The Vikings could be without 50 percent of their defensive line for Sunday's playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Defensive end Ray Edwards has not practiced this week because of a knee injury, and nose tackle Pat Williams was limited for a second consecutive day Thursday as he tries to return from a broken right shoulder blade.
While Williams sounded optimistic earlier in the week, coach Brad Childress said this week that Williams could run the risk of doing further damage and indicated the team will be cautious with him. Williams' biggest issue involves range of motion.
"He's going to try to do a little bit more every time he comes out there," Childress said. "It's probably truly a game-time decision."
That means Fred Evans and Jimmy Kennedy could share time at nose tackle for a third consecutive game and that Brian Robison will start at left end. The loss of Williams would be tempered a bit by the fact the Eagles are 22nd in the NFL in rushing.
Childress might be without two of his starting linemen but he hasn't lost his sense of humor. After giving reporters the update on his four-man injury report, Childress looked at the Eagles' 11-man injury report and poked fun at his former boss, Eagles coach Andy Reid.
"That's Belichick-esque," Childress said referring to the lengthy injury reports usually submitted by New England coach Bill Belichick.
The Eagles added cornerback Asante Samuel to their injury report because of an issue with his hip. Samuel did limited work Thursday. Starting right guard Shawn Andrews (back) and right tackle Jon Runyan (knee) did not practice and tight end L.J. Smith (shoulder) and running back Brian Westbrook (knee, ankle) were limited.Limiting catch and run
One important part of the Eagles' West Coast offense is the yards- after-catch (YAC). Since 2004, the Eagles rank second in the NFL in yards after catch. They are first in YAC average (5.5) in that span. They finished this season fifth in the league with 1,781 yards after catch.
"There's a certain patience involved," Childress said. "Nobody ever wants the ball to go over the top of their head. If you can get them down, you play three more downs, that's a huge deal. You want to always keep the stuff in front of you. That's good tackles, good angles, closing, playing good technique."
Safety Darren Sharper offered a different theory on how to prevent yards after catch.
"We're trying to knock their head off if they catch it," he said. "It's not about letting them run after the catch. We're trying to take their head off."Getting his kicks
Kicker Taylor Mehlhaff signed a reserve/futures contract with the Vikings this week that will put him on the team's 80-man roster after the season. But special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro, asked about the subject Thursday, downplayed any impact the move might have on current kicker Ryan Longwell.
"[Mehlhaff] has got a lot of upside," Ferraro said before adding, "the bottom line is we always bring two kickers into camp. I don't think we need to read any more into it. Ryan Longwell's our kicker. He's done a great job for us, and I believe in Ryan and everything he's doing. ... Ryan's got a lot of years left in this league. There's no question in my mind about that."Getting more involved
Bobby Wade led the Vikings with 53 catches, but he's had a bigger impact on the offense in recent games. He caught a career-long 59-yard touchdown pass against Arizona three weeks ago, and he had a career-high 98 yards receiving vs. the Giants last week.
"Any opportunities I get personally I'm just trying to capitalize on them and make something happen on them," Wade said.
"I thought last week was a similar situation to what we might see this week. There were a lot of holes within the defense. When you're able to catch the ball, you can find seams to run through. A lot more opportunities with the run after catch, which allows you to get big plays. Hopefully we get that same opportunity."Handling the blitz
It has been well documented this week that Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson loves to send a variety of blitzes. This could mean Vikings backup running back Chester Taylor will play an important role Sunday.
Taylor, most often used in pass situations because he is better in protection than Adrian Peterson, could see some extended duty to help block for Tarvaris Jackson.
"We are definitely conscious of that," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "Who we want to have in there on specific down-and- distances, what situations, what personnel we are in. Some of that stuff is really dictated by what play we are having called, what protection is. Because there are some protections that the protection calls in the pickups are maybe a little bit easier. Some of them are a lot more complicated."What happened?
Jackson tied Peterson for the team lead with 76 yards rushing in the Vikings' 24-17 loss to Atlanta on Dec. 21. But last Sunday he had only one carry for minus-4 yards, that came on a fourth-and-1 play late in the first half. One would think there would be a happy medium for the mobile quarterback.
"I thought [the Giants] did a great job of staying in their gaps," Bevell said. "When they did pressure they had all of their gaps taken care of and didn't leave open lanes for him to run. That is not what we are asking him to do. Obviously, we are asking him to throw the ball, get rid of it. But if lanes do open up that is a bonus for him."