Frazier Says Greenway Playing At Pro Bowl Level

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 28, 2010 – 3:18 pm

Pat Williams and Antoine Winfield are veteran defenders who earned their first Pro Bowl berths with the Vikings. According to Vikings assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, the Vikings defense features yet another veteran player who is performing at a level worthy of his first Pro Bowl honor.

That player is LB Chad Greenway, who has been perhaps the Vikings best defender so far in 2010. The 2006 first-round pick out of Iowa has gradually improved after recovering from a knee injury his rookie year and this season represents another big step forward for the athletic LB.

Greenway, who led the Vikings in takeaways in 2007 and in tackles in 2008 and 2009, has led or ranked 2nd in tackles every game this season. In total, Greenway has 65 tackles – 7 of which have been for a loss – and he’s also added a forced fumble.

“I think he is there,” Frazier responded on Thursday when asked if Greenway should receive Pro Bowl consideration. “I think he is a Pro Bowl linebacker. His ability to run with tight ends, to make the big plays that he’s making now; if he can continue to come up with some turnovers that will be the next step for him.”

Frazier makes a good point that splash plays – specifically turnovers – are key to a player generating Pro Bowl buzz. That shouldn’t be a problem for Greenway. He led all NFL LBs last season in takeaways with 6 and he’s already making splash plays in 2010. He forced a fumble in last week’s game at Green Bay and he also made the tackle on John Kuhn to stuff Green Bay on a crucial 4th-and-inches play during the second half.

Expect Greenway to continue his solid play and make a run at his first career Pro Bowl berth. He has a nose for the ball and is not outworked by anyone on the practice field or in the weight room.

“From a linebacker standpoint, he is doing everything you could ask of a linebacker,” Frazier said. “To me he is a Pro Bowl linebacker.”

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Injury Reprot: Hutch Returns, Favre Sits

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 28, 2010 – 3:08 pm

There was only one change to the Vikings injury report on Thursday, with G Steve Hutchinson (quadriceps) returning to practice on a limited basis. QB Brett Favre (foot/ankle) was held out again on Thursday after missing practice on Thursday.

There were no other changes from Wednesday’s report for the Vikings.

There were, however, a few changes to New England’s report. DE Mike Wright (knee) and WR Deion Branch (hamstring) were added to the report, with Wright held out of practice and Branch limited. S Patrick Chung (knee) and WR Matthew Slate (ankle) were limited on Thursday after being held out on Wednesday. NT Vince Wilfork (not injury related) returned to practice on Thursday after sitting out on Wednesday and QB Tom Brady (right shoulder) was a full participant for the 2nd consecutive day.

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A Look Inside New England’s Trenches

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 28, 2010 – 10:04 am

Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress and Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick have developed reputations for being schematic experts on their respective sides of the ball – Childress has tutored explosive offenses with both the Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles while Belichick’s staple is tenacious and versatile defensive strategies.

In analyzing each coach’s ability to find success within their expertise it’s easy to focus on higher-profile names. Childress has utilized Brett Favre, Percy Harvin and Adrian Peterson in Minnesota while Belichick has coached players such as Rodney Harrison, Ty Law and Asante Samuel. But in reality, each coach would tell you that much of their success is due to players getting the job done in the trenches, along the offensive and defensive lines.

With that in mind and in light of the Vikings upcoming matchup with the Patriots, let’s take a look at New England’s offensive and defensive line to see what the Vikings have in store this Sunday when they travel to Gillette Stadium.

Patriots Offensive Line: In last week’s win the Patriots starting offensive line consisted of LT Matt Light, LG Dan Connolly, C Dan Koppen, RG Stephen Neal and RT Sebastian Vollmer, the same group that has started all 6 of New England’s contests so far in 2010. So continuity is certainly no issue for New England. The Patriots rank 14th in yards per rushing attempt (4.1) and rushing yards per game (111.2) and they have 5 rushing TDs on the year, which is tied for 12th most. Also, in 3rd-and-4 or less situations (they’ve had 21 such situations), the Patriots have converted 1st downs via the rush 8 out of 9 times. This means that in likely run scenarios the Patriots have been able to consistently find success.

In terms of passing offense, the Patriots have the NFL’s 3rd best passer rating (96.0), which is obviously more of a reflection on QB Tom Brady’s performance than the offensive line. But the line does deserve credit, because Brady has been sacked just 12 times in 198 attempts.

I’m not familiar enough with New England’s offensive line to suggest where the Vikings may be able to exploit mismatches. But I’m willing to suggest 2 areas where it might be most beneficial for the Vikings to find success. The first area is obviously at LT, where DE Jared Allen will be going against Light. It’s been well-chronicled that Allen’s sack totals are down to this point, but he has been pressuring opposing QBs and he also has an INT this year. In this game, though, the Vikings will stand a better chance of defending New England’s passing attack if Allen can not only pressure Brady but also put him on his back. Even the best NFL QBs, which Brady might be, don’t play as well when they’re consistently being hit.

