“Next Man Up” Presents Some Interesting Options

Those of us that observe the Minnesota Vikings carefully know that the Vikings lost more than just a backup tight end when Rhett Ellison suffered a significant knee injury against the Packers on Sunday night.

They lost a key part of the weekly game plan and a guy that has helped immensely when it comes to making this offensive line look less terrible than they really are.

Ellison is part of a Vikings tradition that predates Adrian Peterson’s arrival to Minnesota. That tradition, which was passed along to Ellison by career-long Viking Jim Kleinsasser, is to essentially place a sixth offensive lineman on the field who is disguised as a tight end.

Sure, both Kleinsasser and Ellison can catch and run and all of that… but, let’s be honest, we know how those guys earn their paychecks.

The Vikings officially placed Ellison on injured reserve Wednesday, and signed defensive lineman B.J. DuBose to the active roster, leaving the Vikings a bit shy at the tight end position with their playoff game quickly approaching.

Kyle Rudolph and rookie Mycole Pruitt are the only two tight ends left on the roster, as Chase Ford was swiped away by the Ravens back in November.

That is an interesting position to be in for a team that has relied heavily on utilizing all three of their tight ends throughout the season. Sometimes, they would use all three of them at once. The looming playoff showdown against Seattle’s off-the-charts defense in arctic conditions appears to be as good of a game as any to utilize extra blockers.

So, the question becomes how the Vikings utilize their current roster to combat such a dominant defense and I’ve seen theories flying around all over the place. Matt Asiata, Zach Line, leaning more on Pruitt, and a number of other options have all been mentioned.

One of my favorite articles on the subject, over at Kick Ass Blog, has Arif Hasan predicting a decrease in multiple tight end formations.

“I think that the Vikings will be running with more Zach Line, not just more MyCole Pruitt,” Hasan writes, “and overall we’ll see a decrease in 2TE running sets…”

Now, Arif is a smarter man by a number of miles, and you should go read that entire article, and I’m not doubting that what he wrote ends up being absolutely correct. What I will say, however, is that I’ll be disappointed if that’s the case.

What I think gives the Vikings the best chance at winning is to do what they’ve been doing since they drafted Kleinsasser in 1999.

They need to use six linemen.

The only difference will be that one of them won’t be disguised as a “tight end” on the depth chart. If Norv Turner really wants to play Vikings football, stick to the identity they’ve established this year, then he needs to be creative enough to put Austin Shepherd or Jeremiah Sirles out there on Sunday with simple instructions.

Seattle’s defense simply won’t be as sluggish as Green Bay was. The conditions will be frigid which lends itself to running the ball.

I vote that the Vikings offense go try to bully them around by putting one more big man on the field.