Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Vikings lose a Williams

More important, I think, than how a team actually plays in preseason is whether they can survive the four-game schedule without suffering any significant injuries. When news came through that reserves Jayme Mitchell and Heath Farwell would miss each miss the entire 2008 season with injuries, it was a blow, but not a terribly serious one. More of a concern now is the neck injury suffered by safety Madeiu Williams, signed to a big free-agent deal in the offseason. The Star-Tribune says that Williams will miss about six weeks with the injury, which would eliminate the rest of his preseason and the first three games of the regular season. Second-round draft pick Tyrell Johnson, who may have been the best safety available in the draft, will take his place and could play reasonably well, but it's definitely going to be a step down, especially considering the Vikings' early schedule.

The team opens with with a game at Green Bay on Monday night, followed by Indianapolis and Carolina at home. There's little doubt that the Packers will try to establish the pass early in their season, to show fans they made the right decision in sticking with Aaron Rodgers, and the Colts, I hear, can throw the ball pretty well. That's two pass-heavy offenses the Vikings will have to face without their starting free safety.

Carolina's tougher to judge, since most of their quarterbacking in 2007 was done by people other than Jake Delhomme, who figures to be healthy and slingin' it again in 2008. If that weren't enough, the Minnesota game will also mark Steve Smith's return to the lineup following his two-game suspension for starting a brawl in Panthers camp. Remember the last time the Vikings faced a team welcoming back its star player from a two-game suspension to start the season? Jared Allen sure does, and Kelly Holcomb would like to forget it.

Even with Williams in the lineup, I would have probably given the Vikings a 2-1 record during that span. Carolina should be a win, and I would have had us beating Green Bay and losing to Indy. Williams is only one man (though I did rank him at #10 in my list of Top 20 Vikings for 2008), but his loss could be profound, especially considering the team's early schedule. At the very least, we'll get a good look at what Tyrell Johnson can do out of the gate. Hopefully, the results will be good.

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