Randy Moss (Adam Bettcher/Getty)
Randy Moss changes defenses. That’s not just a guess, it’s the facts from Vikings cornerbacks who have faced him before, with less-than-stellar results.
Those who have been Vikings fans longer than 2005 know the impact Randy Moss has on defenses. As he makes his Vikings return Monday night against the Jets, he will be doing it against a defense that is more than a little bit familiar with him.
Longstanding Vikings fans don’t know what it’s like to face Moss as an opponent. In the time he played with the Raiders and the Patriots, he never went up against his former team. Not everyone has been so lucky.
Antoine Winfield and Lito Sheppard have both been on the other side of things. Moss showing up on the schedule was reason for concern for both. Winfield only faced Moss twice while in Buffalo. He caught 16 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns – topping 100 yards and scoring a TD in both games. Sheppard fared better in his time in Philadelphia, but when he arrived in New York with the Jets, he discovered the lengths to which his Jets team prepared for facing Moss.
“Moss was different,” Sheppard said. “He’s so explosive that there was extra attention given to him in how we game-planned for the Patriots. He can make a huge play at any time and even though (Darrelle Revis) was on him all the time, we rolled a safety his way because of the respect we had for his talent.”
Winfield said the same was true in Buffalo, where double coverage was the norm – and he still torched them.
“We could keep him quiet for a while, but then – bang! – he would make a big play and you look back at the end of the game and he did it to us like he did it to other teams. He’s a big-play guy and that hasn’t changed over the years.”
Winfield said the arrival of Moss is once again going to get defensive coordinators coming up with schemes that will heavily involve devising ways of taking Moss away from the offense. But, as Winfield points out, neither he nor Sheppard during their days with the Bills, Eagles or Jets had a running back of Adrian Peterson’s explosiveness. Focus too much on Moss, and Peterson will torch you. Drop in eight in the box on A.D. all day and Moss will burn single coverage deep.
“It’s going to be interesting,” Winfield said. “Teams are going to have to pick their poison. If they want to drop eight in the box, they can do that. If they want to keep their safeties back to prevent the big play over the top, they can do that. You have to pick one every time. If they can roll it right, they will do O.K. But, when you pick your poison, you have to drink it sometimes.”
The Jets may be wanting to get some of the Vikings’ play calls from wide receiver Logan Payne. Two days before the Jets meet the Vikings on Monday Night Football, the team signed Payne to the practice squad. Payne was released this week by the Vikings after the team traded for Randy Moss and Payne’s spot on the practice squad was replaced with an offensive lineman. However, Payne will have no idea what Moss’ role will be.
Brad Childress admitted Saturday that Chris Cook has had “a procedure” done on his left meniscus. He and Cook hinted that the extent of the injury may be such that the cornerback is back quicker from his latest injury than he was when he injured his right meniscus during the preseason.
John Sullivan is listed as questionable with a calf strain, but he will be traveling with the team in case the injury improves enough for him to be a game-time decision.
Childress said that Favre’s elbow inflammation was an issue when the team hit the bye week, but flared up early this week. Of the injury, Childress said, “It flares up now and again. The MRI says he has a little inflammation. You manage it.”
Favre, Bryant McKinnie (finger) and Visanthe Shiancoe (hamstring) are all listed as probable.
The Jets have just one player listed as questionable – linebacker Jamaal Westerman – but have nine players listed as probable, including starters guard Brandon Moore (hamstring), center Nick Mangold (shoulder), LB Jason Taylor (elbow), DE Shaun Ellis (knee), CB Darrelle Revis (hamstring) and LB Calvin Pace (foot).
What difference can Moss make? According to league-maintained statistics, a deep pass is considered 20 yards or longer. Through three games, the Vikings have thrown just 17 passes of more than 20 yards – one of the lowest totals in the league.
The Bears will be tested today after being humbled by the Giants last week. They head into play the 0-4 Carolina Panthers – the only NFC South team Chicago plays in 2010. The Vikings lost their lone NFC South game and the Packers play the Falcons the last weekend in November after coming to the Metrodome to play the Vikings the previous week. This should be considered a great chance for the Bears to bank a win, but without Jay Cutler, the QB matchup between Todd Collins and Jimmy Clausen doesn’t inspire confidence for either team to win. However, the matchup of Matt Forte and Chester Taylor vs. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart would point to the Bears dropping back to the pack again. Going from the ranks of the unbeaten is a step back. Losing to a 0-4 team could be the start of a tailspin.
There will likely be some teams interested in wide receiver Devin Thomas, a second-round pick in the 2008 draft who was surprisingly given his pink slip by Mike Shanahan and the Redskins. Rick Spielman does his homework after class for an extra-credit “A.” If Thomas clears waivers, don’t be stunned if the Vikings make a move.
Somehow the chatter over the World-Wide Interweb is asking if the Vikings gave up too much to get Moss. A third-round pick? What? Since Moss left the Vikings after the 2004 season, the Vikings have had just three third-round picks – ironically all three were defensive backs. Safety Dustin Fox never made the team in 2005. CB Marcus McCauley was cut loose in a gesture to give him time to sign with somebody else. CB Asher Allen is a personal favorite and no ill-will is intended. But, really? A third-round pick for Randy Moss – even if for only 13 regular-season (and perhaps more) games? That’s a bargain no matter how you cut it.
The déjà vu moment of the week comes from the value of a third-round pick. One of the reasons the Vikings have had so few third-round picks since Moss went away was because they have been currency to acquire players. In 2008, the Vikings gave up a first-round pick and two third-round picks to Kansas City for a the perception of a troubled youth named Jared Allen. Do you think, given the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, the Vikings regret that decision? Not for a second.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.