Detroit Lions WR Calvin Johnson and DT Ndamukong Suh are arguably the best players at their respective positions in the NFL. Johnson has more TD receptions (33) than any other WR since he entered the League and Suh was a consensus choice for defensive rookie of the year honors after last season.
So the Vikings will certainly focus much of their attention on those two players this Sunday when the Lions challenge at Mall of America Field. But Detroit has several other talented players in the fold as well, and it’s clear the Vikings won’t be overlooking them.
One such player is WR Nate Burleson, a former Viking who is known for his intelligence and quicker-than-fast, sure-handed skill set. Burleson was a 3rd-round pick of the Vikings in 2003, was signed by the Seattle Seahawks in 2006 and then returned to the NFC North with the Lions in 2010. He jumped right into the swing of things last year by grabbing 55 receptions and scoring 6 TDs, and this year he leads the Lions in receptions with 12 and looks to be a serious threat from the slot.
To give you an idea of the kind of player he is, Burleson recently compared his style of play to that of New England’s Wes Welker. While comparing oneself to Welker is lofty, Burleson has looked the part at times in his career and Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier didn’t deny that he’s someone for which the defense needs to account.
“You can’t ignore him,” Frazier said after practice on Friday. “He’s making a lot of plays for their offense on reverses, underneath routes, a lot of yards after the catch. He’s really helped make their offense a complete offense. He’s not getting some of the headlines of course that Calvin will get, but he’s really become a major factor in their pass offense.”
The other player to watch is DT Corey Williams, a player with whom the Vikings are quite familiar. Williams began his career with the Green Bay Packers and after 4 seasons there played for the Cleveland Browns. The Browns traded him to Detroit in 2010 and, much like Burleson, it didn’t take Williams long to become a factor on the team. Williams played and started in 16 games in 2010, and along the way he recorded 4 passes defensed, 2.0 sacks and an INT.
At 6-4, 320 pounds, Williams has the bulk to stuff the run. But he’s also athletic enough to chase the passer. The Vikings saw that athleticism last year because Williams INT came against the Vikings. It should also be noted that Williams’ impact on Detroit’s defense is not always seen in the box score; he’s much like Kevin Williams for the Vikings defense in that way. Williams is huge for the Lions defense because he can command attention from multiple blockers, and if he gets a one-on-one matchup he can ruin plays and change games.
Yes, Calvin Johnson and Ndamukong Suh are the best players on Detroit’s team. But don’t sleep on Burleson and Williams, either. The Vikings won’t be.
Tags: Leslie Frazier
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