Notebook: Vikings offensive line to face Ravens’ elite pass rushers
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — When Elvis Dumervil’s contract
extension with the Denver Broncos was submitted too late in the infamous
“Faxgate” mishap this summer, the Baltimore Ravens swooped in and
added the outside linebacker, envisioning a pair of edge rushers which could
return the team’s defense to the fearsome unit it had been in the past.
Baltimore, which hosts the Minnesota Vikings this weekend,
added a new dimension to their 3-4 defense by pairing Dumervil with Terrell
Suggs. Together, they offer a big headache for Minnesota’s offensive line,
which has allowed 34 sacks this season, the 10th highest total in the NFL.
“I think they’re a pretty loaded defense,”
Vikings’ left tackle Matt Kalil said.
Dumervil has helped Baltimore retool its defense and move on
without Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. The Ravens are tied for fifth in the NFL in
sacks, with Dumervil and Suggs combining for 18.5 sacks and pressuring
opponents from separate sides.
“I would say that’s something we really haven’t had as
much here over the years, so it’s been a big plus for us,” Baltimore coach
John Harbaugh said this week.
Minnesota has allowed 11 sacks the past two games. The
Chicago Bears caused trouble for Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder early
last week, sacking him on third down on the first three offensive drives for
Coach Leslie Frazier said Ponder didn’t hold on to the ball
too long; instead there were missed assignments in the blocking scheme. Frazier
expressed concern with the pass protection this week.
“Any time your quarterback is getting hit, it causes
problems for him where if he’s not careful he’s going to start getting happy
feet and not going through his progressions,” Frazier said. “So it’s
important that we protect the quarterback and keep those hits off of him. So
we’ve got to do some things to clean that up.
“Every sack is not necessarily the
offensive line’s responsibility. Sometimes our tight ends are involved,
sometimes our running back, sometimes our quarterback holding the ball too long
and not stepping in the right direction. So there are some things that we’ve
got to get corrected, because 11 sacks in two ballgames, that’s a lot.”
The Vikings are starting Matt Cassel this week at
quarterback with Ponder out with a concussion. Cassel doesn’t have Ponder’s
mobility, but he was quick in getting the ball out of his hands last week.
“We looked at it on the sidelines and made some
adjustments and we were very solid the rest of the game,” offensive
coordinator Bill Musgrave said. “We’ve had some sacks the last couple of
games, but a couple of them have been due to coverage or quarterbacks flushing
out (and) not quite getting back to the line of scrimmage. We definitely want
to start faster and maintain that standard we had in the second half.”
Kalil was a standout immediately in his rookie season last
year and only allowed two sacks all season, according to Pro Football Focus.
Pro Football Focus data says Kalil has allowed four sacks already this year.
“I think people were able to study some film on him in
the offseason and then he’s made the adjustments and adaptations as the games
go along,” Musgrave said. “But we’re very confident in him over there
on the left side. Almost like every corner can get beat in the NFL, every left
tackle is ultimately going to get beat at some point in time.
“So, I really like
his attitude because when he has given up a sack or given up a hit, he hasn’t
got his dobber down or anything like that, or gone into the tank. He’s worked
that much harder to get it corrected.”
Kalil knows he has his hands full with Suggs and Dumervil,
but said another player on Baltimore’s defense causes concern.
“The guy that stands out is (Haloti) Ngata to me
because he’s the kind of guy that if he doesn’t want to be blocked, he’s not
going to be blocked,” Kalil said of the Ravens’ 330-pound nose tackle.
“He can expose some guys. Ngata will line up at defensive end sometimes,
so I’m going to have to face that big guy too. I’m looking forward to it. It’s
all about competing. I don’t ever shy off that stuff.”
Ponder still suffering from concussion: Frazier said Ponder
still hasn’t passed concussion testing after leaving Sunday’s game right before
the first half. Ponder was sandwiched between Chicago’s Shea McClellin and
Frazier said “probably not” when asked if Ponder
would have a chance to return and have any type of role in Sunday’s game.
Cassel will make his third start for the Vikings and first since Week 6, with
Josh Freeman backing up.
Smith in line for return, Rudolph not ready: Safety Harrison
Smith, on injured reserve with the designation to return, has returned to
practice and is in line to return to the lineup when he’s first eligible to
play on Dec. 15.
“He’s looked pretty good,” Frazier said.
“We’re all anxious to see him back out here next week, as well, but so far
Frazier said tight end Kyle Rudolph won’t practice this
week. Rudolph is out with a broken foot and the team hopes he will return this
“He hasn’t come along as fast as we had hoped,”
Frazier said. “So he hasn’t been able to get out on the field with his
teammates. Maybe next week, but not this week.”
Childs decision close: Greg Childs has returned to practice
as he tries to make a year-plus return from bilateral patellar tendon tears in
his knees. Minnesota will need to make a decision on Childs next week, whether
they activate him off the physically unable to perform list or put him on
season-ending injured reserve.
“Childs has looked pretty good,” Frazier said.
“He’s made a lot of progress. We’ve been able to, this week, give him some
back-to-back days. He practiced yesterday and he practiced today and hopefully
he’ll be able to do it tomorrow. So it’s been encouraging watching his
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