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A Look At Miami’s Secondary

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 15, 2010 – 4:19 pm

I’ve said numerous times over the past few days while analyzing Sunday’s Vikings-Dolphins matchup that I expect Miami to try and apply heavy pressure to QB Brett Favre by utilizing blitz packages out of their standard 3-4 defensive alignment. Last week against New Orleans, the Vikings saw an odd-man front but the Saints elected to rush just 3 defenders and drop 8 into coverage on most plays.

The strategy of sitting back and playing coverage defense against Favre worked for New Orleans last week, primarily because the passing offense was a bit out of sync. If Miami employs the same strategy this week, with Favre and Co. in the friendly confines of Mall of America Field, they run the risk of being picked apart by a future Hall of Fame QB and a group of exciting playmakers on offense.

So that’s why I think Miami will be blitzing. As a result of this blitzing, it’ll be the Dolphins secondary who will be relied upon to button things down until the pass rushers get to Favre (I’m hoping they never get there in time. So is Favre).

Let’s take a look at a few of the Dolphins DBs – with help from Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress – who will be charged with stopping Favre and his receivers…

Safeties
The Dolphins list Yeremiah Bell and Chris Clemons as the starters. Bell is a 7-year pro who led the Dolphins in tackles and was 2nd in INTs during the 2009 season; he also earned his 1st Pro Bowl honor last year. Clemons is younger but is a promising prospect. He was a 4-year letterwinner and 3-year starter at Clemson and is one of the Dolphins fastest players.

Childress described Miami’s safeties as “strong hitters.”

Cornerbacks
The listed starters are Vontae Davis and Jason Allen, with former Viking Benny Sapp and Sean Smith listed as backups; it sounds like Sapp is the nickel CB. Davis was a highly-touted draft prospect coming out of college was selected with a 1st round pick (#25 overall) by the Dolphins in 2009. He is the brother of San Francisco 49ers TE Vernon Davis, also a 1st round pick, and he played in all 16 games as a rookie in ’09. Childress described Davis as “a very good man-coverage guy.”

Allen is a big CB at 6-1, 200 pounds, and is entering his 5th season out of the University of Tennessee. Smith is also a physical imposing CB at 6-3, 214 pounds and he started all 16 games in 2009 as a rookie for the Dolphins. Childress said Allen plays a lot of “bump man-to-man” and he also said Smith had a “very good rookie year” in ’09.

Sapp brings not only the ability to play nickel CB but also some familiarity with the Vikings offense after spending all of 2008 and 2009 and then the preseason in 2010 with the Vikings. But that street runs both ways, as the Vikings will be familiar with Sapp’s strengths and weaknesses in coverage.


Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 14 Comments »

Vikings List 8 On Week’s Initial Injury Report

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 15, 2010 – 2:26 pm

The Vikings have 8 players listed on this week’s initial injury report but none of them were held out of practice on Wednesday. The Miami Dolphins came out of Week 1 pretty healthy and have listed just 3 players on their report.

For the Vikings, the following players were listed as limited participants: CB Chris Cook (knee), CB Cedric Griffin (knee), WR Percy Harvin (hip), DT Jimmy Kennedy (knee) and LT Bryant McKinnie (fiinger) . QB Brett Favre (ankle/back), RB Toby Gerhart (knee) and C John Sullivan (calf) were full participants.

For the Dolphins, DE Ikaika Alama-Francis (illness), LB Channing Crowder (groin) and DE Jared Odrick (ankle) did not participate in practice.


Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 17 Comments »

Vikings To Square Off Against Dynamic Dolphins Offense

Posted by cjsiewert on September 15, 2010 – 11:11 am

With a great deal of focus centered around the Vikings WR core and whether or not the coaching staff will make a move to bolster its depth, Vikings players can only worry about their next opponent, the Miami Dolphins.

The Purple had its hands full in their season-opening loss to the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints and now have the task of competing with a talented Dolphins team. One tough task in particular that the Vikings will face in their home opener will be to slow down the innovative and creative Dolphins offense that includes exotic formations such as the Wildcat.

