Minnesota Vikings: Henry Melton

Thanks to all of you who submitted questions for our weekly Minnesota Vikings mailbag. You can send them to me on Twitter any time during the week at @GoesslingESPN, using the hashtag #VikingsMail.

MINNEAPOLIS -- Before free agency opened, Jared Allen professed excitement about truly stepping out into the market for the first time in his career, confident in his ability to play as well as ever at age 32, and optimistic he would be compensated fairly for his years of All-Pro production with the Minnesota Vikings.

Nine days after the market opened, Allen left Seattle for a second time Thursday, with agent Ken Harris telling ESPN's Ed Werder the defensive end would take the weekend to weigh the Seahawks' offer against the others he has received before making a decision. Allen also visited the Dallas Cowboys before the team signed former Chicago Bears tackle Henry Melton, and Harris denied a report that Allen turned down the same three-year, $30 million deal the Denver Broncos ultimately gave DeMarcus Ware.

Allen hasn't talked much during the free-agency process, and when it's all said and done, it's possible he'll say it was the same deliberate, thorough search he'd wanted all along. Still, after Allen's second visit to Seattle ended without a contract, it's tough not to wonder if things haven't shaped up exactly as Allen had hoped.

If he did join the Seahawks, it would likely be as the situational pass-rusher Allen said he'd retire before becoming. The Seahawks could put Allen in line for a championship bid, but they'd do it with a deep defensive line that already includes Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, among others. Seattle has about $15 million in cap space left, but if Allen were going to come in as something less than a starter, it stands to reason he wouldn't receive the kind of money Ware got from the Broncos or Julius Peppers got from the Green Bay Packers.

At the end of this process, Allen could still decide to retire and move onto his other interests outside of football. It's also possible the Cowboys, who have about $6.5 million in cap space left, could make a move to clear more space for Allen. But after he started this process looking for a full-time job, a fair contract and a chance to win a championship, he might end it by finding out only a couple of those factors will line up for him.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Defensive tackle Henry Melton, who visited the Minnesota Vikings last week, won't be signing with the team for next season.

Melton tweeted on Tuesday evening he is planning to join the Dallas Cowboys, and ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported Melton has a multi-year deal with the team. The Vikings had stayed in contact with Melton's agent since the former Chicago Bears defensive tackle visited the team last week, but Melton, who is from Grapevine, Tex., and had played for Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli in Chicago, went where he had the most familiarity.

For two veteran Vikings defensive linemen -- Jared Allen and Kevin Williams -- the move might have opposite effects. The Cowboys had just $7 million in cap space before signing Melton, and it seems unlikely they'd be able to afford Allen (who visited the Cowboys on Tuesday) after landing Melton.

The Vikings, on the other hand, still have an opening for another three-technique tackle in their defensive line rotation, and we'll see now how serious they are about bringing Williams back. General manager Rick Spielman said last Friday the Vikings had not made a decision on Williams, but added the team had told the six-time Pro Bowler it had "some other needs that we definitely wanted to get done first."

We'll see now where Williams ranks in the Vikings' pecking order of potential three-technique tackles -- if he's their next option orif they'd pursue another possibility in free agency or the draft. Former Raiders defensive tackle Pat Sims played for Vikings coach Mike Zimmer in Cincinnati, though Sims could still be looking for a bigger role and contract than the Vikings would be able to offer after a strong year in Oakland.

The Vikings missed out on a unique opportunity (albeit with some risk) now that Melton will play his first year after ACL surgery in Dallas. But Floyd looked more assertive toward the end of the season, and his footwork could make him a good fit for Zimmer's defense. The Vikings likely won't pin the whole workload on the second-year tackle, though, and with Melton gone, they'll have to decide how they want to go about adding another player to share part of the job with Floyd.

Free-agency review: Vikings

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
Most significant signing: The Vikings filled two major holes on defense last week, adding former New York Giants defensive tackle Linval Joseph and former Carolina Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. As important as both will be to the roster, Munnerlyn should help solve one of the Vikings' biggest problems from last season. He can line up at slot cornerback on third downs, where teams routinely targeted Josh Robinson last season. Munnerlyn also gives the Vikings the kind of scrappy tackler against the run they had for years in Antoine Winfield.

