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Vikings running back Adrian Peterson

Morry Gash, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Adrian Peterson is hungry for work

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER
  • Star Tribune
  • December 23, 2011 - 12:08 AM
As the Vikings head into Saturday's game against the Redskins, here are four questions we're trying to answer:

1. Is Adrian Peterson due for a breakout performance?

Remember in Week 7 when Peterson trampled Green Bay for 175 yards on 24 carries, then followed the next week with 159 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns in Carolina? It's been an awful long time since we've seen that Peterson, A.D. at his best.

Chew on these numbers: Since the season's midway point, because of a high ankle sprain and a pair of lopsided losses, Peterson has touched the ball only 30 times in the Vikings' past six games, totaling 137 yards. So yes, he has grown a little antsy of late.

"I'm always feeling antsy," Peterson said Thursday. "I'm always feeling like 200-plus [yards]. I'm always feeling antsy and ready to roll."

Peterson understood that last week's 10-carry effort was caused by a number of factors -- for starters, the Vikings fell into a big hole, and the coaching staff also wanted to protect his ankle. But Peterson should have more opportunities against a Redskins defense that ranks 15th against the run. Washington has allowed four backs to have 100-yard outings this season.

2. How safe is offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave?

If you take coach Leslie Frazier's thoughts at face value, Musgrave will likely be around in 2012. Frazier continues to express great optimism that the Vikings offense is on the verge of a major leap forward, especially if they can find the right parts to put around playmakers Peterson, Percy Harvin and Christian Ponder.

"I'm really excited about Bill along with the rest of our offense," Frazier said. "I see things that I know we're going to have a quality offense once we get some other pieces in place and have a full offseason. ... The way we run the football, the way we utilize some of our key personnel, if we can add the right pieces at the right places, we can have a top-notch offense."

Frazier seems to be standing firmly in Musgrave's corner and also understands the harm of disrupting continuity when bringing along a young quarterback.

"If we want Christian to have any chance to have any immediate success, you'd like to have some consistency with the offense," he said.

3. Who is the Redskins' most important player on defense?

Linebacker Brian Orakpo gets the Geico commercials. London Fletcher leads the NFL in tackles. But it's sixth-year veteran Barry Cofield who may be the most pleasant surprise in Washington. Cofield plays nose tackle in the Redskins' 3-4 defense and is doing a fantastic job of it, occupying blockers and letting others make plays.

You might not typically spend your Christmas Eve watching a nose tackle-center matchup, but the Cofield-John Sullivan battle in the trenches will be important. Sullivan, remember, just signed a five-year contract extension last weekend, continuing to prove his worth to the organization.

"He's very smart and very tough," Musgrave said. "Those are two things we're always looking for in players. And he's done a good job of bouncing back from a rough year that he had in 2010. He's been resilient and really been a leader for our group."

4. What else is there to know on the injury front?

Cornerback Asher Allen and left guard Steve Hutchinson each missed practice Thursday, continuing to recover from concussions suffered last weekend against the Saints. Smart money says the Vikings err on the side of caution with both players, which means rookie cornerback Brandon Burton and offensive lineman Joe Berger should stay ready to start.

Four other Vikings were limited in practice Thursday: Anthony Herrera (knee), Kevin Williams (knee), Erin Henderson (illness) and Jarrad Page (hamstring).

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