The Vikings need a win in their home opener to avoid the dreaded 0-2 start. Here are five men who need to step up and help deliver that victory…
1. Charlie Johnson
Why single out Charlie? The entire line offensive line was sub-par last week in pass protection, but Johnson struggled the most glaringly. Any defensive end with a decent speed rush seems able to blow by Johnson without difficulty. The question is, what can Johnson do at this point in his career to significantly improve? Sadly, I don’t think there’s anything. He is what he is: A guard playing out of position. And even at guard he would probably only be a borderline starter. The Vikings, and especially Donovan McNabb, have to hope Charlie can just hold his own out there. If the Vikings don’t take a left tackle #1 in the draft next year, there’s something seriously wrong with Rick Spielman‘s thought process.
2. Letroy Guion
Mr. Guion has egg on his face after last weekend’s ridiculous final drive debacle. Two offsides penalties in five plays? Either Philip Rivers has the greatest hard count in history or Guion has concentration issues. I’m guessing it’s the latter. Guion has one game to redeem himself before Kevin Williams returns and he goes back to his back-up role. I’d love to believe Guion is going to just tear it up out there, but I doubt he has that kind of performance in him. Christian Ballard will soon surpass him in the D-line rotation, and if you’re talking heir apparent to K-Will, Ballard seems like much the better prospect.
3. Remi Ayodele
Ayodele and Guion will both be in the meat grinder today with the Buccaneers running LeGarrette Blount up the middle. After a poor performance against Detroit, Blount will be primed to have a huge game. And no doubt the Bucs will employ a run-heavy approach early as they try to take the crowd out of the game and set up the pass. They also know E.J. Henderson has a bum knee this week so that gives them extra reason to pound the middle. I haven’t seen a whole hell of a lot from Ayodele since they signed him, so if he shows up big this week, I’ll be pleasantly surprised.
4. Donovan McNabb
There were bigger problems with the offense last week than McNabb, namely the pass blocking and play calling, but McNabb still has to shoulder a fair share of the blame. He just was not a good quarterback in the second half last week. He threw a couple of balls short and overall did not seem in command of the situation. Bill Musgrave promises more deep shots this week, but it’s fair to wonder if McNabb even has the arm anymore to complete those kinds of passes with consistency. The Vikings would also like to roll McNabb out more, but of course that depends on the blocking keeping Tampa’s defenders from cutting him off. The bottom line is, if McNabb doesn’t have at least a decent game, the Vikings have no shot.
5. Percy Harvin
Percy has the team’s highlight so far this year with his 103-yard TD return. He also has one of the lowlights with his third-down drop, which forced the Vikings to settle for a field goal in the first half against San Diego. Percy stepping up this week depends as much on the play calling as it does on Percy himself. Musgrave may have gotten a little too cute with Percy last week; this week I’d like to see less “line up Percy everywhere” and more “line up Percy in the slot and use him as a normal wide receiver.” McNabb and Percy need to develop some chemistry, and that won’t happen unless Harvin gets some targets. He actually had more production in the running game last week than the passing game, and that just can’t continue.