Most significant loss: Jared Allen will be the Vikings' most high-profile departure, but it's difficult to tell yet how much that will affect the team. New coach Mike Zimmer's system wouldn't have featured Allen the way he'd been used over the past six years in Minnesota, and the Vikings should have their starting defensive line in place with Everson Griffen, Sharrif Floyd, Joseph and Brian Robison. Still, it will be strange not to see Allen lining up at right end in a Vikings uniform this fall.

Biggest surprise: It's been clear for some time that the Vikings wanted to re-sign Griffen, but the value of his contract -- which puts him among the highest-paid pass-rushers in the league -- was something of an eye-opener. Griffen will get $20 million guaranteed as part of his deal, though the Vikings put all that guaranteed money in the first two years of the deal. Griffen's best year in the NFL came in 2012, when he posted eight sacks in a part-time role, and he's yet to become the kind of dominant force the Vikings are paying him to be. The contract is a gamble on potential, but the Vikings are obviously confident in Griffen's ability to fulfill it.

What's next: The Vikings still need help at linebacker, though general manager Rick Spielman sounded confident in his young linebackers last week. They remain in contact with former Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton after hosting him on a visit last week, and they will bring in Jets offensive lineman Vlad Ducasse for a visit this week. It's also possible the Vikings look at a corner, and they'll still be in the hunt for a young quarterback come draft time.
On the eve of free agency last week, our four NFC North reporters -- Rob Demovsky (Green Bay Packers), Ben Goessling (Minnesota Vikings), Michael Rothstein (Detroit Lions) and Michael C. Wright (Chicago Bears) -- compiled a list of the top-15 free agents in the division.

A week has passed and nine of them already have come off the market, including six who re-signed with their old teams.

Perhaps the biggest-name free agent from the NFC North, former Bears defensive end Julius Peppers, did not make the original list because he was not a free agent until he was released last week. He signed with the Packers on Saturday.

You can follow all of the NFL free-agent moves in Bill Polian's free-agent tracker, but let's revisit the NFC North top 15 and see what has changed:

1. Sam Shields, Packers CB: Signed a four-year, $39 million contract just a few hours into the open negotiating period on March 8. His $9.75 million per year average made him the fourth-highest paid cornerback in the league behind Darrelle Revis ($16 million), Brandon Carr ($10 million) and Aqib Talib ($9.8 million).

2. Brandon Pettigrew, Lions TE: Re-signed with the Lions for four years and $16 million, including a $4 million signing bonus.

3. Jermichael Finley, Packers TE: Remained unsigned after a visit to the Seattle Seahawks last week. It’s not known what the Seahawks' medical staff thought of Finley's C-3/C-4 neck vertebra fusion surgery that he had last November following his season-ending neck injury.

4. Charles Tillman, Bears CB: Signed a one-year contract to return to Chicago last Friday after missing half of last season because of a torn triceps. The deal is worth about $3.5 million.

5. B.J. Raji, Packers DT: Less than a year after reportedly turning down a multi-year offer that averaged $8 million per season, he returned to the Packers for a one-year deal signed on Friday that was believed to be worth $4 million plus incentives.

6. Matt Cassel, Vikings QB: Opted out of his 2014 contract after the Super Bowl but signed a new two-year, $10.5 million deal with the Vikings on March 7, just before teams could start contacting his agent and will likely head into training camp with the inside track on the starting job.

7. Willie Young, Lions DL: Signed a three-year, $9 million contract with the Bears. Former seventh-round pick received his first extensive playing time with the Lions in 2013, becoming a full-time starter after Jason Jones was injured for the season in Week 3.

8. James Jones, Packers WR: Remained unsigned after the first week of free agency and has not had any known visits even after he ranked second on the Packers last season in receptions (59) and yards (817), the latter of which was a career high despite missing nearly three full games because of a knee injury. Three years ago, coming off the NFL lockout, Jones did not draw strong interest on the free-agent market and re-signed with the Packers for three years and $9.6 million. Could the same thing happen again?

9. Jared Allen, Vikings DE: Remained unsigned after the first week of free agency but reportedly visited the Seattle Seahawks over the weekend. After three All-Pro selections in six years, Allen's time in Minnesota is over.

10. Josh McCown, Bears QB: Signed a two-year, $10 million contract to rejoin his old coach, Lovie Smith, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

11. Henry Melton, Bears DL: Coming off a torn ACL, Melton went unsigned during the first wave of free agency but has a visit scheduled with the Dallas Cowboys this week.

