Going on the road and beating the high-flying Chargers will not be an easy job for the Vikings. If they have any hope of pulling off the major upset, these five guys will have to show up big:
Maybe it’s not fair putting this much onus on Guion, since he will only be a part of the overall defensive line rotation, but Guion gets the focus because he’s the guy everyone keeps talking about as the possible successor to Kevin Williams at under-tackle. Williams has been a fixture for the Vikings for years, meaning few opportunities for Guion, but now Williams is suspended/hurt and Guion is getting his chance. If the Vikings hope to pressure Philip Rivers and throw off the Chargers’ offensive rhythm, they will have to get push up the middle. If Guion can’t do it, Fred Pagac will turn to Christian Ballard or maybe slide Brian Robison inside some of the time and put Everson Griffen at left end. Hopefully the Vikings won’t be forced to blitz because I think that would be totally suicidal against this offense.
Mr. Cook called attention to himself this week by claiming he, Antoine Winfield and Cedric Griffin could be the best three-man corner combo in the league if they all “do what we know we can do.” Well I like the confidence but frankly I wish Chris would let his play do the talking. On the other hand, considering the way Chris played this preseason, maybe that isn’t such a good idea either. Okay, here’s what I’d like from Chris: Just keep track of your man. Don’t worry about the quarterback fumbling. If you see him bobble the ball, just let the other guys run after him and try to get it. Don’t try to be the hero – just do your job. Your job being to get a good jam at the line, stay in the vicinity of the receiver and tackle the guy after he catches it. It would be asking too much for you to actually make a play on the ball occasionally, I realize.
Why am I singling out Greenway? Simple: Because he just signed a big fat contract. I now want to see a huge game from Greenway, at least 10 tackles, 2 for a loss, and a pick or at least a big bat-down that forces a punt. That might seem a bit unfair but I don’t care: Greenway is getting star money now so he needs to play like a star, not every week necessarily, but in big road games like this against tough offenses, absolutely. I can say the same thing about Jared Allen since he’s the other high-priced star player on this defense who is in the prime of his career and needs to show up in all large games. Oh, and if Fred Pagac does decide to blitz – which I hope he isn’t forced to – I’d like to see Greenway actually get close to hitting the quarterback, just once.
I’m not picking on Berrian, I swear. Okay maybe I am a little. But here’s why: It’s because he’s the one guy on the receiver corps from whom I have no idea what to expect. I know what Percy Harvin is going to give, and I know what Michael Jenkins is all about, and I know not to really expect a ton from Devin Aromashodu or Greg Camarillo. But Berrian? After his big catch against the Cowboys, I now have an infusion of hope, but I’m still not sure enough about the guy to know if I should expect Good Berrian or Useless Berrian. I certainly don’t expect him to dominate against San Diego, but I do hope he plays a good game and helps take some of the pressure off Adrian Peterson. I hope Donovan McNabb hits him on at least one big play down the field. But I don’t expect these. Until Berrian plays a couple of decent regular season games, I won’t allow myself to expect anything, but I will try to keep my mind open and not just indiscriminately crap on him.
If the Vikings are going to have a good enough offense to stay on the field with teams like the Chargers, they will need somebody catching passes out of the backfield. I’ve seen Adrian Peterson enough to know he will never be a good receiver, so the Vikings can talk all they want about leaving him in on 3rd down, it’s just never going to happen. If the Vikes are going to have a receiving threat among their backs, it will have to be Booker. I like Booker better than Toby Gerhart because Booker is faster and actually can shake-and-bake. Gerhart can run through a tackle now-and-then but he ain’t shake-and-baking anybody except maybe Larry Flynt. With any luck, Booker will become 2009 Chester Taylor: The consummate dump-off man and occasional buster of give-up 3rd-and-long screen plays. And a guy who can pick up a blitz.