The Vikings could have at least one new starter on the right side of their offensive line Sunday against Arizona, but it doesn’t have to do with performance.
Both guard Artis Hicks and tackle Marcus Johnson had to leave last Sunday’s loss at Miami because of sprained left ankles, and it appears Hicks could miss at least a week.
“Artis still is struggling with that ankle sprain,” coach Brad Childress said Wednesday. “He’s still got pretty good swelling in there. ... (He’s having) treatment like crazy. We’ll just have to see how it goes.”
If Hicks misses his first start of the season, he likely would be replaced by veteran Jason Whittle. Whittle is the Vikings’ top backup at center and the guard spots. He replaced Hicks in the first half last Sunday and finished the game.
“It felt good to be out there, it was fun being out there,” Whittle said.
Whittle was joined on the field in the second half by veteran Mike Rosenthal, who came in for Johnson.
“He did a good job while he was in there, and he’s played that role before,” Childress said. “He prepares like a pro, and he’s got multiple positions he has to prepare at, so I was OK with his play.”
Childress said Johnson is day-to-day in his recovery and indicated the second-year player would be on the field Sunday if he’s healthy.
So far this season the Vikings have had the same starting offensive line for each game with Hicks and Johnson joined by center Matt Birk, left guard Steve Hutchinson and left tackle Bryant McKinnie.
This will be the Vikings’ first regular-season game against Arizona since the Cardinals knocked them out of the playoffs on Josh McCown’s last-second 28-yard touchdown pass to Nathan Poole on Dec. 28, 2003. That score gave Arizona an 18-17 victory and enabled the Green Bay Packers to overtake the Vikings for the NFC North title.
Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams had a breakout game that day, getting a career-high three sacks, along with 10 tackles, two tackles for a loss, a forced fumble and his first career interception.
Dennis Green, who coached the Vikings for nearly 10 seasons, is in his third, and perhaps final, season as the Cardinals coach. Green did not have a losing season in Minnesota until 2001, when he was fired with one game remaining. However, he has not had a winning season in Arizona.
The Vikings cruised to a 41-21 victory over the visiting Cardinals on Jan. 10, 1999 in a playoff game that put them in the NFC title game. Minnesota took a 16-1 record into that game under Green but lost to Atlanta 30-27 in overtime.
Cardinals offensive lineman Chris Liwienski played for the Vikings from 1998 to 2005. He was a starter for Minnesota as recently as last season but was let go during training camp by new coach Brad Childress.
Quarterback Brad Johnson earned NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors after he completed 19 of 26 passes for 238 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-17 victory over Arizona during his first stint with the Vikings on Dec. 1, 1996.
Cardinals offensive line coach Steve Loney was a Vikings assistant from 2002-05 under Mike Tice and last season served as offensive coordinator and offensive line coach.
For the Cardinals, QB Matt Leinart bounced back after three consecutive poor starts. He’ll need to be sharp Sunday because the Cardinals aren’t likely to gain many yards on the ground against Minnesota.
OG Milford Brown figures to stay on the left side for the foreseeable future. Rookie Deuce Lutui is playing the right side. In those two, the team thinks it has two excellent run blockers.
NT Kendrick Clancy has improved the team’s run defense since his return from a sprained ankle two weeks ago. Clancy does an excellent job of holding his position at scrimmage.
P Scott Player has had two punts blocked this season, a career high. Player was at fault for the one last week against the Lions. He bobbled the snap.
WR Larry Fitzgerald wants quarterback Matt Leinart to throw downfield to him, even if Fitzgerald is covered. Fitzgerald figures he can outmuscle most defensive backs for the ball, and he’s not going to let the ball be intercepted.
BY THE NUMBERS: 218 — Carries that Vikings running back Chester Taylor had before losing a fumble this season. However, he turned over the ball on fumbles on carries number 219 and 220 in Sunday’s loss to Miami.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “You change for a reason and the reason would have to be that I feel like it gives us a better chance to win.” — Vikings coach Brad Childress, saying he has no immediate plans to shake-up things despite the Vikings’ four-game losing streak.