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Five questions with Vikings correspondent Judd Zulgad

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By Eric Edholm

Pro Football Weekly hits up Vikings beat writer Judd Zulgad for all the latest happenings each week with the team.

PFW: Can Brett Favre and Bernard Berrian get on track before it’s too late?

JZ: The real question is: Can the Vikings get Brett Favre the type of receiver that he lacks, with Sidney Rice expected to miss half the season after having hip surgery? The 6-4 Rice provided Favre a security blanket of being a guy who could go up and make a play against a defender or two defenders. Worst case, Rice was strong enough to break up a pass that might be intercepted. The 6-1 Berrian simply isn’t that player; his strength is an ability to run go-routes and get past defensive backs, not to battle them. The expectation that Berrian would pick up where Rice left off probably wasn’t fair, and with the Vikings’ tallest receiver being the 6-2 Greg Camarillo, it’s clear Favre doesn’t have his favorite type of receiver on this roster.

PFW: Should we expect to see Berrian and Camarillo return punts for now?

JZ: Berrian has muffed two punts in two games, and Camarillo fumbled one against the Dolphins on Sunday, although that ended up being a no-play because Minnesota took a penalty for running into the kicker. Camarillo’s work on punt returns Sunday was the first time in his five NFL seasons that he has handled those duties. Although he likely isn’t going to have many big returns, he does have good hands, as well as probably more interest in the job than Berrian. For the time being, the Vikings might just want to have Camarillo make sure he catches the ball, and if he does anything with it, that’s a bonus. What they can’t have is the continued muffs and drops. CB Asher Allen also was given a look on punt returns in the preseason but clearly wasn’t comfortable. Percy Harvin has a sore hip and enough on his plate as it is.

PFW: Is there reason to worry about the run defense at all even though, overall, the numbers have been pretty good?

JZ: The Vikings don’t often give up a 51-yard run at home, but that happened Sunday when Miami’s Ronnie Brown went 51 yards from his own one-yard line in the second quarter. The Dolphins ended up with 120 yards rushing as a team, something the Vikings no doubt weren’t happy about. Vikings defensive players also were bothered by the fact that New Orleans was able to eat up the clock with an effective run game in the fourth quarter of the Saints’ victory in Week One. It’s a bit early to be overly concerned about the run defense, but the reality is that NT Pat Williams is 37 years old and at some point is going to start to wear down. It’s probably premature to say that is happening now.

PFW: Is there a spot on the offensive line that stands as the biggest issue?

JZ: C John Sullivan missed almost all of training camp and did not play in the preseason. The lack of practice time has shown. Sullivan is a very smart player and knows all the assignments, but executing seems to be an issue as he tries to get himself into game shape. Sullivan appeared to have issues with Dolphins NT Paul Soliai (6-4, 355 pounds) on Sunday. Sullivan is listed at 6-4, 301 pounds, but he might not weigh that much, and it can be tough for him to match up against a big 3-4 nose tackle.

PFW: Toby Gerhart had four rushes and one reception in his first action Sunday. Is that about what we can expect from him?

JZ: Head coach Brad Childress said before the season that he believed Gerhart would get about 6-8 carries per game, and Gerhart fell two carries below the minimum number in his NFL debut on Sunday. Gerhart, a second-round pick out of Stanford, likely will continue to see a very limited workload as he’s eased into the offense. Adrian Peterson had 28 carries on Sunday, and there is no question he is going to continue to get the bulk of the work, especially with veteran Chester Taylor now in Chicago.

 

Judd Zulgad covers the Vikings for the Star Tribune and Pro Football Weekly. Be sure to check out his Access Vikings blog on the Star Tribune's Web site and follow him on Twitter @JuddZulgad.

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