12. Devin Hester, Bears KR: Remained unsigned more than a week after the Bears said they would not bring him back.

13. Rashean Mathis, Lions CB: Remained unsigned after playing in 15 games and taking over as a starter early in the season last year.

14. Everson Griffen, Vikings DE: Cashed in on March 9th by signing a five-year, $42.5 million deal that included $20 million guaranteed to return to Minnesota.

15. Louis Delmas, Lions S: Signed a one-year, $2.25 million contract with the Miami Dolphins after the Lions released him with one year remaining on his contract in February, in part because of a cap number of $6.5 million in 2014.
MINNEAPOLIS -- As the Minnesota Vikings approach the close of a busy first week of free agency, they're not done looking at possible additions to the team, general manager Rick Spielman said on Friday.

Where the Vikings go from here could take a more measured approach, given the fact the team has about $16 million in cap space left and needs to reserve some money to sign draft picks, as well as for other contingencies that could come up. But the Vikings have several players coming in for visits next week, Spielman said, and could still add to their roster from the open market.

"We'll continue to monitor the market. We'd like to still fill some holes," Spielman said. "We're not, by any means, saying we're completely finished. You don't know what's going to happen. There are some guys looking for a lot of money at this point, and a week from now, that could potentially change."

As the Vikings pick through the market, they've still got several ways they could go on defense. Former Chicago Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton visited the Vikings on Thursday, and was scheduled to head to Seattle and Dallas next. "You've got to go with the pace of the player, too," Spielman said.

One player who would likely be affected by Melton is defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who has talked with the Vikings about returning for a 12th season but appears to be in a bit of a holding pattern at the moment. If the Vikings signed Melton, they might not have room for another three-technique tackle like Williams.

"We talked with his agent a few days ago," Spielman said. "I told him we'd leave it open, but we were trying to address some other needs that we definitely wanted to get done first. There's no decision that's been made on Kevin Williams at this point."

Spielman said the Vikings are working to bring back left guard Charlie Johnson, who has received interest from several teams, and said he's fine at the moment with the Vikings' linebacker depth, adding the Vikings could use linebacker Chad Greenway in some different ways than he's been used in the past.

"I know he's played on the weak side in our nickel package and stuff," Spielman said. "They do a lot of things from a defensive side that are a little different than we've done in the past."
MINNEAPOLIS -- Henry Melton's time visiting the Vikings has come and gone without a contract, as evidenced by the team's confirmation of his free agent visit this morning. The Vikings have begun the practice of confirming unrestricted free agent visits once the players have left the building, so at least for now, a good rule of thumb is this: If the team announces the visit, the player's time at the team facility has concluded.

With Melton, though, that shouldn't necessarily be tantamount to the Vikings being out of the running for him. The former Chicago Bears defensive tackle is scheduled to visit the Seattle Seahawks today, according to ESPN's Josina Anderson, and could return to his hometown to visit the Dallas Cowboys after that. But based on what Bears GM Phil Emery said on Thursday, Melton plans to take a number of visits before making a decision.

"I think he's still got some teams to visit," Emery told reporters on Thursday. "We pretty much left it with [agent] Jordan [Woy] that he was gonna go through this process, and when he got through it and he had a pretty good idea of what his market is, we could talk at that time. Of course, the clock is ticking. So our resources or what we have at that time may have changed. But we'll see where we're at when that's all finished."

It remains to be seen what the Vikings would have to offer Melton, both in terms of a contract and a role for 2014. Melton is coming off a torn ACL, but received a franchise tag and a salary of $8.45 million in 2013 after making the Pro Bowl in 2012. Still, the Vikings have second-year man Sharrif Floyd at the three-technique tackle, so it's difficult to envision Melton getting anything more than a decent chunk of the playing time. On the other hand, maybe a situation where Melton could ease back into the wear and tear of the position and the Vikings could avoid putting the majority of the work on Floyd would benefit both parties.

Melton might not have an answer until he's done making the rounds with a few more teams. We'll see how things play out, and whether the Vikings turn out to be a viable option for him.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Shortly after 4 o'clock on Thursday afternoon, Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf walked through doors of the team's offices, making the kind of appearance that signified the Vikings were getting serious about finishing a deal with Captain Munnerlyn.

