In this series we will learn what specific players need to step up for the upcoming game. This week, Minnesota comes to visit and they have a guy named Adrian Peterson, who you may remember as the then rookie running back who decimated the Charger defense for 296 yards and 3 touchdowns at the Metrodome in a 35-17 victory. To prevent such a disaster from repeating itself, every Charger defender has to play well, but there is one specific position group that needs to step up big time.
The Outside Linebackers. The reason is because of the way Adrian Peterson and the offensive line run the ball. Peterson's speed and agility make him a big play threat whenever he breaks outside or into open field. The Vikings run the ball in a man-to-man blocking style that occasionally has secondary blockers as the seal off players, kind of what you see in a zone scheme. Peterson loves to get to the outside where he can pummel the smaller secondary players and get big yards and touchdowns.
Adrian Peterson isn't the only reason the OLB's need to step up, it's Donovan McNabb. He's been known to struggle against pressure and Shaun Phillips, Larry English, Travis LaBoy and Antwaan Barnes all need to get pressure whenever they rush. It's McNabbs first season in Minnesota and first game, which means the Vikings may favor the run. When they do pass, McNabb is still a capable passer, so getting pressure is very important to stopping the Viking offense. Back to stopping the run.
Many running backs are referred to as "patient runners", meaning they take the hand off and wait for their O-line to open their lane. Adrian Peterson is not a patient runner. He has patience, but many times, when there's no hole opening up immediately, he just tries to plow into his linemen. That's how he needs to be contained. The OLB's need to keep the tackles and tight ends crushed into a small pocket to make sure Peterson doesn't get 7 and 23 yard runs.
(Above) Peterson has a big hole on the outside to run through, as it wasn't sealed off well.
Again, what the OLB's need to do is what you see Clay Mathews (the guy picked a few spots after Larry English) doing below, and that's keeping the edge contained. Of course, the DE's need to make sure they aren't taken out of their lanes, but Corey Liuget has shown to be capable of that and El Toro is going to do fine.
If Peterson can be kept on his heels, wanting to smash through a hole that isn't there when he wants it, runs will be kept to a minimum. At the same time, if Peterson's runs to the edge can be limited by good OLB play, this game will depend on Donovan McNabb trying to get the offense going through the passing game, and I don't have much faith in that being a serious threat in this game.