Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Defense trying to gauge the impact Reggie Bush will have

Posted by: Mark Craig under Lions Updated: September 5, 2013 - 2:06 PM

Vikings coordinators Bill Musgrave, Alan Williams and Mike Priefer spoke with reporters earlier today. Here are some of the highlights heading into Sunday's season opener against the Lions at Ford Field:

Defensive coordinator Williams

On how Reggie Bush will affect the Lions' already-dangerous passing attack

No one expects Reggie Bush to come to Detroit and rush for 1,000 yards. He had only 21 yards on 17 preseason carries. Of course, it didn't help the running game that Calvin Johnson and his bruised knee were rested for all but part of one quarter of one game in the preseason.  While he may help boost a virtually non-existent running game, his presence in the passing game will be interesting to watch unfold. The Lions led the league last year in explosive pass plays with Johnson posting an NFL-record 1,964 yards receiving.

"When a ball goes up over the top [of the defense], it's kind of everything [that breaks down]," Williams said. "It's rush, it's coverage, it's making sure you're executing the defense. We can't allow the quarterback to feel comfortable. We have to be on coverage there and we have to play top to bottom, not bottom to top in terms of the coverage [against Johnson]."

Enter Bush, a quick underneath player who leads all NFL running backs in catches (372) since 2006.

"It's very difficult because you have another dimension there now," Williams said. "Not only can Calvin Johnson beat you [deep], you have Reggie Bush who can beat you underneath.

"But that's the problem. You have to pick your poison. You can't defend everything. If you try to defend everything, you're not going to defend anything. That's what we have to be cognizant of. We have to play the coverage and try to tackle well. And when they check the ball down in the zone coverage that we run and tackle. Fundamentals are going to be important this week. That we run to the ball well, that we tackle well. And gang tackle. They're good enough that they can beat you in man-to-man or one-on-one."

A year ago at Ford Field, the Vikings held Johnson to five catches for 54 yards and no touchdowns. Later, at the Metrodome, with cornerback Chris Cook sidelined because of a broken arm, Johnson caught 12 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown.

On whether the Lions offense showed in the preseason what it will actually do in the regular season

Like all NFL teams, the Lions were vanilla during the entire preseason and rested their best player for most of the preseason. So Williams was asked if he's gotten a real look at how the Lions will play with Bush on board.

"Not just yet," he said. "We can try to guess and predict what they'll do with him. But we just have to make sure we go out and read our keys and focus on what we're supposed to do because if we hunt up too many snakes or too many ghosts, we won't do anything. So we have to look at what they've done in the past with their backs and their offense. I don't think they'll change a whole bunch from years past, last year or the year before that."

Offensive coordinator Musgrave

On Lions' D-tackles Suh and Failey

The fact that Detroit is an undisciplined football team is no secret to anyone who has watched the Lions play on Thanksgiving the past couple years. Not only do they rack up personal fouls and player fines (Did someone say Ndamukong Suh?), but they probably could stand to play within their schemes a little better than they do.

Musgrave was asked about whether the Lions' vaunted defensive front -- which includes new ends Ziggy Ansah and Jason Jones -- is prone to steering from its assignments in an effort to make plays elsewhere. When that happens, big holes sometimes appear. And we all know Adrian Peterson only needs small holes to break loose.

Musgrave said he doesn't notice the Lions having a problem being assignment sound. Of course, what else is he going to say? As for the two defensive tackles, Suh and Nick Fairley, Musgrave said: "They do a nice job of being physcial [against the run], but they're very skilled at rushing the passer. They'll be one of the tougher fronts that we face, if not the toughest."

Musgrave also mentioned backups C.J. Mosley and Justin Bannan also play significant roles because they keep the starters fresh. Mosley, the former Viking, signed with Detroit this year via free agency from Jacksonville.

Special teams coordinator Priefer

On his level of concern for rookie punter Jeff Locke

Rookie punter Jeff Locke averaged 43.6 yards per punt with a net of 37.3.

"Jeff, like any young punter, is inconsistent," Priefer said. "Like any punter in general, you're looking for consistency first and foremost. You want the situational punting to be exactly like you want it in terms of backed up, plus-50, middle of the field, whatever the case may be. You're looking for high hang-time punts and force as many fair catches as you can. We're not quite there. Like any young player, he's a work in progress. He has improved and I'm excited about his future."

On Locke as a holder

Locke struggled as a holder in the preseason, particularly in the preseason finale against Tennessee.

"But I think we got some things fixed," Priefer said. "We're working on some things and we're working very hard on them. Hopefully, we'll be OK on Sunday."

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San Francisco - WP: M. Bumgarner 7 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Shields 1
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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
2014 regular season     
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
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

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