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Vikings: Picking through an offense 'in flux'

8/29/2010

MINNEAPOLIS -- When asked this week to describe the state of his offense, Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress offered a quick two-word response: "In flux."

Saturday night at the Metrodome, we saw a pretty good illustration of that answer.

"It's no different than my answer the other day," Childress said after the Vikings' 24-13 preseason victory over the Seattle Seahawks. "It's still in flux."

Indeed, the Vikings opened the game with right guard Anthony Herrera playing center. Their surprise slot receiver was Percy Harvin, who has fully participated in exactly two practices since the start of training camp. No. 4 receiver Greg Camarillo was a member of the Miami Dolphins until Wednesday morning, No. 5 receiver Taye Biddle is someone I have never heard of and the Vikings' sixth receiver (Javon Walker) is trying to resurrect his career after having experimental knee surgery.

That combination produced the predictable mixed results. The No. 1 offense played through the first two series of the third quarter, scoring 10 points and gaining 242 yards in 45 plays while quarterback Brett Favre threw two interceptions. The starters came up empty on two trips to the red zone -- failing to convert a fourth down on one and having a pass bounce off Bernard Berrian's hands for an interception on the other -- and had their touchdown set up by a 73-yard kickoff return from Darius Reynaud.

Enough positives happened to silence most of the alarmists out there; it was especially encouraging to see Harvin's triumphant return after a month of fighting migraines and personal issues. He caught two passes for 32 yards, while Walker snatched an athletic 25-yard touchdown reception from Sage Rosenfels in the fourth quarter. Nevertheless, Childress admitted he is considering the rare step of playing starters in Thursday's preseason finale against the Denver Broncos.

Favre, who admitted he "felt like a guy that's about to turn 41 years old" after the game, said he would appreciate the extra playing time but also pointed out the Vikings' early start to the season -- Sept. 9 at New Orleans -- might make it more trouble than it's worth.

"As tired as I was," Favre said, "I really felt like I needed some more work and will lobby for that this week. But I also know that we have to be smart, because it's a little bit different situation this year [with the schedule]. There's not a lot of time to get ready, but there won't be a lot of time to recover."

So what would you do? Call it a preseason and bring a healthy and rested roster to New Orleans? (We'll get to Favre's finger injury in a bit.) Or are things too disheveled to stand pat?

Consider these three illustrations of an offense "in flux:"

  • Camarillo caught four passes on his third full day with the team. But on his second, a 12-yard reception to convert a 3rd-and-8 situation, he ran the wrong route. "We still found him," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "... I don't know what he was doing. I'm not sure he knew what he was doing."

  • Herrera started his first-ever game at center to give the Vikings a look at Plan B if center John Sullivan (calf) isn't ready for the Saints game. Favre indicated that some protection confusion led to a sack/fumble on the third play Saturday night when Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons beat left tackle Bryant McKinnie inside. Favre got his right index finger stepped on and said "I'll probably lose a nail" but won't otherwise be affected.

  • Favre's second interception came when he overthrew Camarillo by nearly 10 yards on a deep pass down the right sideline. "I sort of misjudged his speed," Favre said. "I threw it too far. I really wanted to give him a jump ball and see what he could do." Now he knows.

The Vikings are 11 days away from kickoff at the Superdome. I think they felt better about their offense when they left the Metrodome late Saturday night, but they have a lot more work to do in a short period of time.

I'll be back Sunday morning with some broader thoughts on the division now that Week 3 of the preseason is officially in the books.