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Depth Thin On Both Lines

By Viking Update Staff

Date: 4/2/2001

With Chris Hovan the only returning full-time starter on the d-line, the Vikings have said they could be done signing veteran players until after the draft, maybe even as far out as after June 1. But if winning starts up front, the Vikings may need some veteran assurances on both sides of the ball.

Dennis Green said the Vikings probably would wait until after the draft to dive into free-agent research again. That's the bad news. The good news is that the market of cash-happy teams seems to be drying up and signings have slowed dramatically.

Still, at some point before early September, the Vikings need to address concerns up front on both sides of the ball.

As it stands right now on offense, the team has part-time player Chris Liwienski penciled in as the starting left guard and Brad Badger, who has started 21 games in his four-year career (but none with the Vikings), starting at left tackle. While Liwienski started the season opener last year, he didn't start another game and split time with Corbin Lacina. Badger can play both guard and tackle, but had more time filling in last season at guard.

While Liwienski and Badger may both be capable players under offensive line coach Mike Tice, the reserves are thin and the Vikings could use some veteran insurance for those two.

On the defensive line, one position is wide open. The all-important anchor position of nose tackle is waiting for a starter and likely will be waiting through most of training camp. With Jerry Ball long gone and Tony Williams recently gone, the signing of Chester McGlockton would have gone a long way. But with that hope faded, the Vikings are left with 2000 second-round draft choice Fred Robbins temporarily holding down the first spot on the depth chart. Robbins saw limited time during the season, registering two tackles and a sack. After working his way into the starting lineup midway through the season and leading the defensive line with 54 tackles, the under tackle spot seems in good hands with Chris Hovan.

The reserves at defensive tackle right now are Tim Engelhardt, who impressed former defensive line coach Fred vonAppen but was released before the season, and Winfield Garnett. Neither has experience.

The outside of the line has more experienced starters now with the signings of Fernando Smith and Lance Johnstone and depth with pass-rushing ends Talance Sawyer and Michael Boireau, so the needs there seems to have been solved with adequate veteran. Johnstone, in fact, when healthy can be a terror and could be a tremendous boost to a new-look line.

The wild card on the defensive line could be the addition of line coach Brian Baker, who molded the Detroit Lions' line into one of the better ones in the league in recent years.

But with the draft 19 days away, look for the Vikings to not only fill a need in the defensive backfield on April 21, but to concentrate once again on trying to win the battl

-- Mark (Karch, April 03, 2001

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