[+] EnlargeCaptain Munnerlyn
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesThe Vikings are sure to welcome Captain Munnerlyn's tackling skills with open arms.
And there was good reason they should have been. Their decision to cut veteran slot cornerback Antoine Winfield a year ago backfired horribly, with the team moving Josh Robinson to the slot for the first time in his career after Winfield rebuffed the Vikings' attempts to get him to return on a reduced contract. Robinson was struggling so much in September, the Vikings nearly coaxed Winfield out of retirement and put him on a plane to London before signing Josh Freeman instead.

Now, with the Vikings having signed the former Carolina Panthers defensive back to a three-year deal worth up to $15 million, they've addressed their slot corner problem with a player who sounds remarkably similar to Winfield. The 5-foot-8 Munnerlyn is described as a small, scrappy player, a sure tackler who's strong in run support. According to Pro Football Focus, he was the third-most efficient tackler among NFL cornerbacks last year, leading the league with 24 "stop" tackles (which led to pass plays that went for a loss or no gain). He doesn't turn 26 until April, and the Vikings would have had to find a slot corner sooner than later even if they'd kept Winfield for his 15th NFL season. But the dire situation the Vikings had in the slot last year had to contribute to their aggressive pursuit of Munnerlyn.

They'll spend more time Thursday night with Chicago Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton, and it remains to be seen if the Vikings will have both the role and the contract Melton wants after returning from knee surgery. But the two pieces the Vikings have added to their defense -- a run-stopping defensive tackle in Linval Joseph and a reliable slot corner in Munnerlyn -- should apply a salve to two of the biggest wounds on a defense that allowed more points than any in the league last season. If the Vikings wish, they can move Robinson back to his natural outside corner position, or they can bring in another player to compete with him for a spot opposite Xavier Rhodes. They still need to address the linebacker position and are gambling in some senses on Everson Griffen's ability to be a consistent pass-rusher. But the Vikings' defense already looks tougher than what they had last season, and new coach Mike Zimmer should have pieces to work with.

Adding Munnerlyn solved a key problem, and the Vikings did it by spending money on a young, diminutive slot corner a year after cutting a veteran, diminutive slot corner. It's a quick about-face at the position, and it should lead to a sturdier secondary in 2014.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- While the Minnesota Vikings are conducting visits with Carolina Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and Chicago Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton, they managed to get a little business done with one of their own players.

They re-signed defensive tackle Fred Evans to a one-year deal, according to a league source, bringing back the 30-year-old tackle for an eighth season in Minnesota. Evans played 34 percent of the Vikings' defensive snaps last year while sharing time with Letroy Guion. He will give the team another nose tackle to spell Linval Joseph, who signed a five-year, $31.5 million deal with the team Tuesday.

The move probably doesn't have much effect on the Vikings' pursuit of Melton, who is coming off a torn ACL a year after the Bears placed the franchise tag on him. He made $8.5 million last season and might be looking for a bigger role (and consequently a bigger contract) than the Vikings could offer him while sharing time with Sharrif Floyd. But if the Vikings did sign Melton, they'd play him at the three-technique tackle position, not the nose tackle.

Signing Evans, though, does mean the Vikings are effectively set at nose tackle, barring injuries.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings will continue their attempt to bolster their defense through free agency on Wednesday and Thursday, bringing in former Carolina Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn for a visit, according to an NFL source.

Munnerlyn would fill one of the Vikings' most glaring needs from last season: slot cornerback. The team cut veteran Antoine Winfield last March, gambling on Josh Robinson's ability to move from the outside to the slot position. The Vikings tried to bring Winfield back on a reduced contract, and when Robinson struggled to pick up the position last September, the team nearly signed Winfield out of retirement before their Sept. 29 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in London. Now, they will have a shot to get a younger fit at the position.

The 25-year-old Munnerlyn has started the past three seasons for the Panthers, intercepting two passes -- and returning both interceptions for touchdowns -- each of the past two seasons. He was a key cog on a Panthers team that reached the division playoffs last season, and allowed an 81.7 passer rating when in slot coverage last season, according to Pro Football Focus. Robinson, on the other hand, allowed a 127.2 passer rating.

