Vikings Running Game Toes The Line
I know, I should have put this in the "Vikings/Strong Running Game." It is the full article refered to in that post. SORRY!
[size=18px]Running game toes the line
BY DON SEEHOLZER
Editor's note: As the Vikings prepare to report to training camp, we look at some of the key issues facing the team. Today's question: Can the running game carry the offense?
Since leading the NFL in rushing in 2003, the Vikings have spent the past two seasons mostly running in place, but that might be about to change.
Coming off an offseason in which they signed all-pro guard Steve Hutchinson away from Seattle and promising young running back Chester Taylor from Baltimore, the Vikings' ground game appears ready to take off this fall.
With no Randy Moss or Daunte Culpepper, it also seems poised to supplant the team's formerly high-powered passing game for top billing in the team's new West Coast offense coach Brad Childress brought with him from Philadelphia.
The main reason for those high hopes is the addition of Hutchinson, a three-time Pro Bowl selection for the NFC-champion Seahawks, whose March 20 signing to a seven-year, $49 million contract sent shock waves through the NFL.
That happens to be the richest deal in league history for a guard, but the Vikings believed it was worth the cost to pry the transition free agent loose from Seattle and instantly upgrade one of the team's weakest areas.
With four-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk back after sitting out last season following hip surgery and Bryant McKinnie at tackle, Hutchinson makes the left side of the Vikings' line one of the most formidable in the NFL. His new linemates spent the offseason minicamps salivating about what that could mean to them and the running game.
"He's as good as there is," Birk said. "Just from the little bit I know about him from some Pro Bowls and around the league, he's a quality guy, too. When people were asking me about the deal he signed, I said if anybody's worth that kind of money, he is. In my opinion, he's that good."
Add in the offseason acquisitions of right guard Artis Hicks from Philadelphia and blocking fullback Tony Richardson (Kansas City), and the Vikings should have no trouble improving on their rushing performance of last season, when they ranked 27th in the league and averaged a puny 91.7 yards per game.
The 2005 Eagles actually finished one spot behind the Vikings and their 365 rushes were the third fewest in the league, but injuries had a lot to do with that, and Childress has made an improved running game a top priority.
The main beneficiary of all this figures to be Taylor, who was signed to a four-year, $14.1 million contract after four seasons of backing up Jamal Lewis in Baltimore.
Taylor never had more than 160 carries or rushed for more than 714 yards in any season with the Ravens, and the Vikings' coaches weren't happy with his conditioning at the first offseason minicamp.
Even so, he is expected to get every opportunity to become the team's featured back after two seasons of a running back-by-committee approach involving Mewelde Moore and the departed Michael Bennett and Onterrio Smith.
"I'm ready for the challenge," Taylor said. "I had my spurts in Baltimore when Jamal got hurt and then he got suspended (for two games in 2004) and I had to take the load. I know I can do it. I just want to prove I can do it for a whole season this time."
Taylor had the luxury of running behind a Ravens offensive line anchored by left tackle Jonathan Ogden, a nine-time Pro Bowl selection, but, based on what he saw during the offseason, the Vikings' front five could be even better.
"I'm real excited," Taylor said. "I had a great offensive line in Baltimore, but I'm really looking forward to playing behind this line."
Re: Vikings Running Game Toes The Line
still a good post, im sure it'll be merged into the other =P