There are plenty of mismatches on paper as we go into this Week Three game, most of them in favor of the Panthers. Carolina's receivers are great; our secondary is not. Carolina's pass rush is great; our quarterback is not. Jeff King stinks; so does Shiancoe.
None of these matchups are as crucial, however, as the Carolina defensive line versus Chester Taylor. If you don't know already, Peterson is listed as questionable for this game and will be used on a limited basis, if at all.
The general reaction coming out of Minnesota has been a collective groan, but do we forget that Taylor is a great back? He doesn't have the AD factor that his younger counterpart possesses, but has managed just fine in tougher situations.
If Taylor can have a great game, I'll know that the Vikings did alright. If he can't get into a rhythm, then I doubt Minnesota put more than 10 points on the board. He is crucial to this offense every day, but even more so now that Frerotte is making his re-debut.
Just how will Taylor match up against the Panthers?
The first thing he will have to get through is his own offensive line. Obviously, the Purple People Eaters are without Bryant McKinnie at left tackle again, and it will show. Marcus Johnson and Artis Hicks will be used in his stead.
At 321 pounds, Johnson is a massive specimen. He lacks elite explosiveness, though, and he isn't a great run-blocker. Hicks is worse than Johnson overall, but it shows some skills at holding off the bull-rushes.
Sadly, Julius Peppers will line up opposite these two men and can turn some of his speed into great bull-rushes. When running the ball, my guess is that they will stay away from the left side as much as possible.
On the right side of the line sits Ryan Cook. As you know, he is new to this position and still has some work to do before he becomes one of the league's elite. He will match up against new Carolina acquisition Tyler Brayton.
Frankly, he is slow. He lacks the top speed needed to be a great pass rusher and the moves to counter whatever Cook sends his way. He will rarely be a threat in this game, assuming he plays.
He is currently listed as questionable, but I believe he will start and play the majority of the game. It is also safe to assume that when Taylor makes his horizontal runs, he will prefer to go right.
In the middle for the Carolina defensive line is Maake Kemoeatu and Damione Lewis. Kemoeatu is a seven-year veteran and knows how to free things up for his linebackers. He won't have as direct an impact as other Carolina linemen will have, but he still is a massive force to be reckoned with nonetheless.
Lewis, on the other hand, isn't as big or as talented as his counterpart. At best he is a backup-quality right tackle in the NFL. Viking center and guards Herrera, Birk, and Hutchinson are among the league's best and nobody doubts their abilities.
I would say that Taylor will get the majority of his running success by slamming up the middle, but the Panthers have one of the most underrated middle linebackers in the entire league.
Jon Beason anchors this young group of speedy individuals. He is entering his sophomore season and already has 18 tackles. Although he is only 23-years old, he is extremely smart and has an above-average ability to read and react to plays very quickly.
On either side of him are Thomas Davis and Na'il Diggs. I'm not sure why Diggs is starting over Landon Johnson, and if anyone could fill me in, I'd be greatly appreciative. Both Thomas and Diggs are very fast but are average linebackers at best. The two of them are both very physical and can plug holes in the line very quickly.
The Panthers' defensive gameplan going into this game obviously centers around stopping Peterson, but maybe without him they will not load the box with eight men as often. It might just be wishful thinking, but if Chester Taylor can ever catch the Panthers sleeping, he should be able to make them pay dearly.
Taylor's performance is crucial to how the entire game turns out. If he isn't allowed or able to find a groove, the Vikings will most likely have trouble moving the ball. He, in Peterson's place, is going to be the mainstay of this offense.
All we as fans can do is hope Taylor gets more opportunities than Peterson would.
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