The Minnesota Vikings are unquestionably a better team with Pro Bowl receiver Sidney Rice in the starting lineup.
But with Rice rehabbing a hip injury for the next month or so (he's targeting an Oct. 17 return), quarterback Brett Favre and the team's small stable of receivers needs to pick up the slack.
Naturally, the Vikes would like to have Rice as an option to stretch the field with his leaping ability and ball skills. Opposing defenses understand his talents and tend to roll coverages in his direction, thus freeing up opportunities for the likes of Bernard Berrian, Percy Harvin, Greg Camarillo, and Greg Lewis.
But with Rice out of the lineup, Favre knows the Vikings have to find other ways to be successful with the passing game:
"Maybe [with Rice out] we don't have the one-on-one, just go-up-and-get-it type of guy. But that's where coaching and as players, we have to pick up the slack ..... The guys we have are not really that type, they're more shifty, beat double coverage inside and things like that. We had opportunities the other day (against New Orleans) that I missed on. We were just a little bit off. If I make those throws, we're probably not having this conversation (about receivers) right now. There's things I can do better to get on the same page with these guys. And if (when) Sidney comes back, we're right back to where we were last year. In the meantime, I've got to make those plays when they're to be made."
I don't know if the Vikings will be exactly where they were last year when Rice returns in a few weeks.
I believe he'll need some time to find his groove in the offense again—and get into "football shape."
But I do know the Vikes will be a better team with Rice.
In the meantime, Favre will have to develop a rapport with Berrian, Harvin, Camarillo, and Lewis if the team is to build some momentum—and get some wins.