Maybe the hardest question Brad Childress faces heading into tonight`s preseason opener isn’t how much time his 37-year-old quarterback will see, or if the new "Tampa 2" defense can handle Randy Moss.
It’s, what’s next for the Minnesota Vikings?
Better yet, can a coach in his first year running the ship supply the Vikings with a new identity they desperately need?
The answer won’t come in a single game against the Raiders.
But it certainly is a start for the 3-point favorites.
Childress has already instilled a no-nonsense, straight-edge approach to coaching the Vikings, beginning by running live contact drills at least once per session during training camp. The goal is to toughen Minnesota physically, but more importantly, to prepare them mentally for what will likely be the toughest season any of the Vikings have experienced.
It`s just one tactic the first-year head coach is using in his quest to right a wayward ship.
“We`re creating a culture of accountability and a culture of truth," Childress told the team at the start of training camp. "Coach to player, and, most importantly, player to player.
"I`m a do-the-right-thing guy. Everyone has an inner compass. If it`s good for you and it makes you a better person, a better football player, do it and do it with great enthusiasm, gusto and vigor. And enjoy it.”
After what the Vikings went through last year, anything would seem like a step up.
But while Minnesota suffered through a nightmarish season on and off the field, it`s easy to forget that they won six of their final eight games, covering the spread in each victory.
Brad Johnson looked comfortable running the offense and shouldn’t have a problem with the West Cost offense Minnesota will use under Childress. Johnson won a Super Bowl in Tampa Bay using the offense, which should favor the veteran because of its emphasis on running the football along with short, quick passing to cutting receivers.
Defensively, the Vikings have switched to the same cover 2 defense that helped Johnson win a championship with Tampa. Minnesota hired former Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin, whose system relies on speedy linebackers and interior linemen who can disrupt the pocket.
How much success either team enjoys depends on how much the Vikings want a fresh start. And of course, preseason games mean little in the overall picture. Ultimately, it is a team’s performance in the regular season that matters most.
But if the Vikings can begin the year with a win, preseason or not, it will go a long way in erasing some of the mistakes of last year, along with reuniting the team concept the Vikings lost along the way.
Tonight`s total is 36.
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