The Vikings will also bring former Chicago Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton in for a visit on Thursday, and hosted former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain on Monday. They signed New York Giants defensive tackle Linval Joseph to a five-year, $31.5 million deal shortly after the start of free agency on Tuesday.
MINNEAPOLIS -- After signing New York Giants defensive tackle Linval Joseph on Monday, the Minnesota Vikings apparently aren't done looking to add to their defensive line.

They will bring former Chicago Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton to Minnesota for a visit on Thursday, according to a league source. Melton, who went to the Pro Bowl in 2012 for the Bears, is an unrestricted free agent this spring after tearing his left ACL during the third game of last season.

That injury might be what gives the Vikings a chance at Melton, who's just 27 and would likely have had a much more robust market if he hadn't been hurt. He could still get a multi-year deal from a team looking for a three-technique tackle, if he's able to prove he's healthy. The Vikings, on the other hand, would likely be looking for someone to share the load with second-year man Sharrif Floyd. They'd obviously have to offer a role that Melton deemed worth taking, and Melton will have to answer questions about his knee. But if the Vikings get a chance to talk with a player who looked on his way to becoming one of the better defensive tackles in the league before he got hurt, it's probably worth their time.

We'll see what the interest in Melton means for Kevin Williams, who is a free agent and had expressed interest in returning to the Vikings for a 12th season. If he did return, Williams would likely play a reduced role in the Vikings' defense, and would have to learn a new system from the one that's made him a six-time Pro Bowler, but he'd add a veteran presence to a defensive line that's making a pronounced turn toward youth. If the Vikings can get Melton, though, they might not have room for Williams. We'll see how things develop in the next few days.

Top free-agent roundup: NFC North

March, 10, 2014
Mar 10
A few deals have been signed around the NFC North in the days leading up to free agency, but plenty of valuable players are about to hit the open market.

Here is a ranking of top NFC North free agents, with information provided by ESPN.com reporters Rob Demovsky (Green Bay Packers), Ben Goessling (Minnesota Vikings), Michael Rothstein (Detroit Lions) and Michael C. Wright (Chicago Bears).

We will update this periodically throughout the next several weeks.

1.Sam Shields, Packers CB: Emerged as the Packers' top cover cornerback last season while playing for the restricted free-agent tender of $2.023 million and was re-signed to a four-year, $39 million contract just a few hours into the open negotiating period Saturday. His 2014 total pay of $15 million makes him the NFL's second-highest-paid cornerback for next season.

2. Brandon Pettigrew, Lions TE: The No. 20 pick in the 2009 draft out of Oklahoma State, Pettigrew spent the past five seasons as one of Detroit's primary tight ends, specifically known for the ability to both block and run routes effectively.

3. Jermichael Finley, Packers TE: Had surgery to fuse the C3 and C4 vertebra in his neck but expects to be cleared by his doctor. Gambled two years ago in free agency, signing just a two-year, $14 million deal in the hope that he would blossom into a star and command an even bigger contract the next time around.

4. Charles Tillman, Bears CB: The NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year, Tillman started eight games last season before finishing on the injured reserve with a torn triceps. The Bears hope to bring back Tillman but might not be able to come up with a suitable offer.

5. B.J. Raji, Packers DT: Reportedly turned down an $8 million per year offer from the Packers last season, which might have been a sign that he preferred to play in a system that gave defensive linemen more freedom. After a disappointing season, his value has gone down, and as of last week, he was close to signing a one-year deal to return.

6. Matt Cassel, Vikings QB: Opted out of his 2014 contract after the Super Bowl but signed a new two-year deal with the Vikings on Friday, just before teams could start contacting his agent. He will likely head into training camp with the inside track on the starting job.

7. Willie Young, Lions DL: Former seventh-round pick received his first extensive playing time in 2013, becoming a full-time starter after Jason Jones was injured for the season in Week 3. Young turned into one of the more disruptive players up front, making 47 tackles, recovering two fumbles and recording three sacks.

8. James Jones, Packers WR: Ranked second on the Packers last season in receptions (59) and yards (817), the latter of which was a career high despite missing nearly three full games because of a knee injury. Three years ago, coming off the NFL lockout, Jones did not draw strong interest on the free-agent market and re-signed with the Packers for three years and $9.6 million.

9. Jared Allen, Vikings DE: After three All-Pro selections in six years, Allen’s time in Minnesota is likely over. He could come back as a situational pass-rusher on a reduced salary, but after making $14 million last season, Allen might head elsewhere for a bigger role and bigger paycheck.

