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Continued: Vikings season preview: A two-headed monster?

  • Article by: KEVIN SEIFERT , Star Tribune
  • Last update: September 8, 2007 - 1:59 PM

Last season, for example, the New Orleans Saints got starter Deuce McAllister enough carries to rush for 1,057 yards but also found enough time for rookie Reggie Bush to catch 88 passes while also rushing for 565 yards. The Vikings experimented along those lines during the preseason, mostly on third downs, and Bevell said a twin backfield is "definitely feasible."You can put one in the backfield and split the other out wide," Bevell said. "You can have two in the backfield and then put one in motion. It's not like you need to have one of them lead blocking for the other."

Ironically, the primary beneficiary of that arrangement could well be Jackson and the passing game -- a necessity in order to prevent defenses from focusing too heavily on the running game.

Not only must defenses respect a play-action pass with the double threat looming, but they might also face untenable coverage problems.

Former NFL offensive lineman Mark Schlereth, now an ESPN analyst, said opponents will have to make difficult schematic decisions.

"There is the ability to create mismatches," Schlereth said. "Especially in the passing game. If Adrian Peterson is able to line up on the edge as Reggie [Bush] did last year, it will open things up and create a tough decision for the defense. How do they cover it? What are they going to do?

"Do they bring in the nickel? Or a more cover-oriented linebacker? That's putting a team in a quandary. That's what you're going to have in Minnesota with those two in the backfield."

The sticky part

After spending four seasons as a backup in Baltimore, Taylor signed a four-year, $14.1 million contract in 2006 to be the Vikings' primary ball carrier. Peterson received $17 million in guaranteed money after the Vikings drafted him with the No. 7 overall pick in April -- hardly "changeup" money, even for free-spending owner Zygi Wilf.

NFL teams always have multiple running backs, but only one can be "The Man." How Taylor handles a somewhat diminished role (he likely won't get the 303 carries he had in 2006) and how Peterson shares the spotlight will play critical roles in whether the arrangement proves productive.

"It depends on the success of the team and the character of the guys," said recently retired running back Tiki Barber, now an NBC analyst. "They need to understand their roles and function. I imagine Adrian Peterson is going to be of the mindset, 'I'm a rookie and a young guy.' But in a couple years when he starts to develop, that's when it might start to cause problems. It's a little bit of a Catch-22 in some ways."

Even when the players' personalities mesh with the rotation, their skills sometimes do not. Barber was in a similar situation with the New York Giants in 2000, when he started but shared time at tailback with rookie Ron Dayne.

Dayne actually received more carries, 228 to 213, but Barber gained 1,006 yards while Dayne finished with 770.

Barber noted the difficulty of developing a rhythm with sporadic playing time.

"It can be very frustrating," he said. "You see this all over with two starting-quality backs. Both feel they can do whatever is called for."

For now, Vikings coaches are giving Taylor deference as the incumbent. "I know they want us both to be in there as much as we can, so it's OK," Taylor said.

Peterson, the college All-America, carries the self-assurance to know he can't be kept off the field.

"We are going to be on the field at the same time, together," Peterson said. "We'll be able to throw the defense off a little bit. You'll definitely see that."

No need to dance in the shadows on that one. Without a doubt, they'll break a sweat this season. And possibly a few records as well.

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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
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Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
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