Standing tall: Vikings receivers

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    Standing tall: Vikings receivers
    Mark Craig, Star Tribune
    September 8, 2004

    If you're looking for an offense that can make life miserable for short cornerbacks, look no further than Winter Park.

    With 6-4 Randy Moss and 6-3 Marcus Robinson at receiver, and Daunte Culpepper's accurate arm pinpointing passes for them, Sunday afternoons can be long and torturous for cornerbacks who can't crack 5-10.

    "For a short corner, it's a tough task for us," Vikings 5-9 corner Antoine Winfield said. "Especially in the red zone against these guys. You have two big receivers, and Daunte's fade in the red area is real good. It makes your job a lot harder down there if you aren't tall."

    Unlike other offenses, such as the West Coast, the Vikings offense is designed to attack specific mismatches. In other words, if a defense presents a 5-9 corner one-on-one with Moss, Culpepper checks out of every other play possibility and throws deep to Moss.

    "The first thing a West Coast offense does is attack coverages," Vikings offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. "Our matchup issue overrides a dink-and-dunk play. We get the right mismatch, that's what we're going to do. We take more chances."

    The Vikings rarely see man coverage, mostly because of Moss' size, speed and catching ability.

    "What we see is a lot of combination coverages," Linehan said. "If there's a short corner, you'll also see someone helping him over the top. But it's still a tough matchup for defenses on paper because we're so tall at receiver."

    The Vikings have other wrinkles that cause headaches for secondaries. They've shown five-receiver, no-back formations this preseason. These formations have included tight ends and running backs spread out as receivers. The formation won't be as lethal with speedy running back Michael Bennett sidelined the first two weeks because of a sprained right knee.

    Defenses usually cover tight ends with a safety or a linebacker. New Vikings tight end Jermaine Wiggins has the speed to elude a linebacker and the size (6-2, 260) to run over a cornerback once he catches the ball on the perimeter.

    "We have a lot of guys who can move around and play physical," Wiggins said. "It's tough for a small corner, regardless of how quick and fast he is. If you have bigger guys as receiver, and then you move out even bigger guys like us, now the defensive backs are put in spots they're not used to playing."

    The NFL's emphasis on enforcing illegal contact beyond 5 yards of the line of scrimmage this season should help the Vikings offense.

    "Officials are going to start making defenders play with their feet and not with their hands," Wiggins said. "Hey, they call it on us for holding when we're blocking. They make us play within the rules. Why not have the defenders play within the rules, too?"

    Vikings defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell just laughed when asked if the Vikings offense is difficult for defenders to defend for short cornerbacks. His chuckle had a point, considering the Vikings' offense ranked No. 1 in the NFL last season.

    "This is a tough offense to defend, period," Cottrell said. "I'm just pleased to work against these guys every day because this is one of the best offenses in the league. It only makes us better."

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