Back in the day, you could always count on the Vikings sending multiple players to the Pro Bowl (mostly from the defense). In recent years that pool of highly-regarded talent has dried up however. But this year things are different again. The Vikes are 8-6 and back in the playoff mix. And with the team’s renewed success has come more recognition from those who pick the Pro Bowl rosters. Today the AFC and NFC squads were announced, and the Vikings learned that 7 of their guys will be headed to Hawaii.
The biggest name was the most obvious one – Adrian Peterson. Despite missing significant time, AD is in the top three in the league in rushing, and finished in the top 10 in overall Pro Bowl fan balloting. He will be the starter at running back, with Marion Barber and Brian Westbrook as reserves.
Naturally, when you have a running back this good, you must also have good blockers. The Vikings have two perennial Pro Bowlers on their line – Steve Hutchinson at guard and Matt Birk at center – and both will be in Hawaii again, Hutch as a starter, Birk as the reserve behind Dallas’s Andre Gurode. They’ll be joined by fullback Tony Richardson who receives recognition for being AD and Chester Taylor‘s lead blocker.
Four guys off the offense, all selected for their impact in the running game. Of course, defensively, the Vikings are also known mostly for their impact on running games – namely stuffing them. That starts with Pat and Kevin Williams, the most fearsome running back devourers in the whole NFL. Pat and Kevin are often thought of as a single entity – the Williams Wall – so it’s appropriate that they be chosen to start side-by-side in Hawaii as they have this year.
There’s a third guy on the Vikings who also deserves recognition for his brilliant play against the run – middle linebacker E.J. Henderson. The guys Pat and Kevin don’t get, E.J. gobbles up. Plus, this year, under Leslie Frazier, Henderson has become a terrific up-the-middle blitzer who terrorizes quarterbacks almost as much as he does runners. Unfortunately, as we know, it often takes awhile for a guy’s reputation to grow enough that he’s deemed worthy of Pro Bowl consideration. This is apparently the case with E.J., who was left off this year’s roster, but was named as a second alternate. The starter at MLB will be Seattle’s Lofa Tatupu, and the back-up San Francisco’s Patrick Willis (who defies the “building a reputation” argument by making it as a rookie).
The seventh Viking player and fifth starter is maybe a bit of a head-scratcher – safety Darren Sharper. Outside of a couple of big interceptions, Sharper has seemed like an afterthought this season, and has himself complained about being under-utilized. Again, it seems like a reputation pick. The second starting safety position has been awarded posthumously to the Redskins’ Sean Taylor.
Besides E.J. Henderson, the Vikings have placed three other guys as alternates: Heath Farwell (second; special teams), Ryan Longwell (first; place kicker) and Bryant McKinnie (second; offensive tackle).
Tags: Adrian Peterson Bryant Mckinnie Chester Taylor Darren Sharper E.j. Henderson Heath Farwell Kevin Williams Leslie Frazier Matt Birk Minnesota Vikings Pat Williams Pro-bowl Ryan Longwell Steve Hutchinson Tony Richardson