[size=18px]Not much known about 'new' Vikings[/size]
By PATRICK REUSSE
July 26, 2006
When the Minnesota Vikings are fully assembled for training camp on Sunday night, there will be 10 new projected starters and a new kicker, working with a new head coach, 13 new position coaches, three new strength coaches and a new trainer.
This is the seventh change of a head coach (counting Bud Grant's return) in Vikings history and the first time that no assistant was retained. The previous low for carryovers was one: Jimmy Carr as Bud's secondary coach in 1967, when teams had five- and six-man coaching staffs.
Brad Childress' housecleaning seems to have been well received by the public. Once the full squad is assembled, there are 29 sessions in Mankato, Minn. planned between Monday morning and the evening of Aug. 17, allowing the Purple zealots to surround the plateau of fields and hoot with delight any time Troy Williamson doesn't drop a pass.
The Ron Burgundys of local television will gush optimistically from the scene, and much of what you see in print will detail the pleasant surprises the Vikings have discovered in the Little Major's first training camp.
What none of this will do - not the hot afternoons in Mankato and not the four exhibitions - will solve the mystery of what the Vikings are going to offer as a product in the season ahead. It is difficult to recall a Purple collection of which we knew so little for certain.
We don't know if Childress can coach or lead. We don't know if Darrell Bevell and Mike Tomlin can coordinate. We don't know if the Vikings have solved problems at linebacker, strong safety, the right side of the offensive line, running back and wide receiver. We don't know if Brad Johnson at 38 can make it through a full schedule, or if he can function when facing defenses of true quality.
This is all we know for sure about the new look of the Vikings: They will be much better on the left side of the line, with Matt Birk healthy at center, and with All-Pro Steve Hutchinson replacing the hodge-podge that the previous coaching staff was forced to work with at left guard.
Mysteries? Here are only a few
- The Vikings gave a three-year contract to safety Dwight Smith as a late free agent signing. The explanation from Childress during an informal conversation Tuesday was that he coveted the thought of competition at every possible position.
There's also the possibility the Vikings weren't impressed with Tank Williams during their various pre-camps. There has to be a reason the Vikings are prepared to move a finesse player, Darren Sharper, to strong safety, to make room for another finesse player - Smith - at free safety.
- The party line on Chester Taylor is that it's an advantage he was a backup to Jamal Lewis in Baltimore for four years, giving the Vikings a hard-nosed running back with little wear. The other line is that Taylor isn't in the best of shape and doesn't have great feet. That would mean a lot of Mewelde Moore, unless he encounters a wrenched thumbnail.
- Childress is convinced he has the right linebackers to retreat into coverage in the Tampa-2 defense brought by Tomlin. And the skeptics respond with: "Anyone who thinks Napoleon Harris can start in the middle has been chewing too much khat."
One more caution about what happens in exhibitions:
The key to winning is a coach taking them seriously. Denny Green was so serious about exhibitions that he led his team to a 4-0 record in 2001, followed by losing 10 of 15 in the real schedule and getting himself sacked with one game left.
Childress seems a very serious fellow, which will lead to exhibition success and more optimistic gushing, and will also mean absolutely nothing. These Vikings are more of a mystery than any previous collection, and the unraveling of the plot will not start until Sept. 11 in Washington, D.C.
(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.scrippsnews.com.)
Not much known about 'new' Vikings