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Grossi's scouting report: Favre adds sizzle, but there's plenty of muscle to Minnesota Vikings

by Tony Grossi/Plain Dealer Reporter

Tuesday September 08, 2009, 7:23 PM

Andy King/Associated PressIt certainly won't be a surprise if Brett Favre spends much of his first regular-season game with the Vikings handing off to Adrian Peterson Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Imagine Terry Bradshaw unretiring at the end of his career and joining the Browns for one last run at a Super Bowl title.


The furor. The frenzy. The fun.


That's what it's been like in Minnesota -- and Green Bay -- since Brett Favre agreed on Aug. 17 to sign with the Vikings for $25 million over the next two years.


The investment had instantaneous results. More than 8,000 single-game tickets and 2,500 season tickets were sold within hours of the news breaking.


If Favre holds up his end of the bargain and directs the Vikings into the Super Bowl in one of the next two years, owner Zygi Wilf just might realize the ultimate NFL dividend -- a new, state-funded football stadium. The team's lease with the Metrodome expires after the 2011 season.


Favre makes his Vikings debut in Cleveland on Sunday against the Browns. The irony, of course, is that it pits Favre against Eric Mangini, who coached him with the Jets last year after the Packers traded him.


Favre's new team is more talented than were the Jets. Four Vikings made the AP All-Pro team last year -- led by NFL leading rusher Adrian Peterson. Six represented the NFC in the Pro Bowl.


Two were the pair of 310-plus pound tackles in the middle of Minnesota's defensive line -- Pat and Kevin Williams. They are not related, but are joined in a prolonged court fight against the NFL that will affect their playing status on Sunday.


The Williamses each was slapped with a four-game suspension by the NFL last year for violating the league's steroids policy. Each tested for a water pill that is banned by league policy. Both managed to avoid the suspension last year and are still winning court rulings to stay active.


While the NFL might eventually prevail, the Williamses have been cleared to play on Sunday. Considering the Vikings were a formidable team without Favre a year ago -- winning 10 games and the NFC North title -- it's entirely possible that the two big guys in the middle of the defense will have more to say about the outcome against the Browns than Favre.



Mark Humphrey/Associated PressAcclaimed as the most dynamic and productive running back in today's NFL, Adrian Peterson will face the Browns for the first time in his career on Sunday.

Browns vs. Minnesota Vikings


Sunday, 1 p.m. in Cleveland Browns Stadium


Record (last year): 10-7, lost to Philadelphia in NFC wild card round.


Last game: Lost to Dallas, 35-31, Sept. 4, in preseason finale in Minneapolis.


Coach: Brad Childress, 24-25, fourth year.


Series record: Vikings lead, 3-10 (counting postseason).


Last meeting: Vikings won, 24-12, Nov. 27, 2005, in Minneapolis.


League rankings (last year): Offense was 17th (fifth rushing, 25th passing), defense was sixth (first rushing, 18th passing) and turnover differential was minus-6.


Offensive overview: Coordinator Darrell Bevell was Brett Favre's QB coach three years in Green Bay, and the offenses are nearly facsimiles. With one notable exception: Adrian Peterson. In the third preseason game against Houston, Favre handed off to Peterson on the first play and he raced 75 yards for a touchdown. Favre never had a back like Peterson in Green Bay. It should keep him from forcing throws to make first downs, but that would be trying to teach an old dog new tricks. Everyone expects the team to remain Peterson's. We'll see. Besides Favre, two big additions loom large. One is rookie right tackle Phil Loadholt, who at 6-8 and 343 pounds is bigger than left tackle Bryant McKinnie (6-8, 335). The other is receiver Percy Harvin, who will play slot receiver and may be used as a WildDawg wildcard. No. 1 receiver Bernard Berrian did not play in a game with Favre in preseason.

Ann Heisenfelt/Associated PressVikings defensive tackle Ken Williams (here sacking former Dallas QB Vinny Testaverde) is part of perhaps the most-underappreciated defense in the league.

Defensive overview: They have the right personnel to play the Tampa-2 scheme, which means everything is controlled by their formidable front four. They're deserving of being called the Return of the Purple People Eaters. Three years in a row they've been No. 1 defending the run, and they do it without committing a safety to the "box." Bill Belichick schooled everyone in how to beat them in a 2006 game. He spread the field with receivers and threw on 43 of 61 downs. Tom Brady tossed four TDs in a 31-7 romp. Pat and Kevin Williams (not related) control everything in the middle of the defensive front. If you try to run and fail, setting up third-and-long, pass rusher Jared Allen beats your offensive tackle. The defense should be better this year, too, because middle linebacker E.J. Henderson and safety Madieu Williams are back from injuries.


Special teams overview: Punter Chris Kluwe was fourth in the NFL last year with a 47.6-yard gross average. Kicker Ryan Longwell, in his 13th season, can still make them from 50 yards and longer. Both benefit from playing indoors. Vikings coverage units gave up an NFL-record seven return touchdowns last year. Upgrading special teams was a priority. Harvin handles kick returns and Jaymar Johnson punts, but Darius Reynaud could handle either, too. He scored on a punt return in the final preseason game.


Players to watch:


• Running back Adrian Peterson: He's averaged 103.4 rushing yards in his 30 NFL games. Only Jim Brown (104.3 over 118 games) has a better career mark.


• Quarterback Brett Favre: He showed decline in a 26-24 loss to Browns in Green Bay in 2005 -- when he was a mere 36. But in four games overall, he's thrown nine TDs vs. two interceptions and has a 105.3 passer rating.


• Defensive tackle Pat Williams: One of those unblockable stalwarts against the run, he's made the Pro Bowl three straight years. At 36, he can still move pretty well for a guy 6-3 and 317 pounds.


Injury report: WR Bernard Berrian (hamstring) did not play in a preseason game.


Small world: Vikings CB Antoine Winfield played at Akron Garfield High School and Ohio State. ... Vikings LB coach Fred Pagac played at Ohio State and was an assistant coach at OSU (1978-00). ... Vikings QB coach Kevin Rogers was a graduate assistant at Ohio State (1977-78). His daughter, Megan, is Browns manager of football administration. ... Vikings DB coach Joe Woods coached at Kent State (1997). ... Vikings pro personnel director Paul Wiggin played defensive end for the Browns (1957-67).


-- Tony Grossi

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