Vikings-Saints matchup: Tuesday

Posted Dec. 13, 2011 @ 5:43 p.m.
Posted By Eric Edholm

Here's a look at a key matchup in Sunday's Vikings-Saints game in Minnesota:

Saints TE Jimmy Graham vs. Vikings' zone defense

Playing cover-2 against weapons of Graham's size and skills is a scary thought. He easily can pick his holes in the coverage, is quick enough to find the obvious seams and large enough to camp in front of linebackers and have his way. Last week, Graham even ran a corner route and nearly made a spectacular catch in the endzone, one where he was out of bounds by a few blades of Tennessee grass.

Drew Brees has used Graham as his prime target this season, but he hasn't been daunted when teams have ganged up on him or when Graham is banged up. Last week is a good example: Graham fought through extreme back pain to play Sunday, still caught five passes for 55 yards and Brees was able to go about his incredible passing business without much of a hiccup in the Saints' comeback victory.

So do the Vikings change their approach? Do they commit a safety or perhaps LB Chad Greenway to the future All-Pro tight end? It's an interesting question. They played mostly zone in the Broncos game and the first half of last week's game against the Lions, which became a disaster. Showing more man-coverage looks helped the cause slightly. It appears that assignments in the secondary are not being carried out well at all these days.

Expect a variety of coverages on Graham. He's not the Saints' only horse, so committing too much to him is risky. But they can try using Greenway to mark him; there's no way the safeties, 5-foot-9 Jamarca Sanford or rookie Mistral Raymond (who needs to show more physicality) can cover him one on one.