The second area where the Vikings would benefit from production this week is DT Kevin Williams. If Williams is able to win his matchup this week and be a disruptive force, it will help stifle New England’s rushing attack and it will also force Brady to move around in the pocket instead of stepping into his throws.

Patriots Defensive Line: New England is labeled as a 3-4 defensive team, with Gerard Warren anchoring the defensive line at NT and then Vince Wilfork at LE and a combination of Brandon Deaderick and Mike Wright at RE. But as Childress mentioned on Wednesday while meeting with reporters, the Patriots also have the ability and willingness to switch to a 4-man front when they deem necessary.

“It’s a multiple defense,” Childress said. “He (Belichick) has the ability to play two defensive linemen and the rest linebackers in there. You’re going to get unscouted looks. Primarily they’re lining up with a 3-4 look. They have the ability to play a four-down package by putting their outside linebackers on the ground. You have to prepare for a number of different looks.”

Childress cited his experience in Philadelphia coaching against Belichick and the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX, where the Eagles anticipated a 3-4 alignment and faced a lot of even fronts instead.

“It’s a great question and it’s one that we kind of lived first-hand when we played them in the Super Bowl,” Childress recalled. “You prepare for 3-4 and they play even with two guys standing in the A gaps. They’re doing some of that now.”

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No Sophomore Slump For Harvin

Posted by cjsiewert on October 28, 2010 – 5:44 am

One of the greatest aspects of the NFL is to watch an up-and-coming star, fresh out of college, break through onto the professional scene with an outstanding rookie season.

In the past, the player to record the best season among rookies has rightfully earned Rookie of the Year honors. But so much has been made of what happens after that sensational rookie season – how will opposing teams approach playing the well-known Rookie of the Year during his 2nd season?

AP Offensive Rookies of the Year such as Denver’s Mike Anderson (2000) and Tampa Bay’s Cadillac Williams (2005) recorded standout rookie seasons but fell victims to the dreaded “sophomore slump.” Unlike Anderson and Williams, Vikings WR Percy Harvin – the 2009 ROY – shows no signs of experiencing a sophomore slump.

It was unclear at the beginning of the season as to whether or not Harvin would retain his valued characteristics as an elusive slot receiver and big-play kick returner because of reoccurring migraines during training camp, preseason and into the regular season. But as of Week 7 of the 2010 campaign, Harvin’s play is nothing short of spectacular.

More specifically, Harvin has re-launched himself onto the highlight reels since the Week 4 bye and the arrival of veteran WR Randy Moss prior to Week 5. When comparing his first 3 games (without Moss) to his last 3 (with Moss), Harvin has nearly doubled his average receiving yards per game from 35.3 to 61.0 – which seems to be at least partially a result of opposing defenses paying closer attention to Moss.

With Harvin reaping the benefits of a deep threat receiver as a teammate, one of Moss’ former teammates in New England, the team Harvin and the Vikings face this weekend, acknowledged the fact that the mere presence of Moss has a dramatic impact on coverage schemes.

“I think it keeps the defense honest and wanting to make sure he’s not going deep,” Patriots WR Wes Welker said. “You don’t know which play he’s going to all of a sudden take off on you. It definitely can put those safeties in check.”

Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress echoed Welker’s sentiments during his Wednesday press conference.

“I do,” Childress explained when asked if he feels the attention Moss receives results in open looks for other receivers. “Obviously Percy’s had a few good games and good looks at the football. (Visanthe) Shiancoe’s obviously spiked up here last week. You can’t serve all those masters in there. If somebody’s getting doubled, it means somebody’s singled usually.”

Since the bye week and the arrival of Moss, Harvin has not only found rejuvenation in the receiving game, but also on special teams. Harvin’s kick return average over the past 3 games sits at 30.0 yards per return and includes long returns of 44 and 48 yards with a 95-yard TD in the win over Dallas.

“First of all I feel like he’s in good shape,” Childress said of Harvin. “He’s in football playing shape right now. He’s doing a variety of different things, which he’s good at. Whether he’s in the backfield or he’s playing in the slot or he’s playing outside. I think he’s got a decent feel for what he’s doing. He can go full speed. He’s not thinking about much. You see that at practice and practice is carried over to the games.”

The best word to describe Harvin’s impact on the team is versatility. Over the past 3 games, Harvin has averaged 210.6 all-purpose yards per game. And versatility will be a beneficial characteristic when the Vikings face a Patriots defense that ranks 28th overall.

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