An advantage the Vikings may have in this matchup is their secondary against the Dolphins WRs. The secondary is hampered by injuries to CBs Chris Cook and Cedric Griffen but will face a Dolphins WR core that managed to involve only 2 of its players during Sunday’s 15-10 victory over the Buffalo Bills. Brandon Marshall caught 8 passes for 53 yards and Davone Bess hauled in 6 receptions for 51 yards.

As Mike duly noted, the Vikings secondary unit held its own against a Saints offense that was 1st in scoring offense and 4th in passing offense just a season ago and will now look to stop a Miami offense with not quite as many weapons. The big concern the secondary is challenged with this week is undoubtedly the play of Marshall, who was acquired in a trade with the Denver Broncos this offseason.

If the Vikings front 7 can stop the dynamic rushing attack of RBs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, the Dolphins will be forced to make plays through the air, which creates an opportunity for the Vikings secondary unit to come up with some big defensive stops. Certainly it takes a team effort to earn a victory in this league but keying off the Dolphins rushing attack and limiting Marshall’s receptions may be principal factors to a Vikings win.


Posted in All, CJ Siewert | 23 Comments »

Setting The Table For Miami

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 15, 2010 – 7:01 am

After opening their season on the road in Week 1, the Vikings return to Mall of America Field for their 2010 home opener to face another team that opened their season on the road – the Miami Dolphins.  Sunday will mark the 50th home opener in Vikings history, and the franchise hold a record of 30-18-1 in the previous 49 home openers.

While the Vikings came out on the short end of a tightly-contested game in Week 1, losing 14-9 to the New Orleans Saints, the Dolphins came out on the winning end of their season-opener, defeating the Buffalo Bills 15-10. The Dolphins win did not come in great fashion – they scored just 15 points and had fewer than 300 yards of total offense, but any win on the road is good and any division win on the road is great.

But we can throw last week out of the window now. The Vikings have won 9 straight regular season games at Mall of America Field and they’ll look to make it 10 straight in an attempt to even their record at 1-1. It’s been a while since the Vikings have had a losing record and you get the sense that this locker room doesn’t quite like the feeling.

In order to get rid of that feeling, the Vikings need to defeat a Dolphins team that runs the dynamic Wildcat offense and features a 3-4 defensive scheme. Let’s take a quick look at both sides of the ball…

While Miami doesn’t use the Wildcat as its primary offense, the formation can still present problems for opposing defenses and teams who are unable to stop it are less likely to emerge victoriously after a game with the Dolphins. RB Ronnie Brown is the main threat out of the Wildcat, as he typically takes the direct snap from center. Brown possesses a nice ability to read the defense and then decide what to do with the ball based on his read. He can run with it, hand it off and even throw out of it; he’s a smooth athlete and he’s got the ability to gash a defense that isn’t gap and assignment sound.

Also keep in mind that Dolphins Head Coach Tony Sparano is a former OL coach, so he’ll take pride in trying to establish the run and move a talented and vaunted Vikings defensive line. LT Jake Long is the Dolphins best lineman, and while the Vikings defensive line is deep and is more talented than the Dolphings offensive line, don’t sleep on Miami’s ability to gain momentum by running the ball and keeping the Vikings off-balance with the Wildcat.

Speaking of off-balance, the Dolphins actually have a nice balance of run and pass in their offense. The perception of Miami is that they’re a run-dominated offense. While they have the ability to run the ball very well, Miami actually passed more than they ran in 2009 and in last week’s win they only had 2 more rushes than passes. The key for Miami’s passing game is of course the QB – Chad Henne. Entering his 2nd season as the Dolphins starter, Henne possesses a nice arm but he’s yet to settle into a reliable rhythm and establish himself as a dangerous passer. Miami gave Henne a nice weapon this past offseason, though, by trading for WR Brandon Marshall. The former Bronco is an elite WR capable of changing games and the Vikings must pay special attention to him.

On the defensive side of the ball for Miami, the Vikings will deal with another odd-man front. The New Orleans Saints actually came at the Vikings with an odd-man front (3 down lineman) last week, but more times than not they dropped 8 defenders into pass coverage. I expect the Dolphins to employ the opposite approach. While only 3 men will line up with their hand on the ground, I expect Miami to consistently bring a pair of LBs and maybe a guy from the secondary to try and apply pressure to QB Brett Favre.

