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ESPN Insider: Scouts Inc: Take 2: Take 2: Vikings vs. Redskins


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# No quarterback in the league is doing a better job consistently extending plays with movement than Daunte Culpepper. He more often than not turns movement into something positive whether it's a run or a completion. Culpepper throws the ball with accuracy and great touch on the move.

For the Redskins, it's critical their pass defenders, whether they are linebackers or defensive backs, understand this. They must lock onto a receiver when Culpepper moves. The longer pass routes are extended, as is the case when Culpepper leaves the pocket, the more the coverage becomes man-to-man.

# While Culpepper is outstanding extending plays and making positive things happen on the move, there has been a lack of timing, rhythm and continuity in the passing game. In each game, there are very few successful designed passing plays when Culpepper drops backs, plants his back foot and delivers the football on time. As good as Culpepper is as an improviser, look for Redskins defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to attack the Vikings' offense with his usual high percentage of blitz.

# One of the key players to watch is Vikings center Matt Birk because the Redskins are one of the most difficult defenses to match up against: The 'Skins use many different alignments and wide array of blitz packages, which place a tremendous mental burden on offenses play-to-play. Birk is one of the smartest centers in the league and his understanding of as well as ability to recognize defensive fronts allows him to make the necessary line calls and adjustments.

# One player whose play has stood out recently is DT Spencer Johnson. Johnson has replaced Chris Hovan as the nose shade on the Vikings' front four. He has shown the ability to stalemate double teams on the inside and he finds the football quickly.

Johnson brings the physical presence to the Vikings' defense that has been lacking throughout much of this season. In fact, last week the Vikings' front four played the run consistently well going up against a physical Green Bay running game that has more times than not been dominant this season.

# We have not been overly impressed with Washington QB Patrick Ramsey. Ramsey tends to be very robotic in the pocket, lacking awareness and instincts. He is a quarterback we liked very much last season, especially early in the year when he displayed uncommon toughness and grit.

However, a careful evaluation of Ramsey this season leads us to believe that he does not process information quickly. That, combined with his lack of agility and movement in the pocket, makes it difficult for him to be consistently successful in the intermediate-to-deeper passing game.

# Washington's linebackers have been outstanding. We do not believe there has been a more consistent middle linebacker in the NFC this season than Antonio Pierce. If the Pro Bowl was truly based on production and performance, then Pierce would be the unquestioned starter.

OLB Marcus Washington has played at a high level all season, and he brings strong pass rush ability to a defensive unit that does not have a consistent pass rusher on their down four. The biggest surprise has been OLB Lemar Marshall, who has played in place of LaVar Arrington. Marshall has performed very well within the complex Redskins' defensive scheme, playing with great discipline. Playing within the scheme is something Arrington has struggled with throughout his career.

# The Vikings' linebackers have been very inconsistent in pass coverage. Defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell has tried several combinations at linebacker in his nickel defense and the results have been erratic. Overall, the Vikings do not play zone coverage well and they do not coordinate their responsibilities. The linebackers, in particular, play with a noticeable lack of discipline and awareness.

# Look for the Vikings to play a higher percentage of man-to-man coverage on the outside. Washington is not a downfield passing team by design. The ball comes out of Ramsey's hand quickly because the Redskins run a lot of hitch-routes and slants. Last week against the Packers, the Vikings played man coverage in critical situations. Packers QB Brett Favre made a number of unbelievable throws that very few quarterbacks in this league can make. But overall, the Vikings played well in their man schemes and we expect to see more of them against the Redskins.

# One matchup in this game that bears close scrutiny is Vikings nickel pass rushing defensive end Lance Johnstone working against both Redskins offensive tackles: Chris Samuels on the left, and Ray Brown on the right. Johnstone aligns on both sides of the Vikings' defense, and he is explosive. Both Samuels and Brown, a guard for the majority of his 19-year NFL career, struggle with speed rushers. Johnstone's ability to apply pressure off the edge will force the Redskins to account for him in their protection schemes.

# The most dynamic player in this game is Redskins rookie safety Sean Taylor. Taylor is an impact defender who must be accounted for on every play. We are struck by his similarities to Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott. Williams coached Jevon Kearse at Tennessee and he believes that Taylor has exceeded Kearse as the most physically gifted athlete he has ever coached.

Special Teams

# Washington PK Jeff Chandler missed a field goal attempt that would have tied the game as time expired last week, but it's important to note that it came from 57 yards out. Chandler has connected on five of his last six field goal attempts and connected on four field goal attempts two weeks ago. Expect him to take advantage of his opportunities to put points on the board consequently.

# The Redskins' punt cover unit has been among the worst in the league and that doesn't bode well for Washington fans. Minnesota PR Nate Burleson, who returned a punt for a touchdown earlier this year, takes little time to reach his top speed and is capable of making multiple defenders miss in the open field.


# Minnesota QB Daunte Culpepper vs. Washington FS Sean Taylor

# Washington OTs Chris Samuels and Ray Brown vs. Minnesota nickel rusher Lance Johnstone

# Washington WR Laveranues Coles vs. Minnesota CB Brian Williams

# Minnesota RB Michael Bennett vs. Washington MLB Antonio Pierce

# Minnesota WR Randy Moss vs. Washington CB Fred Smoot

Prediction: Vikings 24, Redskins 17

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