Bernard Berrian (Tom Dahlin/Viking Update)
The Vikings offense struggled in the opener against New Orleans. Without Sidney Rice, the Vikings are left with only four receivers. Bernard Berrian showed his potential two years ago and therefore some are looking to him to pick up the slack.
Brett Favre developed chemistry last season with Sidney Rice that helped the wide receiver reach the Pro Bowl and establish himself as an elite talent.
But with Rice out for half the season after having hip surgery, the quarterback needs another receiver to emerge as his go-to guy. There are only four candidates because that’s how many wide receivers the Vikings are carrying.
The list includes Bernard Berrian, Percy Harvin, Greg Lewis and Greg Camarillo.
Harvin was Favre’s second favorite target last season, catching 60 passes for 790 yards and six touchdowns. (Rice had 83 receptions for 1,312 yards and eight scores.)
While the play-making Harvin figures to remain a guy Favre looks to on a frequent basis, the player that really has to emerge is Berrian. Berrian caught 55 passes for 618 yards and four touchdowns last year, but his 11.2 yards-per-catch average fell well below the NFL-best 20.1 yards per reception he averaged in his first year with the Vikings in 2008.
A big part of the issue was that Berrian suffered injuries to both hamstrings last season and did not get on track until the end of the season. He is healthy this year but had only one reception for three yards against the Saints. He also dropped a pass.
Part of the issue was that the Saints played a Cover-2 zone that took away some potential deep balls from Berrian, but Favre knows that in order to have success Berrian has to get involved.
“He is a proven veteran and seems to be perfectly healthy,” Favre said. “There were probably some opportunities that I should have gotten the ball to Bernard. Just poor reads on my part.”
Berrian admitted frustration with the fact no wide receiver caught more than one pass against the Saints.
It’s uncertain who if anyone will step up to take Rice’s role but the receiver corps must be more productive.
“Have we replaced (Rice) yet? Will we replace him?” Favre said. “Time will tell. It’s hard to replace a guy like that, the way he plays the game. ... But I like our guys. I said that after the game against the Saints. But there’s no doubt we have to get on the same page and we have to do it in a hurry.”
The Vikings started last season with six victories and were sitting at 10-1 by the start of December en route to a 12-4 record.
Players and coaches knew repeating that success wouldn’t be easy --especially with a tougher schedule in 2010 — and it didn’t take long for them to find out firsthand just how difficult things would be this season.
The Vikings lost 14-9 in Week 1 against defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans in the Superdome and now face a very important two-game home stretch before they get one of the earlier byes in Week 4.
Minnesota will play host to Miami on Sunday and then face the Detroit Lions the following week. Victories in those two games would put coach Brad Childress’ team in pretty good shape, but any type of slip could make life very difficult for the Vikings when they return from the off week.
The Vikings will play three of their four games in October on the road, going against the Jets (Monday night, Oct. 11), Packers (Oct. 24) and Patriots (Oct. 31). The only home game will be against Dallas on Oct. 17.
While players would never admit to looking that far ahead, this has to be in the back of their minds as they prepare for the Dolphins.
Childress said he doesn’t have any concerns about their being a hangover from the Saints loss, despite the buildup that occurred entering a rematch of the NFC title game.
“I think they’re past that,” Childress said. “I think they let it go off their back.”
What the Vikings also need to get past are the offensive doldrums they suffered from in their opener. The second-highest scoring team in the NFL last season to the Saints, the Vikings were not sharp at all.
Quarterback Brett Favre looked rusty, something that shouldn’t have been a surprise given he joined the team in the middle of August, and his wide receivers also did not appear to be on the same page with him. It was clear Favre missed Sidney Rice, who will miss at least the first half of the season after having hip surgery.
The answer for the short-term — provided it’s going to take a while longer to get the passing game on track — will be for the Vikings to turn to Adrian Peterson. Peterson started strong against the Saints, rushing for 57 yards on 13 first-half carries, but then only had six attempts in the second half and none in the fourth quarter.
It’s hard to believe the Vikings are going to let that happen again, especially if Favre’s slow start continues. Favre might regain some of his magic from last season at some point, but in the short-term the expectation will be that Peterson is going to carry the load offensively.
SERIES HISTORY: 10th regular-season meeting. Dolphins lead series, 5-4. Miami won the last meeting against the Vikings, 24-10, on Nov. 19, 2006. That was Brad Childress’ first season as Vikings coach. The Vikings are 3-2 against Miami at home.
BY THE NUMBERS: 14-2 — The Vikings record in their past 16 home games.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “We’ve built a team that we expect to go all the way. We’re not holding back right now. We’re in it for the whole match.” — Vikings owner Zygi Wilf when asked about his expectations for this year despite a season-opening loss at New Orleans.
CB Chris Cook was limited in practice for a second consecutive day after having surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee following the third preseason game. It’s not certain whether Cook will be available for Sunday’s home opener against Miami. He did not play in the Vikings’ first regular-season game at New Orleans.
CB Cedric Griffin, who is recovering from surgery to repair a torn left anterior cruciate ligament suffered in last season’s NFC title game, is doing limited work in practice. Griffin could be held out until the Vikings return from their Week 4 bye.
WR Percy Harvin did not practice Thursday because of a hip injury that had limited him a day earlier.
DT Jimmy Kennedy (knee) is back practicing on a limited basis this week after being out since the second preseason game.
LT Bryant McKinnie, who dislocated a finger last Thursday, was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday.
QB Brett Favre has landed on the injury report for a second consecutive week after having offseason surgery to repair his left ankle but he hasn’t missed any practice time. Favre also had a back issue added on to his injury for this week.
RB Toby Gerhart (knee) missed the opener but hasn’t missed any practice this week and should be able to play Sunday.
C John Sullivan (calf) is still on the injury report but participated in all of practice on Wednesday and Thursday.