Craig: Five things to watch versus Tampa Bay

  • Blog Post by: Mark Craig
  • September 15, 2011 - 8:38 AM

The NFL has informed us that the Vikings do indeed have another 15 games to play. So let's (finally) put the Chargers game behind and look ahead to Sunday's home opener against the Buccaneers.

Here are five areas of concern or hope:

1, Better wrap up Blount: According to STATS, Inc., Bucs running back LeGarrette Blount led the NFL in broken tackles as an undrafted rookie in 2010. He had 29 of them in just 201 carries. The Giants' Ahmad Bradshaw (276 carries) and Washington's Ryan Torain (164) were second with 24 apiece. According to everyone who watched the Chargers game last Sunday, the Vikings' tackling was terrible in the second half. Even Antoine Winfield missed three tackles. Unheard of for him.

2, Penn vs. Jared Allen: A favorable matchup for Allen becomes even moreso with the crowd noise generated inside the Metrodome. Penn got the big payday a few years back, but he's hardly an elite left tackle. According to, Penn, a former Vikings' practice squad player, gave up six sacks, nine more knockdowns and 36 pressures in 2010.

3, Young and experienced: It will be interesting to see the young Bucs react to the Metrodome. This is the youngest team in the league by a ton. Their average age is 25 years, 178 days. The next youngest NFL team is Seattle at 26 years, 44 days. A year ago, the Bucs became the first team to start 10 different rookies in a season and finish with a winning record (10-6) since the 1970 merger (not counting the 1987 strike season). Then, a week ago, the Bucs had six players making their NFL debuts, including four members of this year's draft class.

4, Freeman a rising star. One of the overlooked rising young stars at quarterback is Josh Freeman. He's only 23, but he's talented and, equally important, plays with poise and leadership. After the team's poor first half last week, Freeman led the Bucs to a near come-from-behind win in the fourth quarter. The Bucs outgained the Lions in total yards 187-17 in the fourth quarter, but lost 27-20.

5, Beware the cornerbacks: Assuming the Vikings attempt to re-install the forward pass into their game plan, the Bucs' cornerbacks are a dangerous group. Ronde Barber has 40 career touchdowns and 14 defensive touchdowns in a career that began approximately 300 years ago. Aqib Talib returned an interception for a touchdown in last week's loss. Talib, while dangerous, also is more of a gambler than typically seen in a Tampa 2 scheme. Considering the Vikings' anemic passing attack, he might be trying to jump routes, so there's a chance the Vikings could catch him out of position. Of course, a team that attempted just one deep ball in Week 1 will need to get a lot better in the passing game first. 

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