10. Josh McCown, Bears QB: He proved he is capable of filling in for Jay Cutler in a pinch and is instrumental behind the scenes for nearly every skill player on the offense. It's not a slam dunk he will be back, and talks with the Bears haven't been especially productive.

11. Henry Melton, Bears DL: Melton's representatives fully expect him to test the market in free agency because the Bears haven’t shown a ton of interest. Coming off a torn ACL, Melton probably won't command top dollar in the first wave of free agency.

12. Devin Hester, Bears KR: Became strictly a return specialist for the Bears last season and is still one of the league's best at his position. Probably expects a payday similar to what he's gotten in the past.

13. Rashean Mathis, Lions CB: Mathis signed with Detroit during the 2013 preseason and became one of the team's starting cornerbacks by the third week of the season. He played in 15 games, making 47 tackles and often drawing the opponent's top wide receiver.

14. Everson Griffen, Vikings DE: The 26-year-old cashed in on Sunday by signing a five-year, $42.5 million deal that included $20 million guaranteed to return to Minnesota. He should flourish in new coach Mike Zimmer's defensive scheme.

15. Louis Delmas, Lions S: The 26-year-old was released by Detroit with one year remaining on his contract in February, in part because of a cap number of $6.5 million in 2014. Has played in 65 games for Detroit over five seasons, with 328 tackles, six interceptions and two forced fumbles. He also had five sacks and four fumble recoveries.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- It's been a long time since Adrian Peterson had to sit and dissect what went wrong in the previous week's game. The Vikings eased him back into game action coming off of knee surgery last season, and by the Vikings' fourth game -- in Detroit last Sept. 30 -- Peterson had the first of his 10 trips over the 100-yard mark last season.

His 93-yard performance last Sunday against the Lions marked the fourth straight season-opener where Peterson didn't top 100 yards. But because of what he did in his 2012 MVP season -- and because of what he did on the game's first play, racing 78 yards for a touchdown -- Peterson is working off a much higher set of expectations. And as heavily as the Vikings lean on him right now, there's plenty of interest in getting Peterson back up to top speed this week in Chicago.

[+] EnlargeAdrian Peterson
AP Photo/Duane BurlesonPittsburgh defenders know they're in for a battle Sunday against Vikings RB Adrian Peterson. "He fights for every yard," Troy Polamalu said.
"We kind of got beat up a little bit up front, and we didn't really execute," Peterson said. "When I was able to hit the tape, that was the biggest thing. It's something we're trying to put behind us."

Chicago might be the place for Peterson to get back on track. His first 200-yard performance came at Soldier Field back in 2007, and he ran for 108 yards on 18 carries there last season, rebounding from a 39-yard performance against the Bears in 2011 and a 51-yard effort against them in 2010.

"They've got good D-tackles, but they're not Detroit up front," Peterson said. "Not to take anything away from those guys -- Julius Peppers and those guys are great players as well. We've got to go out, be physical and make our presence felt."

The Bears allowed just 63 rushing yards to the Bengals last week, but it's safe to assume Peterson will come out with an edge, especially after being bottled up last week in Detroit. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave echoed Peterson's thoughts about the Vikings getting pushed around up front, and from that standpoint, the Bears won't offer quite the same challenge as Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley.

Fourteen of Peterson's 18 carries last year came behind the right half of the Vikings' offensive line, starting with center John Sullivan and ending outside of right tackle Phil Loadholt. He gained 89 of his 108 yards on those 14 carries, according to ESPN Stats and Information, and it wouldn't be surprising to see the Vikings attack that side of the Bears' line (with defensive tackle Henry Melton and end Corey Wootton) again.

Peterson talked again about breaking 2,000 yards for the second straight year on Thursday, saying he looks forward to being "in a class by myself" as the first back ever to do it two years in a row. As disappointing as last week might have been, he's actually nine yards ahead of where he was after Week 1 last season. All he's got to do now is match his output in the next 15 games, and he'll top Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record by a yard (we'll take a brief pause for those of you who need a minute to catch the facetiousness here).

In any case, the Vikings will be leaning heavily on Peterson this week, as they usually do. We'll see if he can rebound from a disappointing week, in whatever universe a 93-yard day qualifies as a disappointment.