The key for the Vikings will be Favre and his receivers. Against heavy pressure – the kind of pressure I think Miami will look to bring – Favre must be in-sync with his receivers in terms of audibles at the line of scrimmage and hot routes (where the WR breaks off or adjusts his route to counter-act blitzing defenders). Last week against New Orleans the Vikings passing game was not in-sync; this week I think it’ll be a different story.

Another key for the Vikings is going to be their ability to establish the run with Adrian Peterson. The Vikings were able to do that in the 1st half against New Orleans, but the run game got away from them in 2nd half because they only ran 18 offensive plays and found themselves needing a TD in the 4th quarter, at which point Favre became the primary ball-handler on offense. So, against this odd-man front, the Vikings will have opportunities to run the ball and they must take advantage of those opportunities. If Peterson is gashing Miami’s defense and Favre is mixing in an explosive pass here and there, the Mall of America Field crowd will be buzzing and the Dolphins will become overwhelmed.

One last thing to add is that Miami will likely be without 1st round pick Jared Odrick, who was injured in last week’s win against the Bills. He’s a talented defensive lineman who was replacing another injured starter (Phillip Merling). I’m not sure what the plan is for Miami at that position (RDE), but watch for the Vikings to attack that spot.

Over the past couple of seasons under the guidance of Bill Parcells and Sparano the Dolphins have become a more talented group. The development of Henne and the effectiveness of the Wildcat offense has given the Dolphins a nice identity on offense and then the 3-4 defense is an alignment that affords lots of flexibility and dynamic blitz packages. So, don’t sleep on the Dolphins. With that being said, Sunday’s home opener will provide the Vikings with a nice opportunity to bounce back from a season-opening loss and get the training rolling in the right direction.


Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 9 Comments »

Vikings WRs: Rehabbing, Relieved and Restless

Posted by cjsiewert on September 15, 2010 – 6:46 am

The Vikings came into the preseason confident in their group of WRs, on both the talent available and the depth it possessed. Things have changed since that time with marquee WRs Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice missing extended time recently. This forced the Vikings to make a few moves and eventually settle on and trade for the sure-handed Greg Camarillo from the Miami Dolphins.

Camarillo, Harvin and Rice are all in different phases of getting exactly where they want to be both mentally and physically for the season, but the 3 have the same goal in helping this team reach its highest potential.

Rehabbing

Rice, who will miss the first 6 weeks of the season because of his placement on the Physically Unable to Perform (reserve/PUP) list, has continued to rehab his surgically repaired right hip at Winter Park. The Pro Bowler’s recovery is expected to last longer than the 6 week period but he’s optimistic about returning to full health.

“Right now I’m just focused on getting in here every morning and doing my rehab and doing what it takes to get back out there on the field,” Rice said.

It’s been tough for Rice to sit out and watch his teammates play without him because he wants to contribute to a WR core trying to find its niche. Rice’s absense from the field in Thursday’s season opening loss to the Saints was apparent as the Vikings WRs combined for 56 yards on 4 catches.

Relieved

Usually when someone’s heart stops for any period of time it’s great cause for concern, but the 2009 Rookie of the Year was relieved to find out that the latest diagnosis for his reoccurring migraines is the result of sleep apnea, a disorder that causes brief stoppages of breath during sleep.

Since the diagnosis, Harvin has not suffered from any more migraines and the types of treatments used may be the solution. Doctors have given Harvin an oxygen mask to wear while he sleeps and the 2-year veteran has expressed that the mask has made a 100% difference in the way he sleeps and feels in the morning.

Restless

Getting a shot at playing your former team is an opportunity that most players relsih and Camarillo is no different. After being traded away from the Dolphins to the Vikings late in the preseason for CB Benny Sapp, Camarillo has had little time to adapt to a new offensive scheme and that may have been the reason why he saw limited action against the Saints with just 1 catch for 29 yards. That limited action is something Camarillo hopes to change in Week 2’s matchup against his former team as the Vikings will square off against the Fins in the home opener.

“It’s so early, it’s great,” Camarillo told Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune on playing his former team. “Last week how the whole team felt about the Saints and wanting to get their second swing at them, that’s how I feel about the Dolphins. It’s all my friends. No ill will toward the team, but I want to come out there and kick their tail.”


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Posted in All, CJ Siewert | 20 Comments »