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A Different Kind Of Challenge

The 4-1 Minnesota Vikings have faced quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert, Andrew Luck, Alex Smith, Matt Stafford, and Matt Hasselbeck so far this season.  Through five weeks these guys have rushed 59 times for 302 yards and two touchdowns.

Robert Griffin III alone, however, has rushed 42 times for 241 yards and four touchdowns (and a concussion).

That concussion could keep RGIII off the field this Sunday, giving the Vikings their second backup quarterback in a row, but all of the reports on Monday suggest that Leslie Frazier’s Vikings will, at the very least, need to spend this week preparing to face their first uber-athletic quarterback of the season.

RGIII has taken the league by storm, right up until he got blown up this week, and is making a strong bid to be 2012’s rookie of the year.  The Vikings have struggled against scrambling throwers in the recent past, but this defense has a very different feel to it.

Let’s take a look at how the Vikings defense might approach the new challenge that RGIII presents:

Spy Games

One of the most tried-and-true approaches to stopping a flight risk quarterback is to assign a “spy” to that player.  A defender with the discipline, intelligence, and instincts to prevent a guy like RGIII from ripping off big chunks of yardage on the ground.

Antoine Winfield, Chad Greenway, and Harrison Smith all come to mind as guys that might fit that bill and they could be key in keeping Griffin under wraps.  Ideally, the Vikings would be able to rotate “spy” duties throughout the defense to keep the Redskins guessing, and to perhaps sneak a few plays in there where no spy is actually assigned.

Mix It Up

Griffin has received plenty of praise for his ability to make good reads and stay cool under pressure.  He is still a rookie, however, and the Vikings could be well served by showing a lot of different packages and blitzes.  The team has recently made a new commitment to “keeping it simple,” but rookie quarterbacks are prone to make mistakes and confusing him could only play to our advantage.

I would be very pleased to see Winfield, Josh Robinson, or even Marcus Sherels blitz fromt eh corner from time to time, aiming for Griffin’s blind side.

Match That Athleticism

Veteran smarts and savvy cannot be undervalued on this young defense, but sometimes athleticism like Griffin’s needs to be matched with athleticism.  In this case, matching Griffin with Griffen could be very interesting.

I would, at least slightly, increase Everson Griffen’s snap count this week.  Griffen is almost certainly the most athletic player on this defense and he needs to be included in the effort to stop RGIII.  For his size, Griffen is incredibly fast and has long limbs, both of which would help him pursue Griffin on the run.

Simple Basics

Kevin Williams opened last week’s game by letting a tackle for a loss and then a sack slip right through his fingers.  Those types of missed tackles might be a side note in the aftermath of a game against Matt Hasselbeck and the Titans, but Griffin and the Redskins are more dangerous on offense and those miscues can easily turn into important game changers in the blink of an eye.

Williams and the rest of the defense have to make sure to take advantage of the opportunities they do get.  This is a tougher task than the Titans were, and missed tackles and dropped interceptions are not something we want to be the main focus after this weekend.

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Adam Warwas

Adam Warwas (Founder) has been writing about the Vikings for a total of eight years. Five of those years have been here at Vikings Territory where he continues to surround himself with enough talented individuals that people keep coming back. As proud as he is of what Vikings Territory has become, his real treasures are in his home... a beautiful wife and three amazing children (and a dog named Percy).

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  1. I like how this season is going. The Vikings have answered a big question each week. Could they hang with a very good NFL team; could they win on the road; could they handle an outmatched opponent, or would they play down to that teams level? So far, so good. Now can they handle an athletic QB. I am enjoying this season immensely. All the preseason questions seem to be working out to well. Will a stadium get approved, Peterson’s knee, O-line, Ponder progressing, the secondary, a new defensive coordinator (remember after the signing, some people saying the defensive coach of a 2-14 team is supposed to help us), the LB’s, Frazier as a head coach ( I like his disposition. When I was a kid it seemed like the good coaches: Grant, Landry, Shula, Knoll, George Allen, later Reeves and Walsh handled themselves like professionals. It wasn’t until the 80’s started with Bum, Ditka, Buddy Ryan, Glanville, Parcells that excitablity became a good coaches trait; maybe I’m just old fashioned.) Maybe that’s why I like this team so much this year. They remind me of the Vikings of my youth. A stoic coach, smash mouth defense, a great running back (Foreman will always be my favorite Viking) and just a toughness you don’t get from a pass happy team. I loved the ’98 and the ’09 teams, but this current team just seams more Minnesota to me. Sorry to get off track here, I’m not sure if I have a point even. I’m tying not to get to excited (been a Viking fan long enough to have been hurt before). I thought 6 wins was about where we’d be a the end of the year, and 8 would be a high water mark. Now I’m thinking I love this team’s makeup and where it’s headed and we can play with any team right now. Anyway sorry for rambling on. It’s a promising beginning for the new regime and Skol Vikings!!!

  2. Good article Adam.

    I’m gonna pick on one thing. After the Indy game (I think) Jared Allen and Williams told the coaches to let them play. As veterans they felt that they were being over coached with the defensive play calls. I see that happening with RG III. Scheming a Spy into the game plan seems like a logical thing to do, but I bet they keep it to a minimum and allow the defense to make plays.

    Good news about Harrison Smith, thanks for the update Brett.

  3. One of the reasons Viking fans need to be concerned about this game is the natural grass playing surface. Over the past years, the Vikings have not performed well on grass. Even their run to the championship game in 2009 was marred by a season of losses at Chicago, Carolina and Arizona… very winnable games played on grass. This surface will temper the speed game of Percy Harvin, Adrian Peterson, Christian Ponder, and several of our defenders who rely on speed. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the grass is cut just a bit longer for this week’s game, as I am sure this factor is not lost on Coach Shanahan.

  4. On the flip side, I think it is time to give credit to Al Williams for the play of his defense. We can all see that the Vikings are stopping good runners while still defending the passing game. While I realize we have not played against Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, or Aaron Rodgers types, we all know that almost any QB had a certain amount of success against the Viking D in years past. I believe in this game they will employ a scheme against RGIII that preaches staying in your lanes. It is much more important to contain RGIII than it is to try to sack him, which is extremely difficult. Jared’s all-out bull rushes are only going to provide him with a running lane. Keep him in the pocket with four filled lanes and make him throw against our improved pass coverages.

  5. No, but I sure could have used one, Cal. Had a long day and need to wind down a little. Figured I’d catch up on all the VT buzz.

    1. well, it’s all yours. i’m tired and going to bed, and i won’t be up at 4. have a good night

  6. if you’re too young to remember, this guy was a good detroit lion d-lineman, and he was a good, funny actor afterwards, too. if you’ve never seen ‘blazing saddles’, see it, it’s a very funny classic!
    RIP Alex Karras

    as Mongo:

    1. That is a classic Cal. Thoughts and prayers to the Karras family,
      He was also in that movie “Against All Odds” if you remember that one.