Faced with containing an elite player like Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson -- a guy that comes equipped with the dynamic potential of dominating on any given Sunday -- it’s understandable to hear Tampa Bay Buccaneers coaches mentioning No. 28 early and often during interviews all week.
Peterson [6-foot-1, 217-pounds] has averaged over 1,400 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns in each of his first four NFL seasons by combining a mix of run-through-you power with 4.4, run-by-you speed.
But as tempting as it may have been to get lulled into over-emphasizing run defense this week in practice -- Minnesota threw the ball only 15 times last week -- Bucs defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake said the team would be ill-advised to forget about quarterback Donovan McNabb and the Vikings passing attack.
“Like anybody, they want to start by running the football and they really tried to do that last week,” Lake said Friday outside of the players’ locker room at One Buccaneer Place. “Donovan only attempted 15 passes so I would think this week they’re going to try a few more up top, I would guess, and we’ll be ready for it.”
At 34 years of age and beginning his 14th season, McNabb’s on the back nine of his career. That doesn’t mean the six-time Pro Bowl selection is now incapable of burning defenses when provided the opportunity, though, Lake said.
“He’s still a great deep-ball thrower. He knows how to throw the ball over the middle the sideline [and] they’re giving him some easy reads throwing to the flat. He’s got a nice, tight spiral and combine that with the weapons and him handing the ball off to that beast on the back end, that’s a good combination.”
Those weapons at McNabb’s disposal include a talented and diverse receiving corps comprised of receivers Percy Harvin, Bernard Berrian and Michael Jenkins and tight ends Visanthe Shiancoe and Jim Kleinsasser.
Harvin, the Vikings versatile speed demon, led Minnesota last season with 71 catches for 868 yards and five receiving touchdowns and is a dangerous threat on go routes as well as quick passes designed to give after-the-catch space in the open field.
Jenkins has been a familiar face in Tampa Bay since spending his prep days at Leto High School and then his first seven NFL seasons at NFC South rival Atlanta. Although only seven passes were completed during Minnesota’s 24-17 Week 1 loss to San Diego, Jenkins led the way with three for 26 yards and the lone receiving touchdown.
Minnesota’s tight ends may key primarily on creating running room for Peterson, but Lake said they also present problems for defensive backs forced to tackle them in the flats.
“Shiancoe’s still there, they’ve got some good passing tight ends. And then the man, No. 40, is still playing,” Lake said in reference to Kleinsasser, entering his 13th season with the club and is the longest-tenured Viking. “He’ll still catch a pass or two and that’s 275 pounds in the flat. That’s tough for corners to tackle. So they’ve got some weapons."
Lake also said he expects the defensive backfield and overall pass defense to receive more help this week from the Bucs rush up front due to the differences in styles between facing Detroit’s Matthew Stafford and McNabb.
“Our rush was coming, but we knew the ball was going to come out,” Lake said of the quickness Detroit likes to utilize in getting rid the ball. “If you go back and watch the tape, there are not a lot of things we would’ve done differently except we just made a couple mistakes here and there with the deep ball. The Calvin deep ball. But other than that, you give Calvin six catches for 88 yards and one catch for a 1-yard bonsai, we’ll take that all day.”
Although Tampa Bay was unable to rush many of Stafford’s throws last week and failed to record any sacks or quarterback hurries, Lake’s excited to see that element change and his defensive backs benefit accordingly.
“[Against Detroit] our D-line, I’ll tell you what, they were coming now. We had some great pass rushes but the ball was out. I think you’ll see it a little bit different this week with just a different scheme. Donovan’s going to be holding the ball a little bit more and I’m hoping … you’ll see … this rush is going to be coming this week.”