Van Brocklin has had a surprisingly adept offensive team since the Vikings sprang full grown but anemic from the forehead of the NFL expansion committee. His defense has been nonexistent, or tenuous. Now it is almost adequate.
Van Brocklin's defensive tackles are reasonably good. His middle linebacker—Rip Hawkins—is only a year or two away; the corner linebackers are young and learning fast. Help could be well used in the secondary, where the addition of one good rookie like George Rose is not enough.
But with powerful running from Mason, Ted Dean, Tom Wilson, Bill Brown, Bill McWatters and Tom Michel, plus a pair of quarterbacks almost the match of any two in the West—Fran Tarkenton and Ron VanderKelen—the Vikings should move into the first division.
Two fine quarterbacks, good receivers, strong runners and a not-so-porous defense could lift the Vikings to the heady heights of third place.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
The Rams are an anomaly. In Bill Munson, they have the best rookie quarterback since their own Norm Van Brocklin; in Terry Baker, the best combination quarterback-halfback; and in Roman Gabriel, a starting quarterback with as good an arm as Y. A. Tittle. The Ram defensive line has the respect of all the offensive guards and tackles in the Western Division. But the Rams probably will finish last in the West this year.
They will give up too much to any team that can throw well, and all the teams in the West can throw well.
Coach Harland Svare has a curious team in the Rams. The offensive line is good but not great. The receivers are great—Red Phillips, Carroll Dale, rookie Willie Brown and converted linebacker Marlin McKeever. The Ram runners, with the return of dental student Ben Wilson at fullback, are pretty good. But behind them, the Rams are thin.
The defensive line is almost the model of a modern defense. Dave Jones and Lamar Lundy are skyscraping ends whose very size limits the field for an opposing quarterback. Merlin Olsen is probably the best defensive tackle in the league, save Detroit's Alex Karras. Rosey Grier weighs 290 and moves smartly. Olsen and Jones are slashers, Lundy and Grier wait and read, and this is what all coaches look for. The Rams will dump many quarterbacks for long losses.
But the Rams secondary will give up many long gains when the opposing quarterbacks stay erect long enough to throw the ball. Any team without a bomb shelter is in serious trouble.