of Mississippi.