NFL defenses spend hours upon hours of the week preparing for and scheming against their opponent’s offense. One step in their preparation is to identify individual offensive players and dissect exactly how the offense plans to use that player, and then figure out a way to stop that plan.
Offenses across the league use this same tactic, however. Often times there are defenders that are so adept at making plays and busting apart offensive schemes that they must be accounted for on every play by the opposing team.
Last week against the Baltimore Ravens, the Vikings had their hands full of such players, and S Ed Reed might have been at the top of the list. Reed’s penchant for making big plays, and his nose for the ball, makes him one of the league’s most lethal defenders.
This week against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Vikings have a similar challenge in S Troy Polamalu, perhaps the Steelers best defensive player and one of the NFL’s most gifted defenders.
A 7-year veteran and 1st round pick of the Steelers in 2003, Polamalu has been a Pro Bowler in the past 5 seasons and he was named to the Steelers 75th season All-Time Team a few years back. He has excellent speed, good ball skills, is a ferocious tackler and is as good against the run as any secondary player in the NFL.
There is no questioning the importance of Polamalu to the Steelers defense. He missed 4 games earlier this season with a knee injury, and the Steelers went 2-2 in those contests. In the 2 games he has played in this season, Polamalu has a pair of INTs and his team has a pair of wins.
The Vikings were successful in their attempts to neutralize and navigate away from Reed last week. The perennial All-Pro defender had just 6 tackles and didn’t register a pass defensed, sack or forced fumble. The Vikings need to do just as good a job this week against Polamalu.
“That’s probably as good an analogy as there is in the AFC,” Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said when asked to compare Polamalu with Reed. “Even though they play in different schemes of defense, they both have great instincts and skills – not just instinct, but you can see there is a bunch of film study and there is some deception involved as well.
“They are trying to give you a tell that they are doing one thing and then do something quite different. So you need to be mindful of where they are.”
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