ESPN Insider - NO @ MIN Scouting Report
[size=18px]Struggling Vikings host Saints[/size]
By Scouts, Inc
[size=16px]Why To Watch[/size]
New Orleans' offense has sputtered at times and has made some critical mistakes this season. But it's as explosive as it is inconsistent. Look for the Saints to take advantage of its playmakers by getting RB Deuce McAllister out on the perimeter and having QB Aaron Brooks attack downfield. With Minnesota's offense having problems putting points on the board, some big plays could create a lead that puts even more pressure on the Vikings. Minnesota will counter by playing conservative schemes that are designed to take away the big play. The hope is to force New Orleans to sustain longer drives, giving the Vikings more chances to create turnovers.
Throwing eight interceptions over the first two games is unacceptable and Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper needs to make better decisions. That won't be easy unless the offensive line starts gelling and the ground game gives the offense some much-needed balance. However, Culpepper has to do a better job of protecting the football regardless of the help he gets from his supporting cast. He can't give the Saints any added confidence by turning the ball over.
[size=16px]When the Saints have the ball[/size]
Rushing: Look for New Orleans to attack the perimeter of Minnesota's run defense for three reasons.
The first is Minnesota has the personnel to control the middle of the line of scrimmage. NT Pat Williams is a powerful interior run stuffer that can anchor working against double teams and UT Spencer Johnson has the quickness to beat the Saints' guards to the point of attack. It's also important to note that the Vikings could play Kevin Williams, who is versatile enough to line up at end and defensive tackle, inside or outside. He will replace Johnson if he slides inside. Kevin Williams is bigger as well as stronger than Johnson and moving him inside would fortify the interior run defense.
The second reason is rookie ROT Jammal Brown has exceeded lofty expectations thus far and he is a relentless drive blocker that plays with a mean streak. If the Vikings line Kevin Williams up on the outside it will be at left end. While this will be a battle worth keeping an eye on, Brown is capable of holding his own. After all, he's played surprisingly well going up against Carolina's Julius Peppers and the Giants Michael Strahan.
The third reason New Orleans wants to get McAllister outside is it needs more big plays in the running game. McAllister's average of just 2.7 yards per carry is creating longer down and distances that put added pressure on Brooks. The Saints need to take advantage of McAllister's burst and open field speed by getting him to the edge. In addition, outside running plays take longer to develop, which means McAllister will have more time to locate cutback lanes, and he has the lateral mobility to make the most of them.
Passing: New Orleans' receivers made two costly mistakes on Monday night that resulted in turnovers. The first came on a crossing route. WR's Donte' Stallworth and Devery Henderson ran right into each other, the ball bounced off Stallworth's pads and it landed in a defender's hands. The second mistake is a little more understandable, as WR Joe Horn was trying to break the plane of the goal line when he fumbled into the end zone. It also doesn't help that Brooks threw three interceptions and lost a fumble. The Saints need to eliminate the mistakes that are costing them points and field position. They don't want to hand any points to a struggling Vikings team.
While New Orleans' passing attack has been somewhat inconsistent, there's no questioning the big-play ability of Horn and Stallworth. They'll be working against a Minnesota secondary that has had some problems getting beat deep. As a result, look for Brooks to attack this defense vertically. This will be especially true if FS Darren Sharper cannot play or is hindered by a knee injury he sustained last week. Sharper has excellent range and he's a playmaker, so he would be sorely missed if he can't go. It's also worth noting that playing with confidence is critical for corners and safeties because they get left on islands more than the front seven. If the Vikings' secondary starts getting beat deep again, their corners and safeties will likely start lining up deeper, opening up the short-to-intermediate passing game as well as the running game.
[size=16px] When the Vikings have the ball[/size]
Rushing: Minnesota's offensive line isn't getting enough movement or sustaining their blocks long enough for their backs to break into the second level. Expect those struggles to continue against New Orleans' front four. While the Saints interior defensive tackles are inconsistent, they're powerful enough to hold their own working against a struggling Vikings' interior offensive line. The Saints ends are the strength of the defense.
Minnesota's instability in the backfield hasn't helped an offensive line that essentially has three new starters either. Michael Bennett, who lost two fumbles last week, has not played well, Mewelde Moore has been slowed by an ankle injury and Moe Williams has carried the ball just seven times. Different backs can run the same play differently depending on their style. While Bennett is a speed-back that is at his best attacking the perimeter Moore is more of a between-the-tackles runner that is less likely to bounce runs outside after starting inside.
Without a premiere back to carry the load, the offensive line is still getting used to all three backs and the two units have yet to gel. New Orleans can take advantage of Minnesota's lack of chemistry by running some line stunts. If the Vikings fail to adjust, the Saints should disrupt some plays in the backfield. That will put Minnesota in longer down-and-distance situations that allow the defensive line to fly upfield because they don't have to worry about the run as much.
Passing: Culpepper's struggles appear to be a three-part problem: The running game isn't keeping defenses honest; the protection has been mediocre at best; and he's trying to make too much happen.
Vikings offensive coordinator Steve Loney and head coach Mike Tice can help Culpepper fix the first two parts of the problem. Minnesota's backs have run the ball just 24 times over the first two games and showing a greater commitment to the running game, even if it sputters, will help keep defenses off balance. If they continue to run a pass-heavy scheme, New Orleans' safeties can line up deep taking away the big play and improving their chances of generating a turnover. It's also important to remember that Culpepper is still getting comfortable with a new offense so he needs that much more time to go through his progression. Loney and Tice can also give Culpepper more time by keeping a back and/or tight end to help out in pass protection. H-back Jim Kleinsasser and TE Jermaine Wiggins are both sound pass blockers.
Only Culpepper can fix the third part of his problem. Even if the pass protection improves and the ground game takes some pressure off the passing attack, the Saints will get to him at times and how he handles it will have a substantial impact on the outcome. He needs to stay patient, take what the defense gives him, and throw the ball away when nothing is available downfield rather than trying to make the big play every time he drops back.