Speed Of Denver Main Concern

George O'Leary

The Vikings defensive coaches have spent much of their bye week trying to find a way to stop the most diverse offense the Vikings may face all season.

If you were to ask a national media type about Sunday's game with the Broncos, you would likely hear words like "shootout" and "offensive fireworks." For whatever reason, those who haven't seen the Vikings since the 2000 season tend to think the team is exactly the same.

There will be a team on the field that reminds some of the 2000 or even 1998 Vikings, but it will be the Broncos. Through the draft and free agency, Denver has built an offense that will have defensive coordinator George O'Leary having fits. It is as diverse an offense top to bottom as the Vikings will face.

Quarterback -- Jake Plummer has a strong arm, but his secret weapon is his scrambling ability. The Vikings linebackers will have to maintain their route assignments as well as their lane responsibilities to keep him from getting into the open field.

Running Back -- Clinton Portis is perhaps the best RB in the game today -- no disrespect to Priest Holmes. He can break off the 80-yard TD dash or pound the ball in from the 1-yard line. He is the initial focus of the defense. Stop Portis first and force the Broncos to become one-dimensional.

Wide Receiver -- Choose your poison. Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey have been 1,000-yard receivers for years and second-year man Ashley Lelie is the talk of Denver with his blazing speed. While Smith is the primary concern, VU has been told Lelie is one that has defensive secondary players the most concerned because of his home-run ability.

Tight End -- Shannon Sharpe remains one of the best TEs in the game despite age catching up to him. With the Vikings defense keying on keeping Plummer from running, Portis from breaking long runs, McCaffrey from moving the chains and Smith and Lelie from getting deep on them, there may not be anyone left to cover Sharpe -- which would be disastrous.

Fortunately, the Vikings have had an extra week to prepare for Denver. With all these weapons, they may have needed the extra time.

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